This sermon was given in on this day in 2006 by the namesake of St. Vladimir, Metropolitan Vladimir (Sabodan) of Kiev, of blessed memory.
Photo: azbyka.ru By God’s good will, every country and every people, often even cities, have an enlightener in their histories. The Lord raised up His chosen from among the people and through them enlightened His people with the light of faith.
Rome praises Sts. Peter and Paul, through whom they came to believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God; Asia, Ephesus, and Patmos has St. John the Theologian; India has St. Thomas; Egypt has St. Mark; and every country, city and people honors and praises their instructors who taught them the Christian faith.
Holy Apostle Paul commands us: Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow (Heb. 13:7). Heeding the holy apostle’s call, we glorify and honor today the enlightener and baptizer of Rus’, Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir.
The all-merciful eye of God looked down upon Prince Vladimir—and wisdom shone in his heart; he understood the vanity and error of idolatry and sought the one God, Who created all things visible and invisible. He caught the fire of the spirit and desired with all his heart to become a Christian, and to convert his whole land to Christianity. At the good will of God’s love for mankind, this was fulfilled. Entering the holy baptismal font, Vladimir was reborn of water and the spirit, and he commanded all his people to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The sun of the Gospel illumined our land, pagan shrines were destroyed, churches were erected, the cross enlightened the towns, idols were cast down, and holy icons appeared. The Bloodless Sacrifice began to be offered, and incense raised up to God began to sanctify the air.
Prince Vladimir is complex historical personality. In him we can see ourselves today as in a mirror, with all the complexity of our own personalities, the fickleness of our behavior, with its spiritual rises and falls. The Lord so willed to choose just such a person in order to fully manifest a miracle in him, which He works in people of our holy faith.
What did the Christian faith give to St. Vladimir and the Rus’ lands? The sinful and prodigal pagan Vladimir took on a God-fearing nature. His conversion to Christ was authentic, intimate, and deep. The transformation of his character and break with sin were amazing. “Thou did acquire the priceless pearl of Christ Who chose thee like a second Paul, and thou didst shake off thy blindness of both soul and body in the holy baptismal font,” sings the Church of him.
The holy faith changed Vladimir, and helped him hear the Lord’s word spoken to King Nebuchadnezzar by the Prophet Daniel and to build his life upon that word: This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king (Dan. 4:24).
His alms given to people gave him great boldness before God as a faithful servant of Christ. The words of Scripture confirm us in this: Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy (Mt. 5:7); He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins (Js. 5:20). If the Lord God gives such a reward for the conversion of one man, then what blessedness much Prince Vladimir have gained?! After all, he not only converted to Christ himself, but as a sovereign and leader took care to convert his people. Faith cleansed the people of the crude error of idol worship, and changed their human morals. The roots of our culture are in the Christian faith. Faith laid the foundation of our written culture, our art, and architecture. Faith brought humanitarian principles into the life of our people, our families, and society. Faith, which the Lord gave us through Prince Vladimir, was a worthy sowing, which brought forth worthy fruit of the spirit. It glorified a host of holy God-pleasers—our compatriots who now intercede before God for our land, for our holy Church, and for our people.
In honoring the enlightener and baptizer of Rus’, the ceaseless prayerful intercessor before God, Grand Prince Vladimir, let us, brothers and sisters, uphold the Orthodox faith and build our lives according to the Gospel. All this requires labor and effort, but God is with us, giving us the priceless gift of faith and helping us mature according the measure of Christ’s age. The prayerful help of Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince are with us.
In order to preserve our faith, buildings alone are not enough. We can have excellent knowledge of Holy Scripture and its sacred commandments, and yet be bad Christians. A true Christian will be the one who joins knowledge of the faith, of God, and of the Church to church experience, to true Christian life.
Let us pray to the All-Good God, Who enlightens and sanctifies every person who comes into the world, that through the prayers of our enlightener St. Vladimir He might strengthen our faith and help us, in overcoming all that is vain, sinful, and worldly, to be true children of our holy Church and Fatherland, and heirs to eternal life.