On lack of faith

Lack of faith, fear for the future and forgetting about the good providence of God often lead to acts, which later on we must regret much.

Sunday of all Saints

“…whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father…”

Dear brothers and sisters!

Having joyously celebrated the Decent of the Holy Spirit on last Sunday, today, we cheerfully honor the memory of all the saints, who, being filled with divine grace, by the manifestation of the miracles worked by God in their lives, shone like the stars in the firmament of the Church. Today, more than ever, the Holy Church reveals to us the meaning of the words of the Lord: “him will I confess.”

The Lord teaches us that no one, lighting a candle, hides it, but rather sets it on high so that its light would be visible and useful to many. Today, on the memorial of all the saints, the narrow way into the kingdom of heaven, the way to salvation, is lit by the light of their holy lives as with a multitude of candles, lit and set high in the heavens by the Lord God Himself. Indeed, one should not look at the multitude of miracles, worked by those who pleased God by the power of the Holy Spirit, as anything other than the light which is illuminating for us the way to God, showing us the example which is worthy of all honor and imitation according to one’s strength.

How great is God’s providence which, by miracles, clearly glorifies the laborers of piety, who were hiding from this world and earthly glory in the deserts, in the caves, in the forests, and under the guise of foolishness and madness! How many saints spent their earthly days in wont, in sickness, and in suffering, at the same time delivering others from sorrows of all kinds! Saint Anthony the Great, healing people, always used to say: “The Lord Jesus Christ healeth thee” in such manner giving the glory to God, always considering himself the chief of sinners.

For their great humility, for the patient endurance of many torments and sufferings, for sincere love toward Himself and toward the neighbor, for the confession of Him in the face of death, the Lord confessed – glorified – His saints in His kingdom. In our days, there are left among us those who please God, those who do His will. But for our sins, for the hardness of our hearts, for our immeasurable high-mindedness and for our pride, the Lord hid them from us and does not reveal unto us the light of their sanctity in order not to have to judge us more harshly on His righteous judgment.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us follow the example of those, whom God did glorify, whom the Church does hymn, in order that together with them we may obtain the kingdom of heaven. Amen!

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko

Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the first Ecumenical Council

“…That they be one, even as We are…”

Dear brothers and sisters!

How much meaning is in these words of the Lord! Praying for His disciples, for His Church, God the Son asks God the Father that we, Orthodox Christians, members of the Body of Christ, be one even as the Holy Trinity is one. Let us note that the Lord does not say ones, but specifically one, that is one whole and not many that are whole.

Oneness is a quality of the Most Holy Trinity, our God. Oneness with God and with the Church is a quality of every Saint. Oneness is a quality that is seen less and less frequently in us and our contemporaries.

The enemy of the race of men, the enemy of the Church of Christ, has fought against the unity of the faithful since the beginning of time. Yet in all the history of mankind he did not reach such progress as in our days. Never before, as it is now, have nations, and even families been stripped of their unity.

Armed with pluralism, individualism, and pretended freedom of self-expression, we have severed our spiritual oneness with the Holy Church, and thus, with God. While masses of people unite for the achievement of political or economical goals, the spiritual oneness and unity is subjected to criticism and mockery everywhere.

From the billboards to the TV screens, from all sides we are called to indulge our uniqueness one more time, to proceed according to our own understanding one more time, to attain our own personal goal with no regard for the established customs of the surrounding society one more time. Simultaneously, any inclination to follow the advice of the old days, in the best of cases, is seen as old-fashioned, and in the worst, as the weakness of character or even retardation.

All of this makes a person appear more and more like a mad animal which by its own intent separates from the flock, and being alone, perishes in the paws of a predator.

Yes, man is not a herd animal; man is created in the image and likeness of God. The oneness and unity of the Church is not at all a mindless crowd. As such, it would not hold up even at the first attack of the enemy. The personal free will of its members is not crushed in the oneness and unity of the Church. The oneness and unity of the Church are the life in Christ, the union with God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, how shall we attempt to live in Christ, if we have torn within ourselves the spiritual unity with His Church: with each other?

May the words of the Lord be fulfilled in all of us! May we all be one, for our God – the Most Holy Trinity – is One. Amen!

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko

The Sunday of the Blind Man

Christ is Risen!!!

This week from the Gospel reading we hear how the Lord healed a man blind from his birth. We also hear how the Pharisees, out of envy, tried to convince him, who received healing, that the Lord, Who healed him, was not the Christ, not even a righteous man, but a sinner.

