Christ has a plan, fear not! Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou about trials
The hierarch of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus on how to be Christians during the rampant coronavirus epidemic.
The UOJ has got the text of the sermon of the Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus at the Vespers on the feast of the Holy Great Martyr Irene. The sermon was delivered over a year, but during this time its relevance has only increased. Below are its main theses.
Martyrdom is the path to heaven
Today, in these difficult conditions, Saint Irene called us to her small community to honour her feast.
Then we will commemorate the Holy New Martyr Ephraim. The Turks seized him, hung him upside down on a silk tree and lit a fire under it. They raised and lowered him on ropes, forcing him to renounce the Orthodox faith. But each time the saint answered: "I will not deny my Christ, because He gave me eternal life!" Then the Turks thrust a torch into the saint's stomach and lowered it into the fire. This is how the Holy New Martyr Ephraim testified to his faith.
I think that the Lord preserves his people with the blood of martyrs. Saint Irene, wherever she was, everywhere preached Christ. She was tortured, arrested, imprisoned, but she continued her sermon. "Christ is risen!" she said.
Christ is risen, and we will also be resurrected. When our soul is separated from the body, it will not die, as it happens with animals. It will go to her Creator, the immortal God. And if God finds love and repentance in us, He will give us eternal life.
Let us rejoice in Christ, let us rejoice in Him and His saints, our relatives and friends whom we will meet in eternal life.
Sinful man chooses hell himself
What a tragedy to go not to heaven but to another place. But the Lord will not send me, but I myself will go – because I have not learnt to love. Because I didn't love God's justice. I did not love Christ's humility, repentance, forgiveness and kindness. I'm going to hell myself. God doesn't send anyone there. At the second coming, He will reveal what is in each person's heart. This is how the righteous judgment of God will be done.
Both the living and the dead are on the spiritual ladder
During our earthly life, we move up the spiritual ladder. Some are down and some are up. Someone sins, and someone commits virtues. But the dead can also move up this ladder. We serve a requiem for them and give alms: so that those who are low rise higher and see a little light, the Trinity light of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Eternal life is joy, eternal communion with God, eternal service to Him. There is no day or night. Everything is light. Saint Irene, Saint Ephraim understood this, all the saints understood what death meant when it was in the name of Christ. When you are with Christ, you are with life. When you are with Christ, there is no death.
He who receives communion worthily cannot be infected
What is happening now with the coronavirus epidemic is a temptation. This is an ordeal for Christians. Many are afraid of getting infected and ask if it is possible to get infected through the Sacrament. I will say this: when you partake with faith, humility, a sense of your sinfulness, then great grace comes. It drives away any infection, physical or spiritual.
Christ is risen, and we will also be resurrected. When our soul is separated from the body, it will go to her Creator, the immortal God. And if God finds love and repentance in us, He will give us eternal life.
But if we come to Holy Communion carelessly, unprepared, without humility, not reconciled with those who grieved us, but simply by custom or habit, then neither our soul nor our body will receive Divine grace. And instead of the increased grace of the Holy Spirit, sin within us will get stronger.
Instead of partaking in the sacrament “for the remission of sins and for eternal life”, you will receive the sacrament for condemnation. And then you can get ill. Whether you can get infected or not depends on how you partake, prepare for Communion. And the Apostle Paul, speaking about the Eucharist, explains why many die, get sick and grow weak: because they partake in an unworthy and inattentive manner.
Christ Cleansing His Church
The coronavirus epidemic has created the conditions in which we can show our faith. This year, and possibly next one, will be the years of trials. One trial goes away, another comes. The saints warned us about this, but few people listen to them now. In trials, it becomes clear who is the faithful servant of Christ and who is not. During trials, the fearful and non-believers leave the Church, which is the ship of Christ.
Now we are all taking the exam. Earlier, at more favourable times, we tried to do good deeds: to make pilgrimages to holy places, to fulfil obediences, etc. But today one can no longer rely on the old merits. Today, in the trials that God sends us, we must exercise our faith. This is Christ's plan to test us.
Eternal life is joy, eternal communion with God, eternal service to Him. There is no day or night. Everything is light.
Do you think that only Henry Kissinger, Bill Gates, tycoons and oligarchs have plans? No. Christ also has a plan. He loves us more than anyone else, but he tests us. On the ship of Christ, as on any ship, there is a team. These are the Christians who remain faithful to Christ in all today's trials. And He will lead this crew of his ship to the epoch of the flourishing of Orthodoxy when the light of true faith will enlighten all peoples on earth.
This heyday will be after the world war, which has already begun. What we are experiencing now is biological warfare. Its purpose is intimidation. If you intimidate people, you can do whatever you want with them. You can force not only to get vaccinated but worse things.
Death opens the gates of eternal life
Now you need courage to confess Christ and not fear what journalists or those in power will tell you. This is not the first time an epidemic has come to earth. But today's epidemic is a reason to intimidate the people and establish control over them.
We must constantly remember and teach our children and grandchildren that life does not end in the grave. Fear is conquered by faith in Christ and in eternal life. Do you hear? This conquers the fear of any illness, any accident, any war, any misfortune. If we cannot overcome fear, it means that we do not believe with all our hearts in eternal life and in Christ. He is eternal life, and He gives it to us. We must want to enter eternal life, we must love Christ and obey His commandments. Christ is perfect love, and perfect love casts out fear.
What we are going through now is biological war. Its purpose is intimidation. If you intimidate people, you can do whatever you want with them.
In a few days, we will celebrate the memory of Saint Pachomius the Great, the teacher of monasticism, who gathered around him not hundreds but thousands of monks. Do you know how he died? Of cholera. His disciple and successor Saint Theodore also died of cholera. And many monks then died of this. They did not ask: why did not Christ save us from the disease and death? They died of cholera and thanked God. They were like ripe ears of grain that God gathered into his granary.
A person can die of coronavirus, or maybe of another illness, from an accident, or old age. But life does not end with death. It is a bridge to the transition to eternal life, in which there is no pain and sorrow. To life in Christ.
Fear not, Christ will arrange everything
During an epidemic, the powers that be of this world order us to stay at home. They closed the temples so that we supposedly do not get infected. But we should not be afraid to get infected in the temple. We should not doubt that Holy Communion is the Body and Blood of Christ.
Read the lives of the saints, read the Gospel, the Psalter, the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner" and "Most Holy Theotokos, save us." And you will be surprised how quickly all demonic plans will collapse, and how quickly Christ will put everything in its place. Christ has a plan, He himself will arrange everything. Fear not! Do not doubt His existence and the eternal life He wants to give us.
Some say that today is the era of the Antichrist, but this is not so. Don't be confused. The time of the Antichrist will come later. Today the forces of Antichrist, which have always been, are at work. But if we are with Christ, no one can overcome us.