Congratulations on the feast of the entry of Jesus Christ to Jerusalem. Earthly Jerusalem is a city on the map, a geographical location in which we are not physically present. But we all know about the heavenly Jerusalem, where we all want to be. The new Israel are people who chose to follow Christ. By walking out of Egypt, they left behind the world that lay in evil and set out to look for their promised land.
Like these biblical people, we, too, are walking across the desert. We are in a city of two million people, but we are still in a desert. Only rarely can we hear a word that brings life to our spirits, or see life in a stranger's eyes. The world is like a desert. Sin has reduced people’s souls to ashes and sent them looking for a way to fill the spiritual void. They look at the window shops and the billboards. Here is one that advertises a tour to some foreign land. It promises to fly you to the other side of the world, let you lie in the sun, take you shopping, and even let you try some unusual food - all to fill the void within. But this does not help. Noone can fill one’s life with meaning except God.
And so we are on our way to meet Christ. We are going to Jerusalem in Heaven. We have come to Church to begin a new life with God and to defeat death.
Defeating death is our foremost task as Christians. We know how fast it is approaching. Doctors and medicines can delay its coming for a while, but what next? Death is approaching, and we are tasked with defeating it. There is only one Doctor who will help. He will heal our immortal souls. People have lost touch with Him; they have turned paradise into a waste dump; they are heading for the graveyard, and are craving for some reassurance and good news.
They cannot find any of these in the world, but the Church has plenty to offer. On Palm Sunday, the people are holding pussy willow branches. They are like small children. They are doing it for God! How could one not be a small child to stand there and shout: “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11: 10). But one can look at it a different way. Is not it a waste of time? Would not we have spent it better by making money, or relaxing in front of the television with the choice of fifty channels or so? Or doing something exciting, going out, or simply having a good time? Instead, they are standing there like little children, singing glory to God, living with Him. Will they ever grow up? The wise and strong of this age do not need Christ. They are self-sufficient and autonomous.
But we have nothing of ours, so we are seeking God. Look how weak men are without Him. Someone is having a special day, he is joyful and celebrating when suddenly he has a bad toothache. The holiday is over, and so is the celebration! A tiny vessel breaks in our brain, and here we are - lying flat on our bed, losing our memory and becoming speechless. Just as we are powerless on our own, our capabilities are infinite with Him! We can do anything because we have the living God in our hearts.
We have come here today to honour the living God, the God Who empowers and inspires. It is Him that we must learn from, serve and live with if we wish to defeat death. In only a week, we will become witnesses to His victory over death. We will hear the Church proclaim, "there is no more death!" The Apostle will say, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15: 55).
I wish that we could all share our rich gifts of joy and life with those who have not found their way to Church this year. I hope that with our whole lives we will show others the beauty of God. Let us speak with our hearts, not with our mouths as we preach it. Let us all have the Lord in our souls, for He has already shed on us all His love. We are inheriting His estate of everlasting life and His Divine blessing that purifies, sanctifies, and renews us. We are accepting this gift from God to be saved. Let us continue to thank Him for His unfailing love that He never stops giving us despite our unworthiness.
Now you and I might say, "If Christ came to Belarus, we would not shout to crucify Him; we would listen to Him.” We are wrong. We are human. Imagine how much we have corrupted our nature to have accepted the crucifixion, derision, and killing of our Lord. There would hardly be more than a handful of us today who will be willing to be servants to the King of Heaven and follow him through the end.
But Christians also realise that God's power is manifest in weakness ( 2 Corinthians 12: 9). Only a few days later we will hear in our readings how the same people who welcomed their Saviour, who glorified Him, spread their cloaks on the road and spread branches they had cut in the fields shouted, "Crucify Him!" (Luke 23: 21).
Disfigured by sin, human nature does not depend on ethnicity, political views, or climate. In this world, we have been taught to bow to earthly kings and to reject the King of Heaven. He does not bring us the cheap imitations valued in this world, but the genuine gift of His love, tormented and crucified. Let us not shun it, but instead, let us keep searching for the truth and plenitude of our lives until we finally find them.
Let us be thankful to God for all His wonderful gifts to us!
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.
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.
Recently, we commemorated the new martyrs and confessors of Russia who sacrificed themselves for our faith, our ability to come to Church to accept the Body and Blood of Christ and commune in Him.
The birth of the living God returned to humanity the sense of His closeness. God acted through the people who had kept within themselves the ability to live by their faith. People like the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.
At some point, we will become weak, only to find out that we had neglected our spirits and not prepared them for the life to come. Therefore, as we call for God's help, we should not ask him to turn around the circumstances of our lives.
We all understand that it is very important to have an inner life, but sometimes this inner life can be rather poor, and then even external efforts produce results. When in difficult times a person constrains himself for Christ’s sake, God will…
God tells us not to withhold our forgiveness of others, so we may also be forgiven by Him. As we say in our prayer, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors". The world is fragile, and so are we.
The Feast of the Ascension is past us, and the day the Holy Trinity is fast approaching. With the Lord, we have the plenitude of life, wherever we find ourselves - in a hospital ward, in a prison jail or in any other inhospitable location.