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February 2, 2022

First Homily for the Day of the Reception of the Lord (Archpriest Rodion Putyatin)

 By Archpriest Rodion Putyatin

When King Ptolemy, the founder of the glorious library of Alexandria, set out to translate the books of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek, then seventy-two wise men were chosen from the Israelites, who thoroughly knew the Hebrew and Greek languages.

Among these seventy-two wise Israelites was one Symeon, a righteous and pious man (Luke 2:25). Translating the book of the Prophet Isaiah and dwelling on his well-known prophecy: "Behold, the Virgin in the womb will conceive and give birth to a Son" (Is. 7:14), he doubted this and, after thinking a little, took a knife and wanted to scrape out this verse as unworthy of probability. But suddenly an Angel appeared before him and, holding his hand, said: "Believe what is written; you will see with your own eyes the fulfillment of this incomprehensible prophecy." Symeon left it as it was and from that time began to expect the fulfillment of the words of the Prophet Isaiah and, thus, he waited.

In the Old Testament there was a law according to which women in childbirth who gave birth to male children could not come to church for forty days (this law is also observed in our country). On the fortieth day, they were obliged to appear in the temple to receive a purification prayer from the priest and to sacrifice two turtle doves or a lamb, depending on their wealth.

Jesus Christ was born, and when the fortieth day after His birth came, Mary and Joseph, fulfilling the law, take two turtledoves and went with the Infant Jesus to the temple. At the very time when they entered the temple, the righteous Symeon came there, by the inspiration of God, and saw the Infant Jesus. Taking Him in his arms and seeing in Him the joy of Israel, he exclaimed: "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; ... (Lk. 2:29-31). So, the words of the Prophet Isaiah came true, and what was predicted by the Angel was fulfilled: the righteous Symeon saw and received the Lord born of the Virgin; that is why this feast is called the Reception of the Lord.

Christian Listeners! The teaching of our faith contains many things that are mysterious and incomprehensible to our minds. Be afraid to doubt anything; as faith teaches, so believe. The incomprehensible cannot be comprehended and there is no need to comprehend. Let us not expect the miraculous appearance of some Angel who would enlighten us and interpret to us what we do not understand: we have an angel, a faithful mentor and interpreter - the Holy Church. We will obey her, we will trust her in everything.

Righteous Symeon before his death saw the fulfillment of an incomprehensible mystery, which he once dared to doubt. Before death, listeners, our eyes will also be opened, and we will know what we now do not want to know, and then we will be convinced of what we now doubt. Yes, before death we will know, we will be convinced that on the other side of the grave there is another life - eternal, about which we now care so little; we will know before death, we will be convinced that in the future life sinners will face eternal torment, which we now fear so little; we will know before death, we will be convinced that there is a Just God, repaying everyone according to their deeds, Whom we now fear so little; we will clearly recognize and then be completely convinced of everything that the Holy Church teaches us, to which we obey so little; but, alas, perhaps our eyes will not be opened to our joy. Righteous Symeon saw salvation before death, but the sinner will then see his own destruction; the heart of Symeon was filled with consolation, but the heart of the sinner will be filled with despair; Symeon said: "I am going in peace," but the sinner will be forced to say: "I am going in trembling, expecting torment in hell."

Oh Lord, let us repent before the end, do not let us die in sins, send us such a death as the righteous Symeon died, now open our eyes to us so that we can see and fear Your Last Judgment. Amen.