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March 3, 2010

Sermon for the Third Wednesday of Great Lent

CATECHESIS 60: On Our Sudden Departure From Here and Teaching About Keeping Safe Watch Over our Senses and our Mind from Unseemly Desires.

By St. Theodore the Studite

Given on Wednesday of the 3rd Week.

Brethren and fathers, in the presence of our holy father and teacher we have no need to discourse; but nevertheless because of our custom let us say just a little. Day by day our life, as you see, is passing and we are getting nearer to death, and we must be removed hence and be joined to our brothers and fathers; so  there is need of much vigilance and attention and preparation of heart. We hear the story of the Flood being read, and the Lord in the Gospels saying: "As in the days of Noah they were eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling and suddenly the flood came, so too it will be at the coming of the Son of Man" [Cf. Mt. 24:37-39; Lk. 17:26]. And perhaps we wonder in this case how insensibly they were disposed, and were not rather trembling and terrified. Let us be on the watch then lest we find ourselves without realizing it in the same state of which we accuse them. Already it is not the ark which is being got ready, which was being filled up during one hundred years, but every day the tomb is seen filled, into which we are about to crawl. Already each day death is at work [Cf. 2 Cor. 4:12], when each one of our brothers departs. Things here are more fearful than those there; and so we should be on our guard. I don’t say: we shouldn’t eat, drink, or clothe ourselves. I don’t say that; "but whether we eat, or drink, or whatever we do, let us do everything to the glory of God" [1 Cor. 10:31-32], giving no offence to Jews or Greeks or to the Church of God, as the Apostle teaches.

Yes, I exhort, yes, I implore, my brothers, "make my joy complete", as the Apostle again says, "be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or vainglory; but in humility think of others as better than yourselves" [Phil. 2:2-3]. Let us secure our senses, sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, for through them death enters. Let us bridle our mind to not be carried off to things it should not, not to step into the pitfall of unseemly things, not to picture to ourselves evil images nor to conceive sinful desires, from which we gain no profit or pleasure; on the contrary we are pained and crushed accomplishing nothing useful. There is one repose then and one pleasure, to cleanse the soul and to look towards dispassion. And let us not grow despondent [akedia] when called to repose and the joy of dispassion, but let us hasten and press forward intently with diligence to right every defect; and God is our helper; for the Lord is near those who wait for him. And by living thus may we reach the kingdom of heaven in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.