Posts tagged ‘fools for Christ’

We are Fools for Christ’s Sake (1 Corinthians 4:9-16)

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!

Audio here

In my various readings this week, I came across a very interesting and important homily by Archbishop John (Shahovskoy) [OCA, San Francisco, 1950-1973 & 1975-1979]. I’m not going to read or directly quote it today, but I’d like to give you the basic idea of what he was saying in this particular homily, and then tie that in with our Epistle reading this morning. He began by saying that many Christians feel that following Christ is a very difficult thing. The reason he says that so many of us feel this way is because we’re thinking big – we’re thinking that God requires something big, something great [and we understand this ‘great’ in worldly terms]. We so often talk using very grandious or theological or technical language, and we easily forget exactly what it is that the Gospel calls us to do. Christ, in the Gospels, calls us to make each and every decision during each and every day for Him. In other words, to follow Christ, I don’t need to do some single big, great deed – I need to do small things, I need to constantly do small things, to choose Him in the mundane and every day things. Very few of us are put in the position to do something “big” [at least in the meaning of the world], but we’re all in the position to choose Christ at each and every moment. This is a wonderful perspective – we live in the here now, we live in each and every moment, and that’s where our struggle to choose Christ takes place, in all those decisions we make throughout each and every day. Archbishop John says that if we think in this way, then following Christ because something not quite so intimidating. The reason he thinks this is so important is not because he’s going to say that following Christ is simple – we are called to take up a cross and follow Him. The Archbishop’s point is more that when we “think big” and get intimidated, we tend not to do anything for Christ – we get frozen and fail to accomplish anything. So our perspective is that we choose Christ in each and every moment, each and every day, growing closer to His image and likeness as we continually choose to do His will.

When you look at the sermons of our Lord, we very clearly see that our goal in life is to become like Him – to grow in our relationship with Him, and to be like Him. The Father’s tell us that if we’re like Him, then we can be with Him not only now, but for all eternity. So this goal is what should be guiding our lives – to be like Christ. And it’s in seeking this goal that we see the homily of Archbishop John come together with our Epistle reading this morning. I’d like for us to focus on one particular phrase from our reading from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians. He says, near the beginning, “we are fools for Christ’s sake.” This is a very important phrase when we think about our orientation as Christians in this world. Seeking Christ is foolish to the world – we abandon the things that the world holds as important (seeking power, money, authority, etc) and instead we seek the things of Christ (humility, mercy, forgiveness, etc). And this foolishness is lived in every minute of every day – we make multitudes of small, daily decisions, and those decisions either carry us closer to Christ or farther away. We greet each moment as something new, and in each moment we have the opportunity to choose Christ.

How do our daily decisions make us fools for Christ? We choose forgiveness when we’re upset, we don’t react in anger. We don’t get even with our enemies, we love them and pray for them. We take responsibility for our actions, we don’t pass them off on others or try to cover them with lies. We don’t stand up for ourselves, we seek the way of Christ’s humility. We’re merciful with those around us, not harsh or critical or overbearing. We set aside our own will and desires, and we do the will other another (especially the will of Christ).

All of these things are foolishness to the world because the world seeks her own wisdom, power over others, authority from within, to be in control and to be right and to rule. Ultimately, the world seeks freedom to do as it pleases. Our approach to this is simple, but foolish to the world – we would say that only in complete obedience (slavery) to Christ can man be truly free. We can only find the reason for our existence, and fulfill that reason, in Christ.

We seek our Lord daily, in each and every tiny thing that we do. We try to remain mindful at all times of our Saviour, so that He can lead and guide us step by step to an ever deepening relationship with Him. It may be foolishness to the world, but as St. Paul says elsewhere, to those who are being saved, it is the wisdom and the power of God (1 Cor 1:18).

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson


Blessed Basil of Moscow the Fool-For-Christ

Saint Basil the Blessed, Wonderworker of Moscow, was born in December 1468 on the portico of the Elokhov church in honor of the Vladimir Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos outside Moscow. His parents were commoners and sent their son to be trained as a cobbler.

