Saint Justin Popovich
(Homily on the 5th Sunday in Great Lent)
Prayer! What is prayer? It’s the great virtue that raises you and raises me. Have you perhaps got up to pray, have you cried aloud to the Lord to save your soul from sins, from every evil, every passion? Then your tombs and my tombs open and the dead arise. Whatever’s sinful flees, whatever drags us into wickedness disappears.
Holy prayer raises each of us when it’s sincere, when it takes the whole of the soul up into heaven, when, with fear and trembling you say to the Lord: ‘Look, see my tombs, they’re innumerable. This is my soul, dead, far from you, Lord. Say the word and raise all my dead’. Because you, you, Lord, have given us many divine powers to raise us through the holy Resurrection, to raise us from the tomb of sloth. Yes, with our sin, with our passions, we die spiritually. The soul expires when it’s separated from God.
Sin is the power that separates the soul from God. And when we love sin, when we love sinful pleasures, we, in fact, love our death, we love our tombs, the foul graves in which our soul is decomposing. When we arise, on the other hand, when we strike our heart with the lightning-bolt of repentance, then our dead are resurrected. Then our soul defeats all its murderers, defeats the preeminent creator of all sins, the devil, and triumphs with the power of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.
This is why, for us Christians, there’s no sin more powerful than we are. Be assured that you’re stronger than any sin that afflicts you, stronger than any passion that torments you. ‘How?’, you ask. Through repentance. And what’s easier than that? You can always cry aloud within yourself, within your soul: ‘Lord, before I am lost at the end, save me’. God’s help won’t pass you by. You’ll raise yourself from the dead and you’ll live in this world as someone who has come from that world, someone who’s risen and lives a new life, the life of the risen Lord. Someone who has all the divine powers, so that no sin can ever harm you again. You may fall again, but now you know: you know the weapon, you know the power through which to raise yourself from the dead. If you sin fifty times a day, if you shame yourself fifty times, if you dig fifty graves today, just shout: ‘Lord, give me repentance. Before I am lost at the end, save me’. The good Lord, who knows the weakness and sickness of the human soul and human will, said: ‘Come, brother. Even if you sin seventy times a day, come back and admit you’ve sinned’ (cf. Matth. 18, 21-22).
This is what the Lord tells us who are weak and sick. To forgive sinners. This is why he declared that there is great joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (cf. Luke 15, 7). The whole of the heavenly world is looking at you , my brother and sister, at how you’re living on earth. Have you fallen into sin and not repented? The angels weep and lament in heaven because of you. As soon as you begin to repent, the angels in heaven rejoice and dance, as if they were your heavenly family. Look at today’s great saint, Mary the Egyptian. What a sinner! From her, the Lord made a holy being like the cherubim. Through repentance she became equal to the angels, through repentance she destroyed the hell she was in and ascended entirely into Christ’s paradise.
There are no weak Christians in this world even if they’re attacked by the most horrific sins and temptations that can be encountered here. They just have to remember their great weapons: repentance, prayer and fasting. They should engage in some Gospel struggle, some virtue. Either prayer, or fasting, Gospel love or tenderness. Let’s recall the great saints of God, let’s remember the great saint who celebrates today, our blessed mother, Mary the Egyptian, and let’s be assured that the Lord will be our timely helper. Saint Mary experienced such great help from the Most Holy Mother of God and was saved from her terrible hell, from her dread demons. The Most Holy Mother of God helps us today and always in all our Gospel virtues: in prayer, fasting, vigilance, in love, in mercy, in patience and in every other virtue. I pray that she’ll always help us and will guide us.
For this reason, never give up in your struggle and warfare against your sins. In all your difficulties, in all your greatest falls, remember the cry of this holy week, which has the power to raise you up: ‘Lord, before I am lost at the end, save me’.
Read the first part here