Sermon on the Feast of St John of Kronstadt

Bishop Luke of Syracuse

At St John of Kronstadt Church in Utica, Bishop Luke delivered a sermon on patience as a key virtue in Christian life.This com­ing Thurs­day (Dec. 20 / Jan. 2) marks the “win­ter feast” of St John of Kro­n­stadt and the day of his blessed repose. In hon­or of this great won­der­work­er of the Russ­ian Church, we offer below a homi­ly deliv­ered ear­li­er this year on the parish feast­day of the first church ded­i­cat­ed in his hon­or, St John of Kro­n­stadt Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church in Uti­ca, NY. Bish­op Luke of Syra­cuse made his first arch­pas­toral vis­it to the parish on Oct. 21/ Nov. 3, 2019 and exhort­ed the faith­ful with these words on the virtue of patience through which we may attain sal­va­tion. 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!

Dear Broth­ers and Sis­ters in Christ,

For many, the strug­gle of St John of Kro­n­stadt seems unat­tain­able.  He appears in his life as some­thing super­nat­ur­al, beyond our reach for emu­la­tion.  How­ev­er, in his pub­lished diary and espe­cial­ly in the many vol­umes of self-reflec­tions left unpub­lished, we see some­thing dif­fer­ent – a deeply human and famil­iar strug­gle with pas­sions and desires, a striv­ing to obtain the virtues nec­es­sary for inher­it­ing the King­dom of Heav­en.

One of the most common damaging vices and weaknesses of contemporary man is a lack of patience ... We are too quick to recoil from anything unpleasant.

One con­tem­po­rary sec­u­lar author has writ­ten that we live in a time that is “After Virtue”; that is, we, and espe­cial­ly chil­dren grow­ing up today, are no longer encour­aged to devel­op virtues, to be vir­tu­ous.  As Ortho­dox Chris­tians, espe­cial­ly we who ven­er­ate St John as our heav­en­ly patron, we can­not ignore this essen­tial spir­i­tu­al strug­gle. St Nicholas Cabasi­las writes that when we die the angels will exam­ine our souls to deter­mine how much it resem­bles Christ and the virtues He com­mands in the Gospel that we obtain in our life. 

Icon of The Ladder of Divine Ascent. By enduring all things in patience we may "possess our souls."Are we striv­ing to be hum­ble, meek, long-suf­fer­ing, chaste, kind to each oth­er?  One of the most com­mon, dam­ag­ing vices and weak­ness­es of con­tem­po­rary man is a lack of patience. Any feel­ing of dis­com­fort, any labor which requires dis­ci­pline, self-denial, or self-con­trol is avoid­ed. We are too quick to react to any­thing unpleas­ant. This is the rea­son for so many divorces; addic­tions of all kinds; insta­bil­i­ty in work, school­ing, and friend­ships; even the inabil­i­ty to say morn­ing and evening prayers or to read seri­ous lit­er­a­ture, spir­i­tu­al or sec­u­lar. This all requires holy patience but we are not inter­est­ed in cul­ti­vat­ing it.

One desert father wrote, “Give blood and receive the Spir­it”1 An ancient Greek philoso­pher wrote, “Wis­dom comes only through suf­fer­ing.”2 Alas!  We are too lazy, too impa­tient, too busy to suf­fer the labor need­ed to com­plete our prayers or to attend church ser­vices. To live with anoth­er per­son­’s weak­ness­es, even our own, requires patience so instead of strength­en­ing our rela­tion­ships in love and strength­en­ing the pow­ers of our souls, we escape into every imag­in­able plea­sure or dis­trac­tion the inter­net and the enter­tain­ment indus­try offers us.

St John and our Holy Ortho­dox Church present us with an answer to such a waste­ful and spir­i­tu­al­ly destruc­tive lifestyle. It is clear from his writ­ings that being a good Chris­t­ian and sav­ing our soul is dif­fi­cult labor. No one is demand­ing from us super­hu­man feats of asceti­cism. If we claim to love Christ, His Church, the per­son we live with or any­one we have a rela­tion­ship with we can use the words of St Paul in his ser­mon to the Corinthi­ans on true love as a lit­mus test to check our progress, our growth. The ser­mon begins, Love is patient…3

We were created for true pleasure, satisfaction, and that which is lawful, blessed, and stable.

Met­ro­pol­i­tan Lau­rus of blessed mem­o­ry was known for not react­ing quick­ly and avoid­ing hasty deci­sions. He would often repeat­ing, “Посмотрим” (Rus., “Let’s see”). We can learn here the ben­e­fits of slow­ness, of sim­ply wait­ing a bit before say­ing an unkind word, falling into road rage, reach­ing for a cig­a­rette, a drink, or sen­su­al plea­sure; escap­ing into social media or the lat­est tele­vi­sion series or sports event.

We were cre­at­ed for true plea­sure, sat­is­fac­tion, and that which is law­ful, blessed, and sta­ble. How­ev­er, to obtain this we need to strug­gle, slow down, and sim­ply wait – not run away from what is tru­ly good for us. 

This is all pos­si­ble by mak­ing slow but sure steps, recov­er­ing from the ill­ness cre­at­ed by the poi­son fed us by our con­tem­po­rary civ­i­liza­tion and our own self-indul­gence. 

The pow­er and means to achieve this is found in the Body of Christ, the Church, and espe­cial­ly through fre­quent Com­mu­nion. If we take one step towards God He will take two steps towards us. Above all be patient, with­out which, as Christ warns us in His Gospel, we could lose our souls.4

Amen.


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