When we come to the Cross and begin to say what is on our mind we should always be mindful of Christ's invisible presence at our confession. We are in conversation with Him.
It is never easy to speak with Christ face to face. Some would rather read from the book or say a memorised prayer than fight off the numerous distractions and struggle to express in words what exactly they mean to say to God. God should only be told the things that are the most important and the most relevant. In our conversation with Him, words should flow directly from our hearts. Our ability to achieve this degree of closeness is a true gift of God, and so is our faith.
God wants us to remember him, and He wants us to know that He is always near. Sometimes, however, we would prefer if he were someplace else. We just want to carve out some space for ourselves where we can do whatever we please without Him looking. As creatures of God, people have their free will as an integral part of human nature. One may very well decide that they do not need Him and go on to live their own lives. Quite a few people are saying, "It is my wish to do what I please; I choose to live by what I can directly observe, hear and understand. With faith, one's life changes fundamentally. Where others might say "There is no Christ here, where is he?" A man of faith will see Him standing right before him. To him, the Holy Communion is a sacrament that is not performed by the priest, but by Christ Himself in the presence of the priest.
How can one embrace God when one cannot even accept one's neighbour? We should all be knocking on His door, pleading for His mercy, and He will open up to us and enter our daily lives as we begin to have a genuine need for Him. God is with us at Church, but he is also near us when we come home, during our meals, and in our sleep. He is always next to us, although we are often forgetful of His presence.
So let us pray to God so He can let us find the right words and give us the understanding of what we really need to say at our confession, and how we want to change our lives. We might find that the lives that we are living at present are good enough, and we do not need to change anything. This might even be true, but who knows... Where we do need to change, are we ready to accept and follow God's blessing and abandon our sinful ways, however pleasurable they would have been? Do we even have the will to try? If so, then it is time to get to work and take action; it is time to answer our calling, to struggle, and to have the confidence that we can overcome any sin that still rests in us with the help of our Lord. Therefore, we pray to the Lord: Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this night without sin.
We ask the Lord each day so we always think before we say or do something, so we do not act impulsively and in haste, and so we keep the peace within ourselves and resist the passions of this world, which are definitely not going to amount to anything positive. So we can expect a lot of hard work. There are a lot of changes that we will need to make. Some of the less patient of us might prefer to do it all in one night and wake up in the morning as a new person. But change takes years. Change may happen invisibly; we may be moving ahead even though we might not fail to see much improvement on at a particular moment. It builds up in us over time, bringing us to realise at some point that living in the old way is no longer possible, and it is time to begin to live differently. While our will to change is building up, we need a lot of patience; it may often seem to us that we are crying out to the Lord hard and loud, but He does not hear you and does not respond. In truth, the Lord hears all of our pleas and knows exactly the time when we are finally fully prepared to make genuine change.
God help us all.
On the 21st of July, the Orthodox Church celebrates the feast day of one of the most revered icons of the Mother of God in Russia - Our Lady of Kazan. This sermon was filmed in 2019 after the Divine Liturgy on the day of the feast.