December 11, 2023

Homily Two 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)
"Finally, my 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 do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:10-12).

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, that is, not against people, but against rulers, against authorities.

Against what rulers, what authorities?

Of course, the holy Apostle Paul is not talking about those authorities that govern the state, but about completely different authorities, as he himself immediately explains: “against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places,” against demons, against the angels of Satan, for they can truly be called the rulers of the darkness of this age.

Every darkness that you see in human life is the work of their hands, it is the work of that prince who rules the air, about whom the holy Apostle Paul speaks in another epistle. Who is this prince who rules the air? This is Satan himself, this is the devil. He rules over a vast multitude of hearts.

And it is precisely against him, against his angels of darkness, against the spirits of evil in the heavenly places that Saint Paul encourages to "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might."

We ourselves are unable, completely unable, to fight this terrible prince who dominates the air.

If we had been left to our own strengths, we would have fallen from his malice.

Only then can we fight if we are "strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”

We need to put on “the whole armor of God," so that we can "stand against the wiles of the devil.”

Only when we put on the whole armor of God, when we rely not on our own strength, only then will we resist his wiles. And what are his wiles?

This is all with which he seeks to destroy us, to distract us from faith in God, to distract us from the path of salvation shown to us by the Lord Jesus Christ. He and his angels, the spirits of darkness, are only busy with destroying us. He plots against all people, and especially against us Christians, in order to destroy us. He leaves none of us alone. He sends his demons to all of us, so that they direct us on the path of destruction, on the path of serving our lusts and passions, on the path of wickedness and even blasphemy. These are strong, dangerous and terrible enemies.

Do you not understand that every enemy is the more dangerous the less we think about him, the less we watch him, the less we notice him?

And, on the contrary, they are all the more powerless the stricter, the more tirelessly we always watch them, all their wiles, all their actions and undertakings aimed at our destruction.

And how countless there are people who never think about the prince who rules the air! Not only those who do not think, but who do not even believe in his existence. For all those who do not believe in God, of course, do not believe in the devil, in his existence; do not care at all about his attacks. They are not at all wary of his terrible servants.

And this is all he needs, because if a person is careless and does not believe in God, does not want to know anything about Satan, then such an unfortunate person becomes a very easy prey for him, for an unnoticed enemy is the most dangerous enemy.

And every unhappy woman, deceitful and lustful to the core, and every unhappy man, drunk, often, if not always, become easy prey for demons, the spirits of evil in heaven. It costs them nothing to completely destroy such people.

And there are also those unfortunate ones who spend their whole lives in crimes, in robberies, in brigandage and thefts, in fornication and adultery, who never think about either God or the devil.

Satan doesn’t even need to worry about these: they have already destroyed themselves. They are so bogged down in sins that there is no need to tempt them by pushing them into sin . The devil has little concern about such things, for they are his easiest prey.

But what can I say about us, Christians who believe in God, who do not doubt the existence of the devil and demons, who heard and remember the words of the Apostle Paul about the prince of the power of the air - what can I say about them?

They are tempted by demons every day, they are pushed into fornication, and into the love of money, and into vanity, they are pushed into serving their passions and lusts. And if such unfortunate people are not vigilant, if they do not remember that the enemy is always ready to destroy them, then woe to them. And these are the majority.

There are still others: there are great ascetics of piety, holy hermits who spend their entire lives in constant prayer, mortifying their flesh in thoughts of God and His law.

These are the most terrible thing for the devil and for his angels: they cannot be seduced in the same way as frivolous, careless people, mired in the vanity of the world, who are seduced, those who only sometimes, occasionally remember God, pray little, never fast and shun the temples of God.

It is with these mighty warriors of Christ that the devil and his demons have the most difficult time.

We, weak and careless, are attacked by demons on the sly, unnoticed by us; it is not difficult for them to fight us, to push us onto the path of vice.

But with the saints, with those who dedicated their lives to God, it is very difficult for them.

Demons will overcome the weak and careless among us, very unnoticeably for us. They never appear to us, we do not see them, we do not know them, we are not familiar with them.

It’s not the same, it’s not at all the same with the saints, with the great devotees of good. For them, neither demons nor the devil himself can remain unnoticed, for they most tirelessly watch their hearts, everything that the devil and his angels plant in their hearts.

They know how to very subtly discern all the tricks of the devil, and he cannot easily and simply overcome them. He usually tries to overcome them not with lower passions, but with passions of a higher order: he sometimes destroys them with spiritual pride, vanity, self-exaltation and ambition.

