Ancient Faith Presents…:
Fr. Damick: When I was in seminary for three years at St. Tikhon’s, just about every special speaker we had at the seminary, Fr. Michael introduced them. And if you’re standing in front of the gates to Heaven and St. Peter asks, “Is there anyone here to say anything about you?”, you would want Fr. Michael to be the one, because whoever he introduced came off sounding like one of the saints usually.
And they would say, “Oh none of that’s true, Father,” when they get up. But when he comes and speaks at various parishes, I’m sure that most of his students all say something about this. So it’s my honor today to introduce Fr. Michael Dahulich.
Fr. Michael originally grew up in the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese. He’s served for 28 years as the pastor of a couple different parishes. He’s originally from Binghamton, New York. Both of his parishes were here in Pennsylvania.
And then towards the end of his time in the Carpatho-Russian Diocese, he began teaching at St. Tikhon’s Seminary. And then eventually, he was transferred into the OCA. And then he became the Dean of St. Tikhon’s. While, I was there, just the three years I was there, Fr. Michael taught us Old Testament, New Testament, Ethics, Homiletics, some kind of Pastoral Practice, and Confession.
He was also the director for my thesis. So if you ever find yourself reading it, you can blame him if it wasn’t graded correctly. But he was my thesis director, and while I was there, he was also my confessor. Fr. Michael on multiple occasions was a strong arm and a strong back for my family, for me. And he was very much always there when you needed him.
I’ve known some very hardworking priests, and I know of no harder working priest than Fr. Michael Dahulich Just this past September, he was elected as the OCA’s Bishop of New York and New Jersey, a position that he’s going to be consecrated to, this coming May, in New Jersey. And God-willing, I’ll be there and some cast of thousands of your students will be there as well.
We’re very, very pleased to have Fr. Michael here. One of the things that Fr. Ted and I share in common is that Fr. Ted has also had Fr. Michael as his confessor. Fr. Michael has been aware of this parish and knows something about it, for years now. So we’re very pleased to have you here today, Father.
Fr. Dahulich: Thank you, Father. It’s my joy to be here. This parish is named after the great Apostle, St. Paul. And I teach a course, that Fr. Andrew took, on St. Paul, and I really would like to share that with you—aspects of the life of St. Paul and the missionary work of St. Paul. Because all of us really are called to do what St. Paul did. And all of us are called to be what St. Paul was called to be.
St. Paul says in his 1st Letter to the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” And so, we want to imitate St. Paul, imitating our Lord. Sometimes we think, “Well I can’t be like Jesus wants, because Jesus is the Son of God. How can I be like the Son of God?”
Well, we could be like St. Paul. St. Paul was a human being, like you and me, and he had a really checkered past when it came to Christianity. So he starts out even further behind the eight ball, than you and I do. And so it’s really important, I think, to look at this saint and his life and his work, because I think it’s important for us, in the Church, to imitate him as a person and as a missionary, for our churches to grow.
In the first half of the talk, we’re going to talk about his life and about him. And he would be the first to say, “It’s not about me. It’s about Christ.” I have a favorite quote of St. Paul. I put it on my ordination card. I put it on my 25th anniversary card, as a priest. I guess I’ll put it on my consecration card. And if I have 50 years of priesthood, I’ll put it there. St. Paul writes to the Galatians:
I no longer live for myself. It’s no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I live in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God who gave His life up for me, who loved me and gave himself up for me.
So it’s all about Christ. It’s not about Paul; it’s about Christ. And we need to understand that. It’s all about Christ. It’s not about me or you. One of the biggest things I learned in parish life, and I see it over and over again with my students, is that people make the Church about people.
Now, in one sense it is the people. The Church is not the building, it’s the people in it. For 300 years, the Church didn’t own anything. It didn’t have a building. Most people will say if they think about it, “I go to St. Paul’s Church.” That’s the building. It’s the people. Because if you think about it, for 300 years there was no building. There were just people.
Under the Muslims, in many and many villages, in Syria, Damascus, the Holy Land, and all through the Balkans, they didn’t have churches. They just met together during the communist period. When the churches closed, the people gathered. It’s about the people.
But your attachment is not to people. Your attachment is to Christ. Let me use this as an example. How many of you know somebody who left the parish that you go to or quit going to the church that you go to? You know why that is? Because they made it about somebody else and not Christ. The priest hurt me. Or the bishop said something that I didn’t like. Or the choir director said I sang flat. Or the treasurer said I didn’t give enough money. Or the person next to me insulted me.
In the Russian tradition in the Sunday Liturgy, we sing the Psalm, “Put not your trust in princes, or sons of man, in whom there is no salvation. It’s all about Christ. It’s never about anybody else. Church is your relationship to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He loved you. He died for you. That’s why you go to Church.
You may love the people in your parish. That’s wonderful. You may love this wonderful priest. But, he is going to disappoint you. I will disappoint you. I may disappoint you in this lecture today. It’s not about me. It’s always about Christ.
You know how you’re going to remember this? I’m going to tell you a story you may have already heard. You’ll remember this. How many of you know the story of Palm Sunday? Jesus rides into the city of Jerusalem, on the foal of an ass. And the people are waving palm branches. The crowds are cheering, and the kids are reaching out to touch him. And they’re laying their coats on the mud-ridden, or dirt-ridden, streets.
What you don’t know, probably, is that night in the stable, when everybody went to bed, the donkey announces to his stable mates, “What a big hit I was in Jerusalem. I’m trotting around the road, and they’re cheering me. And they’re waving palm branches, and the kids are reaching up to touch me. And they’re laying coats down for my hooves.”
