Imitating the Saints (1990.11.09)


Here is a sermon delivered by Archpriest Dimitri Smirnov in the Church of St. Mitrofan of Voronezh at the evening service in memory of Paraskeva Friday and St. Dimitri of Rostov on the evening of November 9, 1990. We are putting out this sermon in video format, and also putting the text beneath. The material is from the archives of the "Annunciation" Orthodox Christian Library.

Today we celebrated the memories of two saints: Paraskeva of Friday and Saint Demetrius, Metropolitan of Rostov. Paraskeva lived in the 3rd century. Her very name was very unusual: her father and her mother were Christians and revered Friday very much, because on that day Christ was crucified, and they named their daughter Friday (Paraskeva in Greek). The girl was so well brought up that she decided not to get married in order to devote her whole life to God. And she ended her life as a martyr, sacrificed herself to God.

Saint Demetrius lived in the late 17th - early 18th centuries. He was born near Kiev, was a monk, then was ordained a bishop in order to leave for Siberia, but for health reasons he changed his seat, and remained in Rostov the Great. His feat was completely different - the main work of his life was the compilation of the lives of all the saints, by that time glorified by the holy Church. He collected them from many sources: from the Great Menaion of Metropolitan Macarius, and from the Greek copies and Latin collections of lives. He spent many years on this and compiled four huge volumes. These lives are still used today.

We see that each saint was glorified by some kind of feat of his own. It is not so important as to what and how a person tries to serve God, if only he serves Him. Our misfortune often lies in the fact that everything with us is aimed at serving ourselves. For this, people receive an education, a specialty, for this they get married, for this they give birth to children and constantly strive to get better in life, so that everything is good. And God occupies some secondary place with them (I'm not talking about those who don't even think about God): when something happened to a person or something got sick, he needs God; if something needs to be sanctified, God is also needed. God has some kind of practical meaning in a person's life; a person uses Him in case of need.

But the Lord created man in order for man to serve Him. We did not make ourselves, and it was not our parents who made us. Parents are only the instruments of our birth, but in fact it was God so wisely arranged, it was He who created our soul from nothing. Therefore, it would be natural for a person to somehow thank God for this. And those people who deeply knew God, sought to dedicate their lives to Him - for this they were baptized. Now, too, many people are baptized, though not knowing why. You ask (now I'm tired of the asking): "Why are you baptized?" or "Why are you baptizing children?" You do not know. Some answer that this is the custom; others say: we want to believe; still others invent some other reason. But what is baptism? In baptism, a person makes a vow that from this moment he will devote all his life, all his time, all his strength, abilities, spiritual, mental, physical gifts to the service of God. My entire self to the end. And if a person is ready for this, then he must be baptized.

They will say: what about all the priests, what do they become? No, that is not at all necessary. The point is that every person is called to the priesthood. Who is a priest anyway? From the beginning, from the most ancient times, it is one who brings a sacrifice to God. So, a Christian must sacrifice his whole life to God. God gave him life, and the Christian must return this life to Him - only to return it, as if embellishing it, that is, to arrange his life in such a way that, looking at it, one could say: yes, he glorified God with his life.

And some glorify God with their virginity, like Paraskeva, and martyrdom. She had a choice - to worship vile idols or remain faithful to Christ, and she decided: I would rather give my life for Christ, but I will not worship idols. And she gave her life, although it was difficult and painful, and they ripped the flesh off her bones with iron hooks, but the young girl endured all this - for Christ's sake. And no one called Metropolitan Demetrius to martyrdom. He was a monk, he only wanted to pray to God, but the Lord called him to the pulpit. He began to preach, teach the word of God. When he arrived at his diocese, he was horrified: the priests were in such a dense state that many did not even know how to read the Psalms. How did they serve ?! Some simply did not understand what he wanted from them, what he was asking them about. And he put things in order there, and was engaged in difficult scientific work - for himself, perhaps, for his glory? Did he earn money? No. Again - in order to glorify God, for the sake of the Lord, so that people could read it, and be edified. He was motivated by love for God and for people. When he died, they began to clean up his cell, to see what was there - after all, he was a Metropolitan - but they found only books and a change of clothes, the most necessary things, nothing more. He didn't have anything else, he never actually aspired to this.

And we need to learn, as the Apostle Paul said, to do everything for the glory of God. We wake up in the morning, what should be our first thought? Not about food, not about running to work or doing something else. Our first thought should be that on that night in Moscow at least three or four hundred people did not wake up, they died, and we are still alive. Thank God, it means that the Lord gives us time to repent - one day. Where should you start it? As a house is built from a foundation, so the foundation of our day is morning prayer. You need to pray to God, stand, ask Him for help, remember your sins. What sins I have, how do I drive the Holy Spirit away from me, how do I anger Him? Do I have envy, irritability, talkativeness, hysteria, selfishness? What do I need to ask God to warn me against? Do not lead me into temptation, deliver me from the evil one. How is it shown? Here is this and that. Lord, you deliver me, cleanse me, save me, strengthen me. Now, the day lies before me, and I want to serve You on this day.

