Sermon by Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov on All Saints’ Day
During these holy days, when Orthodox Christians praise the Holy Spirit after Pentecost, by Whom “every soul is quickened,” that is, is purified, renewed, and strives for the higher, it is possible that for us, out of our weakness, it is difficult to sense what the grace of the Holy Spirit really is. Naturally, then, on the next Sunday we praise all of the holy saints who received divine grace, who were sanctified and perfected by the power of the All-Holy and Life-Giving Spirit of the Lord. It is easier for us to relate to these earthly saints of God who – like us – endured earthly tribulations and sorrows, burdened by one need or another, by sin and passions, but – unlike us – defeated them with the grace of the Holy Spirit, which they called upon themselves and thirsted for with their entire hearts.
We are amazed as we ponder how the Holy Apostles left their families, their earthly cares, and followed Christ, and later preached His teachings, proceeding to deprivation and torture.
We revere the humble ascetics, whose spiritual feats seem to us mortals to be impossible.
We venerate the terrible sufferings that the holy martyrs willingly endured for Christ, in joyful trepidation accepting a physical death in order to obtain æternal life.
Yes, we know this all full well, and in our souls we desire to perform these feats, but in fact we are unable to: we cannot even refrain from complaining or express genuine goodwill to our neighbors.
Spiritual asceticism is difficult, especially when it draws the unavoidable consequences: mockery, condemnation, and even persecu-tion. Can this perverted world comprehend the spiritual nature of the humble follower of Christ? How penetratingly and eloquently the Apostle Paul speaks of ascetics: “And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings; yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain by the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:36-38).
Do these righteous saints abide in Heaven? Without a doubt. If it is difficult for us to grasp mentally how it is that these saints live in æternity, look at the works of the Holy Fathers. Their thoughts resound today, they shine forth spiritual light and offer a helping hand, for they are timeless. How many wondrous thoughts and sermons and teachings have the saints left for us in recent centuries? When we read them, do they not gain a new life again for us? Did they think when they preached in their homeland, from the sees of Moscow, Kiev, and St. Petersburg, that after many decades, their teachings would again be heard in distant America, in both grand cathedrals and small mission churches? Could they imagine that their incisive words would ignite faith and hope in the hearts of the destitute Russian people? Is their memory not preserved for generation and generation?
And so we are confirmed in faith in this splendid, heavenly world, where there is no sorrow, no sickness, no sadness. Our souls are not at home here on earth, for the Creator intended them for Heaven; that is why we can never find peace here. You might say, What about the rich and famous, immersed in the pleasures of earthly goods: don’t they enjoy peace? No, they do not. Remember King Solomon; who was ever richer or more famous than he? Even he, finding no consolation for his soul, in his suffering and spiritual angst cried out, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” And so our goal is to obtain æternal joy in the Heavenly abodes. The Gospel reading on the Sunday of All Saints calls upon us to reject all that is dear and close on earth if it hinders our spiritual calling and deprives us of æternal bliss. The reward for those who follow Christ is æternally great: “Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28). Though this was spoken to the Holy Apostles, it applies to every person of faith who earns by his pious life the law of the Savior: “Receive an hundredfold, and… inherit everlasting life” (Matthew 19:29).
May the Lord open our hearts not only to understanding these truths of salvation, but to apply them in our lives by knowledge renewed and blessed by the Grace of the Holy Spirit.