April 21, 2023

Third Homily on the Second Day of Holy Pascha (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 Immortality Is An Unconditional Requirement of the Christian Soul

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on May 7, 1945)

Two holiest, deepest aspirations elevate us above all creatures: the desire for truth and immortality. They are peculiar only to a high soul, living a spiritual life. Justice requires that mortal human sins not go unpunished, that all sinners receive recompense. But we see that in earthly life this is by no means always the case; often the opposite is true: the sinners prosper, while the righteous suffer. Our heart cannot resign itself to the fact that the spirit of such a great saint as our Venerable and God-bearing Father Seraphim of Sarov disappeared somewhere, completely ceasing to exist. It requires that Saint Seraphim and all the great saints, martyrs, righteous people, all pious and pure people live in eternal life, with God, so that the great goodness of their souls would never cease to grow in eternity and infinity, so that they would always draw near to God, residing in the New Jerusalem, in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Immortality is an unconditional demand of the Christian soul. The Holy Apostle Paul says that if we do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, in eternal life, then our faith is vain, useless, and then we will not differ in any way from unbelievers (see 1 Corinthians 15:14). The opinion of people who deny everything spiritual revolts most resolutely and mercilessly against our faith in immortality. They consider it meaningless, recognizing only what they see with their eyes, hear with their ears and touch with their hands, what can be measured and weighed, only material. They say it's impossible, that after death our brain will die and cease, our heart will stop, consciousness will fade and disappear, the immortal, eternal life, in their opinion, imagined by us, could still continue. They think that everything ends with death, that there is nothing beyond the coffin - only eternal darkness and emptiness.

They are based on the idea that physiology has clearly shown that our entire spiritual life, consciousness, thoughts, feelings, depend solely on the activity of the brain, and they are convinced that after it fades and rots, it will be impossible to think, neither feel nor know.

We consider everything material to be immeasurably less important, immeasurably lower than the spiritual. We are deeply convinced that, along with material life, there is an infinite spiritual life, which takes place in ourselves, a life that gives us the ability to pray and enter into direct communion with God. We believe that, in addition to everything that is visible, felt, there is still a great area of ​​what we do not comprehend with the senses, because our mind is extremely limited and understands only a very small fraction of what is happening in the universe. We know that there is a Heavenly Host, holy spirits serving God. We know that a great, mysterious perception of the highest often takes place in our souls - not with a limited mind, but with the heart and spirit.

We understand that we live in that deep, mysterious knowledge that philosophers call intuitive. Intuition is the comprehension of the truth, the essence of things, not by the mind, but by the heart and our whole being. According to the Apostle Paul, man is made up of body, soul, and spirit (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23). What is a soul? What is a spirit? What's the difference between them?

From the Holy Scriptures we know that not only people, but also all living beings have a soul, for by the ancient law the people of Israel were forbidden to eat the blood of animals, since it contains their soul (see Lev. 17:14), for which they must be treated with awe and reverence. After all, the animals that surround us have feelings similar to those of humans. It is this feeling, often extremely deep, that constitutes the essence of the soul of animals.

Manifestations of the human soul are what happens in our mind and heart as a result of perception by our senses: sight, hearing, touch - the environment. And while we are alive, this amazing process of experiencing the impressions that we receive from the outside is constantly going on. This is our spiritual activity.

Some people are so low in spiritual development that the activity of their soul is similar to that which occurs in animals, and is almost completely limited to this. But there are people in whom the spirit has tremendous strength and power, who should be called bearers of the Holy Spirit. For if a person is created in the image and likeness of God, then he received from God the breath of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives and acts in us all the time of our life. And everything that happens in our mind, heart and soul is closely connected with the life of the spirit.

Everything that we think about, feel, say, what we want, leaves an indelible imprint on the life of the spirit, and under the influence of what the soul lives in, what happens in our minds and hearts, the spirit is formed and grows. And if our whole life, all thoughts and desires are directed towards the holy, good, great and true, then our spirit is strengthened more and more and, finally, receives great power over soul and body. For example, we know from the life of Saint Mary of Egypt about the power her spirit acquired over her body: it became weightless and rose above the earth, she, as if on dry land, passed through the waters of the Jordan. Such is the great life of the spirit, gradually freed from the bonds of the flesh and acquiring almost unlimited power over it.

