Memory of Saint Job of Pochaiv

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
No Short-cuts to Salvation
19th Sunday after Pentecost
(Memory of Saint Job of Pochaiv)
transferred to 26 October, 2008)
[Given outside the diocese]
2 Corinthians 11:31-12:9 ; Luke 16:19-32

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The fact that we are today celebrating the memory of the holy Igumen Job of Pochaiv is appropriate, because today’s readings are concerned with the way of repentance, the way of following Christ. This is the centre of our Christian life. If there was a man who followed Christ, it is Saint Job of Pochaiv.

The Gospel reading today is the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Here, we see how the rich man is attempting to bring about the salvation of his brothers by some sort of ghostly force, so to speak. He is asking that the Lord will send Lazarus to appear to his brothers in order to wake them up. Our Lord is being very clear, as He teaches us that there are no short-cuts to finding the way to life and to salvation. Therefore, in this parable, He tells us that Abraham replied to the Rich Man that even if someone should rise from the dead, then in the case of certain people, they are not going to listen : “‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead’”. This is precisely what has happened. There are people who do hear the Law and the Prophets, and they do understand and accept and live in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. However, there are many people who absolutely refuse to hear. My mother used to say very often (when she was referring to me) : “There are none so blind as those who will not see”. That is very much the way of human existence.

Because we are slaves of fear (and that is probably 99 per cent of the time), we are not likely to hear the words of the Gospel clearly and correctly, and we are therefore often willy-nilly determined to distort them, somehow. This is also because we are slaves of pride. Human beings characteristically like to be in control of everything. We like to run everything. We like to manipulate everything. It seems that if we could, we would like to control God, Himself. We are a very difficult race. It is a wonder that the Lord lets the human race continue on for so long.

I was discussing the behaviour of human beings yesterday with n, and remembering a priest who is a retired Egyptologist (and a very well-known Egyptologist). I had previously asked this priest whether, according to his studies, things were any better now than they were 5,000 years ago. He had replied that there is no improvement, but he opined that we are, in fact, worse. Therefore, it does not matter how much we deceive ourselves in terms of our skill and technological advance – our behaviour is deteriorating. How we are towards each other as human beings does not get better. It is even getting worse. I believe this man. I believe him not only because he is an Egyptologist, a wise man, an understanding person, and a God-loving priest. I also accept what he has to say because I think that I can see one or two things about what he says in human behaviour just now, with all this stock market manipulation that is going on, and the panic and fear that is driving people one way or the other. Much of it is cynically done, in my opinion, because this happens too regularly. People are making money, and they do not seem to care about anyone else.

Human beings very much like to make their own way and control things. I remember reading in my extreme youth the passage from the Apostle that we read this morning about his being caught up to the third heaven, and hearing things that cannot be spoken about, and seeing things that cannot be expressed. Because of my naïve stupidity I thought that it would be wonderful to be able to do something so I could experience this, too. I have seen many other people with the same sort of deluded idea that we can somehow do something in order to experience what the Apostle Paul experienced, and experiences.

That is not how it goes. We cannot make ourselves get there. We cannot do something to get there in terms of living by some sort of technique, by thinking that if I do this, then God will give me that. There is no such bargaining. The Apostle Paul said that the experience was given to him. He did not take it. It is because he was living his life in love and service to the Lord that the experience was given to him. The Lord poured out His love on the Apostle Paul in an inexpressible way, and He allowed him to encounter Himself, the Lord, in ways that cannot be expressed. He probably heard the singing of angels, and the glorification of God in heaven. We are not going to get there by doing something such as deep breathing or whatever else some people think you can do to get there and experience this. If we are doing all these techniques, we are inviting the devil to deceive us. However, if we are living our life in love, harmony, submission, and obedience to Him and because of love (not out of fear), then the Lord may give us this experience, or something like it.

The Apostle Paul needed something like this experience to refresh him. He was living through and enduring all sorts of beatings, imprisonments, difficulties, hunger, things that we do not even have an idea about in our fat-cat North American ways. He was experiencing all this deprivation because he wanted so much to share the love and the hope and the life of Jesus Christ. All this was for that reason only, because he wanted other people to know the Lord the way he knew Him.

