April 26, 2024

Homily Twenty-Six on the Passion (St. Luke of Simferopol)

Homily Twenty-Six on the Passion

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on March 2, 1958)

From Pilate's palace, where the unjust trial of our Lord Jesus Christ took place, and from the praetorium, in which Pilate's soldiers tortured Him, there was a long path outside the city, to the terrible Golgotha, where the death penalty was carried out.

This terrible, sorrowful path, Via Dolorosa, as the Roman Christians call it, had to be traversed by our Savior, the Son of God, carrying his terrible, heavy cross on His shoulders.

But He could not walk... After walking a few steps, He fell to the ground, and He had to be raised, removing the heavy cross from Him.

Why did He fall, why could He not carry the cross? Because before the start of His terrible journey, He underwent a terrible scourging with a terrible Roman scourge, which consisted of a short handle and a bunch of straps intertwined with iron wire, into which angular pieces of bones were inserted.

Pilate's soldiers beat our naked Lord with this terrible scourge, tearing off pieces of skin and even muscles.

This scourging was so terrible that sometimes criminals died under it.

According to Roman law, the death penalty was to be carried out only ten days after the verdict on it, but they could not wait for the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, because the great feast of Passover was already approaching. And therefore, immediately after the scourging of our Lord, they laid a cross on Him and led Him along the terrible Via Dolorosa.

But, beaten half to death, He could not walk, and kept falling.

The executioners were forced to help Him: they stopped a certain Simon of Cyrene coming from the field towards them and ordered him to carry the cross of Christ.

Freed from the terrible burden, the Lord walked ahead of Simon with difficulty, and His attention was no longer entirely focused on His grave torment. He raised His head and looked at the huge crowd of people accompanying Him to Golgotha. There were many women in it, bitterly crying and sobbing, looking for the last time at the Divine Sufferer, the Great Wonderworker and Teacher of God's highest truth.

The Lord, the knower of hearts, saw their kind and gentle hearts, their bitter tears and, turning to them, said terrible words: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:28–31).

Led to execution, the Savior of the world spoke to the women about the terrifying punishment that, 37 years later, befell Jerusalem, which did not recognize its Messiah and subjected him to crucifixion - this most terrible of all executions. He spoke of the indescribable horrors and suffering that the unfaithful people of Israel and all the daughters of Jerusalem would experience. He spoke of the siege of Jerusalem, begun by the Roman emperor Vespasian and ended by Titus. Then they called blessed those women who did not give birth and did not suckle, who did not boil their children and did not eat them, as did the mothers who gave birth and suckled during the terrible famine in besieged Jerusalem.

Even more terrible are other prophetic words of the Lord Jesus Christ about the days in which people, overcome with mortal horror, will "say to the mountains: 'Fall on us!' and the hills: 'cover us!' For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”

Didn’t He who had previously said about Himself: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6) have every right to call Himself a green tree, full of the sap of eternal life?

This prophecy of Christ refers to the time of His Last Judgment over the whole world. We read about it in the deeply moving words of the Apocalypse of John the Theologian, in the 6th chapter: “I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!'" (Rev. 6:12-16).

This is what Christ’s last terrible words meant: “For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?” ( Luke 23:31 ). Hot tears rolled down from the eyes of the daughters of Jerusalem....

Will they continue to follow the One who was led to the crucifixion and again lowered His holy head? Oh no, of course not! Can they see the most terrible of all crimes in the world? We will also stop with them, for only people with stony and cursed hearts, continuing along the Via Dolorosa, can look with evil joy at the crucifixion of the Most Holy of Holies - the Savior of the world; they may even viciously mock Him.

Let us move away from the terrible Golgotha, let us fall on our faces before the image of the Cross of Christ standing before us, and from our hearts shaken by pain, let us all sing: “We venerate Your Cross, O Mastery, and Your holy Resurrection we glorify.”

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos. 

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