April 3, 2023

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

 About the Deep Hearts of the Saints

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on April 11, 1954)

Recently, I spoke to you about the extraordinary depth of the heart of a thief who suddenly believed in the Lord Jesus Christ crucified next to him, and now I will offer you a conversation about the hearts of all the saints.

The reason for this is the fact that the Holy Church dedicates the fifth Sunday of Lent to the memory of the greatest saint, Mary of Egypt. First of all, I will talk about her heart.

Mary was a brilliant young beauty who lived in the vast Alexandria, the capital of Egypt. With her beauty she captivated many, many young people, with her debauchery she acquired great wealth and lived in luxury. Once she went for a walk on the seashore, and saw a ship there ready to sail, and learned that this ship with many worshipers was heading to Jerusalem for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross of Christ.

A whim came to her to go on this ship herself, and she sailed, and all the time of the journey, as usual, she seduced the young men who rode with her, and sinned the whole time of her voyage.

They sailed to Palestine, came to the Jerusalem temple, and the whole crowd of people began to go inside the temple, but when Mary wanted to enter the temple, some unknown force held her back, blocked her entrance to the temple. She was shocked by this. She tried several times to enter, and each time an unknown force repelled her, did not allow her to enter the temple. Then her gaze fell on the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, which hung over the front door, and with a deeply compunctionate heart, she turned with a fiery prayer to the Mother of God, asking her to help, asking her to intercede before her Eternal Son for forgiveness for her, the accursed sinner. After this prayer, she was able to enter the temple.

The exaltation of the Cross moved her even more, and a profound upheaval suddenly took place in her.

She left the temple and went on a long journey, to the banks of the Jordan, swam across the Jordan and went to the desert beyond the Jordan, far, far into the desert she went, and in this desert, never seeing a human face, she lived for 47 years, eating no one knows what.

It is not known how her life went, we know only from her dying story that for 16 years she was still tormented, she was heavily tormented by memories of that luxurious life, of those exquisite dishes, of the wines that she enjoyed.

And only after 16 years did these painful, these seductive memories leave her. During her life in the wilderness for 47 years, she acquired extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit. She, having never read the Holy Scriptures, knew them deeply, for she was taught it by the Holy Spirit Himself. Her prayer was so unusual that during it she rose quite high into the air, and, standing in the air, raising her hands to the sky, she prayed for a long, long time with tears.

Let's see what kind of an amazing heart this woman had, a heart that was previously full of impurity, abomination, fornication, debauchery, and in which such a radical amazing upheaval suddenly took place.

This heart was shaken by the power of God. The Lord knew what great depths lurked in this formerly sinful heart, He knew what extraordinary feats this heart was capable of. And the Lord touched Mary's heart with His right hand, and this heart, previously sinful, became one of the greatest hearts in the history of mankind.

Let us also remember the greatest and most ardent myrrh-bearing woman, Mary Magdalene. Don’t we read about her that our Lord Jesus Christ cast out 7 demons from her, so imagine how great was the impurity of her heart, what terrible wickedness raged in her, if 7 demons lived in her.

Nevertheless, this heart turned out to be such that in her later life she received the name Equal-to-the-Apostles, for her love for the Lord Jesus Christ was ardent. She showed such love for Him that no human love can compare.

And now let us remember the great teacher of the Church, let us remember Tertullian, who, although not ranked among the Fathers of the Church, since for some time he fell into error and the heresy of Montanus, nevertheless, in the Church, especially in the Western Church, he is considered a great teacher.

He was a presbyter in Carthage, lived in the second century after the birth of Christ. He possessed a tremendous mind, unusually deep, and wrote many works that had such an influence on all his contemporaries and on all subsequent saints of the Church that his writings were the basis, the main reading for so many great and holy bishops.

And this great Tertullian, this fiery heart, burning with love for Christ, with love for eternal truth, said of himself that in his youth, before knowing Christ, before being baptized, he led a very sinful life.

As you can see, depravity coexisted in this heart with great wisdom, which helped him to clarify many difficult-to-understand passages of Holy Scripture, wisdom that enabled him to write many works denouncing the heretics of his time, works that formed the basis of theological education for bishops and presbyters.

Let us remember another great Father of the Church, who is especially revered in the Western Latin Church - Blessed Jerome, this amazing man who spent many decades in a Palestinian cave, studying and researching the Holy Scriptures, who studied all the languages necessary for this: he knew not only Latin and Greek, but knew also the ancient Hebrew language, and the Syro-Chaldean, and the Arabic language. He wrote a huge number of interpretations of the Holy Scriptures, and this great man also said about himself that in his youth he led an unclean life.

