Ephesians 2:14-22
14 Brethren, Christ is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enemy thereby:
17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! There are multiple angles we could take with the Epistle reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians this morning. But I’d like us to see the way that St. Paul talks about the relationship of the Christian with our Creator in this reading. He writes that Christ reconciled us to God through the Cross. He offers us healing by His death, the death of God, and His Resurrection. He made us to be no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, members of the household of God. We have access to the Father through the Holy Spirit because of the work of Christ. We’re a part of the building of the Church where Christ is the cornerstone. And finally, he says we’re to be the habitation of God through the Holy Spirit. St. Paul paints a picture for us this morning of a very intimate and intertwined relationship between God and man. Mother Magdalena’s talks this week were very inspiring on this point. If you weren’t able to be here, you really missed a wonderful blessing. But she very much focused on the intimacy of our relationship with Christ. That God, our Creator, wants us to know Him. That He loves us. That He created me deliberately—He decided that I would be who I am, and how I am. And Mother said that the essence of life can be boiled down into two points—that God loves us (which is what St. Paul demonstrates to us in our Epistle reading), and that in response to that love we worship God. And her definition of worshipping God was very inspiring—to delight in the source of our True happiness. So our life boils down to two points—God loves us, and we delight in His presence. The book that Mother suggested so frequently, Wounded By Love, speaks very powerfully of the intimacy of the relationship that God wants to have with us. And of the way that we can respond to His love. Elder Porphyrios says, “Christ is joy, the true light, happiness. Christ is our hope. Our relationship to Christ is love, eros, passion, enthusiasm, longing for the divine. Christ is everything. He is our love. He is the object of our desire. This passionate longing for Christ is a love that cannot be taken away…Christ is paradise, my children.” (p. 96) And so, with the potential of our relationship with Christ in mind, I’d like us to enter the Nativity Fast this week (on Thursday) with the goal of growing, deepening, this relationship with our Creator. Growing in our rejoicing in the presence of our Beloved. And I’m not just giving you the idea of having the goal to grow, but I’m asking you to proceed in a very specific direction. And here I’m really just gonna steal from Mother Magdalena, and the homework assignment that she suggested in one of her talks, I’m going to ask that each one of us take it on very seriously as we enter the Fast this year. And if we do, then our relationship with Christ will be changed. The task is to listen carefully to each of the four choices that I’ll outline in a second, and then to pick one of these things, and commit to doing if for a year. 1 Ask a blessing from Christ for everything. Before beginning any task ask for Christ to bless it. This brings Christ into every aspect of our lives, into everything we do. It’s also a very powerful way to see the work of God in our lives, which can’t help bringing us closer to Christ. 2 Give thanks for all things, both the good and the bad. This one can get very difficult, especially in bad times. But it opens our eyes to see that God wills our salvation in everything He allows to come into our lives. Again, it draws us closer to Christ by making us conscious of the activity of God in our every day. 3 Do not allow ourselves to have any judgmental thoughts about others. This also is very difficult, we find ourselves judging others without even thinking about it. But when we find ourselves tempted to be judgmental, we crush the thought. We don’t allow it to form and develop. And Mother even recommended that when we’re tempted to judge, we make excuses for the other person, we give ourselves a reason not to judge them. 4 Pray for others, both with a list of names in our icon corner, and pray for everyone we come into contact with throughout each day. Place everyone we meet into the hands of Christ, pour out the grace and love of God on everybody. All of our actions can either help or hinder others in their lives, even our thoughts. And there’s no better way for our lives to be a blessing to others than to pray for them. So the task is fairly simple. Pick one of these four to do for a year. We should pray; seek God’s will for what you should do, and try to begin by Thursday, the first day of the Fast. During the Fast we’re very focused on the spiritual life, and that will helps us as we get into the habit of offering ourselves to Christ in the one of those four ways. And if we undertake this very seriously for a year, then as Mother Magdalena promised, our perception of Christ in our lives, our joy in His presence, will increase in ways beyond our understanding. According to the good will of our Lord and Saviour. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!