St. Luke Archbishop of Simferopol the Surgeon (1877-1961)
Feastday: June 11th (New Calendar), May 29th (Old Calendar)
(His apolytikion or troparion, as translated from the original Russian and included in the latest addition of the Blessed Surgeon book)
Troparion of St. Luke of Simferopol – Tone 1
O herald of the way of salvation, confessor and archpastor of the Crimean flock, faithful keeper of the traditions of the fathers, unshakeable pillar and teacher of Orthodoxy, pray unceasingly to Christ our Saviour to grant salvation and strong faith to Orthodox Christians, O holy hierarch Luke, physician wise in God.
On Science and Religion
By St. Luke, Archbishop of Crimea
“When we examine contemporary science as developed by scientists such as Lamark and Darwin, we see the antithesis and I would say the complete disagreement that exists between science and religion, on topics that concern the more basic problems of existence and knowledge. For this, an enlightened mind cannot accept at the same time both one and the other and must chose between religion and science”.
A well known German Zoologist, Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), who was a good follower of Darwin, wrote these words some 65 years ago, in his book, “The Riddle of the Universe” that was very successful and as it seemed, had proved that faith is absurd. So says Haeckel that every enlightened man must chose between science and religion and should follow either one or the other. He considered it necessary that such men should deny religion because a logical man cannot deny science.
Truly, is this necessary? No, not at all, for we know that many and great scientists were at the same time great believers. For example, such was the Polish astronomer Copernicus who laid the foundation of all contemporary astronomy. Copernicus was not only a believer but was also a cleric. Another great scientist, Newton, whenever he mentioned the word God, he removed his hat. He was a great believer. A great bacteriologist of our time and almost a contemporary, Pasteur, who laid the basis of contemporary bacteriology, he would start every scientific work with a prayer to God. Some 10 years ago a great scientist passed away, who was our countryman, physiologist Pavlov, who was the creator of the new physiology of the brain. He too was a great believer. Would Haeckel therefore dare say that these men did not have enlightened mind because they believed in God?
So what happens now? Why even today there are some scientists, professors at Universities whom I personally know and are great believers. Why don’t all the scientists deny religion but only those who think the same as Haeckel? Because these people believe only in materials and deny the spiritual world, they do not believe in the after death life, they do not accept the immortality of the soul and of course they do not accept the resurrection of the dead. They say that science is capable of everything, that there is no secret in nature that science cannot discover. What can we answer to these?
We shall respond to them this way. You are totally right. We cannot limit the human mind that searches nature. We know that today, science knows only a part of the things we have of nature. We also understand that the possibilities of science are great. In this they are right and we don’t doubt it. What then do we doubt? Why don’t we deny religion like them and consider it contrary to scientific knowledge?
Just because we believe wholeheartedly that there is a spiritual world. We are certain that apart from the material world there is an infinite and incomparably superior spiritual world. We believe in the existence of spiritual beings that have higher intellect than us humans. We believe wholeheartedly that above this spiritual and material world there is the Great and Almighty God.
What we doubt is the right of science to research with its methods the spiritual world. Because the spiritual world cannot be researched with the methods used to research the material world. Such methods are totally inappropriate to research the spiritual world.
How do we know that there is a spiritual world? Who told us that it exists? If we are asked by people who do not believe in the Divine revelation, we shall answer them thus: “Our heart told us”. For there are two ways for one to know something, the first is that which is spoken by Haeckel, which is used by science to learn of the material world. There is however another way that is unknown to science, and does not wish to know it. It is the knowledge through the heart. Our heart is not only the central organ of the circulation system, it is an organ with which we know the other world and receive the highest knowledge. It is the organ that gives us the capability to communicate with God and the above world. Only in this we disagree with science.
Praising the great successes and achievements of science, we do not doubt at all its great importance and we do not confine the scientific knowledge. We only tell the scientists “You do not have the capability with your methods to research the spiritual world, we however can with our heart
There are many unexplainable phenomena which concern the spiritual world that are real (as are some type of material phenomena). There are therefore phenomena that science will never be able to explain because it does not use the appropriate methods.
