June 1, 2022

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

Explanation of the Words of the Savior to Mary Magdalene: 
“Do Not Touch Me”
By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Homily Delivered on May 25, 1952)

Holy Scripture, and above all the New Testament, is our greatest treasure, it is the most precious thing on earth for us.

For only from the words of God, embodied in Holy Scripture, which is written by the Holy Spirit, do we learn the most important and most necessary for us - we learn first of all about the meaning and tasks of our life, for those who do not know the word of God, and even more reject it, human life is often presented as devoid of meaning, or even full of evil meaning.

In their ignorance, they do not have a firm support for determining their attitude to the world, as we have this support, for the Lord Jesus Christ and His holy apostles showed us the path of life, indicated everything that we should do, indicated everything that God hates, and what we should avoid.

And if so, if Holy Scripture is the most precious guide to our life, to our moral behavior, then shouldn't we treat everything that we read in the word of God with the greatest reverence and fullest attention?

But even those of you who constantly read the Holy Scriptures often find places in it that are inaccessible to their understanding.

There is something mysterious in Holy Scripture, and above all in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, for the Lord Jesus Christ could not speak completely openly, clearly and simply about the greatest mysteries of God.

He could only speak about these great mysteries in secret, and therefore it is necessary for us to delve into every word of Christ, and especially into those words of the Lord Jesus that seem obscure and not entirely understandable, with all the power of our understanding.

But you yourself will not be able to clarify for yourself, to understand everything that is unclear, that is hidden. God has appointed for you shepherds, and teachers, and archpastors, whose duty is to explain the Holy Scriptures to you, to help you comprehend all that is not easy to comprehend.

To do this, your teachers and pastors must themselves have a deep theological erudition, a complete knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and the works of the Holy Fathers.

So it is my duty to explain to you one passage from the Gospel of the Apostle John the Theologian, which you heard yesterday at Vespers.

You have heard the story of how Mary Magdalene on the first day of the week, i.e. on the day of the resurrection of the Lord, she went to the tomb and did not find the Lord Jesus there, but saw only two angels sitting on a stone.

Being in deep sorrow, in confusion, she turned back and suddenly saw the Lord Jesus standing in front of her, but she did not recognize Him, just as the holy apostles did not recognize Him when He appeared to them, just as the apostles Luke and Cleopas did not recognize Him when they went to Emmaus, and He went up to them and accompanied them.

Without recogning the Lord Jesus, Saint Mary mistook Him for a gardener and asked: “Sir! if you carried Him away, tell me where you put Him, and I will get Him” (John 20:15).

The Lord addressed Mary Magdalene with only one word: “Mary!” But this word was spoken in such a way that it immediately penetrated into her heart, and she suddenly recognized the One Whom she took to be the gardener, the Lord Jesus Himself.

She exclaimed, "Rabbi," and rushed to Him to kiss His feet.

But the Lord suddenly suddenly pushed her aside and said to her: “Do not touch Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to my brothers and say to them: I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God” (John 20:17) .

So I want to explain to you why the Lord Jesus Christ forbade Mary Magdalene to touch Him, why He sent her to His disciples to announce what He commanded her?

After all, we know from the narration of other evangelists that the Lord appeared to other myrrhbearing women, and to the apostles themselves, and He did not forbid them to touch Him. So, we read from the Evangelist Matthew, how it was no longer Mary Magdalene, but other myrrhbearing women who learned from the angel that the Lord had risen - “When they went to announce to His disciples, behold, Jesus met them and said: 'Rejoice.' And they approached, took hold of His feet, and worshiped Him” (Matt. 28:9).

You see, the Lord did not forbid them to grasp His feet and kiss them, but Mary Magdalene was forbidden.

We read from the Evangelist Luke that when the apostles Luke and Cleopas recognized Jesus Himself in the breaking of bread and believed in His resurrection, they immediately returned to Jerusalem to the apostles and told about it.

And suddenly, when they were speaking, He Himself, “Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them and said to them: Peace be with you, ... Look at My hands and at My feet; it is I myself; touch Me and see; for the spirit has no flesh and bones, as you see with me” (Luke 24:36-39).

He himself suggested: touch - feel with your hands, lest you think that this is not I, the living Jesus, but only a ghost.

You also know that the holy apostle Thomas was not present with the other disciples at that time: the Lord Jesus appeared to him together with the other apostles only eight days later and said to Thomas: “Put your finger here, and see my hands; give me your hand and put it in my side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27).

He offered to put his finger into His wounds, and forbade Mary Magdalene to touch Him.

What does this mean, why did He forbid Mary to touch Him? We find the answer to this in the words of the Lord Jesus Himself, immediately after that was said to Mary: Do not touch Me, because "I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brothers, i.e. to the apostles, and say to them, I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.”

This is how the Lord Himself explained the prohibition to touch Him.

Therefore, it was impossible to touch, because He had not yet ascended to His Father and His God.

How to understand it? Nowhere in Scripture is it said, no one anywhere taught that the Lord Jesus Christ immediately after His resurrection ascended into heaven to His Father and only after having fellowship of love with His Father did He allow people to touch Him.

And I think that Mary Magdalene came directly after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

He had just risen, He had not yet ascended to the Father and His God.

He says: Go to the apostles, to my brothers and say: "I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God."

And so, from these words of the Lord Jesus Himself, we learn that before His final ascension to heaven, when He left the earth forever, He ascended to the Father directly after His resurrection.

This, so to speak, was His first ascent.

This is not my arbitrary thought, these are the words of the Lord Jesus Himself: "I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God."

How can we understand this ascent? Why was it necessary, and where did our Lord Jesus ascend?

We know that God is omnipresent. Yes, He is omnipresent, and by His omnipresence He, by His omniscience and reason, by His Divine will, guides everywhere the life of the world and mankind.

Where, then, did the Lord Jesus have to ascend, if God is omnipresent by His omniscience, His mind, His will, His love?

From the words of the holy Apostle Paul, addressed to his disciple, Bishop Timothy, we know that "God lives in unapproachable light." By His nature, His spiritual essence, His hypostasis, He is not everywhere, but somewhere in the impregnable light.

We do not know where this unapproachable light is, but Jesus Christ, of course, knew, for He is one with the Father, and if He was temporarily separated from the Father, when He took on human flesh, when He accomplished His feat of saving the human race, which was immeasurable in the power of love, then He was separated from the Father not by hypostasis, but because He, as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, is characterized by His separate personal existence along with the common existence of the Holy Trinity.

We know that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. We also know that the Lord sent the Holy Spirit to His disciples after His Ascension, which means that the Holy Spirit was temporarily separated from the Father, just as the Lord Jesus Christ was absent for the sake of earthly life and the redemption of the human race.

So, into the impregnable light unknown to us, in which God lives eternally, the Lord Jesus Christ entered immediately after His resurrection.

Before appearing to people, didn’t He need to enter into the communion of love with His Eternal Father, didn’t He, together with the Father, need to share the joy of that great feat that He had just accomplished - the feat of saving mankind from the power of the devil.

Just as we, people, as children in particular, yearn for our parents, father and mother, in order to share our joy with them, in order to inform about the most important events of our life, so the Second Person of the Holy Trinity needed the communion of love and joy about the accomplished feat. For the sake of this fellowship of love and joy, the Lord Jesus Christ ascended immediately after His Resurrection to where the light is unapproachable, where is the eternal abode of the Triune God.

Here is my explanation of why the Lord Jesus Christ forbade only Mary Magdalene to touch Him: He had not yet ascended to His Father. It is too early to enter into fellowship with people, too early to allow Him to be touched.

Later you will see My new appearances, you will see how the disciples will touch My Body, and Saint Thomas put his fingers in the nail wounds, puts his hand in my ribs - wait.

So, therefore, I believe that before the final Ascension of the Lord from the earth, He, as He Himself said, ascended to His Father and His God.

And for us, who know this, who know that first of all the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God, aspired to where the light is impregnable, should we not build life so that it would be an unceasing striving for this impregnable light, for the throne of God!

Let's go, let's go where the Lord Jesus Christ is. But remember that only those who have loved God with all their hearts and believed in Christ Jesus will go to Him after death – only those will go into the unapproachable light.

And their eternal life will be in joy and gladness, in communion with God in the unapproachable light.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.