Pages

Sunday, May 1, 2022

On the Resurrection of the Dead: A Homily for Antipascha (St. Luke of Simferopol)


By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on May 6, 1951)

The universal message of the Holy Apostle Peter begins with the words: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who in His great mercy has regenerated us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead into a living hope...” (1 Pet. 1:3).

The apostle says that they, the holy apostles, were dead.

Why are they dead? Because after the terrible crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, their hopes collapsed, and everything was covered with impenetrable darkness - there was no hope, everything collapsed.

How could that promise of Christ, which He gave them in answer to the question of the Apostle Peter, be fulfilled in them:

"Behold, we left everything and followed You; what will happen to us?"

Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you that you who have followed me are in everlasting life, when the Son of man sits on the throne of his glory, you will also sit on the twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:27, 28).

The holy apostles deeply believed that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the Son of God. And yet?! He is nailed to the cross, He is buried.

How, how is it possible to survive?! What heart can withstand such a terrible test?!

But when the Lord arose, then immediately they rose from the dead: He raised them with His resurrection.

And we, all of us who have believed in Christ, would also be dead if Christ had not risen, for our spirit requires, as an unconditionally obligation, immortality. Our spirit cannot in any way reconcile itself to the fact that such great righteous people, such as, for example, our Venerable and God-bearing Father Seraphim of Sarov, simply die, disappear, sink into some kind of abyss of non-existence.

After all, our heart demands, it certainly demands that the evil deeds of evil people be punished, because in this life, as we often see, they very often go unpunished.

The heart demands that the sufferings of the righteous be rewarded with eternal heavenly joy.

If Christ had not risen, then these hopes would have collapsed just as the hopes of the holy apostles collapsed.

This is what the Holy Apostle Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians:

“If it is preached about Christ that He has risen from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is also in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:12-14).

What would we then believe if Christ had not risen? How could one believe in eternal truth, in God's absolute justice?

If Christ had not been resurrected, then all the preaching of the apostles about Christ would have no power. Our faith in Him would be vain, hopeless, for "if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not risen."

If one does not believe in the resurrection of the dead, then God could not resurrect Christ, therefore those who died in Christ would perish.

That is why the feast of the Resurrection of Christ fills our hearts with such great joy, because Christ, by His resurrection, confirms that there will be a general resurrection, for He was the first of the resurrected.

The firstborn is Christ, then comes those who belong to Christ at His second coming.

This is our faith. This also explains our bright joy on the great day of the Resurrection of Christ.

“But someone will say, 'How will the dead be raised? and in what body will they come?'" (1 Corinthians 15:35).

This is the question that all unbelievers until now ask, considering the resurrection of the dead impossible.

What nonsense, they say, to believe in the resurrection of those people who were torn to pieces by wild beasts? How can you believe that a person will be resurrected, swallowed by a shark, or burned without a trace in the fire?

It seems to them that the power of this question is irresistible, that no one can answer this question.

We will not answer it - the Apostle Paul will answer:

"Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain — perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body” (1 Corinthians 15:36-38) .

The grain thrown by the sower into the plowed land ceases to exist as grain: it disintegrates, decomposes, it seems to die, but only as it were, because the great forces of life are embedded in it. From a grain that has ceased to exist, by the power of God grows a large, beautiful, useful and necessary plant for us.

Not from every seed is the same plant, but the Lord gives each by His life-giving power a special body: a special body for an ear of wheat, a special body for oats, a special body for a bush. Where are all these bodies from? From a seed that has died.

By whose power do these new bodies grow and appear? Of course, by the power of God, the power of the Holy Spirit, which lives in every cell of both animal and plant organisms.

So it is with the resurrection of the dead. “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.” A dead human body is buried in the ground, sown in corruption - “sown in humiliation”, for what can be more humiliated than a human corpse that begins to rot - but “rises in glory; sown in weakness, raised in strength a spiritual body is sown, a spiritual body is raised. "There is a natural body, and there is also a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).

Here are the words you all need to understand from the apostle and firmly remember: "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body."

The body of the soul is our current body, it is flesh and blood; these are bones, muscles and entrails. The Apostle Paul says that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). And natural bodies doomed to corruption cannot inherit incorruption.

How are we to understand these words?

Let us remember in what body the Lord Jesus Christ was resurrected, in the same one in which He lived before His death?

No, in another, in a new body, in a body that possessed extraordinary properties that it did not possess during life.

The body of the Risen Savior miraculously passed through closed and locked doors.

We also know that the apostles of the Risen Jesus did not recognize Him, just as Luke and Cleopas, who were on their way to Emmaus, did not recognize Him when He joined them on the way and talked with them for a long time. They recognized Him only when He broke bread with them as He broke it at the Secret Supper. But immediately He disappeared from their eyes. Here is another new property of the body of Christ after His Resurrection.

