Monday, September 26, 2022

Homily on the Repose of the Holy Apostle John the Theologian (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 
 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on September 26/October 9, 1951)

Have you ever thought about how vast, how infinite, is the greatness of the apostles?

Have you thought about how immeasurable their power was?

Have you thought about what great strength of spirit, what courage these chosen ones of Christ, these brothers of Christ, these friends of Him possessed?

Have you thought about the fact that our God, who knows the hearts, chose as His disciples those whose hearts were the purest, the most ardent, the most capable of containing all the depth and all the greatness of the teaching of Christ?

Have you thought about what an amazing miracle God performed on them when, on the day of Pentecost, He sent down His Spirit on them and gave them strength and the ability to speak in all languages, for it was necessary for them, for they had to preach to all nations and had to speak different languages.

What was the main strength of the apostles?

In the fact that they conquered the whole world for Christ with their preaching.

Huge, awesome was the power of the Roman Empire. It was a world power, a power that subjugated the peoples of the entire world of that time, subjugated everyone to itself.

One of the most important foundations of the authority of this power was the pagan religion, to which the Romans attached great importance. They thought that if their religion fell, then their state would fall. They weren't wrong about that - it did.

Who crushed their world power? Who defeated and destroyed the pagan religion?

Apostles of Christ who preached the gospel to the whole world. These poor, uneducated fishermen of Galilee, simple people, completely unarmed, possessing only one sword - the sword of the word of God, conquered the pagan religion and erected the cross of Christ on its ruins.

Do you know what immeasurable labor this victory cost, what cruel suffering and persecution accompanied their preaching about Christ?

Do you know that all of them, except for one only great apostle John the Theologian, whose glorious memory we now celebrate, ended their lives as martyrs, some in terrible suffering: the apostles Peter, Andrew, Bartholomew, Philip, Ananias were crucified on crosses, Peter upside down.

The Apostle Bartholomew was stripped of all his skin and crucified on a cross. The Apostle Matthew died a terrible death in Ethiopia. And although one Apostle John the Theologian died a natural death, he did not escape torment and severe persecution. By order of the pagan emperor, he was thrown into a cauldron in which oil and sulfur were boiling, but by the power of God he remained unharmed, and then he was exiled to the wild rocky island of Patmos.

It was the place of the most cruel exile, where only the worst criminals were sent.

The apostles of Christ conquered, defeated the whole pagan world, and their gracious preaching shone over the world as the sun of truth, driving away the pagan darkness.

If all the holy apostles were so great, then what can be said about the apostle and evangelist John the Theologian, who was a beloved, chosen disciple of Christ?

Christ loved all His apostles, but he loved John the Theologian with a particularly fervent love, whom he called to the path of apostleship in his youth.

He knew what a precious heart was beating in John's chest. He noted it many times. John reclined on the chest of the Lord Jesus at the Secret Supper and asked in His ear about the traitor: "Lord, who is it?"

He was one of those chosen ones before whom Christ was transfigured on Mount Tabor, he was there together with Peter and his brother James.

These same three chosen apostles were in the Garden of Gethsemane when the Lord Jesus prayed there with His last prayer, shedding bloody sweat.

Christ, hanging on the cross, commanded him to be the guardian and trustee of His Most Pure Mother: looking at His Mother, and then at the disciple, He said to Him: “Behold your Mother!” And to Her: “Behold your son!”

Tell me, tell me, who of all the people who ever lived in the world is more worthy of our love than the apostles of Christ, and among them the chosen one, beloved by the Lord, John the Theologian?

His greatness is immeasurable, and he deserves the most fiery, most ardent love, the deepest reverence.

He is also great in another respect: he was an evangelist, he wrote the greatest of the four Gospels, a Gospel unlike the other three Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke, for in their Gospels they mainly tell about the life of the Lord Jesus, about His miracles, His glorious deeds, about deep parables, spoken by Him; they certainly contain the doctrine of the deity of the Lord Jesus. But none of these three evangelists proclaimed the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Christian world with such great power.

