Because we are still in the beginning of our ascetic practice, and our prayer is still weak and imperfect, this «spiritual sieve» has big holes. It does protect us from some things, but the majority of them manage to get through, wounding our souls and hearts with the devil’s arrows. Praise the Lord that we have the Sacrament of Repentance, which cleanses us. The Lord removes all dirt and stains. You feel relieved, pacified, and excited.
This is how, by teaching ourselves to pray, by saying prayers and making prostrations, by this practice of abstinence, we enter the Holy Forty Days of Lent. May God help us to go on with this gradual and proper attitude, so that we could start this period in the right way? They say that if you start something properly, if the beginning is good, then, as a rule, you will manage to accomplish everything successfully with God’s help. On the contrary, if the beginning is poor, it sets the tune for the entire period. That is why it is so important to enter into this period with contrition, with a desire to improve our lives, a desire of chastity, holiness, a desire to be with Christ and hate sin and all its manifestations — everything related to it. We must push all this aside, like a deadly poison. We will not take poison because we know that it is deadly.
Similarly, the sin is a spiritual poison that does not make us happy. The world deceives us, making us believe that it somehow contains pleasure and satisfaction, or a meaning of life. Having tried this worldly pleasure and entertainment, very soon you understand that this is a fake. The packaging is nice but there is bitter poison inside. That is why a person clings to God and the Church even more. God nurtures our souls with his grace — the source of all goodness for us; this is our life that begins here but develops into the eternal life. One has the opportunity to experience heaven even here; in a certain sense, a person can taste the bliss of living in the Heavenly Kingdom before it is revealed to every soul that followed Christ and was loyal to the Church during this life.
Sermon after the All-Night Vigil on March 5, 2016
Our road to God goes through our neighbor, i.e., a human being. Holy Apostle John the Theologian tells us not to fool ourselves, thinking that we are already close enough to God. If you reject a person whom you meet in the course of your life, that is, if you deplore him or turn him down in a different way, you have not yet come close enough to God because you have not taken on his image and semblance. We can learn from this that we should learn to accept every person we meet; we should ask God and do our best to treat everyone we meet equally.
Naturally, our sins prevent us from doing so. They distort our behavior and make it egoistic; it turns us into people who live according to the Old Testament, so to say — an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, you do good to me — and I do good in return, you wrong me, and I will in turn do harm to you. We must abandon all this old stuff. The Lord and His Holy Church are of great help in this respect.
Sermon after the Liturgy on March 6, 2016
: The enemy finds in our souls the strings he may pull, the weaknesses he may use to direct our actions, thoughts, and words. We lose our connection to God when we immerse into our desires, weaknesses, and deliberations. If we weigh the time when we abide in God and when we are left without him, the result will be to our own disfavor. That is, we do not pay to him even half of the attention that He deserves — for He sacrifices everything for us. It is so painful to see this happen, and it is so great that there are moments when we come to God, when we see ourselves before him, and have the opportunity to exclaim like the prodigal son, «I do not deserve to be called your son, accept me as a slave». Everything changes. The Lord rewards us again with the ring, the power, and the white robe. He restores our filial rights.
These moments must be the most precious ones. Even though they do not occupy the majority of our time, they are undoubtedly the way and — hopefully — the gift that the Lord gives us to let us into his family, promising that He will never lose us. «Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out» (John 6:37), He says.
May this pain of leaving God lead us to confession more often, so that we could remember the One who loves us and respond to his love, learn to suffer for its sake, that is, patiently bear some inconveniences, albeit minor ones rather than a cross — they are something we can bear. It should be more than mere words, more than mere outward actions: it must be our participation in his life, in his death, and his resurrection.
The Lent is the time for repentance and reconsideration. I am convinced that, although we might not notice it, something happens inside our souls, the Lord changes us every time. Even though
we do not change from the outside, even though our actions do not show the signs of change neither in our everyday lives, nor during feasts, I still think that the Lord invisibly changes something inside us, and it will help us at a certain point — even if it is our last moment — to thank him for everything.
Sermon before the Confession in the Boarding Home for Children with Special Needs on March 4, 2016
We are in for a period when we have the chance to do good. The Lord gives us the opportunity to change our lives again and again. As long as we seize it and trust him, as long as we open our hearts to the best of our abilities, He fills them with his presence. It makes our burden less heavy; following the commandments is no longer hard work: we are happy to accomplish them, although not without pain…
Easter will come after this period of struggle and restraint, no matter how long it is. If we remember this, we won’t be depressed, we won’t be annoyed and desperate. Easter will come no matter what. Likewise, we will encounter God no matter what. We simply have to ask him to be able to meet him not with fear of punishment but will the joy of the triumph of the goodness over evil.
Sermon after the Liturgy on March 6, 2016
The same people who had been meeting Christ, singing praises to God as He entered Jerusalem, soon enough turned their backs on Christ and rejected him, because the news of love, the appeal that the Lord had brought to this world, was hard for them to understand, were frightening for them. He demanded such love and such alacrity that spills over the limits of death.
