January 13, 2024

Homily One for the Leavetaking of Theophany (St. Luke of Simferopol)

The Light of Christ Shone Over the World

Matthew 4:16

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on January 21, 1945)

Jesus Christ came to the inhabitants of the country of Transjordan, to the inhabitants of the land of Naphtali and Zebulun, who were at that time pagans, and “the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16). These words also apply to you, who for many years were deprived of worship, the Mysteries of Christ, and did not hear the preaching of the Gospel, church singing and prayers. A new generation of young people has already grown up who do not know Christ at all, and to whom no one has preached the Christian faith or His teachings. And these unfortunate children are similar to the people who inhabited the country of Zebulun and sat in “darkness and the shadow of death.” And His light shone over them when, by the grace of God, the temples were opened, for our Lord Jesus Christ is the only and true light. This is what Saint John the Theologian says about Him in the first chapter of his great Gospel, which is read once a year at Easter Matins: “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:4–5).

Now you, like the ancient Christians, can be addressed in the words of the Apostle Paul: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). Only in the light of Christ can we walk our earthly path.

There are different light sources - bright, like the sun, moon and stars; weak, like a smoking candle or lamp; small sparks glowing with a faint light. But still it is light, still it is a blessing from God. Every little light pleases God, and each of you can shine with such a little light in the surrounding darkness. With your kindness, your goodness and friendliness, your mercy, your holy love and piety, you can and should shine in this world, for you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people taken for His own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you from darkness into His wonderful light" (1 Pet. 2:9). The holy Apostle Peter values you so highly.

You don’t need to be a learned preacher with eloquence, you need to have a heart illuminated by the light of Christ. Any simple old woman who has not learned anything can be a bright lamp of God if the light of meekness, love and humility burns in her heart, if she loves everyone around her and tries to help in every way she can.

To many people who consider themselves bearers of enlightenment, the light of the mind, the words of Christ are addressed: “Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35)? The Lord calls a person to see whether the light of Christ is in the heart.

After Jesus Christ illuminated the people of the land of Zebulun and Naphtali with His Divine light, He immediately began to call on them: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). And we need to remember that we will shine with our hearts only when we are freed from the darkness of sin, for light and darkness cannot be united. Let everyone take the Lord’s call to repentance to themselves! The time designated by the Holy Church for deep repentance is approaching - the time of Great Lent.

Unfortunately, a highly grave sin has become very widespread, the significance of which many of you are not sufficiently aware of - the sin of renouncing Christ, renouncing faith in God. You know how large there were the multitude of cowardly people who, in the past years of godlessness, during the general population census, in the column about their attitude towards religion, quite easily wrote that they were non-believers. But this is a completely obvious, undoubted renunciation of Christ. Thus applies to them the formidable warning of Christ: “Whoever denies Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:33). And this is something to be horrified about.

In the first centuries of Christianity there were severe persecutions of believers; from the history of the Church it is known how many martyrs shed their blood for the name of Christ, for confessing Him. But along with this host of holy martyrs there were many cowardly people who renounced Christ for fear of torment. When the persecution ended, many returned to the Church with tearful repentance, but the Ecumenical and Local Synods extremely harshly condemned all apostates from the faith. There was a time when they were not accepted into the Church at all. Later they began to be accepted, but after a long repentance, after they were excommunicated from communion for decades!

These apostates are likened to those of you who renounced Christ in our times, which cannot in any way be compared with the times of persecution of the first Christians. None of you were killed or tortured; there was no direct persecution, and yet there were many faint-hearted people for whom even the mere fear of suffering for their faith was enough to declare themselves unbelievers. I don’t know what ecclesiastical punishment we will impose on these new apostates from the faith. This is a very complex issue that is subject to discussion by the Synod.

It is necessary that each of you delve into your conscience, and those who renounced Christ should not dare to approach the Holy Chalice, for the decrees of the Ecumenical Synods regarding apostates have not been canceled.

May the Lord God save you all from fear where there is none, for many have exaggerated this fear. May this terrible calamity not befall any of you. May the light of Christ always shine in your hearts. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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