Our worldly life continues, and so we tread along. After many years and kilometres, we begin to review our past and rethink many things. As we do, we may realise where we had taken the wrong turn or made an error. We appreciate the need to admit our misdeeds and to do all we can not to repeat them in future. But where is that yardstick, the beacon that shows us the right direction? It is Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The world that lies in evil does not need God. It is confronting God in every matter to assert itself, sometimes in ugly and horrendous ways. What seemed madness yesterday, is seen today as freedom of choice. The news, the fiction, the inventions of the human mind are putting us under extreme pressure. What purpose do they serve? Perhaps it is to keep us on a tight leash and in a trap; to stop us from reflecting and exercising our minds; to delude us into thinking that we can find all we need on the Internet at the press of a button; to convince us that someone has done all the searching, thinking and assessment for us, leaving us free to lay back on our sofas with our remote controls. Welcome to the modern world with no God. Look where we are all heading.
Yet there is the Church, and we know that the gates of Hades will not overcome it (Matthew 16: 18). There is Christ who has overcome the world ( John 16: 33). There is the love that our Lord has shed on us. His ultimate love, not His wrath.
The Church is not just for coming and spending time together. It is our infirmary. We come here to be healed. He heals us with His love, His ultimate cure. We take it with humility and with the appreciation of His infinite beauty, with which the world will be saved and without which it will perish. Such beauty should emanate from us, for we are God's image and His likeness, not some dancing shadow. We must take faith in our beauty and fight to keep our minds pure, our hearts peaceful and our talk gentle and well-mannered. Is not it sad and horrifying to see people who swear so much that it has become a habit for them? Or to hear foul language from a schoolboy and listen to his surprised response to our reaction: "They all talk like that in my school!" Can you imagine how far we can all go when profanity becomes the norm?
"Where are your wings, man?" sings a popular song. Do we still have wings? We cannot have a life unless we keep beauty and purity in our families. What kind of family is it where people cheat on one another? What kind of children would grow up in a family with no honesty, fidelity or love?
Some might say, "What you say used to be true in the past, but times have changed, and we are living our lives differently." Are we? And can we call it a life? There is no way we can avoid these nagging questions. So let try hard to raise our children in purity and beauty, to resist the spirit of the time and its mass-produced temptations that corrupt and enslaves people and robs them of their ability to give and receive love, emotion and beauty. The threat of us turning into pure materialists and physiological beings looms high, so we should take care. For if we do not, all mystery and wonder in our lives will be gone, and all its goodness will be defiled by sin.
So let us all be mindful of our future. For it could become a true Apocalypse. The more naive among us still think it will be manifest in some magic numbers, signs or other omens. Yet it will come for real when people stop loving one another. Satan will rejoice, and this will be the beginning of our end.
Can you imagine what it would have been like without Christ and His Church? What kind of a life would we all be living? We must be thankful that we have Christ whom we can worship, and for our belonging to the Holy Orthodox Church that still keeps the wholeness of His truth! These are the true treasures that we should value dearly.
Let us all be conscious and worthy of the honour to be called Orthodox Christians. As we fight for purity may we all remember the guidance from Saint Serafim of Sarov: "Seek peace within yourself, and thousands will be saved around you".
So what kind of fasting should we aim for if we want to please God and benefit our spirits? There is no need to muse too much over these questions - today's Gospel readings give us the idea.