How can one serve? It's good to come to church, to pray, to pour out your love for God. For the sake of the Lord, in order to draw closer to Him, you can read the Gospel. You can read the lives of the saints or holy fathers. It is wonderful. The Lord said: “I was hungry, and you gave me food; thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to me. Since you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me. " So, please your neighbor with something - not for the sake of this neighbor, but for the sake of the Lord. He, seeing our diligence, will bless us. He will see that we are not pleasing ourselves. Who wants to go to some sick person, to go somewhere to visit someone? The affairs themselves are full. And man renounces himself. Since you have dedicated yourself, it means that you do something to your detriment, you mess with someone, you help someone, although your own head hurts about something else. Do something small - again for the sake of the Lord: behold, Lord, accept it.

How else can you serve God? To endure some kind of temptation. Every day something unpleasant happens for us, it happens, even grief will visit us, or illness, or some other sorrow, or someone offends us. But without the will of God, one hair does not fall from a person's head. This means that we must remember how the Lord teaches us to overcome all this: with humility, with patience, with faith that this happens to us because of our sins; ask God for patience to help overcome it. Overcome - again not by one's own strength, but by the power of God - thank God: glory to Thee, Lord. And in the middle of the day you should always remember about God, turn to God - for example, pray before eating. After all, it is not we who grow the food that we eat, someone brings us ready-made food, some uncles do it for us, we just cook and eat - that's the whole task. And God grows it, it is He who feeds us, nobody else. And you should at least thank God, pray to him. And so often, before every situation.

Imperceptibly, the day turns into evening. We need to pray again. The day is crowned with evening prayer. Remember: the day has passed, thank God; I'm going to bed. Other people are going to bed now, and many will die today. Will I die today? I can die, my heart can stop at any moment. Or maybe the Lord will let him live. What haven't I done today, what haven't I finished? How have I sinned? Maybe I offended someone, maybe I was angry, maybe I was too lazy, maybe I somehow felt especially sorry for myself, I envied someone, I took offense at someone, God forbid, save me, save me. If anything happened, repent, say: Lord, forgive me, forgive me, it is bad, bad. You gave me everything, You created the earth for me, You created the sun for me, You did not regret the death of the Only Begotten Son for me, but I take offense at someone, I do some stupid things, I envy some rags, it's just funny and scary. Forgive me, Lord, and bless that the next day I do not do this, but again for You I will work to do at least something, even a little something, so that You, Lord, would be pleased.

If we stay in such a dialogue with God all the time, turn to Him all the time, and what He allows, we will endure and rejoice, if, by the grace of God, we managed to do something good, He will begin to help us, bless ... This is what is called serving God, and people who live this way are called saints of God. We know Nicholas the Pleasant, and all the saints became famous for the fact that they did not live for themselves, but pleased God and glorified God - and it turned out that they worked very hard. Sometimes you will see that one person has done so many things in one life, which is simply amazing!

Not all, of course, are as talented, wise and educated as Saint Demetrius of Rostov. Not everyone can undertake such work, but the little that one can do can and must be done. And if we try so hard even a little bit, then we will gradually get a taste and it will be joyful and pleasant for us, although on this path there will be many temptations, people will laugh or be puzzled, because no one does this. We will be like fools to everyone else: we will do something, and everything seems to be for nothing. But in reality, no - the reward is great in Heaven, because only the Lord does this: people do not give anything to God, but He tries everything for them. Therefore, whoever tries the same way: wow, but only for people, then God takes them to Himself; they become God's people because they act in God's way.

It is from this that, in fact, spiritual life is formed. It is called spiritual because it brings a person closer to God, and God is Spirit. The more we do such actions, the more our life will be woven from these actions, the closer we will be to God, the more often we will begin to feel God, His closeness to us; our heart will often be visited by tenderness, our prayer will thus become more focused, more attentive; we will become more patient, more judicious; we will become much smarter, because we will bring our minds to God, we will turn to God all the time, we will be in fellowship with Him, and the grace of God will deify us.

This is how our life will begin to improve, our feelings, our thoughts - everything will gradually clear up, brighten. Any darkness will leave our life. We will always have joy in our hearts, because the Lord will visit us with it. We will learn what no one knows. People all strive for joy, but they replace it with surrogates, somehow affect their nervous system, some with music, some with wine, some with a smoke, some going for a walk. This also gives a person pleasure, but it is in no way comparable with the joy when a person is visited by God, when a person really approached God. This is the very bliss, the reflections of that bliss that the Lord speaks of, that blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who weep for their sins, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for a righteous life. This, in fact, is the Kingdom of Heaven, and it is achieved very simply, for example, by regularly washing dishes. I don’t want to wash the dishes, let my grandmother wash it, my aunt or my niece - but get over yourself and wash; not for her sake, but for Christ's sake, for the sake of this overcoming. It would seem, what does the dishes and the Kingdom of Heaven have to do with it? It turns out that they are very connected, directly directly. You will overcome yourself a little, give in to someone a little, do the smallest trifle or endure something - right there the Lord will be close to you.

