December 24, 2023

The Ecumene is the Church That Christ Established (St. Luke of Simferopol)

The Ecumene is the Church That Christ Established

A Homily on Luke 2:1

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on February 19, 1948)

Why does it say in the ninety-second Psalm: “For He has established the ecumene, which shall not be moved” (Ps. 92:1), and in the ninety-fifth: “For He has established the ecumene, which shall not be moved” (Ps. 95:10)? In Church Slavonic, “утверди” and “исправи" ["ἐστερέωσε" and "κατώρθωσε" in the Septuagint]. But there is nothing to be perplexed about. You need to know that the word “утверди” means almost the same as “исправи” - to make her right, to establish her on her path. Therefore, there is no disagreement.

What ecumene is the psalmist David talking about? Is it the one we mean by this word? Now the word “ecumene” means the entire universe, everything created by God, the countless world of heavenly bodies: the sun, the moon, the stars. And at the time when the prophet David wrote, the word “ecumene” had a different meaning.

You have heard the prokeimenon: “Their message went out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the ecumene” (Ps. 18:4). This is said about the apostles. But did the preaching of the apostles reach all the stars of heaven? Here we must understand only the earth, as in ancient times. Even more narrowly, the ecumene was understood as the Roman Empire. Thus, in the Church Slavonic text of the Gospel of Luke we read that Augustus decreed for “all the ecumene should be registered” (Luke 2:1). Was there a census in America, Africa and Australia? The census was done only in the Roman Empire.

But in these Psalms the word “ecumene” must be understood even differently, as the interpreters of the Psalter teach. Euthymios Zygabenos and Bishop Eusebius say that by the ecumene we must understand the Ecumenical Church, founded by the Lord Jesus Christ. It was the Church that the Lord established forever so that “the gates of hades will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). For its cornerstone is our Lord and God Jesus Christ Himself. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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