January 28, 2024

Homily for the Feast Day of Saint Ephraim the Syrian (St. Luke of Simferopol)

Homily for the Feast Day of Saint Ephraim the Syrian

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on January 28/February 7, 1948)

Not a single month of the year is as saturated with the memory of well-known saints as January. In January, the Holy Church commemorates the great ecumenical saints: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, each individually and all three together; it celebrates the memory of Saint Gregory of Nyssa, brother of Saint Basil the Great, the memories of Saint Athanasios the Great and Cyril of Alexandria, and the greatest venerables: Theodosios the Great, Anthony the Great, Makarios of Egypt, Makarios of Alexandria, Euthymios the Great, Ephraim the Syrian.

This galaxy of God's saints illuminates us from the sky with the bright brilliance of the largest stars, and among them shines the bright star of Saint Ephraim. His birth was heralded by his mother by an extraordinary vision: she dreamed of a baby from whose mouth a grapevine grew; it spread rapidly and quickly and covered the entire earth with branches; wonderful grapes grew on it; birds flew from everywhere and pecked at the berries, but no matter how much they pecked, the number of berries did not decrease.

One holy father, laboring in the desert, saw a host of Angels descending from heaven and carrying a large scroll covered with writing on both sides. They asked each other: “Who can accept this scroll?” And there was a voice from heaven: “Only Ephraim, My chosen one.” And they brought Saint Ephraim, and they allowed him to swallow this scroll.

And a wondrous thing happened: like a vine that grew all over the earth, so were the wondrous words of Saint Ephraim. He preached tirelessly, incessantly. Thousands of people came to listen to him. And he not only preached, but also wrote a lot, and, by the grace of God, a considerable part of his holy works, comprising five thick volumes, have reached our time.

He wrote about the most important and necessary things for Christians: he explained the Holy Scriptures, denounced heretics, and called for the contrition of heart with which his soul was full. Tears always streamed from his eyes, but his face was light and beaming with joy. With great zeal, he always spoke about the need to maintain purity, for the heart of a Christian is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit cannot dwell where it is unclean. And the Venerable Ephraim taught how to maintain this purity.

Clean people, who care about the cleanliness of their clothes, try to avoid anyone who might stain them with dirt. It is impossible not to avoid uncleanliness: if we don’t leave, we will get dirty ourselves. Likewise, Christians should maintain purity of heart, staying away from those who are full of spiritual dirt. Do not mix with the crowd of wicked people, stay away from them so as not to become infected with the spiritual stench, seek communication with people who are pure, noble, and righteous before God. There are very few of them, but they are next to each of us. Cling to them with your heart. Go where it is pure, good, holy; do not go to those amusements and spectacles that the dirty crowd so craves, greeting with wild cries of delight what does not deserve greeting.

Beware of encounters that are dangerous to the soul. Fear those who can serve as the cause and occasion for a sinful fall. Often the dates of young boys and girls end in grave sin. Keep your sons and daughters away from them. Watch what they read, for young people are extremely susceptible to reading sensual novels, which corrupts souls, and the poison of fornication pours into their hearts from the pages of such books. The Lord has made you the guardians of their hearts. Think about what answer you will give before God if you yourself do not distance yourself from spiritual dirt and do not keep your children from it. After all, only by acquiring purity can we hope to enter the kingdom of God. Keep yourselves undefiled by the world, keep your children from all defilement by the uncleanness and abomination of this world. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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