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April 3, 2024

On the Fight Against Temptations (Archimandrite Kirill Pavlov)

On the Fight Against Temptations

Archimandrite Kirill (Pavlov)

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!

Thanks be to the Lord God, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that the Lord protects us, the Lord loves us. Two weeks of the Lenten season have already passed, two weeks since we here, in this holy place, met our salvation and were brought to repentance. During the days of Great Lent, the Holy Church offers us memories of the suffering of Christ to deepen our repentance, to become zealous for self-correction. For nothing is more conducive to sincere repentance than the remembrance of the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because it was nothing other than our sins that brought the God-man to the Cross, to death. And today, dear ones, you heard how the Holy Gospel painted for us a terrible picture of the terrible torment, suffering and death of the God-man, who for you and me accepted all these unbearable, severe sufferings and torments. The night that began for our Lord Jesus Christ with the sorrows of Gethsemane was terrible. Both the morning and the day of Friday were terrible... Yes, this night began for the God-man with terrible, severe temptations. First of all, He endured a cruel internal struggle with Himself, painful mental suffering, which was a foretaste of His torment and suffering on the cross. He grieved, He was horrified by the cup of His suffering. And this night ended with His initial suffering in the courtyard of the high priest Caiaphas. Friday morning and afternoon were already the morning and day of His most terrible suffering and His most humiliating, most painful death. But that night, dear ones, it was not only the Savior who was subjected to severe temptation. On that terrible night, His beloved disciples, the apostles, as well as His enemies were subjected to severe temptations. His disciples were faced with the question: either to conquer temptations and share the fate of their Divine teacher, that is, to accept suffering and death together with Him, or to succumb to fear and change their love for Him, to leave Him alone in the midst of sufferings, sorrows, and among His enemies.

And before His enemies stood another temptation: either to heed common sense, the voice of conscience and abandon their evil plans to betray Him to death, or to take advantage of the opportunity and satisfy their various passions and betray the Savior to death, thus becoming the perpetrators of a monstrous crime - deicide.

So, on this terrible night, terrible time, everyone faced the greatest temptation, test, and everyone had to stay awake and protect themselves with the shield of prayer, so that with its help they could triumph over temptations. Therefore, on this night the Savior Himself was spiritually awake as never before and prayed more intensely than ever, and He inspired His disciples to also watch and pray, saying: "Watch and pray, so as not to fall into temptation: the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41). But none of them, except the Savior, kept watch and prayed. His disciples did not pray because they were heavy with sleep. They slept. The enemies were also not spiritually awake. If they were awake, it was sinful. They developed their plans: how to betray the Savior to death, how to satisfy their various passions. Therefore, all of them fell that night under the burden of temptation - both the apostles and the enemies. And only One, the Savior, who was spiritually awake tirelessly prayed to His Heavenly Father, won victory over these temptations.

The course and outcome of this temptation, to which the Savior, His disciples, and His enemies were subjected on this terrible night, are very instructive for you and me, dear ones, and must always be before our eyes, so that we may triumph over our temptations. First of all, the history of this test shows us that under certain circumstances, sometimes even light temptations prevail over those who are tempted. And vice versa: it happens that a person overcomes even the most powerful temptations. And this is what a Christian should strive for: to triumph over the temptations that lie in wait for him.

First of all, it should be noted that the enemies of Christ were subjected to the weakest temptation that night. They cannot give any valid reason for their fall. There was no danger to their personal lives or to public order; there could be no fear of the loss of their property or the loss of their legal rights. Nothing forced them to commit such a villainous deed. In these evil intentions they were guided solely by inexcusable passions and vices. None of them could, honestly, without remorse of conscience, say directly that by committing deicide, he was thereby doing a deed pleasing to God. Although the enemies of Christ justified their atrocities by saying that they were allegedly protecting the Jewish people from a dangerous false teacher and troublemaker, this was a lie and slander. They could justify themselves in this way before strangers, but not before their conscience. Their conscience, of course, cried out to them about the innocence of the Savior they were putting to death, about the purity of His life and the salvific nature of His Divine teaching. Therefore, it was not this that prompted them to betray the Savior to death, but precisely the passions that seized their souls. Malice, envy, revenge - this is what worried their souls, this was the reason that prompted them to lay hands on Christ the Savior and betray Him to death.

There were many circumstances that seemed to encourage them to change their minds and not become god-killers. First of all, the very horror of this deed is to put a man to death for no reason. So is the betrayal of Judas. Not some kind of danger, but his low self-interest, addiction to money, desire to get 30 pieces of silver, to take possession of money - these are the passions that took possession of his soul. These passions were the reason that he became a traitor. And Pilate’s incorrect verdict... Pilate was not in danger. What they frightened him with, that he would not be a friend of Caesar, was all a phantom danger. But his despicable servility to the people, this insane crowd, his self-interest, his cowardice - this was the true reason that the sentence came from his lips to betray the Savior into the hands of the Sanhedrin. And despite the fact that his wife sent a messenger and begged and asked him not to do any harm to the Righteous One, the delivery of the Lord to death was completed.

