By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea
(Delivered in 1958)
(Delivered in 1958)
From statistical data on people who have reached a very advanced age, we learn that they are especially numerous among those living on the high mountains of the Caucasus and Azerbaijan and on other high mountains. And in our time, somewhere in Azerbaijan, there lives an extraordinary old man who has reached one hundred and fifty years, and there are many centenarians there.
How can we explain this extraordinary influence of high mountains on the longevity of people's lives?
Undoubtedly, to a very large extent because the highlanders breathe the purest air all their lives and eat mainly dairy products and the meat of healthy sheep.
And in huge cities, in which the population reaches millions, people breathe completely unhealthy air, containing many miasms of all contagious diseases, and often live in apartments and houses infected with tuberculosis bacteria, which are very difficult to exterminate. Huge high-rise buildings block the path of the life-giving rays of the sun. And the food of the inhabitants of the great cities is, of course, much worse than the food of the people of the high mountains.
It is quite understandable, therefore, that the life of the inhabitants of large cities is much shorter than the life of mountaineers and even peasants living in healthy and bright villages.
But not only the life of the body is important for us, but the conditions in which the spiritual life of children, adolescents and young people develope are extremely important, the influence of the social environment in which they grow is important. The spiritual growth of children and youth of both sexes sometimes depends entirely on the example of parents and other close people. Morally and spiritually, the children of drunkards, thieves and bandits perish, whose example of life is even more disastrous than tuberculosis and microbes of all other contagious diseases.
Children are very impressionable, and everything they see and hear around them leaves a deep imprint on their minds and hearts.
Everything that I have said now, although they could not express it clearly in words, was well understood by the pure hearts of the parents of the Most Holy Theotokos, the righteous Joachim and Anna, and wisely took care to place their Little Daughter Mary in the most favorable conditions for an upbringing in holiness, purity and the fear of God.
No matter how difficult it was to part with the Little Daughter given to them by God after decades of childlessness, they took her to the House of God. The priest Zechariah, the future father of John the Baptist, met Her, and, at the inspiration of God, ventured into an unheard of deed - he led Her not only into the sanctuary of the temple, where only priests entered, but even into its most holy part, separated by a heavy curtain and called the Holy of Holies, into which only once a year could the high priest enter with sacrificial blood.
Here once stood the greatest shrine - the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the tablets received from God on Mount Sinai by the great prophet Moses, Aaron's staff and a vessel with manna. Its final fate is not exactly known, but it is most likely that it was destroyed during the destruction of the first Jerusalem temple by Nebuchadnezzar.
The little Blessed Virgin Mary received permission from the priest Zechariah to come daily to the Holy of Holies and here pray to God in the invisible presence of the Angels of God. She lived in one of the rooms attached outside to the wall of the temple. In these small rooms at the temple lived people who had dedicated themselves to God; there also lived the unfortunate wretched, in need of charity. The Most Holy Theotokos served them, these unfortunate ones, all the days, living among them, she served them with her works, her love.
For these deeds of mercy, She was always surrounded by the love of the cherished, and in this atmosphere of love she lived with them for twelve years. Every day She prayed for a long time in the temple and there She breathed in the aroma of the prayers of numerous people and the smoke of incense burned on the censer altar, which was pleasing to God.
The holy and pure atmosphere of the temple was as beneficial for Her spiritual growth as the purest air of the high mountains was for the bodily health and longevity of the highlanders. Not people with impure and evil hearts, but kind and God-fearing people surrounded Her and made up Her social environment, blessed by God.
There within, the Holy Maiden Mary grew and blossomed like a luxurious flower, fragrant before God and people. In it, She received all the makings to become later more honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim.
Oh, you, my neighbors and beloved Christians, always remember the holy and righteous Joachim and Anna, who so wisely raised their God-given Daughter.
Try to create favorable conditions for your children to grow in holiness, truth and goodness.
Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Sun of Righteousness, may He help you in this work that pleases Him. Amen.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.