In our life, something similar happens to what happens with a bunch of grapes. A grape bunch lives a life of beauty, purity, full of beauty. It ripens under the rays of the sun, feeds on the juices of the vine, and the grapes covered with delicate skin are irrigated with heavenly dew. But the bunch has ripened, and the time has come for it to be squeezed out and turned into insignificant remnants, doomed to rot. It died, but the juice continues to live, having given it life and a beginning.

While the bunch lived, a beautiful, subtle taste formed in the grape juice; similarly, our spirit is formed in the course of life, bodily and spiritual. And just as wine continues to live after the death of the bunch, and not only lives, but improves more and more, for the older it is, the more beautiful and precious, so our spirit, freed from the bonds of the body, will continue eternal and endless life, improving in the direction that a person chose during his lifetime. A good, holy spirit will be perfected in the kingdom of heaven, and an evil, gloomy spirit will forever suffer in the company of the devil, the father of all evil and darkness.

But here the Holy Apostle Paul reminds us of what we constantly hear from unbelievers who reject immortality: "But someone will say, 'How will the dead be raised? And in what body will they come?'" (1 Corinthians 15:35). “How can one believe that completely rotten human bodies can be resurrected and souls can again put on flesh? It is crazy to believe that a human body, torn to pieces by a wild beast and digested in its stomach, or swallowed by a shark and disappeared without a trace in its stomacha, can resurrect again.

But we unconditionally believe and are absolutely convinced of our coming resurrection. We just need to understand in what bodies we will be resurrected. When the Lord Jesus Christ, after His Resurrection, appeared to His disciples, His resurrected body possessed such properties that it did not have before: for example, it was able to pass through closed doors (see John 20:19) and become invisible. For when the Lord Jesus Christ, who met the apostles Luke and Cleopas on the way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, held a supper with them, they did not recognize Him until He, as at the Secret Supper, broke bread, blessed the wine and served them. But when the disciples recognized Him, He suddenly became invisible (see Luke 24:15–31). So, His image changed so that the apostles either did not recognize Him at all, or hardly guessed that this was Jesus Christ.

Here is what the holy Apostle Paul says about the resurrection of our bodies: "So it is with the resurrection of the dead: it is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" (1 Cor. 15:42–44). But first comes the natural, then the spiritual. It is necessary that human life should pass through the stage of the existence of a natural person; it is necessary that a natural person die, so that after that a spiritual body will be resurrected, similar to the spiritual body that the disciples saw with the resurrected Lord Jesus.

"As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man" (1 Cor. 15:48-49). Just as during our lifetime we were bearers of the natural image, so in eternal life we ​​will be bearers of the spiritual image. "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed —  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:50-52). Living people will suddenly change, natural bodies will turn into spiritual bodies capable of living in the Heavenly Jerusalem, "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:53).

“But,” the unbelievers will say, “how can this be?” And we will answer them: "It may very well be." For in our life, as I said, our spirit takes the deepest part, and it has an enormous influence on the body: it directs everything that happens in the body, all physiological processes. The spirit creates the body, the spirit in the body creates itself, its form. The spirit can create. The spirit rules over the matter of the body. Why is it impossible to admit that when the time comes for the resurrection of the dead and the corruptible puts on incorruption, immortal human spirits will not find all those elements, all those material particles of which our body consisted, and will not create our bodies again from the matter disintegrated into atoms, but no longer the former, natural, but new, spiritual? And this is not at all contrary to reason, as many serious philosophers admit.

Belief in immortality is the property of the vast majority of the most prominent philosophical minds. Only he who rejects everything spiritual can also reject immortality. And for us now a ray of eternal life has shone from the Tomb with heavenly light, for Christ has risen and by His very Resurrection has opened the way to resurrection for all of us. May it illuminate your hearts, may it penetrate into all the most remote nooks and crannies of your life, your thoughts and feelings. Let your faith in immortality and resurrection become a deep, insurmountable conviction. May our Lord Jesus Christ resurrect us all. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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