The Meaning of the Icon “Joy of All Who Sorrow”

Looking to the Lord to Find Comfort in our Sorrows

November 12, 2021

Looking to the Lord

Is there anyone among us who has never experienced any sorrows? Could anyone say that they are fully content with their lives? On our journey, we encounter many troubles, but the Holy Theotokos, our Mother in Heaven, always comes to our help.

Today, we commemorate the Icon of the Holy Theotokos "Joy of All Who Sorrow". It reminds us that we should look beyond this world and its relationships, however valuable they might seem. We can find joy even in our most trying moments if we look to God. The joy that comes from Him will overshadow any pain

Our gospel reading today tells us the same. It talks about the rich man who feasted and partied as the poor Lazarus lay in rags outside the gate of his palace. Yet the joys of the rich man are short-lived. The destitute and homeless Lazarus reaps the eternal comfort of the sorrowful. Hopefully, this example will teach us that the pleasures of this world are finite, shallow and illusory. They can bring us the sensation of momentary happiness, but to agree to spend the whole eternity in this state of self-deception would be sheer madness.

Certainly, it would also be unwise to let ourselves fall into another extreme. We do not always please God by leading comfortable, measured and well-to-do lives. Yet we should also be mindful that not all poor people will reach the Kingdom of Heaven, and similarly, that not all rich men will go to hell. We cannot allow ourselves to judge others, even when they have done or said something wrong. We should always bear in mind the possibility that they might repent, while we might fall from God's grace by judging others. Some of our neighbours are exceptional in that they dedicate to God all of their strengths and assets.

We, too, are hopeful of a life to come, which we will live in oneness with God. This life is filled with such love and elation that no one in this could ever imagine. We are hopeful because many of us had already had a glimpse of such a life. I had it when I first met God, and this encounter was a life-changing experience. Everything around me - the trees, the scenery - looked different, because God's love had entered my heart. Everywhere, I sensed the presence of God - in every object and every person. If we could all keep this ability to notice His presence and His beauty, no one would take any offence or feel bitter towards anyone else. Our life would be fundamentally different.

So we are coming to church to change our human nature, embrace God and renounce sin. We are learning to live by the laws of the world to come: to treat all our possessions as belonging to God; to demand nothing and to be thankful for everything; to give freely and expect nothing in return. Too many passions, emotions and conventions still clutter our hearts, and so there is a lot of work ahead to make it pure. May God's grace facilitate our progress, and help our neighbours and loved ones!

At church, we bring back wholeness to a world fragmented by sin. Only here can we sinners, doomed to die on this earth, find true life and joy. For it is the joy of our Lord and our salvation. Let us give our thanks to God for taking Communion today. May the Lord save and protect all of us, and may His grace give us strength and reassurance.

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

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