We have already spoken many times about the significance and attendance of church services, dear brethren. However, people continue more and more to lose touch with the church, to lose touch with God. They succumb more and more to the temptations that have been sown in the world by Satan.
This is not a new phenomenon. Throughout man’s entire existence on earth, people have fallen away from God and His commandments. Before the deluge, mankind fell away from God to such an extent that all existence on earth underwent a severe change and new life began. In the words of the Russian academician Shipunov, this was the first cosmic correction. We do not know exactly what happened in the antediluvian world, it has been hidden from us, although various remnants in the world lead us to suppose that the original mankind surpassed us both in technological progress and in the corresponding development of pride and self-glorification. However, the world has been warned that the next correction would be by means of fire.
After the deluge, mankind lived in the fear of God, but the corruption of the antediluvian world was transmitted by man into the new life (as we see from the story of the righteous Noah’s third son – Ham), and the world once more found itself at an impasse. This led to the coming of the Saviour down to earth (the second cosmic correction), since at that time there were still enough people on earth who were faithful to God, to save the world from perdition.
Two thousand years have passed since then… and where do we now find ourselves? On the brink of global destruction! (This will be the third and final cosmic correction). And what are we, Orthodox Christians, doing to prevent or slow down this destruction? It seems we are doing very little. We are falling away from God more and more, it is becoming ever harder for us to pray. Orthodox people are constantly succumbing to Satan’s temptations, to his devilish wiles. These temptations are offered to us from all sides: television, video games, sports events, movies, modern dances…
And what do we get out of these temptations? Perhaps someone will say: pleasure, entertainment, activity, a place for using up one’s energy. But we should look carefully at what really lies behind these activities. Through television and movies, we are subjected to all kinds of sin. There is depravity, adultery, foul language, violence, abuse. Our minds are bombarded with all manner of filth. Is there even a single place where we are reminded about the salvation of our souls, about prayer, about the sacraments of confession and communion? Of course, there are TV preachers, but they are all false preachers. Many of them are involved in mortal sin themselves. These TV preachers encourage idleness in people and thus wean them away from the church.
Sports activities would be fine in themselves, inasmuch as they promote bodily fitness. But alas! In today’s life, sports have become a prime method of keeping man away from God. The majority of ballgames take place at a time when we should be in church. And thus we must choose: will we go to church or will we attend sports events? Unfortunately, most people choose to go to ballgames or other entertainment. There they find themselves amid running, screaming, swearing, jealous passions… But there is nothing new in that either. Back in the 4th century, St. John Chrysostome, in one of his fiery homilies, berated his parishioners for preferring, instead of church, to go to various public spectacles, where they immersed themselves in the all-familiar screaming, swearing, and jealous passions. At these sports events, just as on TV, nothing is said about prayer, or sacraments, or the salvation of one’s soul.
And if we were to choose to come to church for the evening service, what would we find here? Tranquillity of soul, instruction on loving one another, compassion for the grief of others, communion with God, with the Mother of God, with the saints.
Some people will object: but television gives us pleasure, and sports provide entertainment and liveliness. That is a lie! What pleasure can there be in violence, in screaming, in broken bones? If someone says that the evening service is boring, such a person has never attended the service attentively, has never participated in it with prayer. How can we find communion with the Mother of God, with the saints, with the Lord Himself – boring?! People who really think so, most likely do not want to go to heaven, because in paradise the angels, together with the hosts of saints, continuously worship and sing the glory of God.
All parents are concerned about the welfare of their children. Mothers worry over their health, fathers worry about their education, their growing up into decent human beings, their being able to make a living. But what are we doing for the health, the prosperity and the education of their souls? What are we doing to ensure their growing up into citizens of the heavenly realm? When we were young, we were taught the laws of arithmetic and various disciplines. Now we are trying to teach our children the same. But we must also teach them that which is even more important: the law of God, the discipline of living that is contained in the beatitudes. And in order for our children to become used to God and the church, we ourselves should come to church for all the services, and teach our children by our own example.
All of us, Orthodox Christians, have been baptized, either in infancy or by coming to the true faith in adulthood. In the beginning of the sacrament of baptism we, or our godparents for us, were asked thrice: do we renounce Satan, and all his angels, and all his deeds, and do we unite with Christ? To these questions we had to answer in the affirmative, otherwise we could not have been baptized. So where are we now, dear brethren? Why are we turning away from Christ, and why are we falling under the influence of Satan, and his angels, and his deeds?
Dear brethren! While it is still not too late, while we still have access to the church and its divine services, while we still have not lost, through our indifference, the treasure that we possess, – let us remember the promises we made at our baptism, let us renounce all the temptations of Satan and, through church attendance, let us be reunited with Christ!
Father Rostislav Sheniloff
1-3 Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.
4. Father Rostislav Sheniloff.