Homily on the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent. The Significance of Fasting in the Struggle against Fallen Spirits27. March 2012 - 14:48
The Lord said to His Apostles about the evil spirits, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting (Mk. 9:29). Here is a new aspect of fasting! Fasting is acceptable to God when it is preceded by the great virtue of mercy; fasting prepares a reward in heaven when it is foreign to hypocrisy and vainglory; fasting works when it is joined with another great virtue—prayer. How does it work? It not only tames the passions in the human body, but it enters into battle with the spirits of evil, and conquers them.
How can fasting, which is actually a bodily podvig [ascetical labor], work or cooperate with prayer in a war against spirits? Why do the bodiless spirits submit to the power that fasting has over them?
The reason fasting works against the evil spirits lies in its powerful influence upon our own spirits. When the body is tamed by fasting, it brings freedom, strength, sobriety, purity, and refinement to the human soul. Our spirit can withstand its unseen enemies only when it is in such a state. But as for me, said the God-inspired David, When they (the demons) troubled me, I put on sackcloth. And I humbled my soul with fasting, and my prayer shall return to my bosom (Ps. 34:13). Fasting gives the mind sobriety, while prayer is the weapon the mind uses to drive away the invisible adversary. Fasting humbles the soul, and frees it from the callousness and inflatedness brought on by satiety; while the prayer of one who fasts becomes especially strong. Such prayer is not just external, but comes from the very soul, from the depths of the heart. Fasting directs and carries prayer to God.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
More than once, brethren, the fact has been mentioned that on each Sunday in the Great Fast (i.e., Lent) there are other commemorations besides that of the Resurrection. Thus, on this day, the Church glorifies the righteous John of the Ladder, one of the greatest ascetics, which the Church, in speaking of them, calls "earthly angels and Heavenly men."
These great ascetics were extraordinary people. They commanded the elements; wild beasts willingly and readily obeyed them. For them, there were no maladies they could not cure. They walked on the waters as on dry land; all the elements of the world were subject to them, because they lived in God and had the power of grace to overcome the laws of terrestrial nature. One such ascetic was St. John of the Ladder.
The Mystery of Redemption
The Crucifixion. Sinai Monastery. 8th c.The following story may partially clarify the subject we want to discuss here. A wealthy man had two sons. The older one was gentle, industrious and obedient. The younger one, to the contrary, was lazy, thoughtless and willful. He loved to run away from home to meet with his vagrant friends. This greatly saddened his father.
Once, when the father left for a few days, the younger son decided to throw a party for his friends. The music blared and the wine poured. The friends, being aroused by the wine, started to quarrel. There ensued a bad fight, culminating in severe injuries and a fire in the house. To avoid punishment, the younger son ran away. The father, upon returning home, became very upset with his younger son. The older son, feeling sorry for his brother, went to find him. After searching for several years, he finally found him, ill and exhausted in jail in some border town. The older son paid the judge the required fine and obtained his brother's release. Then he ministered to him, got him some decent clothes and took him back to his home estate. However, the younger son, realizing his guilt, was afraid even to appear before his father. To help him, the older brother went to the father, fell on his knees and tearfully began asking him to forgive the younger son. He guaranteed that the other had changed, and offered to make good all the losses his brother had caused. The father, touched by the love of the older son, forgave the younger one and accepted him unconditionally.
His Holiness Irinej, Serbian Patriarch served on the Second Sunday of the Lent the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great in the church of St. Basil of Ostrog on Banjica. He was concelebrated by the brotherhood of the church with the chanting of the choir. After the Holy Communion Patriarch held a sermon on the significance of the liturgical gathering, about the greatness of Christ's forgiveness, and about the a beneficial influence of the Lent on man's spirit.
The time of Great Lent is becoming shorter for Christians day by day. Day follows day, bringing us ever closer to the festive weeks of Christ’s Resurrection. The joy of anticipation kindles our feelings, while at the same time, sadness engulfs our soul as the conscience informs the heart that we have not spent the time of the fast as befits a true Christian.
Nevertheless, the time has not yet emptied into eternity. The Gospels and the Church never silence their preaching of repentance, and they call us to it. Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mt. 4:17). With these words, Jesus Christ began to preach. It would follow that salvation of the soul and repentance are two truths that are unthinkable one without the other. Without repentance there is no salvation.