04-24-2016, 11:55 AM
Homily for Palm Sunday (St. Gregory Palamas)
The sermon below (Homily 15) was delivered by St. Gregory Palamas on Palm Sunday of a year between 1347 and 1359, in a church in the city of Thessaloniki.
“In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee,” said God through Isaiah (Isaiah 49.8). It is good today to speak these words of the apostle to your charity: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6.2). “Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us work the works of light. Let us walk honestly as in the day” (Romans 13.12-13). The commemoration of Christ’s saving passion is at hand, and the new, great spiritual Passover, which is the reward for dispassion and the prelude of the world to come. Lazarus proclaims it in advance by coming back from the depths of Hades and rising from the dead on the fourth day just by the voice and command of God, who has power over life and death (John 11.1-45). By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, children and simple people sing praises in advance to the Redeemer from death, who brings souls up from Hades and gives souls and bodies eternal life.
“What man is he that desireth life and to see good days? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile: depart from evil and do good” (Psalm 34.12-14; compare 1 Peter 3.10-11). Evil means gluttony, drunkenness and dissolute living. Evil means love of money, being greedy for gain, and injustice. Evil means vainglory, arrogance and pride. Let everyone turn aside from such vices and do those things which are good. What are they? Self-control, fasting, chastity, righteousness, almsgiving, forbearance, love, humility. That by so doing we may worthily partake of the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for our sake, and so receive the earnest of incorruption, and keep it as an assurance of the inheritance promised to us in heaven. Is it hard to do what is good, and are the virtues more difficult than the vices? That is certainly not how I see it. The drunken, self-indulgent person subjects himself because of this to more sufferings than someone who restrains himself; the licentious person suffers more than someone chaste; someone striving to become rich more than someone who lives in contentment with what he has; the person seeking to surround himself with glory than someone who passes life in obscurity. Since, however, the virtues seem more difficult to us because of our love of comfort, let us force ourselves. “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence,” it says, “and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11.12).
All of us, eminent and lowly, governors and governed, rich and poor, need diligence and attention to drive these evil passions away from our souls, and introduce the whole range of virtues in their stead. Farmers, shoemakers, builders, tailors, weavers, and in general all those who earn their living by their own effort and the work of their hands, provided they throw out of their souls the desire for riches, glory and pleasure, are truly blessed. These are the poor to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs. It was on their account that the Lord said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5.3). The poor in spirit are those whose spirits, or souls, are free from boasting, love of glory and fondness for pleasure, and therefore either choose to be poor in external things as well or else courageously bear involuntary poverty. Those who are rich and comfortable, and enjoy fleeting glory, and in general all who long to be like them, will yield to more harmful passions and fall into other worse traps of the devil, which are more difficult to deal with. When someone becomes rich, he does not lay aside his desire for riches, but increases it, grasping at more than he did before. In the same way, pleasure lovers, power seekers, the dissolute and the debauched increase their desires rather than renouncing them. Rulers and eminent men...