And at the other corner of the stable is a horse that a centurion had sat upon, keeping order in the city. And the horse says, “You stupid, stupid donkey. It’s not about you. It’s about Him.” And that’s what we have to remember. It’s never about me. It’s always about Christ. And that’s how St. Paul lived.
The other thing is that some have trouble with the missionary work of St. Paul. St. John Chrysostom, who loved St. Paul, once wrote, “I love all the saints. But of all the saints, I loved the Blessed Paul the most.” And St. John Chrysostom said, “There’s two kinds of priests. There are those kind of priests whose world is their parish and those kind of priests whose parish is the world.”
And St. Paul’s parish was the world. He reached out as far as he could go. We’ll talk about that later this afternoon. So we’re going to talk about this incredible person of St. Paul, with the understanding though, that it’s never about him. It’s always about Christ.
So what I’m going to try and do this afternoon, when I talk about St. Paul, is to interject things that will make it applicable, relevant, doable in our everyday lives. So I’m going to start throwing those things in as we go along, so that you can see how important it is. St. Paul says, “the imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” That’s who he wants you to be, and so that’s what we’re going to look at.
St. Paul was born Jewish. He brags that he was a Hebrew of Hebrews. When I teach Old Testament, I say that in Jewish History there are three periods. The period of the Hebrew, which is from Abraham to Moses, when they were wanderers. Habiru was the word in Hebrew for Hebrew, and it means wanderer. So from the time of Abraham to Moses, that’s the premiere history of those people. They were called Hebrews.
When they got the land of Israel, from Joshua to when Babylon took it away from them, they were Israelites. And when they came back from the Babylon Captivity, after 49 years in captivity, the only tribe that came back were the Jews. And so it became the Jewish people; the Jewish faith. So he says right off the bat, I am a Hebrew of Hebrews. So he’s claiming the premiere, from Abraham to Moses, that history.
His name was Saul, which was the first king. He was named after the first king of Israel, and that means asked of Yahweh, asked of God. And so he, of course, brags about his Jewish lineage. He tells us in Philippians, “a Hebrew of the Hebrews.”
And then he tells us in 2nd Corinthians that he was born into the wealthy family of nobles, from the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin was Jacob’s baby son; his youngest son by Rachel, his second wife. And so he brags about the fact that he is of the seed of Abraham; bearing the name of the first king Saul.
Unlike the poor fishermen Andrew, Peter, James, and John, he belonged to the ruling class of Israel. And he was able to defend Judaism on an official level. When he presents Christianity to the Jewish people, he can say, “Look. I’m a Jew. I’ve got all the Jewish pedigree that you have.”
He can easily say to them, “I know what it takes to be a Jew becoming a Christian, because I am a Jew who became a Christian.” Now how does that play out in American life 2009? What would that say, if you were trying to get somebody to come to your parish? How would you apply that principle of St. Paul?
Questioner 1: It’s like we’re a Ukrainian Church. I’m Ukrainian, but I’m a Christian. If they’re a Christian, it shouldn’t matter.
Fr. Dahulich: But it does make a difference. It would make people feel comfortable knowing you have that same background. See what I’m saying? You can tell the story in their language, and they’ll understand it.
So he’s actually going to play both cards. He’ll tell the Jewish people, “Well look, I was a Jew, so you can relate to me.” And he’ll tell the Gentiles, “Oh I converted, so you can join me.” He’s going to play both cards, because it’s all about Christ.
So you tell the story. Those of you who were raised in the faith your whole life, you can say, “This is a religion. This is a faith that can last you forever, because look, I’ve been in this Church my whole life.” You tell the best story that you can tell. That’s what St. Paul does. And he’s got a lot of not so nice things to tell, but we’ll talk about that soon.
He brags about how he belongs to the strictest sect of Judaism, which is the Pharisees. Now most of think of the Pharisees as bad people, because we know what happened. The Publican and the Pharisee were praying. The Pharisee was very conceited, and he just blew off the Publican and talked about himself.
But actually, in another sense, the Pharisees were the correct group of people that preserved the Jewish faith. They had the correct view of the Bible. In Jesus’ time, there were two groups of people, the Sadducees and the Pharisees.
The Sadducees believed only the first five books were the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Pharisees believed it was not only those books but also the prophets’ other writings. And Jesus, of course, weighed in with the Pharisees. That’s why, in the Old Testament, we have all those works.
And the Pharisees were the ones who interpreted the Scripture for the average, everyday person. What does this Bible mean? And they would explain what it meant, according to the tradition. So they were really the Hebrews of the tradition that Jesus taught. It’s just that they got to be a little too conceited, and they were very politically oriented. That’s another story for another time.
But he brags about that. He plays that card. So that’s his Hebrew background. He’s also got a Greek background. His Greek background is that he grew up in a city called Tarsus. And Tarsus is in a region called Cilicia, which is today Asia Minor or Turkey.
Now there was a Syrian pagan king, named Antiochus Epiphanes, who went around naming cities after himself, so there’s a lot of Antiochs in the Middle East. The Antioch that we know, where the Patriarch is, was the first Antioch. But they named a number of cities after this man. He thought he was a god, so he named cities after himself.
He made Tarsus a very cosmopolitan city. He brought in education, philosophy, a commerce, and he made it a very western city, a very Hellenized city, a very Greek city. It became a major center of philosophy, rhetoric, and classical education.
There were schools of philosophy in Tarsus both the stoic philosophers and the Epicureans who taught eat, drink, and be merry. Their particular school was greater than their school in Athens or Alexandria. It doesn’t mean that all the schools in Tarsus were better than all the schools in Alexandria and Antioch. But in this particular area, they excelled, so this was a great place.
