“Behold, I stand at the door and knock”

The following Homily was given by Fr. Herbert Nicholls on September 26th at the Mother of the Light Convent

This morning we will look at Chapter 3 of the Book of Revelation (the letters to the Churches in Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea) as well as a brief look at St. Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 10: 16-22.

The Church of Sardis was located about 30 miles South East of Thyatira. It seems to be a living a Christian community, but it is in fact dead. External practices make it look alive, but most of its members are estranged from Christ, devoid of the Spirit and living in a sinful condition. Recall that the Lord Himself spoke of the prodigal son as being in a kind of death. St. Paul in Romans 6:13 exhorts Christians as men who have been brought from death to life.

Despite the corrupt society in which they lived there were some Christians who had not been contaminated by the immoral cults and lifestyles. Here John makes his first of several references to the Book of Life, the book of the living or the book of the Lord. Those whose names are enrolled in this book will share in the promise of salvation, while the unfaithful will be excluded, their names ‘blotted out’.

As indicated by St. Matthew today, genuine commitment to Jesus always involves effort. There are certain worldly things with which a Christian cannot compromise with, no matter how fashionable they may be. Christian life inevitably involves nonconformity with anything that contradicts faith or morality, but difficulties of this sort should not make us afraid; we are not alone. We can count on the powerful help of God to give fortitude and courage. “Worry not about what you are to say; the Holy Spirit will put the words into your mouth” (cf. Mt 10: 19 – 20).

In the letter to Church at Philadelphia, another busy place of material exchange, 25 miles South East of Sardis, Jesus speaks of the “key of David” with the power to open and shut, signifying God’s absolute sovereignty. Jesus used this metaphor of a key in handing on divine powers to Peter and the college of apostles (cf. Mt 18:18).

Moving to the seventh and final letter to the Laodiceans, a people once mentioned by St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians (cf. 4:16). Laodiceans enjoyed a very high prosperity which may have contributed to their lukewarmness (mediocrity). Spiritual lukewarmness and mediocrity are closely related, and neither should be the direction a Christian life should take.

In the city of Laodicea, there were hot springs or thermal baths which may have prompted the indictment of spiritual lukewarmness used by St. John in this letter. From the writings of St. Cassian, one of the founders of Western Monasticism, we read: Lukewarmness is something that needs to be nipped in the bud. No one should attribute going astray to a sudden collapse; but rather to his/her moving away from virtue little by little, through prolonged mental laziness…this is the way that habits take root, without one’s even noticing and eventually lead to the sudden collapse. It is like a beautiful house which collapses on a fine day without warning, due to defect in its foundation or long neglect by the occupants. As is written in Proverbs 16: 18 – Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.

In this letter we find another familiar image, that of Christ knocking on a door with no door knob on the outside. It is a picture of God’s intimacy inviting us to let Him in, using that key we spoke of in the previous letter. It can happen in any of a thousand ways in the course of our life.

We should be vigilant, like the wise virgins. We should be listening for His knock, ready at any time to open the door. Our Lord is waiting for our response to His call and when we make the effort to respond to His call, and to revive our interior life, we will experience that indescribable joy of intimacy with HIM.

At first it will be a bit difficult. You must make an effort to seek out the Lord, to give Him thanks through prayer. How is your prayer life going? At times during the day do you feel the impulse to have a longer talk with Him? Do you sometimes whisper to Him about things you will talk about with Him later?

Prayer becomes continuous like the beating of a heart, like our pulse (woe to us if it stops). Without this presence of God there is no contemplative life, and without a contemplative life, our working for Christ is worth very little, for vain is the builder’s toil if the house is not of the Lord’s building (Psalm 126:1).

Behold I stand at the door and knock. Make sure you do not lose the key which I have given you to open.    


Exaltation of the Holy Cross – September 14

Homily of Fr. Herbert Nicholls

The Cross of Christ is the only way that leads us to true wisdom and prudence. Though one, through no fault of his own, may be ignorant, no one can ever be indifferent to it. It demands choice. Some see the message of the Cross, the word of the Cross as utter folly. Others discover that the Cross is the power of God, who through it has conquered satan and sin.

