Moscow, September 11, 2020
Every year on September 11, in addition to the feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, the Russian Orthodox Church makes Sobriety Day, encouraging its flock to turn from the sin and passion of drunkenness towards new life in Christ.
Sobriety Day was established by the Russian Holy Synod in 1913, and alcohol was not sold on that day. Its celebration was interrupted in Soviet times, but reestablished in 2014.
In 2017, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia explained why Sobriety Day coincides with the Beheading of St. John the Baptist: “During the Liturgy, we heard the Gospel story about how the wicked King Herod, who became hostage to promise given at the feast, ordered the beheading of this God-pleaser (Mk. 6:14-30). Therefore, precisely this day—a day of strict fasting—was chosen by the Church to remind people about the necessity of a sober lifestyle.”
In his Sobriety Day address for this year, the Patriarch comments that medical assistance is not enough in the fight with addiction, but that we need a change in worldview.
On the feast of the Beheading of the Baptist of the Lord John, the Church prescribes strict fasting so that, as the typikon says, “we would not become accomplices to Herod’s gluttony.” After all, had King Herod abstained from winebibbing, which inflamed his pride and other passions, then perhaps he would have come to his senses and not given the order to behead St. John, whom he himself revered as a righteous man.
Unfortunately, people often commit irreparable sinful acts under the influence of alcohol; in a state of intoxication, they do things they would never allow themselves to do when sober. Sometimes, such acts destroy not only their lives, but the lives of those around them. Discussing this, St. Tikhon of Zadonsk warns: “A drunken man is capable of all kinds of evil; gives in to all kinds of temptations” (Homily on the feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple).
As a reminder of the harmful consequences of intemperance and indulgence in the passions, the Holy Synod of our Church decided to celebrate Sobriety Day every year on the feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist.
Today, many people who suffer from various types of addictions are aware of their harmfulness and turn to the more than 600 Church organizations for help. It is obvious that not only medical technology is needed in the fight against addiction. A change in worldview is one of the most important conditions that help a suffering person overcome the inertia of sin.
By the prayers of the Baptist of the Savior John, may God help us ever overcome our passions and, according to the advice of Apostle Paul, be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:19).
+KIRILL, PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA