The Prelate’s Sermon, December 13
We are celebrating the fourth Sunday of Advent, while preparing our souls to welcome the Prince of Peace and Life. In general, the topic of our meditation is derived from the daily Scripture, yet today I would like to highlight the life of this weekend’s Church Father, St. Jacob of Nisibis, a great champion of our Faith in the 4th century, and a pioneer of those who climb Mount Ararat in search of Noah’s Ark.
St. Jacob, a cousin of St. Gregory the Illuminator, was highly revered for his piety and miracles.
Like his namesake, the biblical figure Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rachel, who challenged the Angel of God, as we read in the book of Genesis (Gen 32:24-25), the bold Jacob of Nisibis, at a ripe old age, dared to climb Mount Ararat, the hosting mountain of Noah’s Ark. Without possessing athletic or mountain-climbing ability, he was equipped only with faith, anchored in the living promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, that “ask and it will be given you; search, and you will find” (Mt 7:7). He was not asking for something for himself, neither reputation or possessions, but only to bring home, to the Church and to the faithful, a relic of the precursor of the Cross, which became the vehicle of mankind’s Redemption. On the first day, he climbed the mysterious Mountain and rested at a certain height. On the second day, he found himself at the same departing point from which he started his journey. On the third day, when he found himself in the same situation, Lo! the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, saying that the object of his search was not permissible to be seen by naked, human eyes. Yet, the Good Lord, being pleased to grant his request, made him worthy to obtain a relic of the Ark.
Indeed, the fourth century is significant for its great pilgrimages in order to secure and to safeguard religious relics. Almost a contemporary of St. Jacob, St. Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, had traveled from Rome to Jerusalem in search of the Holy Cross. Even though in different ways, both saints’ dreams were accomplished, and because of Divine intervention, the fulfillment of each search was similar. Following their discoveries, the holy relics were distributed to the churches.
The message of St. Jacob’s life is relevant to all ages. I would like to share two thoughts derived from the life of this saintly “man for all seasons”. In the Bible, in myths, in legends, and in history in general, mountains represent mysteries, and are testaments to endurance. At the foot of a mountain, we are challenged to mobilize our potential and to redouble our efforts to climb the heights and to fulfill our dreams; to overcome internal anxiety and external stress, and to put current tribulations and problems into perspective. Every person, depending on their power, talents, ability, and means, surely tries to overcome small or big challenges. And indeed, in the beginning, as much as obstacles seem to be bitter, yet after overcoming them, a spirit of joy prevails in our entire existence. Whether we pursue good health, education, career, create a family or relationships, nevertheless life instructs us that with all our wisdom and experience there are certain mountains which may only be climbed with Divine help. This is true, especially in times of sorrow, loss, and catastrophe. This approach should neither create an inferiority complex nor a sense of weakness or immaturity; rather we should realize that even in our fallen nature our heavenly Father loves us and works with our fragile nature to overcome life’s daily challenges. Our Savior’s promise that “everything is possible with God” (Mk 10:27) is a great source of inspiration and acknowledgment of the fact that God, out of His unconditional love, is eager to reestablish our immunity and our dignity, in order to resist challenges, and thus strengthened with the original power invested in us as the carriers of God’s image, to surpass boundaries of our human nature, and as God-like beings proclaim with our Savior , “Where, O death, is your victory? Where O death is your sting” (1 Cor 15:55).
My second thought is inspired by the very essence of the dream of this saintly man, who wished to bring to mankind the valuable memory that we all belong to the same family of God who are saved by the Ark, the Divine Vessel. It is always good to enjoy the fulfillment of our dreams for our benefits. Yet these benefits become more blessed when we do not hold onto them selfishly but instead share them with others. The saints and heroes, regardless of their ethnicity, have become role models and a source of inspiration for all because they have transcended the boundaries of their egos. As such, they dreamed and acted for everyone. Likewise, in their footsteps, each and every one of us is invited to accomplish dreams for their interest, but also mostly for the benefit of all mankind.
May the ever-young spirit of Saint Jacob energize us so that being anchored in God we may achieve the highest visions in our life, of which the supreme goal is the attaining the Kingdom of God. Let us pray and act that in our life’s journey we may bring positive changes to the lives of others and celebrate together the Distributor of all good things, the Almighty Lord. Amen.