March 5, 2023

Third Homily on the Sunday of Orthodoxy (St. Luke of Simferopol)

On the Fate of Heretics
By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on March 25, 1945 - Sunday of Orthodoxy)

On the first Sunday of Great Lent, which is called the week of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the Holy Church celebrates the affirmation and strengthening of the Orthodox faith, victory over the numerous heretics condemned by the Seven Ecumenical Synods.

You know that even in the days of the apostles many false teachers appeared, and their number kept multiplying and multiplying over the centuries. Heretics rebelled, distorting the holy Orthodox faith, introducing their impious changes into the Creed, falsely teaching about the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. And many followed their wickedness, many perished in eternal death.

All this was foretold by the holy apostles. Here is what the Holy Apostle Peter in his second universal epistle says: “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed” (II Pet. 2:1-2). Also, Saint Paul warned the Ephesian Christians: “I know that after my departure, fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and out of yourselves men will arise who will speak perversely in order to draw disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

Even then, in ancient apostolic times, divisions began in the Church of Christ, and yet our Lord Jesus Christ Himself said that His holy Church should be one: “And there will be one flock and one Shepherd” (John 10:16). And in His High Priestly Prayer, He called out to His Father: “Let them all be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, so they too may be one in Us” (John 17:10-21).

The Lord taught about the unity of the Church, being her Head and Shepherd; all kinds of false teachers and heretics, like ravenous wolves, have always sought to isolate themselves from Christ and plunder part of His flock, in a thirst for power and honor from the world. They torment and gnaw at the Church of Christ. In 1054, because of the claims of the popes of Rome in favor of undivided dominion in the Church, which they wanted to rule alone, the Western, i.e., the Catholic Church, separated from the Eastern, the Orthodox, Church, to which we belong. The holy apostles never practiced one-man management in the Church: the Church was governed by the Synods, and no one called himself the vicar of Christ on earth. The Orthodox did everything to prevent division, but the Lord allowed it to happen.

In the 16th century, a new schismatic teacher, Luther, arose, who subjected the whole teaching of the Church to a daring, self-willed criticism and completely altered it, as it seemed to him necessary. And a new, already completely broken continuity with the apostles, arose, the Lutheran heresy (Protestantism). And then began the constant and non-stop division of Protestantism into many sects and interpretations, for Luther gave all his followers the full right to interpret the Bible as they themselves see fit.

Such an interpretation, without the guidance of God-appointed pastors of the Church, inevitably became misinterpretation. Everyone understood the Bible the way he wanted, the way his ignorance and weakness of mind prompted him. And now Protestants have a huge number of sects.

But, to our great grief, the influence of these Protestant heresies and sects has also penetrated into our Church. There were many among our people who left the faith of their fathers and followed the Protestant sectarians. This is how Shtundists, Baptists and many other sects arose among us.

Ignorant people, not established in the truth, go to sects, and create their own doctrine, being imbued with the most serious vice, the most serious sin - the satanic sin of pride. They dare to boldly criticize what was established by the Ecumenical Synods, what was prescribed by the holy apostles, what the Orthodox Church teaches. They absurdly and ignorantly subject the entire Bible, the entire New Testament, to annihilating criticism, choosing from Holy Scripture only that which flatters their self-love and pride, and discarding everything that contradicts their preconceived opinions.

Pride and deep ignorance lie at the root of sectarianism. This must be firmly remembered by all. Sectarianism has degenerated among us into wild, absurd forms, outrageous in their stupidity and in their impudent denial of all Christian teaching; some of them are embarrassing to even talk about.

There are many sectarians who reject the Deity of Jesus Christ. To the shame of the Russian people, there were people in it who, having forgotten all its past, all the centuries-old national foundations, their Orthodox faith, began to profess the Jewish faith, for there are a number of Judaizing sects that observe the entire law of Moses, honor all Jewish holidays, subject themselves and their children to being circumcised and become Russian Jews. These are the absurdities some sectarians reach.

The Holy Apostle Peter in his Second Universal Epistle said: “Untaught and unstable people twist the Pauline writings to their own destruction, just like the rest of Scripture” (II Pet. 3:16).

And here are the words of the holy Apostle Paul: “How shall they preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:15). The ministers of the Church, bishops and priests, are sent to preach: the priests are sent by the bishops, and the bishops received this authority from the apostles, while the Lord Himself commanded the apostles to pasture His flock: “He who listens to you listens to Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me; but whoever rejects Me rejects the one who sent Me” (Luke 10:16).

These words directly apply to sectarians who do not listen to the servants of the Church, and thus, reject the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and the Father who sent Him. Renouncing the Divine Truth, the sectarians trampled on the commandments of God, rejected the Mysteries of the Church, and arrogated to themselves the right to preach. How and what will they preach if they are not sent?

There is no more serious sin than schisms and divisions in the Church of Christ. So said all the great saints. I will quote the words of the Hieromartyr Cyprian: “People who do not keep the union and close communion with the Church, even if they put themselves to death for confessing the name of Christ, their sin will not be washed away even with blood itself: the indelible and heavy guilt of division is not cleansed even by blood.” And another Hieromartyr - Ignatius the God-bearer - said this: "Do not be deceived, brethren: whoever follows the one who causes a schism, he will not inherit the kingdom of God."

You see what a terrible sin is schism and sectarianism, how terrible it is to deviate from the Church of Christ and follow heretics. The holy apostles have repeatedly warned us about this. In the Epistle to the Romans, Saint Paul says: "I beseech you, brethren, beware of those who create divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine that you have learned, and turn away from them" (Rom. 16:17).

The Lord Jesus Christ said: "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inside are ravenous wolves" (Matt. 7:15). Know, people of God, that sectarians are hypocritical, that they come wearing the guise of love and humility. They are extremely cunning: they subtly flatter their ears, pretend to be saints, captivate with “love”, attention towards you, lure you into their nets, and in these nets you will perish.

The Holy Apostle Paul in the Epistles to the Thessalonians and Galatians cries out: "Stand fast and hold on to the traditions which you have been taught, either by word or by our epistle" (II Thess. 2:15). “ But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8).

All those who are members of sects, who seduce people with their false teachings, the Apostle Paul anathematizes. And following his words, the Holy Church on the day of the Triumph of Orthodoxy anathematizes all heretics, all those who do not recognize the Ecumenical Synods and Holy Tradition. Remember and know that if someone seduces you and draws you into sectarianism, then you are subject to anathema, eternal damnation. What could be scarier? I don't know. I can only beg you, as the holy apostle Paul begged, beware of these predators, beware of those who cause schisms, never go to their meetings, otherwise you will be poisoned by their poison. Fear, like fire, communication with heretics, with sectarians. Hold on to the faith that the holy Church teaches us - the faith of the gospel, the faith of Christ, the faith of the apostles, and the Lord Jesus Christ will save you. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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