September 8, 2015

Homily Three on the Nativity of the Theotokos (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Crimea
(Delivered in 1956)

The vast majority of people, millions and billions of people, are common people, whom Holy Scripture calls "people of the earth" (2 Chron. 15:5). Why are they called this? Because they resemble gray grass or undergrowth. They don't have higher goals and aspirations in their lives, their minds are very superficial and only deal with living concerns, earthly goods and daily problems. But just as hills and mountains, which are covered with grass and shrubs, occasionally grow large cedars and huge oaks, so also among the people of the earth the Lord God reveals some very great people, who have a high intellect, deep thoughts and their words have great power. They have a very strong will and hold all scientific knowledge. Such people create a new, more perfect life, and they change the relationships between nations and peoples.

This of course is very important, but incomparably more important are those radical changes effected by God by even greater people, through the great ascetics of piety and righteousness, through the great hierarchs, the wonderworkers and venerable ones. In the works of the great philosophers there are many contradictions and often people, who think they could find through them the answer to the ago-old question "what is truth?", become frustrated. The history of science knows many cases when scientific theories, which were considered unwavering, lost their importance when confronted with the new achievements of science.

Things are completely different however in the area of the spirit, in the area of higher theological knowledge. There everything is unwavering and eternal. Not long ago we celebrated the day of the martyric death of the Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord John, about whom our Lord Jesus Christ said that among those born of women there has not appeared someone greater than him. In this manner the Lord placed him above all the important scientists, philosophers and artists. He who was maximally a bearer of the Holy Spirit in the greatest degree and a minister of higher truth, was revealed before all of humanity as the most worthy man.

Not long ago, on the day of the Dormition of the Theotokos, I told you how our Lord and God Jesus Christ placed His Forerunner above all who have been born of women, but this does not apply to the Most Holy Virgin Mary, because she is above even the Cherubim and Seraphim.

If we honor and celebrate with great respect the birthdays of great people, then with what joy should we celebrate today, where we honor the birthday of her from whom shone the Sun of Righteousness, our Lord and God Jesus Christ, Who received from her human flesh. In the dismissal hymn of this great feast we hear the wonderful words: "Your birth Theotokos proclaimed joy throughout the ecumene...." Not only for the human race, but for the entire ecumene, as well as the invisible world, for the world of angels, great joy shone forth today. Above all great people, therefore, even above John the Forerunner, above the Archangels and Angels, the Lord God placed the Most Holy Immaculate Virgin Mary. And rightly did He give her this place, because the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, in order for this woman to become the Mother of the Pre-eternal Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Most Holy Spirit of God made the heart of Mary to an unparalleled degree more pure than the hearts of all people. Our Lord Jesus Christ considers the purity of her heart most important of all, which is why in the Beatitudes He said: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). Uninterrupted communion with God, the vision of His face, is the greatest reward our Lord Jesus Christ promises to those who keep the nine commandments, which we call the Beatitudes.

Let us remember what our Savior says about the human heart. His words explain why He honors so much purity of heart. The Lord said: "For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come — sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, evil eye, blasphemy, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person" (Mk. 7:21-23). If this is the case and, according to the words of Christ, the roots of evil are in the human heart, then certainly from the same heart come all the good and pure thoughts and actions. Because the heart is the center of love and love is the fulfillment of the law.

The heart of the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary scattered light of exceptional purity and love not only throughout the earthly world, but the day of her glorious birth "proclaimed joy throughout the ecumene", the world of the invisible powers.

Brothers and sisters, let us also guard within our hearts the joy of this glorious and blessed day of her birth. Let us try with all our strength to always keep our hearts pure, that we may be worthy of the love of the Panagia, who always intercedes for us before her Son our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom, together with His Beginingless Father and Most Holy Spirit, belongs glory, honor and worship unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.