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Wednesday, April 27, 2022

A Second Homily for the First Day of Pascha (St. Luke of Simferopol)


By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on April 25, 1954)

Our Lord and God Jesus Christ, after His resurrection from the dead, began to appear almost immediately: He appeared to the holy myrrhbearing women, the holy apostles; He appeared 40 days after His Resurrection, and there were many marvelous and incomprehensible things for us in His appearances.

What could we say to explain that when two disciples who were traveling on the road to Emmaus, after talking with Him, after supper, when they finally recognized Him in the breaking of bread, suddenly He became invisible?

How can we explain that His resurrected body had the ability to pass through closed and even locked doors? How can we explain the fact that He, not seen by anyone, not accompanied by anyone, traveled a long way from Jerusalem to Galilee, where He appeared to eleven disciples?

We will never find an answer to these questions anywhere and never, it is known only to the one Omniscient and Almighty God.

But we still have a number of questions that could be resolved, for although we, of course, are not able to understand the intentions, thoughts and deeds of the God-man, for His thoughts and His intentions are infinitely deeper and higher than our thoughts, but nevertheless there is no sin in trying with your weak human mind to understand something out of the many incomprehensible things in His manifestations.

It seems strange to us, according to our human judgments, that our Lord Jesus Christ appeared only to the myrrhbearing women and His apostles: it would seem to us, according to our short, shallow human judgment, that it would be more natural for the Lord Jesus Christ in all the glory of His Resurrection to appear to the people and thereby assure them of His Divine dignity.

But the Lord did not do this - He never appeared to the people. Why is this?

We can guess something about it. We can say that we know well from the history of mankind that all the great events in the life of mankind, the life of the world, become understandable only long after they have taken place. The contemporaries of these events, their eyewitnesses, are unable to understand the great events in the life of the world.

It takes long years, even centuries, sometimes even millennia, for the human race to understand the significance of the greatest historical events.

Only when looking at them from a historical perspective do they become understandable, and they are not at all understandable to contemporaries of events.

This fact, a psychologically and historically established fact, could be brought to understand why the Lord Jesus Christ did not appear to the people, as we would think He should.

Because this hard-nosed people, a disagreeable people who had just committed a terrible, amazing crime – this people, of course, could not understand that the Lord Jesus Christ was resurrected.

If the disciples of Christ themselves were trembling and bewildered at His appearances, if they did not believe their eyes, looking at Him; if they thought that it was only a phantom of Him, then how could a disagreeable people think otherwise?!

Of course, they would not believe! They would slander, blaspheme all the manifestations of the Risen Lord.

This small understanding can to some extent explain why the Lord Jesus Christ did not appear to all the people.

Why did He appear first of all to His myrrhbearing women, and of them first to Mary Magdalene, why not to His apostles?

Again, this is hidden from us, and we will not find a complete answer, but we can figure something out.

First of all, the fiery love of the myrrhbearing women, their first to come to the tomb of Christ: they were the first to take care to see the tomb, and none of the apostles did this.

That is why, by the manifestation of ardent, fiery love for Christ, it seems to us that the Lord as the Risen One should have appeared first to them, and not to the apostles.

We know that a woman's heart is very different from a man's heart; it is natural for men to perceive and cognize everything that happens before them, first of all with their mind and, to a lesser extent, with feeling.

This property of the male mind was especially clearly expressed in the way the Apostle Thomas reacted to the news that the Lord had risen and appeared to His disciples. After all, he said: “Unless I see the wounds from the nails on His hands, and put my hand in His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).

But the myrrhbearers are not so: with their hearts they grasped the truth much more easily and quickly. A woman's heart is characterized by this wonderful ability to understand everything important with her heart. Here is my weak answer to the second question.

And now I will try at least a little, to lift the veil over the question that many of you have: why did not the Lord appear before all to His Most Pure Mother? Why? Of course, we cannot fully answer this question, but again, we can consider something.

Is it possible that the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, in the gravest torment on the cross, showed touching love and care for His Mother, adopting His disciple John and she receiving care from him - is it possible that after such a manifestation of deep love for the mother, the Lord Jesus Christ, after the resurrection, did not first of all remember Her, His mother?! Nothing is said in Holy Scripture, not a single word in answer to this question. But after all, you heard many, many times at the Sunday Vigil the words with which the Gospel of the Apostle John the Theologian ends: “Jesus did many other things; but if one were to write about it in detail, then, I think, the world itself would not contain the books that were written” (John 21:25).

