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Metropolitan Hilarion: the essence of religio…

Metropolitan Hilarion: the essence of religious life lies in the love for God

On January 16th, 2022, on the 30th week after the Pentecost, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Moscow church in honor of the icon of the Mother of God "Joy to All who Sorrow" on Bolshaya Ordynka.

The Archpastor was joined by the clergy of the church.

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication, petitions were offered up for deliverance of the coronavirus infection.

After the Litany, Metropolitan Hilarion lifted up a prayer recited at the time of the spread of baneful pestilence.

At the end of the Divine Liturgy, the Archpastor addressed the congregation with a sermon:

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

Today, on the Week before Theophany, we heard the reading prescribed by the statute from the Gospel of Mark, which tells how John the Baptist started his ministry, how he preached in the desert of Jordan, calling on all people: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3 .2).

The Lord chose St. John the Baptist to prepare the way for His Only Begotten Son, Who came to earth, incarnated and became a man in order to grant salvation and eternal life to all people.

The sermon of St. John the Baptist, which has come down to us in the presentation of the four evangelists, contained what the Lord Jesus Christ would later take as the basis of His sermon. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself began His sermon and His earthly ministry with St. John’s words: “repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”..

However, in the sermon of St. John the Baptist we hear about many other things - about what will later also be reproduced and developed in the sermon of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, answering the claims of the Jews that they are the children of Abraham, the Lord Jesus Christ says: “If you were the children of Abraham, you would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39). John the Baptist also preached the same thing: “Do not think to say in yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Matt. 3.9). He warned: “Already the ax lies at the root of the trees: every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:10). The Forerunner warned about the coming retribution, about the responsibility of people for their unwillingness to hear the voice of God and follow the Only Begotten Son of God, who was the Promised Messiah and came into the world to show every person the way to salvation.

The sermon of St. John the Baptist preceded the sermon of Jesus Christ. At that moment, when the Lord Jesus Christ went out to begin His ministry, He was completely unknown, and John the Baptist was already known to the whole Jewish country. Therefore, it is quite natural that the Lord Jesus Christ in the beginning of His ministry used the words and expressions that He heard from St. John the Baptist.

The unanimity of these two people - the man who came to prepare the way for the Son of God, and the Son of God Himself - is expressed in how and what they preached. Why did John the Baptist say those things which the Lord Jesus Christ would say later? Because God Himself taught him so. Just as God revealed His will to the prophets and they heard His word and passed this word on to people, so did St. John the Baptist - the last of the prophets and the first of the apostles - pass on to people what he had heard from God.

The call to repentance that came from the lips of St. John the Baptist, first of all, was a call not only to repent of one’s sins, to realize one’s mistakes, to mourn one’s atrocities, but also to change one’s way of life and way of thinking in a radical way.

The Jews of that time believed that holiness and piety consisted of fulfilling the various precepts of the Law of Moses. The more a person knew about these prescriptions and tried to put them into practice, the more it seemed to him that he was approaching holiness.

But first, John the Baptist, and then the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, by their sermon showed that the essence of religious life is not to fulfill an infinite number of prescriptions and prohibitions, but, first of all, to love God, to dedicate one’s whole life to God, to bring repentance, that is, instead of evil deeds, do good, do your duty. To all the people who came to him, John the Baptist said: do not offend anyone, do good to everyone. And his simple instructions remain relevant at all times.

The fulfillment of the will of God and the essence of religious life lies in the fact that the heart of a person is attuned to the Lord. Then his whole life will be dedicated to God, and everything else will be added.

First, John the Baptist preached in the wilderness, then he was arrested, put in prison, then he was beheaded, as we hear from the Gospels. Our Lord Jesus Christ preached the same thing, but said much more than St. John the Baptist had time to say. Ho Christ was also put to death, condemned, crucified on the cross, and then resurrected, and His resurrection marked the beginning of a new life, a new being, the life of the Christian Church, which continues to this day. And you and I are enjoying the fruits of the victory that the Lord Jesus Christ won, a victory that was foretold by the prophets and anticipated by the sermon of John the Baptist.

These days we are preparing for the feast of the Epiphany. On this holiday, we will bless the water in remembrance of the Baptism of the Lord, when the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, together with other people, descended into the waters of the river Jordan - not in order to be cleansed from sins, for He had no sins, but in order to sanctify the nature of the waters and so that people who plunge into these waters, sanctified by His Divine and life-giving presence, would receive forgiveness and cleansing from sins, grace and strength for spiritual rebirth and new life.

Let us prepare for this feast and ask the Lord that, having come to us to renew the nature of the waters, He would renew our human nature, help us to enter the very essence of religious life, assimilate, realize and bring to life the Gospel commandments. And that Christ Himself would be our guide on the way to the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.

I congratulate you all on the feast! May the Lord protect you all!”

DECR Communication Service


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