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He must increase and I must decrease

Christ is risen!

On this Bright Saturday, we recall with love and joy Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the Equal-to-the-Apostles and Enlighteners of the Slavic peoples.

“Since you were equal in character to the Apostles, and teachers of the Slavic lands, O divinely-wise Cyril and Methodius, pray to the Lord of all to strengthen all nations in Orthodoxy and unity of thought, to convert and reconcile the world to God, and to save our souls.” Apolytikion 4th Tone

The Christian East has always valued worship in the vernacular of the people. That is not to say the Church values reducing the worship of the Church to vulgar slang, but that the Church believes the Incarnation of Christ means that the faith can be (and should be) brought to all peoples and communicated to all peoples of the earth. Our Lord Jesus would not have commanded the Apostles to “go into all the world” if the faith were only meant for one tribe of people. As a precious seminary professor at Holy Cross is fond of reminding us “Our God is not a tribal deity.”

In our Gospel lesson today, we hear St. John the Baptist say this: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (St. John 3:22-33) St. John is nearing the end of his earthly ministry and some of his disciples are concerned that many of St. John’s followers are now following Jesus. When asked about this, St. John replies as above.

Looking at the work of Sts. Cyril and Methodius and the humility of St. John, I am struck by a common lesson from all these Christian heroes. The lesson is that Christ must be preeminent in our motivations for ministry. If He isn’t the reason why we do what we do, then chances are they won’t last.

Sts. Cyril and Methodius introduced a whole race of people to the healing “spiritual medicine” of Orthodoxy by devising an alphabet for the Slavs and translating the Orthodox worship services into that language. St. John obeyed the call of God to prepare the way for the Messiah to come to Israel through his preaching and baptising. All three of these men paid a high price for their obedience. But they willingly did all this because at the center of their lives was a singular devotion to a Person – Jesus Christ.

On this Bright Saturday, as we continue to bask in the glow of Pascha, and prepare to meet Christ with St. Thomas tomorrow and hear Thomas’ confession of faith, let us examine our hearts to see if Christ holds the top priority in our lives, actions, and motivations. And if He doesn’t, let us love and trust God enough to submit our hearts for examination by the gentle Holy Spirit to diagnose why Christ isn’t first in our lives.

Let us be about the Father’s business.

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