March 20, 2024

Homily for Wednesday of the First Week of Great Lent (St. John of Kronstadt)

 Homily for Wednesday of the First Week of Great Lent

By St. John of Kronstadt

Now, beloved, we have been fasting for the fourth day and going to divine services for the fourth day. Is there any benefit for our soul from fasting? Each of us needs to ask ourselves such a question, and thereby pay attention to our heart: is there a holy change in it, does it cease to love and commit sin. Next, you need to give yourself an account: does the divine service have any effect on me, do I leave the church with a pious disposition, or does it pass by for me as something alien to me, so that I stand in the church with cold indifference, I pray only out of habit, I prostrate to the ground without heartfelt contrition for my sins. Certainly, beloved brethren, we must give ourselves an account of the holy work of fasting: is it going successfully, is the labor not wasted in vain. We give ourselves an account of mundane, often unimportant matters; why not look at this holy work with the eye of testing?

Just remember, beloved, what you are preparing for. You are preparing to partake of the heavenly, most pure, life-giving and terrible Mysteries of the body and blood of Christ our God, you are preparing to unite with the most pure God Himself. Oh! After this, how can you not turn all your attention to fasting! Therefore, beloved, let us take a stern look at our fasting and take care to turn it with all our might to the benefit of our souls. How can we turn it to our advantage? The main thing we will do is this: let’s each take control of our own hearts. The greatest attention should be paid to the heart: here is all the evil of man; or better - this is what a sinful, ungodly person is, this is a workhouse of sin. Our heart, beloved, has completely turned away from God, its Creator, and has turned completely to the world and its delights; in it are all our lusts, all our passions, everything contrary to God. As you can see, you need to make an important change in yourself; from love for the world, for its pleasures, for sin, we must turn ourselves to love for God, Whom first and most of all we need to love. And this is not an easy task, especially for one who loves the world very much: meanwhile, “the love of this world,” according to the word of the Apostle, “ is direct enmity against God” (James 4:4). But let us not be afraid of difficulties: what is difficult and impossible for us is easy and possible for God: “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

And so, first of all, in your holy work of turning from the world to God, the divine services will help you: only stand and listen to everything with attention, and with a humble spirit; and holy thoughts and feelings will surely come to you. It cannot be that a humble and attentive person, who desires to be united with God, is not visited by a spirit of contrition and tenderness. But there's a lot you don't understand; yet you know at least something, and it is true that you understand much; and what you understand, take it into your heart, meditate on it. From the holy words of the Church, produce your holy thoughts and feelings, and with God's help, the work will go well. After all, our soul is not entirely a barren land for good. Is this possible when she drank the rain of God’s grace that fell upon her in abundance? Further, consider that many of you may now be fasting for the last time, and perhaps death will soon overtake you by accident and you will not be able to confess and partake of the Holy Mysteries before death: "Already the axe lies at the root of the tree," and the tree is us; "every tree that does not produce good fruit," i.e., people who do not do good works "are cut down and cast into the fire" (Matthew 3:10). With what attention to oneself one must perform one's fasting in order to be cleansed of one's sins, perhaps for the last time. Further, imagine more often that after fasting and confession you will approach the Most Pure Mysteries. But if you approach with an uncorrected heart, unworthily, then you will partake of the judgment and condemnation of yourselves, and "you will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:27), and after communion you will not be better at all, but on the contrary you will become even worse.

With these and similar reflections, strengthen yourself in your feat of fasting and pray in church as sincerely as possible, with all your heart. Say as sincerely as often as possible to the Lord who listens to you: “God, make atonement for me, a sinner!” God, cleanse me, a sinner! We have sinned without number, Lord forgive us! Remember that these words alone: “God, make atonement for me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13), the publican was acquitted. And why? Because they were said without any pretense, from the depths of the heart, from a complete recognition of his guilt before God and the determination to certainly correct himself. And all of us, beloved, are so sinful that there is no point in answering God in defense; we are not worthy of raising our eyes to heaven. How can we not say with all our hearts: God, make atonement for us sinners! God, cleanse us sinners! We have sinned without number, Lord, forgive! Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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