Caesar Augustus awarded Roman citizenship to that city. So all those citizens of Tarsus were Roman citizens. It’s like having a passport. You can go anywhere you want in the empire. You’re respected as a Roman citizen, and it meant you couldn’t be crucified. That’s why Paul was not crucified when he died. He couldn’t be. He was a Roman citizen. They don’t do that to their own.
But the greatest thing was, and St. Paul will play this card, for the sake of Christ, if you were being tried, and you didn’t like the result, you could be tried before the emperor of Rome. You had that prerogative, as a last resort.
So at the end of his story, St. Paul’s goal was, that his parish was the world. And when he got to Rome, he said I want to go to jail in Rome, and I want to appear before the emperor. And they did it. They took him. So he can brag to the Greeks. “Look I got an education like yours. I’ve studied philosophy, rhetoric, the Classics. I know the language.”
What’s the language of the New Testament? Greek. When I go to those ecumenical dialogues that teach classes on Orthodoxy and other religions, I kid the Roman Catholic priests by saying, “We, the Greeks, let you guys use Latin. The language of the Church is Greek.”
And Paul writes in Greek, and he uses the Greek of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. And he can say to the Gentiles, “Look I know Greek. I know your philosophers. I know your language, and I know your philosophy. I can talk to you.” And so that’s what has to happen too. When you’re bringing people to Christ, you have to talk to them in their language.
So a Father is going to be talking to some educator, a professor, a lawyer, or a doctor, who’s maybe in their 60s. He’s going to have one approach to talking about Orthodoxy, than if you found some 18 year old kid. He’s going to be serious that in college he was into rap and into the language of the 21st century. There’s going to be a different approach to that.
St. Paul does that. He takes people as they are and tries to bring them to Christ. So, he makes the adjustments in the way he reaches out to people. This study I am doing might be good for adults, but a little child might get tired after a while of all of this. If I were teaching this to younger kids, I’d have to be more interactive.
St. Paul knows that. St. Paul understands that. And so he would make those adjustments, philosophically and linguistically, but not theologically. So he brags about this. “I’ve got all this education, and I’ve got my get out of jail free card. I can get to Rome if I need to.”
So what he does is, he goes to the Areopagus in Greece. And I was privileged to stand there where he preached, and I made all the other people, who were on a tour with me, listen to me preach a sermon, so I could say, “I stood here and preached where St. Paul preached.” It was a big honor.
But he was able to do that because he wasn’t afraid to go to Greece and speak their way, not just their language, but their culture, their style, their thinking. He related to them. So St. Paul was chosen by God because he was the perfect combination for what he was going to do. And he becomes the perfect model for all of us.
He’s purebred Jew, who has been educated in the Gentile world, with a “get into jail free card,” if he needs it, to travel all over the Roman Empire. He’s got everything he needs, all set up, and he uses it. We’ve got to do the same thing, with everything that’s available to us, to bring people to Christ.
We could use our background. Maybe I’m Middle Eastern or Eastern European, but I’m American too. And I’ve got a car. I could pick you up. I’ve got a phone. I could call you. I’ve got all these conveniences at my disposal to help the mission of the Church. St. Paul does that. He takes absolutely everything at his disposal and uses it for Christ. That’s what we have to do.
The faith is not something that is our possession. We have to share it with the world, and we’ll talk about it. Paul calls very conscious of the command of Christ, “Go make disciples of all nations.” Any questions so far? That’s just his background. That’s just one aspect he brings to the table.
The biggest thing that St. Paul is going to bring to the table is his conversion experience. He was a Pharisee, who believed that Jesus was false and Christianity was a heretical sect. And he thought He was a danger to the Jewish faith, a danger to the Pharisees, and had to be stamped out.
And so he was part of a network that was trying to stamp out Christianity. And he was on the road to Damascus, with orders specifically, to turn in Christians, people who were opposing the Jewish faith. Those are pretty strong words, but what he had just come off of was the attendance at the stoning of St. Stephen.
Most people think that when they stoned somebody, they might have used small stones that you could throw. No, they used a boulder, and guess were they aimed. The head, because that would kill you. And so it was hard to do this fully dressed, so they would take off their robe. And somebody had to hold it, and that’s what St. Paul did. St. Paul stood there and held their robes, while people threw boulders at St. Stephen.
And these were Roman times, so guess what they were doing on the side, while people were throwing these boulders. They’re betting on who is going to be the one that hits the head. So you’re going to aim at the head, and try hard, because if you hit it, you’re going to get some money.
This is the kind of the world that was going on at the time. And it’s not much different today. We don’t quite do that to people. But St. Paul was there. By his silence, by his being there, and not trying to save this man, he consents to killing St. Stephen. And he will confess this over and over again, when he realizes what he did.
He had a zeal for the Jewish faith. And he thought killing St. Stephen was a good thing. When he realizes it’s a bad thing, he confesses it over and over and over, so that we learn not to do these kinds of things. But he thought it was okay.
Now the interesting thing about it is, when you read St. John Chrysostom and the Fathers of the Church. You look at how much St. John wrote and wrote specifically on Paul. He says that God took the zeal that St. Paul had against Christianity and just turned it for Christianity. Now you would think he would criticize the zeal, but he just said God took it and turned it.
That’s not out of the realm of the inaccurate, from a biblical perspective. Because if you know the story of Joseph and his brothers, they sold him into slavery, faked his death, and told his father that his son was gone. And they end up in Egypt, begging the Egyptians for food, and they meet Joseph the exalted Prime Minister. And when they realize, they’re afraid he’s going to get evil with them. And Joseph says, “You meant it for evil. God turned it to good.”
