St Philip of the Seventy – What do we rejoice?

20131024_philipseventy_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 Apostle Philip from the Seventy. Holy Apostle Philip, pray for us!

The Holy Apostle Philip from the Seventy, is a different St Philip from the Twelve.

The Apostle Philip from the Seventy was born in Palestine, and was married with children. After the Holy Spirit descended, the Twelve Holy Apostles ordained Philip as a deacon in the Church of Jerusalem, and the deacon was sent with six other deacons to minister to the widowed, the orphaned and the needy.

Eventually, St Philip the deacon settled in Samaria and preached the Gospel. An angel of our Lord commanded the holy deacon to go to Gaza, where he met an official of Ethiopia, and converted him to Christianity (Acts 8). Eventually, the Twelve Apostles consecrated St Philip as bishop to Lydia. The Apostle reposed in his old age.

One of the things that cross our paths daily, is the subject of joy. What kind of matters evoke joy in us? What brings us joy?

In the secularized world, where religion is often scorned at and even discarded with ease, there will be naysayers whenever we profess our faith in Christ, and whenever we hope to walk this journey towards God.

There are even those who would speak a different message from the Truth of God, and claim that chasing after worldliness and wealth is alright, or even Scriptural.

But we know that to walk towards God in the journey following the footsteps of Christ our Lord, means that we take what He said to be true, “If any man will come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (St Matthew 16:24 and St Mark 10).

Christ taught us that if we believe in Him, and profess our faith in Him, then we would leave the world behind us, unshackle our entire garments, pretensions, materialistic belongings, away from all the temptations and delusions of the world, pick up our own crosses of thorns and suffering, and follow Him. Christ our Lord showed us the two things we need to do BEFORE we can follow Him truly – that of leaving the old selves and external things behind, and picking up the cross.

Nowhere did Christ taught that we will face no calamity or challenges. Nowhere did Christ taught that we can chase after the temptations of the world and still find our heart and soul chasing after Christ. We cannot have the cake and eat it too. Christ promised us eternal life but it was never going to be a walk in the park, but it will demand our own effort and our whole lives in repentance and prayers unto our Lord.

Despite the challenges and the pains of carrying our crosses to follow Christ, it is a joyous journey.

The joy we will experience when we pour our hearts into chasing after Christ, is one where no mountain of gold or silver, no lots of property, no heaps of belongings, will ever match. This joy is one which brings us to our knees, with tearful joy during our most vulnerable moments even (St Matthew 5:12). Yes, joy can be found in pains and suffering.

This joy is something that all the saints past and present, have found, and treasured, and kept. This joy cannot be found in mere wealth; it cannot be found in mere power; it cannot be found in mundane relations. This joy is searing, illuminating, glorious, and transformative. It is an immense treasure that is hard to come by, but worth every last drop of sweat and blood of toil of prayers and lifelong repentance and humility.

We also find this joy when we worship together as a family, when our voices are prayerful in unison unto our God (Psalm 33:1-3). The Church is a hospital, a sacred place of healing, where as a family of the faithful, we come together, clergy and laity, in unison, in repentant prayers, together. This is an immense privilege, blessing, and joy. We do not take this joy and blessing lightly, as we find, seek and treasure this sacramental joy.

We see this immense joy as Christ showed us, as we reflect upon St Luke 10:1-21, when our Lord and Christ said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.”

With all our hearts, find every moment of our lives, in tearful repentance and prayers, find the deepest of all joys when we walk towards God, carrying our crosses as Christ taught us, and in His Holy Name, “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+

Jeremiah 9:23-24
Psalm 33:1-3 (LXX 32)
St Luke 10:1-21
Acts 8:26-39