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October 18, 2023

Homily One on the Feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke (St. Luke of Simferopol)

On the Feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke
“The Gospel of Christ is Bright, Let Us Praise the Writer”

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on October 18/31, 1950)

On this day the entire Christian world celebrates the holy memory of the Apostle and Evangelist Luke. For me this is a double festival, for I have the great honor to bear the name of this Saint of God, and therefore I must glorify him. How can I glorify him before you? I will glorify him not with my own words, but with those with which the Holy Church glorifies him: “What shall we call you, Apostle? Heaven, for you have made an account of the glory of God for us. Lightning, for you illumine the world with radiance. Cloud, for you rain down in a torrent the knowledge of God." It’s as if a cloud descends from heaven on us and sheds not simple rain, not drops of water, but those waters of grace with which the Gospel sanctifies us. “The most divine chalice of wisdom, pouring out rich wine for us, gladdening our hearts.”

So, the Holy Church calls him heaven, a heavenly star. Is there anything higher than this title? I have nothing to add to the glory of this great apostle. He was one of the witnesses of the Word of life, he heard this Word, saw Him with his own eyes, looked at Him and touched Him with his hands (see 1 John 1:1). The Apostle Luke received divine wisdom from Him, and his pure and holy heart was illuminated by divine light.

Like the other apostles, he bore great labors in preaching the holy gospel; he was one of the four evangelists. The apostles served the Lord a lot, being exposed to incredible dangers and persecution. All of them, with the exception of the Apostle John, who, however, also suffered at the hands of people, ended their lives by martyrdom.

The holy apostles were the leaven that Christ our God spoke about when preaching about the kingdom of God. It is enough to take a little leaven and put it in three measures of flour to leaven everything (see Matthew 13:33). The fermentation that occurs in the dough very clearly marks the amazing event that the preaching of the holy apostles produced in the world. There were only twelve of them, and seventy more were called later. And this small handful of people who did not receive any education, simple fishermen and tax collectors, shocked the whole world.

In the books of Genesis (see Genesis 6:4) and Numbers (see Numbers 13:34) we read about giants, the sons of Anak, before whom the Jews seemed small, like locusts. But which of these giants could even in the slightest degree compare with the unattainably huge peaks of the Himalayan mountains? What words emanating from the lips of men can be compared with the ceaselessly flowing streams of waters that fall from these peaks and form the great river Ganges with its tributaries? Whose voice is stronger and farther heard than the furious roar of a huge lion? Whose word is sharper than a two-edged sword?

It would seem that there is no answer to these questions. But no, the prophet and king David responds to them with words full of irresistible power: "Their message has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world" (Ps. 18:5). The apostles were giants of the spirit, before whom the sons of Anak were as insignificant as locusts. They were higher than Gaurishankar, the highest of the Himalayan mountain peaks. The huge Ganges River waters only the northeastern part of India, but the apostles of Christ with words full of divine grace watered the entire earth. The mighty roar of a lion can only be heard for a few kilometers, but the divine message of the apostles was heard throughout the entire universe. Their preaching surprised the ears of all the holy ethereal Heavenly Powers. And on earth it made some saints, while it hardened others and made them enemies of God.

Why did the preaching of the holy apostles have such unimaginable and endless power? Because they preached not their own word, but the word of God, which is sharper than any two-edged sword: "it penetrates to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). The evangelists, in addition to the greatest merits common to all the apostles, also have the immeasurable merit of writing the Divine Gospel, therefore they should be given the utmost honor.

The Holy Gospel of the Apostle Luke, as well as the Acts of the Holy Apostles written by him, are precious.

Before our Lord and God Jesus Christ came down from heaven and became incarnate, the most powerful power of the then world was the Roman Empire, which subjugated all nations to its power. But Rome itself was perishing from unheard-of debauchery. Many of the Roman rulers were cruel and bloodthirsty tyrants. They shed the blood of their subjects, trampling all that is holy. Even the priests mocked the belief in pagan gods.

