I heartily welcome and congratulate all of you, dear brothers and sisters, with the end of the first week of Great Lent. We have gathered here in church, we have prayed, we have communed, not because we are holy people, but because we feel our infirmity, our shortcomings, our sins; and all of us have tried to the best of our ability throughout this first week of Great Lent to fast, to pray, to see our inner world, to realize our infirmities, our shortcomings, to come to church today to commune of the Body and Blood of the Lord. And it’s a great joy for us that we have this opportunity.
We know from the words of the Gospel that the Lord says I Am the vine, and whoever does not have communion with the vine, whoever is not the branches that are coupled with this vine, will not long maintain his beautiful appearance, but will wither and die. And indeed, this is a wonderful prototype, because the Lord feeds the Church, and through the Mysteries that the Church offers us, through the Mystery of Holy Communion, we feed upon the Body and Blood of the Lord. And it is only when we are united with the Lord through the Mysteries of the Church, with one another, that we can call ourselves brothers and sisters, only then can we have eternal life.
This is why we have come into this world. And indeed, in this period of the first week of Lent, we have all seen how many temptations, enticements there are, and how difficult it is to overcome them. It is especially when we find time for prayer that we are overcome by sleep, by weakness, and our thoughts, and friends, and phone calls begin to disturb us, and we begin to be distracted from the blessed time that we should be using to prepare to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord.
But how can we come to the chalice of Christ if we are aware that we have infirmities and shortcomings, that we are sinners? We come here and receive the mercy and grace of God. Here, dear brothers and sisters, we are that prodigal son who came to himself, who realized his state, and the Father received him and prepared a feast in His house. And this feast is the very Mystery of Holy Communion that the Lord gives us. He gives us His very self, and there is no greater joy or happiness on Earth than to touch, to have a part of God within all our blood, to become accustomed to this feeling, in order to understand what Paradise is.
But we hear the words that the priest says before we partake of Communion, that we commune unto the healing of soul and body or unto judgment and condemnation. It depends on us. Of course, we can’t be equal to and worthy of God. Of course, we have our infirmities and shortcomings. Although we show zeal and try as best we can, still, we are not gods. We have but one Lord, and we unite with God, which can be done only through His great love and mercy. When we commune, when we unite with God, we must be aware of it.
We must preserve this great mercy, this mystery within ourselves, and not, having communed and received joy and grace, go out and waste it all recklessly, in conversations, in laughter, in some hobbies, in entertainments. We must preserve this wealth a little. After all, we labored for a week to commune today. Let us seek to refrain from idle conversations, from amusements, from that which separates us from God. Let us recall that the Cross of Christ is heavy, but the Lord said: Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light (Mt. 11:28-30).
I congratulate the communicants on receiving the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Let us give thanks to God: Glory to Thee, O Lord! Glory to Thee, O Lord! Glory to Thee, O Lord!