|09 - St Luke's Gerasene Demoniac, Nov 2, 2008|
St Luke’s Gerasene Demoniac
November 2, 2008
The Gospels present to us the history of Jesus. Jesus was not an ordinary man. He was the God-man, the Word of God through whom all things came to be, who became flesh and dwelt among us. The Gospel history of Jesus is therefore the history of God when he walked on the earth. It is not ordinary history. It is deified history. It is history that is sanctified, made holy. It is history whose every moment, because it is united to the Word of God, is rooted in the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit of God broods over the waters of creation. He is above, he transcends time. God holds time in the palm of his hand even as he is present in each moment of time. And so, each moment in the Gospel history of the God-man, Jesus Christ, unites to itself every moment of time from beginning to end and unites every moment of time to the eternity of the Spirit. These happenings of the Gospel history of the God-man, such as this story of the Gerasene Demoniac, open up onto every other moment of time because they are events in time that happened to the God-man. United to the God-man, their roots extend into eternity and into the Spirit. There is a spiritual substance in the events of the Gospel-history of the God-man that transcends the moment of its happening, that extends into every other moment of time. We read the Gospel history of the God-man, then, not so much as history as theology: a stories from the past whose spiritual substance is eternally present to us Today.
Note, then, in this theological light, that the Savior comes to the region of the Gerasenes immediately after his calming of the storm. The disciples in fear and wonder ask themselves: “Who is this man that he commands the winds and the waters and they obey him!” Their question puts one in mind of creation, when the Spirit was brooding over the face of the waters, and God spoke forth his Word, the very Word whom the Gospel proclaims was made flesh and dwelt among us: Let there be light, and there was light. In mythology, wind and water symbolize raw cosmic forces. In commanding the winds and the waves, Christ shows his power as the Creator. His subduing of the winds and the waters tells us that in his Incarnation, he is not just becoming flesh to dwell among us. He is re-creating the world. The Spirit again broods over the face of the deep. Only this time it is the deep mystery of the Theotokos’ womb that the Church extols as more spacious than the heavens. In his Spirit, the Father speaks forth his Word, and his Word descends into the virgin’s womb and clothes himself with our humanity that had grown dark because of our transgression. He descends into the cave of the heart and fills our humanity from within with his uncreated Light. And, in his humanity, the God-man comes forth from the Virgin and penetrates the darkness of death and corruption that covers the face of the earth because of Adam’s sin. In his Holy Spirit, he broods over the face of the deep from within as well as from above. As at the beginning, he has descended into the darkness, but now, coming forth into the world in the light of the Holy Virgin, he brings forth himself as a newborn babe, and it is now the uncreated Light of God the Word that shines in the darkness and which the darkness cannot comprehend.
The story of the Gerasene demoniac opens with an allusion to the great mystery of the Lord striding forth from the Virgin and into the world for the purpose of delivering us from Satan’s power. In the Greek, it reads more literally: “Now, when he came forth onto the earth, a certain man met him, having demons for a long time, and who wore no clothes and who did not abide in his house but in the tombs.” Can you see Adam in this “certain man” who meets Jesus? “A certain man” is a Greek idiom that can also mean “Everyman,” i.e. Adam: mankind. But when asked his name, this certain man does not answer as Adam but as Legion. Overwhelmed by the passions of soul and body that now assail him, like the stormy winds that roiled the waves of the sea in the Gospel story that introduced this story, he has so lost any sense of who he is that he has become completely identified with his many sins. He no longer knows himself as Adam – as “Man”. He has lost any sense of himself as an image of God. It says in this Gospel story that he had come out of the city, but that he no longer dwelt in the city – where the living dwell. He does not dwell in his home. He dwells among the dead, in the tombs. One can easily see here a theological allusion to Adam’s expulsion from Paradise, his original home, and the curse of God against him: From the dust you came, to the dust you shall return. The man wore no clothes. One easily sees a theological allusion to the garment of light that Adam lost when he transgressed the commandment of God and clothed himself instead with fig leaves, i.e., with shame.
