January 13, 2023

Homily Two on the Theophany of the Lord (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol

(Delivered in 1958)

When we celebrate one of our greatest feasts - the Baptism of the Lord or Theophany - then we are faced with a bewildered question: why did He come to the Jordan, why was our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God, who took on human flesh for the sake of saving us, accursed sinners, baptized?

This bewildered question arises only among us, and not among the crowd of people standing on the banks of the Jordan and contemplating the baptism of the Lord Jesus could it arise, since no one yet knew Him as the Only Sinless One, as the true Son of God.

Well, shall we say that He did not need to be baptized by John? No, we will not say that: we will not dare to say it, for the Lord Jesus Himself said to His Forerunner that they must fulfill all righteousness, and by His baptism the Lord Jesus Christ testified to the great importance, the great truth of repentance. He began his very message with the words: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17).

He came to open the way for us to the Kingdom of Heaven, which is not accessible to anyone who has not washed the filth of the soul with his hot tears of repentance. Only a human heart cleansed by repentance can perceive the greatest word of the Savior: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

The whole great message of the Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord John had as its main goal a call to repentance, with which he prepared the way for the Lord.

And without deep repentance, it is impossible to begin the difficult path to the Kingdom of Heaven, indicated to us by the Lord Jesus Christ. And another great work of God was accomplished on this glorious day of the Baptism of the Lord. When the Eternal Son of God emerged from the waters of the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended from heaven on His head in the form of a dove. And the people standing on the banks of the Jordan heard the voice of God the Father thundering from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). The manifestation of the Triune God to the human world was never before seen or heard of. It was a testimony to the God-man Jesus Christ, as if God Himself representing Him to the world. And, despite such a wonderful testimony about the Son of God, not all the people of Israel bowed before Him and believed in Him.

Satan, who dared to tempt the Lord Jesus in the desert after a forty-day fast, with which Christ was preparing for the beginning of His message, was put to shame by the answers of the Lord Jesus Christ, but left Him only for a time, for he found many accomplices to himself in hatred of the Lord Jesus among the priests, scribes, Pharisees and the elders of the people, and even among ordinary people, who more than once grabbed stones to beat their Savior to death.

Let us go away from the enemies of Christ and fall on our faces in an expression of deep love for the Son of God, Who descended from heaven to save us, who were perishing in our sins and iniquities.

Let us mentally return once again to the banks of the Jordan and listen to what the Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord John said on the day after the Baptism of the Lord. He said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:29-34).

Listen, my brothers and sisters, that not only our Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit testified of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Eternal Son of God, but also the greatest of those born of women, with all the power available to man, testifies to the same.

Is this testimony of God Himself, this Divine presentation of Him to the world as the Beloved Son of God, not enough for us? Is it not enough to testify of Him as the greatest ever born of women that He is the Son of God? Are these greatest testimonies about Christ as the Son of God, repeated annually on the great day of Theophany, not enough?

Oh, how I fear that at least one of you, my God-given flock, should not lose his ardent faith in our Savior and would not go into the number of those unfortunate ones who have been crucifying Christ for the second time for many centuries and until now everywhere.

May this most terrible thing not happen to any of you.

May you be children of the Kingdom of Christ, deeply established in His true teaching. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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