Uh! Ukazes (that will make your ears red)!

Here are three hardcore ukazes of St Luke of Simferopol. I, personally, see these ukazes as addressing particular issues he had at the time (and, mind you, these were Soviet times!)  and not as applying to all times and in all situations. I want to give an idea of the spirit in which St Luke addressed problems he had. I in no way, for instance, mean this to be a whippin’ stick to those priests who do not serve liturgy on Saturdays. To balance this picture, I’ll then  encourage you with a sermon at the end.

To all priests in the Simferopol and Crimea Diocese
May your zeal for God’s truth and the canons and decrees of the Church be firm. It has come to my knowledge that godparents at an infant’s Baptism are often people that do not know any prayers and don’t even know how to make the sign of the cross, women who have unbaptized children, and people not even knowing whether or not they’ve been baptized. Baptism of infants in the Orthodox Church is performed according to the faith of the parents and the godparents, upon whom lays the responsibility of teaching children the Law of God, prayers, and piety. This, of course, cannot be performed by godparents who themselves do not know even the simplest prayers, who do not know how to cross themselves, and who scoff at the exorcisms of satan during the baptism. In such a way the role of the godparents during Baptism becomes an empty formality. I strictly forbid the baptism of infants with such godparents. Godparents can only be true Christians who know the Law of God and prayers. If it is not possible to find such godparents, then the baptism of infants must be delayed until this is possible, or it might even be necessary to return to the times of the Apostles and early Christians, when people were only baptized at a conscious age and did not need godparents. I also remind you of my long-standing strict forbidding of baptizing by pouring and the necessity of three-fold immersion. Those priests who do not obey this requirement will be banned from serving for 6 months.
June 6, 1952

To all priests in the Crimea Diocese
It has come to my knowledge that most of our priests, when speaking about the Mystery of Baptism, incorrectly say “re-baptized[1],” and when speaking of the Mystery of Marriage say “re-crowned[2].” The word “re-baptize [or cross [oneself]” has two meanings: firstly, to make the sign of the cross and, secondly, to again perform a baptism on someone who was incorrectly baptized (for example, a heretic). Therefore, the word “re-baptize” must not be used speaking of the Mystery of Baptism, but one should say only “baptize.” It is the same regarding the Mystery of Marriage: you must not say “re-crowned” but only “crowned.” Exactitude of expression when speaking about great Mysteries has, of course, great importance, and priests, sinning against them must break the habit of the incorrect expressions “re-baptize” and “re-crowned.”

[1] perekrestil
[2] perevenchal

Exhortation of Archbishop Luke to all the priests of the Simferopol Diocese
The Prophet Ezekiel on behalf of God said: “When I say to the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou hast not warned him, to give warning to the wicked, to turn from his ways, that he should live; that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thy hand. But if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, and from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, and thou shalt deliver thy soul” (Ezekiel 3:18-19 LXX). I, of course, want to save my soul from God’s wrath for the negligence of wicked[1] pastors, in spite of my first exhortation sent in 1949. A priest is required without fail to serve the Liturgy every Saturday and on all middle feasts marked with a cross in the Menaion. With great anguish, I have found out that many priests did not give any attention to my exhortation and only serve on great feasts and on Sundays. And some man-pleasers and money-grubbers perform the Poliley service on those days and many name-days when, according to the rubrics, an everyday service is appointed. Serving on Saturdays is very important for the remembrance of the departed, and when there is no service and without services on middle-rank feasts, it is impossible to serve even a quite abbreviated 40-days-liturgy*[2]. Priest who do not wish to serve on those days when one should serve a Poliley service and on Saturdays usually justify themselves by saying that those services require extra expenditure for candles, oil, and wine and, particularly, that no one comes to the service. As a reproach, I will tell you about the French priest Jean Marie Vianney, who lived during the Napoleonic wars in the village of Ars, not far from Lyon, and who was later canonized a saint by the Catholic Church. The church in this village was without a priest for a long time, and the people became unaccustomed to the services and did not go to church. Jean Marie Vianney began to perform services everyday in solitude. The curious began to occasionally look into the church to see the strange priest. The inspirational serving of the good pastor drew more and more worshipers, and they soon did not fit into the church. Praise about the zealous pastor made it to Lyon and then throughout all of France, whereupon people came from everywhere desiring to confess before the good pastor and to listen to his simple though similar to Divine flame sermons that came forth from the depths of his heart. One well-known homilist from Paris who heard a sermon said that his own sermons were nothing in comparison. So may the lazy and negligent priests be shamed by my story. May they also be shamed by the fact that I have been forced to repeat my appeal with the exhortation to fear God and conscientiously fulfill their pastoral responsibilities. In my first letter I asked for even greater: daily services in church, even in solitude, at least Vespers for the daily saint. It’s shameful if a priest doesn’t even honor the daily saints. It is a great sin before God if he does not—at least with his zealous prayer and divine service—support people’s faith, which is dying out under the influence of anti-religious propaganda. I know the names of many zealous priests who heartily accepted my first letter. I also know the names of the particularly negligent, and I will not leave them without punishment.

[1] St Luke uses the same word as in the above Biblical quote.
[2] Referring to the “sorokoust,” meaning serving liturgy for 40 days straight, which is often done when entreating God for a particular purpose, for instance, for the reposed or before making a major decision.

