April 25, 2022

First Homily on the Second Day of Holy Pascha (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on April 29, 1951)

"... I am with you always, even unto the end of the age. Amen" (Matthew 28:20).

Deep despondency and hopelessness took possession of the hearts of the apostles after the terrible crucifixion of their Teacher. Endless darkness settled in their hearts, for all their hopes for what they expected from their Teacher, Whom they considered the Son of God and the Messiah, collapsed. How could the word of Jesus, spoken so long ago by Him, be fulfilled now: “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt. 19:28).

Who will protect them from the terrible danger that threatens them from the murderers of their Teacher?! For if they killed Him, then, of course, they will not be spared either. This mood of the apostles was clearly reflected in the answer of Luke and Cleopas, whom the Resurrected Jesus met on the way to Emmaus: “But we hoped that He was the one who should deliver Israel” (Lk. 24:21) .

“But we hoped.... ” So, now their hope has disappeared. What should they do, poor and unlearned fishermen who have lost their Divine Teacher, whose mind and will they experienced? Everything collapsed, and hopeless darkness was before them.

But here is the amazing news that astonishes them. Mary Magdalene and other myrrhbearing women run with her with the news that the tomb of the Savior is empty, and they saw Him Risen and spoke with Him.

And fiery Peter confirms this, for he saw an empty tomb, and the Risen Christ appeared to him.

With the same message, Luke and Cleopas returned to the apostles from their journey to Emmaus.

Remembering the promise of the Teacher that after His resurrection from the dead He would precede them in Galilee, the apostles hastened there.

“And when they saw him, they worshiped him; while others doubted. And drawing near, Jesus said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the end of the age. Amen" (Mt. 28:17-20).

And suddenly their dead hearts came to life and kindled with a fiery hope for everlasting help from the light of their eyes, their Divine Teacher.

For forty days Jesus appeared to them, continuing to teach them and strengthening their faith.

And when the time came for His ascension to heaven, then the apostles heard His last great promise: “... you will receive power when the Holy Spirit descends on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

These great promises of the Savior were fulfilled, and the Holy Spirit descended on them on the day of Pentecost reminding them of everything they had heard from Christ, and made them fearless and mighty fighters for the truth of God.

After the murder of the First Martyr and Archdeacon Stephen, “there was a great persecution against the Church in Jerusalem, and all, except the apostles, were scattered in different places in Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1).

Such was the fortitude and courage of the apostles, who, of course, faced the greatest danger.

The hands of the apostles performed great miracles, and they fearlessly preached about the Lord Jesus Christ.

“The high priest, and with him all who belonged to the heresy of the Sadducees, were filled with envy. And they laid their hands on the apostles, and shut them up in the prison of the people. But the Angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison at night and, bringing them out, said: 'Go, and standing in the temple, speak to the people all these words of life'” (Acts 5:17-20).

With great boldness, the apostles answered the members of the Sanhedrin, who demanded of them that they should not dare to preach about Christ: “Judge whether it is fair before God to listen to you more than to God? We cannot but speak what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

Christ was with them, to whom was given all authority in heaven and on earth, and the Holy Spirit spoke through their mouths.

The twelve Galilean fishermen faced the seemingly impossible task of entering into an unequal struggle with the whole pagan world, with the mighty Roman Empire, with Greece, which gave the world great philosophers. And this task, to the amazement of the whole world, they victoriously fulfilled and hoisted the Cross of Christ over the new world.

Thus, the great promise of the Savior was fulfilled: “And lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the age.”

The chosen people of Israel throughout the days of the Old Testament were guided by God's power. By this power, the people of Israel, who were in bondage there, were freed from Egyptian captivity. This power dried up the Red Sea before them and drowned the pharaoh in it, who was pursuing them with a huge army. This power expelled from Palestine the pagan peoples who inhabited it, when the forty years of wandering in the deserts of the Jews ended, and they entered the promised land. This power protected Jerusalem from imminent destruction when Rabshakeh, the commander of the Assyrian king Sennacherib, came to it with a huge army and mocked the faith of the Jews in protection from Jehovah.

For this impudence and blasphemy, he was punished by the One Whom he reproached: in one night, the Angel of the Lord destroyed one hundred and eighty-five thousand people of the army of Rabshakeh and turned him into a stampede.

This has been repeated and is repeated even to this day.

In 626, the capital of Byzantium, Constantinople, was in mortal danger from the Scythians and Persians who surrounded it from the west and east. In horror and confusion, all the people prayed to God with tears in the Blachernae Church, and in the morning Patriarch Sergius plunged the robe of the Most Holy Theotokos into the waters of the Bosporus, and a storm suddenly arose, sinking all enemy ships.

In remembrance of this miracle of God's help, through the prayerful intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos, songs of prayer are performed to this day, called the "Akathist of the Mother of God" on the fifth week of Great Lent.

And our capital city of Moscow has more than once been saved from formidable enemies by the power of God and the intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos.

In 1521, the Tatars, led by Mehmed Giray, made terrible devastation and showed cruelty on the way to Moscow.

Grand Duke Vasily Ivanovich, with the people and the army, turned with a fervent prayer before the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, and suddenly the Tatars, who were about to burn Moscow, saw an uncountable army around them - and they fled.

Therefore, in the fate of entire nations, if they honor God and put their trust in Him in everything, we see the fulfillment of Christ's promise - "And lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the age."

But the same without a doubt applies to every person who has completely loved Christ and diligently walks along the path indicated by Him. And his fate, and the whole direction of life is always determined by the grace-filled influence of the Holy Spirit, creating in him everything good and pure.

Hope in God is never in vain. If only there was a person worthy of the Holy Spirit dwelling in Him, so that he would become a temple for Him, then there would be no need to worry about anything, and such a blessed one would be completely imbued with the holy word of the prophet David, who said: “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday” (Ps. 36:5-6).

Let us keep forever in our hearts the holy promise of the Lord Jesus: “And lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the age.” Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.