If in its theological character, this moment in the Gospel history of the God-man, Jesus Christ, has spiritual roots that extend all the way back to the primordial beginning, then it is a spiritual event whose spiritual substance is with us even now Today. Its spiritual substance has roots that go down into the depths of the human heart, at that core place where each one of us originates and where our heart’s desire is conceived. Therefore, we are this “certain man” who no longer live at home, in the Garden of Eden. We no longer live in the city of the living, the Heavenly City of Jerusalem. We live among the dead, in the tombs. For so long we have been bound by the chains of our passions, our lusts, our guilt and our shame, our fears and our anxieties. Our heart has become a wilderness that is dark and empty. This is not what God made us for. He made us for light and life. God made us. We did not make ourselves. We belong to God. We do not belong to ourselves. In his Incarnation, God the Word comes forth from his holy Mother looking for us. In his death and resurrection he has descended into the darkness that covered the face of the deep. He has calmed the storm. He has shined the Light of his Holy Spirit into our darkness. And now, in his body, the Church he makes himself present in our midst; and in the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel, he calls us back to himself, to follow him back to our home in the city of the living.
But when this “certain man” beheld Jesus, so the Gospel story says, “he fell down before him and he cried out with a large voice, ‘I beseech you, Jesus, Son of God; do not torment me!’”
Instinctively, Adam recognizes Jesus as the Lord. It says that he fell down before him. This also could mean that he fell down and worshipped him. Instinctively, he fell down and worshipped him. He could not do otherwise; for, to worship God is the principle of our nature. But this ‘worship’ of the demoniac is a profoundly conflicted act: he desires instinctively to love the Savior but he also desires him to depart. We have become schizophrenic; deep in our soul we are conflicted, at odds with the principle of our nature. Buried in our heart is a desire once again to walk with God in the Garden in the quiet of the evening; as with a close friend. But when we encounter him face to face, we cry out in abject terror: “I beseech you, do not torment me!” God has become our enemy. We no longer love him as a friend. We fear him as our tormentor.
And yet God does not torment us. It says in this Gospel story that he had already commanded the demons to come out of the man. It wasn’t Adam whom the Lord was tormenting; it was the demons that possessed him. Adam he had come to deliver from his bondage to the darkness and corruption of death, to lead him back to his home in the city of the living, the City of the Heavenly Jerusalem.
By his ascent on the Cross he descends into the depths of hell looking for Adam, looking for you and me. By the word of his command, he casts out the devils that torment us and that hold us in their grip. He destroys our death by his death, and so he transfigures the darkness of hell from the darkness of loneliness and terror into the darkness of the beginning, when the Spirit brooded over the face of the waters. The darkness that covered the face of the deep then was not the darkness of terror; it was the darkness of anticipation when the Word of God would descend into the darkness of the deep and by his mercy bring forth the creation from nothingness into being. So also by the Savior’s descent into hell, the darkness of death has been transfigured into a darkness of anticipation for the Bridegroom who comes at Midnight into the cave of Bethlehem, into the tomb of Pascha, to call out to us who sit in darkness to come to the light of his holy resurrection. And if we come, we will find Adam seated at the feet of the Master, clothed in the Robe of Light, and restored to his right mind in the love of the God-man, Christ Jesus.
Beloved faithful, this great mystery was effected in you in your baptism. In the primordial darkness of our heart, at that place where we originate, the devil’s delusion was destroyed. We were touched by the uncreated Light and the divine grace of Christ’s Holy Resurrection, and we were recreated as children of God, children of light. In this vision, renew your resolve to walk in the light as Christ is in the light. Having been clothed in the Robe of Light, go forth into the darkness of this world as beacons of light and with the “certain man” in this morning’s Gospel story, let your life become itself a proclamation of all that God has done for you. Amen.