Greetings to all of you on this glorious Sunday morning. Congratulations on the feast day of Saint Daniel, the Grand Duke of Moscow, who pleased God by asserting peace in his land and his righteous life.
Daniel was popular among the people, and he received much praise in his childhood and youthful years as a model for others to follow. His family must have been proud. They had raised a young man of extraordinary piety, purity and generosity. He inherited from his father a small portion where he was reigning, but the purity of spirit must have been his biggest asset. Presumably, he was also wealthy. It would be hard to imagine a great duke as a poor man. Overfilled with a sense of dignity, many in his position would have stopped at that and desired for more.
But Daniel met God, and to him, it was a life-changing moment. The Lord did not wish to make him poor or homeless. He only wanted him not to pride himself on his goodness and to follow His way. Can you imagine how hard it is for someone dignified and in a high position to go after Christ? For He is among the harlots, robbers, the sick and the outcasts. They are near Him and in His service. Learned people of noble descent - who were also among His servants - often preferred to keep their discipleship secret.
I sometimes wonder: would not God have shed on us enough grace to empower us to move mountains, heal the sick and bring others to faith at piety with ease? But what would that have done to us? Most likely, we would puff ourselves up, and our pride would make us dead for His Kindom!
Saint Daniel of Moscow
Metropolitan Philaret, the now-departed prior of the Belarusian Church, was once performing the order of sanctification of waters during a feast at our Convent. Suddenly, a rainbow rose above him. Everyone exclaimed in amazement, "Look, Your Holiness, there is a rainbow over you." But Philaret replied, "Stop bringing me into temptation." He viewed this situation from the height of his experience. But many would have reacted differently. "Look, my prayer must be worth something! I can do so much more than others!" See how easy it could be to fall into spiritual delusion? Few would not be tempted to think, "I said the word, I wished for something, and it came true. I must possess some exceptional ability!"
But let us not delude ourselves: we do not possess anything worthwhile, and whatever good we have is a gift from God. A gift that we often contaminate with our actions. Too often, people step away from God by taking too much pride in their beauty and purity. To deny themselves, leaving everything behind to follow Christ, could be an impossible task for the good, beautiful and pure who pride themselves on their virtues.
But the Lord often teaches us. He allows us to fall. We fall and we repent. We develop a sense of guilt. That way, we overcome our self-satisfaction, conceit and condemnation of others. We become conscious of our sinfulness.
I do not mean to say, of course, that we must keep falling and wallowing in the dirt to be humble. Not in the least. All I am saying is that we must attribute to God all the good things in us, without appropriating any of them. The Lord said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3). If we can recognise our poverty in spirit, the Lord will bestow us with a wealth of His gifts. His possibilities defy all imagination. But as long as we appropriate our endowments and consider them our property, we are not ready for the outpouring of His grace.
Yet the Lord sheds on us the plenitude of His love. So let us cherish this wonderful gift from Him, the love that sanctifies us in the flesh, the fire that frees us from the shackles of our passions. Let us learn to share His love with our neighbours. There are many out there who need our love and whose failings we ought to bear. These people are also our gift from God.
May God save and protect us all. O, Lord! Glory to You!