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July 15, 2015 + On Grace: Part 1

A Homily by St. Luke, Archbishop of Crimea

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The Great Apostle Paul says of himself: For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me (1 Cor. 15:9-10).

See how the greatest of the Apostles speaks of himself, that it was not he that had labored, it was not he that had done the great works, enlightened the whole world, but the grace of God which was with him. He does not ascribe anything to himself although great were his works, his sufferings for Christ were innumerable, but he attributes nothing to himself, only to God's grace. Is it for us the weak, for us negligent Christians to ascribe to ourselves the good which we had performed once or will perform? Is it for us not to notice the source of all good—the grace of God?

The word "grace" you hear often, very often, at every divine service. The word "grace" may be found on almost every page of the New Testament, but in the Old Testament this word is rarely mentioned, very rarely, indeed. Why is it so: why is grace so often spoken of in the New Testament? Because the source of grace is in our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Eph. 1:7). This is the greatest grace, this is the source and beginning of all grace—the redemption of mankind through the Most Pure Blood of Christ: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8).

We have received this gift gratis, we received gratis the redemption through Christ's Blood. And the grace of God will overshadow any Christian who takes up his cross and follows Christ. Know that grace is necessary at the very beginning, so that we might take the path of salvation, the path of Christ, for the Lord Himself tells us: No man can come to me, except the Father which hat sent me to draw him (Jn. 6:44). It is necessary for God the Father Himself to draw us otherwise there is no beginning of the path of Christ.

We read in the Acts of the Apostles what happened in the Macedonian city of Philippi, to which Apostle Paul had come to preach the Gospel. He preached in the environs of the city, on the bank of a river upon which the synagogue stood. Among those listening was a woman named Lydia, a seller of purple ... whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul (Acts 16:14). You see, the Lord Himself opened her heart, to listen to what Paul was saying.

Thus should the heart of each of us be touched by the finger of God and opened to perceive the great words of Christ. The grace of God is necessary at the beginning of our path to salvation. But can it be said that the grace of God is intended only for those who are predetermined for Eternal Life, that they alone can attain grace? Not at all: grace is the outpouring of the immeasurable love of God, and His love is directed to all His creation, and above all to mankind, and, therefore, the grace of God overshadows the hearts of all men; for it says in the Scripture that God is the Father of all men—of both Jews and Gentiles. He is good to all (Rom. 10:12). God will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, then man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:4-6)—for the whole of mankind. And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn. 2:2).

How can this be made to agree with the fact that at the beginning of faith in Christ there must be the grace of God? There is no contradiction here, as there is not, and cannot be, in any sayings of the Holy Scripture. The immense love of God the Father is open to the whole world and His grace pours out on everyone. But does everyone accept this grace? Are there not many who trample upon it with their sins? God wants to give them grace too, but they reject it. Men are free; God does not force His grace upon anyone: He merely offers it to everybody; He is ready to give it to everybody.

From www.pravoslavie.ru/english/79715.htm, accessed July 10th, 2015.

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Equal of the Apostles Great Prince Vladimir, in Holy Baptism Basil, the Enlightener of the Russian Land

Troparion, Tone 4

Holy Prince Vladimir, you were like a merchant in search of fine pearls. By sending servants to Constantinople for the Orthodox Faith, you found Christ, the priceless pearl. He appointed you to be another Paul, washing away in baptism your physical and spiritual blindness. We celebrate your memory, asking you to pray for all Orthodox Christians and for us, your spiritual children.

Kontakion, Tone 8

Most glorious Vladimir, in your old age you imitated the great apostle Paul: he abandoned childish things, while you forsook the idolatry of your youth. Together with him you reached the fullness of divine wisdom: You were adorned with the purity of holy baptism. Now as you stand before Christ our Savior, pray that all Orthodox Christians may be saved.