Let science explain how the prophecies appeared on the coming of the Messiah, which were all fulfilled. Could science tell us how the great prophet Isaiah, some 700 years before the birth of Christ, foretold the most important events in His life and for which he was named the evangelist of the Old Testament? To explain the far sighted grace possessed by the saints and to tell us with which physical methods the saints inherited this grace and how they could understand the heart and read the thoughts of a person they had just met for the first time? They would see a person for the first time and they will call him by his name. Without waiting for the visitor to ask, they would answer on what troubled him.
If they can, let them explain it to us. Let them explain with what method the saints foretold the great historical events which were accurately fulfilled as they were prophesied. Let them explain the visitation from the other world and the appearance of the dead to the living.
They shall never explain it to us because they are too far from the basis of religion- from faith. If you read the books of the scientists who try to reconstruct religion, you will see how superficially they look at things. They do not understand the essence of religion yet they criticize it. Their criticism does not touch the essence of faith, since they are unable to understand the types, the expressions of religious feeling. The essence of religion they do not understand. Why not? Because the Lord Jesus Christ says “No one can come to me unless My Father who sent Me draws him to Me.(John 6:44)
So it is necessary that we be drawn by the Heavenly Father, it is necessary that the grace of the Holy Spirit enlighten our heart and our mind. To dwell in our heart and mind through this enlightenment, the Holy Spirit and the ones who were found worthy to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, those in whose heart lives Christ and His Father, know the essence of faith. The others, outside the faith cannot understand anything.
Let us hear the criticism against Haeckel from a French philosopher Emile Boutroux (1845-1921). So says Boutroux, “The criticisms of Haeckel concern much more the ways, than the essence, which (the ways) he observes with such a materialistic and narrow view, that they cannot be accepted by religious people. Thus the criticism of religion by Haeckel is not referred to, not even in one of the principles that constitutes religion”.
This is therefore our opinion regarding Haeckel’s book “The Riddle of the Universe” which up to day is considered the “Bible” for all those who criticize religion, which they deny and find it contrary to science. Do you see how poor and tasteless arguments they use? Don’t become scandalized when you hear what they say about religion, since they themselves cannot understand its essence. You people, who may not have much of a relationship with science and do not know much about philosophy, remember always the most basic beginning, which was well known by the early Christians. They considered poor, the person who knew all the sciences yet he knew not God. On the other hand, they considered blessed the person who knew God, even if he knew absolutely nothing about the worldly things.
Guard this truth like the best treasure of the heart, walk straight without looking right or left. Let us not bother with what we hear against religion, losing our bearings. Let us hold on to our faith which is the eternal indisputable truth. Amen.
St Luke, Archbishop of Crimea,
Topics and Discussions,
“Orthodox Kypseli” Publications- Thessaloniki
St. Luke Life
St. Luke was born Valentine of Felix Voino-Yassenetsky in Kertz on April 27th 1877. His mother was Orthodox, but later did not attend church, while his father, a Roman Catholic, was deeply pious and influenced Valentine very much. His faith was much influenced by both his proximity to the Holy Lavra of the Kiev Caves (which his family lived near) and a copy of the Holy Bible he received upon graduating High School. He had a great talent for and desire to pursue art, however, his desire to do something to help the poor peasants around him was overriding, and he attended medical school in Kiev, and graduated in 1903.
In 1904, the Russo-Japanese War brought Valentine to the Far East as a surgeon, where he met his future wife Anna Vasilievna Lanskaya. They married and had four children. During this time, as a surgeon, Valentine became specially trained in opthamological operations, along with regional anesthesia and the surgery of pyogenic infections (which later became areas of research for him). He also displayed immense faith in those difficult times. The family would entertain a nun from the Fiodorovski monastery once a month, and they would attending church regularly. Valentine also refused to perform an operation without first praying before an icon of the Theotokos in the operating room, and then signing the patient with iodine in the sign of the Cross. In fact, one time the Communist Party officials removed the icon, at which point Valentine refused to return to surgery until it would be returned. Soon, the wife of one of the party officials needed an operation, and specifically requested Valentine. He, however, refused to perform the surgery until the icon of the Panagia was returned. They complied with his request, and he returned to surgery.
