20 May 2007

Ye Also Shall Bear Witness

An excerpt from the sermon preached today at Holy Incarnation Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, a Western Rite Vicariate parish in the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.

The Spirit does not testify to us so that this Comfort and Love of God remains concealed within ourselves, or within this little community. For that is not Love’s way. Love has given Himself to us by His Spirit so that, through us, the Spirit might constantly testify. Listen again to Our Lord: He shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness.

Without a doubt, these words are spoken chiefly to the Holy Apostles, because Our Lord continues by saying because ye have been with me from the beginning. And so they are the primary witnesses. And by the Spirit this testimony and witness-bearing has been handed down to their successors, even to His Grace, Bishop MARK around whom we are today gathered. His Grace has received the grace of the Holy Spirit so that, by his life, by his character, by his preaching, by his shepherding, and by his benevolent rule in the Church, His Grace might testify and bear witness of the Love of God whose sacrifice is both our means of salvation and our life. And so we have prayed for His Grace, that he would “be in word and conversation a wholesome example to the people committed to his charge, that he with them may attain unto everlasting life.”

Yet as His Grace bears witness as the Church gathers around him, so also ought we—and all the faithful—to bear witness together in unity with His Grace. For Our Lord Jesus says ye also shall bear witness; that is, “all of you shall testify of Me.” For the Spirit is given not to one man only, but to the whole Church. And He is given, not so that one may bear witness for all, but so that all might together bear witness in the unity of the Body. As St Augustine says, “The Holy Spirit by His testimony made others testify.” Together with the Bishop, then, we are to bear witness and testify that the love of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Spirit, who is given to us.

Let us recall, however, that our testimony is not only a testimony in words; and that we testify not chiefly by what we say. Rather, the martyrs and saints have taught us that we testify chiefly by how we live—by the love we show all men, even those who are not of the household of faith. “Converting the hatred of our enemies into love” (St Augustine)—that is what the Spirit has testified to us by pointing us to Love Himself. For how did He respond? When he was reviled, [He] did not revile: when he suffered, he threatened not: but delivered himself to him that judged him unjustly.