April 6, 2023

Homily on the Origins of Modern Godlessness (St. Luke of Simferopol)

On the Origins of Modern Godlessness

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on February 27, 1948 -
Friday of the Week of the Publican and the Pharisee)

You know what the Jews, the contemporaries of Christ, said: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46).

It was about Him. And when the Lord came to Nazareth, where He grew up, where He was brought up, there people treated Him with contempt, did not consider Him a saint or a prophet, and said: “After all, we know that this is the son of the carpenter Joseph.” A significant part of the human race still treats the Savior with the same contempt - that portion that was once Christian, but now has become apostate. Why, why? Precisely because the teaching of Christ is extremely simple, so simple that it is accessible to the understanding of the simplest, most uneducated person.

And proud people scorn everything simple, lowly, while people bow before what they consider great and significant. And because of their pride, because of their arrogance, they do not want to know the Lord Jesus Christ, they have chosen other teachers, other leaders.

They denied our Lord and Savior. Do not think that this renunciation of the Lord, the humiliation of His holy name is the work of our days - the apostasy from the Lord, the rejection of the teachings of Christ began in a very ancient time, even in the first century of Christianity. And in all ages, in all nations, there have been people who rejected the gospel.

And in our country, in which, as I have repeatedly told you, until the end of the 17th century, all people were very pious, all were Christians, in our country the apostasy from the Christian teaching, the trampling of the name of Christ began a very long time ago, more than 200 years ago: since the 18th century, more precisely, from the first half of it.

Where did this outrage against Christianity come from, this rejection of the gospel in our country? It came from France when the materialist philosophers, the so-called encyclopedists, appeared there; when the "age of enlightenment" began, and especially when the idol of all high society, the idol of all educated people of that time, was Voltaire, the French philosopher - an atheist and blasphemer of Christ. He possessed extraordinary wit, extremely caustically ridiculed Christ, mocked Him, and these mockeries were picked up by people prone to blasphemy, picked up anywhere and everywhere. And, perhaps, nowhere was there such a number of people who admired Voltaire as we have in Russia - in the so-called highest society.

And it began already then, already in the time of Empress Catherine II, an almost complete apostasy from Christ in this high society. Catherine herself was an ardent admirer of Voltaire. Everything Russian became contemptible, they laughed at patriotism, they scoffed at love for the motherland, they were ashamed to call themselves a Russian person, they were ashamed of their Russian language; and all rich people, all nobles began to educate their children in the French godless spirit: they ordered educators from France to come, and these educators, full of freethinking, growing on the philosophy of the encyclopedists, put these feelings and ideas into young hearts, brought them up in the spirit of godless France, in the spirit of Voltairianism, in the spirit of mockery of Christianity, they inspired them with contempt for their homeland, inspired admiration for Europe.

Things got to the point that the nobles almost forgot the Russian language: children were taught only in French, they read exclusively French books, the Russian language was considered the language of the common people; they scoffed at religion, humiliated the clergy, considered it below their dignity to accept a priest in the house; and they did not endure, did not endure at all any exhortation, any reproof. Would you believe that one day the great Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk meekly and humbly began to exhort a young nobleman to leave his freethinking and return to the faith of the fathers, and this impudent young man struck the Saint in the face. The Saint fell at his feet and asked to be forgiven for having upset him, and this shocked the young man so much that he was immediately ashamed, left freethinking and became an exemplary Christian.

This is what the spirit was like in the second half of the 18th century, until the beginning of the 19th century, and in the 19th century new trends took the place of Voltairian freethinking and spread widely: the mystical teachings of the Protestant spirit, far from genuine Christianity. Freemasonry appeared, which was hostile to Christianity. In high society under Alexander I the Blessed, mystical sectarianism spread in a wide wave, and the Russian people continued to lag behind humble Evangelical Christianity. See how deep, how long the roots of our godlessness are.

What are the reasons why people are fascinated by godlessness, why did they succumb to the wave of Voltairianism, why did they succumb to sectarian mysticism? Only because people were proud, there was no humility in them, only because they were infinitely far from the disposition that completely possessed the heart of the holy Apostle Paul, who says that he does not want to know anything but Christ. He rejected everything, all human wisdom, he wanted to know only the Crucified Christ. He warns us not to be carried away by “every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14), not to be carried away by philosophy.

From the 1850s and even from the 40s, the whole of Russian society was carried away by Hegel's philosophy, which contradicts Christianity, a philosophy that is held in high esteem even in our time. The Russian people do not want to hear this warning of the Apostle Paul not to be carried away by every wind of doctrine, by every philosophy, but to live in Christian simplicity.

People do not understand that the words of Christ have an all-conquering, incomparable power precisely because of their simplicity, that simplicity, thanks to which they penetrate with unstoppable power into the heart of a person, even the simplest one. And that is exactly what we need from all of us. The Lord Jesus Christ said that we should be like children; that unless we are converted and become like children, we will not be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The Lord requires of us childish simplicity, childish trust. The Lord demands that we humbly open our hearts, and then He will enter into our hearts and make an abode in it with His Father. Only when our heart becomes simple, childishly simple, when it rejects bold philosophical teachings, when it understands that the words of Christ are above everything, only then will we enter the Kingdom of God. May our Lord and God Jesus Christ grant us this! Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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