June 27, 2022

Homily for the Second Sunday of Matthew - The Meaning of Obedience (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

Homily for the Second Sunday of Matthew

The Meaning of Obedience

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"...and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him" (Matt. 4:23)

Beloved brethren,

One of the most difficult but necessary truths of the Church for modern man is the teaching of obedience. Christ sets it as a necessary condition of salvation and perfection. That is why when He called His disciples, they left everything and followed Him.

Modern man, however, cannot understand the value of obedience. He considers it destructive to his person. This is because he has deified his reasoning faculty that he thinks is of great value. When one lives with the rule of reason, then one is completely incapable of understanding the great value of obedience.

By studying modern life we can see that a great change has taken place in our time, affecting all areas of human life. Today there is a crisis of paternity, that is, every authority is questioned, since the ego has been elevated as an authority. This is a characteristic feature of the post-modern era. Extending this mentality to religious life, it destroys every communion of man with God. The questioning of paternity goes as far as patricide.

Thus, when a modern man reads the circumstance of the call of the four disciples and their renunciation of all things to follow Christ, it seems incomprehensible to him. This means that Orthodoxy today finds it very difficult to reveal its treasures to secularized modern people, because they are not accustomed to obedience, much less accustomed to practicing it. Many modern young people are able to deny everything, but not to follow and obey Christ, but to obey themselves and to satisfy all their desires.

And yet, obedience is a necessary element of Orthodox life. First of all, obedience enlivens people. The Holy Fathers have explained this great significance of obedience. Just as with the disobedience of Adam the powers of the soul were divided and essentially the soul lost the Grace of God, so with obedience to the will of God the soul is unified and enlivened. Christ said: "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). Thus, "disobedience is death, obedience is life", as Saint John of Sinai writes. Adam with disobedience brought death to all of nature, and the second Adam (Christ) with obedience to His Father filled the world with life.

Then, with obedience, true sociability develops. That is, by obeying God's will we accept His life within us. A Christian begins his spiritual life by obeying the will of God. By this he is transformed, and is inflamed with love for the whole world. Thus, it gets to the point of feeling a close relationship with others and experiencing universal responsibility. He approaches others with love and out of love and offers in a secret and effective way their salvation.

Also, obedience cleanses us from the passions that make our soul sick. It has been observed that one who obeys has fewer passions, since he is freed from egocentrism.

When we speak of obedience, we do not mean an abstract situation, but a specific life. We do not mean a passive immobility, but a lasting positive movement. The passive and abstract state creates more problems. Thus, when we say obedience, we mean primarily the observance of the commandments of God. Because we, as impure and impassioned, cannot discern what is the will of God, which we must apply in every given circumstance, and for this we need obedience to our spiritual father. For the word of the spiritual father, when it does not go against the will of God, is the summary of the commandments of Christ.

Obedience to the spiritual father, however, is not a simple situation, but has many aspects and extensions. Obedience to our spiritual father is not enough, but at the same time it is obedience to the Tradition of the Church, it is obedience to the Bishop and the canonical structure of the Church. Tradition is the uninterrupted action of the Holy Spirit in the Church. This Holy Spirit sanctifies people, ordains Bishops and enlightens the Fathers to establish a rule for the proper functioning of the Body of Christ. There is a close relationship between the Saints, the Bishop and the Altar. Any single one of these are meaningless without the existence of the others.

Thus, obedience to a spiritual father must also be associated with obedience in all ecclesiastical life.

Today there is constant talk about the maturity of man. Many people express the view that man with his knowledge has reached high levels of perfection and maturity. However, the Orthodox Church emphasizes in particular that spiritual maturity, that is, the constant path to perfection, is not done with human knowledge, but with obedience to the will of God. Perfect obedience is a voluntary death. Resurrection and life sprout from death. This is the experience of the Church. This is what the Holy Apostles teach us. This is what all the Saints urge for us. Obedience will unify us and enliven us.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.