February 13, 2024

Homily on Saint Martinian (St. Luke of Simferopol)

On Saint Martinian

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on February 13/26, 1948)

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For 'the two,' He says, 'shall become one flesh'” (1 Cor. 6:15–17).

These words of the holy Apostle Paul penetrated the heart of that Venerable Martinian, whose memory we are now commemorating, penetrating with such force that they took possession of his whole heart. All his thoughts were focused on maintaining purity, so as to never, ever fall into fornication, for fornication is something that defiles us like nothing else.

The Holy Apostle John said: “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world: whoever loves the world does not have the love of the Father. For whatever is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not from the Father, but is of this world” (1 John 2:15–16). He says that everything in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and fornication is the most terrible of all the lusts of the flesh, this is what makes us base, like dogs; and the Venerable Martinian hated this with all his heart. At the age of eighteen, he became a monk and began to live as a hermit.

The passions of his young body raged within him, and he pacified them with all his might. The fame of his exploits spread far, and people were amazed that such a young man was waging a difficult struggle with his flesh. But one depraved woman, Zoe, who had great beauty, heard about the Venerable Martinian, and said: “What is surprising about the fact that he remains pure without seeing women? Shall I go to him and see if he will retain his purity?”

She managed to deceive herself into the cell of the Venerable Martinian. She dressed in luxurious clothes, imbued her entire body with perfume and began to seduce the monk. She said that she was very rich and asked him to become her husband and take all her wealth for himself.

The Venerable Martinian endured a difficult test and defeated it. He won in such a way that, seeing this victory, the heart of even the dissolute and depraved Zoe shuddered: he lit a fire before her eyes, poured burning coals onto the floor, stood barefoot on them and said: “Martinian, this fire is terrible for you, but much worse is the fire of Gehenna." Zoe was amazed, shocked, fell at his feet, asked to forgive her and guide her on the path of salvation - and he sent her to a nunnery. There she labored for twelve years in the most difficult labors of fasting and repentance, and the Lord had mercy on her: from the depraved Zoe she became the Venerable Zoe. Her memory was also recently celebrated.

The Venerable Martinian faced a grave temptation yet another time and defeated it. Weighed down by the glorification of his holiness, he withdrew from people, chose a deserted island in the Mediterranean Sea as a place of exploits and settled there alone. The fisherman occasionally brought him bread, and he labored there for a long time. But one day, during a terrible storm, a ship crashed near this island, everyone drowned except one young girl, Photini.

The Lord Himself saved her: she grabbed onto the wreckage of the ship and was cast onto the island. When the Venerable Martinian saw her, he shuddered and said: “It is impossible for the two of us to live here. Stay here and I’ll leave.” He left her the bread he had, and threw himself into the sea, thinking that it was better to drown in the waves of the sea than to fall into the passionate sin of lechery.

The Lord saved him: he swam on a dolphin miraculously sent to him to the shore. And the same fisherman continued to bring bread to Photini.

He lived a long time in labors, fasting and prayer and was canonized. Here is our amazing, mind-boggling example of how the great-spirited Martinian and some others like him fought against this dirty, vile sin of fornication.

Here is an example of how the word of Holy Scripture completely takes possession of a pure heart, a holy heart and leads to exploits that seem beyond human strength. Let this example stand before your eyes. If there were people who were capable of standing on burning coals, capable of throwing themselves into the sea, just so as not to fall into fornication, shouldn’t we also fight our passions with all our hearts, always fight those lusts of the flesh about which the holy Apostle Paul speaks? For lusts and passions block the path to communication with God.

Lecherous passion, if we do not fight it, gives us into the hands of demons. When our soul is separated from our body, we will go through terrible ordeals, where the demons of fornication will be able to challenge our soul. Remember this, always fear the passions, fear the lusts of your flesh, fight the flesh with all your might, ask our Lord Jesus Christ for help in this struggle.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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