February 2, 2022

Homily One on the Feast of the Reception of the Lord (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on February 2/15, 1952)

"Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle will pass from the law until everything is fulfilled" (Matthew 5:17-18).

These words of our Lord Jesus Christ are probably perplexing to many of you.

How does the Lord say that not a single iota, not a single tittle will pass away in the law, until everything will be fulfilled?

Isn't much abolished by the Lord Jesus Himself in the Old Testament law given through Moses?

Have the customs, the fulfillment of those precepts of the law, which were effective in ancient times, been preserved even among the Jews?

This great feast of the Reception of the Lord gives me a reason to explain these words of Christ and remove your confusion and bewilderment.

In the deepest antiquity, people sacrificed animals to God. Already the sons of our forefathers Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, sacrificed bulls and lambs to God.

And so it was for many, for many hundreds of years, so it was for long millennia.

What were these first sacrifices? They were an expression of the fear of God in people, an expression of people's admiration for God. They were at the same time a sacrifice of atonement.

And precisely because of this, they represented the only true sacrifice of atonement, which was offered on Calvary by our Lord and God Jesus Christ. By His Blood He reconciled people to God and propitiated God.

Many, many centuries passed, and through Moses, God gave a detailed law on sacrifices, set forth in the book of Leviticus.

And from that time until the time of the coming of Christ, the people of Israel kept this law of sacrifice.

But another time came, much later, when God gave a new law, much more extended and deepened than the law of sacrifice given through Moses.

He commanded Moses that every first-born male in the people of Israel should be dedicated to Him, the Great God.

In fulfillment of this law, the Most Holy Theotokos with the Infant Jesus and Joseph, the guardian of Her virginity, came to the Temple of Jerusalem to consecrate the Infant, as the firstborn, to God.

There were many, many, many of these babies dedicated to God. But this consecration was the greatest, the only true consecration to God of the very Son of God, God the Word, incarnated in a human body.

This law was great, but it has already passed into eternity, and it is not fulfilled even by the Jews themselves; they no longer consecrate their firstborn to God; they no longer have that Levitical priesthood, which in ancient times made the genuine and true consecration of every first-born male infant to the service of God.

For the service of God, the Levites, the sons of the tribe of Levi, were singled out; they were directly consecrated to God, and the rest of the many other babies that were only brought into the temple of the Lord were redeemed by the sacrifice of a lamb or a pair of pigeon or turtledoves.

And this is long gone.

After our Lord Jesus Christ, the Levitical ministry also ceased, the consecration of the children of Israel to God to serve Him ceased.

Does it follow from this that the law remains unfulfilled hitherto? Should we doubt the truth of Christ's words, that not one jot, not one tittle in the law will pass away until everything is fulfilled?

After all, the law - both the Old Testament and the New Testament are eternal and will be fulfilled.

How is this law fulfilled today, after the elimination of the Levitical priesthood, among us Christians? Doesn't it concern us?

Oh, it directly concerns, for what was the deep meaning of this law about the consecration of the firstborn of Israel to God?

The deep meaning of this law was that it obliged Israel to consecrate to God the most precious, most beloved, for is not the first-born in every human family dearest of all, loved most of all?

And so the dedication of this most precious to God was required by law.

And what does God require of us by this law? He demands that we consecrate to Him all that is dearest, most beloved to us. What do we love, who do we love the most? Are not our loved ones: father, mother, brothers, sisters, children? Oh, of course, them.

And what else do we love with especially deep love?

Everything that nourishes our flesh: we love all the pleasures of the flesh, we love wealth, which makes it possible to satisfy the lusts of the flesh, we are therefore attached to wealth, we value it.

And people who are deeper, more spiritual, value other things as well - they value honor, they value glory, the glory that the great figures of science, art, music, poetry were honored with.

And we all love most of all what we have set ourselves as the goal of our life.

Everyone builds a plan for their life and for decades works diligently to implement this plan.

And success in the fulfillment of one's plan is most dear to a person, and failure in this matter is the most serious misfortune and grief.

And so our Lord and God Jesus Christ demands of us, as He demanded of Israel of old, that we consecrate to Him all that is dearest, most beloved and valuable to us, that we consecrate glory and honor, that we also sacrifice the erection of the building of our well-being.

He even said seemingly very harsh words, which also confuse many: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and, moreover, his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).

He cannot be close to Christ, he cannot be His friend, His disciple.

You see what a huge demand our Lord and God Jesus Christ makes: He requires that we love Him, that we prefer serving Him to any other love of ours, any other affection of ours, so that He is loved much more than the people closest to us, for the Holy Spirit is jealous, He does not want to share our love for God with our loved ones, He demands total love for Himself.

What do the harsh words about hatred towards our loved ones mean?

Of course, Christ does not speak of hatred in the true sense! He never taught anyone to hate.

It only means putting our love for what is most precious to us much lower than our love for God.

You can love, you can and should love your loved ones, but not love them more than God.

And there was a huge crowd of people who followed this profound requirement of Christ.

They truly left their homes, left their families and went to the wild African deserts or to the northern Russian forests.

Such were all the saints.

And there were others: there were great people who, during the persecution of Christians, did not stop before giving their lives for Christ - and gave it up in terrible terrible torments, which you cannot even imagine. There were mothers - barren wives who, begging God to allow their infertility, made a vow to dedicate the baby to God.

Such was Saint Nonna, the mother of the great Saint Gregory the Theologian, such was Saint Martha, the mother of Saint Symeon the Stylite.

Even in the Old Testament we know a wife who begged God to save her from infertility, it was Hannah, the great Hannah, the mother of the Prophet Samuel.

You see how completely these ascetics of piety fulfilled the law of Christ, that law, the germ of which was the Old Testament consecration of the firstborn to God.

I will say that our Lord Jesus Christ did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it; and to fulfill in Slavic means to supplement, perfect.

With his new law, He not only confirmed, but extraordinarily deepened the law of the consecration of the firstborn to God, raised the fulfillment of this law to an unattainable height, the height to which the great martyrs, great saints and ascetics climbed.

The Law on Sacrifices has not been abolished; sacrifices continue in a much more important and holy form.

And all this can be said about those Old Testament laws that have ceased to exist: they still exist in a much more profound form, they are fulfilled and supplemented by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore He fulfilled this great law, so not one jot, not one tittle of the law will pass away.

Thus let us fulfill this law, let us follow the law of sacrificing to God all that is most precious and dear to us.

Let's not bind ourselves with earthly habits, let's love poverty, let's love the unknown, let's renounce all glory, let's seek not glory from people, but glory from God, from our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

And if we fulfill it, if we give Him all the power of our love, we will be His disciples, His friends, we will be in eternal communion with Him when our earthly lot ends.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.