April 16, 2024

Homily Twelve on the Passion (St. Luke of Simferopol)

Homily Twelve on the Passion

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on April 8, 1951)

A hard, sorrowful path has been taken, the Via Dolorosa has ended.

They came to the terrible Golgotha, dug a hole, immersed the cross of Jesus in it and strengthened it.

They take off Jesus' clothes - that's it, all the clothes are taken off...

Oh my God! What are they doing?!

The angels, cherubim and seraphim who saw this covered their faces with their wings in horror. How could they see the nakedness of the One who adorned all the nature He created with indescribable beauty, and now stands naked and awaits a terrible execution!

Two soldiers lift Jesus to the cross, the other two stand on stools and with terrible nails nail to the cross those most pure hands, the touch of which restored sight to the blind, with whose wave the storm on Lake Gennesaret subsided and the wind stopped blowing.

The soldiers nailed the hands of Jesus.

They also nailed His feet with terrible nails...

The Divine body hung...

And the pain was so terrible, so unbearable!

How the nail wounds were torn apart under the weight of Jesus’ body!

It would seem that a groan should come from His chest - a groan of torment... But there was no groan, and instead of a groan the world heard that He prayed for those who crucified Him: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

And the six-hour indescribable suffering of the God-Man began.

Above His head on the cross was nailed a white tablet, on which was written in black: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

This was never written about those crucified: Pilate wrote this to vent out his anger on the scribes and high priests who betrayed Jesus to him.

He knew that the One who was loyal to him is righteous and innocent.

He did not want to crucify Jesus, he tried with all his might to save Him, but when he heard the provocative words: “If you let Him go, you are not a friend of Caesar,” then his hands gave up, then he did not dare to resist the Jews any more, but he expressed his irritation with them by venting through this inscription on the cross, for this inscription denounced the Jews who crucified Christ.

It was written that they crucified their king, and this was read by the Jews, who gathered in large numbers for the feast from all over the then world. They didn’t know what happened before the trial and at the trial, they read and thought: “Oh, who did you crucify!? They crucified our king!”

The scribes and Pharisees were worried: how could such an inscription be read by everyone?

They ran to Pilate and asked him: “Do not write: King of the Jews, but what did He say: I am the King of the Jews." Pilate answered: “What I wrote, I wrote” (John 19:21–22).

Having received such an answer, the worst enemies of Christ wanted to quench their anger and irritation with malicious ridicule of the crucified Jesus. They came to the cross and said: “He saved others, but He cannot save Himself. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and let us believe in Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God'” (Matthew 27:42–43).

And the crowd, the dark crowd, always under the influence of their leaders, always imitating them, picked up these mockeries - and the Jews passed by the cross in large numbers, and repeated the mocking words of the high priests and scribes.

And the rude soldiers who crucified Jesus imitated them in mockery.

But this is what we hear - we can’t believe our ears - we hear the voice of the thief crucified with Jesus: “Remember me, Lord, when You come in Your kingdom.”

Oh the miracle! O extraordinary, incomprehensible miracle!

When everyone mocked, when everyone was angry, then he, crucified with Jesus, confessed His Divinity, calling Him Lord, and turned to Him with a prayer to accept him into His Kingdom. And we hear the answer of the God-man: “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 20:42–43).

What is this, how do we explain this amazing incident, this confession of the Lord hanging on the cross?

It’s unlikely that with my weak mind I can explain this to you.

I will only say that we do not know exactly who this unnamed robber was: whether he was a real villain, a robber who killed people on the highway and robbed them, or something completely different.

Was it not Barabbas' accomplice who staged a rebellion against the Romans in Jerusalem with much bloodshed shortly before the last days of Jesus' life?

It is very possible that this was precisely Barabbas’ accomplice, and if he is called a robber, it is because people are accustomed to consider as robbers everyone who raises a rebellion and commits bloodshed.

Is this really so?

Don’t you know that those who raise uprisings, who create rebellions, are often not villains, but people imbued with a desire for the good of their people, trying to alleviate the lot of the people through a bloody rebellion?

These are not robbers or villains - these are morally often impeccable people.

Was this not what this repentant thief was like?

Could it not be that, being free, he heard the sermon of Jesus, was a spectator of His miracles and remembered all this, for the words of the Savior’s sermon penetrated deeply into his heart.

And now, when he saw that Jesus was condemned, like himself, to death, now his heart trembled, and the invisible light emanating from Jesus crucified on the cross, the Divine light penetrated his heart, it suddenly illuminated him, suddenly filled his heart with ardent faith.

Is this not how we explain this sudden, this amazing conversion of the thief, these amazing words: “Remember me, Lord, when You come in Your kingdom.”

Oh, what an example for us, who know from the Gospel everything that Jesus did, everything that He taught, the light of whose soul pours into our hearts in an unceasing stream from the pages of the Gospel.

Shall we, illuminated by this light, not exclaim together with the thief: “Remember me, Lord, when You come in Your kingdom!”

The great work of repentance of the thief was accomplished, the Kingdom of God was promised to him on the same day, all his sins were forgiven for this one sentence full of faith and love.

The words of the thief fell silent, and the answer of Jesus fell silent.

Little by little, the mockery of Christ in which His enemies poured out their malice began to subside.

Slowly, slowly, with terrible, unbearable slowness, the terrible hours of Christ’s suffering passed...

