On March 18, on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, St. George Parish held a nice liturgical celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Scripture readings he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Time goes by, and now we have passed more than half of Lent. Today is the 4th Sunday of the holy time of fasting. This Sunday we honor the memory of St. John of the Ladder – the great ascetic and monastic mentor. In his famous book called “The Ladder of Divine Assent,” he described how a man, struggling with his passions, gradually ascends to piety. In this work are listed as steps of the ladder, those small victories that a man can accomplish in his personal perfection, with God’s help and through the grace of the Holy Spirit in, eradicating his sins and shortcomings.”
“So we, noting that we have already passed most of the Great Lent, must sum up some of the results of our endeavor of fasting. We must honestly answer how we practiced in fasting and prayer, in deeds of piety. Did we use the time that was given to us? Did we go up the stairs? After all, the Lord has given us this period of time, these four weeks for our spiritual perfection. So, did we do it? Or was our time spent on other things and cares?”
“The Lord says that we will have to give an account for all of our life. And telling us thus, the Lord calls us to appreciate the time we have been given, and that we must not give a chance to our enemy, the enemy of the human race, to capture our soul. And we should not seek false comfort, a feeling that that our enemy does not bother us. If a person thinks so, then he is deceived or has long been living under the influence of that same enemy, that is, the devil. This can be compared to a disease. If a person feels pain, then the body is fighting. And the person seeks treatment, goes to the doctors. But it may happen that the disease has already overcome the human body so much that it does not feel pain. In this case, doctors say that the body gave up. Therefore, it is also useful for us to feel the devil’s temptations, suffer from satanic slander and feel the arrows of the evil one that hurt our soul. Unfortunately, many people are already incapable of that, they live peacefully without remorse and without spiritual sensitivity. In this case, the enemy has already overcome them, and it is very difficult or almost impossible for such people to free themselves from such a deplorable spiritual state.”
“Today’s Gospel lesson is telling us about a boy who was possessed by an unclean spirit. His father desired him to be healed and he brought this boy to the Disciples of Christ. But, unfortunately, at that time they themselves were not spiritually mature, they were on a lower step of the spiritual ladder, so they could not cast out the evil spirit from that miserable boy. Our Lord Jesus Christ was the only one who could accomplish such a healing. And thus, that boy possessed by an evil spirit that was torturing his body, throwing the boy into the fire and into the water willing to destroy him – this is an image of the sinful human soul. It also suffers all the time, it is exposed to the attacks of the evil one and sometimes it may become possessed by him. And only such things as faith, prayer and fasting are able to help it.”
“The Lord says to the father of the possessed boy, “Everything is possible to him who believes” (Mk. 9, 23). And He says to His Disciples that “this kind can come out by nothing prayer and fasting” (Mk. 9, 29).”
“Therefore, let not be deceived those who say that there is enough to have some kind of “faith in the soul”, and not a sincere and firm Christian faith. Let not be deceived those who believe that you don’t need the Church prayers, rituals and Sacraments. Let not be deceived those who believe that fasting is a relative matter and that it means little. We heard the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The only one weapon in the fight against sin, against the power of the devil is fasting and prayer! And there is no other weapon. And if we do not use this weapon in the fight against evil, our soul will be in the same position as the son of that man, about whom we heard today in the Holy Gospel.”
“At the same time, we have to remember that our own strength is not enough to pray and fast appropriately, but we need the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died on the Cross, and who conquered the power of the devil and who had risen. Then our souls will also be resurrected, like that boy in today’s reading: the boy who first was numb, and everyone thought that he was dead, and then he began to live.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us use all our strength for the spiritual warfare and let us spend the remaining time of the holy Lent in fasting and prayer. Let all the attacks of the enemy be repelled from our souls, so we may joyfully encounter the holy and bright days when we will be buried together with Christ, but we will rise with Him also!”
The choir led by our Choir Director, Olga Roussanow, prayerfully sang penitential hymns and hymns in honor of Venerable John of the Ladder during preparation for Holy Communion.
Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in English explaining the content of his Russian homily.