But what should he do when the saints do not succumb to these temptations of his, very subtle, dangerous - what to do?! Then he becomes enraged and, like an enemy marching on a city, if he realizes that he has been noticed and that an unexpected attack will not succeed, he puts aside all secrecy and rushes off in a frenzied rush - so do demons with saints.

The lives of the saints, which many of you have probably read, often tell how demons openly and shamelessly attacked the saints. They attacked openly, as if they were unable to hide from their watchful gaze, they stopped hiding, shed their disguise, appearing in their true demonic form. They attacked, taking the form of wild animals ready to devour the hermit; poisonous reptiles, terrible monsters, instilling fear and horror in them. They did this to very many people, monks, hermits, ancients, and those relatively not very far from us.

Over 400 years ago there lived the Venerable Neil of Stolbensky. This was one of the great saints, and in his life we read how openly, how shamelessly demons attacked his hermit’s cell.

But demons also have other methods of attack in relation to the great venerables: they do not attack themselves, but send their servants from among people. So it was with many saints, 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 to death, mutilated, broken ribs and a broken skull.

This is one of the tricks of the devil. There are so many different paths that demons take, trying to destroy us. Starting from an easy, effortless attack on the careless, on unbelievers, they resort to more and more subtle and cunning methods of catching us in their nets.

This is the kind of warfare against the spirits of wickedness in high places, against the principalities, against the powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, the Apostle Paul speaks. He says that in the fight against them, for protection we need to put on the whole armor of God. “Therefore take up 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 into battle puts on armor, takes a shield, helmet and sword, so each of us must always be in the full armor of God. “Stand therefore, having girded your loins with the truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, stand boldly against these accursed demons, stand with your loins girded, instead of a military girdle, with the truth of Christ, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet in readiness to preach the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:14–15).

Oh, only those who are full of righteousness, who have many, many good deeds and spiritual deeds, are dressed in this armor, so terrible for demons.

Not war, not bloodshed, not violence, but peace, God’s holy peace, the Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Romans in the words of the great prophet Isaiah: “As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom. 10:15) - even their feet are beautiful.

And now, when there is so little peace on earth, when a third war of unprecedented cruelty and horror is being prepared, we Christians need to shod our feet in readiness to preach peace, we need to rebel with all the strength of our souls against those interventions, against those aggressions that the peoples involved in the struggle are tormented so terribly.

Oh, how especially now it is necessary for it to be clear everywhere that we think only about peace, that we hate war, bloodshed, and the extermination of people with all our hearts.

“...and above all, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery arrows of the evil one...” Demons constantly shoot fiery arrows into our hearts and wound and destroy many human hearts.

And we have been given a shield, the cross of Christ, for with it we receive the power to resist both the devil and demons. And we will demonstrate this power when we are inspired by deep faith in God and boundless love for Christ. The cursed demons tremble before this shield, and their head, Satan, trembles.

“...and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:16–17). Put on a helmet, a spiritual helmet - not a steel helmet that protects you from bullets, not a steel helmet that protects you from bomb fragments, but a helmet of hope for salvation, a helmet of hope that the Lord is with us and has given us the strength and power to overcome the devil.

And what kind of sword is this, not steel, not double-edged, but the sword of the word of God? What is its strength?

This is what Saint Paul says: “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword: it pierces to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

With the word of God, with this terrible sword for the enemy, we can work miracles. The word of God is so infinitely powerful, so effective, it penetrates so deeply into the hearts of people, knows how to shake them so much that sometimes suddenly a person, mired in sins and wickedness, is suddenly transformed, amazed by the power of the word of God.

You see what kind of armor God has given us to protect us from the wiles of the devil. You see that God does not abandon us in doing good; you see that we have received the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the shield of God and the sword of the Spirit - the word of God. So, shall we really not use this holy armor, shall we really be careless and not try to acquire it?!

How can I acquire it? There is only one way: by faith and prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ, by tireless exercise in the virtues that are prescribed in his holy law; continuous remembrance of this protection, the desire to always, always, day after day, to do and keep all His commandments.

Then and only then will we receive the whole armor of God, then we will not be alone: together with us, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself will fight against the spirits of wickedness in high places, against the rulers of the darkness of this age. For this is why He ascended to the cross, this is why He shed His most pure Blood, to give us this whole armor of God.

We will be subjected to the most severe punishment if we do not consider the Blood of Christ, by which we are saved and sanctified, to be sacred. May this horror not happen to any of us! May our King and God Jesus Christ Himself help us in our daily struggle against the spirits of evil in heaven, to Him be glory and power with the Beginningless One, His Most Holy Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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