In short, the enemies had no good reason not to fall. They could have resisted their temptations, but they fell. Why did they fall? For their souls were possessed of manifold passions, but none of them sought a cure for their passions, none of them struggled with their passions. The passionate impulses of the soul are prevented only by constant vigilant watchfulness, by constant struggle with them, but none of the enemies was vigilant, no one tried to fight his passions. On the contrary, their vigilance, all their attention, was directed to the search for means of satisfying their passions. And now the passions have been given complete freedom, and they go from one crime to another. Thus, they are heading towards destruction. In addition, human strength is weak, it is strengthened only by grace-filled help from above, which is sought only through prayer. And the person who asks for God’s help triumphs over temptation. Because it is impossible to overcome temptations on your own. But the enemies of Christ - they did not pray. And how could they pray when their souls were drowned in all sorts of malice, in all sorts of passions? Therefore, it is not surprising that with their weak human powers, moreover, perverted passions, they could not resist temptation, and under the blow of temptation they fell, and fell irrevocably.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! There are not a few people among us who are also subject to various passions and vices, people for whom, for this reason, any slight temptation, which inevitably happens to everyone, can prove fatal in the matter of their salvation, disastrous. It can very easily happen that we, too, will become evildoers, like the enemies of Christ, become traitors to our friends and acquaintances, and destroy our neighbor, and in general cause much trouble to our neighbors, if we do not watch over ourselves and protect ourselves. In order to avoid such an outcome, it is necessary to constantly cleanse one's soul of the various passions that live and fight in it, to strengthen one's soul morally, thereby giving it the strength to fight temptations. And if temptation befalls our uncleansed soul, then it is imperative to redouble our vigilance and intensify our prayerful struggle. Only by means of these virtues can we save ourselves from temptations and gain victory over them, extinguish the fiery arrows of the evil one.

The disciples, the apostles of Christ, were, of course, subjected to a stronger temptation, although they loved the Savior, they loved sincerely, they loved with all their hearts. When they promised to be faithful to Him, they were sincere and were ready to lay down their lives for Him. But the enemy of the human race reserved a strong temptation for them to test them. He exposed them to danger, the danger of death along with the God-man. And with fear of death, of suffering, he shakes their courage, their patience, their fidelity, their love for the Savior. And so, unprotected by prayer and vigilance, the disciples of Christ fell. Although they fell, of course, not irrevocably, not without restoration, like the enemies of Christ. This is a good lesson for us too - not to be arrogant, not to meet temptations and dangers if we rely only on our own strengths. The less hope in ourselves, the less spiritual slumber, the more hope in God's help, the more success in repelling temptations. And let this be a lesson for everyone!

And finally, our Lord Jesus Christ was subjected to the most powerful temptation, and He victoriously repelled all these temptations. All the arrows of the evil one, all the anger of hades was concentrated and directed at the Savior. He had to endure the most severe, terrible mental and physical suffering. First of all, the infidelity, cowardice of His beloved disciples, the betrayal of Judas, the denial of Peter. He had such love for his disciples and trained them for apostolic service! And they turned out to be so wrong! And, of course, by doing this they caused deep pain to the loving heart of the Savior. And many other temptations faced the Savior, when unrighteous judges accused Him, the Judge of the entire Universe, when wicked servants condemned Him, accused Him, crucified Him. Of course, He could, as the Creator of all creation, demonstrate His Divine power and confound all His enemies. But, obedient to the will of His Heavenly Father, He accomplished the salvation of the human race not with glory, not in power, but through self-abasement, the humble enduring of suffering and His death.

Thus, the Lord victoriously repelled all temptations. He repelled because He was preparing for His temptations: He was awake, praying to His Heavenly Father. And with this all-powerful Heavenly help He repelled all these temptations.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Each of us faces many temptations. Especially now - in our troubled and alarming times, when a black cloud is approaching over the world, including over our country and over the Church. And we now stand awaiting all sorts of trials. Everyone should remember this and protect themselves by vigilance and prayers. We must never forget the warning of our Savior, who will come again to earth: "Watch, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man will come" (Matthew 25:13). Stay awake, be sober and pray because before the Coming of Christ the Savior there will be great and terrible events on earth. As the Holy Gospel reveals to us: "False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. But take heed..." (Mark 13:22-23). There will be great signs, wonders. And therefore the Savior warns and says: "Just as lightning comes from the east and is visible even to the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man" (Matthew 24:27 ). And to all these false prophets, who will come precisely for the purpose of deceiving and seducing even the elect, the Lord says: "Do not believe them" (Matthew 24:26). In short, the great ones await the test of every believer in Christ. The Lord calls: "Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with gluttony and drunkenness and the cares of this life, and lest that day come upon you suddenly" (Luke 21:34). And the Apostle Paul says: "Let us behave decently as in the daytime, not indulging in feasting and drunkenness, nor in sensuality and debauchery, nor in quarrels and envy" (Rom.13:13). "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col. 3:12-16). Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, stay awake, be sober, keep your Orthodox faith in our Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus Christ. And most of all, say these words in your heart more often: "Jesus, Son of God, remember us when you come into Your Kingdom." Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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