A sermon of His eminence the Bishop of Antania, Parthenius, Elder and Abbot of the Holy Bigorski Monastery delivered during the vespers in honor of the Holy Great Martyr George in Rajchica on the 5th of May 2021
We have gathered this evening, my dear ones to offer our gratitude to the great warrior of Christ and Megalomartyr the Holy and glorious George the Triumphant. A warrior like no other, because he achieved his most glorious victory in his own blood – the blood of martyrdom – following faithfully his Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb sacrificed for the sins of the world. Saint George was victorious over evil, surrendering his own life in martyrdom, thus participating in the great victory of Christ’s Cross – the greatest triumph over death and sin. What was the power that motivated and encouraged the young Saint George to lay his life in the battle of good against evil? It was, of course, his unshaken faith in the bright Resurrection of Christ, which makes him and all the other Martyrs and Saints so present and alive among us. As an obedient and faithful soldier of the eternal King Christ, he knew well the words with which our Lord promised His disciples suffering in the world: In the world ye shall have tribulation, but he was also familiar with the ending of this promise which announces the final triumph: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) Therefore all the martyrs who took suffering for Christ, as well as all the saints who suffered for Him every day, are the greatest, indisputable witnesses that the Tomb of Christ in Jerusalem was emptied by the Divine power of the Resurrection. Up to today this empty Tomb illuminates the Universe with the Light of the Resurrection and the sublime joy which emanates from it gives hope to all the Christians. The Holy Great Martyr George, our celebrant, kept his faith in the Resurrection until the very end. And for the ones like him, our Lord Jesus Christ says in the Gospel: Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; (Luke 22:28-29). So he and all the other martyrs and saints are now in the Kingdom established by God which is also our final destination and aim.
Tonight I was greatly inspired by the Prokeimenon after the Entrance. By the way, this week is also called Bright, because of the luminous resurrection and according to the Liturgical ecclesiology and theology is considered as a single day – the Eighth day of the Heavenly Kingdom. These days we chant and serve the same Paschal service as on the Sunday of Easter. Today we only added the sticheron of Saint George in honor of his great holiday. Still, just like the other vespers this week, we chanted the Great Prokeimenon which consists of verses from the psalms. Today’s Prokeimenon in the magnificent tone 7 was as follows: Hear my prayer O God; give ear to the words of my mouth (Psalm 54:1). These are words of a person who felt deeply God’s abandonment; he probably was in a state of great prayerful agony, desperate for the face of God. King David lived with repentance and breathed with the love for God, therefore he was inspired to write the wonderful verses of the psalms, endowed with true repentance and love for God. So we see that the Old Testament righteous men who, being human, fell in sin and regretted it, were oppressed by a great pain, by the sorrow from death. They all knew that they are headed for that miserable place of death, the dark Hades, or Sheol in Hebrew. That’s why they expected with such eagerness the coming of the Savior and Redeemer from death. With the incarnation of the Son of God, His Crucifixion and rising from the dead, the kingdom of death fell apart. It is this eager expectation that inspired the ancient Prophets. King David is one of the most inspired witness of God’s mysteries, who prophesied about Christ in a way as if Christ Himself was addressing His Father: For thou will not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption (Psalm 16:10) Prophet David predicted with his pure heart that the Messiah will destroy the power of Hades and would resurrect all of the reposed there. Just remember how well this is presented on the icon Descent to Hades in which Christ holds tightly the hands of Adam and Eve, lifting them from corruption and death towards His established kingdom. Something similar to today’s Prokeimenon were the words uttered by our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, denoting the same painful abandonment by God. Namely, He Who out of great and incomprehensible love towards mankind, became human and called Himself the Son Of Man, when hanging on the cross, uttered a part of David’s psalm on behalf of the entire humanity, from Adam until the last man. We all know His last words from the Gospel: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46) This is actually a part of Psalm 21 in which all the spiritual pain of God’s abandonment is presented. The Savior utters this Psalm as a human being, on behalf of all humans, but not in a sense that God abandoned men, it was rather vice versa. Because it’s impossible for the One Who loves people to such extent, even created them out of love, to leave His offspring in sadness. On the contrary, we abandon God and therefore are filled with unbearable bitterness and sadness. The problem of abandonment by God is deep inside us. How often it happens that only when we find ourselves in great misery and temptation, we remember God and cry to Him: “God please hear me! Can you hear me? Where are you? Why don’t you help me?” And sometimes it really feels as if there is no reply. That’s because we forget about Him, we don’t live with Him and for Him. When we are comfortable and satisfied with things in our life, we tend to forget God, and seem to remember Him only when we need Him for our own benefit, for the fulfillment of our egoistic wishes. But He is constantly with us, every day, every minute He thinks of us, He watches over us day and night, taking care of us and the entire world. In return, the only thing He wants to hear from us is: “God have mercy upon me. Christ my Lord I love you! Forgive me. Glory to you!” Ask yourself, if you say these things at least once during the day? I am certain that there are many days in which we completely forget about Him in our hearts.
Let us be grateful, my dear ones, to the resurrected Christ and all his witnesses throughout the history who make real His resurrection among us. The church has many wonderful witnesses. If anyone doubts the resurrection of Christ, let him look into these wonderful Christ witnesses, like Saint George that we celebrate today. During the first three centuries the Church won the greatest victory, the only one in the world, like no other religion had, nor a philosophy, a movement or a revolution. It won a victory, not by spilling blood, but by the blood of the Martyrs. Christians were killed without killing anybody and finally managed to conquer with love and transform even the Emperor of the great Roman Empire, who became a Christian. That is the true Christianity: To conquer through the love of the Crucified One. Because what was His coming to Earth if not a manifestation of His great, immense love for humanity? What was His Cross, if not love? And finally, the peak of His love was the Glorious and Bright Resurrection with which He embraces everybody until today. That’s why, let us not forget that even we, present here, as well as all the Christians elsewhere, should be witnesses of the Resurrection in our time, when the humanity has a great need of the Paschal Light. This light is the only this that gives meaning to life and joy to the soul. Everyone of you who carries the name of Christ is invited to testify about Him, thus helping as many souls and possible, to find the true meaning of their existence here on Earth.
Christ is Risen!