Homily on Holy and Great Friday
at the completion of Great Vespers
April 4/17, 2020
by His Grace Luke,
Bishop of Syracuse
Dear Fathers and brothers in Christ,
Holy is the Lord our God!
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, Have Mercy on Us!
These and many other prayers and sacred writings characterize God as Holy and the source of Holiness. The salvific struggle of the Son of God is completed. It is written, “In the grave bodily but in Hades with thy soul as God; in paradise with the thief and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit wast Thou who fillest all things, O Christ, the Inexpressible.”
Time and place disappear in the grace-filled experience of the Body of Christ, the Church, and in the life of Orthodox Christians. However, God chose to be born in the flesh and to truly suffer and to die so that He could work out our salvation through things of this world, beginning with His Flesh and Blood and continuing to sanctify us through everything the Church offers us. He beckons us to receive into our bodies, to venerate, to touch: the shroud before us, the incense we breathe, Holy Water, blessed salt, sanctified palms and pussy willows, myrrh from a streaming icon, our personal prayers, the Sign of the Cross, the struggle for virtue, the battle with sin — the endless, invisible and visible means by which our Lord desires to commune with us and to make us holy.
Dearly beloved fathers and brothers, piety is Orthodoxy and holiness in life, in everyday life, where we commune with the Holy Spirit — the Giver of Life, not of death. Beware, lest we fall into a carnal, purely natural, worldly understanding of these Mysteries, which God has ordained for our salvation. Empty religious forms will not satisfy our spirit and we will then seek pleasure and satisfaction in the passions — in endless worldly distractions, in neo-idol worship.
Be careful not to shake the simple-hearted faith of those little ones among us by sterilizing the Sacred. The Lord warns us about this. Yes, it requires unshakable faith to move mountains but our Creator tells us it is indeed possible. As we continue to repent, to grow in Christ, let us pray earnestly to God to forgive us for our weak faith and that He ever increase our faith so that we might put away sin, triviality, carnal thinking of the natural man, and enter into that to which we are called—a life in the Holy Spirit, a spiritual life. And let us exclaim with St David: Take not thy Holy Spirit from me, but restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.