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October 18, 2023

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


On the Feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke
 
Seek the Help of the Saints

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on October 18/31, 1951)
 
The human race honors its many benefactors, whom the Lord raises up to help people out of His mercy. How can one not honor such great personalities as Pasteur, who laid the foundation for an accurate and clear understanding of the causes of all contagious diseases: before him, they understood nothing about them, they had a wrong idea about them! How can one not honor the great Behring, who discovered the anti-diphtheria serum and made it possible to save many children’s lives, because diphtheria until that time was incurable! How can one not honor Lister, who discovered antiseptics and made surgical operations safe, because before him, many of those operated on died from purulent infection!

But Satan gnashes his teeth, he does not tolerate anything good, he does not want the sick to be healed, but wants everyone to suffer, be tormented, and perish.

In response to the joy of mankind over these achievements of science, his hellish laughter is heard: he erects the greatest villains, flooding the whole world with rivers of blood, destroying millions of lives.

How pitiful the efforts seem of surgeons to restore health to a small number of people with the help of the most difficult, exceptional, and dangerous brain operations, given this laughter of Satan! We operate on them, removing tumors, and Satan is preparing atomic bombs against us, one of which can destroy an entire large city with millions of innocent inhabitants. So he mocks the selfless work of doctors. Thus, in our unhappy world, the work of the best people, the benefactors of humanity, turns into nothing.

But are only healers of bodily ailments worthy of veneration? There are many other benefactors, and they are much higher than Pasteur, Behring and Lister, they heal the heart and spirit, and this is immeasurably more important than healing the body. The Lord God has revealed many such healers over thousands of years.

These are the words of Christ addressed to His disciples, the holy apostles: "He who listens to you listens to Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me" (Luke 10:16). Oh, how frightening it is! If we do not listen to the holy apostles, if we do not consider them lamps of life, then we reject both the Lord Jesus Christ and His Beginningless Father. For Christ told them that they were His friends (see Luke 12:4; John 15:14–15), that in the coming life they would sit on twelve thrones and judge with Him the whole world (see Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30). And the holy Apostle Paul speaks about the same thing: "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world" (1 Cor. 6:2)?

The saints whose names we bear show us examples that we do not see in life, for there is much that is bad and false on earth. We must listen to them, they must be a model for us for all our actions, words and thoughts. We must learn from them every Christian perfection. They sparkle like stars in the ecclesiastical horizon, let us choose them as guides in our lives. Shouldn't we love and honor our heavenly intercessors with all our hearts? Shouldn't we beg them for help?

Sectarians say that praying to saints is pointless. Rejecting the veneration of the saints, they also reject the prayers of their heavenly intercession for us. They say that "there is one Mediator between God and people - the Man Jesus Christ" (1 Tim. 2:5), Who asked God His Father for forgiveness of sins, and showed us the way and means to salvation. But does this mean that the intercessions of the saints should be rejected? No! After all, we have a huge amount of evidence that saints who have departed from earthly life, while remaining in heavenly glory, do not abandon concerns about the world, especially about those who were closest to them during life.

The Lord lit a huge number of lamps, shining in the darkness of human life, so that they would show those living in darkness the path of salvation. A host of saints, among whom are many huge stars, shine before us like stars in the darkness. Like the luminous Sirius, shines the glorious wonderworker, the great chosen one of God, Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra. His countless miracles performed by the power of God, his faith, stronger than a diamond, his humility and meekness, his extraordinary love for people, his thirst for truth and fiery hatred of all untruths, for many centuries, ignited and sanctified the hearts of millions of people.

To understand how this happens, it is necessary to explain the words of the psalmist David: "There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their message has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world" (Ps. 18:4–5). The great mystery of God is in these prophetic words. There is a great mystery in the words of the Apostle Paul: "The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb. 4:12). Human words and thoughts, once spoken, do not die. In a way unknown to us, with unstoppable force, they rush across the entire earth, and even throughout the entire universe. They are alive and active. The holy words and thoughts of the apostles, the great bearers of the light of Christ, their preaching of the gospel spread everywhere by Divine power and penetrated the hearts of people, inflaming them with love for goodness and truth, hatred and anger against all untruth and violence.

