January 14, 2024

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

On the Light of Christ

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on January 21, 1945)
“The people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and to those who sat in the land of the shadow of death a light shone upon them” (Is. 9:2).

These words refer to the inhabitants of the country of Transjordan, to the inhabitants of the land of Naphtali and Zebulun, to the pagans, for the Lord Jesus Christ came to them and illuminated their impenetrable pagan darkness with His heavenly light.

I will also apply these words to you, who for many years also sat in darkness and the shadow of death. For many years you were deprived of worship and the Mysteries of Christ, for many years you did not hear the preaching of the Gospel, for many years you did not hear church singing and prayers. And a new generation has already grown up - young people who do not know Christ at all, to whom no one preached about Him, to whom no one preached His teaching, who know nothing about the Christian faith. And they, these unfortunate children, and all of you, deprived of the preaching of the Gospel of Christ for many years, were like these people who inhabited the country of Zebulun and sat in darkness and the shadow of death. And the light of Christ shone over them when Christ Himself came.

His light also shone upon you when, by the grace of God, our churches were opened. A great light has shone upon you, for our Lord Jesus Christ is the only and true Light. This is what the Holy Apostle John the Theologian says about Him in the first chapter of his Gospel, which you hear once a year at Easter Matins: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). He is the source of all life and truth. He is the light of men. “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5). The Light of Christ will never be obscured by any darkness. The Church of Christ will not be crushed even by the gates of hades. “That was the true Light, which gives light to every man who comes into the world” (John 1:9). And you are now illuminated by the Light of Christ.

Glory to God, glory to Christ, who has again shone His Divine light in your hearts. One can say about all of us what the Holy Apostle Paul said about the ancient Christians: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light” (Eph.5:8).

Love the light, reach out to the light, just as everything good, pure, and living reaches out to it. Yes, none of you will be like those light-hating animals who live only in darkness, like owls, eagle owls, microbats, bats and toads. May the Lord deliver us from any Christian ever becoming like those evil people who love darkness. And you know who loves darkness: thieves, burglars, robbers love impenetrable darkness. Still, the good and pure love the light.

Do you love the light of Christ? Only in this light can we walk our earthly path. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself told us: “Walk while there is light” (John 12:35). Hurry, hurry to walk in the light, do not waste the days of your life without light, in the darkness of vices and passions, for we are all called to the light.

Look what the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

These words apply not only to the apostles, not only are they proclaimed after the vesting of the bishop - “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify our Father who is in heaven,” - these words apply to all of you. All of you must be lights in the darkness.

There are different sources of light: there are bright ones, like the sun, moon and stars, there are weak ones, like a smoky candle or lamp, there are small sparks that glow with a weak light. But still it is light, still it is a blessing from God. Every little light is pleasing to God, and each of you can shine with such a little light in the darkness that surrounds you. With your kindness, your affection, your friendliness, your mercy, your holy love and piety, you can and should shine in this world. Any simple old woman who is illiterate 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, if she tries in every way she can to help. This is also the light of God, and its light shines before people and glorifies our Father who is in the heavens.

This is how the light shines before people, and they glorify our Heavenly Father. You, the small flock of Christ among the masses of people who do not know Christ, can silently, without words, preach with the light of your soul. You don’t need to be a learned preacher, you don’t need to be eloquent, you need to have a heart illuminated by the light of Christ. And then you will shine in the darkness, and from the small flock of Christ the light of Christ will spread and shine to the people sitting in darkness.

The Holy Apostle Peter said about all of us, about all Christians, in his Universal Epistle: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a special people, that you may proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). You see who you are, you see how highly the Holy Apostle Peter values you. You see what responsibility these lofty words of the apostle of light impose on you before God. Look carefully, look with fear and remember the words of Christ: “Take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35). There are many people who consider themselves bearers of the light of enlightenment, the light of the mind, but they need to say these words of Christ: “Take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.” For there is only one true light - the light of Christ. Behold, is this light of Christ in your heart?

The Lord Jesus Christ, after illuminating with His Divine light the people of the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, who were sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, immediately began to preach and tell them: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

We must always remember these words of Christ.

We must remember that we will shine from our hearts only when we are free from grave sins, from the darkness of sin, for light cannot be united with darkness. And if there is still darkness, sinful impurity in our hearts, then the light of Christ is not in them and our heart will not shine for people.

Repent, repent! Take these words of Christ to yourself - not only to the pagans, accept them into your heart and repent. The time designated by the Holy Church for deep repentance is approaching — the time of Great Lent is approaching. Let everyone’s heart and conscience tell him what he needs to repent of; let him bring sincere and ardent repentance to God Himself through the priest in confession.

I will point out to you only one sin, which, unfortunately, has become very widespread, an extremely grave sin, a sin the gravity of which many of you are not sufficiently aware of - the sin of renouncing Christ, renouncing faith in God. You know how many, how terribly many, there were cowardly people who in the past years, during the general population census, wrote in the column about their attitude towards religion that they were non-believers. They took this quite lightly, but this is a completely obvious, undoubted rejection of Christ. The terrible words of Christ apply to all such people: “Whoever denies Me in this adulterous and sinful generation, him will I also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Mark 8:38).

Christ Himself rejects those who reject Him. This is truly scary. There is nothing worse than this, and the sin of renouncing faith is one of the most serious sins.

There was a time of persecution of Christians in the first centuries of Christianity. You know how difficult and cruel these persecutions were; you know how many martyrs shed their blood, how much torment they accepted for the name of Christ, for confessing Him. But along with this host of martyrs there were many cowardly, weak people who rejected Christ, fearing torture. Then, when the persecution ended, many of them returned to the Church with tears of repentance, but the Ecumenical and Local Synods condemned all these apostates from the faith extremely harshly. Severe punishments were imposed on them; There was a time when they were not accepted into the Church at all. Later, this situation changed: they began to be accepted, but after an extremely long period of repentance. They were excommunicated from Communion for decades.

Similar to them are those of you who renounced Christ even in our time, which cannot in any way be compared with the times of persecution of the first Christians. And yet, there were many cowardly people for whom even the fear of suffering for their faith was enough to declare themselves unbelievers and to renounce Christ. I don’t know what kind of penance, what ecclesiastical punishment we will impose on these new apostates from the faith. This is a difficult issue that is subject to discussion by the Synod. We will find out the decision of the Synod, which will be held very soon.

By Lent, when we have to confess such apostates from the faith, we will know what penances should be imposed on them. I'm warning you about this. It is necessary that each of you look into your conscience; it is necessary that each of you who renounced Christ should not dare to approach the Holy Chalice without repentance.

May the Lord God save you all from fear of what there is no fear, for many were afraid of fear where there was none, many terribly 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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