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1st Sunday of Matthew (All Saints), Synaxis of the 12 Apostles

St Sergius and Bacchus

Today we celebrate the Sunday of all Saints and the synaxis or gathering of the twelve Apostles. Our Church honors the memory of the Holy Apostles in order to show us visible examples of holiness, which we can follow, so that we can also enter like them into the Kingdom of Heaven, to be partakers of Beauty. The saints were people like us who suffered, but they could do one thing different, they ‘suffered well’, as they were capable of transcending themselves. They believed in Christ, who is beauty and love, and therefore they had hope.  So, we are called to do the same, to ‘suffer well’ in Christ.

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The Holy Apostles were not well-known scholars neither were they distinguished political men, neither were they wealthy people. The Holy Apostles were simple, honest people full of love for their distressed fellow human beings. Above all however, an outstanding well-known characteristic of theirs was deep faith in God. They were pious people.

If the first reason for the Holy Disciples to follow Christ was their piety and their deep faith in God, the second reason was their nobility, their self-denial of everything for Christ. They mastered themselves.

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Hence they teach us about the two great goals or responsibilities of the human condition: transcending oneself and dominating oneself. We are given these teachings in today’s epistle and gospel. Saint Paul who was not one of the twelve apostles, but he was the Apostle to the Gentiles, teaches us Christ’s teaching of holiness and how to transcend oneself. He said: “When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the off-scouring of all things” (1 Cor 4:9-16). This teaching is contrary to the teaching of this world, which does not know how to love its enemies and is attached to transitory things.  Christ in today’s gospel mentioned how to dominate and transcend oneself when He said: “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:32-33; 37-38; 19:27-30).

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The saints and the Apostles teach us that nobility and holiness are the responsibilities of being human. But what are these two traits?

The noble person is one who is detached from desiring too much, sometimes against their own interests, and they are naturally generous through greatness of soul. The noble person is one who controls themselves, and loves to do this. Reality and beauty demands this discipline, which is self-mastery.

St Luke the Surgeon

The holy and pious person holds themselves detached from this world – either within the framework of this world or outside the framework of this world, because this world is not God, hence the pious person practices renunciation.  But the pious person is generous as a result of their love for God, because this love allows them to see God everywhere in His creation which is a manifestation of God, and because God is love. Thus we see then that the noble person is one who dominates themselves. The Holy person is one who transcends themselves.

The pious person is noble because truth is noble, and beauty is perceived by the noble person, whose soul is beautiful.

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As Socrates said: ‘’If there be something other than absolute Beauty, then that something can be beautiful to the extent that it partakes of absolute Beauty’’ (Plato: Phaedo).

St Theodore

For this reason the Lord said to his disciples in today’s gospel, “Every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven’’. What could be more beautiful than to be acknowledged by God in heaven? The saints and the Apostles all acknowledged Christ and were in constant communion with Him, partakers of His love and divine grace, through prayer and the holy life of the Church. And so God glorified and honored them, as they glorified Him, thus showing us what love and beauty truly is, a life in Christ.

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