By Fr. Sergius Khrapitsky
There is always a fast after holidays. We always need to fast in order to throw away the dead weight that we don’t need and to get rid of it physically. Most importantly, we have to be really zealous in keeping with the gifts that God has given us, the greatest of which is faith. Faith is the ultimate God’s gift that we have received. We must not just preserve this gift but also defend it and use it. Let us defend our faith like the saints did. Let us teach ourselves not to be afraid of dying. (Sermon after the Divine Liturgy on June 15, 2017)
We shouldn’t be afraid of the powers of darkness. What we should be afraid of is losing God. He that is not with me is against me, as we have heard in the Gospel we’ve read today (Luke 11:23). When we lose God, we literally become his opponents, the Satan’s servants. Therefore, let us always do our best to stay with Christ, and we won’t be afraid of the terrible enemies who oppose God’s truth in this world and try to mock God’s truth and to insult the believers, the pious ones. God is patient to a certain extent but there comes a time when He will put them to shame. (Sermon after the Divine Liturgy on November 9, 2017)
By Fr. Sergius Nezhbort
I wish that this day and all our lives were as bright as this morning, so that the sunlight and the light of God’s love would shine upon us and there were no clouds that could block that light. There is too much gloom in our lives, isn’t there? That gloom wraps us up and we don’t know where to go and what to do. It may appear that there is no escape and that the pain will never end. Nevertheless, there comes a moment when clouds give way to the sun, and the sun starts to shine, and you start to see in this light of Divine beauty that there is a way out; you just have to be patient and wait for the Lord to help you. That’s why it’s vital that we don’t hurry, don’t hesitate, don’t go to extremes but wait patiently for the Lord to strengthen and support us, to dissolve the darkness of our souls and to let us see everything clear and bright. We must be careful not to block this light and let it shine in our hearts. Sometimes a person experiences an enlightenment for a moment but then he brings himself back into the darkness. May the Lord help us not to block the Divine Light. (Sermon after the Divine Liturgy on June 19, 2017)
Thomas had a heart that had taken one too many beatings. Despite his often being stigmatized by later generations as “Doubting Thomas” there is nothing in his past record to indicate such a defect of character. In John’s account of Christ’s raising of Lazarus, when the Lord said that Lazarus had died and that He was going to enter the cauldron of dangerous Judea to “go to him” (John 11:15), the disciples assumed that He meant following Lazarus by dying too in His attempt to visit the grieving family. They were properly horrified, and reluctant to follow Him on such a doomed mission. It was Thomas who spurred them on and said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (v. 16). In other words, Thomas could not bear the thought of letting his Lord die alone, but was prepared to accompany Him even if it meant his death as well. This is not the utterance of a doubter, or of someone who is of two minds. Thomas had wrapped his whole life around Jesus, and that life would have no meaning without Him.
The most dangerous temptations are usually the most subtle ones because we think we are doing something good even as we are not. When it comes to the spiritual disciplines of Lent, we must be especially on guard against the temptation to make the season simply about ourselves. If our focus is simply on the quality of our prayers, our fasting, our almsgiving, and our repentance, we will miss the point of this season without even noticing it. For Lent is not about achieving a new “personal best” in our religious observance, but about preparing to follow Christ to His Passion. As the Lord told His disciples at the conclusion of today’s gospel reading: “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and after He is killed, He will rise on the third day.”