March 27, 2023

Second Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 The Wisdom of the World and the Wisdom of a Pure Heart

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

To you, my flock, I will say the words that the Holy Apostle Paul wrote to his Philippian flock, and may you put them in your heart: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:9-10).

How to understand this? How should our love grow in knowledge and all discernment? There are two completely different areas of knowledge. One is the one that all scientists are engaged in: they explore nature and everything that happens in it, accumulate vast knowledge of the wisdom of this world, and the other is the one that even people who are completely unlearned reach; to perceive this knowledge, one must only have a pure heart.

The first area of knowledge, the area of knowledge of this world, is great and plentiful, but there are a lot of contradictions in it. In addition, every scientist is versed only in what belongs to his specialty: the chemist does not know astronomy, the astronomer does not know biology, the sociologist does not know the laws of architecture. Today there cannot be such a scientist who would combine all human knowledge, because long ago this knowledge has grown to such an extent that no one is able to contain it. And therefore every scientist possesses only a small particle of all knowledge about nature. This was clearly realized by the great scientist Laplace, who said: “What we know is a trifle, but what we do not know is immeasurable.”

Great thought! How much truth is in it! Laplace opens the door to the area of other knowledge, knowledge about what is unchanging, eternal, incomprehensible. Well, is this area completely inaccessible to people? No, it is available. It is available only to those who are like our great holy father John of the Ladder, whose memory we are now celebrating. With a pure heart, in unceasing prayer and fasting, he increased his love and thereby achieved the knowledge of much of what Laplace refers to the immeasurable area unknown to scientists. In his amazing book The Ladder, he is like an anatomist dissecting the body, dissecting the soul, exploring its secrets, exploring our sinful habits and showing ways to get rid of them.

How to acquire such knowledge? It is not at all the way the wisdom of the world is acquired. For there are two ways of cognition: the first is cognition with the mind that analyzes facts, and the other, immeasurably more important, is cognition with a pure heart, love for God, for Christ. Those who have loved God with all their hearts, who bow down before Christ, in their pure hearts accumulate vast, endless knowledge from the boundless realm of that unknown, which science does not know and cannot investigate with its own methods. Unbelievers do not have this knowledge of the heart, they know only with the mind, and therefore do not believe.

I pray, as the apostle Paul prayed, that your love would grow in knowledge, that love for Christ would open for you this immeasurably more important area than the wisdom of the world, the area of the eternal, the area of absolute truth.

But we pray that your love will increase not only in the acquisition of knowledge, but also in every feeling. How can love grow in every feeling? If, looking at the boundless sky with myriads of stars, at the mighty raging sea, at the highest mountains, you are imbued with a sense of reverence, then let this feeling of reverence for the wisdom of God, who created the sky, and the sea, and mountains, grow into love for God.

When you marvel at the creatures of God, so wisely arranged, then admiration for God, Who is Love, increases in you, love for the All-Wise and Great God increases, and love for God is the beginning of all love.

When you are imbued with a feeling of pity for unfortunate people, your love will also grow more and more, it will kindle with a bright flame and bear fruit in works of mercy.

When you begin to be afraid of someone or something, remember the words of the Apostle John: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). Get the kind of love that will drive away all fear from you.

Remember that great saints, such as Saint Seraphim of Sarov, were not at all afraid of wild animals, they fed them from their hands. And the Venerable Gerasimos, whose memory was celebrated yesterday, had as his close friend and servant a lion, whom he did good by taking a terrible thorn out of his paw. These saints had no fear of either wild beasts or people, for they loved all people; even the robbers who attacked them, they blessed, defended them from judgment, as Saint Seraphim defended them. There was no fear in their boundless love.

If envy overwhelms you, remember love, and instead of envy, rejoice in the joy, the success of the one you envy - and your love will increase from this. If anger overcomes you, if you are irritated, remember those saints who treated those who irritated them with great love, and forgave all offenses, and loved their enemies.

This is what the words of the Apostle Paul mean that love should grow not only in knowledge, but also in all discernment. And what does he say about the wisdom of scientists, before which many slavishly bow? “The wisdom of the world is foolishness before God” (I Cor. 3:19). But in the words of the holy prophet Jeremiah: "Every man has become a fool in his knowledge" (Jer. 10:14). In his marvelous hymn of love, the holy apostle Paul says: “Love never ceases, even though prophecies will cease, and tongues will be silent, and knowledge will be abolished” (I Cor. 13:8), once knowledge will be abolished, the wisdom of this world will be completely abolished - it will be abolished by God. The Apostle Paul warns us: “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (I Cor. 8:1).

The arrogant are haughty and proud of their knowledge and worldly wisdom - the wisdom that, according to the word of the apostle Paul, will perish! But we, Christians, are not proud of earthly wisdom, nor are we proud of the higher wisdom given from the Lord Jesus, for this wisdom, with which the hearts of the saints were filled, does not lead to pride, but, on the contrary, to the deepest humility, because when a person comes to know the Divine eternal mysteries, when his heart is purified and illumined, then pride and arrogance are expelled from him, and instead of them holy humility is established in his heart.

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,” so that, knowing immeasurably better than worldly wisdom, you may be pure and blameless on the Day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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