Yet from the words of the used-to-be blind, we see that he received not only the sight of the bodily eyes, but of spiritual ones as well. Being asked, whom he thinks his Healer to be, he boldly answers: He is a Prophet! To the statements of the Pharisees that He can be neither a prophet nor a righteous man because He healed him on a Sabbath day, as if He were breaking the law, the one who received his sight boldly replies that no one, since the creation of the world, ever saw such a miracle, which only a righteous man could work, for God does not hear sinners, but rather those, who honor Him.

Thus, he, who received the gift of sight from the Lord, comes to know Him by His works, and boldly confesses Him before the people. In this there is a most important lesson for us, for so often we deceive ourselves in obtaining knowledge. How often do we form judgments of others based solely on their image or place in society? How often do we hope to beguile others by our outward appearance and words?

But, alas, from the Gospel narrative one can clearly see that we are known truly by our deeds. If at times it seems to us that the Lord does not hear, does not receive our prayers, is it not for the fact that our sins do allow them – our prayers – to rise to Him?

Let us keep in our hearts the words of the one who once was blind: “…God hears those who honor Him, and does their will.” Let us offer the Lord sincere repentance for our sins. So that in the day of our trial the Lord may hear us also. Amen!

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko

The Sunday of the Paralytic

Christ is Risen!!!

This Sunday the Holy Church celebrates the healing of the paralytic by the Lord. Today, the Holy Gospel tells us how the Lord came to the sheep’s pool, the place where a multitude of the sick awaited the descent of the angel and the stirring of waters in order to be healed, being the first to enter the waters at the time of their moving.

Having come to the pool, the Lord sees there a man who lay there for thirty-eight years, being paralyzed and having no man to help him be first to enter the waters. Having asked him whether he desires to be whole, the Lord tells him to stand up, take his bed, go and sin no more.

It is imperative that we pay attention to the fact that the Lord, before healing him, asks the paralytic whether he wants, whether he desires to be healed, to be whole. From this is clearly seen that He will neither heal, nor save anyone against his will or – if you will permit – without his participation. All of the holy fathers teach us that the Lord, alone, without us, will not save us. They teach us that even if the great saints, even the most pure Mother of God herself, will pray for us, and yet we, in repentance, will not ask the Lord to save us, He will not. That is why we ourselves must learn, and teach our children, always to seek the kingdom of God, with our whole soul to thirst for righteousness and salvation.

The reply of the paralytic – Lord, I have no man to help me enter the waters and be healed – helps us fathom the meaning of the incarnation of God the Word much more profoundly. The Son of God, the pre-eternal God, becomes a Man and comes to the paralytic, He Himself becomes his Helper. How great is the love of the Lord toward mankind! How great is His humility! Unlike His angel, the Lord does not stir the waters, but revealing His divinity, heals the unfortunate man by His word.

Every one of us is in need of healing from the terrible paralysis: the paralysis of the soul. But alas, by far, not everyone desires such healing, and many altogether refuse to admit that they are sick in soul. At the same time, which one of us always loves to pray? Which one of us always prays with attention? Which one of us always loves his enemies and his neighbors as himself? Which one of us always loves the truth and always keeps the Lord’s commandments? …The answer is apparent: all of us are sick, all of us need healing!

Let us, therefore, brothers and sisters, desire true healing and salvation! Let us cry out to the Lord from the depths of our souls! May the Lord, Who for our sake became incarnate, suffered, and rose from the dead, come to us as He did to the paralytic, and by His word, save us. Amen!

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko

Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has brought us together…

These words of the stichiron from the service of the feast of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem are very important to us. At a quick glance, they contain simply a narrative meaning, but after a prayerful consideration, one can see in them a profound spiritual meaning.

In honor of the feast, we bless pussy willows and palms and, at the end of the service, take them with us for the blessing and sanctification of our homes. But can we apply the words of the stichiron to ourselves based solely on that?

When the Lord entered Jerusalem, He was met by a multitude of people. Many cried: “Blessed is He Who cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” But, alas, after a few days the same people shouted: “Take Him, crucify Him!” That makes it obvious that it was not the grace of the Holy Spirit that gathered many that day. More likely, they were gathered by their personal interests, political or economical, interests, which were not satisfied with the coming of the Lord.

Wherefore, we too must ask ourselves: “what is motivating us, bringing us to church?” Is it our love of honor, or desire to be known as – not at all to be – pious? Or is it a hope of satisfaction of selfish desires, when the Church is only a firing range for the achieving of selfish goals, be they financial, political, or psychological?

God grant that for every one of us the reason will be the same: the salvation of the soul. For if we came to the Church for salvation, then truly “…the grace of the Holy Spirit has brought us together!”

