To be honest, I thought I would not last until Pascha. Why? Here’s why: I am weak! You are strong and steadfast, and I am a weakling, standing here in full view. And I have been thinking to myself, "That's the farthest I can go, the longest I can endure. I will not last until the Pascha!" However, by some miracle, we have all made it to the Pascha. We have all endured, haven’t we, even though we have yet to live through the Paschal period. We have only good things to look forward to, guaranteed. That is because we now have God’s special blessing.
For the Orthodox are the New Israel. The New Israel is walking to the Promised Land: not to Jerusalem on earth, but to Jerusalem in Heaven. On this journey, we are certain to encounter many obstacles, temptations and trials, but we must continue our progress; we must never stop on our way, and we must have no fear. That is because we have the Lord in our midst, and because, unlike the rest of our world, which is living in madness, we know our way.
Cross procession at Saint Elisabeth Convent
What is this way? Christ says: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life." Now here is the essential thing: if we know that Christ is there, and that He is truly leading us to a new life - in which there will be no sin, disease, sorrow or sobbing - then we can surely have a whole new life to look forward to. At this point, we only learn one or two things. We are poor students, but we have superb teachers. We are progressing poorly, and we get bad marks. Our performance was mediocre again - a bad mark! But God forgives us every time. Honestly, we have no choice: we will all meet in the Kingdom of Heaven by all means! How could it be different? With so much love that we receive, how can we not reach the Kingdom of God? To miss the Kingdom of Heaven, what kind of person could we be? What limitless folly could it take?
But something is telling me that we are all making progress in God, right? I am grateful that you love Him so much: so many of you came to the night vigil - there were a lot more people than usual last night. You have also come today, despite the rain. We were worried about the rain. We were afraid not many of you would turn up to bless their food. But people are still coming in, despite the rain. Everything that is happening to us these days is bringing us closer to heaven, I am sure. That is because, on this earth, we will not find any truth. It just is not there. Who is right, and who is wrong? Everyone is guilty.
But whoever humbles himself more, loves more, full stop! We have no illusions left about this world. None at all. We do not entertain any illusions about ourselves, far from it. We know that sin dwells in us, and we can do horrible things if God's Grace leaves us perchance. "Every sin I have committed," prayed a holy father and revered saint. We still read his prayers, and we say: "I let every infirmity consume my heart. I lost the likeness of God and humans."
The saint was speaking of himself. It was not a figure of speech. He saw it in his heart. But we also know: “Through Him Who gives me strength, I can do all this!” Want it or not, we must all rejoice. We all need to smile and exchange kisses, now. But watch out, do not make your wives jealous. Take it slow, do not get carried away. Too much Pascha, eh?
Divine Liturgy at Saint Elisabethe Convent
There is never too much Pascha. I am just saying this, perhaps, because it might be a good moment for a smile, to relax, to remove some tension, maybe... But let me tell you: for me, this season is the most difficult. It is the Paschal season. We need to keep a lively spirit so that we do not say: "I have had too much to eat, too much to drink. I have lost it!" Lost it? But if you consume blessed food and drink, without drinking to excess, you will be all right. All is good in measure, in celebration and in life. The devil is trying to rob us of this sense of measure. Some people will either exhaust themselves, fearing to eat or drink anything... But what do they have to fear? Others go to another extreme: "I will eat and drink as much as I like," they exclaim. But both are wrong. One must always know their right measure, and always know their limitations. We need to be watchful.
Here is a fine definition of fasting: some rules are hard and fast, like refraining from oil or wine on certain days, or eating uncooked food, but on other days, to fast means to eat enough to stand up and pray after your meal.
Appreciate the depth of understanding, and the standard of piety! That is not easy: some, for example, may need to eat ten spoonfuls, and for others, one spoonful may be enough... understandably. Each has a measure for different things. Each has a different degree of preparedness. So it is such a joy to look at you. You are incredibly beautiful. You are so wonderful, I cannot look away. Imagine how delightful it is to have you around. So marvellous... like living in a fairy tale. Sometimes, we do not notice this when we are in low spirits.
We can only learn to see God in others when we have peace and love in our hearts. So let us challenge ourselves to see God in every person, for that is our most precious skill. What are we living for? “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." No other purpose stands above this one, for sure. Love one another! That is very hard indeed. Selfish and proud people love only themselves. The challenge is to destroy our pride, which comes from the devil, and learn to live by a new set of rules. Hopefully, within the fold of our Church, we will all live and grow, and Lord help us! We are going to Jerusalem in Heaven. We become new people as we prepare ourselves for everlasting life.
Christ is risen!
Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok
Preached on 24.04.2022
The Sunday after Pentecost, the Orthodox celebrate the Synaxis of All Saints which is also called the Sunday of All Saints. This year it falls on June 19th in the Belarussian Orthodox Church.
Jesus had not come to Jerusalem to reign there. He only wanted to be King in people's hearts. He made it clear that he had come to seek peace, not make war.
Those Orthodox Christians who follow the Julian calendar are about to start the shortest period of fasting of the liturgical year on the 14th of August - the Dormition Fast. It lasts only for two weeks.
We ought to work towards becoming rich in the Lord. We should reflect, weigh our every action and check if it conforms to God's will. We must ask ourselves, "Where am I going to gain and lose? What is good and bad in it for me?"
During the Great Lent, we abstain from certain foods and entertainments, but this fasting is not limited to abstinence; we aim at the the restoration of our inner peace.
Repentance is not a statement of fact. It is the desire to change one's condition. We cannot change it ourselves, but the Lord can, as long as we give Him this opportunity.
Sometimes, we might think that nothing is happening, when in fact a lot is going on. Things that we believe to be unimportant are of the essence because they prevent us from seeing God. An ailing mind is vulnerable to misconceptions.