The Spiritual Last Will and Testament of St. Luke the Blessed Surgeon of Simferopol
St. Luke the Blessed Surgeon, Archbishop of Simferopol of Crimea (source)
THE SPIRITUAL LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF SAINT LUKE
It is with a great deal of joy that we publish “The Spiritual Will “ of Saint Luke, which up until recently was unknown and unpublished. It had been kept by the niece of St. Luke, Maria Dimitrievna, who lives in Symferoupolis and she had the special blessing to have lived with the Saint for the last fifteen years of his life.
When in 1946 when Saint Luke undertook the shepherding of the Archbishopric of Symferoupoleos in the Crimea, he took up residence in a small residence on Gospitalnagia Street opposite the Church of the Holy Trinity. The small apartment had many rooms. It was a time immediately following the war and a fearful majority of the people in all of the Soviet Union lived in horrible conditions. There was poverty, want, and starvation that plagued the people. Saint Luke made great efforts to alleviate the pain of the people. But in doing this he did not forget his family. He invited some of them to Symferoupolis to take up residence in his apartment house and the neighboring houses. His relatives and their children helped the Saint and stood by his side in this effort. The experiences of interacting with the Saint are many and the memories are vivid. The person who specifically helped the Saint in his philanthropic outreach was his niece Vera Prozorovavkagia, the daughter of Vladimir and the mother of Maria. Many personal items of Saint Luke were preserved by the family of Vera and when the museum of the Saint was established in the Holy Monastery of the Holy Trinity, the family gave these to the museum. A very few items remained with his niece. One of these things that was left with her was the Spiritual Will of the Saint which was left in the care of Maria Dimitrievna. The Spiritual Will is directed to his children, to his nieces and nephews, and the grandchildren of the Saint. We must note here that along with their father, the four children suffered also. They endured being orphaned by both of their parents (the mother died and the father was in jail or exile) and then they were persecuted. They were considered the children of the enemy of the people and they encountered many difficulties. It is understandable that they would consider inconceivable the decision of their father to seek holy orders. Through all the terrible things that the family suffered, they blamed the Church. And the question that always burdened their souls, as well as many people who knew him was; why would a famous and successful professor of surgery make such a difficult decision to be ordained a priest and especially during the persecution of the Church? How could such a successful scientist dedicate himself to the service of an idea of the past, the Church that belongs to the past? What did this immensely brilliant surgeon have to gain from the priesthood?
In many of his letters the Saint tries to defend himself and explain to his children the reason he decided to take that road of martyrdom. The children indicate that they do not understand him. And this was also another cross that Saint Luke had to carry. Right up to the moment of his death, he did not stop admonishing and praying for his children who along with that whole generation had been so influenced by antireligious propaganda.
His letter to his oldest son Michael is very emotional written during the mid 40’s. “Remember Michael that my monastic life and the oath that I gave; my position in the Church, my decision to serve the Lord constitute for me the greatest, holiest and foremost responsibility. Sincerely and from the depths of my heart I abandoned the world and my career, which certainly, could have been very successful, but now does not have any meaning for me. All my joy and all my life is to serve the Lord, in Whom I believe.”
In the summer of 1956 the Saint is in the city of Alousta in the Crimea. He had lost his eyesight. He was almost at the end of his 84th year of life and he felt that his strength was failing him. He therefore decided to write his Spiritual Will for his children, his grandchildren and his great grandchildren. It is his one last effort to help his children abandon the trap of atheism. He wanted them to stand against the antichristian movement of the time. He wanted them to discover that the greatest truth is Jesus Christ and the best way to live is by observing His commandments and serving the needs of the least of all Christ’s children, their suffering fellow humans beings. We have the feeling that the Spiritual Will of the Saint is even today extremely timely. It is directed to all of us, the spiritual children of Saint Luke who we honor and love.
May we also imitate his example. And according to his promise, his intercessions and prayers will protect us now that he stands before the throne of our God and Creator.
TO MY THREE SONS, MY DAUGHTER, MY GRANDCHILDDREN AND MY GREAT GRANDCHILDREN MY SPIRITUAL WILL
I am now 79 years old. My heart is weak and my strength is failing me and it is evident that my time of departure from this world is near. St. Paul left a will to all the Christians. “Become followers of me, as I am of Christ.” I certainly do not dare to say this to all the Christians but to you, my children; I can say follow my example just as I have followed the example of the Apostle Paul. My life has been tough and difficult but never did I pray to God to make it easy. Because “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” MT.7:14.
For more than twenty five years my life was identified with the work of a rural surgeon and professor of surgery. And for eleven years I suffered persecution for the name of Christ by being jailed and exiled. From 1944 I combined the toilsome ministry of being a Bishop along with the healing the wounded at Tambor and only in 1946 did I stop being a surgeon and I continued as a Bishop.
Amongst most of the people it was inconceivable to understand how a great surgeon, who was honored with the First Prize of Stalin, could abandon a profession in surgery and become a Bishop. Yet there was nothing unusual about that because from my youthful years, the Lord destined me to the high position of service to Him and to the people.
