|08 - Gadarene Demoniac, Oct 27, 2013|
2 Corinthians 9:6-11
This morning’s Gospel is a vivid depiction of what happened at your baptism. It is an image of what you were saved from. For, this morning’s Gospel is referred to in the prayers of exorcism that were said over us when the Church mocks the devil, because, in Christ, he has no power even over swine.
The demoniac in this morning’s Gospel lived among the tombs. St Paul reminds us that before Christ stepped onto the shore of our life from the womb of the Theotokos as from the boat in this morning’s Gospel, we, too, lived, in our soul, among the tombs; for, we were dead in our sins and trespasses. In his letter to the Ephesians, St Paul writes that the devil is the prince of the power of the air that is active in the children of disobedience. That is to say, it is the power of death that is active in us. And, he holds us in his power with the chains of fear, as St Paul says in Hebrews. (Heb 2:15) But, by His death on the Cross, Christ our God destroyed the evil one and delivered us from our bondage to him.
This is a wonderful Gospel for us to hear this morning as we round the bend and see the luminescent red and gold, blue and green spires of Advent beginning to rise above the horizon of the Church’s liturgical path to the Lord’s Pascha. In this Gospel, we see something of the beauty of that mystery which was opened to us in our baptism, the dignity, the nobility, the glory of having become a Christian, a follower of Christ: it is the beauty of Christmas, the advent, the coming onto the shores of this world, of the Son of God born of the Blessed Virgin as the Son of Man. We begin to see who this Christ Child is whose birth of the beloved Panagia we begin now to prepare for, and why at this liturgical season the Church begins to fill with the joy of anticipation and excitement. The Lord is coming as a little child! With the righteous Anna, we behold in joy her daughter, the Queen of all, the Daughter of the King, she who is the Gate of the Lord, the Temple that is to hold God, entering the Holy of Holies, the place none may enter, to learn its mysteries, and to prepare herself to become the pleasing and dwelling place of Jesus. (Entry of Theotokos, Nov 21, Festal Menaion, p. 171) And, in the excitement of Advent, we prepare to make our way to Bethlehem and to the cave to worship in the beauty of the joy of Christmas the Child who is to be born of her, Our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ, whose goodness, mercy, and graciousness is vividly set before us this morning in the power He shows over the demons who had tormented this man living among the tombs for so long. We see the outward form of the light that began to shine in the world even at the birth of His Most Blessed Virgin Mother, the light that clothed us and began to shine in our hearts at our baptism; it is the light radiating from this man delivered from the devil, sitting I think with indescribable joy and thanksgiving at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.
Those who in the fear of God, with faith and love receive Christ not just in theory but in the concrete reality of the sacramental mysteries of the Church, receive into themselves, like a heavenly seed sown into the soil of their souls and bodies, the same power by which this man was delivered from the demons. Death before was the active principle in us; but now, it is the divine life of God that is active in us. Before, we lived among the tombs when we were dead in our sins and trespasses, enchained by the fear of death to the devil. But now, we live in the joy and the freedom of the Resurrection of Christ.
St Paul in this morning’s epistle likens the mystery of God working in us to a garden. The Holy Spirit of Christ is the seed that is sown in our soul and body in the Church’s Holy Sacraments. By that seed, the devil and all his host, all his angels, and all his pride are expelled from the garden of our heart, leaving us like the man delivered from the demons in this morning’s Gospel: sitting at the feet of Jesus, just as we are here this morning, listening to His Word; clothed, in the Robe of our baptism, the Robe of Light; and, in our right mind, in the peace, the love, the joy of the Holy Spirit that we can feel in the sacred beauty of the Church’s worship.
Enter into the story of this morning’s Gospel and feel this man’s love for the Savior who had delivered him from such despair and torment. He does not want to leave Him. He wants to be with Him. Is it not how we have felt in those times when we have broken through our worldliness and tasted and seen how good the Lord is? Yet, the Lord sends him away to his own house, St Luke tells us. But, might there be a deeper meaning in this command?
It says that after God fashioned Adam from the clay, he placed him in the garden to work it and to keep it. (Gen 2:8 & 15) See how Adam, after he has been “saved”, i.e., newly created, is given work to do: to work the Garden, which is an image of his heart, in obedience to the command of God. After the Fall, Adam and Eve again are given work to do. It is the same work of obedience, only now, of course, it has a different character. It is now the work of clearing out the thorns and thistles that the ground of his heart will now bring forth from the seed of disobedience that was sown in his heart when he ate from the serpent’s tree, and to eat his bread – i.e., to partake of God – in the sweat of his face until he returns to the dust of the ground, i.e., till he loses his life for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s. For Eve, it is the work of bringing forth children, i.e., giving birth to the fruits of the Spirit, in sorrow.
There is a spiritual meaning here: this work given to Adam and Eve is the hard work of taking up our cross in obedience to the commandments of God; for, it is through obedience to God that we bring forth the fruits of the Spirit in the love, joy and peace of Christ. (2 Pt 1:4)
So, when Christ tells this man to return home and proclaim what God has done for him now that he is “saved”, i.e. healed and delivered from the demons, he is giving him an obedience that will secure his heart in the love of God. We are given the same obedience. Having received the Heavenly Spirit of Christ in the sacramental mysteries of the Church, we are sent away to our house, i.e.,the closet of our heart, to do the work of weeding out of our heart the thorns and thistles of our self-will and pride. It is through this obedience to the commandment of Christ that we sow bountifully, as St Paul tells us this morning. And what we reap from this sowing is the most bountiful harvest possible: union with God as partakers of the divine nature. (2 Pt 1:4)
But, in commanding this man to return to his own house to show what great things God has done for him, Christ is giving to him the same “work” that He Himself goes on to do; for, it says in the next verse that Jesus returned (according to Matthew, He returned to His own city – Mt 9:1) and proceeded to raise the daughter of Jairus from the dead and to heal the woman with the flow of blood.
Do you see how this man, when he returned to his own house in obedience to Christ, became a seed of the Sower that the Sower was sending away, i.e., scattering to this man’s “own house”? So also, when we return to our own house to work the soil of our heart, we become seeds that the Sower is sending away, i.e., scattering into our corner of the world to do the work of the Savior in “our own house”, i.e., in our heart. It is the work of the Lord’s Gospel: to create in us a clean heart, to put in us a new and right spirit. Then, our lips are opened and our mouths declare His praise. (Ps 50:17 LXX or the Orthodox Study Bible) We proclaim what He has done for us. And in our union with Christ, when He “sends us away” to return to the closet of our own house, we are in fact taken up into the Church, the continuing Incarnation of Christ on earth, to do Christ’s holy work of delivering souls from the devil and raising the dead to life, who are then found sitting at the feet of Jesus in the love, the joy and the peace of His Holy Spirit, clothed in the Robe of His own glory and virtue, and in their right mind.
Oh, may the Lord help us to love this high calling to which He has called us to become His seeds, so that in the radiant joy that shines from a grateful heart we will proclaim in our word and our deeds what God has done for us and what He wants to do for all. In the sobriety, the reverence, and the joy of this high calling, let us be resolved to put away from ourselves every trace of darkness and give ourselves completely and wholly over to this work of our salvation, for this dark world is so very hungry for the heavenly fruit of the eternal love, joy and peace that only the Seed of Christ can produce in us. Amen!