During Basil’s apprenticeship, the master happened to witness a remarkable occurrence, which showed him that his student was no ordinary man. A certain merchant had brought grain to Moscow on a barge and then went to order boots, specifying that they be made in a particular way, since he would not pick them up for a year. Blessed Basil wept and said, “I wish you would cancel the order, since you will never wear them.”

When the perplexed master questioned his apprentice he explained that the man would not wear the boots, for he would soon die. After several days the prediction came true.

When he was sixteen, the saint arrived in Moscow and began the difficult exploit of foolishness for Christ. In the burning summer heat and in the winter’s harsh frost, he walked about barefoot through the streets of Moscow. His actions were strange: here he would upset a stand with kalachi, and there he would spill a jug with kvas. Angry merchants throttled the blessed one, but he endured the beatings with joy and he thanked God for them. Then it was discovered that the kalachi were poorly cooked, and the kvas was badly prepared. The reputation of St Basil quickly grew, and people saw him as a holy fool, a man of God, and a denouncer of wrong.

A certain merchant wanted to build a stone church on Pokrovna in Moscow, but its arches collapsed three times. The merchant turned to the saint for advice, and he pointed him toward Kiev. “Find there John the Cripple,” he said. “He will advise you how to construct the church.”

Traveling to Kiev, the merchant sought out John, who sat in a poor hut and rocked an empty cradle. “Whom do you rock?” asked the merchant. “I weep for my beloved mother, who was made poor by my birth and upbringing.” Only then did the merchant remember his own mother, whom he had thrown out of the house. Then it became clear to him why he was not able to build the church. Returning to Moscow, he brought his mother home, begged her forgiveness, and built the church.

Preaching mercy, the blessed one helped those who were ashamed to ask for alms, but who were more in need of help than others. Once, he gave away a rich imperial present to a foreign merchant who was left without anything at all. Although the man had eaten nothing for three days, he was not able to beg for food, since he wore fine clothing.

The saint harshly condemned those who gave alms for selfish reasons, not out of compassion for the poor and destitute, but hoping for an easy way to attract God’s blessings upon their affairs. Once, the saint saw a devil in the guise of a beggar. He sat at the gates of the All-Pure Virgin’s church, and he gave speedy help in their affairs to everyone who gave alms. The saint exposed the wicked trick and drove the devil away.

For the salvation of his neighbor, St Basil also visited the taverns, where he tried to see a grain of goodness, even in people very much gone to ruin, and to strengthen and encourage them by kindness. Many observed that when the saint passed by a house in which they made merry and drank, he wept and clutched the corners of that house. They inquired of the fool what this meant, and he answered: “Angels stand in sorrow at the house and are distressed by the sins of the people, but I entreat them with tears to pray to the Lord for the conversion of sinners.”

Purified by great deeds and by the prayer of his soul, the saint was also given the gift of foreseeing the future. In 1547 he predicted the great fire of Moscow; through prayer he extinguished a fire at Novgorod; and once he reproached Tsar Ivan the Terrible, because during the divine services he was preoccupied with thoughts of building a palace on the Vorobiev hills.

St Basil died on August 2, 1557. St Macarius, Metropolitan of Moscow served the saint’s funeral with many clergy . His body was buried in the cemetery of Trinity church, where in 1554, the Protection cathedral was built in memory of the conquest of Kazan. His Holiness Patriarch Job glorified St Basil the Blessed at a Council on August 2, 1588.

In an early icon, St Basil is portrayed as old, with white hair curling at the ears, and a short, curly white beard. He is completely naked, and holds a handkerchief in his hand. The veneration of St Basil the Blessed was always so strong that the Trinity temple and the attached Protection church were renamed for him [the famous St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow].

The saint’s chains are preserved at the Moscow Spiritual Academy.