On the leave-taking of the feast of the Transfiguration and the 10th Sunday after Pentecost, Fr. Matthew Howell talks about the importance of fasting and prayer as pillars of personal faith that can move mountains as laid out by our Lord Jesus Christ in today’s gospel. He points out that prayer and fasting and enable someone–by God’s grace–to move the mountains of sin that grow in one’s heart. In the middle of the sermon, Fr. Matthew reads a paragraph from St. Nikolai Velimirovic (of Zica) about how fasting purifies the body and makes it a clean vessel to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit.
“Fasting and prayer are two pillars of faith; two living fires that burn up the evil spirits. Through fasting, all bodily passions are calmed and destroyed, especially immorality; through prayer, all other passions of soul, heart and mind are calmed and destroyed: evil intentions and evil deeds, revenge, envy, hatred, malice, pride, ambition and the others. By fasting, the vessels of body and soul are cleansed of their filthy contents of worldly passions and vices; by prayer, the grace of the Holy Spirit is drawn down into the empty, cleansed vessel – and the fullness of faith consists in the abiding of God’s Spirit in man. The Orthodox Church has, from time immemorial, stressed fasting as a tried and tested medicine for all the physical passions, and a powerful weapon against the evil spirits. All who underrate or reject fasting, in fact, underrate or reject a clear and decisive ordinance of the Lord Jesus in the scheme of man’s salvation. Prayer is strengthened and extended by fasting; faith is confirmed by the one and the other – and faith moves mountains, drives out devils, and makes the impossible possible.”
–St. Nikolai Velimirovic, Homilies Vol. 2 (Lazarica Press, 1998) pages 101-102
Previous homilies on this gospel:
1 Corinthians 4:9-16
Brethren, God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the off-scouring of all things. I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
At that time, a man came up to Jesus and kneeling before him said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move hence to yonder place, ‘ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting.” As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.”