In the same century, one of the great teachers of the Church was Holy Hieromartyr Cyprian. He was a pagan until the age of 40, and in paganism he led a wild and impure life, and then suddenly, under the influence of the power of Christ, his heart was completely reborn: he ardently believed in Christ. He was consecrated by the Bishop of Rome as a presbyter, and a little later he became a bishop of the Church of Carthage. He was also one of the greatest saints of the ancient Church.

Along with him stands the fourth great father - blessed Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. He, too, came to know Christ in his mature years, and spent his youth negligently and sinfully. Already at the age of 18 he became an illegitimate father. He acted very badly with his concubine, from whom he had this son.

His mother Monica, a woman of the purest heart and great piety, a true Christian, shed bitter tears for her son, for she saw his sinful life and knew that he naturally had scientific abilities and great oratorical talent. The poor mother cried her eyes out, seeing the wicked life of her son.

Once she came to the elder bishop and begged to save her son from death. And the bishop said to her amazing words: “It cannot be that the son of so many tears should perish.” And these words became prophetic.

Augustine went through a rhetorical school in Carthage, where he showed brilliant oratory skills and opened his own school, where he taught. But his ambition was stung by the fact that he had very few students; then he moved to Rome, and there he was appointed to the service of a judge in Mediolanum, and settled there.

At that time, one of the greatest saints, Ambrose of Milan, was a bishop in Mediolanum. Augustine went to listen to Ambrose's sermons: he was interested in his eloquence, only wanting to learn from him the ability to speak; but along with the words of eloquence, the great truth of the words of the apostolic sermon imperceptibly penetrated into his soul.

He was more and more imbued with the teachings of Christ, more and more delved into the reading of Holy Scripture, left his sinful inclinations, left the Manichean sect, in which he had been for almost 9 years, and became an eloquent, fiery debunker of the Manichean heresy. He lived among new comrades among Christians, far from his former environment.

Once they read about Egyptian ascetics, hermits and solitaries, and this story shocked Augustine to the depths of his soul, so that, turning to his friends, just like him, young and educated, he said: “What is this?! These people are ahead of us, who have devoted so much time to philosophy and eloquence: why did we not manage to build our life the way they built it?" And, having gone into the garden, Augustine fell to the ground, and wept, and asked God to guide him on a new path: “When, when, Lord, will you have mercy on me? Have mercy on me, Lord, have mercy - now have mercy! And suddenly I heard a voice: 'Take it, read it, take it, read it!'”

And this is what he read in the epistle to the Romans: “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:13-14).

Here is God's answer that Augustine received, and after that he was soon honored to become a presbyter. Then he became a bishop, and in this rank he labored for 35 years, leading a blameless life. He lived like a true monk, like a hermit, fasted heavily, always prayed, was a recluse in his cell, ate together with his co-servants, priests and deacons, common food.

During the 35 years of his hierarchal service, he wrote a huge number of theological works, which formed the basis of theology for other great Fathers of the Church. Not only the Latin Church, but also the Orthodox Church honors him as a great Teacher of the Church. His theological writings and teachings are full of extraordinary wisdom and deep knowledge.

I have shown you the hearts of two reverend women who were once very depraved and the hearts of four great Fathers of the Church and teachers of the Church who were formerly corrupt and led unclean lives.

What conclusions can we draw from this story for ourselves? We will say that the human heart, even a pure heart, is often covered with a dirty crust, and we, sinful people, are accustomed to condemning every person whose heart seems to us to be covered with a dirty crust.

And if we were contemporaries of these great Fathers of the Church, we would condemn them, we would condemn them severely. And the Lord sees not only the dirty crust of the human heart. He sees what is inside the heart, what is hidden deep in the heart: He knows what the heart is capable of, temporarily covered with a dirty crust. He sees under the crust of mud the greatest saint, he sees great spiritual virtues. And He guards His Saints as long as their hearts remain covered with a dirty crust.

Remember this and never dare to condemn people who seem to you even obviously sinful, even undoubtedly wicked.

Think about the fact that inside the heart their hidden powers, their spiritual abilities, we do not know, and therefore hold back your evil tongue, burning with the desire to pronounce condemnation.

And to you, mothers who have wicked children, I will say: remember Saint Monica, the mother of blessed Augustine, remember how with her tears she begged God for help to her son.

Weep over your wicked children, but do not fall into despair: remember that the Lord is able to make your impure, sinful children pure and even holy. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos. 

Become a Patreon or Paypal Supporter:

Recurring Gifts

Contact Form


Email *

Message *