So gradually our whole life will become a continuation of the service. So we prayed to God, glorified Him as best we could, sang to Him, read prayers - and we leave the temple, and everything that we have gathered in ourselves can fly away in a moment. And we need to preserve this so that our whole life is worship. Eat, sleep, go anywhere, do anything - all for the Lord's sake. And it is quite clear that if you live like this, it would not occur to you to swear, offend someone, argue with someone, prove something, God forbid, fight with someone. It will be as if to nothing, it will not worry you at all, you will be in communion with God all the time, you will think, no matter how the Lord turns away from you, no matter how He leaves you, no matter how you are of Him offended, not offended.

Of course, it's difficult right away. We will be distracted in the middle of the day, even forget about God for a few hours, and sometimes we will sin, and God will leave, but we will come to our senses, maybe only in the evening. It's okay, we are all just beginners, we are all students. Wait, pray, repent; if your conscience denounces any deed, go to confession, say: Lord, forgive me. Communion. The Lord will cleanse you and start again. And so all my life. Every morning we need to start a new life. Let this step be small, half a centimeter, but still upward, towards Heaven. Then our life will not be meaningless. Then it will not matter at all where we are, in the royal chambers or in prison. This will not affect us at all, because in any circumstances we will always be with God.

You can serve God everywhere, you can tolerate everywhere for God's sake, everywhere suffer for His sake. This is always possible, no matter how our life develops, no matter what trials await us for our sins. You never know what else is coming to us that will visit us, some kind of sorrow, whether hunger, illness, whether someone attacks, or slanders, or something else - everything happens. Life here on earth is not so long, many of us have already lived half of our lives, and some more than half, we have quite a bit left in order to learn such a pleasing to God. And if we do great things, the Church will glorify us, we will also be in the saints, we will be joy for many, many. But it is not necessary to achieve this, it is not given to everyone, but to whom it is prepared. But each of us must enter the Kingdom of Heaven; even the very last, but to be right there, with God. This is what is important so that life is not empty.

And it happens that a person has died, and there is nothing to say about him. Well, he died ... sorry. And what did you live for? It is not clear why, everything is for himself: he married for himself, gave birth to children for himself, worked for himself, studied for himself, dressed for himself; I wanted to live everything. So what's next? What is the point of living for yourself if you die anyway? A stupid life. What is the point of receiving an order if they will carry them on a pillow anyway? It's another matter, if you did not strive for this, it seemed to come out by itself. You were protecting someone who is being wronged. You were reluctant, scared, the bullets whistled, but you still walked, overcame yourself, laid your heart down for your neighbor. This is a completely different matter. And if there is any reward for this, then God is with him; But it's not for a reward to climb, it's pointless to go to death for some piece of metal.

Or make money. Everyone wants to live richer. Of course, it's not bad to be rich, but is it worth spending your life on wealth? This is funny. A person works, works, works, and then he took and bought some earrings. And for this money you need to work for two or even three months. Three months to work hard to hang pieces of metal for yourself! This is completely insane. It's another matter if you got from your grandmother or someone gave it, well, it still makes some sense. And to work, to suffer, to cheat, to look for, to buy, and then to pierce and insert ones ears. Well, it is an absolutely unreasonable life, unreasonable!

Therefore, you have to think all the time: why am I doing this? What for? And all my life to try to arrange so that it was for God's sake. For God's sake, you can do whatever you want: sweep the street, raise children, and fix televisions for God's sake too. Fix it better - the person will be happy, thank you, will not say: here again, for the fifth time in the atelier, carry. That is, everything can be done with love, by any deed, at any place, wherever you are, you can always serve God. And this is very important, we must definitely try so hard. Then we will gradually become spiritual people, all the time we will draw closer to God and the light that we draw from Christ, from the teaching of the Church, we will be able to convey to someone else. And if we just flutter our tongue, as we usually do: this is how it should be, it should be done this way, it should be done this way - everyone can learn, and it's not so difficult, but it is important to show how. You yourself become different. Then people will look at you and say: yes, this person is really extraordinary, there are not even such people. Everything with him is quiet, calm, modest, he never climbs forward, he does everything well, and even doesn't ask for anything for himself, and if you praise him, he will be embarrassed and leave. Everything is completely different from people.

So you and I should live in such a way that we have everything not like people, but vice versa. This is the Christian life. We are still very worldly, and we need to gradually overcome this worldly skill, by the grace of God. We will look at the life of the saints and each in some way imitate them. Save everyone, oh Lord.