December 10, 2023

Homily One for the Epistle Reading on the Twenty-Seventh Sunday After Pentecost (St. Luke of Simferopol)

Homily for the 27th Sunday After Pentecost

Put on the Whole Armor of God

(Ephesians 6:10-12)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on January 21, 1951)

“Brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:10– 12). Here we are talking about warfare not against those authorities who govern the state, but against demons. Every darkness in human life is the work of their hands, the work of “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), and this is Satan himself, who rules over many hearts. And it is against him that the holy Apostle Paul commands us to strengthen ourselves in the Lord and in the power of His might. We ourselves are not able to fight the prince of this age and will be able to resist his machinations only when, without relying on our own strength, we put on “the whole armor of God”. He plots his intrigues, seeks to distract us from faith in God, sending demons so that they direct people to the path of serving passions, to the path of wickedness and even blasphemy - to destruction. The invisible spiritual enemy is the most powerful and merciless; the less we think about it, the more terrible it is, because the unnoticed enemy is the most dangerous. And on the contrary, he loses strength if we strictly and tirelessly follow his machinations.

But how many people spend their whole lives in crimes, brigandage, robberies and thefts, in fornication and adultery and never think about the “prince of the power of the air” and do not believe in his existence! For whoever does not believe in God, of course, does not believe in the devil. Such people are not at all wary of demonic attacks, and this is all Satan needs, because a careless person who does not want to know anything about him becomes a very easy prey for him. And every poor woman, deceitful and lustful to the marrow of her bones, and every pitiful man, often drunk, will easily fall to the heavenly spirits of evil. It costs them nothing to completely destroy such people. Satan no longer has to worry about them: they have given themselves up to death, having become so bogged down in sins that they do not need to be tempted or pushed into sin.

And what can we say about believers who do not doubt the existence of the devil - the “prince of peace” of this age (John 14:30) and his servants? Demons tempt them every day, pushing them into fornication and the love of money, into vanity and into serving lusts. And if they are not vigilant, if they do not remember that the enemy is always ready to destroy, then woe to them.

There are also mighty warriors of Christ - ascetics of piety, holy hermits who mortify their flesh, spending their lives in constant prayer and thoughts about God. They are the most terrible thing for the devil and his angels: they cannot be seduced the way they seduce frivolous people, mired in the vanity of the world, who only occasionally remember God, never fast and shun the temples of God.

We, weak and careless, are attacked by demons on the sly, unnoticed by us, we are not familiar with them, they never appear to us - it is not difficult for them to push us onto the path of vice. It is not at all the same with the saints who dedicated their entire lives to God. Neither demons nor the devil himself can remain unnoticed by them, for great ascetics, tirelessly watching their hearts and everything that the spirits of evil plant there, are able to very subtly discern their cunning.

The evil one usually tries to overcome them with passions of a higher order, sometimes destroying them with spiritual pride: vanity, self-exaltation and ambition. But if the saints do not succumb to these very subtle and dangerous temptations, the enemy becomes enraged and, like an enemy marching on a city, realizing that he has been noticed and that an unexpected attack will not be possible, he puts aside all secrecy and rushes forward in a frenzied rush.

The lives of saints often tell how demons, unable to hide from their watchful gaze, stopped hiding, shed their disguises, appearing in their true demonic form, and openly, shamelessly attacked them. The servants of the devil took the form of wild animals, ready to devour the hermit, poisonous reptiles, terrible monsters, instilling horror. But demons also have other methods of attack in relation to the great righteous: they do not attack themselves, but send their servants from among the people. So it was with our Venerable and God-bearing Father Seraphim of Sarov, who, at the instigation of the devil, was attacked by robbers, beaten and mutilated, breaking his ribs and breaking his skull.

This is the kind of warfare against the spirits of wickedness in high places that the Apostle Paul speaks of. “Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:13). Just as a warrior going to battle puts on armor, takes a shield, helmet and sword, so each of us must always be in the full armor of God. Stand boldly against the damned demons, “having girded your loins” instead of a military belt, “with the truth” of Christ, “and having shod your feet with the readiness to preach peace” (Eph. 6:14–15). Only those who are full of righteousness, who have many good deeds and spiritual achievements, are dressed in this armor, so terrible for demons.

And now, when peace is being trampled upon everywhere on earth, when a third war is being prepared, unprecedented in cruelty and horrors, we Christians must all the more “shod our feet with the readiness to preach peace” (see Rom. 10:15), we must rise with all the might of our souls against aggression, interventions that so terribly torment the peoples involved in the struggle.

“And above all, take up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16). These arrows constantly wound and destroy many human hearts. And we have been given a shield - the cross of Christ. With it we receive the power to resist both the devil and demons.

“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). Put on a spiritual helmet that protects not from bullets, not from shrapnel, but a helmet of hope for salvation, hope that the Lord is with us and has given us the strength and power to overcome the devil. What kind of sword is this, the word of God? What is its strength? The Apostle Paul says: “The word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). With this sword, terrible for the enemy, we can work miracles. The word of God penetrates so infinitely powerfully and deeply into the hearts of people, it knows how to shake them so much that sometimes suddenly a person mired in sins and wickedness is suddenly transformed, amazed by its power.

God gave us such complete armor to protect us from the wiles of the devil. Shall we really not use it and be careless?! You can acquire it in only one way - through faith and prayer to God, tireless exercise in virtues, and the desire to always, day after day, do and keep all His commandments. Then, and only then, we will not be alone - the Lord Himself will fight with us against the spirits of evil in the heavenly places. For this is why Jesus Christ ascended to the Cross, this is why He shed His most pure Blood, to give us the whole armor of God. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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