October 10, 2022

Homily on the Resurrection of the Son of the Widow (Patriarch John VIII of Constantinople the Xiphilinos - 11th cent.)

By Patriarch John VIII of Constantinople the Xiphilinos 
(11th century - Feast Day August 30th)
The great mystery of the Resurrection is taught to us by our Savior and God as much through His words as through His works. And in His commands and teachings and miracles, the Lord begins with the lowest, and proceeds to the greatest. As by some steps He ascends from the lowest to the highest, and slowly raises the human race to the glory and knowledge and concept of His Godhead. One can see this in many other cases as well, but particularly in this case. For first the Lord indicated and announced the power of the Resurrection in the case of a serious illness for which they could do nothing, when He rebuked the fever that was burning Peter's mother-in-law, and caused such a change in her condition as to strengthen her in the service of visitors, the one everyone expected to die.

Then He who loves mankind adds something more to the manifestation of His power, and proceeds again to a greater miracle, which was done to the centurion's servant who was suffering from a very serious disease, which had brought him to the brink of death. When he had reached his last breaths and was approaching the gates of Hades, then the Master was summoned, and He was willing to come to him. But because of the request and the faith of the centurion, who said to Him: "Lord, speak and my child will be healed," He resurrected him who everyone believed was already almost dead, without even coming anywhere near that place. But He sent health from afar to the dying man, at the same time as He gave the command. Thus the slave was freed from the disease, and returned to his former and even better health and condition. O commanding powers! Indeed, the voice of God is a voice of power, as Saint David says: "Behold, He will give his voice a voice of power." Because at the moment when the Master said to the centurion: "Go, and as you have believed so may it be done," then the disease immediately left the young man.

Then the Lord shows His power with another greater miracle, when he went to the city of Nain. For approaching there, he met the widow's son, who had died, and had remained for a long time in the coffin, and they were already leading him to the grave. He then miraculously resurrected him and handed him over to his mother, as today's passage from the Gospel clearly shows us.

We see here the great God and Master, our Lord Jesus Christ, working a great miracle, Life enlivening, the Resurrection resurrecting, and raising the dead at the time of the funeral. With this miracle He assures us and informs us about the expected common resurrection of the dead, and at the same time He shows in advance his own life-giving and Divine Resurrection, revealing our redemption and freedom through it, as well as salvation and eternal life. For we are told, that as He approached the gate of the city, at that time a dead man was being buried, the only child of a widow. He came near the gate of the city of Nain, our Christ and God, the gate of life and immortality, and the Giver of Life commanded the mourning to cease. When the Master met them, he took hold of the wooden bed and said to the dead man's mother: "Weep not, woman, let your mourning cease, for I am the resurrection and the life. Stop crying, stop wailing, hold back your tears. The cause of your tears is soon removed, mourning gives way to joy."

And approaching He touched the body. Those who carried him were full of surprise and wonder. Who is He, and for what purpose did He put His hand upon the body? And as they waited dazzled and awaited to see what would happen, Christ called the dead man, and said to him: "I say to you, young man, arise." And so with the word and touch He raised the dead, who was now speaking before all.

While Christ could do the miracle by a word alone, yet He touches the bed, so that we may know that the body of Christ our God is a body of life and immortality, and that it is He who made man in the beginning with His immaculate hands, and with His divine and invisible breath gave him mind and life. Furthermore, in the end times He will resurrect human nature with a trumpet, and after He raises the dead, He will render to each one according to his works. For He is judge of the living and the dead, and He is the way and the truth, therefore those who follow Him will not need a guide. And because what I say is true and not false, blessed are those who believe it.

Because He is life, those who fulfill His holy commandments, even if they die, they will live, as He Himself says in another place: "He who believes in me, even if he dies, he will live." And "he who keeps my word, will not see death forever."

