February 24, 2018

Homily for the First Saturday of Great Lent (St. John of Kronstadt)

By St. John of Kronstadt

"Hereafter ye shall see heaven open." (John 1:51)

I congratulate myself and many of you, my beloved brethren, with the ineffable mercy of God, with spiritual renewal, obtained through the feat of spiritual preparation, prayer, fasting and repentance, and particularly through the Communion of the most pure and Life-giving Mysteries of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Even in this short time we were able to experience the benefit of fasting and prayer, let alone the benefit of spiritual preparation, confession and Holy Communion; if, of course, we wholeheartedly made use of that time for our salvation and sincerely abided by the conditions of the fast and carried out the spiritual preparation; if we abstained from the excesses in food and drink, prayed with all sincerity, humbled ourselves before God and before those who are close to us, showed mercy, learned of the multitude of our iniquities and sins and deeply regretted them, having taken a firm resolution to no longer commit them, and, finally, sincerely confessed them and received an absolution for them and their remission, and were deemed worthy to receive the Life-giving Bread.

But is it all of us that received the real benefit from the week which has passed? Have our hearts become closer to God, to the Most-pure Mother of God, to our Guardian Angel and to the Saints of God; have we sincerely loved every virtue, and hated every untruth and iniquity; do we sincerely love God and our neighbor; do we feel a stronger spiritual unity with one another, as members of the one body of Christ, for many are one bread of the Mystery, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread? 1) Do we feel in our hearts, that the streams of iniquity no longer flood the soul with such impudence and violence as it was before the spiritual preparation and Communion, and did they substantially subside in us, and we became more pure, freer, calmer, more passionless, kinder, meeker, or more inclined to everything good and beneficial? Did the passions for carnal pleasures and avarice become less within us? Did we become meeker, more patient, more clement toward our neighbors? Do we cast our eyes over to heaven more often, to our true and eternal fatherland, and with less attachment do we turn our eyes toward everything worldly, as temporary, minute, passing? – for look, how many people from our midst are snatched away by death in a short time, and death constantly takes away its victims.

If it is so, if we have become better and most prudent, then I again congratulate myself and you with the great mercy of God and, with that, pray that the Lord may strengthen this good disposition and state of the heart in me and in you. But let none of us be deceived by a wicked thought that now, thanks be to God, that we have cast down from ourselves the burden of sins, we may again live, as we used to live, and sin, as we used to sin, for who is without sin – we might say, it is true, brothers and sisters, that no one is without sin, – but to live as we used to live and to sin the same way as before, after the renewal through repentance and Communion, it is not proper, not right, not appropriate for a Christian. The Holy Church, through a confessor, gives to everyone who has repented the following admonition: from all these you have to keep yourself from now on, for you are being baptized by a second baptism, according to a Christian mystery, that you may put forth a good beginning, with God’s help, lest you not blaspheme by turning back to the same, and lest men mock you, for these things are not appropriate to the Christians, but may God by His grace help you live honestly, rightly, and piously. That is what Church instructs the repentant sinner to do. And even common sense instructs us likewise; for who, having washed oneself, will want to go and deliberately defile himself? Only the swine, having washed itself, goes again to wallow in mud; only to a dog it is appropriate to turn to his own vomit. 2) "Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more lest a worse thing come unto thee," 3) says the Lord to the healed paralytic. And likewise to us may happen something very evil if, after repentance, we neglect the virtue; then the grace of God will leave us for inattention to and carelessness about ourselves.

Repentance and Communion open to us the Heavenly Kingdom for, says the Lord, "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life and dwelleth in me, and I in him." 4) And how not to treasure this gift that we have received – the eternal life and dwelling of Christ in us, and our dwelling in Him? Heaven is opened to us through repentance and Communion, according to the Scriptures: "Hereafter ye shall see heaven open;" what a wonderful mercy! By our sins it had been shut, as by strong bars and locks, but opened through repentance. Let us profit from this mercy of God, lest it is again closed to us: for only God knows whether it will be opened for us again, when we close it voluntarily with our sins. For many, it was shut for good. The foolish virgins were knocking at the doors, saying: "Lord, Lord, open to us;" but it was answered to them: "Verily I say unto you, I know you not;" and to all of us it was said: "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh." 5) Amen.


1) 1 Cor. 10:17
2) 2 Pet. 2:22
3) John 5:14
4) John 6:54, 56
5) Matt. 25:11-13