What Are the "Gates of Hell?"
(Sermon on the Triumph of Orthodoxy)

"I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." . Immutable is the Word of the Lord: in truth the "gates of hell" cannot conquer the Church of Christ!

But what are the "gates of hell?" St John Chrysostom says: "the gates of hell" is first and foremost the hatred of Satan and his persecution of the Church; then it is heresy and schism; and finally it is the sin of mankind.

For the first three and a half centuries, the entire pagan world fell upon Christ and His Church, irrigating the earth with great streams of the blood of the martyrs. Adorned with the blood of saints, the Church emerged from this tribulation with glory.

Then the enemy assailed the Church with renewed vigor: he tried to diminish and doom the Work of Christ—the Church—with heresies, schisms and divisions. The Church survived victorious in this trial as well. Today, on the first Sunday of Great Lent, we mark the victory of the Church over all heresies. The apostles warned that "wolves in sheep's clothing" will make their way into the Church; Apostle Paul says: "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you" (1 Cor 11:19). There have been for the Church neither surprises, nor heresies, nor schisms. Appearing with in Her, among Her children, have been the wise among you, of whom Apostle Paul spoke. These were the defenders of the purity of Christ's Gospel, the firm pillars of the Church as Basil the Great, Cyrill of Alexandria and many, many others, who stood in defense of the purity of Christ's teachings and confirmed them in the Orthodox world.

"The gates of hell," says St John, are the sins of man. Indeed, over the course of centuries, sins and human failings, sins of the members of the Church often evoked troubles within the Church, often darkened the life of the Church, inflicted heavy wounds upon Her, but even these "gates of hell" were never powerful enough to overcome the Church. She remained holy and unvanquished, for such is the power of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which acts within the Church of Christ, in Her Mysteries, being a force which cleanses away all the impurities in Her and purifying the souls of Her faithful children. Great hosts of saints, martyrs, holy and righteous people of every nation on earth, of all callings and class, are the fruits and witnesses of the effects of Divine grace in the Church of Christ.

The entire history of the Church clearly attests to the fact that "the gates of hell" indeed cannot overcome the Church of Christ. No persecutions, no heresies or errors, no failings or sins committed by Christians, and even the servants of the Church can mitigate or diminish the Light of Truth, the pillar and foundation of which is the Church of Christ.

And now, throughout the world, openly and under concealment, persecuted Orthodoxy, standing in the rags of poverty before the world, is celebrating its triumph as an indestructible force, calling you and me, dear brothers and sisters, to stand guard in our personal loyalty to Christ and the purity of our personal lives—in this lies the Defense of our Faith and Church. Let us raise our prayers to the Omnipotent God, may He preserve unharmed His Church from impiety, and hold us in all piety and chastity. Amen.