St. Theodore the Studite wrote in Oratio in adorationem crucis: O Most precious gift of the Cross, how splendid to gaze upon you. You are a tree which begets life, without causing death, which sheds light without casting shadows; which leads to paradise and does not expel anyone. You are the tree which Christ ascended as a King mounting His chariot to defeat the devil, who usurped the power of death. On your wood, Our Blessed Lord, valiant fighter in combat was wounded in His divine hands and feet and side, by so doing He healed the effects of sin and the wounds which the pernicious dragon had inflicted upon our human nature.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: The message of the Cross is something which to human wisdom seems impossible, that God could die, or give Himself up to the power of violence. It is a message which seems to be contrary to worldly prudence. After stressing the importance of the message of the Cross, St. Paul contrasts the wisdom of God with the wisdom of men. This human wisdom cannot attain knowledge of God by demanding earthly signs because it accepts only rational arguments (cf. 1 Cor 1: 18-25).

In his gospel, St. John tells us of this incident occurring at Passover (cf. John 12: 20-32). Two Greeks came to Philip who had a Greek name and came from Bethsaida in Galilee, a fishing village of Greek migrants. It might be presumed that he could interpret for them. If that is indeed the case, then this is a very important moment in which people of non-Jewish or Gentile culture come in search of the Christ. They have heard and they want to hear more. They wished to speak with Jesus Himself.

Instead, Jesus sends them back with a parable: a lesson for them and for every Christian: If the grain of wheat does not die it remains unfruitful. Do you want to be a grain of wheat? To die through mortification in order to yield a rich harvest through glorification? Jesus links suffering with glorification when He says: The Son of Man has come to be glorified. In this manner He links the mystery of being raised up to the Father with that of attracting all to Himself (vertical and horizontal dimensions of the mystery).

Here, Jesus again makes reference to the hour which is approaching. The hour is initiated at Cana when His Mother asked Him for a miracle (cf. John 2: 1 -12). At first seeming reluctant, His Mother simply replied: Do whatever he tells you. Christ’s response ushered in the hour of dusk, the beginning of darkness.

Again on the Cross, He referred to the hour which is now here. The “hour” refers to His entire three year ministry and to the years that pass following our initial encounter and accent to Him the hour in which we follow the advice of our Holy Mother: Do whatever He tells you.

But it is in this moment for Him and ultimately for us that Redemption and Glorification are united through death. Our Lord has spoken about His sacrifice being a condition for entering into His glory. What holds true for Jesus, also holds true for us His disciples.

Jesus wants each of us to be of service to Him. It is a mystery of God’s plan that He, who is all, who has all, and who needs nothing and nobody, should choose to need our help to ensure that His teaching and the salvation earned by Him shall be made known to the ends of the earth.

To sum up we can distinguish four steps in order to ascertain whether we are identified with Christ throughout this ‘hour’.
The first is to seek Him, not to presume that He will seek you. Many never reach nor above the first step. You must seek Him first and foremost within yourself, seek Him with hunger and with all your strength.

If you survive with determination the battles through this first step, you are guaranteed to find Him. And your heart will hunger beyond your imagination to get to know Him; the only human relationship that can be compared would be ‘love at first sight’. As you get to know Him, love Him, converse with Him, you will become one with Him.

Don’t be deceived to think that Jesus is so different than you; after all He is God, who became human in order to show us how to live the mystery of life. The thought of death that awaited Him saddened and frightened Him. He turned to His Father in prayer in Gethsemane. As man He sought support both in the love of mankind and the strength of His Father to fulfill His mission.

We should find this very consoling as we often feel weak in moments of trial. Like Jesus we can find support and strength from the arms of a loving Father, and from the arms of our brothers and sisters whom Jesus tells us are our rock and fortress.

In His plan of Salvation, Jesus wants us to use things which to our minds seem foolish, so that His wisdom and power will shine. All thar Jesus has done for us has been necessary and advantageous to our salvation. If by the power of His divinity He has released us from the captivity of sin, He has also through the weakness of human flesh destroyed the power of death. Possessing the nature of God, and being equal to God, He abased Himself taking the form of a slave; being great He became little. Through this mystery, death has freed us from death, life has freed us from error, and grace has freed us from sin (St. Bernard).    

