April 17, 2020

Sixth Homily for Holy and Great Friday (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

"And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour" (Lk. 23:44).

The sun out of terror for what the murderers did, killing on earth the Son of God, hid its rays so that the most horrible of all the crimes ever committed on earth could not be seen. Out of fear and terror, the accursed lips of those who killed the Savior of the world were silenced, who had just mocked Him, saying, "He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him" (Matt. 27:42).

The time had come when the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ had reached its peak. Do you know why others who were executed on the cross hung on it for days until they died while our Lord died much faster, in just six hours? Did you know that too much pain, which lasts a long time, can alone cause death? This is exactly what happened to the Lord Jesus Christ. His torment and suffering were horrible because He was overwhelmed by such an unimaginably great burden of the sins of the whole world, for which He voluntarily sacrificed and redeemed them with His unblemished Blood.

The strength that remained in Him reached a point where He could only say His last words: "I thirst" (Jn. 19:28). "Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit" (Lk. 23:46). The earth shook and the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the unbelieving people, who did not accept the Messiah, left, beating their breasts. What did these foolish fanatics think, who had just cried out to Pilate, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" (Lk. 23:21). "His blood is upon us and on our children" (Matt. 27:25). Have they understood that it was Satan himself who was shouting these terrible words with their mouths?

The same people shortly before had received the Lord Jesus Christ in celebration, laying their robes on the street and holding palm branches in their hands and shouting, "Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel" (Jn. 12:13). This thing is very terrible, it shows how deep the evil spirit can enter the human heart.

But let us leave the foolish fanaticism of the enemies of Christ, who considered it a grave sin and the abolition of the Mosaic Law to cure on the Sabbath the paralyzed, the sick, those burdened with heavy illnesses, the demon-possessed, and the blind. Let us think about another kind of fanaticism that has existed in the history of the human race. Let us remember how many imaginary heretics died in the flames of the Holy Inquisition in Spain. Let us remember the night of Saint Bartholomew during which many French Protestants were massacred because of their heterodoxy. Let us remember the rivers of blood shed during the war, when Christians fought against other Christians for thirty whole years.

But let us look around us. We see that there are so many who are not heterodox but people who do not believe in Christ at all. There are also many about whom the Apostle Paul said: "Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:28-29).

There is nothing we can do to help these unfortunate people. We are only a small flock of Christ and we never forget the terrible words of our Savior: "When the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Lk. 18:8). We are all standing before the Epitaphion now. At this terrible moment, the Sacrifice is being taken down from Cross, which was done for our sins and those of the whole world. We see in the Epitaphion His dead body full of open wounds. Let this terrible spectacle cause the love of the Son of God to burn in our hearts, Who suffered so much from the people whom He came to save, but they did not accept Him.

Come all the faithful children of Christ to venerate the Epitaphion, to kiss it with our lips, to touch it with our hearts and to wet it with our tears. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.