How Can Grace Teach?

H/T: Orthodoxy and the World (here); from a homily delivered by Patriarch Kirill on Theophany 2011. Pictured below is Patriarch Irinej of Serbia on the Eve of Theophany last year. Not to be confused.

….

The Apostle tells us that this grace teaches us to reject ungodliness and worldly lusts. But how can grace teach? Man is taught by words, both spoken and written; he is taught by life experience. So how can God’s grace teach man? The Apostle’s words help us to understand that any problem that man is capable of solving through his own reason can be solved with sufficient education, knowledge, and skill. It is only the most vital task, the task of man’s salvation, that he cannot solve through the power of his own reason, because an enormous number of various kinds of influences act on our nature – and on our very mind, will, and feelings. Without God’s help and grace we cannot reject ungodliness and worldly lusts – but are capable of doing this through God’s grace.

Grace also teaches us in the sense that, regardless of all the intellectual and behavioral temptations that have fallen upon man over the course of these 2,000 years of Christian history, the truth about salvation has been soundly preserved in God’s Church.

This sound preservation of truth is inaccessible to even the most powerful human intellect – the truth about salvation is preserved only through the power of God. Today, when we bless the waters, we are performing an action that would have been impossible if Christ had not suffered, risen, and revealed the grace of the Holy Spirit to us. The blessing of the waters, the calling down of Divine grace upon physical nature, is a symbol and sign of that liberation from sin that God revealed to mankind in Christ. Every one of us who touches the blessed water, who tastes it, receives this Divine energy and grace that teach us to reject ungodliness and worldly lusts, helping us to preserve ourselves for the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, when drawing the blessed water, we should remember that we are touching something holy. The very drawing of water in church is a sacred rite. Sometimes we bring elements of this world into church: we need to hurry somewhere after the service, so we want to draw the water earlier, and we shove or harm the person standing next to us. Do not do this! Draw the holy water quietly and prayerfully. Just as Communion can be for judgment and condemnation, rather than for the salvation of soul and healing of the body, so too can taking holy water be for judgment and condemnation. For those who draw the water without piety and fear of God, this water ceases to be water gushing forth into eternal life.

Having come to church today, do not hurry to leave. Stand near the vessel with the holy water and, while you await your turn, pray fervently to the Lord for yourself, your family, your children and grandchildren, for health of soul and body, for our country, our nation, and our Church – that the Lord, through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, would grant us all the opportunity to reject ungodliness and worldly lusts for life in this present world. Amen.

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