Sermon on the Commemoration Day of St. Ambrose, Elder of Optina

Hieromonk Vasily (Roslyakov)

St. Ambrose (Grenkov), elder of Optina. St. Ambrose (Grenkov), elder of Optina.
David the blessed psalmist says, “The day pours forth its words, and the night proclaims her wisdom.” What word does this day proclaim to us who have gathered here in church? The day on which we celebrate the uncovering of the relics of our holy and God-bearing father Ambrose. We shall not be mistaken if we say that this word is a word on the Resurrection of Christ.

Witnesses who visited the Roman catacombs, where are the tombs of the first martyrs for Christ, said that when they entered the holy caves they suddenly rejoiced with an unspeakably great joy. They don’t know where it came from. It was as if a wind had gusted upon them, whisking away all their sadness, sorrow, and bitterness like autumn leaves. They stood there simply rejoicing and merry. They had no words in the hearts other than “Christ is risen from the dead!”

Today we too, in approaching the coffin of our holy Father Ambrose, Elder of Optina, rejoice with same inexpressible joy of Christ’s resurrection. Hymning the Tomb of our Savior, we say, “How life-giving, how much more beautiful than paradise, and more resplendent than any royal palace proved Thy tomb, oh Christ, the source of our Resurrection!” And in the troparion to St. Ambrose we sing, “As to a healing spring do we come to thee, Oh Ambrose, our father!” Truly the coffin of our holy father Ambrose is a source of healing. It heals our spiritual wounds, our sorrows, sadness, and bitterness with which we fill ourselves in the world. We come here and the sadness, the enormous worldly sorrow disappears, and joy over the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ enters our hearts by the prayers of our holy father.

Remember how the Church hymns the myrrh-bearing women: “Why do ye mingle myrrh with tears of pity?” the Angel asks them. We also like them come with joy and hope to the relics, but also with sadness and sorrows. And here, as the Lord once said to His disciples after the Resurrection, “Peace be unto you!” so also does St. Ambrose console us. Therefore we also say to him, “Thou dost console us, St. Ambrose, in our sorrows and sicknesses.”

Our Father Ambrose emulated Christ by his death, just as the martyrs, righteous holy hierarchs, and venerable fathers and mothers did. Thus did he emulate Him also in Resurrection: he now stands before the Lord among the choirs of great saints glorified in the Russian land, hymning the Holy Consubstantial and Indivisible Trinity.

Hieromonk Vasily (Roslyakov)
Translation by Nun Cornelia (Rees)


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