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January 6, 2023

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

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered in 1954)

All of you know that the people of Israel were the chosen people of God, but not everyone knows that this people in Holy Scripture is called the people with necks unbending as iron and foreheads as hard as bronze.

The brass-foreheaded people took the ardent calls of the great prophets for the correction of their ways and the great predictions about their Savior and the Messiah very hard and did not listen to them. They held their proud head high and did not bend their iron neck in repentance and humility.

The Son of God Himself descended to earth and incarnated in humble human nature. From His mouth the stiff-necked people of Israel heard the Divine message and the revelation of the mysteries of God; they saw many of His miracles.

But even this did not enlighten them, and the Son of God was insulted and persecuted, hated, more than once they wanted to stone Him, and, finally, they killed Him, having crucified Him on the cross.

All this I tell you not from myself: it is written by the Apostle Paul in the 1st chapter of his epistle to the Hebrews: "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1-2).

What is the meaning of these last words of the apostle, “through whom also He made the worlds”? This means that the Son of God was the direct Creator of everything that exists in the ages, i.e. in time. This is the recognition of the Lord Jesus Christ by God Almighty.

However, the Holy Trinity knew that even the stiff-necked people would not listen to the Son of God, and therefore, to all the testimonies of the prophets, to all the words and deeds of the Messiah - Christ, God added another clear, quite obvious testimony of His incarnate Son on the great day of Baptism of the Lord Jesus in the Jordan.

The Holy Trinity revealed itself to people in the voice of God the Father, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” and in the descent in the form of a dove of the Holy Spirit upon the Baptized Son of God. What more could God add to bring the stubborn and rebellious people to their senses?

But even this did not enlighten them, and they did not bend their iron necks. And the people who did not live up to their name of God's chosen people were severely punished.

I have already told you about the unspeakable horrors of the siege by the Romans and the destruction of Jerusalem for the crucifixion of the Son of God. But even this punishment was insufficient in the sight of God, and the stubborn people were expelled from Palestine and scattered over the whole face of the earth.

You may be thinking: why did God choose this disobedient and stiff-necked people of Israel as His people? We do not dare to answer this question, for God Himself, through the great prophet Isaiah, said: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways ... But as the sky is higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).

According to our weak understanding, we can only think that the people of Israel were chosen by God because from the deepest antiquity they were the only people who honored the One true God, and all other peoples were rude pagans.

God knew that even in this stiff-necked people He would find great prophets and righteous people, the Blessed Virgin Mary and John the Baptist, that He would choose the holy apostles from them, and the Church of Christ would receive a beginning in God's chosen people.

We do not know anything about the final fate of Israel, but we find a mysterious prophecy about it in the great apostle Paul: “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob'" (Rom. 11:25-26).

And we, our Russian people, who have rejected their Savior, are we better than this stiff-necked people who have not justified their God-chosenness?!

No no! Not better, but even worse, because the Jews, although they rejected their Savior, still honor the One True God.

And our people in their vast majority rejected Christ God, drove Him out, decided to live without Him. Well, let them live.

And we, the humble, we Christians, will live only by Christ our God. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.