William Porcher DuBose

Today, The Episcopal Church calendar lists a feast day in honor of an American member of the communion of saints, William Porcher DuBose.  DuBose was a veteran of the Civil War, an Anglican priest, and a university professor who helped establish The School of Theology at at The University of the South in Sewanee, TN.  Though the average believer may not have heard of DuBose, in some circles, he is considered to be one of America’s greatest pastor/priests and theologians.  Despite the high regard in which he was held in academic and spiritual circles, he never was blessed with the office of Bishop.  DuBose was known to have said that this lack of promotion was a “fortunate escape”.

Below is an excerpt from a sermon DuBose delivered in Sewanee in 1911.  In it, DuBose hammers home his point that nothing is new with God, no matter what we believe we know or have come to understand about His nature: He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  It’s us, with our limited vision, who are constantly distracted by “ism’s” and our own concerns, that keep ourselves from seeing God as He is.  As a result, we never see ourselves as we really are, and the Church as she should be.  As we engage in our own culture wars over the issues which divide the body of Christ today, we would do well to hear more and more sermons like this one.

EXCERPT FROM SERMON PREACHED IN THE UNIVERSITY CHAPEL,
SEWANEE, ON THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION, 1911

“I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”–1 Cor. ii. 2.

What is the moral already? We do not forever want new things; we want the art of keeping things forever new. The change we need is not in the things, it is in us and our hold upon the things–our life in them, our use of them, our labor for them. Let us remember that our Lord taught absolutely nothing new–the Gospel was older than the Law, God’s love than man’s obedience. He Himself, the incarnation of our faith, our hope, our life, was before Moses, before Abraham, before Adam, before the foundation of the earth, as old as God, because He was God’s love-disposition, love-purpose, Self-realization in us and in His world. Our Lord spoke only of God and of man, and their mutual relations; on God’s part, of love, grace, and fellowship or oneness with us (coming down)–and on our part (going up) of faith, hope, and love that make us one with Him. Our Lord uttered no new word, gave no new commandment, even instituted no new sacrament–water and bread and wine were already in themselves not only symbols or signs, but instruments and agents of birth and life. He took all the old things as they were, and He made them all living and new. When He took His disciples up with Him into the very high mountain, it was not really in Himself, but only to them that He was transfigured. They saw Him as the sun and His raiment as the light; they heard words from heaven, claiming Him for God and declaring Him to man. But their so seeing and hearing was only through the exaltation of their own spiritual selves and faculties. Jesus was always so, if their senses could but have perceived it. We do indeed live only in our supreme moments. Things are monotonous, dull, dead enough, day after day, perhaps year after year, until somehow we are taken up–let me say, however, that we are never taken up, except as also, with all our spiritual cooperation, we take ourselves up–into the exceeding high mountain, and there all our world becomes transfigured before us. “Old things are passed away: behold all things are become new.” Mind, not all new things have become, or come to pass, but all things, the old things, have become new. God and heaven are everywhere and always here if we could but see them; but alas! almost nowhere, and so seldom here, because so few of us can see them, and we so seldom.

How is it that our Lord Himself could live so continuously and so high? I am speaking of Him humanly; and speaking so, we must remember, however, that He had His deep places as well as His high, His darkness as well as light, His desertions and emptiness as well as His exaltations and fulness, His descents into hell as well as His ascents into heaven. But still, how could our Lord walk as continuously as He did upon the mountain tops, with such deep waters and desert places, such Gethsemanes and Calvaries always beneath His feet? We must look for very old and simple and human answers if we would know our Lord as He came to be, and was, the Way, the Truth, and the Life for us. It is because, what time He could spare from the valleys, ministering to the multitudes, going about doing good, He was wont to spend upon the mountains, drawing breath and strength and life from God.

(more…)

Advertisements

The majority of the Christian world will celebrate The Feast of the Assumption today, in honor of the death and rise to heaven of the Virgin Mary, or as the Orthodox refer to her, the Theotokos.  Today, in honor of her life as the mother of Christ, for being a willing servant, for answering the call of God, I’m celebrating by posting a classic homily from Saint John of Kronstadt.  While many evangelicals might be frightened by the language of the homily…Saying Mary was resurrected on the third day after her death…We must keep in mind that this has been a historical teaching of the Catholic and Orthodox world for centuries, and that we evangelicals, though we might think we are the prevalent faction, are the minority in terms of our opinions on Mary.  We don’t hear the story of Mary’s demise in the Bible, but we do know that it is within God’s power to resurrect the dead, and in looking at the example of Enoch and Elijah,  to “assume” a living, glorified body into heaven. 

