Sunday, August 16, 2009


When our Lord returned from the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James and John, he found the father of a demoniac complaining that His other disciples were unable to cure his son. (This man thought, falsely, that his son was somehow afflicted by the influence of the moon, hence the term "lunatic"). Christ first castigates the father's lack of faith, bemoaning the "faithless and perverse generation" to which he belongs, then casts out the demon afflicting the boy by a simple word.

Later the disciples ask the Lord in private why they were unable to cast out the demon, and He replies that if one has faith as a grain of mustard seed, one can move mountains. "Howbeit," He adds significantly, "this kind can come out by nought but prayer and fasting." Now the faith of which our Lord speaks is not the simple faith of believing in God, and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity. He refers rather to that faith which is needed to work miracles. Indeed, simple belief is easy and costs nothing. Even the demons believe, and tremble. That faith that can move mountains, on the other hand, is born of boldness before God, which is given to those who strive always to do His will. Such boldness requires a great struggle to purify the heart (by God's grace) of every sinful passion, that we may not only believe in God, but to know Him as our heavenly Father.

As Christ points out elsewhere, what father would give his child a stone when he asks for bread, or a serpent when he asks for a fish? Perhaps a very cruel and sadistic father might, but surely our merciful Father in heaven will not deny His children any legitimate request. The problem is, though, we are all part of that faithless and perverse generation that professes belief in God but does not truly know Him. So it is we are repeatedly thrown into the fire of the passions and drowned in the waters of worldly cares and concerns. We think it is enough to profess God with our lips while living our lives not in order to please God, but rather to please ourselves. Because our prayers are half-hearted and our fasting mostly superficial, we make ourselves the playthings of demons.

Truly our faith could move mountains, but instead we are crushed by a mountain darkness, doubt and despair. We do not even truly believe all the teachings and traditions of the Church. Today we celebrate the memory of the venerable father Anthony of Rome, a true ascetic who achieved sanctity through prayer and fasting. Through God's strange providence, he traveled all the way from Rome to Novgorod on a rock floating upon the sea. Though this no doubt sounds far fetched according to our modern rational understanding, this is what the Church teaches, and it behooves us to believe without doubt that this is truly what happened. Indeed, all things whatsoever are possible to the God Who created from nothing all things visible and invisible.

When shall we awaken from the deadly slumber into which we have fallen? Lo, Christ is standing even now at the very door of our heart waiting to come in, but we are too distracted by the things of this world to hear Him knocking. "Put not your trust in princes, in the sons of men in whom there is no salvation." Put your trust only in the living God Who can accomplish for us whatsoever we ask--even our eternal salvation in His heavenly Kingdom.

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