About many things, much is silent in the Gospel, about many acts of Christ there is not a word there. Why are many of His wondrous deeds silent? Why is there not a word about the appearance of the Lord Jesus to His Most Pure Mother?

He did not, of course, confuse Her with the myrrhbearing women — He did not appear to Her along with them, for His love for Her was infinitely higher. He had to appear to her, of course, separately, and what prevents us from believing that His love for His Most Pure Mother immediately after the resurrection led Him to that upper room of the house of the Apostle John the Theologian, in which she now dwelt?

It would seem that there is no doubt that it was so: He, of course, appeared to her, but why didn’t she tell anyone about this? Because from the Gospel stories about her we know that she was deeply silent. She was silent at all the greatest events of her life and the life of her divine Son. She was silent, she only added in her heart all the great words that she heard about her Son, all the great deeds that she saw.

She was silent, she was always silent. Why do we think that she should have broken her silence when the Resurrected Jesus appeared to her?

After all, the resurrection of her Son was not unexpected for her.

The apostles, as it is said in the Gospel, did not understand the words of Christ when He said that He would be put to death, that He would be spat upon, beaten, lashed, crucified - this did not fit into their consciousness. They even forgot that He said firmly and clearly: "And on the third day I will rise again."

The Most Holy Theotokos did not forget anything; she kept all the words of her Son in her heart and kept them in silence.

Therefore, let us believe that our Lord and God Jesus Christ appeared first to Most Holy Theotokos after the Resurrection.

And now let us remember the words of Christ when He appeared in Galilee to the eleven disciples, let us remember that His speech addressed to the apostles ended with precious words for us: “And lo, I am with you always, until the end of the age. Amen" (Mt. 28:20).

Oh Lord, Lord! Did You say this to the apostles alone, didn’t You say it to all who believed, didn’t You say it to all who loved You with all their hearts? Won't You appear to us, didn't You appear many times? Won't You always be with us?

We know that You appeared in Your true Divine-human form to Your great saints.

We know how the Monk Seraphim of Sarov, being a hierodeacon, recited the litany on the pulpit and suddenly fell silent, and looking up: he saw Christ.

Don't you know that He appeared to many martyrs and Himself supported them. So, this promise is not false: “And lo, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

But you, bowing your head, will say: “Does He appear to us, sinners?”

Yes, yes, He appears to you, to very many, perhaps even to everyone, but He appears not in the same way as to the holy martyrs, as to Seraphim of Sarov - He appears not in the form of the God-man, but in a completely different way.

To understand this, let's turn to the 1st Book of Kings, which tells how the great prophet Elijah fled from the wrath of the accursed queen Jezebel, who thirsted for his blood, how he came to the holy mountain Horeb, and this is what happened on this mountain. Elijah heard the voice of God: “Go out and stand on the mountain before the face of the Lord, and behold, the Lord will pass, and a great and strong wind will tear apart the mountains and crush the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord is not in the wind. After wind, an earthquake; but the Lord is not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, the fire; but the Lord is not in the fire. After the fire, a still small voice, and the Lord is there” (1 Kings 19:11, 12).

Hear now, the Lord does not show His power only in the terrible phenomena of nature - He is characterized by one more phenomenon, the most important, the most precious for us.

After all, He said that in the still wind that touches our face, it is in this blow that He is the Great God Himself.

Remember this, remember that the appearance of Christ to us sinners happens like this, just like this, exactly in the form of a “still small voice”, in the form of a gentle and quiet touch.

This is how He appeared and still is to many of us.

Oh, if we all were attentive to this "still small voice", to this Divine breath that touches our face.

Oh, if only we would remember this, oh, if we would always understand and think with trembling and great joy that in this subtle breath of the wind is God, that this is our Lord and our God Jesus Christ.

Let us be attentive, let us observe with deep concentration, and in no way let us miss this appearance to us, who are sinners and unworthy, of the Lord Jesus Christ in the form of a "still small voice", and then we will be sanctified and blessed by the Lord Jesus Christ, now Risen into His great glory, to great joy for us who are perishing. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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