He suffered. He was tormented. He endured unbearable torment... But he endured everything...

The hours go by slowly...

It is already the sixth hour, and now “there was darkness over all the land.”

What does over all the land mean? The writers of that time did not know, of course, other places, no other land, except their own Palestine and the countries adjacent to it of the Roman Empire.

It was their whole land.

There is undoubted and reliable news from ancient Roman historians that on this very day and hour “darkness fell over the whole land and lasted until the ninth hour” (Mark 15:33).

What is the origin of this darkness? Is it possible to think that this was a solar eclipse? No, no way, no way: it was on a full moon day, and on full moon days an eclipse is impossible. It happens when the moon is invisible from the earth. The darkness of a solar eclipse occurs on the earth when the moon stands between the sun and the earth and casts its shadow on it.

What kind of darkness was this?

It was a miraculous darkness sent by God to the sinful earth; darkness similar to that darkness of Egypt, which was one of the ten plagues sent to Pharaoh and his people.

This was one of God's miracles. Jesus suffered, and those close to Him, who had hitherto stood at a distance and looked with horror at the crucifixion, taking advantage of the darkness, taking advantage of the confusion that gripped the enemies of Jesus, began to approach the cross.

And standing at the very cross was His Most Pure and Most Holy Mother, over Whom at that hour the terrible prediction of Symeon the God-Receiver on the Day of the Reception came true: like a two-edged sword, terrible grief pierced the heart of Mary.

She was silent, and Her silence expressed Her inexpressible sorrow incomparably more deeply than screams, cries and lamentations.

Standing with Her were Her sister Mary, Cleopas's wife, Mary Magdalene and Christ's beloved disciple John.

And here is a new outpouring of the Savior’s love, His grateful care for His unfortunate Mother. Turning His gaze to Her, He said, pointing in the other direction to John: “Woman, behold Your son,” and turning to John: “Behold, your Mother. And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:26–27).

How much love, oh, how much care and tenderness in the hour of the most unbearable suffering, as it was already nearing its end.

Terrible hours are coming... It's already the eighth, here comes the terrible ninth hour...

And the strength of Jesus is already running out...

A burning thirst dried up His lips and throat, and He cried out: “I thirst!”

And among the rude soldiers there was found a man who took pity on Him, stuck a sponge filled with water and vinegar on a reed, and brought it to the lips of Jesus. Jesus quenched His thirst, but His suffering had already reached an unbearable degree.

And the people heard terrible words from His mouth: “Eloi! Eloi! Lamma sabachthani?" which means: “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).

Terrible hours are coming... It's already the eighth, here comes the terrible ninth hour...

And the strength of Jesus is already running out...

A burning thirst dried up his mouth and throat, and he cried out, "I thirst!"

And there was found among the rude soldiers a man who took pity on him, and thrust a sponge filled with water and vinegar into his reed, and brought it to the mouth of Jesus. Jesus quenched His thirst, but His suffering reached an unbearable degree.

And the people heard the terrible words out of his mouth, saying, "Eloi! Eloi! Lamma savahfani?", which means: "My God! My god! Why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34).

Some are confused by these words: how is this, why did He forsake Him, why did He not alleviate His sufferings?

And what can we say to explain this perplexity? This was the way it had to be: God the Father could not and should not have alleviated His sufferings, for He suffered for the sins of all people, for the sins of the whole world hung upon Him and crushed Him, like the Pamir Mountains, with their terrible weight.

He Himself had to atone for all these sins with His suffering, He had to trample on the head of the ancient serpent the devil.

And for this it was necessary for the terrible prophecy of the great Isaiah to be fulfilled: “The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we were healed” (Is. 53:5).

This is the punishment for our sins, which is precisely why, because the sins of people are countless, the sins of all mankind, the punishment of our world on Him was so terrible.

The Hieromartyr Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, lived in the 3rd century, and this is what he said in explanation of these words of Jesus: “Why has the Lord been forsaken? So that we will not be abandoned by God; He was forsaken to redeem us from sins and eternal death; was forsaken to demonstrate the greatest love for the human race; was forsaken to prove the justice and mercy of God; to attract our hearts to Him, as an example to all sufferers.”

So that God will not leave us unless Christ takes away our sins from us sinners... To attract our hearts to Him.

And He attracted all hearts...

Will there really be at least one cold heart left? No, no, it can't be! All our hearts are filled with ardent love for Christ the Savior.

The terrible moment has come - the moment of Jesus’ death.

From the chest of the God-man, who suffered for the whole world, came a word that was supposed to shake the whole world, which is shaking the whole Christian world to this day: “It is finished.”

The great work of redemption of the human race was accomplished, and the earth trembled, the mountains shook and trembled, stones and rocks disintegrated, and the curtain in the temple of Jerusalem was torn in two - from the upper edge to the lower.

The centurion who commanded the execution and the soldiers who carried it out, seeing this happen, shuddered and were horrified.

And the centurion believed in Christ, exclaiming: “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).

And he was baptized in the Name of Christ, and ended his life as a martyr, for the enemies of Jesus, the scribes, the high priests and the Pharisees, did not tolerate the fact that the Roman centurion turned to Christ, they slandered him to Pilate, and he gave the order to cut off the centurion’s head.

O blessed martyr Longinus, teach us to exclaim, looking at the cross: “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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