My Strength is Perfected in Weakness
The Holy Apostle Paul had a thorn in his flesh. This thorn was Alexander the Coppersmith, who hated him, always and everywhere persecuted him, caused him every trouble, and blasphemed him with evil words. St Paul prayed to God three times asking to be delivered from this thorn in his flesh, but the Lord said to him: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
Just how is it possible for a weak person to be strong? Surely it is not possible that an old man suffering from severe shortness of breath, barely moving on ailing legs, with shaking hands is strong because he is weak?
Thus will say with surprise and even ridicule a natural[1]  and not spiritual person who does not at all understand that everything is completely different with God that with us, people, His ways are special and holy and are often not understandable.
He does not realize this and fails to understand that Holy Scripture is not at all like books, even the wisest, written by people.
What, then, do we answer such a person?
O, you poor man! You only understand the purposes and affairs of this world, those aimed at the well-being of the physical, while you do not at all understand that which must be understood spiritually.
Well, how do you not understand that the words of St. Paul “when I am weak, then am I strong” and the words of God relate not to physical weakness but to spiritual weakness.
You have probably never heard that which the Apostle Paul said: “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” (1 Cor. 1:27-28).
You have never heard this and do not understand it; however, this is a great revelation for us, for we know that through insignificant fisherman, His apostles, the Lord confounded all of the wisdom of the world and revealed to the world a completely new, never heard before teaching—the teaching not of a worldly kingdom but of a Heavenly Kingdom.
We, Christians, set as our task not the construction of an earthly kingdom but the acquiring of the Heavenly Kingdom, which is something completely different.
In the earthly kingdom, we live and we participate in its affairs, but our heart is attached to the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven.
What is spiritual weakness and what is spiritual strength?
Our Christian and secular understandings of spiritual strength are completely different.
Spiritual strength of worldly people has as its foundation self-confidence, conceit, and self-assertion, that is, pride.
This strength, often very great, truly can do great things, transforming human life, changing social and international relations for the better. It seems to us that this strength builds an earthly kingdom with unprecedented success.
However, at the foundation of this spiritual strength lies pride, the rejection of any help from God, self-assertion, and unconditional faith in one’s own human strength. Yet, God resisteth the proud and only gives grace to the humble.
They have not heard this and if they had heard it, they mocked it.
The words of the Holy Prophet Isaiah deeply strike us: “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).
In another place the same prophet says “but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isaiah 66:2).
O, how great are these words! Do you really not want for God Himself to live in your heart?
He says that He lives in those hears that are humble and contrite.
In the heart of man, God Himself lives…
And so only when God, who despises pride and self-exaltation, comes to dwell in a humble heart that is broken and trembling before His word will the great strength of God be manifest—only in such a feeble heart and not in any other.
What exactly is such spiritual poverty that God has established as a necessary condition so that His Divine strength would act in us?
For instance, there in the vestibule are poor beggars. They do not exalt themselves above anyone, stand with shaking knees and heads lowered, and consider themselves below all. They have nothing of their own and recognize this fact. They are fed by the alms that you give, are clothed with the second-hand clothes that they receive from you. These are the physically poor.
Such also should be the poor in spirit. They, similar to the physically poor, need to recognize themselves as not independently having anything good.
They consider themselves completely poor in the virtues.
They truly think and say that all good performed by them is not through their own strength, not by their own virtue but according to God’s grace.
They are not clothed or sheltered with luxurious clothes but under the sheltering wings of the Most High.
They seek only this kind of clothing and only want to live under the sheltering wings of the Most High, not in luxurious houses—they do not need this.
They humbly admit that they are below all. And the more righteous a man is, the more profound will be the consciousness of his sinfulness.
This seems strange to you. You will say, “What is this? How is it possible for a saint to consider himself more sinful than all?”
Believe it, believe that it is possible that saints absolutely sincerely consider themselves more sinful than all.
How is this possible? Here’s how.
If bright sunlight falls into a room through a window, you see a million specks of dust floating around.  When there was no light, you do not see the dust; you see it only when the sun shines on the dust.
The spiritual sight of saints is heightened to the extreme: they see that which normal people, people of this world, do not see.
Their heart and mind reflect the bright light of Christ, and they see in their own heart all the petty and small sins, which are many, by their acute sight.
Then a holy person (saint) will be horrified and say, “O, Lord, Lord! How sinful I am!”
And he will absolutely sincerely consider himself worse, more sinful than all.
Particularly this is humility, the foundation of all righteousness, for without humility all works of righteousness have no value in God’s eyes.
One can, when doing good deeds, perform them with pride and vanity. This is not righteousness before God, this is an abomination before Him. God awaits only true spiritual poverty, and He speaks through the words of St. Paul: “My strength is perfected in weakness.”
Only in broken and humble hearts is the great mystery of God’s strength performed.
In order to perform good deeds, truly good, we need to be humble. Our Lord and God Jesus Christ teaches us humility. Do you not, after all, remember His words “Learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart”?
Who was as humble as He? Remember what St. Paul said of Him in his epistle to the Philippians: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth” (Phil. 2:5-10).
This is what we need to imitate: the humility of Christ, the humility of the saints. Never forget the terrifying words of the Apostle Peter: “God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.” [1 Peter 5:5]
Let us be humble, let us be spiritually poor, let us be weak, and then the strength of God will be perfected in us, only then.
Thus, humble yourselves beneath the mighty arm of God, and He will exalt you in due time.
Amen.

[1] Term used in 1 Cor. 2:14; could also be translated worldly or emotional.

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