ON THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD
Sermon after the Sunday Liturgy 26.12.2021
Today as per church calendar we revere the memory of the 4th century ancient Greek martyr Eustratius. But we also have our Russian venerable monk and martyr Eustratius who lived in Kiev Monastery of Caves (also Kyiv Pechersk Lavra). The story of this martyr is the following. The Cumans invaded Kiev, robbed and took captive a part of its inhabitants. The captives included both laity and monks of Lavra, and saint venerable monk and martyr Eustratius was among them. By the way, a small part of his relics is kept here, in Orsk, under the altar of the Transfiguration Cathedral. In the Circum-Pontic region the Cumans sold their captives in slavery to a Judaize. One part of the bought people he used as slaves and the other part, as he hated Christians so much, he decided to torture so that they disowned Christ. Therefore, he put them in prison and started to starve them. St. Venerable monk and martyr Eustratius, who had been a fast during his life in Lavra, inspired our Russian captives: “Let us not disown Christ, let us stand to the last. This man won’t stop, and we will die anyway. But if we denounce Christ, eternal death will be left to us”. And so he inspired everyone and all the Russian captives were strong, they starved and died one by one.
At last St. venerable monk and martyr Eusrtatius was the only one left, as being a monk he was tempered by fast and asceticism. He didn’t just die, but even more his body didn’t show any sign of weakness. Then, that Judaize torturer decided to aggravate the torture and nailed St. Eustratius to a cross making him suffer badly like Our Lord suffered. He thrusted nails through the martyr’s palms and feet. You know, when a man dies on a cross he doesn’t just feel great pain. He dies of suffocation, as his body is in such a position that, in order to breathe in just once he needs to raise himself on his wounded extremities causing unbearable pain to himself. And so, St. venerable monk and martyr Eusrtatius after being crucified started to shed tears. The Judaize approached him and said: “At last I broke your Christian courage and made you cry”. To what St. Eustratius answered: “You are a stupid man. I’m crying for joy as I’m dying like My Lord Jesus Christ”. The Judaize got furious and said: “You want to die like your God, don’t you? But I won’t let you”. And in his rage he stabbed the martyr under his right rib with a knife. Without realizing it he drew a line under the imitation of St. Eustratius’ sufferings to the passions of Christ.
Why have I retold you the life of this saint in detail? Look, in a hopeless situation a man, who doesn’t see the providence of God, may become desperate, his faith may falter: I dedicated my whole life to You, and where are You now, at this horrible moment? In fact, God with all His might is always by your side, even in the most desperate situations, which we may not understand, misestimate, God may even seem to leave us. In the end He can turn the most hopeless situation to an advantage for eternity.
I would like to inspire you. There is plenty of sorrow now. And a special and greater sorrow may come soon. Remember, when it seems that it’s all lost, at this very point God stands by your side with all His might. And He can at once turn any desperate situation to good. Just like it happened to St. venerable monk and martyr Eusrtatius. O Lord, make us strong by his prayers! Sweetest Jesus, save us.