November 21, 2022

Homily Three on the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered in 1957)

The life of the Most Holy and Most Pure and Most Blessed Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, who was the Most Pure Temple of the Savior, who was above all Cherubim and Seraphim, could not begin life the way every ordinary person begins: the glorious beginning of Her life should have been marked. Thus the Lord God placed in the hearts of Her holy parents Joachim and Anna a presentiment that the Most Pure Maiden, their only daughter, was prepared by God for some extraordinary path, a path much higher than the usual path of people. And guided by this presentiment, even before the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, they dedicated Her to God: they made a vow to God that She would serve Him.

But how, in what form could She serve God?

You know that the ministers of God were chosen by the command of God Himself from only one tribe of Levi and, of course, they were all men, but women could not be ministers of God.

And yet the Most Holy Mother of God was intended by God Himself for the highest form of ministry to Him.

When little Mary grew up to three years old, then Her parents, the holy and blessed Joachim and Anna, decided to take Her to the temple of Jerusalem, so that there, under the shadow of this temple, She would be brought up.

They made a vow, and it was necessary to fulfill it. And they led Her, accompanied by a choir of little girls carrying burning candles, to Jerusalem, to the temple of the Lord. And surprisingly, when they approached the temple, the three-year-old little Mary escaped from the hands of those who held Her and quickly, quickly ran up all the high steps of the temple.

And the great high priest Zechariah took Her into his arms, and did something extraordinary, something absolutely that never happened: he not only brought Her into the temple of God, but also into the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant once stood and where only the high priest one had the right to enter once a year, and no one else. Blessed Zechariah led Little Mary into the Holy of Holies and gave her permission to come there to pray whenever she wanted, even if it was every day.

This was how the childhood of the One Who was to become the Most Pure Temple of the Savior was marked. Let us leave Her, the Most Holy of Holies, to pray in the Temple of the Lord. Let us now turn our thoughts to our own children.

All of you, fathers and mothers, have heard the question of the Apostle Paul astonishing you: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Don't you know that you and your children are destined to serve God in spirit and in truth, in deeds of love and truth?

And if so, if all are destined to become living temples of God, then is it not required of all of us that from the earliest years of our adolescence and youth we also consecrate ourselves to God? Oh yes, oh yes - definitely required. But how can we fulfill this requirement?

This is an extremely difficult question, and I want, if not to explain it to you, then to draw your attention to the importance and difficulty of this necessary matter.

We all receive sanctification in the temple of God, being sanctified in it by the great and glorious mysteries that bring us close to God, to the Lord Jesus Christ, and even make us temples of the Holy Spirit.

In the temple of God, during divine services, we hear the great words of the mystery of the Bloodless Sacrifice, we listen to church singing and reading, and we receive a great, very important, very profound sanctification.

Without sanctification by the mysteries and church services, can we become temples of the Spirit of God?

But you know that by the permission of God this has become impossible for many Christians, for worship has ceased in many churches, for many people, especially peasants, who live far, far from churches, in which divine services and mysteries are performed to this day.

It is hard, hard for us, especially for those who do not have the opportunity to hear divine services, to be sanctified by the great mysteries of the Church.

It's hard, but do we really need to fall into hopelessness? Are we really deprived of the opportunity to educate our children in such a way that they become temples of God and the abodes of the Holy Spirit? No, we are not abandoned by God, for we know from Holy Scripture that we can raise our children in our own home church, about which the Apostle Paul speaks a lot in his great epistles.

On this word "house church" I must draw your attention. Concluding his first epistle to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul conveys to them the greetings of his friends Aquila and Priscilla with their home church. They had their own house church.

In the letter to Philemon, the Apostle greets him with his "house church" (Phil. 1, 2) and friends. He had a house church. We find similar greetings of the “house church” in the epistles of the great Apostle to the Romans and Colossians. They also had a house church.

What is a “house church ”, what did the Apostle himself understand by this word? A house church is a strong Christian family.

