`Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.` (John 17, 11)
PREACH AT THE 7TH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
(Of the Holy Fathers from the Ist Ecumenical Council)
METROPOLITAN AUGUSTIN OF FLORINA
My beloved, the earth is not our permanent home, it was settled by God as a temporary one. Our eternal homeland and our only home is heaven. This earth which keeps us so much attached of its entertainments and pleasures will be destroyed one day. Because it is matter and the matter is corruptible. It was created in time and anything created in time has an end. Thus it will come an end for the earth one day. This is confirmed by science as well. But more than the science it is confirmed by the word of God, the Holy Scripture which calls the end of the world `the end of time` (Matthew 13, 39; 24, 3; 28, 20; Hebrews 9, 26). The prophets, especially Daniel and Isaiah, the Lord, the Apostles, the Apocalypse speak very clearly about the end of the world.
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It is a reality the fact that the earth will be destroyed. But before the end of time there will take place many signs of the times (Matthew 16, 3). Which are these signs? The Lord explained to them: `There will be hunger, diseases (infirmities which will make the people die in large numbers), earthquakes in some places, a huge disaster like no other since the beginning of the world and in the end the sun and the moon will become dark, the stars will fall and the powers of the skies will be shaken (Matthew 24, 7, 21, 29; Luke 21, 11). Who would have believed these if they were not uttered by the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ?
The signs of the times will be the perturbation and the disturbance of the physical world. Even in our times there are manifested disturbing phenomena in the physical world. In South America on the shores of Chile while the men were lying naked on the beautiful sands and had fun – as it happens on our beaches too – the earth was shaken, the volcanoes irrupted, the lava flowed down and many islands disappeared, other new islands appeared, the sea became furious, the waves raised at 15 meters and swept away huge surfaces. There were thousands of dead and of homeless people. Something like this never happened before.
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But if you asked me my beloved which is the most terrible sign of the times, I will tell you that it’s not this kind of phenomena. It’s not the typhoon, the earthquake, the fire, the sea waves. The most terrible sign of the times is discord which reigns now among people. The world has never been so disunited. Where could we look and not see disunion?
Discord among people. The United Nations is called the well known international organization but euphemistically. We should take down the placard with `United Nations` and write instead `Disunited Nations`. Under the smiles and pleasantries of diplomacy it hides a big rivalry. Not so much between small nations – these are the victims – but between the big ones, which are like some beasts of the Apocalypse ready to attack each other. But disunited is every nation from its inside. The microbe of discord is manifested in parties, camps, factions, leaderships, interests, commercial societies and not only in these, especially at us, at the Greeks. Open the history book. We have three thousand years and in this period our nation has been united many times. When it was united was full of glory and invincible. They conquered the peaks of Pindus and raised it till the stars of the skies. As someone said: If the Greeks had been united they would have reigned the world. Discord is the greatest misfortune of our nation. Discord reigned many times and then many calamities took place. As it was the calamity from Asia Minor.
Everywhere is discord: in the country and in the cities. Even the smallest kingdom is disunited. Which is the smallest kingdom with emperor, empress and people? The family: the father is the emperor, the mother is the empress and the people are the children. Discord reigns in the house. The anarchy of thought and deed. The woman does not obey her husband, the man does not respect his wife, the children don’t pay attention to anyone. The husbands don’t understand each other and the children don’t have a good relationship with their parents. The house which was a heaven in other times, a church, a monastery now doesn’t attract anymore, it is not a magnet anymore. Before the small huts from villages were palaces of the skies, there lived angels. Now in the big blocks of flats live demons with wings. Blessed were the times when the people were not evolved intellectually but they had an educated heart. Now the house has become a hotel for bed and meals. Rare are the cases when you can find husbands who love each other, respectful children.
Show me a house where is harmony and unity in the love of Christ!
But you exaggerate – you will say. If I exaggerate things then go to the Archiepiscopate and ask and if you are Christian you will cry for the state of decadence we reached. Long time ago with uneducated priests in a thousand families there was no divorce. Now with priests and bishops with university degrees at three families one splits up. We, the clerics, have a great responsibility. We don’t fulfill our vocation. Every day are decided a lot of divorces. Hellas became like a Hollywood.
The man seeks unity among nations, peoples, families and he doesn’t find it. In the end he comes in the church hoping that he will find here unity since the Church prays `for the unity of all people`(The Holy Liturgy) and our Christ today raises His hands in the Gospel and prays for the Christians to be united (see John 17, 11). And what he sees? Here are Orthodox, there Catholics farther there are Protestants divided in 300 factions.
The disunity of the Christians is an obstacle in the spreading of Christianity – two thirds of the world worship idols. The missionaries go to the savage, they preach the Gospel and those people cry. And it would have been expected that they had accepted baptism and become Christians. But they don’t accept baptism. They say: your words, your clothes, your hymns are nice. But you are disunited, you don’t have love among yourselves. The Englishmen hunt the Americans, the Americans hunt the Englishmen and so on. We who are not Christians have a greater unity between ourselves. You are not united. You have hate for one another. Thus go first and love each other then come and preach us the Gospel.
Today is the feast of the 318 fathers who reunited at the first Ecumenical Council and settled the Creed. All of them are stars of our Church. I will not make any reference at them. I think of another father who is not from these ones who settled the Creed, but who made the Holy Liturgy which is celebrated today without cease. It is the great teacher of our Church, saint John Chrysostom whom we always commemorate. He was asked when it would be the end of times and he answered from the pulpit:
`My brothers, the end will come when you see that people will be disunited: the women will not obey their husbands, the men will not love their women, the children will raise their hand to hit their parents, the laymen will not listen, there will be civil conflicts. But the end will come most of all when disunion will affect the Church, when it comes inside at the altar. When you see that monks will be in conflict with other monks, deacons with other deacons, priests with other priests and bishops with other bishops.
What do we see my beloved? We live in such days and only God will save us. If He saves us our salvation is not our merit. If He saves us, He will do this for the innocent small babies from cradles.
Let us repent. If we continue the tactics of hate, we will be punished. We will be shaken by an earthquake and there will not be left one stone upon another. Let us repent, kneel and pray together, small and big, laymen and clerics, priests and bishops, leaders and people so that God will be merciful and blow over us love, good understanding and justice to glorify the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit forevermore. Amen.