August 29, 2023

Homily Two on the Feast of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered in 1957)

The most shameful stain in the history of mankind was that terrible day on which the most holy head of John the Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, the greatest of those born of women, according to the word of our Lord Jesus Christ, fell under the sword of the executioner. His head fell, and was brought to the devil's feast, and was given to the dancing girl, and she took it to her mother, the disciple of the all-sly devil - Herodias. And the devil himself enjoyed the spectacle of how this accursed disciple of his, with an evil smile, pricked the tongue of the severed head of the Forerunner with a needle.

But the joy of the devil was greatly overshadowed by the fact that the dish on which the severed head of the Forerunner lay was filled with blood, and the devil involuntarily inhaled from this blood that filled the dish, the Divine aroma of the soul of the Forerunner, for the soul is in the blood, according to the word of Holy Scripture (Deut. 12:23).

And this fragrance of Christ ascended from the blood of the most holy of the martyrs high, high, above the heavens to the incorporeal powers. They breathed it in and rejoiced with great joy that the extraordinary, full of hard labor life of the angel in the flesh John, who prepared the way for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, ended so gloriously and with indescribable greatness.

In the first three centuries of the history of Christianity, tens of thousands of martyrs of Christ continued the feat of the Forerunner of the Lord. Through the malice of the devil, who could not bear the preaching of the incarnate and crucified Son of God, they were subjected to the most terrible torments and the most cruel deaths. And along with the streams of their blood, the fragrance of Christ, with which their souls were full, ascended to heaven, and it constantly tormented the devil.

The time has passed when the martyrs of Christ, burning with faith and love for our Lord Jesus Christ, sacrificed themselves for Him. There are no more such victims.

But even earlier, with the coming into the world of the Son of God, who assumed human flesh, all other sacrifices ceased, those sacrifices that the people of Israel had been bringing for millennia. Why ended?

To answer this question, it is necessary to explain to you the meaning of the Old Testament sacrifices bequeathed by God Himself through the great prophet Moses. And God Himself, through the mouth of the Prophet Isaiah and the Psalmist David, says this:

“Why do I need your multitude of sacrifices? says the Lord. I am full of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle, and I do not want the blood of bulls and lambs and goats” (Is. 1:11).

“Do I eat the meat of oxen and drink the blood of goats?” (Ps. 49:13).

These sacrifices were not needed by God Himself, for the Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, says: "Is it impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins" (Heb. 10:4). If so, if God did not need burnt offerings, then the Lord God did not require animal sacrifices for Himself. These sacrifices were needed for the very people who made them. These sacrifices were necessary for people for the constant reminder of their sins and repentance for them.

But the blood of sacrificial animals had another, very important, meaning, for it represented the most holy and precious Blood of the Eternal Son of God, who was incarnated for the salvation of the world. This meaning of the prototype of the Cross of Christ was lost by the blood of sacrificial animals after the Savior Himself came into the world. And the sacrifices as a reminder of sins and repentance were replaced by the great mystery of confession.

So what? Do we need any sacrifice now?

Oh no! Oh no! Even a thousand years before Christ, the great Prophet and Psalmist David understood that there is another form of sacrifice to God, incomparably more pleasing to Him than burnt offerings of animals. In his fiftieth Psalm, he wrote precious words for us: “The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit: a contrite and humble heart God will not despise” (Ps. 50:19).

Let us all, the little flock of Christ, always remember that it is precisely this sacrifice - deep humility of the heart and tireless contrition that God desires from us. Let us also remember that there is another sacrifice pleasing to God - the sacrifice of offering Him eternal praise, according to the words of the same Psalmist: “The sacrifice of praise shall glorify me: and there is the way by which I will show him the salvation of God” (Ps. 49:23).

God expects from us not only prayerful petitions for our needs, but also eternal praise for His immeasurable good deeds to us.

In order to better remember this for you, let us now sing with one mouth and with one heart a song of praise to our God.

(Everyone sings “Praise the name of the Lord, praise the servant of the Lord...”)

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Become a Patreon or Paypal Supporter:

Recurring Gifts

Contact Form


Email *

Message *