The Wonderworkers Peter and Febronia
Today is a special day of commemoration and celebration in the Russian Orthodox Church. On this third Sunday of September we remember and honor Holy Prince Peter and Princess Febronia of Murom. Saints Peter and Fevronia of Murom are the patrons of marriage and family and are held before us as examples of love and fidelity.
Let me share with you briefly about these great saints…
Peter and Febronia were benevolent rulers and always helped their people with alms and prayers. They treated all as if they were their own children. They loved everyone equally, and disliked only those who were proud or who exploited the people. Peter and Febronia laid up their treasures, not on earth, but in heaven. They were real pastors of their city. They always ruled with truth and humility, and never with anger. They gave shelter to pilgrims, fed the hungry, and clothed the naked. And they helped the poor in their misfortune.
When death was nearing, Peter and Febronia prayed to God that they both might die in the same hour. And they requested that they be buried in the same tomb and in a common coffin in which their bodies would be separated only by a partition. Before their deaths they took monastic vows, Prince Peter becoming Brother David, and Princess Febronia, Sister Euphrosinia.
After their deaths, some of the people decided that Prince Peter should be buried in the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin, which was within the walls of the city of Murom, and that Princess Febronia should be buried in the Church of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, which was outside the walls of the city. The body of Prince Peter was put in a casket and was placed in the cathedral, where it was left overnight. The body of Princess Febronia was put in another casket and placed in the church outside the city walls. A tomb, which had earlier been carved from a huge rock as a resting-place for Peter and Fevronia, remained empty in the yard of the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin.
The next morning the people went to the caskets of Peter and Febronia and found them empty. The bodies of the holy prince and princess were found together in the tomb of stone, which they had ordered prepared for them. The people, not understanding the meaning of this event, once more placed the bodies in separate caskets. On the following day the bodies of Prince Peter and Princess Febronia were once again found together in the tomb of stone. Since that time no man has dared to disturb their holy bodies, but left them in their common tomb in the yard of the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin, which is located in the city of Murom. To this day, those who approach the holy relics of Peter and Febronia with prayer, always receive comfort and healing.
In honor of these beloved saints, the Russian Orthodox Church marks the Sunday before their feast as a special day of blessing and honor for Orthodox families.
Let’s say a word about family life, which is something we all experience – either as husbands, wives, parents, grandparents, children, brothers, sisters… and we should include in this the family which is our parish church community.
I pray that your family may be a source of warmth and consolation, a place where you feel love and where you share traditions, joys, and sorrows… but I know it is also often the case that within the family relationships we find some of the greatest temptations and stumbling blocks.
It is hard to live in such close proximity to others. This is why our Lord Jesus Christ counseled us specifically to love our neighbor – the person right in front of us. Much idealism comforts itself in having love for ‘mankind’… but who is ‘mankind’? Mankind is a safe and sterile abstraction. Mankind will not bother you with their idiosyncrasies, or the way they leave their stuff on the floor, or the way their objectives conflict with your own. Christ’s call to love our neighbor is enacted in the million and one ways in which we must exercise love and patience and kindness toward our brother and sister, our father and mother, our husband and wife.
God places the context of the process of our salvation in community… the family, the parish. He does so because it is in that process and practice of self-sacrificial love toward others wherein our disease of pride may be challenged and healed.
On this day of family, faithfulness and love it is only appropriate to speak about the family of our parish. God has brought us together here in this church community and I am sincerely grateful to be here with you all… struggling together toward our salvation, drawing together in prayer and supplication to God, welcoming the newly born in the waters of baptism, imparting to eternity those reposed with Christian burial, and receiving here all those medicines of immortality – the sacraments of the Church.
This is a great blessing and we should be diligent in both nurturing and cherishing our parish family. How should this be done? My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, my dear parish family… I urge each and every one of you to get involved in the life of the parish. Attending services is a wonderful thing, and I wish to see more of you more frequently at services – not just Sunday morning Liturgy, but Saturday evening Vigil and feast days. Attendance at services is just one step though in the life of the parish… there are so many needs and so many ways in which you can practice that love and giving which are integral in the health of the family parish life.
I’ve been appealing for several weeks now for you to renew or sign up for parish membership. Thus far the response has been pretty weak… we’ve only got a couple more weeks left in this month, so please don’t delay. Also, I don’t know if you noticed, but last week we had some 11th hour scrambling to support the coffee hour after church because we didn’t have anyone signed-up to host that day. There are various projects that we would like to accomplish, but the available hands are few… or, as is often the case, it falls to the small minority of the same people who shoulder the burden of the parish needs.
These are the practical realities of parish life and these are the practical means by which we extend our love and our labor toward our parish family.
I know that it’s not easy to give your time and your talents to the parish. But, really… that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? If we only attend services when it is convenient for us, if we don’t extend the extra effort to help out the parish in some way… then what sacrifice are we making?
Love is perfected in sacrifice.
I am complimented so often by visitors to this parish who tell me that they feel such warmth and welcome here. This makes my heart leap for joy! We do indeed have a rare and wonderful convergence of great people in this parish. I am grateful to God for the blessing of being in this church!
I take this day of the celebration of family, faithfulness, and love to appeal to you to make that extra effort of faithfulness and love for your family - by being here for the fulness of the church’s services (especially Saturday evening Vigil before coming to Sunday Liturgy), and by seeking out how you may get more involved in the life and maintenance of the parish community. You can talk to me or to any member of the parish council to see how you might get involved.
May God, through the prayers of the holy wonderworkers Sts Peter and Febronia, bless, protect, strengthen and increase our parish family… and may the blessings of our Lord be upon each of you and grant faithfulness and love in your lives.