On August 16, 2020, the 10th Sunday after Pentecost, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, officiated a Divine Liturgy at the Church of the “Joy of All Who Sorrow” Icon of the Holy Theotokos in Moscow, reports the website of the Department for External Church Relations. Metropolitan Hilarion was concelebrated by clerics of the church.
At the end of the service, the archpastor addressed the faithful with a sermon.
“Today, during the service, we listened to the Gospel reading on how Christ drove out a demon from a young boy who was subjected to demonic attacks on the new moon,” he said. “The Lord healed the boy after His disciples could not do it. The apostles asked their Teacher why they failed to do this, since He gave them the power, including the one to cast out demons and heal ailments. The Lord gave them a direct answer: “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”(Matthew 17:20-21).
The metropolitan said that Christ reminds us of the three pillars of Christian living: faith, prayer and fasting.
“The Lord commanded us to have a strong and firm faith and to accompany our Christian life with prayer and fasting,” continued the metropolitan. “It is impossible for a person to just bring up or develop faith through some kind of self-hypnosis or training. This is a gift of God. Without this gift one cannot come to knowledge of God and have faith in God. But although the Lord is ready to give this gift to every person, not every person is ready to accept it. Therefore we very often see that even when certain events occur, when miracles are performed in front of many people, believers perceive them as a sign of the presence of God, as a visit from the Lord, while unbelievers see these as merely ordinary events. They cannot, but most likely, do not want to see the presence of God behind what is happening. They do not want to place their whole lives and all their hope in God, because they prefer to live by their own rules and rely on their own strength. And they are not interested in reading the Gospel, nor getting acquainted with the Bible, nor studying the [works of] the Holy Fathers, nor living in a Christian way.”
“But in addition to the fact that God is ready to give each person the amazing gift of faith and gives it to many, there is also something that is required of each of us in order for this gift to bring good fruit for us. That is why the Lord reminds His disciples of prayer and fasting. Perhaps they didn’t pray enough while they were with the Savior. Remembering the words of the Lord: “Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them?” (Matthew 9:15), perhaps, the disciples did not pay enough attention to self-discipline and bodily feat, led an insufficiently concentrated or scattered lifestyle. When they met face to face with demonic power and had to challenge it, defeat it, they did not have enough internal resources to do this: their faith was not strong enough, they did not develop the skill of prayer and did not observe fasting.”
“We do not say that fasts are an end in themselves in the Christian life, but we remember that the Lord and the Holy Church commanded us to observe fasts for our spiritual education,” Metropolitan Hilarion noted.
“The Holy Apostle Paul said, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). We should not ask ourselves how it is possible to pray incessantly when there are many other things we have to do. You can learn to live so that you have time to do everything, and at the same time not be distracted from prayer. To live in such a way so that prayer permeates our entire human nature. Faith, prayer and fasting give us strength to resist demonic temptations.”
Metropolitan Hilarion ended his sermon with the words, “Let us walk the path that the Lord has revealed for us. Let us strengthen our faith. Let us strengthen our faith with prayer and fasting. And let us ask the Lord to help us overcome all temptations, including those that come from the demons, and He Himself will guide us along the path leading to the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.”