June 20, 2022

Homily Four for the Sunday of All Saints (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered in 1958)

The Sunday of All Saints gives us occasion to reflect on the many different ways that the holy people of God walked along the thorny road to the Kingdom of God.

Their conditions of life, their aspirations and inclinations, and their characters were very different; their lives were very different, and, accordingly, their minds and hearts were inclined most of all towards the fulfillment of one of the commandments of God.

Among them were people who were not at all interested in issues of state and public life, in secular, worldly affairs and wholly embraced only one desire - to be in constant communion with God.

For them, the commandment of God, which our Lord Jesus Christ called the first and greatest commandment in the law, was infinitely important: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30).

They went to the African deserts, to the impenetrable forests of the north of Russia, and were occupied only with prayerful communion with God. These were the chosen ones of God, like Paul of Thebes, who lived for 90 years in complete solitude in the African desert, like Anthony and Arsenios the Great, Makarios of Egypt, Ioannikios the Great; like the great Mary of Egypt and Seraphim of Sarov, who so recently lived among us, who prayed for a thousand days and a thousand nights in the forest on a flat stone. These were Angels in the flesh, and eternal life in the Kingdom of God began for them already during their life on earth.

Others, who wholeheartedly believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and loved Him more than their lives, were holy martyrs who endured indescribable torment and death for Christ. There were many tens of thousands of them, and one would have to talk about them for hours. I will only remind you of the young beauty Pelagia, whom the emperor Diocletian, the cruel persecutor of Christians, wanted to marry, and she preferred a fierce death to marriage with him.

There were many Saints who fulfilled the second greatest commandment in the law: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31).

These are all those who have fulfilled the fifth beatitude: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7).

Among them, like stars of the first magnitude, shine Bishop Paulinus of Nola, who sold himself into slavery to the Vandals in order to redeem the only son of a widow from their captivity, and blessed Philaret the Merciful, and the Archbishop of Alexandria John the Merciful.

Let us also think about those blessed ones who went to the Kingdom of Heaven on the difficult path of spiritual poverty - those holy fools who voluntarily endured ridicule, bullying and beatings.

Let us remember the holy Prince Andrei of Smolensk, who did not tolerate enmity between princes and being weighed down by the splendor of princely life. He left his princely palace, went to the city of Pereyaslavl-Zalessky, and there he served for 30 years as a sexton at the Church of Saint Nicholas of Myra, hiding his princely dignity.

Is this not an example of humility for us?! We find an amazing example of patience and obedience in the life of the Monk Akakios of Sinai. He was appointed to lead the monastic life by a malevolent elder, who often beat him to the point of blood, and for nine years he suffered beatings and did not leave the elder's obedience.

A great example of patience was given to us by the Monk Pimen of the Caves, who lay in a stinking illness all his life and suffered meekly.

We find amazing examples of the gravest repentance for terrible sins in the lives of the Venerable James the Wonderworker and the terrible robbers Barbaros, Moses the Black, Patermuthius and David, who were forgiven by God and even received the gift of miracles. Let us bow low before the fearless feat of Metropolitan Philip of Moscow, who fearlessly denounced Tsar Ivan the Terrible in his cruelty and villainy, and let us be ashamed of the low cowardice characteristic of many of us.

However, it is possible that you will say to me: “You are talking to us about the great righteous, about strong people, but we are weak people, incapable of feats, and we live in ordinary everyday worries and squabbles.” To this I will answer: read the life of Saint Juliana of Murom (the January volume of the Lives of the Saints), who, like you, was not distinguished by any heroism, but by her kindness and love for people she acquired the Kingdom of Heaven and was counted among the Saints by the Church. The lives of all the Saints serve as a precious guide for the Christian life.

But it was not the hunger of bread that overtook us, but the hunger of hearing the word of God, about which the Prophet Amos speaks (Amos 8:11), and it is very difficult for us to find the Lives of the Saints. Whoever has preserved them, read them with diligence and tell your loved ones.

May not only Holy Scripture, the main source of spiritual light, but also the Lives of the Saints help you on the difficult path of fulfilling the commandments of Christ and saving your souls. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.