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February 2, 2021

Homily on the Reception of the Lord (Archimandrite George Kapsanis)

 By Archimandrite George Kapsanis
Former Abbot of Gregoriou Monastery on Mount Athos

(Delivered in the Trapeza of the Monastery in 1991)

The Mosaic Law, which commanded that every firstborn male infant be offered in the Temple of Solomon on the fortieth day after his birth, was intended to prepare the people of Israel, just like the other provisions of the Law, for the coming of the Messiah. For that unique firstborn Son of the Virgin, who would be completely dedicated to God, that is, the Messiah. So this commandment had a messianic character. And with similar commandments the people of Israel were kept aware of the inadequacy of the Law for the salvation of men and the expectation of the coming Messiah, who would fulfill the Law and bring the fullness of salvation and eternal life to the people.

This provision therefore concerned Christ, and the Lord, to whom this commandment extended, did not need to offer Himself to the Temple, because it was the Temple of the Godhead itself. But this Maker of the Law wanted to fulfill the Law, by being placed under the Law. And as a servant, let Him also be offered to the Temple by His Mother and His adoptive father, and let the rituals and offerings of a pair of turtledoves or two doves be customary as prescribed by law.

Thus the Lord, as with the Circumcision and His Baptism in the Jordan River and with His other deeds, made Himself under the Law, in order to transcend the Law through his obedience to the Law, to pay the Law and to grant men, through this obedience to the Law, true freedom. He did not need to gain freedom by submitting to the Law, because He was the giver of freedom, the real Freedom. But to give us freedom, He came under the Law. At the same time, in order to set an example for us that, if we want to gain true freedom, we must also voluntarily enter under the Law of Christ. Certainly not now under the Law of the Old Testament, but under the Law of Grace of the New Testament.

This is the purpose of the Monk. The Monk voluntarily places himself under the law of obedience, in order to gain true freedom. And the better he obeys, the freer he becomes. Free from passions, free from selfishness, free from all slavery, finally free from this death.

Do you remember the blessed father Auxentios, who had reached high stages of virtue? When we told him that he was an old man and that he should not go to church because his feet did not support him, he replied: "In the Church I feel free". The Monk feels this freedom when he does indiscriminate obedience, as God wants it. If we suffer from thoughts or spiritual disorders, it is because we do not obey properly. And you know from experience that when you obey as God wants you to, then you feel free. Let us note this today on the occasion of the obedience that the Lord did - and that He did not have to do it for Himself, but did it for us - according the Old Testament Law, so that we too may walk in faithful obedience to the true freedom of the children of God, which the Lord Himself has given us. 

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.