Sunday, March 16, 2014

Homily on Meatfare Sunday, by St. Luke of Simferopol

The Second Coming of Christ (source)

Note: I post this beautiful and moving amateur translation of a homily by St. Luke of Simferopol, for several reasons. First, that we might all come to our senses and repent while the Lord still calls us, especially during this "acceptable time" that is Great Lent. Second, that we might honor a great hierarch, confessor and wonderworker of Christ, whose Holy Relics where uncovered on March 17th. And finally, that we might also seek his intercessions to heal the pains, violence and divisions of the people of Ukraine. May St. Luke protect and defend those in all kinds of dangers, and may he grant all of us healing of our bodily or spiritual illnesses.

For three months [February 1946], the Nuremberg trials have been going on, the terrible trial in which are being prosecuted crimes which the world has never seen, and rightly they should fear, for they know that what remains for them is to be condemned to death. Their final verdict is demanded by the conscience of all the people, of all mankind, for the world was struck by their abominable crimes! Never before were we astonished by such crimes, which cannot be related by the human mind. They have destroyed tens of millons of people—a countless multitude—besides those who were killed on the front. In the military base of Osventsim alone, 5,121,000 people were killed. The whole world is full of resentment, and awaits the hour when the judge will condemn them for their crimes... The conscience of men demands that they be condemned to death, the conscience of men demands that these terrible crimes not remain unpunished.
But what shall we say of the righteousness of God? How does God meet this evil? And though this evil is so fearful and great, it is, however, one tear before the ocean of evil which the eye of God beholds, and which the All-wise mind of the Lord knows, for countless rivers of evil are drowning the human race from the beginning to the end. Since the world was created, before the eyes of God, countless crimes have been committed, and along with blasphemies and unseemly words. But human virtue also continues in this faithless and sinful world, trampled upon and cast out.
Do you know how often criminals triumph and are full of joy, while at the same instant, good and pure men are destroyed? And always, in every age, the conscience of men is troubled by this occurrence, and all the people ask: “Until when, O Lord? When will righteousness triumph?” Because the heart of man does not accept injustice, it does not suffer for evil to go unpunished, and for virtue to not be honored. Is it possible for the whole world to be so senseless, so unbearably unjust, that evil might triumph till the end? This is impossible and will never occur, for above the world is the Just God, Who much more than us knows how much evil there is in the heart of men. God, however, is forbearing. God forbears and endures the disrespect of men for thousands of years now. He endures, for He awaits to gather, in a world full of disrespect and evil, the greatly-precious fruits of reverence and goodness. Because for the reason of these fruits alone did the love of God create the whole world, that the heart of the faithful might shine, and be purified by the light of Christ, that they might shine with the love of Christ, that the righteousness of God might be revealed.
Do you know that, as there are evil-doers, there is a countless multitude of good and pure people, a great army of the Saints of God? They are worth the world, that among the hundreds of thousands of evil men, might shine the tens of millions of sons of God, sons of grace. Because of this the Lord endures. He endures that the sheaves of the garden of Christ might be numbered. When, however, the time comes, when the sheaves shall be numbered, then will begin the time of harvest. Then the Lord will send His angels to gather the sheaves, and the chaff they will cast into eternal fire. Then will come the hour of the Terrible Judgment of God, just and much more terrible than that which is occurring now for the men of Nuremberg.
This judgment will be noted for the number of the indictees, for with the sound of the trumpet of the Archangel, with which the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ will be proclaimed, all the dead will arise to stand before the Awesome Judgment Seat of God, inevitable judgment, a judgment which St. John the Theologian heard of, when he received the Revelation regarding what will occur at the end of the world. He saw at the Throne of God the Martyrs, who were martyred for the name of Christ. These cried towards God: “Until when, O Master...will you not judge and avenge our blood?” (Revelation 6:10).
Now, tens of millions of men were killed by these crimes, not realizing that they would be thrown alive into ovens, men who were killed in aerial bombings, women, old people and children who were stabbed, all cry towards God: “Until when, O Lord, will you avenge our blood? How long will You be patient?” This terrible voice of men cries out so loudly towards God, for it appears, the hour of the Awesome Judgment is approaching.
The Lord told His Disciples that no one knows when the end of the world will come, only the Father knows. At the same time, however, the Lord showed the signs which will bear witness that the Awesome Judgment is approaching. He said that: “nation will rise against nation...and there will be wars and rumors of wars, and earthquakes in places. All of these are the beginning of tribulations.” (Matthew 23: 78). He said that “there will be then great tribulation, such as has never occurred from the beginning of the world." (Matthew 24: 21). “And if those days were not cut short, no flesh would be saved. Therefore for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” (Matthew 24: 22). Then, at the awesome day of Judgment, the terrible day of the Second Coming of Christ, the Judge of the whole world, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its rays, and the stars will fall from heaven and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then all the people of the earth will weep, and behold the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory, and He will send His angels with trumpet and great voice, and gather His elect from the four winds from the corners of heaven. Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.” (Matthew 24: 29-32)
From this word of Christ, from this foretelling of what will occur at the Awesome Judgment, we can know with some certainty that this time is not far off. Likely mankind will be forced to experience a third world war, which likely will be the final one, and more terrible than all the previous wars!
