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September 26, 2022

Homily on the Feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered in 1958)

Oh, how great, oh how glorious is the name of the beloved disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ - the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian.

I think that if our Lord Jesus Christ called His Forerunner and Baptist the greatest of all those born of women, then after this the greatest one would be the beloved disciple of the Lord Jesus, and after him the great Foremost Apostle Paul.

All the Apostles of Christ accomplished an immeasurably great deed: they entered into warfare, into mortal warfare with the darkness of this world. They dispersed this darkness - pagan darkness, terrible darkness - the darkness of innumerable sins.

All of them, except for John the Theologian, beloved by the Lord, ended their lives as martyrs. They approved the Cross of Christ over the entire universe. They put an end to pagan wickedness and darkness, - first of all and most of all the holy Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Only by the grace of their Holy Gospels did the light of Christ shine over the whole world. Isn't it immeasurably great? Didn't they need a special power of His grace sent down from God? Could they, with their strength, their mind and heart, do this? Oh, of course they couldn't.

And we know that to all of them were sent down, according to the promise of the Lord before His Ascension to heaven, a special, greatest grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God. All received tongues of fire on their heads and grace, great grace for preaching the gospel of Christ in all languages. We know that the Holy Apostle Paul, who is sometimes called the second founder of Christianity after the Lord Jesus Christ, received a special, greatest grace, which we read about in his epistle to the Corinthians.

Listen to what the holy Apostle himself says about this: “I know a man in Christ who, fourteen years ago, (whether in the body I don’t know, whether out of the body I don’t know: God knows) was caught up to the third heaven. And I know about such a person (I don’t know whether in the body or out of the body: God knows) that he was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words that a person cannot retell” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

The Holy Apostle Paul, of course, was speaking about himself, but out of his modesty, out of humility, he did not speak directly, but as if he knew, he heard it from another person. But we know, we know, of course, that these words refer to him. We don’t know what kind of third heaven this is, called paradise, we only know he was caught up into paradise, he heard such phrases that it is impossible to convey on earth, which only those who are caught up to the third heaven are worthy, as he was caught up.

We do not know whether he was the only one of all the Apostles who was caught up to the third heaven, but we can think that others were also caught up to paradise, in order to learn there, to hear inexpressible words there, in order to preach the gospel to all creation.

We definitely know about the great Apostle John the Theologian from his own words, with which he begins his great Revelation about the future destinies of the whole world.

Listen with what words he begins his Revelation: “I, John, your brother and companion in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island called Patmos, for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, like a trumpet, which said: 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last; what you see, write in a book and send it to the churches.'” (Rev. 1:9-11).

He does not say that he was caught up to the third heaven. He received a Revelation from God through an angel sent to him on the island of Patmos, where he was exiled for his preaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.

But he definitely says that he heard what he wrote from God Himself through the Angel sent to him. He says that he "was in the spirit" when he heard the revelation from the Angel of God. This means that he was in a special, much higher, much more enthusiastic mood, in the spiritual ability to perceive what is inaccessible to all people.

This is, in essence, the same thing that happened to the Apostle Paul when he heard unspeakable phrases.

The holy Apostle John also heard unspeakable words directly from God and from the mouth of an angel, which cannot be conveyed to living people. It was like a preparation for a great sermon about the Lord Jesus Christ.

And all of you who have the New Testament know, you know well, how great is the significance of this direct Divine Revelation, which the Apostle John received.

How great is the Gospel written by him. Among all the books written by the geniuses of mankind, the wisest people and even holy people, there is no book that, in the power of words, in the greatness of examples, in the knowledge of the mysteries of God, could be compared with the Gospel written by John the Theologian.

You know how amazingly deep and extraordinary is the first chapter of the Gospel of John, which we hear only once a year at the liturgy of the greatest feast of the Resurrection of Christ.

On this Gospel of the Theologian lies an unusually bright seal of the greatest wisdom, the greatest knowledge of the mysteries of God. And if so, then, of course, it must be said about him that he could receive this power of the word only directly from God Himself.

Let us give praise and thanksgiving to God for the fact that through the mouth of the great Apostle and Evangelist He revealed to us His greatest, most holy and most necessary mysteries. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.