For instance, Hieromartyr Polycarp of Smyrna had to choose between being alive — preserving his life, continuing his existence in this world by rejecting Christ — and remaining faithful to him till the end, until his death. As Christians, we cannot help being inspired by his example, because both he and we, the disciples of Christ, cannot think of a life without God, without Christ who gives us salvation. It is in Jesus that we receive life — the real Life with the capital L.
Being in communion with him through the Sacrament of Eucharist, partaking of him, we receive a promise, a foundation of the eternal life. Our entire life here on earth must also be the Liturgy in the literal meaning of this word — the «common cause». The cause of salvation is common for the entire Church and is a calling of every Christian; it is the field of work for every one of us. Our struggle against the sin will be a way to participate in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross because He will help us to push this pernicious condition out of our hearts with his grace and his presence.
We have to add our efforts mentioned in the today’s Epistle, where the Apostle encourages us to avoid doing evil (i.e. the damnation, the illness of our soul that, as St Macarius the Great writes about it, had alienated our ancestors from God one day), to our desire and our openness to him. We should take part in doing things that foster not only our spiritual advancement and salvation, but also the salvation of everyone around us, the salvation of the entire Church. This is because all are invited to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Sermon after a Liturgy on March 7, 2016
The Great Lent is a season of spiritual spring, spiritual recollections, renewal of our spiritual life, and the time for us to defeat the sins that dwell inside us. This is the most favorable time of repentance. It is by spiritual synergy, by joining efforts with each other and God, that we will be able to reach the Heavenly Kingdom that awaits us, and praise Christ who rose from the dead and granted us the eternal life, while we are still here, according to the traditions established by the Church.
Sermon after a Liturgy on March 9, 2016
The ascetic practice of the Lent does not just boil down to absence of food but is first of all marked by a change in worship. The Lent implies changing not just our bodily diet but our spiritual diet, too: I mean the food for the soul that we consume here in the church during worship.
The Prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian is, of course, a must for us: it is like a healing balm for our souls. If we cannot make it to church services on weekdays, we recite this prayer at home in front of the icons, with piety and prostrations, asking the Lord to take our passions away and to grant to us the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love.
We are inspired by the saints whom we continue to commemorate during the services according to the Lenten Triodion. God gave all saints the courage to fight and not to be afraid because He was with them. We need not be afraid of beginning the Lent because we are with God, too. If a person is with God, neither turmoil, nor absence of something delicious will feel detrimental to him. The Lenten worship and all saints will help us during this Great Lent: the saints will pray for the Lord to strengthen us and allow us to spend this time to the advantage of the salvation of our souls.
Sermon after the All-Night Vigil on March 9, 2016
Archpriest Andrew: Sometimes we take a wrong route and find ourselves in an impasse, not knowing how to go on living, what to do, what the meaning and the value of our life is. This is because we lose our connection with God, our loyalty to him, and give in to depression, misunderstanding, self-pity. We do not only exist in this gloomy condition ourselves: we may even infect people around us. This is a huge responsibility: With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the forward thou wilt shew thyself forward (Ps. 18: 26). With the depressed, you will possibly die — because for them, everything is bad, they keep grudging, complaining, and being resentful all the time — not being happy, not willing to be happy because they are mad at everyone and everything, because their life did not live up to their expectations, their lives are so difficult when someone might be having an easier fate, someone might achieve all things with ease and possess a greater wealth… A depressed person suffers at seeing that, you know. Why do you suffer and what for? This kind of self-pity leads an individual to spiritual paralysis. Obviously, we need to fight it.
Love… Our encounter with love depends on our faith, our trust in God, our internal efforts, our willingness to step over our own I’s, our own selves that stink, to be able to take a step forward and say, I’m rising up, I have been resurrected, risen from the dead by the Lord like Saint Lazarus. He led me out of my grave and said, «Lazarus, get out of thy grave!» Therefore, it is not a Christian position to stink and keep lying in that tomb and hiding from all the problems we have to solve and be responsible for.
The sin that dwells inside us makes us inert; it freezes us up, it impedes our reasoning, making us sheer fools. Certainly, we have to stand our turf and think for ourselves about our own souls and the souls of the people we bear responsibility for, and in general, about all people whom the Lord will send to meet us during our lifetime. How important it is to support someone, to understand and accept him! One needs to have peace inside one’s soul; otherwise, this will not be possible. This is why I would like to wish you all peace.
The season is coming when sun starts to shine brighter and brighter every day. During the winter, it used to be dusk now but today, the sun is still shining — the day becomes longer. Of course, spiritual spring is also coming to bring us the most important event in every Christian’s life — the Easter. Let us struggle for the sake of this joy, this light, this life that we have received from God and that we have to return to him, i.e., to enter this new life that Christ has brought to us in the today’s world.