And so St. John Chrysostom wrote, “When they silenced the mouth of Stephen, the trumpet of Paul blared.” Of course, it’s sad for Stephen. But when people saw that the Jews would do this to Stephen, they fled. The Jewish business people fled back to wherever their native cities were. Some went to Corinth. Some went to Thessaloniki. Some went to Rome.
So when Paul comes to those places, there are people who know what happened. So the death of Stephen was really the beginning of the birth of the Church, and it’s always been that way. That really affected St. Paul. And so what happens is, he is energized by this event.
Stephen is shut up, and all these Greek Jewish Christians have fled. So he’s on a roll. He’s going to Damascus, and he’s going to do damage in Damascus, just like they did there. And on the road to Damascus, he has this experience, which we are going to read about in the Acts of the Apostles. There are three accounts of it. We’re just going to read the first one.
Close your eyes and try to picture what St. Luke is describing on the road to Damascus.
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed, he came near Damascus and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and he heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank
Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
There’s three accounts of this experience: Acts 9, Acts 22, and Acts 26. We’re just going to look at this one. They’re very similar. We see here that he’s still breathing threats against people who follow the Way. That’s what Christianity was understood as in the early Church—the Way. That’s how they knew people were Christians is by the way they lived.
And that’s what I would hope, people would say about us. It’s not about what we believe in our heads. It’s how we live that out. The faith is not the intellectual recognition that it’s true that Jesus is the Son of God. We have to live that by living the way that He lived.
If people know that we live a moral life, a life of prayer, that we live the faith on a day-to-day basis, not just Sunday morning from 9:00 to 10:30, then they’ll know we follow the way of our Lord. How does that translate? How would you know that we’re a Christian?
Well, obviously if you wear a cross. I see a number of you have crosses on. That’s a sign, but that’s not enough. Because some people wear jewelry. It’s a nice piece of jewelry, but do we really live this way? So if I’m visiting this church for the first time, and I see these women with crosses on sitting at a dinner table preparing to eat a chicken dinner, but if I see these women, before they put that first piece of chicken in their mouth, make the Sign of the Cross, then I know these people are Christians.
I walk into your house. I’m visiting your house for the first time. And I look around and I see a nice painting of a nature scene or a nice replica of some famous work or a snow scene. But if I see icons up, if I see in the corner where you have the cross, your Bible, and your prayer book, and that’s your icon corner, then I know this is an Orthodox house.
Now, I’ve blessed houses of parishioners, where I saw nothing that identified them as Orthodox Christians. They wanted to look people on the main line to Philly, and they did. And when I was in Pittsburgh, it was worse. The were walls covered with the terrible towel and the Super Bowl champs, and I’m sure that’s the case even now. Do we live the Orthodox way or do we live the Steeler way?
When I used to go the high school football games, what day were they on? Friday nights. The smell is real good there. How many people are eating a hot dog there on a Friday night? That tells me who follows the Way. It tells me how do we live the faith.
If this young kid is playing basketball on the playground, and he missed a shot, an Orthodox student is not going to say a bad word. Somebody else might. It’s all about the Way you live out the faith. If we really belong to Christ, then we live this faith.
So these were the people. The Jewish people knew who they were, because they showed it. There was no secrets. They showed they were Orthodox Christians, because you could tell by the Way they lived. Julian the Apostate, who was a nonbeliever who became a Christian and went back to not believing, said, “You can tell those Christians by the joy on their face, even when you’re dragging them to die to the gladiators. They’ve got joy. They’re in love with their Lord.”
These are the Way. So we’ve got to show that to people that we can live this Orthodox Way, and we’re happy to do it. People say, “Oh no, I’ve got to eat fish again.” This is not joy. We’ll talk about this in minute.
So, he goes to destroy these people. And on the road to Damascus, he’s blinded by this great light. Now great lights of the Bible are always symbols of God. He knows this is God. So now he can’t see, and that’s the whole idea. There’s going to be a revelation to him. It means he has to give up what he saw before, be blinded to that. He’s going to see something new.
He says, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord he is talking to is God. So the answer is, “I am Jesus.” Jesus is now God. He gets that immediately. He gets that understanding that Jesus is God. He didn’t have that before. He asks God, and God said, “I am Jesus.”
So number one, he’s got this in an instant. It took the Apostles a long time to figure that out. They were with Him for three years. And they saw him eating, drinking, being hungry, being thirsty, weeping, and being tired. So they thought he was human.
They saw him make the blind see, the deaf hear, and the dead rise. So they thought that this has to be divine. At the very last minute on the Cross, Peter said that he didn’t know who this guy was. They get it together by the Resurrection and Pentecost.
Paul gets this instantaneously. But He goes on to say, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” What was Paul persecuting? The Church. Jesus says, you’re persecuting me when you’re persecuting my Church. And this is the formula of formulas for us. Paul understands that Jesus is the Church, and the Church is Jesus.
And that’s what I said earlier. People don’t understand that. They think the Church is Fr. Andrew or Bishop so-and-so, or choir director so-and-so or parish council director so-and-so. It’s Jesus Christ, and he’s got that. And so he calls the Church, the Body of Christ, over and over again. And he calls Communion, which is Jesus, the Body of Christ.
This is what it is. This is the equation. So what makes you a member of the Church is that you believe in Christ, and you unite yourself to Christ in the Mysteries, the greatest of which is Communion. This is what it’s about. It’s not about being Antiochian or Greek. It’s not about how much money you give. Do I meet the obligation? It’s about this. This is what it’s about.
