Today on this Sunday of All Saints, the Church also honors the memory of the recently canonized saint and New Confessor of Russia who gave this sermon, St. Luke (Voino-Yasenetsky), Archbishop of Simferopol (1877–1961).
Innumerable and boundless like the sands of the great Sahara and Gobi Deserts are our contemporaries and those who lived before us. Who are they? What are there lives like? What do we see in their souls? If we could see all of what is boundless, we would see that the vast majority of mankind consists of those whom Holy Scripture calls “people of the earth”. Why are they called that? Because the most important goal in their lives and their main striving is for the acquisition of earthly goods—the goods that they receive from material nature.
They are either completely unspiritual, or their spiritual life is not deep! They either have no belief in spiritual world whatsoever, or they pay it scant attention.
These are the people of the earth; these are people who are psychological-emotional, but not spiritual.
These are the main masses of all mankind. But with fear and pain of soul we see on the left flanks of mankind incomparably worse and even terrible people. We see beast-people, monster-people, and even demon-people. And on the right flank of the people of the earth we see the light and glory of the human race, those beatific and God-blessed people, whom the great John the Theologian calls people of God, friends of Christ.
With reverent awe we see the great host of saints, shining in the darkness of this world, like bright divine stars against the dark sky. We see the hosts of prophets and apostles, the great holy hierarchs and pastors, who preached and confirmed the Gospel of Christ.
We see an enormous host of holy martyrs, great monastic saints and desert dwellers, and even people who are similar to God’s angels.
What made them saints, entirely unlike the people of the earth? We can learn the answer from the apostle Paul’s profound words—words that no one before him could say.
The horror and measureless glory of Christ’s Cross so shook their souls that they forgot the whole world and said, But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world… I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me (Gal. 6:14; 2:20). The great saints could also repeat these sacred words about themselves. Faith in the Lord Jesus and love for Him burned brightly in the hearts of the holy martyrs and gave them the strength to endure horrible sufferings and a terrifying death.
The world lost all of its attraction for the great monastic saints and deserts dwellers; the world was crucified to them.
It was unbearable for them to remain among men who were capable of such a measureless crime as the crucifixion on the cross of the Savior of the world, the Son of God; and they left for the uninhabitable deserts and impassible forest wilds so that they could live there in inseparable prayerful communion with God.
Their prayer was deep as the sea, and poured forth ceaselessly, day and night.
Our great Saint Seraphim of Sarov prayed for a thousand days and nights in the forest on a flat rock. St. Arseny the Great stood from evening to morning with uplifted arms in the desert, praying for the whole world. And the prayers of St. Mary of Egypt surpassed in strength even his prayers.
We could speak for a long time also about other great ascetics, of whom the whole world was unworthy.
On this first Sunday after Pentecost the Holy Church celebrates the memory of all the saints.
Why was this feast established? There are not very many names of saints in the calendar—only about 2000. But it could not be that there are so few saints; there are immeasurably more.
In the seventh chapter of the Revelation of St. John the Theologian we read, I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands… These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:9, 14).
There was a boundless and numberless multitude of saints shown to St. John the Theologian in this vision, and not just the 2000 saints whose names we read in the calendar.
God has an enormous multitude of saints, for the salvation of whom the Pre-eternal Son of God, the Savior of the world came down to earth and was incarnate of the Most Holy Virgin Mary.
Only an infinitesimal number of saints have been canonized by the Orthodox Church. But the entire vast multitude of other saints are known only to God, about Whom we say that that He alone sees man’s heart, the only “Knower of Hearts.” The poor and simple people who mean nothing to this world, who are even held in contempt and persecuted by the world and of whom the world is not worthy, are precious in His all-seeing eyes. This first Sunday after Pentecost is dedicated by the Church to the memory of all the saints—those known to the Church by name, and those known only to God.
Great and holy is this day; and it is fitting for us to honor it at least in prayerful hymns, and ask all the saints for their intercession before the God for us, so that we sinners also might stand, if even in the last ranks, with those who were worthy that the Lord God should call them His children; those who were born again, now not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man (Jn. 1:13), but from God Himself and the immeasurable power of Christ’s Gospel.
May this be for all of us!