20140123_gregnyssa_sqIn the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember the Holy Father St Gregory of Nyssa. Father among the saints, St Gregory, pray for us!

We profess our faith in many ways, in various forms, and one such way is when we profess it through the Nicene Creed (“I believe in one God, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible…”).

The Nicene Creed was initiated by father among the saints, St Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa. St Gregory was the younger brother of another holy father, St Basil the Great. St Gregory left us a rich legacy of writings, and he reposed peacefully at a ripe old age. May the holy saint pray for us.

One such work was known as “The Great Catechism”, where St Gregory taught on the freedom from the bondage of our own deception and sin, and allow the deception of the evil one to cloud our Divine Nature. This bondage distracts us and yanks us away from our lifelong pilgrimage to God, and clouds our senses such that we deceive ourselves to even imagine that delusion to be “freedom”, when it is mere bondage, and one that cripples us from walking towards God.

When we reflect upon St James 1:19-27, we hear of the law of liberty, which frees us from the bondage and slavery of sin and closes the distance we place ourselves from God. The law of liberty talks of many things, and the distillation into an essence, is St Matthew 22:37-40, loving God and loving others. St Gregory of Nyssa wrote that those who possess purity will approach God’s Kingdom with many choices, while those who shy away from God and face darkness will have no choice. This is the concept of liberty, and man’s free will to choose. It is not about punishment, but about facing and approaching God, or retreating and turning away from God.

What does it mean to love God? We come before Him and lay bare our sins and passions. We carry His Holy Name close to our hearts in our prayers, not long convoluted discourses that run circles in our minds, but honest, humble, simple prayers.

Father among the saints, St Ignatius of Antioch, disciple of the Holy Apostle John the Theologian, was arrested for his faith. On the road to his execution, the holy saint prayed the Holy Name of Jesus Christ unceasingly. When the soldiers asked why the saint prayed that way, the saint replied that it was because the Holy Name was written in his heart. He was then fed to the lions, and torn apart to death. When the multitude returned, they found only his heart left intact, and some bones. When they cut open his heart, the pagans saw the words “Jesus Christ” inscribed in gold. That…, is a sign of carrying Jesus Christ in the heart, where the prayer of His Holy Name becomes imprinted in the heart. When Roman emperor Trajan heard of this miracle of God, he stopped the persecution of Christians. God works His miracles through people.

Our Lord Jesus Christ promised us (St John 14:13-14), that when we call on Him and ask in His Name, He will do it as God the Father is glorified through the Son. We call on His Holy Name not for pleasure or material gain (St Mark 10:17-27), but simply to abide in His Mercy in all things, in all ways, in all time. Our Lord does not contradict Himself. We are to leave our worldly belongings and desires behind, and follow Him. Carrying dead weight does not lend to our speed or safe travels to God.

This is the way to remove the bondage we placed on ourselves, this bondage of sin and deception, and for us to soldier on towards God, free and liberated. God does not change (Isaiah 40:8-11, Psalm 33:10-15, St James 1:17), and He gifts everyone abundantly with the same radiant love, the same embrace, the same healing, the same salvation. The choice to bondage or liberation lies in us, to face and embrace Him with a life of repentance and prayers, or to turn away from Him to sink in our passions. The choice is ours.

May the holy fathers among the saints pray for us, as they taught, “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.

Fr Raphael+

Readings
Isaiah 40:8-11
Psalm 33:10-15 (LXX 32)
St Mark 10:17-27
James 1:19-27