This formula right here that Jesus is God and Jesus is the Church. Yes, there’s a human side of the Church, but there’s a divine side of the Church. And the divine side of the Church, is the side that gives it life and gives it stability. And that’s what we want to move into. We want to move from the imperfection of the human side of the Church to the perfection of the Kingdom that is possible with Christ Jesus, our Lord.
So, he understands this immediately. That’s the essential formula, and we need to remember that, always. So he was blinded, and he asks the Lord, and He identifies Himself. The voice directs him to go to Damascus, where he will learn all that he has to do. And so Saul is overcome, and he obeys.
And for three days, Saul is blind. Now, what’s three days like? Where are there other three day events? The burial of Christ and Jonah in the Old Testament. In this time, what’s he doing? He’s praying, fasting, searching his soul, casting himself at the mercy of the Lord.
And again, Chrysostom says, “Before He makes Saul a fisherman, He’s caught His fish.” It’s almost like this shark, this monstrous fish. He beaches him and let’s him flop around there, until he can come to an understanding that’s going to change him into a fisherman.
Now, he’s fasting and praying. Don’t let anybody tell you, you don’t need to do that. When we worked early on in the ecumenical movements, when the Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, and the Protestants were beginning to come closer together and at least talk about their common Christianity, they each identified their common patron saint. Each of them had a saint who represented their Church.
The Roman Church claimed Peter, and the Protestants claimed Paul, and we got St. John the Theologian. But anyway, they don’t understand. Even though they claim Paul, they have trouble with Sacraments, prayer and fasting. And this is what you want to point out to people. Even St. Paul, who is heroed, not just to this parish, but in the Protestant world, he’s a great hero; he prayed and fasted right from the beginning and a lot.
If you read the Scripture very carefully, you can’t forget every single word. So he prays, fasts, and throws himself on the mercy. And the Lord sends Ananias, who was a member and a clergyman of the Church. He sends the Church to St. Paul.
He doesn’t make St. Paul a Christian by himself. He makes him a Christian in and through the Church. And that’s how we become Christians is in and through the Church. And so Ananias is sent to Saul, so Saul can explain this theophany, this revelation and have his sight restored.
The Bible is very blunt and very honest. The Bible will tell you all the sins of people, even in the genealogy of Jesus. When you hear the genealogy of Jesus, the Sunday before the Nativity, it’s going to talk about some pretty shady characters.
It admits that David had an affair; that Solomon was born out of adultery. It admits about Tamar, who was with her father-in-law. It’s going to admit the weaknesses of people. We know the sins of some very important saints.
And so here, we get the story that Ananias didn’t want to do this. He said, “You want to take this guy? Remember what he was doing over there? Look what he did to Stephen.” And so the Lord puts him in his place, and He said, “Look. He is going to be my instrument. He’s going to be my messenger. He’s going to be my missionary to the Gentiles.”
And so, Ananias obeys the Lord. He lays his hands on Paul, and scales drop from his eyes. So, the old way of looking at things falls, and he sees clearly the ways he once persecuted the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He sees that, which Jesus said about Himself.
Immediately, Saul is baptized by Ananias, in the Church and by the Church. And that’s where his Christian life begins. And it’s at that point that Saul becomes Paul. That happens oftentimes. When they’re baptized, if their adults, people will take on a name after somebody who was Christian, after a Christian saint. Or they’ll change their name.
They’ll do that to me, sometime between now and May. It happens at different stages of your life. I took the first step, and when I take the last step I’m going to take, the name that I change to is a final deeds. You cease being who you were; you become someone else.
That’s why, when you get married, you name your children after a saint. Because, you want them to imitate those people. My grandmother used to say, “You live like the person you’re named after.” Well, I was named after Michael and George, the two great fighters of the Church, so that tells you something about me.
I love to tell this story. I was baptized Michael. The Church’s name was St. Michael’s. The priest’s first name was Michael. And the feast was St. Michael’s. But anyway, that’s why you give them names, so they can follow their example. And when you become a monastic, they’ll change your name to a new way of life. That’s the notion of it.
He’s baptized and spends some days with the disciples in Damascus. And again, he’s praying and fasting in consultation with the Church and with the disciples. Saul’s conversion is personal. There’s no question about it. No one else’s is like this. We agree that it’s personal.
The problem is, it’s not individual. He’s not alone. The Church is with him in Ananias, in his baptism, and in meeting with the disciples. So, he’s not alone. But the early Fathers of the Latin Church had an expression, Solus Christianus, nullus Christianus, which means A Christian alone is no Christian at all.
We have to be connected to the Church and to each other, even the Desert Fathers, who are in the desert all by themselves praying, i.e., St. Mary of Egypt. She was praying for the whole Church, but she was still connected to the whole Church. It wasn’t about me. She wasn’t praying for herself. She was repenting, but she was praying for the whole Church, a Church in which she became a member.
His conversion is personal, but not individual. And it’s ascetical, because he prays and fasts and repents. He repents about what he did to Stephen over and over again. And that’s what our life is about. Most people think that asceticism is for monks, and I’m learning that it is. But it’s for all of us, just in a different degree.
What are monks supposed to do? Pray. But all of us are supposed to pray. Monks are just supposed to pray more. What else do monks do? Fast. I’ve given up meat for the rest of the days I’m alive. But all of us have to fast, just not as severely. Monastics are supposed to live a life of abstinence and purity.