Valentine’s wife, who came down with tuberculosis, died prematurely. Though Valentine grieved deeply for his wife, he was able to see the hand of the Lord guiding him even through this difficult time, both by Him choosing one of the nurses to help raise his children, and by calling him to the priesthood. In obedience to Archbishop Innocent, Valentine hastily followed Christ’s divine call, and was ordained a deacon on January 26th, and a priest on February 2nd, 1921. In fact, because of the need for a bishop, Fr. Valentine also obeyed the call of the people and underwent the monastic tonsure (being given the name “Luke”, as he resembled the Evangelist in many ways) and was consecrated a bishop.
This period of time was extremely difficult for the Russian Orthodox Church, as they were constantely being assulted from the right (zealots and schismatics) and from the left (the athiest government and their heretical “Living Church”). Because of St. Luke’s confessions of faith (and despite his immense medical and scientific achievements), he was imprisoned, tortured, and exiled for 11 years in total, to Siberia, and other trecherous locales. Besides persecution from the government, he had to deal with heretics from the “Living Church” who masqueraded as Orthodoxy and drew people away from the Church, and schismatic individuals who also caused unneeded harm in those turbulent years.
St. Luke’s virtues, struggles and achievements are staggering. As a Grace-filled hierarch of the Church, he re-opening many churches that had been closed by the Communists, produced deep theologic works, and supported the faithful while drawing many to Orthodoxy. In addition, his love, skill and devotion to his patients saved thousands, (especially injured soldiers in war), and his research techniques were award-winning, and were thought to still be recognized by his fellow surgeons fifty years later. After a lifetime of such medical accomplishments and spiritual struggles in his confession for the Faith, St. Luke reposed in the Lord as the Archbishop of Simferopol (Crimea) on June 11th (New Calendar) 1961.
St. Luke’s incredible virtues, love for the Lord and his fellow men, and accomplishments helped sustain the faithful immensely in those difficult days of the Atheist state. After his death, the Communist Party sought to use propaganda and intimidation to minimize his achievements, but the overwhelming love and devotion of the faithful thwarted their plans. Whereas the funeral procession was supposed to last a few minutes without psalmody or honor, it ended up lasting hours, as the faithful planted themselves around the hurse, and did not let it speed away to the cemetary. Miraculously, a huge flock of doves followed the procession from the church to the cemetary.
Later, the remains of St. Luke were disinterred, and it was found that his heart remained incorrupt. What a beautiful reminder of the never-ending love that he showed towards Christ and towards his fellow men, especially the sick and suffering! In November of 1995, he was proclaimed a Saint by the Ukranian Orthodox Church.
Besides being beloved in Russia and the Ukraine, St. Luke is also very well-loved in Greece. Specifically, the life of St. Luke, written by Archimandrite and Abbott of the Monastery of Sagmata, Nektarios Antonopoulos, has sold thousands of copies, and is in its 14th edition of printing. Many churches (some of them quite large) have been built in honor of St. Luke of Simferopol in Greece alone in recent years. The Monastery of Sagmata (outside of the city of Thebes in Greece) also houses relics of St. Luke, which there and everywhere continue to work many, many miracles through his intercessions.
One incredible miracle involved a young boy who was an excellent piano player. The tips of three of his fingers were cut off accidentally, and he was afraid that he would never be able to play piano again. After he and his grandmother prayed to St. Luke to help him, his fingers began to spontaneously regrow, and in 10 days, were totally normal! Today, the boy plays better with that hand than his other, unaffected hand.
May St. Luke, the great defender of Orthodoxy in these latter days, the wondrous healer of souls and bodies, the teacher, the hierarch, and the holy father, intercede with Christ for all of us! Amen!
(Retrieved from Full of Grace and Truth blog: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2008/10/st-luke-archbishop-of-simferopol.html)
The Saint’s last words
“My children, very much do I entreat you,
Arm yourselves with the armor that God gives, That you may withstand the devil’s tricks.
You can’t imagine how evil he is.
We don’t have to fight with people but with rulers and powers, in effect the evil spirits.
It’s no use to the devil for anyone to think and feel
that he is close to him.
A hidden and unknown enemy is more dangerous than a visible enemy.
O how large and terrible is the army of the demons.
How numberless is their black horde!
Unchanged, untiring, day and night, seeking to push all of us who believe
in the name of Christ, to lure us on the road of unbelief, of evil and of impiety.
These unseen enemies of God have made their sole purpose, day and night to seek our destruction.
But do not be afraid, take power from the name of Jesus.”