Sermon of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) (+1936) of Kiev and Galicia, on the feast day of the Holy Apostle John the Theologian
Orthodox listeners! Today's feast in honor of the Holy Apostle John the Theologian is considered primarily a seminary feast in Russia; for the Holy Church of Christ distinguished the apostle, today celebrated, with the title of Theologian. He was and for all times will remain a model of true christian orthodox theology which is the primary subject of a seminary education. That is why many seminary churches are dedicated to this apostle; that is why we are now celebrating a highly instructive celebration in honor of this heavenly patron of our abode of sciences.
Why exactly is this celebration instructive for us? A clearer answer to this question will be served by the clarification of another question: why exactly did the Church of Christ give the distinctive title of Theologian to the Holy Apostle John? In the Gospels he is noted as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13, 23) above all the other disciples. But the love of Christ differs from ordinary human love; it is alien to all attachment; it loves as much as the subject deserves. Whoever does the will of the Heavenly Father, as the Savior Himself said, is His brother and sister and mother (Matthew 12, 50). This means that the basis of the predominant love of Christ for the Apostle John lies in his (John's) own love for God and Jesus Christ, sent to Him. The disciple of Christ, inspired by this holy love, did not abandon his beloved Teacher even as He hung on the cross, when all His other disciples fled in fear. It is to this spirit of holy love that one must attribute to the depth and height of the knowledge of God, which permeates all the writings of St. John. He wrote in this way because he knew the heart of Christ the Savior, and he knew it because his own heart was filled with a heavenly feeling of love for the Lord. Love brought John closer to Christ the Savior. Love revealed to him the secrets of the Divine image of Christ and His deeds: eternal existence, birth from the Father and the divinity of the Word, His union with humanity in the person of the Lord Jesus, the reality of the presence of the body and blood of the God-Man under the guise of bread and wine - these secrets of the Divine face of Christ are not described with such clarity as by St. John. And that's why the Holy Church distinguished this apostle of love by the name of Theologian.
Is it not the same quality that should distinguish every theologian and every student of theology? One can know the truths of faith with one mind and memory; but how poor and fruitless is such knowledge! Only holy love produces a close and real union of man with God and Christ, and at the same time - firm faith and living hope. According to the testimony of Christ the Savior himself, the law and the prophets are established on the love of God and neighbor (Matthew 22, 40). Remember, brethren, that you have dedicated yourselves to the study of the law, prophets and apostles - if this study does not confirm you in love and is not confirmed by your love - remember that you will have to give a stern answer at the terrible judgment of Christ, when the Righteous Judge will say to those who are alien to the love of God and neighbors: For I was an hungred, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not... Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25). Let us be fearful, brothers, of this terrible voice, and we will devote our whole life, all our strength and labors to the service of the lesser brethren of Christ. Let us cultivate in ourselves sincere sympathy for them, so that in the pastoral or, at first, in the teaching field, we shall bring forth to the world the same light of love with which todays celebrated patron of our school, Apostle John the Theologian, shone. If now, in your youth, you cultivate in yourself a love for people, then it will be unnecessary to frighten you with the terrible judgment of God to arouse zeal. Why? As the apostle John answers: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear (1 John 4, 18). This love would open you access to the hearts of all the people around you, and at the same time it would worthily prepare you for the great pastoral service; this love, I will add, would conveniently lead you to the immediate goal of your upbringing here, that is, to the study of the Divine Law; for where love is, there is knowledge of God. These are not my words, these are the words of our holy teacher John. Beloved! let us love one another: because love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. (see 1 John 4, 7-12). No wonder the Holy Church adopted for him, the apostle of love, the name - Theologian. This means that the secret of theology is love. This love raises in us faith in God, and the latter kindles love in us again, and in this way the love and knowledge of God, strengthening each other mutually, will prepare you for the lofty deeds of pastoral service, where love should burn with a bright lamp, where love for people in Christ shines on the world and warms all believers. That is why, brethren, when our heavenly patron, our great teacher of love, already a hundred years old and ailments took away his legs for walking to church and closed his mouth for lengthy teachings, he ordered himself to be brought to the church meeting and only cried out: children, love one another! And when they asked him why, he answered repeating the same thing,: “This is the commandment of the Lord; if you fulfill it in all its breadth, then the whole law of Christ will be fulfilled by us." And to us now he repeats his well-known words: Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning. This is God's commandment, that we should believe in Jesus Christ and that we should love one another as he commanded us. He calls us to go forth with a word of consolation and sympathy to all who are weary and burdened, grieving, embittered, despondent, desperate and perishing, in order to revive everyone with the love of Christ. Remember, brethren, that love reveals to us the secrets of theology, that the highest truths of the knowledge of God are assimilated by our minds only with a purity of heart, as the Saviour said: with a pure heart they shall see God. Don't stop, brethren, preparing for the upcoming pastoral ministry in the spirit of your heavenly patron, instructor in love and theologian. Warm your hearts with love, so that you may then shine upon the world with the knowledge of God, like the Apostle John. Then it is not in vain that you study here, then you will have the right to say with the Apostle John: and we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him (1 John 1, 16). Amen.
Spoken at the Kholmsk Theological Seminary. 1887.