On November 5-6, we took our 8th annual parish pilgrimage to Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville. There were two panihida services at the grave of murdered Brother Jose Muñoz-Cortes, curator of the Montreal Iveron Icon of the Mother of God. The following is an excerpt from the homily Archpriest Victor Potapov gave on November 5 at the first panihida.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
Why is reading of saints’ lives good for the soul? The answer is simple. Becoming acquainted with the biographies of righteous ones, those who lived in antiquity and in the most recent past, we easily become convinced that Biblical Truth is not merely a beautiful theory, but an actual and attainable ideal. The saints are people like us; the only difference is that the righteous ones wholly and irrevocably dedicated themselves to God.
In the course of church services, we often hear those words familiar to us since childhood: "let us commit… all our life unto Christ our God." Unfortunately, we do not delve far enough into those words, and more often than not, we simply allow that repeated appeal to pass us by; its meaning slips past, moving superficially over our consciousness, and we therefore live as we do, in "sin and the shadow of death."
Yet, if we were but to make a slight effort, if we were but to read the lives of saints more frequently, we would quite clearly understand what it means to "commit all our life unto Christ our God." It would be good for us to begin with the lives of those worthy ones of God who are closest to being our contemporaries – people such as St. Seraphim of Sarov, the Optina Elders, Righteous St. John of Kronstadt (who, by the way, like us experienced the murk of city life), St. John of Shanghai, and finally, brother Jose, who like the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, remained faithful to God even unto death.
Many people ask whether Brother Jose will be canonized as one of the Saints. It is not only the rank and file parishioners who pose this question. While I was in Russia, several times monks of Optina Hermitage asked the question "…so when will the Synod of the Church Abroad enter its faithful son into the rank of saints?"
There is but one answer to such questions: It will happen when the Lord so wills.
At the same time we should not forget that, according to the Apostle, we are all "fellow laborers to God." We are co-workers in accomplishing His will in our lives.
In all probability, the grace-filled day will come when instead of serving a panihida, we will serve a moleben to Brother Jose, but that will only happen when we take seriously our calling to be co-workers with the Lord.
Let us take heed of the lessons taught to us in the lives of the saints, and learn to dedicate our entire lives to Christ our God, as martyred Brother Jose Muñoz-Cortes did, for 15 years dutifully keeping the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God, the great holy treasure entrusted to him from on high.