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April 18, 2023

Fourth Homily for the First Day of Pascha (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on May 6, 1945)

The Holy Apostle Peter said: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who in His great mercy has regenerated us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to a living hope" (1 Pet. 1:3).

It was hard and mournful for the apostles when their Sun set, when their Teacher died a terrible death on the Cross, beloved by them with all their heart, the One Whom they confessed as the Messiah, the Son of God, Christ. It seemed to them that everything perished with this death, everything collapsed: all their hope, all their faith. How did the Greatest Good not triumph, how did not Holy Love Itself, descended from heaven, overcome evil?

When the holy apostles Luke and Cleopas were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, they were met on the way by the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. But, as the Scripture says, their eyes were held back so that they did not recognize Him (Luke 24:16). They entered into conversation with Him as with a mere companion. When the Lord asked them why they were so sad, they responded with surprise, “You alone in Jerusalem do not know what has happened these days. Don't you know that they crucified our Lord, our Teacher, the One in Whom we believed? We hoped that He was the one who should deliver the people of Israel. But now, this is the third day since it happened” (see Luke 24:17-21).

They forgot the words of Christ that on the third day after His death He would rise again. If they had remembered this, if they had held in their hearts the promise of great joy full of beautiful hope, they would not have been sad, but would have been waiting for the Resurrection of Christ. But the despair of the apostles was so boundless that when Christ was resurrected, when Saint Mary Magdalene saw Him, when the other myrrh-bearing women, seeing the empty tomb and the Angel sitting on a rolled away stone, ran to them in great fear, trembling and joy to announce them about it - even then they considered their words a lie and did not believe them (see Luke 24:4-11).

When then for forty days the Lord appeared to His disciples, they met Him in different ways. Sometimes they looked at Him in fear and confusion, thinking that He was a ghost, the spirit of Christ. And the Lord had to convince them that they were wrong. He showed them His hands and feet, pierced with nails, and ate fish and honey in front of them (see Luke 24:39–40, 42–43).

Here is what the Holy Apostle Paul said: "If it is preached about Christ that He has risen from the dead, then how do some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not risen, and if Christ has not risen, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is also in vain. But Christ has risen from the dead, the firstborn of the dead. For as death is through man, so is through man the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming"  (1 Corinthians 15:12-14, 20-23).

It is foolish to doubt the truth of the Resurrection of Christ, for if we do not believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is resurrected and we will all be resurrected, then we reject all His teachings, all His works, all that He revealed to the world. His sermon was a sermon about eternal life in the kingdom of God, showing the way to salvation. Why not believe that Christ is risen?

What can better convince people of this amazing miracle - the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ - if not His death? Does anyone really dare to think that the Most Holy of Holies, the Greatest Wonderworker and Teacher, Whom the world has ever seen, standing immeasurably higher than other teachers, in Whom, according to the apostle, there was no sin (see 1 Peter 2:22 ), - could the Son of God be forever consumed by a dark death? If He had not risen, then faith in holy love and eternal truth would have died in our souls. Anyone who rejects the miracle of the Resurrection of Christ falls low in moral dignity, for he does not believe in unconditional goodness, in holy truth.

And now let's think about why the Lord for forty days after the Resurrection appeared only to His disciples, and not to all people. According to our human understanding, it seems more natural that He, in the splendor of the Resurrection and the greatness of glory, appear as the Conqueror to the whole world. So it seems to us, but the Lord judged otherwise. He knew that the greatest miracle of His Resurrection could not be contained in the hearts of people who heard His speeches, who constantly saw Him walking through the streets and squares of their cities. Such is human nature: great historical events can never be comprehended in their entirety and appreciated by their contemporaries. Long years, dozens, sometimes even hundreds of years are needed so that, thinking about these events, looking at them in a distant historical perspective, people can understand their significance and compare them with all the conditions of life under which they occurred.

And the greatest of all events in the world, the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, of course, could not be comprehended by contemporaries. Therefore, it would be in vain for the Lord to appear to them: they would still not believe their eyes, they would not recognize Him, just as even His disciples did not recognize. They would doubt and argue about His name. Some would perhaps believe that He is the risen Christ, while others would angrily dispute the possibility of the Resurrection.

The Lord knew that only those enlightened by God's grace, His passionately loving disciples, could believe what they saw and become true witnesses of His Resurrection, and allowed them to testify of Himself to the whole world, for the preaching of the apostles was a sermon about the Resurrection of Christ, about the kingdom of heaven and about the coming resurrection of all Christians. In front of their eyes, a heavenly light shone from the Holy Sepulcher, which gradually penetrated into the hearts of those capable of receiving it. And now the light of Christ has shone from the Holy Sepulcher and illuminates our hearts. Let us live in this light and reach out to it with all our being! Let us kiss the feet of the resurrected Savior our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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