This is a homily from the second week of the fast on a kontakion from the first week but it’s appropriate for any time your soul needs a wake up call.
Homily on Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent
My soul, my soul, arise! Why are you sleeping? The end is drawing near, and you will be confounded. Awake, then, and be watchful, that Christ our God may spare you, Who is everywhere present and fills all things.
Kontakion, tone 6, Canon of St. Andrew of Crete
Who would you think, my brothers, addresses their soul with these moving words? A penitent sinner? No, this is a holy and blessed man, from whose pen, or, better, from whose heart dripped that sweet-moving hymnody by which we were so strongly moved during the evening services last week, that is, St. Andrew of Crete. Did not his pure and holy soul always keep watch over his salvation? Did negligence over his conscience and forgetfulness of the hour dare to approach him? Even he does not trust his mind or his good deeds but tries to take all measures to not allow his thoughts and wishes to degenerate.
Do we not, all the more, my brothers, need to as often as possible address our soul with similar agitation from the sleep of sin? Us who are so inclined to worldly dispersion and the forgetfulness of God and our eternal destination? Alas, we all sleep a heavy and deep sleep-one of pride and ambition, another of luxury and satiety, still another of malice and cunning, and a fourth of the love of money and acquisitiveness-day and night we sleep from the cradle to the grave! Indeed, beloved brother, what are we doing for our salvation? Holy ascetics spent all their lives in fasting and prayer, labor and voluntary deprivation; holy martyrs endured all types of suffering and torment; the prophets and apostles did not have anywhere to lay their heads and were like filth [1 Cor. 4:13] to the world; and we? We do not even devote as much time to our salvation as we do to the most unimportant things for our whims and pleasures. It is not proof otherwise if we sometimes come to Church, take up a spiritual book, discuss with someone faith and good works, give alms to the poor, and do some sort of other good deeds. It is not proof, I say, that we have watchfulness and care for our souls. But do not sleepers perform various movements which make them appear as if they are not sleeping? And they sometimes even talk-and with reason-walk from place to place, and even sometimes perform some actions which require the intellect. Likewise is it with us: the few good deeds we do are exactly like the actions of a man who is asleep. For how are these deeds performed? Not out of a living and constant love towards God and neighbor, not in the name of our Lord and Savior, not according to a firm determination to live and act as is commanded in the Gospel, but accidentally, even sometimes involuntarily, almost always without a thought for our own salvation, sometimes from worldly conventions, sometimes from the momentary attraction of the feelings and heart, and sometimes due to the cold calculation of self-love. Moreover, performing occasionally a few good deeds, and, thus, disguising our appearance, we remain the same on the inside, with our former passions, with the very same wicked and impure heart, and with the very same sleeping and weak conscience.
A sign of a watchful man is his complete consciousness of himself and the things surrounding him. Where is this consciousness in us? Surrounding us all are sin and death; before us stands the judgment and eternity but we do not even think about it-for us it is as if it does not exist.
A sign of an unsleeping man is a distinct feeling of his needs and the constant care for their satisfaction. Where is this feeling and care in us? Our mind is ill with the evident ignorance of the truth of salvation, and we, filling it it with every type of earthly knowledge, we are negligent to illuminate it with the imperishable light of Christ. Our consciences are covered with the wounds of sin, and we, who treat our body when there is the first sign of weakness, not in the least take care for the treatment of our internal judge. Our hearts pine for heaven and blessed eternity and seek living water not that which is drying up, and we fill it up with the dust of earthly cares. We force it to drink from broken wells, false wisdom, or sensual pleasures.
A sign of a watchful man is the appropriate performance of the deeds of his calling; but among us many do not even know that our first and highest calling is the calling of a Christian, which, in truth, is our common inheritance in the heavens, that the earth for us is a place of wandering, that the body is a prison, and that death is liberation. What is all this if not a spiritual sleep? And will we sleep long in this manner? Will we wander for long not seeing where we are going and what we are achieving?