When I finished high school I received from the dean of the school my high school diploma. I placed this in the Book of the New Testament. I had read the New Testament before but now, when I read it again, I heard the words of Christ that were directed to the Apostles say: “The harvest is truly plentiful, but the laborers are few, therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (MT 9:37-38) My heart responded and I cried out in silence: “Oh Lord! Are you lacking workers?”
Many years went by. I became a doctor of medicine and I thought that I would write the book “A Treatise on surgery in treating festering wounds.” When I made that decision, the following strange thought came to mind: “When that book is finished, it will be signed by a Bishop.” I could not understand from where that thought came. But a few years later, I understood that it was a thought that was sent to me by God because after my first arrest, in the office of the head jailer, the first edition of my book was published and on the facing page I wrote: “Bishop Luke, “A Treatise on surgically treating festering wounds.”
Two more years went by. I was in my first exile to Siberia, in the city of Geniseisk. A monk suddenly came to meet me from Krasnogiarsk. In this city, all the priests had compromised the faith and the faithful of the canonical Church had sent the monk to be ordained a priest but not to me at Geniseik but to Minousinsk, to a non-canonical orthodox bishop. But there was an unexplainable force which directed him to me at Geniseisk. When this monk saw me, he was startled and froze. He could not speak. He revealed to me, that when he saw me, he knew clearly that I was the same hierarch that he saw in an unforgettable dream ten years ago. That Bishop ordained him to the priesthood. At that time I was just a country doctor in the city of Perezlavl, Zaleski.
The Lord God has blessed me with different talents. In high school, I finished my studies in the School of Fine Arts in Kiev. I was very talented in artist and I decided to enter the Academy of Fine Arts in Leningrad. But in the middle of exams I abandoned this effort because I thought that I should serve God and His people, in work that is more beneficial than art. Even though at that time it was clear to me the direction my art would take if I didn’t abandon it; it would purely be a religious direction or I would follow in the footsteps of V. Vasnetsof and Nesterof.
From that time theological issues concerned me very much. The driving force in my character was a strong desire to serve God and His people, only because of that. But in spite of my opposition toward the physical sciences, I took exams for medical school at the University of Kiev and I graduated with honors.
My talent was revealed at the university in anatomy and surgery and my fellow students didn’t want to hear that I desired to become a rural doctor. They had decided unanimously that I would become a professor of anatomy or a surgeon. From what you now know, they had prophesied my future correctly.
As a rural doctor, I worked for thirteen years twelve to fourteen hours a day. I was thinking seriously of abandoning the rural hospital in order travel to distant villages where the people were poor and dying because of the lack of medical help. But the Lord had decided differently for me. He sent me to Tashkent where I was one of the organizers of the University of Middle Asia and became a professor of topographical anatomy and the chief surgeon. This was at the beginning of the decade of the 1920s.
During the years of the antireligious demonstrations during which they derided the Lord Jesus Christ, my heart was saying: “I cannot keep silent.”At that time there was a clergy-laity congress taking place in Tashkent. I was present and during the discussions on some important issues I made an impassioned speech. That speech made a great impression on Bishop Innocent of Tashkent and at the end of the congress he said to me; “Doctor, you must become a priest.” That was something that was completely unexpected by me but the words of the Hierarch brought forth a calling through his lips and I did not hesitate one second in answering him: “Of course, Your Eminence, if that is the will of God, I will become a priest.” And the following Sunday, I, the professor of medicine, with a borrowed robe, appeared before the Bishop who was standing on his throne and I was ordained a sub-deacon and then during the course of the Divine Liturgy I was then ordained a deacon. Within two weeks I became a priest and the pastor of the Cathedral Church.
One and a half years before that great event in my life, my wife and your mother died. The smallest of you, Valentine, was then six years old and the oldest was fourteen.
Two years and four months later, the Lord made me worthy of being elevated to the rank of Bishop. It was divine providence for me and for you, my children that was revealed to us at that time when the Lord called your mother to eternal life by allowing her to get sick with tuberculosis. By this happening to her the road was opened for me to enter monastic life and the hierarchical ministry. All the responsibility for you, my children, I gave over to the care of the Lord and truly, I was not made a liar by believing in Him. Your care and upbringing was provided for by sending me an unknown woman, Sofia Sergakevna Veletskagia, who during the times I was jailed and the three times I was sent into exile she provided for your care. With a great deal of self-sacrifice and love she lifted the heavy cross for your care during those years of the plague. She raised you successfully and gave you a good education.
Later on all three of you and my daughter, with the protection and the help of your guardian angels, completed your advanced studies. Michael for some time now has become a professor, while Aliosa and Valia are teachers in the medical and biological sciences and in a little while they will become professors.
