December 31, 2023

Homily for the Sunday Before Theophany (St. Luke of Simferopol)

Homily for the Sunday Before Theophany

"The Voice in the Wilderness"

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on January 4/17, 1954)

Listen to the amazing prophecy of the great Isaiah about John the Forerunner of the Lord. This prophecy was spoken by Isaiah 800 years before the coming into the world of the Lord Jesus Christ and His great Forerunner.

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God in the desert. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill be made low, the crooked places made straight, and the rough paths made smooth” (Isa. 40:3-4).

The voice of one crying in the wilderness is the voice of the great Forerunner. But did he preach in that desert, did his mighty voice resound in that desert, in which only jackals and hyenas could listen to him?

Not in the desert in which he lived for more than 20 years, preparing for his great service - the voice of one crying in the desert was heard on the deserted banks of the Jordan River.

Why was the power of this voice so enormous?

At first, of course, only a few people who came to the banks of the Jordan listened to him, but the words of the great Forerunner so surprised and amazed them that they spread the news of him everywhere as a great prophet, and this news spread so widely everywhere that whole crowds of people began to come from everywhere to listen to the great prophet on the banks of the Jordan.

What did He preach about? He called for repentance. He baptized with the water of the Jordan to wash away the filth of sin. The voice of one crying in the wilderness was needed to prepare the way for the Lord.

The path ahead of the Lord Jesus Christ was very difficult: it lay according to human hearts. And many of these hearts were of stone, not of flesh. Very many had snakes nesting in their hearts - snakes of passions, vices and sins.

It would be difficult and hardly possible for the Lord Jesus Christ to follow such hearts.

This extraordinary path through hearts had to be prepared for Him, and the great John, whom Isaiah called an angel, was destined for this task. He truly became an angel in the flesh, living completely alone for about twenty years in the Judean desert.

And this angel of God, the angel in the flesh John the Baptist prepared the way for our God, the Lord Jesus Christ. He tried to make His paths straight.

You know how wrong, how tortuous the paths of human life are, how often sinful they are. They are not straight at all, and they had to be made straight.

To do this, it was necessary that, under the influence of the preaching of John the Baptist, the hearts of people mired in sins should soften.

You know how persistent the chosen people, the people of Israel, were; how often they even deviated into paganism. It was necessary to correct these wicked hearts with a sermon. It was necessary for every valley to be exalted. What does it mean? This means that humble people, people whom the world considers insignificant, worthless, people who make up the lowest strata of society, it is as if these people should rise up.

And you know how the Lord Jesus Christ exalted them, how often He saved and raised them - sinners, harlots, tax collectors. It was necessary for the hearts of these despised people to be encouraged; it was necessary for them to rise from their valley, to stretch out their hands to the Lord Jesus Christ. It was necessary for all the crookedness of human paths to be corrected.

Don’t you know how crooked, how crafty people’s paths often are? Don’t you know how many lies, deceit, and betrayal are hidden in the ways of the people of this world?

Could people with such unrighteous hearts, people full of lies, accept the Lord Jesus Christ? Could they have expected the crooked paths of their paths to be corrected if the Forerunner’s sermon had not forced them to deeply, wholeheartedly repent and correct their double-minded and deceitful hearts?

Shouldn't the Forerunner have made the paths of the Lord Jesus smooth? Oh, how uneven the paths of human life are: how many stones of anger there are on them, how many holes that people dig for each other!

The Forerunner had to take care of this too. This was necessary, and this was fulfilled by the angel in the flesh, John the Baptist.

But don’t these words of the Prophet Isaiah also apply to us?

Don't we also need to correct our hearts, even though we are baptized in the great mystery of Baptism?

Don’t we Christians have hearts of stone and not hearts of flesh?

Are there not enough of them in which snakes nest?

But the Lord still walks through our hearts, touching our hearts with His most pure fingers...

And woe, woe to us, if His holy fingers feel a heart of stone.

Woe, woe, if a snake crawls out and bites the most pure hand that touched our heart.

You see how great the task of John the Baptist was. You see how it was necessary to prepare the way of the Lord, how it was necessary to call people to repentance, how it was necessary to cleanse their sins with the baptism of the Jordan.

Let us remember this. We will always be grateful to the Forerunner for correcting human hearts, we will be afraid that the hand touching our hearts will not find them stone, will not find them hiding snakes within themselves. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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