If the theological implications of  the Catholic/Orthodox view of Mary are just too much for you, don’t stop reading.  After the first two paragraphs, St. John of K. delivers a beautiful lesson on the hope of resurrection, the value of virtue, and the indwelling Spirit.

Hope you enjoy!

Assumption of the Holy Virgin, Irina Kolbneva

Magnify O my soul, the honourable Translation of the Mother of God from earth to heaven.” (Refrain for the 9th Ode of the Canon)

Let us be happy, beloved brothers and sisters that we belong to the Holy Orthodox Church, worthily and rightly glorifying the Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos on this eminent day out of all the days of the year with special solemnity. There exists on earth many societies and entire governments that do not consider the need nor the obligation to call upon and glorify the Queen of heaven and earth, the Mother of Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ, and other saints and angels; to submissively serve Her lovingly, as the true Mother of God. Sadly in Russia nowadays we have heretics (among us) who actively dishonor the Mother of God, the saints, their icons, their relics and their festivals. O, if only they also unanimously with us glorified the worthy Queen of heaven and earth!

Today the Holy Church solemnly glorifies the honorable Dormition or translation of the Mother of God from earth to heaven. A wonderful translation – she died without serious illness, peacefully. Her soul is taken up in the divine hands of Her Son and carried up into the heavenly abode, accompanied by the sweet singing of angels. And then, her most pure body is transferred by the apostles to Gethsemane where it is honorably buried, and on the third day it is resurrected and taken up to heaven. You see this on the icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos. On it is represented the life-bearing body of the Theotokos laying on a bier, surrounded by the apostles and hierarchs, and in the center of the icon the Lord holding in His hands the most pure soul of the Theotokos. The translation of the Mother of God is a paradigm of the translation in general of the souls of Christians to the other world.

We say that our dead have “fallen asleep” or “passed away.” What does this mean? This means that for the true Christian there is no death. Death was conquered by Christ on the cross. But there is a translation, i.e, a rearrangement of his condition, i.e. his soul is in another place, in another age, in another world beyond the grave, eternal, without end, that is what is meant by “falling asleep”. It is as if it were a temporary dream after which, by the voice of the Lord and the fearful yet wonderful trumpet of the Archangel, all the dead shall live and come forth each to his place: either to the resurrection of life or to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:29). This is what the Christian means by translation. We should be ready for this translation, for the day of the general resurrection and judgment, for this indescribable world event, recorded in the Holy Scriptures.

This preparation for the meeting of the heavenly King before the dread judgment seat, after death, is essentially the person’s preparation throughout the whole of his life. This preparation means a change in all his thoughts, and the moral change of all his being, so that the whole man would be pure and white as snow, washing clean everything that defiles the body and spirit, so that he is adorned with every virtue: repentance, meekness, humility, gentleness, simplicity, chastity, mercifulness, abstention, spiritual contemplation, and burning love for God and neighbor.

Our preparation for meeting the heavenly King, and for the inheritance of eternal life in heaven, should consist of these things. The heavenly King desires souls adorned with immutable virtue, souls prepared so that the Very Lord Himself could abide in them. Do not marvel that the Very Lord wants to live in us. In fact the human soul is more spacious than the heavens and the earth, for it exists in the image of God. And if one removes sins from the soul, the Lord of all will settle in it and will fill it with Himself. “We will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (John 14:23), says the Lord about the souls who love Him.

And so, ye participants in the Christian feasts, and especially the present feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, ye who are brightly adorned with every virtue and translated to the heavenly kingdom, to Her Son and God, proclaim to each and every one about preparing their souls to be the dwelling place of the Lord, about continual repentance, and about the incorruptible adornment of Christian virtue. Let your death also be unashamed and peaceful, serving as the pledge of a good answer at the dread judgment seat of Christ. Amen.

Saint John of Kronstadt

To learn more about the life of St. John of Kronstadt, click here