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July 4, 2022

Homily for the Third Sunday of Matthew - The Heavenly Father (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

Homily for the Third Sunday of Matthew

The Heavenly Father

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou 

"... and yet your heavenly Father feeds them" (Matt. 6:26).
Beloved brethren,

The God-man Christ said in His Sermon on the Mount that God is our Father. "Your heavenly Father" (Matthew 5:26). With this he expresses God's love and special interest for us. This truth is a great revelation that Christ made with His incarnation.

We know that in the era before Christ, God was considered to be a being who is beyond humans and takes care of the preservation of the world and the moral order, and when man violates this order, God punishes him. However, Christ revealed to us that God is our Father who takes care of us. He taught us to pray to Him: "Our Father who art in heaven... Thy Kingdom come" (Matthew 5:9-10). In the Church, enlivened by the Grace of God and transformed, we obtain adoption and cry: "Abba, Father". "And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!' Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ" (Gal. 4:6-7).

Adoption is connected with the rebirth of man. Thus, the spiritual life, when practiced correctly, leads man to connect and feel God as his Father. He passes from the state of the slave, to that of the wage earner and then reaches the state of sonship, who applies to himself the will of God, not to avoid punishment, nor to enter Heaven, but because he loves God as his Father.

The teaching that God is our Father is closely connected with our creation, our re-creation and our relationship with Him. It is a basic teaching of the Church that, just as God created the world from nothing, so He directs and enlivens the world without created means, but with His uncreated energies, which are called the Providence of God.

According to Saint Gregory Palamas, the essence of God is one, but His energies are many. Just as His essence is uncreated, i.e. divine, so His energies are divine, uncreated. But God's essence is incommunicable, and His energies are communicable. The whole world participates in God's energies, the soulless participate in God's substance-making energy, while plants and animals in God's life-making energy, and humans, having a soul, in God's wisdom-making energy, and the angels together with the saints in the sanctifying or deifying energy of God. Everyone receives the Grace of God according to their receptivity.

Christ teaches, as we saw in today's Gospel reading, that God feeds the birds of the sky, He makes the lilies of the field grow, He adorns them so beautifully. Therefore, all these are not the result of nature, but of the word of God, who acts in them from the day He brought them to life.

We also see this teaching in the Old Testament. In every Vesper service during the reading of the Proemion Psalm (103) we confess that God sends the springs to flow in the gorges, He waters the mountains with the rains, He makes grass grow from the earth for the animals to eat, the young of the lions roar and cry to God to send them food and all the animals wait for God to give them their food.

Also, it is known that in the miracle that happened in Cana, Christ turned water into wine. Sacred Chrysostom interprets that Christ, who transforms the water in the roots of the vine and turns it into wine, He is the one who now performs the miracle of water into wine. However, to see the energies of God in all of nature, this is what is called theoria by proportion. Thus, then, pure people, who practice noetic prayer, come into communion with the logoi of beings and feel unity with all creation.

From these few things emerge two truths that we as Orthodox should keep in mind.

The first truth is that Christ as God saves man with His uncreated energies. Therefore, not only is Christ God, but also His energies are divine. The opposite view, that is, that the Grace of God is created, leads us into great error, into the very heresy of Arius, and then we deny the possibility of salvation.

Unfortunately, the Latins have fallen into this error. If one reads the works of Thomas Aquinas, who is considered the greatest theologian of scholastic theology, one will see that there is often talk of created grace, of created love, etc. However, this is a modern Arianism, which changes faith into rationalism and leads the Church to agnosticism. We Orthodox deny Western scholastic theology, because it has not yet rejected the heretical idea that the Grace of God is created.

The second truth is that Athanasios the Great, when he maintained that Christ is God, and Saint Gregory Palamas, when he confessed that God's energies are uncreated, relied on their spiritual experience. Apart from their reference to the Prophets, the Apostles and the previous Fathers, they also added their own testimony. That is, because they had reached the theoria/vision of God, they had real knowledge about Him and they confessed it. Therefore, the Holy Fathers are the guarantors of the genuine interpretation of revelation, because they themselves received the revelation, while the heretics who rely more on reflection and not on the revelation of God, cannot interpret the Holy Scriptures in an Orthodox (that is, true) manner.

That is why if we connect with contemporary holy Fathers, who have knowledge of God, we will have the absolute certainty that we are walking the path of Orthodoxy far from reflections, philosophies and individual theories that open the way to heresy.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.