July 24, 2023

Homily Two for the Feast of the Holy Prince Vladimir (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on July 15/28, 1957 - the 7th Sunday After Pentecost)
The beginning of the great activity of the Apostle Paul was initiated by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who appeared to him on the way to Damascus and completely changed his mind and heart.

Note: The Lord Jesus Himself pointed out to the Apostle Paul the work of his holy life, and Paul fulfilled it.

The great results of his preaching and suffering life were a great and God-blessed work for the rest of the apostle's life.

One of the greatest events in the history of the Church - the decree of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine, Emperor of Byzantium on the replacement of paganism with the Christian faith, also happened at the miraculous command of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, in broad daylight, erected in the sky before the eyes of Constantine and his troops a cross of stars with the inscription: "By this you will conquer."

This great event was preceded for three hundred years after the ascension of the Lord Jesus into heaven by the gravest deeds of tens of thousands of holy martyrs and confessors who offered the way to the Cross of Christ. And these martyrs were called by Christ to their podvig.

We see the call from God to the path of salvation and His grace-filled help in the biographies of many great saints, who diligently and steadily fulfilled the commandments of God, and in the lives of individual people.

As a particularly striking example of this, I will cite the calling of the Great Martyr Eustathios Plakidas by the Lord Jesus Christ. He was a famous Roman commander, but, despite his high position, he was unusually humble, merciful, kind and gentle to all people. Once, while hunting in the mountains, he got lost in pursuit of a deer, and suddenly he saw on the top of a cliff the image of the Cross of Christ, surrounded by a blinding light, and heard the words addressed to him: “Plakidas, a man of such a life as you, cannot worship idols, but must confess Christ.” “Who is talking to me?” Plakidas asked, and he heard: “I speak to you in the name of the One who created everything. Look in the city for a servant of Christ and be baptized.” Plakidas was baptized with the whole family, and their further life was unceasing suffering for Christ and ended with crowns of martyrdom.

So, you see that not only in great historical events pleasing to God, but also in the lives of individual righteous people, the beginning of great deeds is supposed and blessed by God Himself, but they continue and are fulfilled by holy people, with the assistance of God's grace.

Do we find confirmation of this rule in the great event of the baptism of Rus' by the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir? Yes, we do, but only in a slightly different form.

Long before the birth of Grand Prince Vladimir, God, who knows the hearts, ordained him to fulfill the great work of delivering the Russian people from the darkness of paganism and enlightening them with the light of Christ.

Grand Prince Vladimir belonged to the third generation of Kiev princes, and heredity and the example of his grandmother Olga, who had been enlightened by the light of baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity, were of great importance to him long before his birth.

Grand Prince Vladimir in his youth was not alien to the pagan vices of his environment, but he was distinguished by great mercy towards the poor, and of his five main wives, four were Christians.

Despite his youth, the Grand Prince possessed deep political wisdom and clearly understood that, remaining in paganism, the Russian people would be a stranger in the great community of European Christian peoples.

Isn't that why God, the Knower of Hearts, predestined him to be the executor of His will, like Constantine the Great Equal to the Apostles in the Byzantine Empire?

And he accepted the faith of his grandmother Olga - the Orthodox faith - and enlightened our ancestors with it, and the grace of God rested on him.

But the action of the grace of God was even more clearly revealed in the immediate consequences of the baptism of the people of Kiev performed by Vladimir.

Already forty years after their baptism, the Lord God raised up new executors of His will in the person of the great venerables Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves, who laid the foundation for the most important and holiest of all centers of monastic life - the Kiev Caves Lavra. From it shone and still does not fade bright as the sun, the light of the Orthodox faith.

Let us give great praise and honor to the Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir and Blessed Princess Olga, and to the Venerables Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves, who enlightened our fatherland and our country with the light of Christ, and let us offer immeasurable thanksgiving and glory to the Most Holy Trinity for showing us, sinners, the path to eternal life. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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