On September 11, special molebens [supplicatory services] approved by the Holy Synod were served in Russian churches and sermons given about the importance of a sober lifestyle; an appeal of His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill, was read in the churches of Moscow. In many regions, sports and cultural events marked the holiday, the press-service of the Synodal Department for Charity related.
“Dearly beloved hierarchs, reverend fathers, dear brothers and sisters!
“I heartily congratulate you on the feast day commemorating the Beheading of the Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John, on which day the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church determined on July 25 of this year to celebrate Sobriety Day annually.
“As we heard in the Gospel today, the Prophet John was beheaded by the sword during a feast arranged by King Herod. The reckless ruler, obviously flushed with wine and inflamed by the dance of Herodias’ daughter, promised the dancer anything she might desire, even half the kingdom. The drunken spree led to the death of ‘a righteous and holy man’ (see Mark 6:20). To this day such feasts with copious libations often end in human tragedies, bringing many evils to the individuals, their families and friends, and ultimately to society as a whole.
“ ‘Do not be drunk with wine, wherein there is excess; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to God’ (Hebrews 5:18), writes the Apostle Paul. So saying, he warns Christians about the evils of alcohol abuse, and calls for the acquisition, through prayer and a virtuous life, of the Heavenly King’s grace. Only by walking this path can we find true joy and peace of mind and thus true happiness, which is impossible without God.
“Today a significant number of our contemporaries are trying to run from reality with the help of alcohol, drugs, and other things that fog the consciousness. Some people are already suffering from devastating addictions, and they can recover from this and get rid of mental anxiety and emptiness in the Holy Church. Before her clerics there has always been a very difficult task: to direct people to the only right way, to our Savior Jesus Christ, by way of opposition to sin and temptation. In the nineteenth century, our parishes organized temperance societies, where its members took corresponding vows; and, in 1913, according to the decision of the Holy Synod, the first Sobriety Day was held.
“In many dioceses there are currently brotherhoods that are fighting against drug and alcohol addiction. I urge bishops and pastors in every way to promote the development of such undertakings, showing people their own example of an abstentions life.
“Through the prayers of the venerable, glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John, may the Merciful God help us to always be ‘sober and awake’ (1 Peter 5:8), making our earthly pilgrimage to the Heavenly City of Jerusalem.
“May God’s blessing be with you all,” in Patriarch Kirill’s appeal stated.
At present, about 200 Russian Orthodox organizations provide various types of assistance to people suffering from alcohol addiction. The country has 63 religious rehabilitation centers for drug addicts.
More than 100 Orthodox priests participate in the activities of the parish and diocesan temperance programs and have given the sobriety vow themselves. Thousands of alcohol addicts regularly seek help in Orthodox churches and monasteries.