|12 Crippled Woman, Nov 25, 2012|
I find my attention drawn this morning to that moment in our Gospel reading when the woman glorified God as soon as He stretched out His hand to her and raised her up so that she could stand straight again after 18 years of being bound by Satan. What is it to glorify God?
The Evangelist seems at pains to restrain himself in the manner he records the events of his Gospel – I think so that he does not intrude anything between us and the raw force of the events he records – but he does seem to choose his words carefully; for, it seems very clear that he means for us to understand that there was great and deep emotion produced from this miracle. Even the people looking on, St Luke tells us, rejoiced – the word he uses means that they were made exceedingly glad – over the glorious things that were done by Christ.
There clearly is warmth, great warmth and deep feeling in the things of Christ’s Holy Gospel. His Gospel is to be sure a teaching; it is a word, the Word of God, but it is not a word that is dry and abstract, it is not a teaching that is cold and intellectual. It is a word that is alive, a teaching that is charged with power.
We know that the word of Christ’s Gospel is itself the Life of heaven, and that His teaching conveys to those who receive it the power of His Holy Resurrection. It’s not hard at all for us to see in the image of this morning’s Gospel – Christ reaching out His hand to touch the crippled woman bound by Satan for 18 years and raising her up so that she stands straight and tall – it’s not hard at all for us to see in the image drawn by this morning’s Gospel an icon of the Resurrection, where the risen Christ, having shattered the iron bars and gates of brass and bronze, is reaching out His hand and raising Adam and Eve up into the glory of His Resurrection.
From this, we can think perhaps that we have solved the riddle of this woman glorifying God. She’s happy, exceedingly happy that she is able to stand up straight, and she praises God in her gratitude for what He has done for her. In all of this, she sets before us the joy that is produced in the Holy Resurrection of Christ. She is an icon of the Church in worship, since glorifying God is what the Church is always doing. But, I want to share with you my thought that in these very fine reflections of ours, we have not yet discovered the real reason why this miracle produced such joy in this woman that she glorified God. And, if this is as far as we go in our reflection on this morning’s Gospel, I think we may be showing ourselves to be blind fools, religious intellectuals who have the form of religion but not its essence, who have not yet penetrated into the Holy of Holies of the Christian Faith where one is overcome, as was the woman in this morning’s Gospel, with the deep emotion that the Gospel of Christ produces in the heart of one’s soul.
I want to share with you from St Gregory Palamas’ sermon on the nativity of the Holy Theotokos: “Today a new world and a mysterious paradise have been revealed in which and from which a new Adam came into being, re-making the old Adam and renewing the universe.” (Hom 42) This new world, this mysterious paradise is, of course, the Theotokos. She is the New Eve, the Rod of Jesse from whom Christ has blossomed in the cave like a precious rose.
So, the healing of this crippled woman is not a miracle that has no context. She stands before Jesus Christ, and so she stands also before the mystery of His Holy Mother, for it was through the Theotokos that Jesus became flesh so that He was in the synagogue that morning. But, if the crippled woman was standing also before Christ’s Holy Mother, she was standing in the mystery of the new world and the mysterious paradise that St Gregory’s sermon proclaims. And because she is made to stand up straight by the hand of Jesus who is the New Adam, the Word of God incarnate, the miracle of her healing proclaims the renewing of all creation at the hand of Christ. And because she is made to stand up straight on the Sabbath, as on Great and Holy Saturday, the miracle of her healing proclaims the victory of Christ on the Cross on Great and Holy Friday. And her glorifying God is the proclamation of joy that goes to the ends of the universe, announcing the end of the curse and the opening of Eden so that all may draw near to the Tree of Life in the fear of God with faith and love.
But as I have said, as great as her joy must have been from having been released from the spirit of infirmity that crippled her for those 18 years, and even as great as is the joy of those who are released from the bondage of death in the victory of Christ on His Cross, I don’t think that we have yet come to the source of that joy in which the soul begins immediately to glorify God as soon as Christ touches us in the sacred beauty of His Holy Pascha and raises us up to stand straight and tall in the glory of His Holy Resurrection.
Our Mother, the Church, tells us in her Holy Scriptures and in her prayers and in the spiritual teaching of the holy fathers that Christ our God has healed our passions through His Passion. He has cured our wounds through His wounds. That is to say, the power of Christ to heal us and to raise us to life was not without cost to Himself, it was not without great suffering on His part. It was by His voluntary suffering on the Cross that He heals us and raises us to life so that we are able to stand up straight in the life of His Holy Resurrection.
In other words, what the soul feels when she is touched by the hand of the crucified and risen Christ is the love of Christ Himself. The joy of the soul is the joy of beholding Christ; and more, of becoming one with Him.
So, when we see this woman glorifying Christ this morning, I think we may be seeing the initial flame of love bursting from the fire of love that has been ignited in the inner chamber of her heart. He touched her and healed her in the same mystery by which He renews the world in the mysteries of His birth from the Holy Virgin and His Resurrection from the dead. So that when she was healed, this woman was raised up into the life of His Holy Resurrection and made to become a partaker of the same glory that He had with the Father from before the foundation of the world. But, I think that the glory of God we hear of in the Holy Scriptures may be but the light and the warmth that radiate from the fire of His love, which, as St John writes, is the essential mystery of God’s being.
So, what we may be seeing when this woman glorifies God is the beginning of her deification, the beginning of her becoming one with God as her soul is raised by the touch of His hand from the cold numbness of its having been dead in the sins of the old Adam in the old world that is always passing away, and begins to burn from within with the fire of God’s love, until wholly possessed by love, every strand and fiber of her being aflame with an all-consuming love for Him who first loved us.
It is the fulfillment in those who receive Christ of the mystery of the Theotokos as the bush that was on fire but was not consumed. Perhaps we now understand what it is to glorify God as did the woman in this morning’s Gospel. It is the light of God’s glory that radiates from the fire of His love that begins to burn in those who receive until they are wholly consumed in the glory of God, i.e. in the love of Christ, and yet they are not burned up. They become a flame of love for the Christ who first loved us, praise and glory bursting from their souls without end like flames leaping from a fire, for they are becoming one with the fire of divine love and want to do nothing other than to ascribe glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ! Most Holy Theotokos, save us!