March 12, 2023

Homily for the Second Sunday of Great Lent: For the Life of the World (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 Homily for the Second Sunday of Great Lent:
For the Life of the World

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered in 1958)

No matter how often you are in the temple during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, knowledge of the most important and most holy part of the great mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ is inaccessible to you, for it is performed by the priest secretly, with the royal gates closed, and only individual exclamations of the priest reach your ears.

But it is important for you to know that with the royal doors closed, when the choir sings “We sing hymns to you, we bless you ...”, by the infusion and action of the Holy Spirit, through the prayer of the priest, the great mystery of the Transubstantiation of bread and wine into the true Body and Blood of Christ for the life of the world is performed.

For what life? Life is very diverse: there is the life of plants and animals. There is a wretched life of grass creeping low on the ground, trampled down by everyone and eaten by cattle; the life of weeds, nettles and thorns; there is the life of the earthworm and the mole, always burrowing in the earth and not seeing the light of the sun; there is the life of a huge oak, a proud Lebanese cedar and a slender cypress, rising like an arrow to the sky; there is the life of bats and daylight-dreading nocturnal birds. A mighty eagle soars proudly in the sky. Mighty and majestic is the vast forest. Frogs and poisonous snakes are disgusting. We love the meek domestic animals that feed and protect us.

So it is among people. The vast majority of them are like low-lying grass, whom the Holy Scripture calls the people of the earth. They are only concerned with tomorrow, their daily needs and squabbles.

More worthy people set as their task the fair establishment of social relations and state laws.

Let us take off our hats to them and bring them deep gratitude for their efforts to arrange an earthly paradise, for there are many among them like the mighty lions and cedars of Lebanon. There are also great scientists, philosophers, like eagles soaring in the sky.

But their noble work is hindered by people of the lowest order, like weeds, nettles and thorns, like toads and poisonous snakes - thieves, bandits and murderers, swindlers, bribe-takers, plunderers of national property.

However, is it for earthly life of a higher order, for the organization of an earthly paradise, that the great bloodless sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ is offered in holy churches?

Did our Lord Jesus Christ endure the most terrible sufferings on the cross of Golgotha for an earthly paradise? Oh no, of course not!

He endured them in order to open before us the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven, and not the earthly one, to make us partakers of eternal life in constant communion with the Triune God and all the disembodied powers of heaven.

By his great beatitudes, our Lord Jesus Christ taught us what the true life of the world should be like, a life based on the highest truth and love.

He taught us what we should be so that He would number us among His friends and even among His brothers.

With all his parables, full of great and perfect truth, He taught us to live as the angels of heaven live, doing the will of God.

His great Apostles instructed us not to love the world, nor what is in the world, for all this is the pride of life, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes.

These deep truths were understood by people of higher aspirations, people of deep mind and purity of heart. They were indifferent to the earthly paradise, for they longed for the highest and eternal truth, which are not in the earthly world. They went to the African deserts, to the impenetrable forest jungle of the north, to Mount Athos, and there they lived the highest form of life in unceasing prayerful communion with God.

There were countless of them... And the Lord God was pleased that all people should be at least somewhat like them in their boundless love for our Savior and walk along the thorny path indicated by Him of serving love and truth, for true life is only in our Lord Jesus Christ - He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And for such a true life of the world, the greatest mystery of the Bloodless Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of our Savior is performed in our churches.

In the lives of the Saints we see many examples of true life according to God, we see the whole sky dotted with countless stars of the shining souls of holy people, and among them there are many stars among the brightest and never fading before God. Among such stars of the first magnitude shines the great Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, a wonderworker, a saint, whose memory the second Sunday of Great Lent is dedicated to.

Much should be said about his great deeds that affirmed Orthodoxy: about his twenty-three years of struggle with the heretic Barlaam, the blasphemer of the Athos monks for their whole life in God; with this heretic who denied the divine origin of the light of Tabor, with which our Lord Jesus Christ shone.

But we will talk about this another time, for I have tired you with my long sermon. To the One True God, glorified in the Trinity, glory and honor and worship forever and ever. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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