Sermon by Archbishop Feofan (Bystrov) on the 6th Sunday After Pentecost
But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God,
which had given such power unto men (Matthew 9:8).
The Gospel teaching of the healing of the sick man directs our attention not only to the healing event itself, but various opinions of people who witnessed it. They brought the sick man on a bed to Jesus. Seeing their faith, He said to the sick man: “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matthew 9:2), but some of the scribes said to themselves: “This man blasphemeth” (Matthew 9:3). This was in reaction to a miracle!
But when the people saw the miracle of the healing of the infirm man, “they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (Matthew 9:8). A different reaction indeed.
Who said that He blasphemed? The scribes, people who are deemed to be educated, enlightened, learned. How unexpected! The simple folk, though they did not yet recognize Divinity in the Person of Jesus, still, by His wonder working recognized the power of God and glorifies Him. But learned me seeing the same miracle accuse Jesus of blasphemy. Why was this?
It was because the common people, though uneducated, followed common sense and good conscience, while the scribes were blinded by pride. They did not try to discern true knowledge from the works of God, they wanted to subject the works of God to their own meager understanding. They thought that God cannot act in any way other than by the laws that the wisdom of the Jewish scribes would “endow” Him with.
Do you think, brethren, that this sad example does not apply to us, that we are not to draw a lesson from it? If so, you are wrong. Who does not love light? Who desires darkness? What does the Truth say?
“That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). Consequently, there is false light, which gleams superficially but does not illuminate the interior. So is it not possible that just like what happened once in Judea, we, too, can be deceived by superficial light and not receive the light that illuminates our soul? Do we not meet people today who, while they would not call themselves “scribes,” yet find in some dark books the apparition of truth, after which they deem themselves worthy to pass judgement on the Mysteries of faith, the wisdom of the Church, the works of Divine Providence in humanity? The words of the Apostle warn us of this. His words were not addressed to the Jewish scribes, but to Christian thinkers, and so also to us today: “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
We see in the sorrowful reality today that this warning goes unheeded. Not long ago we had a generation of “scribes” who not only abandoned faith in God, in Christ and the Church, but tried to prove scientifically that they could get along fine without these. They condemned all the glorious past of Russia, desired its universal destruction and thought to establish a new, better future on its ruins. Their dreams, sadly, came to pass. Instead of feeble dreamers, powerful destoyers possessed by the Devil arose. They truly destroyed the past, and upon its ruins built not the Kingdom of God but the reign of the Antichrist, where the people of Russia no longer live in peace but are brutally tortured by violence, hunger and need. We wish to say to these “scribes” and their minions. by the example of our Savior, grieving for the hardness of their hearts (Mark 3:5): “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! (Matthew 23:13). “Ye do the deeds of your father” (John 8:41). “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44)!
These “scribes” are terrifying, but only to those weak in spirit. There is another clan of “scribes,” no less dangerous to those who are inexperienced and infirm in the Christian faith. They do not deny God, nor Christ, nor the Church, and do not aim to destroy Christianity, but only, as they say, “renew,” “deepen” and “purify” the Church from “accidental” historical layers and strata. They preach a new Christianity, not a Christianity of the Church, not of Christ, of Divine Power and Divine Wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:24). Theirs is a Christianity of “female wisdom” which was unknown in the Orthodox Church.
What can we say about such “scribes?”
These are “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15). “They went out from us, but they were not of us” (1 John 2:19), though they use theological terminology. In the same way, he who from the beginning became the inventor of slander—the Devil, deceived Eve. The inventors of other false teachings together with him hide their true image. Though they read Holy Scripture, they ignore the meaning that was passed down to us by the Fathers of the Church. The Church of God never taught what they teach. The foundation of our faith is what is explained in the Gospel, the words of the Apostles, the witness of the Prophets, the teachings of the Fathers, the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. We must be their students, and they must be our teachers, and we can concord only with them. Only they have the true interpretation of the faith. What is invented now did not come from them, as Apostle Paul predicted: “In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1).
Christ the True Light! Illuminate us with Your light, instruct us with Your world, guide us with Your wisdom; “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Let us learn how insufficient and useless is the wisdom of the world, which easily judges and condemns, but cannot save a soul.
We witness You, we follow You, we wonder at Your saving works, we glorify You, Christ, Divine Power and Divine Providence!
Delivered on July 22, 1929, Varna.