So when someone becomes a monk, he says, “I choose to live a life with no women, to the exclusion of all women.” That’s just one degree different than Fr. Andrew. Fr. Andrew said, “I choose to live a pure life with one woman, to the exclusion of all other women.” It’s only a degree of difference. We can’t think the ascetic life only belongs to monks. It belongs to all of us, because it belonged to St. Paul.
And finally, it’s the life in the Church. It’s an ecclesial conversion. We saw that. Saul was hugged by Ananias. He was baptized. He received the Holy Spirit, so he was confirmed; he was chrismated. Obviously, he went with the Apostles. He communed, and he was accepted in their numbers, so somehow he was received as another Apostle, by the laying on of hands, so there was an ordination.
We’re connected by the Sacraments. The Church was really there in this conversion, and this is what has to happen in all of us. We have to live this kind of life always. He also immediately goes into the desert, where he prays and fasts and learns his role in the Church.
So what we see here is the story of all of us. When you bring someone to Christ; when you bring someone to the Church, whether it’s your neighbor or your child, you have to keep all of this in mind. You’re bringing them to Christianity, which is the faith that Jesus is the Son of God; that Jesus is God.
And, my friends, I have to tell you this. We’re living in a world that’s trying to be politically correct. I want you to be nice, kind, and Christian to people. But there is a line that has to be drawn. Something can and cannot be at the same time. It’s either a chair, or it’s not a chair. You can’t say it’s a chair, and I say it’s a bus. We both can’t be right.
So Jesus either is the Son of God, or He’s not. This means either we’re right, and they’re wrong. Or they’re right, and we’re wrong. We both cannot be right at the same time. And so for us, it’s very clear, and St. Paul is a great example of this. “Who are you, Lord?” Jesus. Jesus is God. There’s no other way of cutting it.
And you’re going to see this now, more than ever. You’re not far from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, but there’s still a lot of Christmas spirit around here. But what does Christmas mean to these people? To some people, it’s Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. There’s no such thing in reality as a dancing snowman or flying reindeer. They don’t exist.
Others think it’s the birth of Jesus, a beautiful little baby born, who’s a good guy. This is God in the flesh. This is God in the flesh. That’s what makes you, and anybody who doesn’t believe that, isn’t Christian. And they’re wrong. St. Paul will be the first to say that.
What makes you a Christian is the fact that you believe that Jesus is God in the flesh, and that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Anybody who doesn’t believe that is not Christian, no matter how nice they might think they are.
We just had this discussion in class the other day about Mormons. Mormons have this very moral lifestyle. They call themselves Christians, but they do not believe that Jesus is God. And so from our standpoint, they’re not Christian. The Nativity has got to be about the birth of God in the flesh. And the only way that’s going to happen is if we live that in our homes and in our lives. The world is not going to live it for us.
We’re very much in times like the early Church, where the people around us do not share our view. And they make fun of us, or they try and say, “We don’t want you to put out a Nativity set,” or, “We don’t want to say Merry Christmas. We want to say Happy Holidays.” We’ve got to be strong in the Orthodox way, which is to say, “This is about God in the flesh. Jesus is God come in the flesh, and Jesus is God.”
There was a very clever advertisement in the Harrisburg paper saying, “Come here the truth about Jesus.” And then it goes on to say that He’s not the Son of God, and so it was an invitation to hear him speak about the criticism of Christianity. This is the times we live in. And the trick is, being politically correct, you compromise the faith. We can’t do that. We’re responsible.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to go preach on the street corner. But you have to live your life, with a full awareness that this is who Jesus is and reflective on the way He lived—by prayer, fasting, doing good works, and by living the sacramental life. And understanding very clearly from the Scripture that if you read it everyday, and you should.
There’s a story the monks tell. There’s a knock at the door and a Greek man stands there with a Bible, throws it on the floor, and steps on it. He said, “This is what you people do to Scripture, because you don’t read it. You put it in gold, carry it around, and you kiss it, but you don’t read it. That’s why I left the Orthodox Church.”
Now they tell that story to make a point. And the point is that we often don’t read it. We need to take the time to read it everyday. On the calendar, that all of you have I’m sure, it gives you a couple of chapters of Scripture to read everyday, to be in sync with the rest of the Orthodox world. And that’s what we need to do.
And of course, the Church is a good mother. She knows we’re not going to do that. We’re not always the best children. So every time you come to Church, what does she do? She reads it to us, because she knows we don’t read it to ourselves, but we should.
My mom used to read me Bible stories, when I was a little kid. I read and memorized them. That’s how you learn. We’re only going to learn it from inside the Church. The world is not going to teach us. Kids are not going to learn this in school anymore. They’re not going to learn it in the world. They have to learn it at home.
This is the point of the life of St. Paul. He went through this great transformation, and he understood that Jesus is God, and that he wanted to tell everybody that good news. The first people he wanted to tell was his own people, the Jewish people. And when they didn’t want to listen, he said, “Well, I have to tell someone. I’ll tell the Gentiles. I am sorry, for my people, and I hope that they will come to the truth.”
If you look at his sermons and the Sermons of everybody in the Acts of the Apostles, it’s pretty much a three point sermon. Jesus is the Messiah. Christ is risen. And therefore, by His Resurrection, we are being saved from sin and death and the devil. That was his message.
Now you begin being saved by Baptism. Baptism is where that begins for us, and we don’t have time to get into that today. But as it was for St. Paul, it is for us. The starting point is Baptism, and it goes on from there. Our life is a process. It’s not enough to say, “I was saved at an altar call November 14th, 2009.” It’s not enough. It’s a process. Everything is a process.
