SERMONS AND ARTICLES
 

Archbishop Seraphim of Chicago and Detroit

"During These Bright Days We Should Think More Often of Our Savior, Learn More About Him"

Today is the Wednesday of Mid-Pentecost, that is, the halfway mark of the celebration of Pascha, which lasts for 40 days, until the holiday of the Ascension of the Lord.

The Paschal light shines long for Christians who desire to be illumined and sanctified by it. During these bright days we should think more often of our Savior, learn more about Him. Of course, all the important things about our Lord Jesus Christ are written in the Holy Gospel and the Epistles. Virtually everyone has this book, but most of us rarely open it. Is this not so? Well, we did read it once… Everything in it we already know. But of course this is not so, for spiritual persons have through experience learned that the more this great book of life is read, the more Divine secrets are opened to us.

Yet this book contains only a portion of what the Savior did and said during His earthly life. This is clearly witnessed by Holy Apostle John the Theologian at the end of his Gospel, in which he writes: "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written."

And so lovers of the Word of God often carefully gathered the deeds and words of Christ the Savior from all available sources unrecorded in Holy Scripture. Such compendia are called "Agrapha," which is Greek for "unwritten." Recently I came across one such book written in our day and published in Poland in the Russian language in 1938. This book is exceedingly interesting, and I wish to share at least some of its spiritual treasures.

First of all it must be said that there is no reason to doubt the authenticity of these words of Christ unwritten in Holy Scripture. They are not taken from the Apocrypha, that is, the accounts of Jesus Christ not recognized by the Church, but from the extant writings of the Holy Fathers of the first centuries of Christianity.

More than a few words of Christ not contained in the Gospel can be found in the Acts of the Holy Apostles written down by St Luke the Gospel writer, or in the epistles of Apostle Paul. For instance: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

These words of Christ are also almost universally known: "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath," and they are not in the Gospel, but in the Epistle of Apostle Paul to the Ephesians, Chapter 4, verse 26. There are many such citations, I will not speak of them further, but refer those who are interested to the New Testament.

I wish to bring up a few remarkable words whose authenticity is confirmed by the Apostles. Many of you often hear in church, during sermons and in private conversations on spiritual topics the words of Christ: 'In whatsoever things I shall take you, in these I shall judge you." They are not found in the New Testament. But the Church deems them to be the genuine words of Christ. The great Apostle, St Justin the Philosopher recorded them in his dialog with Trypho.

Here is a wonderful moment from the appearance of Christ to his relative, James, preserved for us by St Jerome, the famous translator of Holy Scripture from the Greek into Latin, called the "Vulgate."

In the New Testament, Apostle Paul, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 15, verse 7, speaks very laconically: "After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles."

Here is what Blessed Jerome reports on this event on the basis of ancient manuscripts he found: "The Lord…went to James and appeared before him. For James had sworn that he would not eat bread from the moment that he drank of the Lord's chalice until he would see Him arisen from the dead… Said the Lord: 'Bring a table and some bread." Taking the bread and blessing it, He gave it to Jerome the Just and said: 'My brother, eat your bread, for the Son of Adam has been raised from among those who sleep.'"

Are these not truly a remarkable complement to the words of Apostle Paul?

The following important words of Christ are given to us by Holy Apostle Barnabas of the Seventy in his epistle, which is considered authoritative by the Church:

"Those who wish to behold Me, and lay hold of My kingdom, must through tribulation and suffering obtain Me."

Clement of Alexandria, as well as Origen, cite the following commandment of Christ as authentic: "Seek what is great and the little things shall be added; seek what is heavenly and earthly things shall be given to you."

Of course, this is a paraphrase of the great words of the Gospel: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33); but what an interesting paraphrase!

The following words of consolation of the Savior were found in Egypt in 1897, which are considered in theological science to be a "proto-Gospel":

"He who is alone, there am I with him." These remarkable words were preserved for us by St Ephrem the Syrian in his writings.

Here is an interesting addition to the story of the wealthy youth, recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke:

Hearing the words of Christ to sell his possessions and distributing his money to the poor, the rich youth began to fret, and he was not pleased by this. And the Lord said to him: "How can you say, I have fulfilled the law and the prophets, when it is written in the law: You shall love your neighbor as yourself and many of your brothers, sons of Abraham, are covered with filth, dying of hunger, and your house is full of many good things, none of which goes out to them?” And He turned and said to Simon, his disciple, who was sitting by Him, “Simon, son of Jonah, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

This paragraph is taken from the oldest apocryphal Gospel of the Hebrews, a portion of whose text, in addition to the above, is considered by the Holy Fathers to contain the actual words of Christ. In this case, the clarity, the directness and power of the witness speak for themselves.

There is another interesting passage from the same source:

The Lord said to His disciples that they be "as sheep in the midst of wolves" (Matthew 10:16)… "Peter, interrupting Him, says: 'But what if the wolves rend the sheep? Jesus said to Peter: let the sheep fear not the wolves, who may do nothing but slay them, and you fear not those who kill you and can do nothing more, but fear Him Who has power over the spirit and flesh and upon your slaying will cast you into fiery Gehenna."

Truly, what a fascinating variation on the well-known Gospel words of Christ on the wolves and sheep!

And here are the words of Christ recorded in the "Teachings of the Holy Apostles," a monument of the first century:

"Sorrow to those who have, yet hypocritically take or grant themselves more from others; for each will give his response to the Lord God on the day of judgment."

Yes, each will give his answer to the Lord on the day of judgment, especially those who already have and yet hypocritically take more from others!

It is beneficial to think about this to wealthy American politicians who spend large sums of money to achieve power instead of using their wealth to God-pleasing ends. But this applies to each of us individually, who gather great estates for themselves, spending most of their time in this endeavor, yet barely thinking of God's work.

Let us end our discussion with one other passage quoted by St Clement, the fourth Bishop of Rome (91-100 AD)"

"Though ye be gathered together with Me in My bosom, and do not My commandments, I will cast you away and will say unto you Depart from Me, I know you not whence ye are, ye workers of iniquity!"

These terrible words of Christ should be heeded and considered by all of us; let us ponder them and with the help of our conscience decided: do these words apply to many of us as well?

From I svet vo t'me svetit ["And Light Illuminates the Darkness,"] Chicago, 1972