March 6, 2023

Fourth Homily on the Sunday of Orthodoxy (St. Luke of Simferopol)

On the Beatitudes

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on March 27, 1949 - Sunday of Orthodoxy)

We talked about the fact that a terrible iron chain is forged by the devil from our passions, which descends deep, deep into the very abyss, dragging along those who, without practicing abstinence, give free rein to their passions. Now my discourse is about another chain, golden and holy, which is forged for us by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. I called her golden, but this name is insignificant for her, for she is immeasurably, infinitely more precious than gold. This chain will easily lift us up, to the very Throne of God. What are the links in this chain? Those commandments of beatitude that you hear at every Liturgy and must keep deeply in your heart.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). Who are these poor in spirit? These are those who are spiritually similar to the poor, the hungry, the poor in body, having nothing; these are those who sincerely, from the bottom of their hearts, consider themselves to be without any spiritual and moral virtues. If they do something good, they humbly acknowledge that it was not they who did it, but the grace of God that is with them (see I Cor. 15:10).

The humble are those who do not exalt themselves above anyone, but consider themselves the lowest and worst of all. The humble are those about whom God Himself, through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, says: “Here is whom I turn my gaze to: the humble and contrite in spirit, and the one who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2). Humility is the first, most important and fundamental thing that God requires of us. This is the first step, the first link in the golden chain. And the second link is also connected with it: “Blessed are those who weep, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). The humble cry easily; the proud never cry.

What do the humble cry about? What tears of the humble are precious before God? Are all tears equal? After all, people often cry tears of envy, anger, hatred. The word of Christ is not about this accursed weeping: it is about those who weep, thinking about the multitude of their sins, about their oppressive heaviness, about their guilt before God, about their unworthiness. This is godly grief, about which the Holy Apostle Paul speaks in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (II Cor. 7:10).

Precious before God are the tears of those who cannot endure the untruths of the world, who are tortured and tormented while living among violently depraved people, just as the righteous Lot was tormented while living in Sodom. Now, if such pure tears flow from our eyes, if our soul is tormented by our own unworthiness, if it is tormented by the evil and unrighteousness of the world, then we are blessed, then what Christ said will come true over us: “Blessed are those who weep, for they will be comforted.” They will be comforted by the great, eternal comfort of God.

What is the next link? "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5). Who are these meek ones, and what land will they inherit? Of course, not this land, for it “will burn with all that is on it” (II Pet. 3:10), but a different, new land: they will inherit eternal life because in their lives, in all their deeds, they have become like the Lord our Jesus Christ Himself, who, “being reviled, did not reproach; suffering, did not threaten, but handed it over to the Just Judge” (I Pet. 2:23). Blessed are those who do not answer insults with insults. Blessed are those whose heart is soft as wax and not hard as stone, like the heart of the proud. Blessed are the meek, for meekness is the opposite of pride. Meekness is a consequence of poverty of spirit and pure tears.

In such a blessed spirit awakens an insatiable thirst and hunger for eternal, higher truth. “Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” (Matt. 5:7), they will find in eternal life, in the kingdom of God, that truth, which is so few on earth. And those who thirst for the truth know that the severity of untruth is based on unmercifulness towards one another. And in their hearts is a new link in the golden chain: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

What's next? Further we are promised: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). God Himself will be seen by those who have no dirt in their hearts, vile loathesome lies, fornication, slander, hatred, whose hearts are always calm, meek, pure. These blessed ones can no longer see people quarreling and hostile - they become peacemakers. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).

Reconciling others and keeping peace with everyone and in their hearts, they themselves firmly resist evil, undergoing any sorrows because of this. And when in the heart of a person this golden chain lengthens so that he becomes able to calmly, meekly, even joyfully accept persecution for the sake of truth, for Christ, then he will hear: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10).

And, finally, that which crowns all virtues: “Blessed are you when they reproach you and persecute you, and speak unrighteously in every possible way for My sake. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:11-12). This is where this holy golden chain elevates - to the kingdom of God, to the kingdom of heaven.

The commandments of the Old Testament, given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, were about gross vices, and these commandments demand the highest perfection from us. To whom do I speak of the highest perfection? Are there not those among those listening to this who do not even know the ABC's of Christianity, who have not even taken the first step on the path of virtue?

Listen to what the great Saint John Chrysostom said to his flock, in many ways similar to you: “I see that many after Baptism live more carelessly than those who were not baptized and do not even have any sign of a Christian life. That is why, neither in the marketplace nor in the Church, one can quickly distinguish who is a believer and who is an unbeliever. The believer must be seen not only by the gift, but also by the new life. The believer is to be a lamp to the world and salt. And if you do not shine yourself, do not turn away from your own rottenness, then how can we recognize you? Is it because you plunged into the sacred waters? But it can bring you to punishment. The greatness of the honor for those who do not want to live in accordance with this honor increases the penalty.

The believer should shine not only with what he received from God, but also with what actually belongs to him; it is necessary that he be visible in everything - by his steps, by his eyes, by his appearance, and by his voice. I say this in order that we may observe propriety, not for show, but for the benefit of those who look at us.

