In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember the St Cornelius the Centurion, and the commemoration of the founding of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. St Cornelius, pray for us!
St Cornelius was a soldier and pagan, who was baptized with his entire family, with the grace of the Holy Spirit. He was the first pagan to be baptized as a Christian and subsequently left behind his worldly life to preach the Gospel. The Holy Apostle Peter consecrated St Cornelius as a bishop eventually, and the saint went on to reconcile many pagans to the Truth of Christ, including a prince and his family. The saint reposed at a ripe old age.
The journey of many of us who profess our love and faith in Christ our Lord begins with our baptism, which exorcizes the evil and brings us on the steps of healing from God and His Grace. As we reflect upon the healing of Christ our Lord in St Mark 5:1-20 when our Lord exorcized the demons from those who were possessed, let us remember our baptism and chrismation.
The evil one continues his assault on pagans and Christians alike, since time memorial. The evil one is especially frustrated and angry when more people believe in Christ, and when we grow closer to God through our repentance and prayers.
Father among the saints, St Antony the Great has shown to us one of the greatest defenses against the evil one. It is humility (Psalm 25:1-10 (LXX 24) and Job 22:25-30).
There was once a man possessed by demons, and he was brought to St Anthony the Great. However, Abba Antony considered himself unworthy of exorcizing demons, and he sent the possessed man to his student Abba Paul the Simple instead. When Abba Paul was exorcizing the demon out of the possessed man, the demon cried and departed from the man, “Abba Antony the Great’s humility is driving me out!”
Very often, our pride, in whatever shape it disguises itself in, becomes not just stones that trip us to fall, but are the very tools the evil one will use to delude and even possess us.
Another father among the saints, St Sergius of Radonezh (Sergii Radonezhsky), is yet another luminary example of humility.
A peasant traveled from afar to the monastery to see St Sergius the abbot. The peasant inquired with the monks, who told the peasant to go to the garden, where St Sergius was working.
The peasant went to the garden, and saw a man in torn clothes digging in the garden. The peasant went back to the monastery unhappy, thinking that the monks tricked him. St Sergius returned and greeted the peasant and served him at the table. The saint read the heart of the peasant and knew that the peasant thought lowly of him because of his appearance, and kept silent that he was indeed St Sergius. The saint then consoled the peasant and told him he would see St Sergius in a short while.
Just then, a prince and some noblemen came by the monastery. The monks saw the noblemen and rushed the peasant out of the room to make way for the prince and his noblemen. The noblemen bowed and asked for the blessing from St Sergius. The peasant then realized that he ignored the great saint in his pride and ignorance. When the noblemen left, the peasant rushed to St Sergius and fell at the saint’s feet to beg for forgiveness. St Sergius embraced the peasant and said, “Do not grieve, my son, for you are the only one who knew the truth about me, considering me to be nothing, while others were deluded, taking me for something great.”
That is the mark of a true saint, where humility shines from within, rather than a mere window dressing. And that is what we strive for as the faithful.
Let us, beloved, repent often and pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.
Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:
It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.
O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Psalm 25:1-10 (LXX 24)
St Mark 5:1-20
Galatians 1:1-10, 20-2:5