24th Sunday after Pentecost


On November 11, on the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Gospel reading he preached the following homily in English:

“Today we heard the Gospel lesson about healing of the demon-possessed man in the Gadarene country. We could hear that story on the 5th Sunday after Pentecost, in the Gospel of Matthew. This time we hear it from the Gospel of Luke. The Gospel describes the power of evil and the way our Lord Jesus Christ dealt with that power.”
“First of all, let us look at that poor man who was possessed by the evil spirits. The Gospel says that he wore no clothes, lived not in the house but in the tombs. People needed to restrain him with chains and shackles but he broke the bonds and was driven to the wilderness. There were many demons possessing him. Jesus asked about the name of the demon, and the answer was “legion” (Lk. 8, 27-30). A legion was a Roman military unit, very large: it contained six thousand warriors. Thus six thousand demons were cast out by Jesus from that man. One demon is able to do a lot of evil to a person. St. Seraphim of Sarov said that one demon is capable to overthrow the earth only with his one claw! And here we are talking about six thousand of them! Of course, the earth is never overthrown by any of them and that poor man in today’s Gospel was never destroyed by so many spirits because God does not allow such things to happen. Let us remember that God is the Creator of all things visible and invisible, and He does not permit the evil one to exercise his full power and dominion. The evil spirits are subject to God’s will and God permits them to act only in certain limits. In today’s story God allowed the demons to take over that poor man to show the power of Christ to cast them out. He further allowed those spirits to possess the herd of swine – again to show us His power over those demons and to teach us what may happen to us if the devil was powerful enough. The swine perished in the lake: in the same way we may be perished if the evil one could lead us all the time. If the devil was free to act, he would destroy the whole human race.”
“By allowing the demons to enter the swine the Lord also showed us that the man is more valuable than all other creatures. Man is more important than any possessions and any wealth in the world. There is nothing more valuable and important in this visible world than human soul which is equal and similar to God.”
“St. John Chrysostom says that this entering the herd of swine should be understood in a mystical way: these pigs are the image of sinful people, and the Lord allows the evil spirits to possess them with many sinful passions. We may recall any of such passions: they all make a person look like being possessed. If someone is a drunkard, an alcoholic, he acts like a possessed man. Such sin can make him do crazy things, very similar to the things the possessed man in today’s Gospel did. And this refers to any other sinful vices. God allows the demons to enter sinful people and to torment them.”
“Last week we commemorated the sad anniversary of the terrible events in our old country’s history. A century ago the people of Russia became possessed with an evil passion and overthrew the social order, attacked the religion and morals, destroyed the churches and engaged in a bloody fratricide. The history shows us that sometimes God allows evil things to happen and permits the evil force to have a temporary triumph. And back then, a century ago, those people who fought for the good cause and attempted to stop the evil in Russia did not prevail. God allowed the evil to have a victory. Therefore, we should not be surprised when evil sometimes overcomes but patiently expect the will of God to be done.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, the possessed man in today’s Gospel lesson is an image of all sinful humanity being tormented by the devil. The possessed men used to be in the past and they are still found nowadays. But apart from being physically possessed, all of us are tormented by our sinful desires inspired by the enemy. One of the problems of today’s humanity is that so many people refuse to believe in the existence of evil spirits. I met people who said they believed in God but did not believe in the devil. We have to remember that the existence of the devil is proclaimed in the Sacred Scripture, as well as in the teaching of the Holy Fathers. It is also affirmed by numerous spiritual revelations and human experiences. For instance, today the Church commemorates Venerable Abramius the Recluse. He lived in the 4th century and he was a friend of the famous Church Father, Venerable Ephrem the Syrian. St. Abramius was an ascetic man and once the demon appeared to him and tempted him by exclaiming: “You are the blessed one! You are blessed more than any other man!” This was an attempt to make St. Abramius proud. But the Saint recognized the evil attack and resisted. Several other times the demon tempted the Saint but he successfully fought back.”
“Thus, dear brothers and sisters, the evil force exists and it is represented by powerful and intelligent beings whom we call the devil and his fallen angels.”
“Another problem is that many of us, even being faithful to God and believing in the devil, are often vulnerable before his attacks due to our spiritual weakness. The sins and passions make us an easy prey of the demons. Thus we have to remember how to protect ourselves and to fight those attacks. Our Lord Jesus Christ said that this kind is driven away by prayer and fasting (Mt. 17, 21). Thus we need to practice them in order to resist the evil forces. The Holy Fathers teach that the demons are afraid of the Most Holy Body and Precious Blood of Christ, of His Precious and Life-giving Cross and of the holy water. Thus let us receive Holy Communion, but receive it worthily and appropriately. Let us bless ourselves and bless our surroundings with the sign of the cross. Let us use, drink and bless our environment with holy water. Let us use the means Holy Church is providing for us to fight the devil and his demons. Let us do it, so we may become similar to that man healed from his possessions and like him, we may proclaim throughout the world what great things Jesus had done for us!”

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian explaining the main thoughts of his English homily.