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