Brothers and sisters! Last week the Holy Church placed flowers in our hands, as if saying to us: See how soulless nature is obedient to its Creator. Starting with the days of Christmas, the earth has been turning toward the sun, which began to bestow upon the earth its life-giving warmth. And nature does not prove itself ungrateful toward its Creator. In answer to His caress, she has produced this glorious beauty, these flowers, and further on, will produce fruits. And what about us? In answer to the spiritual warmth of God’s Grace, so abundantly poured out on us, do we bring to our Creator spiritual beauty, flowers, fruits of virtues? After all, He became Man for our sake, died for us, rose for us, ascended into Heaven in order to send down to us His Holy Spirit. And what about us? Is not this beauty of nature around us a reproach to our conscience? Let us answer honestly. Yes, it is. But more than this, we want to justify our negligence, our ingratitude. The commandments of Christ are wonderful, we say; and if people would begin to fulfill them, then the whole earth would be transformed into a wonderful divine garden. But is this possible for weak human strength? And here this Sunday, the Sunday of All the Saints, answers this question loudly so that the whole world hears: Yes, it is possible.
All the saints being remembered today followed the example of Christ. And all of them in their time, in their circumstances of life, fulfilled God’s commandment of love of God and neighbor. Occasionally their times were difficult, maybe more difficult than ours; and not infrequently their circumstances in life were more dangerous in spiritual terms, and often in worldly terms were worse than ours. But they still proceeded, struggled, and reached the abodes on high where they now triumph.
Just look at the murals of our church and you will see them: martyrs, confessors, ascetics, fools for Christ, educated people, simple people, rich, poor, bishops, monastics, lay people. This is the Heavenly Church. She is all-embracing, and she is filled up by the earthly, Militant Church. There is room for each of us there. This is what today’s Apostle reading tells us: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2). Just think: all of these saints were live people like us. And like us, all of them were different people; and their paths were different. But all of them, absolutely all, had three qualities which they all possessed identically. These qualities are pointed out to us in today’s Gospel. They are obligatory for everyone, and this means for us, too; we cannot escape them. Here they are: ‘Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father, which is in heaven” (Mt. 10:32). This is the first thing. Don’t you feel, brothers, how important this is for us modern-day people? Why, the whole world around us as if asks us: “Are you Christian or one of ours?” We cannot leave this question unanswered. In our speech, our actions, our thoughts and feelings (for our feelings are somehow passed on to the others), we must answer loud and firm: “Yes, I am a Christian!”
Here is the second: “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me” (Mt. 10:37). Here and now, the Lord demands from you and me this all-consuming love – to love Him more than everyone and everything. And only through this love for Him will we really be able to love our relatives, strangers, and even our enemies.
Finally the third: “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me” (Mt. 10:38). This instance does not even require explanation. Each of us has his own sorrows and difficulties in life; they are personal for each of us. It is difficult, burdensome, but such is our life; and this means, such is the Will of God for us.
Let us thank the Lord even for this cross! Without it we cannot be saved. And the Lord wants all of us to be saved, and to be united into one Triumph with all the Saints, whom we are glorifying today.
[ Archbishop Andrei of Novo-Diveevo. The One Thing Needful . Liberty Tennessee: St. John of Kronstadt Press, 1991]