His Gospel is truly amazing.

Countless books have been written over the millennia, written by people. Among them there are also that that are very, very wise, very valuable for us, containing this or that particle of truth, but if we compare all these books taken together with the Gospel of John alone, then they will appear to us as distant stars twinkling faintly in the night sky, and the Gospel of John will appear as a brightly shining sun, illuminating the whole universe, eclipsing the light of the stars.

In his Gospel, with great power and depth, Saint John testifies to the world of the Divinity of the Lord Jesus.

There is nothing greater in the world than the first chapter of his Gospel, which is read once a year on the first day of Holy Pascha at the liturgy: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Immediately, immediately he said that God was the Word, and the Lord Jesus Christ is called the Word. And his entire Gospel is full of testimonies about the Lord Jesus as the true God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

Only it contains all the most important deepest discourses of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in which He Himself testifies to His Divinity.

Only in this Holy Gospel do we read about an extremely deep conversation with Nicodemus, who came to Jesus at night, about His conversation with a Samaritan woman; we read about the resurrection of Lazarus.

We read in it the farewell conversation of the Lord Jesus with the apostles before His sufferings.

We read His amazing prayer to His Father, which is called the High Priestly Prayer.

Already in the first century, during the life of the Apostle John, very dangerous heresies arose, which, if not exposed as false, could destroy all of Christianity .

Ecumenical synods and individual great saints fought these heresies and put them to shame.

And what guided them in their struggle against heresies?

Above all, and most of all, the Gospel of John, for in it they drew unconditional proofs of the divinity of the Lord Jesus.

But not only was the Gospel written by the Holy Apostle John the Theologian, he also wrote three wonderful universal epistles. And in these messages he appears before us as the greatest herald and preacher of love.

Only from his first epistle do we learn what is most important for us - we learn that God is love.

In the ancient world, the gods were represented only as formidable rulers, punishers and avengers, and no one knew before Saint John revealed this to us that God is love.

His messages are a continuous hymn of love. No one preached about love with such force, with such perseverance, as Saint John.

He lived a very long time, more than a hundred years, and all his life he preached about love. And when severe infirmities overcame him, and he was unable to deliver long sermons, he constantly repeated one short phrase: “Children, love one another!”

His disciples asked him: “Holy Father! What does it mean that you always repeat the same thing?"

The holy apostle answered them: “I only say this phrase because it contains the whole essence of the gospel of Christ, for the gospel of Christ is the doctrine of holy love.”

He also wrote an amazing book called the Apocalypse, or Revelation of Saint John. He wrote in it what was revealed to him by God on the island of Patmos about the last things of the world before the second terrible coming of Christ. This book is also amazing: from it we draw the greatest revelations and mysteries of God.

Tell me, is this apostle not worthy of our boundless love, is it not worthy that on this day, when his memory is celebrated, our churches would be full of people? And you see how the temple is not full.

Christians are not accustomed to honor the greatest apostle John the Theologian as they should.

Churches are filled to capacity on the day of the foremost apostles Peter and Paul, and even more so on the days of the memory of Saint Nicholas. Of course, of course, both the Apostles Peter and Paul and Saint Nicholas deserve the deepest love.

But why do you not give such deep love to someone who, by Christ Himself, was placed above all: above Peter and Paul, and above Saint Nicholas? Why don't you give glory to him, why don't you bow before the memory of the holy apostle and evangelist John the Theologian?

There is also my fault in this: of course, every time in the days of the memory of the great John the Theologian, I myself would have to serve, to attract you to the temple of the Lord as a bishop. And I would very much like to serve today, but there is no opportunity for this, for there are no co-servants without whom the hierarchical service is impossible.

Remember at least one of my current words and give prayerful singing with me to the great and glorious Apostle John the Theologian, the friend and brother of Christ.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
 
 
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