Let me first say what the "house church" was in his ancient days, and leave you to think deeply about what, even in a small measure, the house church could be in our time.

He understood very deeply the significance of the Christian family; he understood that the family, not only in a Christian state, but also in any other state far from Christianity, is of great importance. He understood that the family is the primary cell that underlies everything that happens in the state and in society. Both the society itself and the state itself depend to a large extent on how an individual family lives, on the goals that it sets in its life.

If this primary cell is perfect, if it is pure, if it sets itself important and deep moral and spiritual tasks, then society and the state will reflect in themselves these properties of their primary cell, the family.

What was the house church in the time of the Apostle Paul - in these ancient times?

It was built according to the pattern of our dioceses, in which the appointed bishop in the great mystery of the priesthood presides, directs and governs. He directs the entire spiritual life of his diocese, he makes sure that in his diocese the great commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ are carried out and fulfilled. Just like this role of the bishop in the diocese should have been in ancient times the role and significance of the father of the family. He had to lead the entire spiritual life of his family, he had to fulfill, at least to a small extent, those duties that a bishop performs in his diocese, he had to be more or less a bishop in his family.

And the mother of the family was supposed to be like the ancient deaconesses. These were deeply pious women who were instructed by bishops to prepare women for the mystery of baptism. With frequent and long conversations they prepared for the mystery of baptism, they explained the deepest and greatest significance of this mystery and served during its performance over women; in addition, they took care of feeding the hungry and the wanderers; about clothes for the poor; they ministered to all who needed works of mercy; they were the leaders and the first executors of these affairs.

So, in the home church, all mothers, all wives should have been such deaconesses. They had an extremely important duty to teach the Law of God, the commandments of Christ to their children, all members of their family.

Now the public school, as you know, doesn't teach the Law of God.

May all mothers today remember their most important, their first duty to enlighten their children with the light of Christ's truth.

If the Most Holy and Most Pure Mother of God was consecrated to God from the age of three, if she always breathed the incense of the prayers of the people in the temple of Jerusalem; if She also breathed incense, don't our children need it?

Don't our children also need to breathe censer incense, the incense of folk prayers?

In the ancient years of the Russian Church, this was well understood by all the people, and children were brought up in a Christian, ecclesiastical spirit. Russian children, like the Little Holy Mother of God, also breathed the incense of folk prayers and incense smoke.

So it was, so it is not now. Where is all this now? Don’t you know how many Russian people have now left all this, they don’t want to know anything about it, they don’t need the Church, they don’t need the aroma of incense.

But nevertheless, a remnant has been preserved, a remnant has been preserved by the Lord God, and a considerable remnant: the churches are full of those who pray; and you, the little flock of Christ given to me by God, eagerly listen to the word of God, and you fill our holy temple. This means that not everything has perished yet, which means that what the Apostle Paul teaches about the house church remains valid for us.

And now you, and not just the ancient Christians, can fulfill the tasks that lay in the house church.

I know, I know how busy, how burdened you all are in public work, work in production, in the service - not only husbands are busy, but also wives, mothers of families. I know how difficult it is for them to fulfill both their official duties, and family duties, and duties similar to those of the ancient deaconesses: the duties of a mother raising her children. I know, I know, and you know.

But if this task is difficult, then shall we really conclude that we should not try to fulfill it?!

Before all other deeds, remember this great deed, so that your children, innocent and pure children, receive into their pure hearts the Law of God, the commandments of Christ, at least in the small teaching that they can receive from you.

You have not yet forgotten the Law of God, so teach, teach your children, and then your family will become your home church. And the light of Christ from this home church will spread invisibly to you and beyond your family.

The light of Christ, its divine truth, will be poured out invisibly into the hearts and minds of all those who have fellowship with you. And maybe the influence of your house church will go beyond it.

And then the eternal blessing of the Lord and our God Jesus Christ with His Beginningless Father and the Most Holy Spirit will be upon you. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.