Marriage is a process also. Let me ask you a question. Do you think that a man, who’s married 38 years, could never say, “I love you,” could never bring home his paycheck, could never help around the house, could never buy his wife candy or jewelry, show affection, or take out the garbage? How many sane people would put up with that?
You can’t say, “Well, here’s a piece of paper, on August 29, 1971.” Is that going to cut it? “Here’s a piece of paper. I don’t have to do anything else.” That’s not how it works. The day you get married is the beginning of the process of being married. The day we get baptized is the beginning of our life as a Christian.
And St. Paul understands that. That’s why he uses the term, “You’re being saved.” We’re in the process of coming from our Baptism until the day we’re in the Kingdom of Heaven. And the idea would be, like in a marriage, smooth sailing. Marriage is not like that, and our spiritual lives are not like that either.
They’re more like the Dow Jones Industrial Average, with highs and lows. But we get there with the grace of God. So we have to tell people that their Baptism is the beginning. They’re coming to the Church is a lifetime of belonging and living to and for Christ. Any questions?
Questioner 2: I have a question. At the beginning of Christianity, when does Orthodox Christianity begin?
Fr. Dahulich: Orthodox Christianity begins right then, on Pentecost day. This is what happens.
Questioner 2: What about all the other Christians back in that day, who were not Orthodox?
Fr. Dahulich: That’s what I’m going to say. Jesus is born, for the sake of arguments, in 1 A.D. At 33 A.D., He dies and rises. And this is when Pentecost happens. He rises on Pascha. Forty days later, He ascends into Heaven. Ten days later, the Holy Spirit comes down.
The Church begins then, and it goes through history. There are four marks, in the Acts of the Apostles, that tell you what the early Church and what the Church is supposed to be about. It’s supposed to be about the Apostolic teaching; fellowship, which means Christian love; the breaking of the Bread, which is Communion or the Eucharist; and prayer and the services.
Now if any of those things are missing, that’s not the true Church, according to St. Luke. And this is the key one right here, if we’re not teaching what the Apostles teach, then we’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing. And that’s where the churches began to go off, right from the beginning actually.
If you look very carefully, there are references in the writing of St. John that talks about whether or not Jesus is really human or divine. There was the Docetist heresy that he really wasn’t truly God and truly man. When Arius said that He was just a man that God adopted, and then He became God’s Son at his Baptism.
These kind of teachings, the Church said, were not true teaching. That’s what Orthodox means, true worship and true teaching.
Questioner 2: But it doesn’t mention Orthodoxy in the Scripture.
Fr. Dahulich: It doesn’t have to. Because at that point in Scripture, everybody is following this.
Questioner 2: So why wouldn’t all Christians be?
Fr. Dahulich: Well they were, until one group started doing something different. And then the Orthodox said that what we’re doing is the right way of doing it. And these people are doing it another way, heterodox. That’s where the word orthodox comes into play.
So anybody that’s not doing it the way the Apostles taught, is not Orthodox. It’s that simple. That’s our definition.
Questioner 2: But they’re still Christian?
Fr. Dahulich: Well, if they believe that Jesus is God, they’re still Christian. I’m going to take this liberty to go off track and answer your question. Let’s say in the Baptist tradition, who baptize by immersion like we do, but they don’t baptize babies. They don’t chrismate people. And they don’t really believe that Baptism is the Sacrament, the way that we understand a mystery to be. They’re still Christian, because they believe that Jesus is God.
Questioner 2: How old was Jesus when he was baptized by John?
Fr. Dahulich: Thirty.
Questioner 2: So looking back that doesn’t that do something?
Fr. Dahulich: Jesus was not baptized for the same reason we are. We’re baptized to make ourselves with God. He was baptized to give us an example. And He was baptized at 30, because that was the acceptable age for a person to teach. They would have rejected him on age alone.
I was ordinated at 22. I was just a kid. So they would have rejected Him. He followed the rules of their time. Now the early Christians, the first Christians, were adults. You wouldn’t be able to baptize a child, if the parent didn’t let you. Would you let anyone baptize your child, circumcise your child, or make him a Buddhist without your permission? Of course not.
So the adults were the first people. But if you look carefully at Scripture, it was Cornelius and his family, household, and Lydia, the first convert in Europe and her household. The household is the children and the servants. So they always named the first person the head of the household, then the children, and then the servants.
Questioner 2: So the children and the servants had no say?
Fr. Dahulich: They had no say. That’s right. And the Baptists will raise the question, “What good is it to be baptized, if you don’t know what you’re getting?” That’s a good question. We begin by saying, that Baptism is one of the Sacraments. But the Greek word for Sacrament is a mystery.
What does a mystery mean? It means we begin by saying, “We don’t fully understand it.” You may have a baby who doesn’t understand his Baptism. But you may baptize someone who has a mental handicap, and they’re never going to understand it. You might baptize someone who has Alzheimer’s, and they’re not going to fully understand it.
In fact, there was a lawsuit happening in Milan. An Italian family was suing the Catholic Church, because the priest refused to give to Communion, to their Father, because he had Alzheimer’s, and he no longer knew what he was getting. And the family was saying, he needs it now more than ever.
The understanding that the western churches have is, “You need to understand what you’re getting.” This is not a biblical way.
Questioner 2: I know that happened with one of our priests. He didn’t give Communion to a person who was close to death, because they didn’t know what was happening. He said if they didn’t understand what they’re getting, then he can’t give it to them.
Fr. Dahulich: In the Scripture, the understanding of Baptism is that this is what makes you a member of the Church. That’s how Paul became a member of the Church. He got baptized. Where are the Christian roots? In Judaism.
