Words of Encouragement
from Fr. Peter Speropulos
October 19, 2020

´╗┐This past Saturday, our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Deon Johnson, made a special visit to our parish to confirm the faith of eight of our young parishioners. It was exciting and moving to experience. Bp. Johnson's sermon was simply this: Love. Wherever you go, love. Whoever you encounter, love. This is what it means to live Christ into the world. Love.
Recently, I have been thinking about the Church Fathers. In particular, those leaders from the first few centuries of the church, the Ante-nicene Fathers. I have ten volumes of their writings and in those pages, there is surprisingly little theological development. This is surprising because these were the disciples of the disciples; they knew people who knew Jesus! Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian, Julius Africanus. These were not great Doctors of the Faith. These were shepherds; charged principally with keeping their flock safe and alive. 

It was illegal in their day to follow the Way of Jesus. To be baptized could very well be a death sentence and at the very least it meant being ostracized. It meant hardship. 

Throughout the writings of these shepherds are recurring themes to the various churches "sojourning" in the world; be faithful, love one another, have patience, hope. Over and over again, they repeat themselves: faith, hope, love.

One of these Shepherds was St. Cyprian of Carthage. He was an educated man of great wealth. In 246 AD, he turned to Jesus and a complete change came over him astonishing all who knew him. He gave all of his wealth to the poor and within two years he was ordained a priest and soon Bishop of Carthage.

St. Cyprian guided his flock through two great persecutions of the church, the second of which claimed his life. He chose to be beheaded rather than renounce Jesus Christ. Through words and example, he encouraged the church to persevere, to keep being the church in the midst of hardship. On the themes of Christian hope and patience he writes:  

.....Patience is a precept for salvation given us by our Lord our teacher: Whoever endures .....to the end will be saved. And again: If you persevere in my word, you will truly be my .....disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

.....Dear sisters and brothers, we must endure and persevere if we are to attain the truth .....and freedom we have been allowed to hope for; faith and hope are the very meaning .....of our being Christians, but if faith and hope are to bear their fruit, patience is .....necessary.

.....We do not seek glory now, in the present, but we look for future glory, as Saint Paul .....instructs us when he says: By hope we were saved. Now hope which is seen is not .....hope; how can a man hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, .....we wait for it in patience. Patient waiting is necessary if we are to be perfected in .....what we have begun to be, and if we are to receive from God what we hope for and .....believe.

.....And in another place St. Paul says: Bear with one another lovingly, striving to keep the .....unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. He shows that neither unity nor peace can be .....maintained unless we cherish each other with mutual forbearance and preserve the .....bond of harmony by means of patience.

As we begin a new week, may we, The Church of St. Michael & St. George, lay hold of hope, persevere in our faith, and love one another as Christ loved us. 


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