So, the body of the Risen Lord was not a natural body, but a spiritual body.

The bodies of all resurrected people will be similar spiritual bodies.

When will they be resurrected, and by what power? Of course, only by the power of God.

They will be resurrected as the holy prophet Ezekiel saw, to whom the Lord showed a field full of bones.

“The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.”’ So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”’ So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army” (Ezek. 37:2–10).

Here is a wonderful picture of the resurrection of the dead by the power of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

But at the time of the Last Judgment, not all of humanity will die, there will be many living. What will happen to them?

This is what the Holy Apostle Paul said: “I will tell you a secret: we will not all die, but everything will change, suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

Natural bodies will turn into spiritual bodies.

What will happen is what was said in the Revelation of God to the Holy Apostle John the Theologian: "Behold, I am making all things new."

Everything will perish, everything will be burned by fire. The sun will fade, the stars will fall, everything will perish, and the Lord will create everything new - a new heaven and a new earth, a new universe.

He will create by His Divine power also our new spiritual bodies – not soulish, but spiritual, for flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, but must become spiritual.

This I have given you from the Holy Scriptures, which I think is completely sufficient for all those about whom Christ said that only those will inherit the Kingdom of God, who will humble themselves like children, who will listen to the Holy Scriptures with childlike confidence and simplicity.

All of you, I think, are like this: you do not criticize Holy Scripture, you do not call it fairytales and fables.

And good for you!

Be like children, humble yourself before God, as tiny children humble themselves before their parents.

But outside the church there are many proud people who do not want to be humble, like children who do not want to believe unconditionally the words of Holy Scripture .

Perhaps there are such people in the church now.

And I will answer them, for the answer from the Holy Scriptures is not intelligible to them. I will give them a different answer - from philosophy.

It is said that it is senseless to believe in our afterlife, because the science of physiology has proved with exhaustive accuracy that all mental life is connected with the activity of the brain.

Therefore, we are asked how it is possible to believe in some kind of other life, when the human brain rots, when the ability to think disappears, when the heart stops and all life of feeling ceases.

Yes, we know physiology no less than they do, and perhaps much more, and we answer: you do not believe in anything spiritual, you believe only in the material, in what you can see with your eyes, you can hear with your ears, touch with your hands .

Well do you believe this; and we believe it.

But besides this material world, there is another world for us, immeasurably more important and huge - the spiritual world.

On earth, the only creature that has spirituality, rationality, is man. Man is the only creation of God on earth endowed with a spirit.

But is it really possible to think that everything ends with a person, this first beginning of rationality and spirituality?

It would be impossible, even from the point of view of the law of evolution, in which you, materialists, believe.

The law of evolution requires an endless progress of forms and beings.

How can it be, from the point of view of this law, that all rationality stops with a person? This is meaningless from the point of view of evolution: this law requires that there be other forms of rationality and spirituality, immeasurably higher than our spirituality and our rationality.

This law even requires faith in the existence of incorporeal spirits, angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, who in spirituality are getting closer and closer to God, and we, people, are only the beginning of spirituality.

So, spirits certainly exist, and what the Holy Apostle Paul repeats twice in his epistles is undoubtedly true.

He wrote that the human being is tripartite and consists of body, soul and spirit.

The materialists talk about the body, and they talk about the soul when they talk about the complex work of the brain and our senses.

But we go much further, we say that in addition to this soul, which is recognized by materialists, only otherwise called, there is a spirit.

We will find much about the spirit in Holy Scripture; we find that in Scripture two words, spirit and soul, often replace one another.

But let us find other places where it is clear that the spirit is something different from the soul.

And from the new science of Parapsychology we know that the manifestations of the spirit are amazing, extraordinary, mysterious and at the same time irrefutable.

We learn that the spirit can lead an independent existence, leaving the body at times and wandering somewhere in the boundless distances; that the spirit has great power over the body, that it controls all the functions of the body; that the spirit pervades every cell of the body; that the spirit must form the body.

If, as is certain and recognized not only by philosophers, but also by other scientists, the spirit has a great power to influence the body, why can't we think that the resurrection of the dead will take place by the power of the spirit?

You have just heard in the wondrous vision of the prophet Ezekiel how he was commanded to call the spirit from all four corners, so that the spirit would enter the bodies clothed in flesh and skin, and they would come to life. They were revived by the spirit.

This should be tried to be understood by people who consider our belief in immortality meaningless. It must be understood that the spirit has tremendous power and an unlimited ability to give life to the body, even to revive the dead, even to resurrect the dead.

You, good simple people, you, believers with childish faith, do not need all this science that I have just outlined.

I did not say this for you, but for those who are proud and put their mind above all else.

And you, my beloved and close to my heart, always remain with your child-like faith.

Believe with all your heart that Christ is risen and we will all rise again by the power of God.
 
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.