Today, on the Third Sunday after Pentecost, 25 June 2023, His Holiness Serbian Patriarch kyr Porfirije served the Holy Liturgy at the Church of Saint Demetrius in New Belgrade.
Vicar Bishops of the Serbian Patriarch Their Graces Sava of Marča and Petar of Toplica, concelebrated with Patriarch Porfirije, along with priests and deacons of the Archdiocese of Belgrade–Karlovci. His Grace Bishop Irinej of Bačka prayerfully attended the liturgical gathering.
In the joy of the Eucharistic gathering, Patriarch Porfirije ordained readers Andrej Jelić and Pavle Jovanović.
In his sermon to the gathered parishioners of this New Belgrade church, His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Porfirije said:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
Brothers and sisters,
We have heard a passage from the Gospel of Matthew, which is part of the well-known Sermon on the Mount by our Lord Jesus Christ, spanning three long chapters in the Gospel of Matthew. This Sermon on the Mount encompasses the entire philosophy of life to which we are called and which our Lord offers us as the path of salvation. In the Sermon on the Mount, the life of a Christian is described, that is, the life that every person created in the image and likeness of God should aspire to if they desire a meaningful life and if they want their life to already be a life in the Kingdom of Heaven. In this passage, as well as in many other, there seems to be a paradox in the words of Christ, in the words that He addresses to His disciples, to the people who listen to Him, but also to all of us and to all people until the end of the world. Of course, it is obvious that a bright and clear eye can see brightly and distinctly, but here the Lord is not primarily referring to our physical eyes, although they are also important. Sometimes these physical eyes can be closed and can lose sight, yet a person can still have a true, genuine perspective, true sight, and true insight into the reality in which they live, a true insight into everything that comes from God. In this passage, the Lord speaks about the inner, spiritual eye. What is the inner, spiritual eye, or who is the eye with which we see the world? First of all, let me remind you that when man left paradise, being expelled from it, he took his life into his own hands, and as a consequence of such a step and such a decision, confusion appeared first. Man began to see the world in which he lives as an enemy, as an opponent, and another person as a rival and an adversary from whom he must defend himself, and steal from them, which also stands for the world. As a consequence of taking our lives into our own hands, independent of God, and disregarding the purpose for which we came into the world, worry emerged about how to secure our lives, to secure ourselves from within and from without. From this worry, anxiety – fear and forgetfulness of God – emerged.
In paradise, a clear guideline, the commandment of the Lord, was given to us, which, if we fulfill it, should guide us toward the fullness of life. So, who is the eye with which we should see the world, both externally and internally? That eye is the Lord, His word, which is simple and given in such a way that anyone can understand and accept it. And if one starts living by it, they can understand that it is an easy burden, a light yoke, a path of joy, beauty, and a path of the communion of love with God and with other people. Our eye is the Lord Himself and His word. Our eye is the Gospel of Christ.
And when we live by the Gospel of Christ, which is the will of God, then everything becomes simple in our lives; there is no worry, and we see that God takes care of everything. He cares for the birds of the air, and the flowers of the field, providing them with everything they need for life but also giving them what is necessary for the beauty that we feed our eyes upon when we contemplate His creation. Of course, if we listen to God’s word and live by it, if we listen to God’s will and live according to it, then everywhere and in every place, we see the presence of God, we see the expression of His providence and His care. Every day, we encounter continuous miracles, that is, we encounter the workings of God’s grace in our lives. If we have God’s will as the law of our life, as the rule of our life, then our life becomes simple and bright, our inner being is sanctified and enlightened by the grace of God.
However, if, on the other hand, we forget about the Gospel of God or even think that it is possible to live according to the Gospel of God while pleasing the spirit of this world, if we succumb to the temptation to conform to the rules of life established by this world, that is the people who either do not believe in the Gospel or who are against it… If, on the one hand, we want the word of Christ to be our light, guide, and rule of life, and we want to be accepted by those who are against the Church, for whom we naturally pray and wish for their salvation, if we want to please those who create their own gospel, their own rules of life, then we will find ourselves in a schizophrenic state – we will serve God, but we will not be able to surrender our whole being to Him, and we will not be able to feel His love and His presence in our lives. On the other hand, if we want to please those who do not accept the Gospel of Christ and the will of God as the rule of life, we will never succeed because the moment we remember that the rule of life for us is the word of Christ, His Gospel, and present it before the eyes of those who create the rules of their own life, at that moment, intolerance, and sometimes even aggression, will manifest and show itself, not because we bother them, but because Christ bothers them. The Lord said that we should not be surprised by this, as they persecuted Him first. Those who want to follow Him, who want to live according to His will, will not please those who reject Christ, those who do not love Christ.
Therefore, if the Gospel of Christ is the law by which we live, then everything becomes clear to us, and we know everything. Of course, when the Lord reminds us not to worry about clothing, food, and external things, He does not mean that we should not make an effort or invest every possible effort to organize our external life, to make it as simple as possible. He does not say that it is not important. He wants to convey that it is important for us to establish a hierarchy of values. We need to decide what is most important to us – what comes first, what is our foundation. That is why He says: Seek first the Kingdom of God, which means make an effort, with God’s help, to make the Kingdom of God, which is already among you, relevant and active. Make it your highest priority to fulfill the will of God because when you fulfill the will of God, everything else will also be fulfilled, and you will know for yourself what the next thing you should do is. It is like when someone loves another person with their whole being and subordinates everything to that love. They do not pay attention to whether they have made sacrifices or endured hardships; their sole and, above all, primary need is to build a communion with the one they love. By building a communion with the beloved, they help themselves understand the importance of everything else in their life. And when they build a communion with the beloved and experience joy, beauty, and fullness within that communion, their goal will not be to multiply their needs or make efforts to satisfy new needs. Instead, they will have the desire to focus all their strength, energy, and attention on the one they love.
Brothers and sisters, may God grant that our eyes be filled with light, and this will happen if we adhere to the Gospel of Christ. Let us seek first the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven. By seeking the Kingdom of Heaven, we receive everything else – and in our search, we do not despise the external. The physical and material aspects of life acquire their meaning, fullness, and true significance. And what is external and physical becomes spiritual. For us, a person is a unified and unique being, created in the image and likeness of God. Only when we seek the Kingdom of Heaven will every worry vanish. Now we will listen to the Cherubic Hymn that says: Lay aside all earthly cares. Where the Gospel of Christ is, where the grace of God is present, there is fullness; there is effort, feat, there is the Cross, but there is also victory and resurrection. Even if worries may arise at times, even when we go through suffering, they are only temporary.
May the Lord grant that our eyes be filled with light, and may we never forget that the Kingdom of God – the Kingdom of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is the only thing we truly need, and therefore, glory be to Him, to the Triune God, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Today the Church celebrates Saint Onuphrius, and on that occasion, Patriarch Porfirije has extended congratulations on the name-day to Metropolitan Onuphriy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, wishing that the prayers of Saint Onuphrius be with him and the entire Church in Ukraine.