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October 23, 2023

Homily for the Epistle Reading on the Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost (St. Luke of Simferopol)

20th Sunday After Pentecost

Galatians 1:11-19

The Ancient World Thirsted for Revelation From Above

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on November 11, 1945)

About the Divine origin of the gospel, the holy Apostle Paul said: “I would have you know that the gospel which was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11–12). And the Holy Church teaches that in all the books of Holy Scripture, and most of all in the Holy Gospel and in all the Epistles of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit Himself speaks to us. This is not a simple book, this is a Divine Revelation.

When we begin to delve into and understand what Divine Revelation is and why it was necessary for the human race, we discover with bitter sadness that there are infinitely many people who say they do not need any revelation, who boldly deny everything supernatural, and Divine Revelation, of course, is supernatural. They do not recognize anything that their human mind cannot comprehend and that, in their opinion, contradicts it.

Human life comes first and foremost, and the life of the whole world is full of mysteries and secrets that are incomprehensible to us. Does humanity really hope to use its mind to comprehend the world around it, to find answers to those difficult questions that no one can ever avoid? How much grief and poverty there is in life! And the inability to explain those painful contradictions that life brings at every step oppresses people most of all.

Ever since man began to think, he has been tormented by questions about good and evil and cannot find an answer to them. How to escape from suffering? How to escape from the oppression with which the evil of this world oppresses us? Where can you find peace and salvation? How not to get lost in the labyrinth of life? How to get rid of the power of evil - be delivered from the power of the devil? This power is felt and cannot help, felt by all those who do not think about the devil and do not believe in him. Let them not believe! He will crush and torture them. We all need to free ourselves from his power, leave the impenetrable darkness of our lives, and find a way of salvation.

From time immemorial, the great minds of antiquity have explored these questions and tried to penetrate the mysteries of existence that do not leave people alone. The thoughts of the Greek philosophers, who created systems of philosophy that amaze us to this day, are incomparable in depth. Listen to what one of the most outstanding minds of humanity, the philosopher Plato, says: “We will wait for Him, be it God or a God-inspired man, who will teach us our religious duties and take away the darkness from our eyes.” This means that he could not comprehend our religious duties, our relationship to God, and could not illuminate the darkness of his eyes with his powerful thought.

Other great philosophers: Cicero, Democritus, Anaxagoras, Empedocles and others came to the conclusion that “our feelings are limited, our spirit is weak, the passage of time is short, and the truth lies deep; only opinions and habits dominate everywhere, there is no room left for truth, everything is covered in darkness.”

These deepest minds of the ancient world came to the hopeless conclusion that truth is unattainable to us, although we strive to plug the gaping holes of our knowledge.

The entire ancient world waited with great anguish and torment for the appearance of the Man whom Plato dreamed of, the One who, perhaps, would be God Himself, who would drive away the darkness and teach how to relate to God. The ancient world was waiting for Revelation from above, realizing that without God’s help “the darkness from our eyes” would never be dispelled. He waited for the Redeemer, waited for salvation from evil, thirsted for knowledge of the truth from God Himself through the Revelation of God. The ancient world understood that the human mind is immeasurably weak, that our feelings are extremely limited, and that without God’s help we ourselves will never solve the riddles and secrets of life that surround us everywhere.

The ancient world felt in its heart that beyond what we see, what we can touch, weigh and measure, there is still a boundless invisible world, a spiritual world, immeasurably richer than the visible world.

As a result of the deepest philosophical research, the ancient world came to a conclusion that must be considered the highest achievement of the human mind - in the person of Socrates, it learned that it knows nothing.

The deeper a person’s mind, the more extensive and serious his scientific and philosophical knowledge, the more humble and modest he becomes, the closer and closer he comes to the great and wise conclusion: “I know nothing and cannot know, for the mysteries of existence are limitless, for the spiritual world is incomprehensible to me, and it, of course, is immeasurably more important than this pitiful world in which we live.”

The world longed for a voice from the higher world, and it was heard repeatedly already in those ancient times, when the people chosen by God listened to God's Revelation from the lips of the holy prophets. Much was then revealed to people through the prophets, for the Holy Spirit spoke through their mouths.

But Jesus Christ brought us Divine Revelation in full. His teaching amazed everyone; the human race could never have imagined something like this. The atheists say that religion was invented by priests. But could they really invent anything remotely similar to the gospel? Could it really have occurred to the human mind that God would appear in the flesh, be born of a Virgin, and, swaddled, lie in a beastly manger; that, after living for a short time, He would die a painful and shameful death on the Cross of Golgotha? Of course not.

According to human ideas, God, the Redeemer of the world and Savior, had to defeat the devil by the force of His power. He was supposed to be powerful, glorious and the greatest King. But the human mind could never have imagined a God who took the form of a slave and saved the world with His Blood.

All who deny the supernatural must think about the fact that the first, greatest of all miracles is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself - He is so different from everything that the human race knew before His coming.

Without Revelation from above, the world could never have known that its grave torment could be dispelled by a completely unknown force - God's grace. Only God Himself gave us the knowledge of grace when He showed it to us, when He revealed to us that He “is Love” (see 1 John 4:8), that He “is the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). This was the greatest Revelation, and we received it in the Holy Gospel.