Prayer and Supper - Mother of the Light Convent

On Sunday, September 18, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light hosted their monthly Ramsho and Supper at the Mother of Light Convent and were blessed with the presence of Chorbishop Joseph Kaddo, Pastor of St. Anthony of the Desert in Fall River, Fr. James Doran, and the choir and parishioners of St. Anthony of the Desert Church.
We have these monthly  gatherings to share the beauty and richness of our Maronite Evening prayer, and to reach out to our community in joyful fellowship, and certainly the evening was one of laughter and good cheer among all!


Recent Events

Our Lady of Purgatory Parish Picnic

On Sunday, September 11th, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light participated in the picnic hosted by Our Lady of Purgatory Maronite Church. The Divine Liturgy and picnic took place at Cathedral Camp in East Freetown, MA. We enjoyed our time spent with the parishioners and children, not to mention the games and magic show! God bless the many dedicated volunteers, Father Fadi Rouhana, and Deacon Jean Mattar, who all made this beautiful event possible.       

Catechetical Meeting -- Dartmouth
At the Mother of Light Convent on September 8th, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light facilitated a catechetical meeting for the catechists of St. Anthony of the Desert Maronite Parish, Fall River. Mother Marla Marie provided the Catechists with some of the necessary and basic tools and resources needed for their catechetical mission. 


350 Martyrs, Disciples of St. Maron

Homily of Fr. Herbert Nicholls
Listen! For the wisdom of God says, I will send prophets and apostles, some of whom they will persecute and kill…from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, I tell you it will be required of this generation.
Zechariah, priest, prophet, and father of St. John the Baptist was stoned to death before the altar of holocausts in the Temple because he accused the people and leaders of Israel of being unfaithful to God’s Law.
Jesus severely rebukes the students and interpreters of the Law who should have been the very ones to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, however, the Gospels teach us the opposite. These scribes and Pharisees would not allow the people to follow Jesus. They did everything to block His way. Is this the role of those precisely influenced by Satan? Recall when Peter attempted to block the way of Jesus. How did Jesus rebuke him? Get behind me, Satan.
One of the effects of our Redemption by Christ is His victory over Satan. It was prophesied that the Messiah would crush the head of the serpent. Being one with Christ we share in His victory and in His power.
It is true, despite the disbelief of many today, that the devil is real and powerful and never ceases to search for an opportunity to devour one of Christ’s disciples; but equally important to remember that he can only operate within the limits which God has imposed upon him.
God is stronger than the devil. And we have no cause to be afraid of him. Until this conviction is clearly and firmly rooted within us we may feel threatened; but once we possess this conviction we are quite safe—in the hands of God.
This does not assure us, however, of a life free of suffering, persecution or even martyrdom which would be impossible to bear without this conviction.
Let us look briefly at the example of the 350 Martyrs, Disciples of St. Maron. These disciples were 6th Century monks living in several monasteries throughout Northern Syria adjacent to Northern Lebanon. They held strong ties to the Catholic faith, particularly to the teaching of the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon. This Council in 451 decreed that Our Lord Jesus Christ was one person, but having two distinct natures, one divine, the other human. Despite the Dogma of the Council there persisted the group called Monophysites—meaning one nature, namely the divine nature. Without a human nature, the Son of God was not truly man, not born of a human mother, could not die; so the sacrifice of Calvary was a sham.
Patriarch Severus embraced this monophysite heresy and persecuted the monks, ordering 350 of them to be executed in the year 517AD.
When things settled down, several of the survivors presented to Pope Hermisdas an affidavit testifying how the monks had been martyred under the authority of Patriarch Severus. The Pope expressed his sympathy and urged them to remain steadfast against persecution.
In 1734, Pope Clement XII bestowed an indulgence upon all the Churches honoring the 350 Maronite monks. Pope Benedict XIV in 1740 declared the indulgence applicable to all Maronite Churches throughout the world.

Unity is the work of the Holy Spirit. Division is the labor of the evil one. Some people follow Jesus, enthusiastic about His message and miracles; while others simply will not accept Him and do everything in their power to dissuade others from following Him. They try in every way to discredit Him in the eyes of the people.