Demons and evil men also receive the word of God in their hearing, but when it comes to the word of salvation, simple listening is not enough, nor is learning enough for life, but one must observe and fulfill what one has heard. Therefore, the steadfast guardian of Christ's divine commandments and precepts will not face death throughout all the ages. The Lord says these things, not of course because He abolishes physical death, but because, as God that He is, he does not consider it as death. Of course for God it is not only easy to animate the dead and corrupted, but also to lead the non-existent to birth. That is why He says: "Young man, I say to you and I exhort you, get up. I say this to you, the deceased. I do not put or infuse within you another soul instead of the one you had, but I with authority call tyhe same one, to return by my power."

Receive life and rise up, commanded the Master, and the servant obeyed the command of the Lord, and after he was revived and moved, he sat up and began to speak before the whole crowd, so that no one would think that some evil spirit had entered and moved the body, so that the event was done by imagination and fraud. That is why the dead man sat up and spoke, as sufficient proof of the common and universal resurrection of the dead.

These are signs that are sure and without error of the Resurrection. Indeed, a lifeless body can neither sit nor speak. Afterwards, He gave him to his mother, for greater proof and confirmation of the fact. And because this great miracle was so paradoxical that it caused fear and astonishment to those who were then there, they glorified God saying that: "A great prophet is raised up among us, and that God visited his people." They had not yet formed the concept that Christ the Savior is God. But even this was not small, considering the Lord as a great Prophet and greater than the other Prophets, even more than that lawgiver Moses. Little by little they would rise to a higher understanding and believe that He is the true God.

The fame of the miracle then spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding areas. That is why the Lord created many witnesses of the event, so that the envious Jews, as much as they wanted to destroy Him and hide the miracles, could not. In fact, the rumor of the resurrection of the dead spread beyond the borders of Judea, so much so that it even reached the ears of John the Baptist, who was living in the desert.

Three resurrections were made by the Prophets before the coming of Christ, and four by Christ Himself. The first was the resurrection of Zarephath's son, who was resurrected by Elijah. Second was of the son of the Shunammite, which was done by Elisha. And third he who touched the dead body of Elisha. Because Elisha received a double portion of grace after the ascension of Elijah, therefore, even though he was dead, he raised a dead man who was laid on his body. Fourth is the resurrection of the young man we are talking about, the first that was done by Christ. But Christ did not raise this dead man like Elijah or Elisha, by prayer or supplication, but by authority. The fifth resurrection is of the daughter of Jairus. Sixth of Lazarus of the four days. Seventh that which took place during the Passion of Christ, when "many bodies of the reposed saints were raised." These were followed by the eighth, the Resurrection of the Lord. But the seven were again succeeded by death, and the eighth remained above death. For the resurrection of the dead, which is to take place in the eighth age,* will no longer be interrupted by death, but will be perpetual and eternal.

Therefore let us try, brethren, to revive and resurrect our souls, which are dead from sins. Let us approach, I beg you, the Lord, who gives life to the dead, let us hasten and weep before Him. Because now we need confession, in this life. Now prayers are needed, now is a time of tears and groaning and mourning. Let us with broken hearts invoke the Master. For He is the one who frees is from sorrow, giving joy, freedom, life and resurrection. Let us glorify Him, my brethren, not only with the mouth and lips, but with a pure heart and with every manner of dispassion, with a life as good as possible, behaving blamelessly, because this is how God is glorified. "That they may see" He says "your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven." Let us do everything to the glory of God, and with a broken and weary heart, let each one of us cry out to Him saying: "Deliver my soul from the sword; my only-begotten one from the power of the dog."

And God will hear, the harmless Lord will not remove His help from us. But He will deliver us from all wrath and danger and distress and sorrow, deliver us from all tyranny, assault and harm by our visible and invisible enemies, and deliver us from the terrible death of sin and make us partakers of the heavenly Kingdom. Because He is the Resurrection and Christ and our God, and to Him we offer thanksgiving, together with His Father who is without beginning and the All-Holy and Giver of Good Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.


* Our transient life on earth is considered the seventh age, while the age of eternal life after the Great Judgment is considered the eighth and eternal age.

Source: Migne, P.G. 120, 1201. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.