And the number of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are merciful and pure in heart, peacemakers and sufferers for the name of Christ is ever increasing. Goodness and truth, love and mercy, which filled the hearts of the saints, were transmitted and continually continue to be transmitted by the power of the Holy Spirit into the minds and hearts of those who loved the Lord Jesus Christ and followed the thorny path He indicated. Words, both good and evil, are heard not by the ears, but by the hearts of people who consciously and unconsciously perceive what is being said.

The wonderful deeds and words of the saints live to this day, giving life to the hearts of people. And in the darkest nights of human history, they support and strengthen us. For example, the Venerable Fathers Zosima and Sabbatius of Solovetsky, after their death, had constant care for the Solovetsky Monastery and all its inhabitants. In their lives there are many true, undoubted legends about how often they appeared to monks and laymen who were dying at sea and saved them.

One story is especially striking. People were sailing on the sea and were caught in a fierce storm. They had already despaired of salvation, they were completely exhausted, bailing out water from the ship, which was being flooded by the waves. Tired, two of them dozed off, and one saw the Venerables Zosima and Sabbatius standing on the ship, and heard the Venerable Sabbatius to Saint Zosima: “Tell the helmsman to point the ship with its bow against the wind.” Another also saw the Saints and heard the words: “Brother, you guard the ship, but I need to go to Solovki for liturgy.” Saint Zosima guarded the ship, and the storm subsided, and those who had been perishing at sea were saved.

Venerable Zosima appeared many times during the day in the Solovetsky Church, in the ranks of the monks. And one day, having appeared like this, he said to Gerasim, his disciple: “Go and take communion.” And with him he approached the Holy Chalice, and stood the entire time while the monks took communion, and then became invisible.

Two Solovetsky monks were sent to a distant island where there were food warehouses. They were carried by the wind sixty miles from the monastery. As they approached the small island, they saw two pillars of fire above a small hut. The monks landed on the island, entered the hut and saw in it two unfortunate, barely alive people, naked and hungry. They asked: “Who are you? Where are you from? Were you not sent by the elders who often came to us? Today they were here, and every time they came, we stopped feeling hunger and cold, and our pains eased. They told us their names - Zosima and Sabbatius - and promised that today would be our deliverance.” And according to the word of the monks, those caught in the storm were saved and taken to the monastery.

If such concerns were revealed by the Venerables Zosima and Sabbatius about their monastery, about the unfortunate ones who were shipwrecked in the White Sea, do we really dare to deny that the saints have care for us living in the world? Shouldn't we pray to them earnestly? Who else, if not the holy and all-praised Apostle Luke, whose name I, the unworthy one, have the great happiness of bearing, can I honor more? To whom, if not to him, should I turn with constant, persistent, fervent prayer?!

And everyone has a heavenly patron or patroness whose name you bear. Have a burning love for them. Always ask them for intercession before God for you, sinners who are exhausted in suffering, and good will come to you. Our heavenly patrons constantly pray for us; proof of this is what happened in Tambov with the local saint Pitirim, who bore a name in the world in honor of Saint Prokopios the Decapolite. Already being a bishop, Saint Pitirim continued to love this Saint, praying to him every day with zeal. And then one day in reality the Saint appeared before him. Prokopios blessed him and said: “Pitirim, do not doubt that I always hear your prayers and always pray to God for you.” Saint Pitirim ordered the artist to depict this appearance of the monk. And in the Tambov Cathedral this wonderful icon is kept, depicting the kneeling Saint Pitirim and the Venerable Prokopios Decapolite blessing him.

And the darker the night of enmity and fratricidal malice in the hearts of the enemies of peace between people, the brighter God’s great stars shine. Let us bow our knees before our heavenly patrons and receive a blessing from them in the name of God. For that great light of love, goodness and truth, which shines so brightly in the outer darkness, let us give them, the great lamps of God, our ardent love and offer them our fervent prayers. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
 
 

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