Blasphemy is a terrible sin! Every time people joke about sacred objects or actions, lack proper reverence for the saints and all that has to do with the Church, defame clergy or slander them, this is blasphemy. Beware of this great sin! You may tell me, “Vladyka, we are not blasphemers!” That is good! But there are many such among us that are close to blasphemy. Let’s take an example. We’re going to an Orthodox home and we see portraits of family and friends hanging on the walls, and they are clean, and everything is beautiful. But nearby, in the corner, there’s an icon hanging, blackened from dust, from which are hanging some old, faded, and wrinkled flowers. Is this pleasing to God?
There are priests who don’t keep up with the cleaning in the altar and on the altar table well enough—this awesome place where angels look with fear and love. I had one case: I was going around the diocese. I arrived to one city, and the dean told me that one batushka was slovenly and needed to be tightened up. I went to his church, and what did I see? On the altar table—a layer of dust, on the icons—flowers that hadn’t been changed in two years. “Where is your wonderworking icon?” I asked. “Here it is!” “I don’t see it!” I said. “It’s right here, Vladyka!” “No!” I said. “I don’t see the icons behind all the dust accumulating on them.” The priest asked forgiveness and promised to change and to report to me every week how he’s maintaining order in the church.
Here’s another picture. Pascha. You’ve made it through Matins and Liturgy and you’ve sat down to break the fast. You eat a piece of kulich, or cheese Pascha, greet one another with “Christ is Risen!” with a blessed egg, break it, and eat it. Everything is done well and piously. “And where to put the egg shells?” the maid asks. “In the trash, of course!” And this shell, which was only just sprinkled with Holy Water at church, over which “Christ is Risen!” was sung many times—you’re going to throw it into the trash? Is this respect for the sacred things and Church of God?! Remember well that everything relating to the Divine services and to the Church of God is sacred, through which the grace and love of God are poured out upon us, and to which you should therefore relate with great love and piety. I wanted to end with this, but I remembered one more story which I must tell you.
It was in the Monastery of St. Nil of Stolobensk on Lake Seliger. The relics of this saint are venerated there, now in a new reliquary, and the previous reliquary with an image of the saint on the cover stand in the church empty. One day a pious woman went to the monastery with her two small children to venerate the holy relics. While the woman was praying in church, her children were running around the garden, picking the ripe mountain ash berries which grew in abundance there. They entered the church, which was empty at that time, where the saint’s previous reliquary stood. They started their game: throwing berries at the image of the saint.
And suddenly, under a clear sky, everyone present in the monastery heard a terrible thunderclap that shook the whole building. The woman, not seeing her children around her, rushed to search for them, in view of such danger, and finally found them lying unconscious by the empty reliquary. The monks gathered there to bring the children back to their senses. When they finally regained consciousness, the mother asked them what happened to them? They openly told how they started playing a game of throwing berries at “grandfather,” and how they suddenly saw that “grandfather” raised himself up and wagged his finger, after which the lightning flashed, the thunder rang out, and after that they didn’t remember. You see how God chastises and admonishes even small, foolish children for disrespecting His saints. Admonish your children and caution them against this.
By the prayers of St. Gregory the Wonderworker, may the Lord send us and our children the gift of pious veneration of our icons and sacred objects. Amen.
Translated by Jesse Dominick