Therefore, recalling the opening parable, it does not matter if someone, somehow, comes back from the dead, as our Lord is saying in this parable. If a person’s heart is hard, resistant, and focussed on self, this is not going to penetrate. However, what does penetrate is the truth of the love of Jesus Christ. When people encounter the authentic love of Jesus Christ in Christians, they respond, if they have any openness in their hearts. They respond with hope and love in the same way. The warmth of the love of Jesus Christ melts all sorts of icy hearts. For instance, I know one person who had known one of her neighbours since he was born. In his adolescence he had fallen away somehow (or at least he certainly thought he had). He was being rebellious, and he kept himself distant from the Lord. However, this person saw the potential in the other young person. She began to pray for him out of compassion. She prayed for him every day for eight years. Then after eight years, while walking her dogs, she met this person in a park. He began to ask her questions. That opened the doors for him not only to come into the Orthodox Church, but now to be one of our deacons. He admits that this is how it went. Patience, love, and prayer, motivated by the love of Jesus Christ, accomplish many things.

I would like to speak about Saint Job of Pochaiv, about whom we have been singing, because the Lord has poured out a great deal of Grace through the life, example, and prayers of this man. I want to say that there are people who have semi-scientific, sceptical, intellectual approaches to relics. However, the relics of Saint Job of Pochaiv are uncorrupt. That means that if we were to go to the monastery of Pochaiv to where his relics rest in the ante-room (as it were) to the cave where he lived, then we will see that his body after all these years is brown, but it is whole. His body has not mouldered away into bones – it is just there, brown with age. It might appear to some as though he had a good tan. All we who are Orthodox Christians know what it is like to come and kiss for the last time someone who has died. That person’s body is usually cold, like the tiles on this floor. In fact, it is very cold, and we can tell that this person has definitely gone. However, when we go and kiss Saint Job of Pochaiv, it is as though we might be now, here, kissing each other’s hand. He is warm. He is lying there, in his reliquary, where he has rested for 500 years, in a cool place – a cave. It is not heated in there. I was quite surprised, myself, when I went to kiss him for the first time, and I found that he is warm. Try and explain that scientifically. I would not even try to explain it, apart from the love of the Lord. People want to explain scientifically the fact that he is lying there incorrupt. They try to explain why his body should not have decayed by saying that it is because there is some sort of very good climatic condition there in the cave. However, not they, not you, not I can explain away the fact that his body is still at living temperature.

Through things such as this, the Lord, in His love, is trying to melt our icy hearts, our stubborn intellect, our resistance to His love and to His life. He is trying to say to you and to me : “Wake up. I love you. No-one else loves you as I love you. No-one else will love you without betraying you (because human beings always betray each other). No-one loves you with the consistency of the truth as I love you”. “'Learn from Me'”, as He says in the Gospel : “'My yoke is easy and My burden is light'” (Matthew 11:29, 30). The Lord is saying, as it were : “I love you. Come to me. Come with me. Be with me”. He does this through someone like Saint Job. Saint Job is not the only incorrupt one, but he is a very significant one who is incorrupt. The Lord does such things through people like Saint Job, because Saint Job is such a God-loving man, himself, whom people respect. We turn to him very often, and therefore, through him the Lord can and does approach us. Through Saint Job and others like him, the Lord speaks to our hearts. In fact, He can wake us up, as He certainly did with me through my visits to Saint Job, and my venerating his relics.

Brothers and sisters, let us do our best to open our hearts to the Lord, and let us allow Him to live more and more in our hearts. Let us allow the Lord to soften our hearts, to give us more of that life and joy which characterise Orthodox Christians. This is the way of hospitality, of unified, whole, undivided, unbroken lives, lives that in every part glorify Him. Let us remember and try to live by the words of our favourite first saint, Herman, the Elder and Wonder-worker of Alaska, who said (as I am sure Saint Job also would say) : “From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all, and do His holy will”, and in that we will glorify with Saint Job, with Saint Herman, and with all the saints, the all-holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.