My spiritual father, elder Nikolai Guryanov told me this story about a man walking in the forest. "Walking across the forest, he is shaking trees and breaking branches along his way. He is leaving a lot of mess behind him. He is not doing do it for any specific reason. He is just bored, and his hands are itching." Someone who appreciates life and its beauty will not engage in destruction.
The fallen world has lost its original beauty. The fallen man leaves a desert behind him. In this world that lies in sin, might makes right. What does it teach our children? If you are strong, you are a hero. If you cannot destroy your enemy, you are a loser! Increasingly, these messages are becoming models of human behaviour.
There are two worlds of God - the visible and the invisible. The invisible world, the world of the spirit, is lost for us. Instead, we choose to live in a world of illusions. Glued to our screens, we cannot stop ourselves from following the news. We come to believe that somewhere else our lives could be better, more comfortable and more abundant. The world puts us on an abundant diet of entertainment and pleasure, creating an illusion of happiness. Let us not fall deceive ourselves: illusions pass quickly. They disappear like smoke and leave our souls miserable and frustrated.
Illusions are the weapon of our enemy in our spiritual battle. The enemy wants us to be selfish and live for ourselves. He wants us to stop having families, and forget about loving another. He wants everyone to live by the flesh, as gluttons and pleasure-seekers.
But we have come to church. We have not come here to ease our worries or to think about the future. We have come to be reborn, to regain the invisible spiritual world that he had once lost. Beside us are our guardian angels, whom we cannot see, but whose existence we do not doubt. We cannot see the angels themselves, but we have their images on icons. We realise that amid the people who have come to worship are many angels and saints.
To enter our new life in the spirit, we must turn our backs on sin. We must cleanse our hearts and minds of all impurity and filth. We have to do so during our very limited lifetimes. Some can expect to live to sixty, some to seventy, others may be fortunate to live to one hundred or a hundred and twenty years. Good for them! Still, our years are numbered, and we cannot buy ourselves any more time. We must use this limited time to be reborn and reform ourselves, to overcome this world full of temptations, sin and deceit.
We seek rebirth and reform, and this puts us on a collision course with the rest of the world. We stand out because we are not advocating a change to human laws or the ways of this world. We reaffirm the ultimate love of God that makes all of us equal. Because Jesus Christ is our King, who is always the same yesterday, today or tomorrow. We are His followers. On the great feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, we are raising the cross above the world, to the chagrin of our enemy. We are raising it with our pure hearts, prayer and love of God.
My beloved brethren, hold on to the truth of our Lord and remember that the enemy has no power over us. Do not be afraid to oppose him. If there is one fear that we should have, it is the fear of hurting our neighbour. By serving our neighbour, we are serving God. So let us be vigilant. My sister and my brother are my life. Let the wisdom of these words be our guide.
God help us all.
On the 21st of July, the Orthodox Church celebrates the feast day of one of the most revered icons of the Mother of God in Russia - Our Lady of Kazan. This sermon was filmed in 2019 after the Divine Liturgy on the day of the feast.