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko

About warfare and prayer

“It is better not to notice the warfare on account of not paying attention to it and being focused on prayer, rather than, abandoning the attention to prayer, give in to contemplating the warfare, which is above our strength, and from this perceived contemplation arrive at high mindedness, which is inseparable from self opinion.” — St. Ignati (Brianchaninov)

Fourth Sunday of Great Lent

“…This kind comes out only by prayer and fasting…”

These words of the Lord again encourage us on the fourth Sunday of Great lent. At times we forget, or completely fail to see, the reasons why the Church calls us to the feat of temperance. Regrettably, sometime in our understanding lent has only a dietary value, and the prayers and chants of the Great lent – capable of warming our cold hearts – are understood by us only as a variety of the church’s repertoire.

That is why it is necessary to pay careful attention to the message of this Sunday’s Gospel. Having heard that His disciples were unable to free the pitiable young man, the Lord chastises the father of the sufferer for unbelief. “All things are possible for him, who believes,” says the Lord and – as an answer to the cry of the father: “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!” – He heals the one, who was tormented by the unclean spirit since childhood.

From the question of the disciples “why couldn’t we…” one can see that they believed in the Lord. But He, by His mercy, did not leave them without saving instruction. Having pointed the father to faith as the necessary means of healing, the Lord points the disciples to the perfection of the faith, setting forth prayer and fasting as the means of achieving perfection.

Thus, the Lord teaches that it is necessary to have faith, and not only to have it, but also to perfect it by fasting and prayer. We always need faith, whether we ask the Lord on behalf of others or for ourselves. It is also very important that it not be like that of demons: they believe and tremble, but do not repent. The true fruit of fasting and prayer is a heart that is broken and humbled.

Let us, therefore, break our hearts by fasting and prayer, and humbly cry out: “I believe, O Lord, help my unbelief!” So that we, by the mercy of God and by temperance according to our strength, may be delivered from passions and unclean spirits which destroy us, and may meet the radiant resurrection of the Lord with joy. Amen.

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko

About temptations

Do you wish to overcome a temptation? Thank the Lord for it and receive His immediate aid. Complaining, on the contrary, makes one weak.

On God’s grace in our deeds

“…God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6)

Often, in the church and generally in life, we see the following: someone is putting all his efforts, one might say trying to jump out of his skin, in order to do good, to serve God and neighbour, but his efforts produce only temptations, confusion, and offences. I’m certain that I also in the past and in the present was and am, at times, a temptation for my neighbour.

Why?

The reason for this is in the passions within us, in pride, self-opinion, self-love, self-will, love of glory, vainglory, and others. The main reason for stumbling in all our good beginnings is our pride. It distances us from God, Whom we aspire to serve and deprives us of His grace. Without God’s grace our work, if it doesn’t become sin, loses it’s benefit and becomes a cause of temptations.

How often do we see people serving, singing, teaching, organizing, doing, and yet all of it takes place with a certain indescribable additive that evokes repulsion and disgust of those around? All of this is the action of pride, or another passion, covered by good intentions, yet clearly stripping the good work of God’s blessing and His grace.

Having poured out the grace of the Holy Spirit on the Holy Apostles, the Lord called all into unity. The grace of the Holy Spirit always unites the faithful and even those, who were never acquainted before, often accept each other as old friends when they are united by the grace of God.

That is why humility is always the foundation of success in all our works.

Something from the life of St. Symeon the Stylite could serve as a good example here. When he began his struggle, the desert fathers, who didn’t see such an ascesis before, gathered and discussed whether it was from God, or not. Then, they sent to St. Symeon brothers, who told him that the fathers do not bless him to live upon the pillar. As soon as he heard that, immediately, he began to climb down, but they stopped him saying that now they see – in his readiness to be obedient – that his way of struggle is from God. Thus, by his humility he acquired God’s grace and blessing for his struggle.

There is another very instructive story about the bad influence of passions on our works:

A disciple of some elder brought a basket of vegetables and said it was an offering of some man. The elder told his disciple that he will not eat of those vegetables because of the stench of stinginess coming from them. The disciple was surprised and told the elder that he himself didn’t smell anything. Then, the elder told him to take the vegetables to the cows, which will also refuse to eat them. The disciple obeyed and was very much surprised when the cows only mooed and turned their heads away from the basket with vegetables.

Alas, our passions – and our pride first and foremost – also invisibly defile our good works and make them a source of temptation and confusion for others. That is why let us strive with our whole heart, with our whole mind, and with all our strength, to found all our deeds in humility. Then, the grace of God will always abide with us and our neighbours will not be tempted. Then, God Himself will be our Helper and His angels will always help us as well.

« Older Entries