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March 23, 2021

Second Homily on the Sunday of Orthodoxy (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

I have heard some of you ask, "Was fasting instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ or was it designated by the Church?" I was very upset when I heard this. Why was I upset? Because this question shows that you despise the canons of the Church. In this way you become like the heretics who, out of pride, turned away from the Orthodox Church and despise its canons.

Of course fasting was instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The Lord Himself fasted for forty days in the wilderness before the preaching of salvation began. To the disciples of John the Forerunner, who asked Him, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?" the Lord replied as follows: "“Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast (Μatt. 9:14-15).

In the 27th chapter of the Acts of the Holy Apostles, which refers to the transfer of the Apostle Paul to Rome, we read: "the fast was now already past" (Acts 27:9). When our Lord Jesus Christ after His glorious Transfiguration descended from Mount Tabor, He encountered the people who complained that the apostles could not heal the demon-possessed child. Christ with one word drove the evil spirit from the child and when the apostles asked Him why they themselves could not do so, He answered them: "This kind cannot come out except through prayer and fasting" (Matt. 17:21).

Is this enough, you wicked people who want to find excuses in the Holy Scripture for your negligence? It is a great sin not to respect the canons set by the Church in the seven Ecumenical Synods. In these Synods our Church not only drafted the Symbol of Faith but also the largest number of sacred canons, which we confess and must definitely observe. All these canons are gathered in the book called the Nomocanon. The Church uses this book to consult and determine its course.

At the beginning of this book are placed 85 canons of the Holy Apostles, followed by the canons of the seven Ecumenical and some local Synods, as well as the canons of the great hierarchs. The role of the seven Ecumenical Synods is enormous. These protected the Church from the heresies that threatened the truth taught by our Lord Jesus Christ and were delivered to us by His Apostles. These heresies tormented the Church during the almost eight centuries, one after the other. How these heresies were condemned and anathemitized in the seven Ecumenical Synods I told you a year ago on the exact same day called the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

I will not repeat what I have already said. I just want to emphasize that this fight against heresies cost a lot. People even went so far as to defend their faith. The most difficult was the struggle with the heresy of Iconoclasm.

As for the First Ecumenical Synod, it anathematized the heresy of Arius. However, this sect did not disappear immediately after the Synod, but for a long time various forms of it, which found support in the Byzantine imperial court and in the emperors themselves, tormented the Church. Among the many confessors of the Orthodox faith, I would just like to mention Saint Athanasius the Great, the Archbishop of Alexandria, who spent twenty years in exile. Also Pope Martin of Rome, who was also exiled because he did not agree with the teaching of the Monothelites. The monks of Constantinople, with their brave struggle for the defense of the sacred icons, were blinded, their hands and ears and noses were cut off, the icons were smashed over their heads.

I do not have time to describe in detail the terrible martyrdom and death of the holy martyr Stephen the New, the terrible sufferings of the great confessor Theodore the Studite and his disciple Nicholas. And to those who ask if the Church has instituted fasting, I would advise them to look carefully at the glorious works of our Holy Church and its martyrs and be ashamed to ask such questions from now on.

To you, faithful children of the Church of Christ, I will say a few words about the great importance of fasting. I have told you that the great Fathers of the Church believed that the eight basic passions are bound together like a chain and one begets the other. I will talk about this in more detail later. What I want to tell you now is that one of the lesser sins is gluttony. We cannot take a single step on the road to salvation if we do not fight our sins and passions. Fasting, which helps us to fight gluttony, also helps us to fight the other passions that we have and that are so many.

Think about how difficult it is to hold our tongue. Consider also the prodigality to which too much food leads and especially wine. I do not have time to talk today about how necessary it is to observe fasting, to make our body, which does not allow us to journey to heaven where eternal truth resides, to submit to the spirit. May our Lord Jesus Christ help us in the arena of fasting and deep repentance and find us worthy to commune of His immaculate Body and His honorable Blood. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.