We all waited longingly, hoping that, after the victory against the criminal fascists, that there would be total peace and harmony between those peoples who, with their combined efforts, prevented the terrible slavery which was prepared for the whole world by the brutality of the fascists. This is what we were waiting for. But the more time passes, the more it is confirmed to us that peace and harmony does not exist, for in different countries and more commonly the enemy of our righteous people rises. The horizon is terribly obscured by the black clouds and the specter of the atomic bomb, which endangers the whole world.
Our Lord Jesus Christ said: “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth? (Luke 18:8). Do you know how today, in all the countries and in all the people, how much faithlessness is strengthened and increased? Few remaining are those whom the Lord calls His little flock. Terrible is the time in which we life, terrible is the day of the coming Judgment, which we heard of in today's Gospel reading. I will not relate it again, for you heard all the basics. You heard why sinners will be condemned, whom the Lord further calls condemned ones. And you heard how the righteous will shine in the Kingdom of the Heavenly Father. Why? Only for love, for the work of almsgiving, for love is the essence of the law of Christ. Those whose hearts are full of love, those whose love is revealed in works of almsgiving towards his neighbor, they are those who have received the light of the Gospel within them. For them is prepared the Kingdom of the Heavens. They will hear from the Lord in the Awesome Judgment: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25: 34).
And they will enter the New Jerusalem, that Jerusalem which St. John the Theologian saw descending from heaven, and will enter into eternal life and blessedness. And those whom the Lord called condemned, will go into eternal fire, which was prepared for the devil and his servants.
There are many men who do not accept the Awesome Judgment. They say: is it right for the man who did sins in this short life, afterwards to be tortured eternally? This question is posed by all those who do not accept the Gospel of Christ. What shall we respond to this? Will we say that there is likely some part of truth to this thought? Of course not.
To whom is prepared eternal life? For the spirit of man, for that spirit which man received from God Himself, when He created Adam. Then God breathed into the body a living soul. All of us bear this spirit. Truly, it is this spirit which differentiates us from the dumb animals, which never were granted the higher gifts of the Divine Spirit. What happens therefore, during the life of man? There is a ceaseless, daily molding of our spirit. All our works, our senses, our words and thoughts leave an indelible seal on our souls, and mold it. Our spirit grows, changes, and is molded during the course of our life, affected by our deeds, senses and our thoughts. Within the spirit of man occurs something similar to that which occurs with a grape, which beneath the rays of the sun and with the morning dew, grows furthermore and is molded by life-giving power, which God granted to His living creations, and which shine with His beauty. He granted life to foster and receive the gifts of the sun and creation. And when it is grown, its death approaches. It is cut and thrown into a vat, trampled upon, and the grape gives up its blood, its juice, which then becomes wine. Though the grape was beautiful, though it is honored more than other things we gather, then through the wine which occurs through this grape, its life continues. Its peels rot like our body rots, and the wine is kept in barrels for many years. And the more time passes, the more precious the wine becomes. This, therefore, is the life of the grape, which resembles our earthly life, and the life of wine, which resembles the eternal and undying life of our spirit, when we will be freed from the bonds of this body, which after death occurs, dissolves like the peels of the grape.
Do you know that there are some kinds of grapes that are not good? There is, in other words, a sour grape and its juice does not make good wine. This wine becomes sour, and with the passing of time, it becomes even worse.
The same occurs with men. There are men who in their spirit, during the course of their life, is ceaselessly completed that which is good and true. Their good works make an indelible seal upon their human spirit, while their spirit becomes more and more perfect, pure and holy. This is the spirit of the righteous, those for whom the Kingdom of the Heavens has been prepared. There are those men, however, whose life is full of crimes and unspeakable sins. Their spirits they daily harm with poisons. And thus, without end, the spirit of these men is conformed according to evil.
Our spirit, however, is immortal. Our spirit will live forever, and therefore, the direction which we make in this life—either towards good or towards evil--will remain the stable direction. The spirit of the righteous men who loved Christ, who loved the true good, will be ceaselessly perfected, approaching the perfection of God in continuous communion with Him in the land of Paradise. However, the spirit of sinners, which during the course of their life was drowned utterly and furthermore in evil, is condemned to continue into this eternal choice towards evil, is condemned to have continuous communion with satan himself, and in its incomparable evil, will approach him even more. This is the eternal torture of sinners. They will sense, in other words, how God has left them, how they are condemned, and they will choke among their evil and hate against God and goodness.
Is God “responsible” for this? Did He condemn them to eternal torture? They themselves unfortunately condemned themselves, as they chose the way of evil alone. He left them free to ever follow this road.
Icon of St. Luke of Simferopol in the Monastery of St. Ephraim the Syrian, Karterini (Greece), which shed a tear earlier this month before a group of Romanian pilgrims (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!


lannes said...

Lots about the fascists' crimes,
but not a word about Stalin's.

Agioi_Anargyroi said...

I don't know what was going through St. Luke's head at that point, but this was written in 1946, so it could be that he was unaware of some of Stalin's crimes that came to light later.

But let it never be said that St. Luke blindly defended the atheistic, communist government. He suffered torture and exile for 11 years in total at their hands.