In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
So now we have come close the holy days of Great Lent. We are already on the doorstep and the doors are just beginning to open. But before we step through, let us look one last time behind us and revisit the places where our holy mother Church has taken us. Any mother wishes only the best for her child. More importantly, the Church always tries to provide us with all that is necessary for the salvation of our souls.
This is already the fourth Sunday that we are visiting the spiritual places that prepare us for Great Lent. And the first place is humility. In the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee, we heard what God expects from us. He expects humility since without humility it is pointless and even dangerous to not only set off on a long journey like Great Lent, but to approach anything spiritual. It’s very simple. If we enter the spiritual world with humility, then the humble, heavenly minds (the angels) will open our minds to great secrets. But if we enter without humility, then our mind becomes a playground for prideful demons. We will communicate with whichever entity we have the most in common. This is why the holy Church teaches us that, most of all, we need to work towards obtaining humble mindedness. This was the first Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee.
After that came the week of the Prodigal Son, when we heard the parable which told us not only what the spiritual world is, but how to enter it. We already knew that we need humility to enter. But how do we enter and through which door? This is already the fourth week that we lower ourselves onto our knees during the Sunday Matins (on Saturday evening) and pray “Open to Me the Door of Repentance, O Giver of Life!”
Unfortunately, few of us come to the Church on Saturday evening. We think that it’s enough to come only on Sundays for Liturgy. And this is good. However, Liturgy is the crown of the liturgical cycle, that is, it’s the final step that we are climbing towards. We want to jump straight to it. But we can’t reach it that way. With haste, we can only fall. We need to climb continually, step by step. Forgive us, Lord, for our sloth. During the upcoming Great Lent let us try to come to the Church more often. “Open to Me the Door of Repentance, O Giver of Life!” There they are, the very doors through which our soul enters into the spiritual world: repentance. This was the parable of the Prodigal Son.Фnd so we humbled ourselves, repented, and entered the spiritual realm. But what’s next? Next is the beginning of the spiritual journey: fear of God. “The beginning of wisdom”, as said Wise Solomon. On the third Sunday, the Church taught us about the Final Judgement.
And today is the fourth Sunday, the Sunday of forgiveness and the Commemoration of the Casting out of Adam from Paradise. We have humbled ourselves, turned to God with repentance, and having entered the spiritual realm, we have been filled with the fear of God. And only now, after all of this, are we offered the bread that we need so that our soul, having come to life, does not die again. And this bread is tears. Again, those who were here yesterday in the church heard the Lament of Adam, how he sat outside the Paradise lost and cried. He cried for what he lost and what he found. He lost bliss and life and obtained sickness and death. Sin became the reason for his misfortune. However, there was hope in his lament.In the Lives of the Saints there is a story where a brother asks Abba Pimen, “What should I do with my sin?” The elder answered, “Those who wish to rid themselves of sin do so with tears, and those who wish to not fall anew into sin avoid it with tears.” This is the path of repentance, given to us in scripture and by the Fathers, who said, “Cry! There is no other way but tears.”
Did you all hear these words? They were said for those who think that perhaps there is some other way way to salvation. There is no other way. So, let us cry and join with Adam in our tears of salvation. For, we are all Adam. We all lost Paradise and tomorrow we set out in search of it. Yes, this is the whole point of Great Lent. It is the search for Paradise Lost. Where shall we look for it? Here, in the holy church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, with which God has so generously blessed us. Today we will celebrate Maslenitsa (Cheesefare Sunday) but tomorrow evening we begin our tears. And I hope to see all of you here in the church, especially for the first four days of Lent, when we will read the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. Those who can, come to Vespers which begin at 5pm. And if you can’t make it, definitely come to the Great Canon at 7pm. These days are special, the whole Church is clothed in the black vestments of repentance. Everyone who has at least once passed through this field of tears filled with the light of Grace knows what awaits him. And those who will enter it for the first time, they will find out. “As the hart panteth after the fountains of water, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God.” (Ps.42:1) Amen!