March 19, 2023

Fourth Homily for the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on March 23, 1952 - Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross)

"Comfort, comfort my people."

These are the words of the ancient great prophet Isaiah, words addressed to us, your shepherds, for it is our duty not only to teach you, not only to show the path of Christ, but to show you our heartfelt love and care for you.

And I love you, the flock given to me by God, as the people closest to me, but don’t I know how many sorrows you have, how many tears, shouldn’t I comfort you?

And I will try to fulfill this on this day, the great day of veneration of the cross of Christ.

When we teach you the way of Christ, we always inspire you to remember His words, that the gate is narrow and the path leading to the Kingdom of God is narrow, that you will be sorrowful in the world.

Sorrow is the destiny of all Christians.

You ask, do only Christians grieve, do they only endure sorrows, all sorts of misfortunes and sorrows, do not the people of this world shed tears, who reject the path of Christ?

Yes, of course, sorrows are inevitable for them too, but there is a great difference and value in the eyes of God of our sorrows, our tears and the tears and sorrows of those who live without God, for they endure their sorrows not voluntarily, but only because they cannot in any way get rid of them. They often endure sorrows with curses and murmurings, but we Christians must bear our sorrows, sorrows associated with the name of Christ, not at all like that, but rather with great obedience to the will of God, with thanksgiving to God for everything that happens to us - for good, for burden, for grief, and for all our sorrows.

We bear our sorrows voluntarily, for if we rejected Christ, we would be delivered from most sorrows, and since we do not renounce, we bear them voluntarily, and God will bless us for our sufferings, for the value of our sufferings, our tears is great in the eyes of God.

How worldly people try to get rid of sorrows, you know this: they flood their grief, their sorrows with wine and vodka, they are intoxicated with tobacco and even drugs.

But is it worthy of us Christians? Isn't it extremely base to calm the voice of conscience with your wine, tobacco? Oh, this is deeply, deeply unworthy, and God forbid that any of you ever resort to this ungodly means of silencing your conscience.

People are looking for worldly solace in their sorrows, and when they do not find it, then they try to forget about them: they are looking for entertainment, go for a walk, go to visit each other and idle talk.

May this never happen to you, for Christians should not drown out the voice of their conscience, but, on the contrary, listen to it sensitively.

They seek to muffle their sorrows in friendships, and especially in the ancient world, friendship was highly valued. Don't you know how unreliable is this reliance on people, and not on God?

People who are higher spiritually are looking for the oblivion of their sorrows, their torments in hard labor, in work. This, of course, is an immeasurably higher means of alleviating sorrows than pouring wine over them, than entertainments, dances and festivities. Labor temporarily stifles grief, but one cannot work continuously, and when labor ends, conscience begins to expose the voice of conscience, heavy sorrows arise again. Hard work will not achieve what you want.

The highest thing in which they find relief is mutual love: the love of spouses, the love of parents for children, the love for people worthy of love.

All love is blessed, blessed is this love too, but this is the initial, lower form of love, for from conjugal love, by learning in it, we must rise to a much higher love for all people, for all the unfortunate, for the suffering: from it we rise to the third degree of love - Divine love, love for God Himself. You see, until people achieve love for everyone and Divine love, the value of love only for those close to them is of little value.

In nothing and nowhere can one find solace in grief for those who seek it in the wrong place. Yes, it is so: they do not find it and will not find it.

And in what, in what can one find solace in sorrow? This is what the Holy Prophet David says: "Only in God does my soul rest." In God, in the law of God, he found consolation. And he was not alone, but all the righteous of the Old Testament found it, for even then people who did not know Christ, for He had not yet come into the world, found deep consolation in fervent, heartbreaking prayer, in this spiritual communion with God.

Blessed are they, blessed are these Old Testament righteous, but immeasurably more blessed are those who have known Christ, who have been taught the law of Christ, who have chosen the path of Christ. Blessed are those who have access to the highest form of comfort - the comfort of Christ Himself, given to us, for is it not in the cross of Christ that the deepest and most eternal consolation is hidden!

Tell me, if you carry the cross of Christ in your heart, if you often gaze at least with your mind's eye on the Crucified on the Cross, does this not make the deepest impression, cause deep emotion in your heart? For what do we see when we look at the cross of Christ?

We see the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnate God, the Most Holy of Saints, the Great Righteous One, the Benefactor of the human race, whom the world has never known and will never know again - we see Him nailed to the cross with iron nails. We see Him suffering grievously, Who, with one wave of His hand, with one word of His commanded the waves and the wind subside. The one who, during His short life on earth, worked amazing miracles, miracles that His love, His pity for people demanded. We see Him hanging on the cross, who healed all diseases, who opened the eyes of the blind, who raised the paralyzed from their bed; who fed thousands of people with a few loaves; who raised the dead - we see the greatest Benefactor, we see the Savior and Redeemer from the power of the devil. For the cross of Christ is terrible, for its sign casts out demons, who flee in horror and confusion, because Divine love has poured out from the cross of Christ in an immeasurable stream, love that has destroyed the malice and enmity of the devil and demons.

So, if we see on the cross the Redeemer of the world, who took our sins upon Himself, who became a sacrifice for all of us, accursed ones, then what are our sorrows worth, no matter how many of them, no matter how heavy they are, what are they worth, compared to the drops of tears that flowed down His Divine cheeks, compared to the stream of blood that flowed from the chest pierced by a spear and stained His cross! What are all our sorrows worth compared to this!

And when you are imbued with these thoughts and feelings, when with all your heart, shaken by your heart, look at the cross of Christ, only then will you receive true, the only true consolation.

Why, then, do we need any other consolation when this greatest of all consolations is given to us! For we have been given a cross, which we erect before you, we give you to kiss. Isn’t this the highest form of consolation, don’t we draw, constantly reading Holy Scripture, from a source of consolation of tremendous power, for Holy Scripture is full of this consolation - just draw, just turn to Holy Scripture, to the cross of Christ, and then you will receive the only true and eternal consolation.

Delve into the words of the Holy Apostle Paul and remember them: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercy and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we too may comfort those in any affliction with the comfort with which God comforts ourselves!” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

I testify, with all my heart I testify before you the profound truth of these words of Paul, I testify from my own experience, for the Lord consoled me in my great sorrow.

I can say that as the sorrows of Christ increase in you, the consolation of Christ will also increase. Remember, remember: as your sorrows increase, your consolation will also increase.

Only Christ can comfort us, only from Him we will seek consolation, only by the cross of Christ will we drive away cowardice, sorrow and grumbling.

Then, on this holy day, the cross of Christ is brought before you in order to draw you all to Him, to Him Who was crucified on the cross. With great joy we see how crowds and crowds strive to see the cross being erected and to hear the singing: “We venerate Your Cross, Master.”

What is the force that draws us? Why are there so many people in the temple of God? The invisible power of God, the power of Christ, draws you in order to comfort you, to wipe away your tears. And if so, then should we, weak and sinful, try to add anything to this consolation! Not to us, not to us... But may God Himself direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ. Amen.

: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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