The Lord accepted all the sacrifices which I have offered Him and not only did He accept them but He changed and corrected many of them. I abandoned doing any more surgeries so that I could spend more time preaching about Jesus Christ. I was not concerned with the fame of a surgeon which certainly I deserve. While this glory is important and belongs to God, the new freedom I had increased the power and content of my sermons. My well-known and famous book “The Treatise on surgery for festering wounds” was completed while I was in exile and when I was Archbishop. My determination to sacrifice everything for the glory of Him, the Lord gave me another talent, that of preaching. The nine volumes of my sermons have been recognized by the Spiritual Academy of Moscow as unique in contemporary ecclesiastical theology and a treasure of commentary on the Holy Bible. And I, a self-taught theologian was chosen to be a member of the Spiritual Academy of Moscow. For the Church, my sermons will have greater meaning than my “Treatise on the surgery for festering wounds.”
In addition to this, the miraculous events which I spoke about earlier which were directed by the Lord without my realizing it led me mystically to the Hierarchical ministry. I often physically felt the presence of God in my communion with Him, in my spiritual life and in my prayers.
But if I have not said enough for any of you to convince you of these things then I think his (Michael’s) involvement with the physical sciences have bewitched him so much that he does not want to hear those things that I have lived; the things I have undeniably felt many times.
In other words, I will tell you just the way it is, how astonishing and clearly the Lord God reveals His desire for those who fear Him and love Him. When I was in Leningrad for an operation, during the time of a memorial service, the Lord in a miraculous and shocking way caused me to tremble with fright when He gave me this command: “Shepherd my sheep, feed my lambs.” The years have since gone by and I, under the spell of a cunning diabolical spell, forgot that command of God and Satan again placed in my soul that great urge to return to surgery. And this is why the Lord punished me by allowing the retina in my eye to tear. My eye was operated on twice unsuccessfully by professor Ontintsof because God’s punishment had to remain with me.
The day after the second operation, when I was laying flat with my eyes bandaged, the strong urge to do surgery again overwhelmed me when the Lord sent me a shocking dream: I was in a Church without lights. The only lit up place was the altar. A little beyond the altar was a casket of a saint. They had placed on the altar a wooden board and on this was a naked human body. In the back and next to the altar I saw students and doctors smoking cigarettes and I was teaching them anatomy of the human body.
I was then startled by a noise and when I turned my head, I saw that the covering of the saint’s casket fell off. The saint sat up in the casket, he turned and looked at me with a look of pain and shock. I finally realized the great burden of my sin, of my disobedience to the command of the Lord Jesus Christ to “shepherd my sheep and feed my lambs.” For the last fourteen years I begged the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive me remembering clearly my dramatic dream with the body and the dead person lying on the Holy Altar. Lately I have been informed by God that my sin has been forgiven. Day after day, I see the body less and less on the Holy Altar where it finally disappeared completely.
And now, my children let me offer to you my last will and testament. I believe deeply in God and I have built my whole life upon His commandments. And I bequeath to you that you offer your lives to God and build all things upon the commandments of Christ.
For a long time and with great determination I sailed through life against the current of the world and to you my children I bequeath that you sail against the current, as difficult at that may be. Turn your attention and your heart away from the great majority of human beings who pursue not the higher goals but those which are easy to acquire. Do not accede to the great majority of people who live according to their own thinking and with the mind of their leaders. They anchor their lives not with the commandments of Christ but on the directives of people who have the power to lead them not to the Kingdom of Heaven but to the riches of the earthly kingdom.
The purpose of life is to seek after the highest truth and to never divert from that road even when they force you to serve the purposes of the lowest form of truth by trampling upon the truth of Christ.
You should be ready even to be martyred since you are sailing against the current. Keep your faith firmly in your thoughts, in your husbands and in your wives just the way I kept it.
In your scientific endeavors and in your efforts to study the mysteries of nature, you should not look for your own glory but only to lessen the pain of your sick and helpless fellow human beings.
Remember that I, your father, sacrificed all my life in doing these things. Imitate me just the way I imitated the Apostle Paul and do not work for your stomach but to help those who without your help cannot free themselves from the tortures of poverty and lies.
If you fulfill all these things that I bequeath to you, the blessing of God will come upon you in harmony with the words of David the prophet. “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, And to those who remember his commandments to do them.” (Psalm 103: 17-18.)
I have always prayed for that blessing and grace of God in my life for you my children, my grandchildren and my great grandchildren and surely I will always pray for your eternal life when I will stand before the throne of my God and your God, my Creator and your Creator. That time is most likely near because my heart and my strength have been weakened.
Your father Alousta, July 22, 1956
Translation by: Fr. Constantine J. Simones, Waterford, CT USA.
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth...And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." John 1: 14, 16-17
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and to the ages of ages! Amen!
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This is the faith of the Apostles; this is the faith of the Fathers; this is the faith of the Orthodox; this faith makes fast the inhabited world." Excerpt from the Synodikon of the Sunday of Orthodoxy (http://www.anastasis.org.uk/synodikon.htm)
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