And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light (Rom. 13:11-12).
With these edifying words from the Apostle Paul, the holy Church instructs us, my brethren, in the arena of the Holy and Great Fast. Among other incentives to repent of our sins, it also points to a greater convenience for us in the coming holy days. Indeed, although our salvation is never far from us, with the coming of the holy Forty Days, the work of salvation is so close to everyone that, one might say, it involuntarily and persistently demands a place in our heart and soul. Truly, the time of Great Lent should in all respects be compared with a beautiful day for faith and piety; just as the week that is now drawing to a close must from any angle be likened to a dark, stormy, and cold night. What deeds of darkness aren’t committed everywhere throughout this week! How many souls are thrown willy-nilly into the abyss of sin! How many people who must mourn their whole lives for a few minutes of this present reckless fun! Of those who are most cautious and vigilant over themselves and their actions, few are they who can boast that over the course of the past days, they suffered no damage to the purity of their hearts and the peace of their consciences.
But thanks be to the Lord, The night is far spent, the day is at hand (Rom. 13:12)! This evening will put an end to the temptations and spiritual dangers: In the morning we will arise in another environment, in another world, as it were. With but the appearance of the holy Fast, everything will take on a new, better appearance: Both people and things, both the animate and inanimate. As after Noah’s Flood, the mud of evil will recede by itself and dry land will appear. It’s something for those floundering in the sea of life’s vanities and temptations to latch onto! It’s something for even the most lust-weakened legs and knees to stand firm upon! For the Church cannot yield to the world in zeal. If he, the wicked one, used all means to drive us crazy, to take us captive to the passions without a battle, then the holy Church will find even more ways to bring us to reason and to take us captive again into the sweet obedience of faith and love, for the sake of Christ. We are unclean and defiled by the lusts of sin: Many fresh springs flow forth from the throne of grace in our churches for our spiritual ablution. We are covered with wounds and scabs: Our Mother Church has all the bandages and means of healing ready for us. We are famished in spirit: It will set such a meal that could feed the very angels. With such an abundance of spiritual means, even he who is most inattentive to his soul will be forced to confess and say that now—throughout the holy Fast—is our salvation nearer than on all other days; for starting tomorrow, the very world with its temptations will withdraw from us, hide itself, and lose the power to blind and attract people to hell, being visibly and invisibly driven out by the power of the Holy Fast and the Church’s prayers.
Let us not, beloved, be cold and inattentive to our salvation; let us take advantage of the precious time of the Fast for the healing of our hearts and souls from the poison of sin; let us allow our holy Mother Church to work on us for our salvation, as it knows and is able; let us turn our eyes and hearts from everything that fed the lust of the flesh and the pride of life in us; let us diligently delve into our life and conscience and make haste to get off the path that clearly leads to the abyss of hell. Let us do all this, my brethren, for the eternal good of our souls! For it’s not in vain that the Apostle Christ exclaims: Now it is high time to awake out of sleep (Rom. 13:11). It’s time for us all to awaken from our spiritual insensitivity and think about where we are, what’s happening with us, where we’re going, and what awaits us. It’s already time because there is practically no sin that we haven’t committed in one form or another. Which of our faculties have we not used for evil; which hasn’t been degraded and defiled by the passions? With what else will we provoke our Lord and Savior? What will we embark upon and what else will we use for our eternal destruction? Before what idol of vanity have we not prostrated a hundred times? If we look at ourselves, even if we’re not prophets, it’s long been clear that from head to toe we’re wholly lacking in integrity. The very cup of sin, with its illusory, transient sweetness and with its truly deadly poison, is already apparently depleted for us. Will we fill it up again and poison our whole being with it?
Now it is high time to awake out of sleep! At first, when we were inexperienced, it was still somewhat excusable for us to chase after the ghosts of earthly vanity, like little children, and imagine that only joy and comfort await us at the obstinate crossroads of sin. Now, after so many bitter experiences, it would be complete madness to allow our enemy to deceive us again. For what have we acquired in our distance from God? What has the world brought us with all its lusts?—an abyss of assumptions, plans, hopes, promises; but in fact, it all turned out to be vanity of vanities. For most of us, the lawless life has deprived us of what we had from nature and favorable circumstances. Some sinners, apparently, still rise and bloom, but how listless and lifeless this unhappy flower is, how perceptibly it reeks of corruption and death! Without, around these so-called lucky people of the world, there are honors, wealth, contentment and joys; but within—ask them about it—inside it’s empty and cold, dead and disgusting: The conscience rebukes, the heart yearns, the soul aches, the body itself apparently suffers and asks for mercy from the poison of sin. And after that, will we still chase our shadow, still chase the wind, still build castles made of sand, still drink poison just because it’s sweet?
Now it is high time to awake out of sleep! It’s time for us to come to our senses and pity our mother, the holy Church, which has always been pained of heart from our forgetfulness of her holy ordinances and from our impure life; it’s time for us to remember and pity our guardian angel, who, from the time we became self-aware and began to act has been following us in tears, through the thickets of the passions and iniquities, without seeing our correction; it’s time for us to be ashamed and pity our Savior Himself, Who daily stretches out His hands to us from the Cross, morning till evening, and still can’t draw us to His heart; it’s time, it’s time, my brethren, for us to have pity on ourselves and by our repentance please Heaven and earth, the angels and all good people who have been grieved and are grieving about our corruption, who have prayed and are praying that we might not perish in our sins!
Now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for can we really remain in captivity to our passions, sin, and the devil until the end of our lives? Can we really wait for the abyss of hell to open up under our feet and swallow us forever? Ah, my brethren, it will open up eventually, and perhaps, very soon, if we don’t stop angering the Lord with our sins: But what will happen to us then? Remember the rich man of the Gospel, remember the flames of Gehenna; put yourself mentally in the position of this unfortunate man, and judge what kind of madness of someone who, having as we do now every possibility to avoid such a terrible fate, continues to walk straight into the abyss of hell. Therefore, Now it is high time for us all to awake out of sleep! Amen.