17 April 2012
"Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen"
Eugene Rose Lay Sermon May 1963
It is well to remember these words of our Lord, which we heard in the Great Fast, even now when the joy of His Resurrection is still fresh in our hearts. Shall we who have been called to the Feast be chosen to partake of the greater Feast of the Kingdom of Heaven?
How quickly does earthly feasting dull our awareness of heavenly things! How many of us, having experienced the spiritual benefits of the Fast, begin to forget them now and use the Paschal season as a time of relaxation from spiritual labor! But if we lose now what we gained then, we are worse off than before; for he who does not progress in the spiritual life does not merely stand still – he goes backward.
"For what purpose," said our holy Father John of Kronstadt, "does the Lord add day after day, year after year, to our existence? In order that we may gradually put away, cast aside, evil from our souls and acquire blessed simplicity." This task does not end as long as we live; spiritual effort must be continuous. For Orthodox Christians the Paschal season is not merely a yearly remembrance, not merely the recurrence of an unchanging cycle. Each year brings us closer to death and to the judgment of our eternal destiny; but we are not properly preparing for this event if every year does not also find us in closer union with our Lord, with more secure faith in His Kingdom, with less attachment to the world.
If the strenuous effort of the Great Fast is not required of us in this season, neither is complete relaxation allowed, nor forgetfulness of the lessons we learned in the Fast. At the future judgment it will be asked of us not only how we spent the Fast (for we know that even those who come at the eleventh hour are welcomed), but perhaps even more how we spent the Feast: soberly, prayerfully, watchfully, remembering that the Bridegroom comes at midnight when men least expect Him; or gluttonously, forgetfully, as the world spends its days, the slave of every passion and every temptation.
Let us feast, but soberly, and in full awareness of why we feast: because our Lord has opened to us the gates of the Kingdom wherein feasting shall be eternal. Let us spend this time not renewing our attachment to the things of this world, but even while using the good things of the earth, remaining detached from them and looking beyond them to the Kingdom to which we are called.
"Of what," said Father John, "do we not deprive ourselves through our voluntary short-sightedness! Like flies we adhere to earthly sweets, and do not wish to rise up, to tear ourselves away from them. Blessed is he who despises the joys of this world; there shall be no end of his bliss."