The following homily was given by the well-known and respected Archimandrite Tikhon (Agrikov; November 28, 1916–November 15, 2000), who began his monastic life in 1950 at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, but was forced to leave it by the soviet authorities in 1971. He continued his monastic labors in the Caucasus Mountains, and then in the Carpathian Mountains, later returning to Moscow. He spiritual instructions and letters are valued to this day.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
Beloved brothers and sisters! We are walking the path of our life, and before us are as if closed doors, the locked gates of the Heavenly Kingdom, locked from the time that we consciously began to sin and offend God’s justice. But by God’s mercy these terrible and shining gates of paradisal habitations can open for us, as they opened to the good thief, as they opened to all the righteous, redeemed by the feat on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the Lord calls all of us to His Kingdom, He leads us all there and deprives no one of his reward. But something terrible can happen my dear ones, something irreversible, if when we come to these closed doors, they do not open for us, they do not let us in or even cast us out like the unprofitable servant who had no wedding garment.
For us who are so lazy, so incorrigible, there would never be any hope of entering this heavenly Jerusalem, if at the gates had not stood our Gatekeeper.
Gatekeepers can be cruel or ferocious, but She endlessly pities us and wants all to be saved. Can we hope that She will help us, have pity on us, and let us through the desired gates of the heavenly chamber? She is ready to let us all in, for all She does is seek our salvation; but there is one thing that does not allow, that hinders Her help: this is our incorrigibility. The most terrible, most ruinous thing for us is that we poorly correct ourselves, we just cannot abandon our sins. We repent and the Lord forgives us, but we need to remember our sins and weep for them all our lives. No matter what virtues we acquire, no matter what ascetic labors we perform, they are small in comparison with our sins. Oh, if we were always to admit to ourselves: I am a great sinner! This would help us to correct ourselves, this would preserve us from judging others, from all arrogance and pride.
But how can we not remember our sins, my beloved? The holy fathers teach that we don’t need to remember the details of our falls, that we mustn’t linger in thought on old temptations, so that we would not become our own slanderers, not be lured again, and so that passionate movements would not come alive again in our hearts. We only need to remember and recognize that we are criminals before God, that we are dust—sinful and unclean at that. Isn’t that so?
Well what can we boast of, how can we justify ourselves before God our Creator, Lord, and Judge—we who are weak, sinful, and mortal people! How? But the Lord is so merciful that He does not remember our sins if we ourselves do not remember them, if only this would bring us to a state of sincere and constant repentance and deep humility. Repentance and humility are two wings upon which the soul rises from its destructive insensitivity, is freed from the bonds of sin, and flies straight up to heaven. But it sometimes happens, my beloved, that with our inattentive, distracted lives we become completely entangled, sink into sins, and do not sense the whole danger of our situation. We want to rise, but we can’t do it; we don’t know how to begin, how to place a beginning to our repentance. And it is all because we do not clearly see our current sins, while we’ve forgotten the old ones. In this case, beloved, I say to you: Ask Her, the Mother of God. Ask her insistently, boldly. She is the “faithful intercessor of sinners who begin to repent.” She is the “strong awakener of sleeping consciences.”
She will help us to remember all our sins, perhaps the old and completely forgotten sins of our childhood and youth. She will remind us of everything, reveal everything. She will help us repent and set foot upon the path of correction.
Let us remember, my dears, remember constantly the closed doors of the beautiful chamber. Let us remember the terrible lot of the foolish virgins who were late to the wedding feast of the Bridegroom. Let us remember and correct ourselves, so that we might not be late and be deprived of eternal delight in paradise.
Let us with faith ask the Mother of God, the All-Good Gatekeeper: “Open to us the doors of thy lovingkindness…” She will open to us the saving doors of repentance and divine mercy; She will open to us also the radiant gates of the heavenly chamber—where all of us, by God’s mercy, will be vouchsafed eternal joy and blessedness with all the saints and the righteous.
“Rejoice, good Gatekeeper, who opens the doors of paradise to the faithful.” Amen
From: Archimandrite Tikhon (Agrikov). Life. Sermons. Letters (Sergiev Posad: ТСЛ. 2008).