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August 15, 2022

Homily Two on the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on August 15/28, 1951)

Who among earthly people died like the Most Holy Theotokos? Whose deathbed was surrounded by the apostles? At the head of whose deathbed the heavenly branch shone with heavenly light, brought by the archangel Gabriel three days before the death of the Most Holy Theotokos?

Whose soul did the Lord Himself and our God Jesus Christ come to accept?

Oh no one, no one, of course, no one!

Not death, but blissful dormition, this is what we call the death of the Most Holy Theotokos. She fell into a blissful eternal sleep.

It fulfilled the words of the Savior: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).

Is it really possible to imagine that the Most Holy Theotokos, John the Baptist, the holy apostles, the holy prophets, the entire countless host of martyrs would appear for judgment?!

Oh no, oh no! This cannot be imagined.

Above them, the words of John the Theologian from his Revelation (chapter 20) about the first death and the second death will be fulfilled.

The first death is what every earthly person will experience - the death of the body. And the second death is the terrible eternal death of those who are mired in sins, who will hear the terrible words of Christ: “Depart from Me, damned ones, into eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Of course, all the righteous will not taste the second death, all those whose death was similar to the death of the Most Holy Theotokos, whose death was also not a painful, ordinary death for people, but a blissful dormition.

For we know that very many great righteous people ended their lives with blessed sleep.

On his knees before the icon of the Most Pure Theotokos, there died in blessed sleep our Venerable and God-bearing Father, Seraphim of Sarov, he fell asleep.

And just like him, the great hierarch of the Russian land, of blessed memory, Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow, died on his knees before the icon.

Blessed was the death of many, many righteous.

And we hear at every liturgy, and we have just heard, terrible words: "The death of sinners is fierce."

Oh, how cruel is the death of sinners!

Oh, if you knew what I saw, which I will never forget: I saw how the unfortunate accursed archpriest die, who was once a missionary and then renounced God and became the head of anti-religious propaganda.

Oh, how terrible was his death! It was like the death of the accursed Herod, who killed John the Baptist, who was eaten alive by worms: he had cancer in a fetid place, and worms swarmed in a huge wound, and such an unbearable stench emanated from him that everyone refused to look after him.

A heavy death, in painful, unbearable near-death suffering, many, many people die.

Traitors of the motherland die a shameful death on the gallows and on the chopping block, villains who have killed many people die.

Under the fence, in the mud, unfortunate drunkards die.

Oh, how terrible!

Oh, may the Lord Jesus Christ save us all, sinners, from such a terrible, such a shameful fate.

May our death be at least in a small measure similar to a blissful dormition.

What is needed in order for us to acquire blessed sleep, so that our death would not be the cruel death of sinners?

What prevents us from achieving a blessed end?

At every Matins, when reading the Six Psalms, you hear the words of the prophet and psalmist David: “There is no peace in my bones from the face of my sins.”

Sins, sins, our accursed innumerable sins deprive us of peace. And only those who have acquired peace, the blessed peace of God, are rewarded with a blessed death.

Our Lord and God Jesus Christ, shortly before His Ascension, said to His disciples: “Peace I leave you, My peace I give you” (John 14:27).

He left to all the righteous, to all those who followed the holy apostles, his Divine world.

The world of Christ is the world of the Spirit, the eternal, inviolable world. It is inextricably linked with the joy of the Holy Spirit, with the highest wisdom: it is not violated by any insults, deprivation of property, suffering.

The peace that gives peace is external peace, peace from external attacks. It is very shaky: today there is peace, tomorrow there is war.

But not only wars between peoples take away peace: we are all constantly at war with each other, and the peace that peace gives is a short-term peace from the attack on us by people and our attacks on them.

Not only do we need such a world, we need the world that the prophet David spoke of in Psalm 36: "... the meek will inherit the earth and enjoy the abundance of peace."

To inherit the abundance of the world, it is not enough to acquire meekness and humility. This peace is given to those whose eyes constantly shed tears - not tears from sorrows, of which you have so many, but other tears, holy tears, tears of bitter repentance for your sins, tears for evil, iniquity and suffering, of which there are so many in the world; tears for those who perish in ignorance of the Lord Jesus Christ, who never look at the cross of Christ, who are indifferent to it.

Those who know how to weep with such tears - only those will receive the peace of Christ, the peace eternal and inviolable.

How is such peace achieved?

In the way that the apostle Paul points out when he says: “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, for the flesh desires the opposite of the spirit, and the spirit the opposite of the flesh: they oppose each other, so that you do not do what you would like to do" (Gal. 5:16-17).

We must live the life of the spirit, not the life of the flesh. It is necessary to acquire in this life by constant struggles of the spirit with the flesh the great fruits of the Spirit, which Saint Paul defines as follows: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22 –23).

Those, only those who live the life of the spirit and not the life of the flesh, will receive peace.

They collect the world in their hearts during their whole life, day after day, just as a bee collects honey from flowers. She works all day. We must also work for the Lord all the days of our life, we must also collect the grains of the peace of the soul by constant work not of the flesh, but of the spirit.

Think about it, can the Holy Spirit dwell in a heart in which passions are raging? Can He dwell, as in His temple, in a heart that is filled with carnal lust, the passion of love of money, in a heart that is teeming with envy, vanity, which is full of demonic pride?!

Oh no! Oh no! The Holy Spirit will not enter such a passionate heart – there is no place for Him.

So, if you want your death to be a blessed dormition, of course, not as blessed as the Dormition of the Theotokos, work not for the flesh, but for the spirit.

Gather peace into your hearts day by day.

It is difficult, it is very difficult, this should be the work of a lifetime, this is a great feat.

I will end my speech to you with the words of the holy Apostle Paul: “May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in everything. The Lord is with you all! Amen” (2 Thess. 3:16).

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.