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January 2, 2022

Homily on the Circumcision of the Lord (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on January 1, 1953)

On this great feast I have preached to you more than once about the significance of the circumcision of the Lord, more than once I have preached about Saint Basil the Great, whose memory the Church celebrates on this great feast of the Lord. Have you noticed that this is the only case of combining the glorification of Christ with the glorification of a holy man? In no other case does this happen, and by this the Church marks and emphasizes the greatness of this Saint.

Today I will tell you what you have heard from the lips of Christ yesterday at vespers, and that you hear now in the prayer service, I will explain to you the 10th chapter of the Gospel of John: "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:1–5).

What kind of sheepfold is this that the Savior speaks of? This is the Church, the New Testament Church, for only Christians are called the sheep of Christ, and therefore it is about them.

The Lord Jesus Christ says that whoever does not enter the sheepfold's courtyard through the door is a thief and a robber.

In ancient times, sheep were driven at night in bad weather in special fenced yards, or caves in the mountains; at the entrance, they set up the younger of the shepherds to keep watch.

Who are these, about whom Christ speaks, that they do not enter the sheepfold by the door, but "climbs up some other way" - somewhere else they will climb up like thieves and robbers?

It should be noted to you that this parable of Christ was told immediately after He healed the man born blind, and when He denounced the Pharisees and Scribes of their blindness. They were indignant: "What! Are we blind?!" - "Yes, yes, you are blind. Blind, even though you consider yourself to have sight, in fact you are blind."

First of all, the words of Christ, which I began to read to you, which you just heard, was addressed to them.

The Lord called them thieves and robbers. Who are they? First of all, those Jewish teachers who thought they were the leaders of the religious people of Israel. They were considered leaders, they were looked at as leaders, and the Lord Jesus Christ called them thieves and robbers.

Why is it so? Because they did not enter the sheepfold by a door, they did not call the sheep by name, as true good shepherds do, who give a name to each of their sheep. And the sheep did not listen to their voice, because they do not listen to a stranger's voice: they know the voice of their shepherd, but they do not follow a stranger.

This parable was spoken to them, they did not even know what He said. Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture" (John 10:7-9).

He, our Lord Jesus Christ, is the door for the sheep, and all good shepherds, all those who enter the sheepfold not arbitrarily, not of their own accord, but who are put on this work by the Lord Jesus Christ, are the only good ones. The shepherds, and all the rest, and all who are "reproaching in other ways," and not those who enter through the door, all who came before Him are thieves and robbers.

Who are these who came before Him? Of course, not the holy prophets who paved the way for the coming of Christ, for the Kingdom of God.

This is not about them, but about false prophets, it is about the Scribes and Pharisees who did not recognize the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, did not even consider him a prophet, reviled Him, blasphemed Him with evil words, did not believe in Him.

These have earned the name of thieves and robbers, for only by the door, which is Christ, you can enter the sheepfold: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture."

Only He, Jesus Christ, is the One Shepherd, only He is the door of the sheep.

Only those who enter this door with deep faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, with ardent love for Him, with determination to follow the path to which He calls, only those will find pasture, only those will find everything that they need, like sheep need to be pastured. Only those will find pasture in the Kingdom of God - only they alone will enter the sheepfold.

Remember that for you, the sheep of Christ, there is one way, one door to the Kingdom of God.

This door is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Do not enter any other door, always avoid the strange fence, live in the fence of Christ, in the fence of His love, His care.

Trust all in Him - and you will enter, and you will go out, and you will find pasture.

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them" (John 10:10-11).

Do you not know, do you not believe with all your soul that He, our Lord Jesus Christ, suffered for all of us, accursed sinners, that He saved us by His Blood, His death on the cross? After all, this is the basis of our faith, because this is all that we must remember every day. We must remember that He accomplished the salvation of our race, accomplished at the most grave price, at the cost of the most terrible sufferings of the fore-parents, at the cost of the God-man's Blood.

And after Him there were many, exceedingly many good shepherds who laid down their lives for the sheep.

Were there not enough hieromartyrs - bishops and presbyters, who endured the most severe tortures and martyrdom for the name of Christ.

How many were of these true, good shepherds, called by Christ Himself to feed His flock.

Oh, how many were the martyrs who gave their lives for faith in Christ, for preaching about Him.

He is the door to the sheep, He is the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for His sheep.

“But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.  The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep."

You know all the cursed hirelings, you know the false shepherds who graze themselves, the evil shepherds who are careless about the sheep, leaving them at the first danger, leaving them to be torn apart by the wolves.

Christ says about such false shepherds: “ I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep" (John 10:14).

There was in ancient times the task not only of those who were in the Old Testament Church, and then became a member of the New Testament Church, not only they had to be brought to eternal life, there are many, many sheep not from the fold of the Lord Jesus Christ, there were many pagans who did not know about the True Shepherd - and they had to be brought.

And the Lord brought them in through His apostles, brought all the peoples of the then world to faith in Him, our Savior.

And we need to bring all the peoples, we need to call new ones from everywhere: "Come, come to the sheepfold!"

And notice that there are those who are strongly influenced by this call, I know that those who did not believe before take the path of Christ, and the small flock of Christ is replenished.

This is what you heard, this parable of Christ is read on the days of the commemoration of all the great saints, God's hierarchs. It was also read at yesterday's all-night vigil in memory of Basil the Great, for there were not, or there were few like him. He was the greatest Christian shepherd, the shepherd of the whole Church, not only Caesarea in Cappadocia alone. He was one of the most ardent Christ-loving shepherds of Christ's flock. Everything that we have heard about the good shepherd is said about him.

Listen to this word and you will see an accurate portrait of some unworthy shepherds, who, unfortunately, have always been and always are.

"You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock" (Ez. 34:3).

By the grace of God, in the Crimean archdiocese, I do not know a single shepherd to whom these terrible words of the prophet Ezekiel would apply. Many, probably all, have vices; there are many shortcomings, like all people. But unfaithful shepherds, shepherds who feed themselves, are careless about the sheep, like hirelings - I don’t know such.

But to all of us, imperfect shepherds, far from the fullness of dignity, may the greatest righteous Basil, Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia be a great example, and we will now offer him a hymn and glorify him. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.