In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, we remember the 4 martyr saints of Milan, Saints Nazarios, Gervasios, Protasios, and Celsius, who were killed for their faith in Christ, by pagans.
Their relics were hidden in the earth, until St Ambrose had a vision and discovered them in the 4th century. When their holy relics were retrieved, the sick received healing, the blind received sight, and demons were exorcized from sufferers. Saint Augustine recounted in his book “City of God”, of a blind man named Severgnus who upon touching the edge of the martyrs’ garments, saw light again. The saints relics are safely kept in the Church of St Ambrose in Milan today. Martyr Saints Nazarios, Gervasios, Protasios, and Celsius, pray for us.
One of the hallmarks of theosis, or the partaking of the Divine Nature, as in 2 Peter 1:4, is to have reconciliation with our God. If we do not humble ourselves before God and lay bare our sins, and confess our failings, we are far from God, and near to the devil. I John 1:8-10 expressed that clearly, that we would not have Christ in us, if we are not honest with ourselves and the burdens of sin we carry.
LXX Psalm 50:3-4 forms the foundation of our confession of our failings, where we lay our sins bare before our God, and know that only our God can have mercy for us. Likewise, Job 33:26-28 shows us just how a faithful Christian can relinquish his painful shackles of sin and leave them with God.
Confessing our sins is not easy, and the holy mystery (or sacrament) of reconciliation or confession, is one of the hardest pills to swallow for many Christians. Often, church fathers have preached that people would say that they confess directly to God. The fathers have elaborated that this is akin to saying one can be baptized directly by God, or even that one can hold the faith in Christ without any expression of the faith in action. As we know, the holy mystery of reconciliation is not meant to humiliate a person, but serves as healing medicine to bring one closer to God. If one cannot lay bare his sins and relinquish his own personal will, how then can God’s will take charge and bring forth healing, faith, and salvation? Let us always remember to partake in the holy mystery of reconciliation, and to benefit from the counsel of the servants of Christ.
Let me say this. Only the devil will spoil you and allow you to indulge in your own sins. The true God, whose true and abiding love, will always carry an element of discipline in it, much like a loving father will not spoil his children, but will discipline them and refine them. While the devil will poison you to death with sweet poison, Our God is a jeweler who will refine you in His furnace to bring the precious gold out of you.
The most touching passage on reconciliation has to be Saint Luke 15, verses 20 to 24, of the prodigal son’s return to his father. Despite the sins of the son, the father embraced and kissed him. The son confessed his sins and his unworthiness, which reconciled both of them together.
So let us remember the Scripture, such as the Psalms and Job, and Saint Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 6:18, to pray unceasingly, the Prayer of the Heart, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Today is a special day also, for the remembrance of the Icon of the Theotokos of Yakhrom in Russia. A pious youth, later Saint Cosmas, was following his sick master, a landowner. When his master fell asleep, a bright light shone from the icon of our beloved Theotokos nearby, with a voice, “Attend and understand the words of life. Live a God-pleasing life and seek the joy of the righteous, and then you will delight in eternal blessings.” St Cosmas placed the icon and placed it on his master, who became immediately healed. Eventually St Cosmas left the household of his master, and became a tonsured monk. One day, St Cosmas was told by an angel to return to the same place he found the icon, at the River Yakhroma. Again the place was filled with light. St Cosmas built a monastery there in honor of the Theotokos, with the Yakhrom icon venerated there. Blessed Theotokos, Mother of God, pray for us.
Let us pray 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 50:3-4 (LXX)
St Luke 15:20-24
1 John 1:8-10