That is why Saint Paul says that the gospel he preaches is not at all human, that he received it from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. And this is really so, because you know what an extraordinary miracle happened with the holy apostle himself, who was previously a cruel persecutor and hater of Christ named Saul. His conversion was extraordinary and miraculous: in an instant his thoughts and heart changed, and hatred for Christ was replaced by the most ardent love and devotion to Him. No wonder the apostle said that life is not dear to him, he is not afraid of anything - he lives only for Christ (see Phil. 1:21).

Isn’t this a miracle, doesn’t this prove to us that the Gospel of Christ is not a human work, but God’s? And was it only the Apostle Paul who was so affected by the word of the Lord? There were a great many people whom the words of the Gospel either suddenly shocked with extraordinary force, or day by day penetrated more and more into all the recesses of the soul and completely changed them. They received a completely new heart - a Christian one, they received the mind of Christ.

Didn’t each of us experience deep spiritual trembling when reading the Gospel, the Epistles and the Acts of the Apostles? Was not our thought amazed and our soul was it not stirred by holy feelings when we read the words of Holy Scripture? We have all experienced this incomparable power of Revelation.

If Revelation, which proud people do not like, did not contradict human reason, then it would not be Revelation, since it would not reveal anything unknown. Revelation must certainly lead us much further than we can go, following the paths of our mind. It introduces us to the great mysteries of existence, dispels the heavy darkness of life, it is the greatest miracle of God.

Therefore, it is not surprising that in the revealed Holy Scripture there are so many miracles that unbelievers do not recognize, saying: “We know the laws of nature, we know that they are immutable and that there can be no deviations from them.”

How can this confuse us? These words indicate a lack of depth of thought among those who say this. Do not the laws of nature come from God, the Creator of the world? Of course, from Him. The laws of God reign not only in our universe, but throughout the entire boundless invisible world. Moreover, shouldn’t there be an unknown to us, but extremely deep interaction between the laws of the invisible world, which are unknown to us, and the laws of that small part of the visible world, which we know to some extent? There must be constant interaction between these laws.

If we see what we call a miracle, then do we dare to impudently, childishly say that since we do not understand how a miracle could happen, then it cannot happen? After all, we don’t understand a lot. Is it not in the power of God, is it not in the power of the Creator of all the laws of the visible and invisible world to give them the direction that He Himself wishes? Is it not in His power to interfere with the laws of the visible world with His higher laws?

Everything is possible with God, He has many laws that we do not know. He can modify them, but we do not dare to contradict; we must humbly bow down and, with a deep consciousness of our ignorance, admit that in the boundless world there is much that is incomprehensible to us. We dare not say that miracles are impossible.

The English philosopher Bacon of Verulam said wise words: “We must expand our spirit to the greatness of Divine mysteries, and not narrow mysteries to the narrow limits of our mind.”*

Another philosopher, whom everyone unanimously recognizes as the head of modern modern philosophy, Kant, said regarding the Gospel: “If the Gospel had not previously instructed us in the universal moral laws, in their total purity, our reason would not yet have discovered them so completely.” Kant recognizes the immeasurable moral superiority of the Revelation of the Gospel over everything that the human mind can understand and invent.

But if miracles are absolutely immutable, necessary and possible, then who dares to deny the reality of the great miracle of the resurrection of the son of the widow of Nain? Who dares to say that it is impossible for God to raise the dead after the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has risen? The Resurrection of Christ is a reliable event, and even non-believers recognize it. If the Lord has risen, if the Lord is God, then why cannot He raise the dead?

The prophet Ezekiel has a prophecy about the general resurrection of the dead: “The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, 'Son of man, can these bones live?' So I answered, 'O Lord God, You know.' Again He said to me, 'Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD”'" (Ezek. 37:1-6).

Isn't the Spirit of God all-powerful? If the whole world, all nature was created by the word of God, if the human spirit originated from the Spirit of God, which the Lord breathed into a body created from the earth, then where is the limit to the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit? And if He can revive dry bones, then why could not the Lord Jesus Christ revive the son of the widow of Nain with His Divine Spirit?

Why can’t we believe that one word of God, one command to the dead to rise, was enough for him to sit down and, looking around, begin to speak? Of course, we believe in this because we Christians are like children who certainly trust the words of the Heavenly Father. If the Gospel says that the Lord raised the son of the widow of Nain, then that means it was so. If the Gospel says that we will all be resurrected at the sound of the trumpet at the Last Judgment, then that means it will be so.

It is important to believe like a child, with all your heart, that the Gospel of Christ is the Revelation of God Himself, and to humbly accept everything said in the Holy Scriptures. Then the resurrection awaits us, not into destruction, but into eternal life, with which may our Lord and God Jesus Christ vouchsafe us all. Amen.


* The exact quote from Francis Bacon comes from a prayer he wrote for students, in which he says: "This also we humbly and earnestly beg, that human things may not prejudice such as are divine; neither that from the unlocking of the gates of sense, and the kindling of a greater natural light, any thing of incredulity, or intellectual night, may arise in our minds towards divine mysteries. But, rather, that by our mind thoroughly cleansed and purged from fancy and vanities, and yet subject and perfectly given up to the divine oracles, there may be given unto faith the things that are faith's."
Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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