How did you become a member of the Jewish faith? By being circumcised. And who did they circumcise? Babies that were eight days old. Did those babies understand what was happening to them? No. They understood that they were brought into, what is called in the Hebrew the Kahal, which means the assembly, and in Greek is ekklesia or Church.
We become a member of that at eight days old. And then, we spend the rest of our life growing as a member. And that’s what we had in Orthodoxy. We come in, bring the baby in, and he grows in his faith.
Now, Father will remember this when he was in seminary, we have a choir loft. And if you stand in the choir loft and watch, this is what happens. If Father were still a student, he’d come in and venerate the icon. And his little girl would come in and do the same. They can’t explain to you what it’s all about, but they know it in a childlike way. They’re growing in their faith already.
I can tell you in 36 years of priestly service, when you baptize a baby and bring that baby to Communion every Liturgy, that baby has a smile on its face, its mouth open, and it knows exactly what to do. I’ve given it to adults and it’s like playing tag.
My best friend is a deacon, and his son was born with severe handicaps. And when it’s time for Communion, he knows. And if you’re not getting him out of that pew, he’s already made the noise. He knows he’s going to go, and he knows what he’s doing. Now he cannot articulate what he is getting, but he knows.
There’s a level that’s deeper than the brain, to our faith. And in the Renaissance Period, the Western Church married philosophy to the faith. It became scholastic. It became academic. And the Protestant Church didn’t clean that up. It kept it.
So if we were talking about infant baptism, and at one table there was a group of rabbis and at another a group of Baptist ministers, the rabbis would understand very clearly why we baptize babies, and the Baptists would not. And so, when you think about Jesus being circumcised on the eighth day, he became a member of the Jewish Kahal.
The only people who could teach in the Jewish Kahal were adults, but the kids were learning. And when Jesus was twelve He said, “I have to be about my Father’s business.” He’s not going to go on a tour of Jerusalem. He’s going to be in the temple and learning the teaching of the faith of His Father.
And so, this is the notion that we grow in the faith. It’s growing into a way of life. Orthodoxy is a way of life. So these kids learn it by imitation. I remember we had Fr. John Oliver has an incredible, beautiful voice. And she was a little kid singing, “Christ is risen.” And she was louder than anybody in the choir. You could hear her all through the Church. She just wanted to sing it with her all, cause this is what Pascha was for her, and she was probably three years old.
If you think about it, they learn by experience. Our Church teaches by experience. You experience the Sacraments, the Liturgy, tradition because what did St. Paul experience us? He didn’t learn Christ from a book. He learned it from the experience of Christ on the road to Damascus.
And most of us learn it by experience too, because we don’t read the Bible anyway. It’s a western thing to learn all the academics. That’s why, when you think about our Liturgy and worship, the whole person is involved. It’s not just your brain.
If you think about the Quakers, they have almost no tradition at all. It’s purely almost meditation. We’ve got smells, sounds, touch, taste. We’ve got it all involved in our worship, because the whole body is involved in worship.
We say even, “The body after death is sacred.” We have the bodies of saints, which is also something they don’t share with us. And they’ll say, “Where’d you get that from?” Well, Elisha was buried, put into the grave with someone else. And when his relics touched that person, he came back from the dead. So the power of the presence of the Saint, that’s basically the experience of the Church.
Our Lord didn’t write any book. And that’s the most important thing that you can say to Protestants. Jesus didn’t write the Bible. The Church wrote the Bible.
Questioner 2: There are some quotes of Jesus in there.
Fr. Dahulich: Definitely. But he didn’t write it. The Church wrote it. What Jesus did is He said, “I will build my Church.” He established the Church, and the gates of hell will never prevail against it. Heaven knows there were elements of hell that tried to work against us from day one. From the Pagans, to the Muslims, to Communists, we’ve had this experience trying to destroy Christianity.
Questioner 2: The reason I bring that up is, I have two children. My son today is Presbyterian, and he seems to be very happy. They were brought up in the Greek Orthodox Church. They were there every Sunday, from the day I was able to walk after giving birth. They were in the Church.
He was an altar boy, and he went to Greek school. And he got married as a Presbyterian, and he remained a Presbyterian. My daughter, her husband coerced her into joining the Catholic Church. I just wonder with them being in two different faiths. I’m an Orthodox, one is a Catholic, and one is a Presbyterian.
I wonder where all this comes together. Because they were brought up so strict in the Orthodox faith. There was no question they were Orthodox.
Fr. Dahulich: I’ve seen this kind of story before. People fall in love. They make a choice that they need to raise a family in one tradition.
Questioner 2: I always make a joke about it. My son brought this cross for me, and I say, “My Presbyterian son bought this Catholic Cross for his Orthodox mother.”
Fr. Dahulich: I am involved, by and large, with other Christians, who share the faith in Christ. You have to see them as brothers in Christ. We have to treat them that way and understand that in a world that is so anti-Christian, we can’t blow them away.
In the early Church, the apologists, who were saints of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, they were approaching non-Orthodox Christians and non-Christians to become members of the Church. They would say, “A philosopher would have 10% of the truth. A Jewish person would have half of the truth. And someone else would have 75%. We have the fullness of the truth.”
They would not say, “You’ve got nothing, and we’ve got everything.” So you don’t want to look at it that way. We’re talking about Christians. Again, there are some churches that are not Christian. Your son and your daughter are both in churches that are Christian.
And we can’t minimize that. This is what we have in common. But we would say, unfortunately, that those two churches don’t have the Apostolic tradition. They changed it somehow. And that’s just what history has shown.