August 15, 2023

Homily One on the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered in 1948)

“Neither the grave nor death could contain the Theotokos, the unshakable hope, ever vigilant in intercession and protection. As Mother of life, He who dwelt in the ever-virginal womb transposed her to life."

It is necessary to explain this kontakion of the feast, because you understand little the Slavic language. The Most Holy Mother of God prays vigilantly for the human race, and our hope in Her intercession before Her Divine Son is unshakable. Death and the grave could not keep Her in their power.

We know from legend that when all the apostles were miraculously gathered to Her deathbed, the Apostle Thomas was missing: he arrived a few days later and in great sorrow asked to see at least the grave of the Theotokos. They rolled away the stone from the grave in the Garden of Gethsemane, where, according to the will of the Mother of God, She was buried, but Her body was not found.

The grave and death did not hold Her back, for She was the Mother of the Source of life, who inhabited Her ever-virgin womb, Who also delivered Her to eternal life. Let us dwell on these last, very important words. The death of the Mother of God was a blessed Dormition, in which, according to the unfalse word of Her Divine Son, She passed directly from death into life. For thus said the Lord: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).

The death of the righteous is a direct transition from life in the body, under earthly conditions, to eternal life in the Kingdom of God. We also know this from the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in His Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus: “The poor man died and was carried by the angels into the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died, and they buried him. And in hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:22-23). So, immediately after death, eternal blessed life began for Lazarus, and hellish torments for the rich man.

From the 20th chapter of the Revelation of John we know that there is a first death and a second death. The first death is that natural death with which the life of every person ends, and only this natural death, often a blessed dormition, overcomes the righteous. Serious sinners and blasphemers await a terrible second death, a spiritual death, to which they will be condemned by Christ at His Last Judgment.

You will say, “But will the righteous also be judged?” Yes, they will appear, but this will not be a judgment for them, but a triumph, for, according to the word of Christ, they do not come to judgment. Before pronouncing His Divine judgment, Christ will separate the sheep from the goats, and the sheep, i.e. righteous, He will set on His right hand and say to them: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). And the condemnation to a second death will befall only evil goats.

The ancient sage Solomon spoke about this deep secret: “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and torment will not touch them. In the eyes of the foolish, they seemed to be dead, and their exodus was considered death, and their departure from us was destruction; but they are in peace” (Wisdom 3:1–3).

And the holy apostle Paul said this: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Phil. 1:21–24). Oh, how marvelous are these words of the apostle: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Let us also imitate him, as he did Christ, may our life be all for Christ, and let death be a joy and a great gain, so the word of the Psalmist not overtake us: “The death of sinners is fierce” (Ps. 33:22).

May it also be for us Christians a blessed dormition and transition from death to life. May the expectation of the Last Judgment not frighten us, for it is terrible only for serious lawless people, for unrepentant sinners and blasphemers. And to us, Christians, the Son of God said, finishing His discourse about the signs of His Second Coming: “When this begins to come true, then rise up and lift up your heads, because your deliverance is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).

Live so that none of you suffers a second death!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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