"After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways .... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church." St. Philaret of NY 1985

Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

St. Philaret of New York 

He who reads the Gospel knows that the Lord Jesus Christ said to those who were listening to Him:  “It is difficult for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of  Heaven.”  He did not say this about anyone else, but specifically about the rich man.  In the Gospel you and I find examples of how difficult this is.  We know the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.  It tells of how a rich man lived for the sake of his own pleasure: possessing wealth, he lived a very extravagant life; he lived for himself, just as he pleased.  It does not state that he committed any type of terrible, grave sins;  he killed no one, nor did he rob anyone.  However, this parable says that his end was terrible, because after his death he found himself in the torments of hell. 

Perhaps, in a more intense form, the Church has offered us today in the liturgy Gospel reading, the same message, when the Lord said that one rich man had a plentiful harvest and he started to think: “What should I do? — I have nowhere to store my harvest!”  It was so large, so much grain had been produced, that his barns, granary silos could not contain this harvest.  At this point, there seems to be nothing bad in his manner of thinking; these are purely agricultural concerns that contain nothing worthy of reproach.  Then he goes on to say: “Here’s what I will do.  I will tear down my granaries (barns and silos) completely and instead of them I will build bigger ones into which I will store up all my wealth, all of this harvest.”  And at this point there is also nothing bad yet.  This is a landowner speaking prudently about what needs to be done so that such a wealth of goods does not perish, so that such a harvest not spoil, and to store it appropriately — there is nothing bad here either yet.  But then further on we read and hear in the Gospel, how he says, “I will build great barns and granaries for myself, and I will collect my harvest into them;  and I will say to myself:  my soul, you have great riches; enough to last for years — take rest, eat, drink, be merry!”  And now here you and I see, that when the Lord gave him such wealth, such a harvest, he did not even think that there are people who not only do not have a harvest, but are starving.  Such a thought never even entered his head;  and he says to his soul:  “Well, now we will live in pleasure!”  In other words, what we see before us is a complete egoist!  And here a terrible end comes — he plummets, together with all his harvest, into the abyss of hell, because God  said to him: “Mindless one, this night your soul (as it says in Slavonic) will be yanked away,” that is, mercilessly torn out —  “your end has come, and that which you are storing away, to whom will it be left?”  This end is so clear and so terrifying, that the Lord did not go on to add any more explanations, but merely added:  “So it happens to all those who acquire for themselves, but do not grow rich in God!” 

This Gospel lesson is for each one of us.  It is unlikely that one could find a few people on earth who would not be happy if wealth came to them! But then immediately, as soon as wealth comes into a person’s hands, together with it come those temptations on account of which the Lord had said, that it is precisely “difficult for the rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” 

There is another kind of wealth, spiritual wealth, and this is what was acquired by that great God-pleaser, whose memory the Church celebrates today — the holy Great Martyr Barbara.  Like a shining meteor she flashed across the Church horizon during her brief life, for her lifespan was not even sixteen years in length.  She was a little over fifteen years old when she accomplished her astounding feat.  She came to believe in Christ, attempting to bring her father, a hardened and vicious pagan, to his senses.  But when he learned that she was a Christian, although he loved her dearly in his own pagan way, all his love turned to rabid rage!  At that moment he wanted to chop her up with his sword.  But she escaped him — the Lord helped her to miraculously find refuge beyond the mountain.  Her father later found her, dragged her home by the hair and the horrifying torments and torture began:  he himself beat and tortured her, and then gave her to the pagan king torturer.  What indescribable things did they not do to the poor maiden!... They flogged her, tortured, slashed her to the point that on her beautiful virginal body there was not one spot unharmed... She endured, like an adamant, as an unshakable pillar.   Out of love for her heavenly Bridegroom — she went through all of it!  And then comes the marvelous end!   On one icon of the holy Great Martyr Barbara it is depicted how angels carry this bride of Christ to her beloved Bridegroom.  All the horrors remain behind; her earthly path comes to an end.  The vicious father with his own hands chopped off her head,  and for this he is struck by lightning — fire from heaven.  But for her it has all ended:  they tormented and tortured her to the brink, but all of this was already behind, and she is streaming toward that place from whence shines the unwaning Light, to her beloved Bridegroom, with all her being she strives on ward:  her eyes burning, her arms  outstretched in front, she rushes onward irrepressibly, for there awaits her the One Whom she loved so much. 

This is what it means to amass  spiritual wealth, which no one can confiscate from a person.  My brethren, how much edification the Church gives us: in her divine services, in her teachings!  Here too is an example of the unfortunate rich man, who became so wealthy, not thanking God for the great gift of the harvest, did not consider his neighbor who was needy, and because of this perished in such a terrible way.  But then here is an example of the holy Great Martyr Barbara, who rejected even her great beauty, earthly wealth and fame — everything!  All of this she brought as a sacrifice before her beloved Bridegroom, Christ. These very examples should be an edification to us as to how one must accumulate spiritual wealth and how one must be a Christian, always ready, if necessary, to be faithful even unto death, for the holy Great Martyr Barbara accomplished her feat in such a way that in her the promise which the Lord gave us in the Apocalypse was precisely fulfilled.  There it says:  “Be faithful even unto death and I will give you the crown of life!” 

Translated by Eugenia Chisholm from St. Philaret’s collected sermons (in Russian), Vol. III, pp. 149-152