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Sunday, December 26, 2021

Homily on the Second Day of Christmas (St. Luke of Simferopol)


By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on December 26, 1951/January 8, 1952)

Holy and blessed night descended over Bethlehem, blessed Bethlehem. The night was like all nights: all the inhabitants of Bethlehem and all the multitude of people who came to the census slept in a peaceful sleep. The shepherds of Bethlehem dozed off by their sleeping flocks: the stars of heaven twinkled with a quiet light - as always, but meanwhile there has never been such a night and never will be from the creation of the world, for on this night in the manger, in the cattle corral, the Most Pure Virgin Mary gave birth to the eternal Word, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Suddenly the darkness of the night dissipated, suddenly a light shone more than any light - the Light that scattered all the darkness of the night. And suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared before the shepherds, “and the glory of the Lord shone on them; and they were afraid with great fear. And the angel said to them: "Do not be afraid; I bring to you tidings of great joy for all people: for now a Savior has been born in the city of David, who is Christ the Lord; and here is a sign for you: you will find the swaddling Baby lying in the manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God and crying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, to those in whom He is well-pleased” (Luke 2:9-14).

This is how the Lord Himself marked this great night, the night of the Nativity of Christ.

And people did not know anything about what happened with this the greatest of all events in the history of the human race. Only the shepherds recognized and ran, ran to where the angel pointed out to them, and were the first to bow down to the newborn Savior.

A little time passed, and another night descended over the unfortunate Bethlehem - a night of hellish darkness, a night of bloody darkness, a night of such horror and such grief that had never been experienced not only by Bethlehem, but by the whole world. For the blood of the unfortunate infants of Bethlehem poured in streams, being killed, being destroyed by the accursed soldiers of the accursed Herod, who wanted to kill our Savior Jesus Christ among the infants being killed.

Oh, what horror, oh, what darkness, oh, what an unspeakable cry that went up to heaven from Bethlehem! You mothers, you know how scary, how unbearable it is to see your infants die. You can imagine what was happening in the hearts of the unfortunate mothers, in front of whom Herod's soldiers stabbed the unfortunate infants, cut their necks, smashed their heads on a stone. They sobbed and cried out with such a terrible cry that ascended to the very throne of God. They tore their hair, tore their clothes, banged their heads against the walls, or prostrate themselves on the ground and banged their heads against the ground. After all, even we, hearing about this horror, cannot but cry, tears flow from our eyes.

And this terrible event was predicted for several hundred years by the holy prophet Jeremiah, who says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matt. 2:18).

Rachel is the God-given wife of the patriarch Jacob, the son of Abraham; Rachel, who here, near Bethlehem, gave birth to Jacob's second son, Benjamin, and died here, and was buried here, and to this day there is a tombstone on her grave. If Rachel wept for her children, if Rachel was tormented in the afterlife and wept for her descendants, what was in the hearts of those poor mothers whose cries the holy prophet had heard for hundreds of years?!infants

How can we accommodate this horror in our hearts? What shall we say to the accursed Herod, who committed such a great atrocity? O Herod, accursed Herod, servant of Satan, what have you done?! Why did you shed the blood of the infants of Bethlehem?!

God knows why, for with their blood the infants of Bethlehem redeemed the life of the Savior. And the accursed Herod did the will of his father the devil.

O Herod, why have you done such a terrible deed? Didn't you understand that a newborn baby cannot be your rival, take the throne from you, for infants do not sit on the throne? Was it not enough for you those days, long days, when you would sit quietly on your throne, if you did not seek to kill the Savior?

Why did the Lord allow such an atrocity to be committed? The Lord allowed it because the head of the ancient serpent, the devil, had not yet been crushed; he was still in his cursed strength, and this terrible atrocity was the work of Satan. It was he who arranged the slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem - it is he, he, the accursed one!

I do not say this on my own behalf, for in the Apocalypse of Saint John we read the confirmation of my words. This is what is written in chapter 12:

"A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who 'will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.' And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven... When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.... Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus." (Rev. 12:1-8, 13, 17).

Isn't this similar to what happened in Bethlehem? Didn't this red dragon in Bethlehem seek to devour the newborn infant Christ? Of course, this is the work of his cursed hands.

But did you pay attention to the last words of what I read about him: that when the ancient serpent, the ancient dragon failed to devour the baby born by the woman, then he turned all his malice against the woman's seed - these are all of us Christians who love Christ, who walked along the path of sorrow.

Know and remember that Satan will not leave you alone either: he will persecute you all your life, he will torment you, he will send troubles and misfortunes, tempting you with all grave temptations. He will always hang around you with his demons, constantly tempting you; will seek to ensure that you leave the path of Christ, that you cease to follow Him, so that you not do Christ's will, but his satanic will.

Remember the words of the Savior spoken by the apostle: “In the world of you will have sorrow; but take heart, for I have conquered the world."

And although they will persecute you, they will torment you, take heart, for Christ overcame the world. We will also defeat him, for Christ gave us strength to resist all temptations, all the slander of the devil. He gave us the sign of the Cross, gave us His holy name, with which we will quench all the firey arrows of the wicked one.

So, do not be afraid of Satan, always relying on the help of the One who was now born in the cave of Bethlehem, who has now come to earth to crush the head of the ancient serpent - the devil - with His cross. Trust in Him and walk the narrow path with a firm gait.

But remember that you do not need to be arrogant, you do not need to voluntarily fight the devil, for in the current reading of the Gospel you heard that when the slaughter of the Bethlehem babies was coming, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Saint Joseph, the Betrothed of the Ever-Virgin Mary, and commanded him to flee with the Child and His Mother to Egypt - commanded to flee from the wrath of Satan.

If this was commanded to Joseph, if the newborn Christ Himself was to be taken away, to save Him in Egypt, does this not mean that we should, when the need arises, be saved from the wrath of Satan.

We know from the lives of the saints, we know from the history of fierce persecutions against Christians that often bishops fled from their cities, hid in the mountains and forests, hiding from persecution, in order to be able to send messages from their secret refuge to their flock, strengthening and encouraging the faithful for heroic deeds.

They did not do this themselves; this is how God inspired them both in dreams and in the visions of the saints who were commanded to do this.

If the Savior Himself was saved from Herod in distant Egypt, then we also dare not be insolent, be arrogant, volunteering to fight Satan. We must patiently endure all those difficult trials that God sends to us on our life's path. We must bear the cross that Christ gives us, without inventing our own crosses, without daring to add our own self-willed sufferings.

Remember these two nights that descended over Bethlehem.

May the blissful night of the Nativity of Christ be a holy and bright memory for you, strengthening you in all trials and disasters.

And let the terrible night of the slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem be a reminder to you of how dangerous the wrath of Satan is for us.

Remember this and pray to our Lord and God Jesus Christ, that He may strengthen you in this incessant battle with the spirits of evil in heaven. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.   


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