And not only Rome, but also the whole world would have perished if Christ had not appeared, Who taught us how to live, how to fulfill the will of God, how to find peace of mind for those who are troubled. Christ saved the world, saved Rome, but punished it for its wickedness, delivering it into the hands of the barbarians, the fierce nomads of the Huns. And the Roman Empire turned into ruins. Twelve uneducated people, with their preaching, shocked the whole world, changed it, crushed paganism and erected the Cross of Christ over the world, which marked the beginning of a new life.

Let me tell you a story. In a society of highly educated people, someone posed the question: “If we were sentenced to life imprisonment and were given the right to take with us only one book, what book would it be?” Everyone answered with one voice: “Of course, the Bible!” This is how enormous the significance of the Bible, especially its New Testament part, is for all those who do not even openly confess Christ, but in the recesses of their hearts harbor a strange and incomprehensible reverence for the word of God. After all, the Bible is immeasurably more valuable and higher than all human books combined, because it was written by holy people of God, enlightened by God Himself.

The Holy Apostle Luke in his work was guided by the deepest faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, reverence for Him and immeasurable love for Him. He acquired the mind of Christ, his heart became a temple of the Holy Spirit, instilling in him what and how to write. From him we learn about things that other holy evangelists did not write about, for example, about the good news of the Holy Angel to the Prophet Zechariah about the birth of a son, the future Forerunner of the Lord, and about the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos. Only from him will we learn how she, who already had the Word of Life in her womb, undertook the long journey to Judea to visit her relative Elizabeth, the mother of the Forerunner. From him we learn the song that the Most Pure One sang with Elizabeth (see Luke 1:5–55). Only in his Gospel do we read very important parables of Christ: about the merciful Samaritan, about the two Lazaruses, rich and poor, about the Prodigal Son, about the Publican and the Pharisee (see Luke 10:30–35, 16:19–31, 15:11–32, 18:10–14). This is how great is the legacy that the apostle left to the whole world.

His other apostolic merits were also great. After all, he was a worthy and faithful companion of the great and glorious supreme apostle Paul in all his travels through the countries of Asia Minor and even Europe. He was also present at the execution of his teacher in Rome. After such a terrible separation from him, Saint Luke preached the gospel of Christ for a long time in different countries: in Italy, Macedonia, Greece, Egypt, where he was a bishop. He ended his life as a martyr, at a ripe old age, in the eighty-fifth year of his life, being hanged on a tree.

Saint Paul calls the Apostle Luke his beloved physician (see Col. 4:14), for he was a very skilled healer and treated the Apostle Paul himself. The Lord also commanded me to go through many years of medical practice. And I had to be a healer of human bodies before He sent me to you to heal your souls.

Saint Luke was also a skilled painter. He painted an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos while she was alive, which she approved, saying the following words: “My grace will abide forever with this icon.” And since then, countless miracles have poured out from her holy icons. And in this respect also I have a slight similarity with the apostle, for in my youth I painted a lot and diligently and painted a number of holy icons.

The Apostle Luke was a bishop, and the Lord made me a bishop. And I must always follow him in everything, trying with all my might to acquire the virtues with which his soul was full. What a terrible responsibility I bear before God for all of you, for I will be held accountable for every lost sheep of the flock entrusted to me by God. I myself cannot cope with this task. I need your help: you yourself must take care of being faithful sheep of the flock, which our Lord and God Jesus Christ acquired with His Blood. I need the intercession and all-powerful prayers of the great apostle and evangelist Luke.

Let us exalt with glory and honor this apostle of Christ in prayer, singing and ask for his great prayerful help in the difficult task of following him along the paths of Christ to the kingdom of heaven.

God! Through the prayers of Your holy Apostle Luke, help me, a sinner, to be a successor to his ministry and to worthily shepherd the rational flock over which You have placed me as a shepherd. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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