In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ!
First of all, Happy Father’s Day to all of you fathers out there!
Isn’t it nice how we have so many different days in our society when we remember or commemorate different things? Persons, events, and so on. It comes very naturally to us, in fact probably every culture around the world has such commemorations. It’s important for us to remember significant events, and important people. We have many such days, and as you know, the Jews have several commemorations, weekly sabbath, Pentecost, Passover, and so on. And in the Church, wow! Do we have commemorations? There’s no shortage of commemorations in the Church, is there? Just about every day there’s something or someone we’re remembering. There’s other ways of remembering too. Those genealogy companies come to mind. Have you looked into getting your DNA tested to learn more about you ancestry, and family history? You can sure find out some interesting things by doing one of those tests.
We love to know our history, we love to know how we came to be! As I mentioned, our Church has lots of commemorations. What a memory our Church has! And also how natural it is for human beings to want to remember. It’s kind of our duty, isn’t it? We need to, we have to, remember those who’ve gone on before us, and what they’ve done. Whether it may be good or bad. Of course, we mostly try to remember the good stuff! This is why days like today are so important for us. Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, we need these days. And for us in the Church, today we remember those Saints who’ve made an impact on us here in our land. Our local, North American Saints get special recognition today.
To me, and for all of us, it’s so important to learn about the Saints of the Church. These Saints, our North American Saints we remember today, are proof for us, and show us, up close, that God is truly the same, yesterday, today, and forever. We have quite a few of them on our wall over there. What a diverse group! Or course, there are many names up there of known Saints, but there also many partial figures, slightly hidden faces and forms, representing all those saints who are unknown to us. Just like in the Church throughout the world, the Holy Spirit is working in people’s hearts here in this country, filling faithful believers with God’s Divine Grace, His energy! Today we recognize and honor our spiritual inheritance, those known and unknown to us, who have glorified God with their lives, and then in turn have been glorified by God! Our spiritual DNA, in this country, has been sanctified by Apostles, Ascetics, and Martyrs.
Just as it is important for us to learn about our natural ancestors, to know where we’ve come from, to know what our ancestors went through to get us to where we are today, so it is also important for us to strive to learn about and get to know our “spiritual ancestors”, by reading the lives of the Saints. When we commemorate them, as we are doing today, they are made present with us. Every Divine Liturgy, the Kingdom of God opens to us, meets us in time and space, brings God’s saints, His “Cloud of Witnesses” gathers around us. But today especially, these particular Saints of North America are present with us.
Here’s a little bit about some those first Orthodox missionaries to our land:
On September 24, 1794, after a journey of 7,327 miles (the longest missionary journey in Orthodox history) and 293 days, a group of monks from Valaam arrived on Kodiak Island in Alaska. The mission was headed by Archimandrite Joasaph, and included Hieromonks Juvenal, Macarius, and Athanasius, the Hierodeacons Nectarius and Stephen, and the monks Herman and Joasaph. Saint Herman of Alaska (December 13, August 9), the last surviving member of the mission, fell asleep in the Lord in 1837. (https://www.oca.org/saints/lives/2020/06/21/49-synaxis-of-the-saints-of-north-america)
Of course, that is just a small sample, from the small beginnings of our Church here. Similarly to the origins of our Church on that first Pentecost. Starting off with just a small few. They don’t do it for glory or riches. We know how poor these monks were that I’ve mentioned. They came out of love for Christ, and their love for their neighbor, other people. They, like the first Apostles had to put up with so much. But this is to be expected, for the Lord Himself warned us in the Gospels. Today for example we hear the very words of the Lord from His Sermon on the Mount:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Today, as we remember our Fathers and honor them, let us also remember with love those Saints of North America who have sacrificed everything to bring the Gospel here, sharing not only knowledge of God, but the very experience of God Himself. For as He tells us in the book of Revelation:
“20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and have supper with him, and he with me. 21 To the one who overcomes, I will grant to sit down with me on my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Rev 3:20–21)
Let us today, and everyday, consciously open the doors of our hearts to our Lord, like our spiritual forefathers and mothers, so that we may live up to our spiritual inheritance here and in the Kingdom to come. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen