Thursday, June 2, 2022

Homily on the Day of Christ's Ascension (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on May 14, 1953)

I will not preach to you for a long time today because of my weakness, I will only try to explain to you the significant kontakion of this feast.

Listen, listen with deep attention to this kontakion (the choir sings): "O Christ our God, upon fulfilling Your dispensation for our sake, You ascended in Glory, uniting the earthly with the heavenly. You were never separate but remained inseparable, and cried out to those who love You, I am with you and no one is against you."

What does it mean: “fulfilling Your dispensation for our sake"?

This is what it means in Russian translation. When the Lord Jesus Christ, with all the deeds of His earthly life and His death on the Cross, fulfilled what was destined for us in the pre-eternal Council of God, when He united what is on earth with the heavenly — when He united the people who are on earth with heavenly angels.

He united us with His angels. He made it possible for us to be partakers of heavenly life.

There were many people who on earth have already become angels in the flesh.

You know that Holy Scripture calls the great John the Baptist an angel.

There were many people for whom real life was of no interest, who cleansed their hearts, who were so exalted and perfected that they became like angels in spirit - already on earth they became angels in the flesh.

Weren't all the saints like that? Wasn’t Mary of Egypt an angel in the flesh, weren't many of the fathers - such as the greatest hermits, like Anthony the Great, Euthymios the Great, Savvas the Sanctified, like our greatest Saint Seraphim of Sarov, our Saints Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves?

They all became angels in the flesh, of course, already on earth they were united with heaven.

They talked with angels, the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to them.

And there were many, many such whom our Lord Jesus Christ united with the heavenly - with all the heavenly powers.

“You ascended in Glory, uniting the earthly with the heavenly. You were never separate but remained inseparable, and cried out to those who love You, I am with you and no one is against you.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ ascended in great glory from the Mount of Olives. And His disciples, as you have heard in the current Apostolic and Gospel readings, having parted from Him, did not lose heart. Not only did they not mourn, but they went home with joy, with great joy.

Why, how can we understand this, how could they rejoice and be glad, being separated from Christ? This was possible because the Lord told them that He would send another Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Who would remind them of everything He had said and would be with them forever.

And in the kontakion it says: "You were never separate but remained inseparable." This means that having ascended, He did not leave us, but always abides, relentlessly with us.

We must remember the words of the Lord Jesus and never forget them: “Whoever loves me, he will be loved by my Father; and We will come to him and make our abode with him.”

Look, this is Christ’s promise, which says that to all who love Him and fulfill His word He will come together with His Father, and they will make an abode with Him - they will enter into the heart and will dwell in it, in the temple of the Holy Spirit.

“And cried out to those who love You, I am with you and no one is against you.”

Whoever loves Christ with all his heart, whoever lives according to His word, fulfilling all His commandments, will be in constant communion with Him, will be under His constant protection, will always be guarded by Christ Himself and the angels of God; it will not be touched by any true evil, for Christ will be relentlessly with them.

But think about it, didn’t the great saints experience persecution, weren’t there those who rebelled against them, weren’t there many, many thousands of Christ’s martyrs?

Remember how the great Venerable Seraphim of Sarov was beaten half to death by robbers. But did this serve to the detriment of Seraphim himself, serve to the detriment of the Church of Christ? No, this served to our greatest benefit, which we received through the Venerable Seraphim, for when the Mother of God herself, who appeared to him, healed his broken skull and his broken ribs, and the robbers were brought to justice, the Venerable Seraphim, learning about this, with tears asked on their behalf: “No way, I don’t want them to be judged! If they condemn them, I will leave the Sarov wilderness.”

You see how this act of the Saint should serve as a lesson to us, what a great example we have received, a great example of how we should relate to the suffering inflicted on us.

And to the holy martyrs, how are the words of the hymn applied "I am with you and no one is against you"?

Yes, many rebelled against them, emperors rebelled, rulers rebelled, subjected them to cruel, harsh torments. But the words of Christ came true, and when they were tormented, Christ Himself was with them, making the suffering they endured light.

Often, often they did not burn in terrible furnaces, the flame of which scorched the tormentors themselves.

Why? Because Christ was with them, He did not leave anyone.

He sent His angels and He Himself came into prisons to the martyrs tormented to death, and healed them, and the next day the tormentors saw them recovered.

You see, these words came true. Believe that everyone who loves Christ and fulfills His word will be loved by His Father, and He will come and make His abode with them.

So love Christ, so follow Him, so fulfill His commandments!

And now listen to the kontakion of the feast, explained just now, and I hope that you will perceive it much deeper than you perceived it before (the choir sings).

"O Christ our God, upon fulfilling Your dispensation for our sake, You ascended in Glory, uniting the earthly with the heavenly. You were never separate but remained inseparable, and cried out to those who love You, I am with you and no one is against you."

Remember, remember this kontakion. Remember, always remember this great day of the Ascension to heaven of the Lord Jesus.

Direct your hearts towards Him, for we too must ascend to heaven after Him. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
 
 


 
 
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