My soul, my soul, you are the only one I possess so that if I lose you, I lose everything. You who, being created in the image of God, by which you are already higher than the whole world, who even after your fall were redeemed with the precious Blood of the Son of God and intended for an eternal life of blessedness with God in heaven; my soul, my soul, why are you sleeping? Why do you forget your nature and dignity and so pitifully give yourself over to slavery to flesh and blood in the captivity of the world and the devil, your enemies? Why do you, created to serve the living and true God, bow down to every idol of the passions? Why do you, intended for eternity, madly waste both the time and talents entrusted to you on vanities, not thinking that an account for all of this is waiting for you?
My soul, My soul, arise; why are you sleeping? Here you sleep when the gates of heaven and eternity stand open before you? Here you sleep when below you is Gehenna and the outcast spirits? Can you sleep when there is a battle all around you and inside you, when heaven and hell are contending for you, when your all-spiteful enemy watches all your paths and gathers all his strength to catch you and devour you eternally?
My soul, my soul, arise! Throw the sleep off your eyelids, gather your thoughts, which are dispersed throughout the world, and turn them to yourself and your great calling! Arise! Rid yourself of the shameful bonds of bad habits, which, as a net, bind you to the earth and decay. Arise and see how all are awaiting your awakening: your guardian angel so as to not in vain stand before you and weep inconsolably over your hardness in sin, the Church of God so as to begin to treat you with prayers and the Mysteries, your conscience so as to assimilate its rights and lead you along the path of truth, death itself awaits giving you a place for repentance so as to not be forced to snatch you, at last, with your sins before the terrible judgment of God.
You sleep, my poor soul, and the time of grace and mercy flows away not to return. You sleep and the burden of your sins grows and multiplies beyond number and measure. You sleep and your enemy keeps vigil and binds you from head to foot with new nets. You sleep and the angel of death is coming and your end is approaching. It will approach, arrive, catch you, and strike you. What then will become of you? Will earthly possessions for the acquiring of which you forgot God and sacrificed all help you? Will light-minded friends and colleagues with which you spent and wasted time protect you from the wrath of God? Will you seek comfort on your death bed in worldly wisdom and lack of faith? O, it is then that you will know thoroughly how they rightfully told you that “what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” (Mark 8:36)! You will know, but what will come from this knowledge? Only cruel sorrow, only confusion and despair; “and you will be confounded!” You will be confounded by not only the past, which presents to you all your sins and impure life, but by the present, which will be filled with horrors, deathly torments, and despair, and by the future, which having been forgotten and rejected by you for so long, will appear before you in all its terrible and demeaning grandeur.
Why should we carelessly wait, my poor soul, our death? Why should we, having shut the eyes of our mind, walk all our life towards the pit of hell? What harm is it to us if we stop, think, and turn back when there is still time? And so, my soul, arouse yourself! Open your eyes and raise yourself up from the bed of sin; stand on the path of the law of the Lord and spread out your hand to the good; decide to serve the Living and True God as you have up to now served the idols of the passions, and all else is ready for your salvation. The Gospel is ready for the irradiation of your thoughts at all times in your life; the precious clothes of a servant of Christ are ready to cover your spiritual nakedness; the Body and Blood of the Son of God are ready for the satiation of your hunger; oil and balsam are ready to treat your wounds; the all-powerful Grace of the Holy Spirit is ready to strengthen you; the crown itself is ready to award you for your few struggles. Arouse yourself and may the light of Christ God illumine you! Do you hear how He, with the voice of the Gospel, proclaims from His heavenly supper, “yet there is room” (Luke 14:22)? This is a place for us, my soul. Let us hasten to make ourselves worthy while midnight has not yet come, the doors of the palace are not shut, and the oil in the lamp of our light has not yet gone out! Amen.
St. Innocent (Borisov), Archbishop of Kherson