And now, from whatever side I try to recognize you, everywhere I find you in the opposite state. Do I want me to draw conclusions about you on the spot - I see you at the horse races, at spectacles, I see that you spend your days in iniquity, in bad gatherings, in the marketplace, in community with depraved people. Do I want me to draw conclusions about you by the appearance of your face - I see that you are constantly laughing and absent-minded, like a depraved harlot whose mouth never closes. If I judge you by your clothes, I see that you are dressed up no better than a comedian. If I judge you by your companions, I see that you are leading parasites and flatterers behind you. If I begin to judge you by words, I hear that you do not say anything sensible, wise, useful for our life. Shall I judge you by your table - here opens even more reasons for condemnation.

So, tell me, how can I know that you are faithful when everything I have listed says otherwise? And what do I say - faithful? Even if you are a person, I can’t know for sure. When you kick like a donkey; you jump like an ox; neighing at women like a horse; you eat like a bear; fattening the flesh like a horse; vindictive as a camel; predatory like a wolf; angry like a snake; caustic, like a scorpion; cunning as a fox; you keep within yourself the poison of malice, like an asp and a viper; you are at enmity with your brothers like a crafty demon - how can I consider you a man, not seeing in you signs of human nature?

Looking for differences between the catechumens and the faithful, I am in danger of not finding a difference even between man and beast. How can I really call you a beast? After all, every animal has one of these vices. And you, having combined all the vices in yourself, far surpass them with your foolishness. Will I call you a devil? But the demon does not serve the torment of the womb, does not like money. And when there are more vices in you than in beasts and demons, tell me, how can you be called a man? If it is impossible to call you a man, how shall we call you faithful? And what is sadder of all, being in such a poor state, we do not even think about the ugliness of our soul, we have no idea about its vileness.”

Here is the awesome discourse of the great saint, a discourse delivered one and a half thousand years ago, but how fresh it is even now! Is there no one among us to whom these terrible words can be attributed? To our shame, there are many! How do some keep themselves in the temple of God? They push, swear, curse, judge, gossip. Why do they go to the temple of God? Why do they desecrate a holy place with their presence? Why do pure hearts trouble those who cannot bear to see such blasphemy?

What do they do when they return from the temple? They torture, harass their family. An evil mother-in-law poisons the life of an unfortunate daughter-in-law, chasing her, cursing and scolding her for every little thing, beats her, drives her out of the house, seeks a divorce from her son, drives her to suicide! But are only mothers-in-law like that? There are also such daughters-in-law, such sons and daughters, who drive old parents out of the house. For such the ancient law of Moses prescribed to be stoned. These people are very far from the Church in their spirit. There are also false Christians who steal, lie, corrupt their own children!

A boy of eleven stole a notebook at school. Drawn to the answer, he said: "After all, I see how my mother constantly takes coal from a neighbor, I thought that this was how it should be." Another boy, twelve years old, always lies, and when he is told that it is wrong to lie, that it is mean to lie, he replies: “But I was always told that I should take an example from my elders, and every day I hear how my mother lies to my father and aunt and deceives them. So it is necessary."

A fifteen-year-old girl paints her lips and eyebrows. She learned this by looking at her mother, whose hair is already gray. Oh, unfortunate mother! What are you teaching your daughter? Every day you go to church and have not heard the words of Saint Peter the Apostle: “Do not let your adornment be merely outward — arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel — rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (I Pet. 3:3-4). This does not seem to concern her, she does not teach her daughter to be beautiful in her heart, but teaches her falsehood and lies.

Here there comes out of the temple a not poorly dressed woman with a girl of about six years old. A good child, seeing one unfortunate old man, she gives him a ruble. And what about the mother? She punishes her child for this! Has she never heard that at the Last Judgment of Christ the unmerciful will go to eternal torment? But she teaches the child not to be merciful, forbids her from doing good deeds!

What awaits all these unfortunates? Our Lord Jesus Christ taught: “Not everyone who says to me: 'Lord! Lord!' will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). To these church-going people who professed to be Christians, He will say, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who do iniquity” (Matt. 7:23), depart, you accursed ones, who dare to open your serpentine mouth to receive My Body and My Blood.

Fear the wrath of God! Remember the words of Saint John Chrysostom, that Holy Baptism for the stubbornly unwilling to live in accordance with the vows given to God only increases the punishment. See how unbelievers, Jews, Muslims live. They will not inherit the kingdom of God, no matter how hard it is to tell them, for the kingdom of God is closed to those who do not confess Christ as the True God, who in their life did not partake of the Body of Christ and His Blood, did not feed on the juices of the Divine Vine.

We do not know what awaits them, but I think their fate will be less bitter than the fate of the unfortunate false Christians. For because of them, as it is written, “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles” (see Rom. 2:24 and Isaiah 52:5). Understand that, having called ourselves Christians, we cannot live worse than unbelievers, but are obliged to strive tirelessly to achieve virtues, glorifying the name of God that we bear our whole life, in which may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ help us, to Him be glory and dominion to the ages of ages. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Become a Patreon or Paypal Supporter:

Recurring Gifts

Contact Form


Email *

Message *