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April 10, 2022

Third Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent (St. Luke of Simferopol)

“There is Neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal. 3:28)
By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on April 15, 1951)

In today's apostolic reading, you have heard the great and holy words of the Apostle Paul: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

The apostle speaks of the highest form of unity, unity in Christ Jesus. We need to delve into the deep, sacred meaning of his words, we need to understand what kind of unity he is talking about, for people have very different forms of unity and oneness.

There is a terrible and evil unity and oneness between those who are looking for opportunities to rule over all peoples and exploit them in an insatiable thirst for gold. They need atomic bombs and terrible planes that bring death from the sky to peaceful people.

There are other forms of unity - the unity of those oppressors of the colonial countries who strive with all their might to depersonalize, belittle the weak peoples who are at a low level of culture, strive to appropriate their enormous natural wealth, to rule with their strength over their weakness. This is also an evil union.

But it is not only evil, it is also infidelity, for all the tyrants and exploiters who rob weak peoples, although they are united among themselves by this desire, nevertheless constantly quarrel and fight over booty. This unity is evil and false.

There is another kind of unity - a unity that is now commonly called a kind, good word - of ordinary people, the unity of those 500 million who unanimously demand peace and protest against war.

And there is no doubt that to these 500 million it is possible and necessary to add tens of millions of those who are united with them, but who are not allowed to express their protest against the war, are not allowed to strive for peace.

This is a good unity, a pure unity of people who do not rob anyone, do not exploit, do not rape anyone. This is a unity of honest workers, who work hard.

Well, is the holy Apostle Paul talking about this good unity? No, not about that. Although this unity is pleasing to God, it is not what Saint Paul is talking about. He speaks of that unity, which is immeasurably higher than this good and pure unity: he speaks of the unity of people in love for Christ and for each other, which unites those who follow Christ.

In his epistle to the Ephesians, he says: “But now in Christ Jesus, you who were once far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ ; the blood of Christ has united them, gathered them together. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace...” (Eph. 2:13–15).

He destroyed the barrier that stood and still stands between people alien to God. He broke down the barrier of contempt, arrogance, even hatred of those who believed in God for those who were pagans. How? By His Cross, by which He united all.

How did He unite all those who believed in Christ with the cross?

By that Divine love, which pours out on humanity from the terrible cross of Christ in an immeasurable stream.

The Cross of Christ shook the hearts of all the good, all the pure, all those who hate violence, all those who bow before the highest truth and virtue.

The love of Christ poured out into their hearts, into the hearts of all without distinction: into the hearts of Jews and Greeks, of men and women and children, for the Lord captured everyone, united everyone with His holy love.

This form of unity in Christ of all nations is the highest form of unity.

There was no longer a division between Jews and Gentiles, because many of them believed in Christ and became equally close to Him and loved by Him.

There is no slave and free, for slavery has disappeared, oppression has disappeared, which in the early days of Christianity existed for a long time even among Christians, for slavery was such a firmly rooted institution of social life that even Christianity could not soon destroy it .

The Apostle Paul writes about the Christian slave Onesimus to his disciple Philemon, so that he would accept him, not as a slave, but as a kin, as a brother.

This is how the attitude towards slaves changed. The apostle demands that even slaves be treated as free.

"There is no male nor female."

Yes, and women have now become one with men in faith, they have become equal with men before God, before Christ, whom they loved with all their hearts.

We are now celebrating the memory of the greatest venerables - Mary of Egypt. Tell me, was this great saint really any lower than the greatest venerables Anthony, Euthymios, Paisios, and our venerables Anthony, Seraphim of Sarov and Sergius of Radonezh? Oh no, she even surpassed these great saints in many ways.

And the Lord raised up from a female even three Equal-to-the-Apostles: Mary Magdalene, the First Martyr Thekla, and Nina the Enlightener of Georgia.

So, all became equal before God, all became loved by Christ, because they loved Him. All are awarded such a great honor, such glory, which cannot be higher, the glory about which the holy Apostle John the Theologian wrote in his great Gospel: “He came to his own, and his own did not receive him. And to those who accepted Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the power to become children of God ... ” (John 1:11-12).

Oh Lord, Lord! What power have You given to people who have loved You and believed in Your Only Begotten Son: You have given the power to become children of God!

And Christ Himself once said to His disciples, and in their person to all those who loved Him, to all who completely surrendered themselves to His will: “You are My friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I call you friends because I told you everything that I heard from my Father” (John 15:14-15).

Christ calls His friends all those who love Him with all their hearts. This is the greatest and most holy form of unity available to us – unity in love, with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and through Him also with each other.

To those who are worthy to be partakers of such unity, the holy Apostle Peter wrote: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy people, a people taken as an inheritance in order to proclaim the perfections of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light; once not a people, but now the people of God, who once did not have mercy, but now they have received mercy."

Listen - this is what the apostle tells you, you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, special people, taken in inheritance.

Well, if Christ has bestowed such an immense honor on us, then let us think how great, how awesome is our responsibility before God and people, if we unworthily bear this greatest title of friends of Christ, the royal priesthood, the holy people, people taken as inheritance.

And the same apostle Peter admonishes us: “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:9-12) .

This is what Saint Peter commands us - he commands us to be worthy of the greatest title of children of God and friends of Christ. He commands to preserve, as the greatest shrine, that highest, most holy form of unity, which has become possible for people who have believed in Christ.

Let us remember this, remember that our hearts must be temples of the Holy Spirit, and not temples of evil, not an abode of demons.

May everyone wash with tears of repentance their filthy sins, of which we have so many.

May we all ask for the help of Him Who taught the world the highest form of unity and oneness and accepted us into His love.

For He will help us in the great work of prayer, which purifies and sanctifies our hearts.


Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.