|09 - Jairus' Daughter & The Hemorrhaging Woman, Nov 3, 2013|
2 Corinthians 11:31-12:9
We live in an earthly body taken from the dust that returns to the dust. To live in the dust is to live in death. In this world, we live in the region and shadow of death. (Mat 4: 6)
St Paul tells us that the dark spirit of disobedience is active in us. (Eph 2:2) If obedienceto God is life, then disobedience to God is death. If the spirit of disobedience is active in us, then the seed of death is active in us. And, the fruits it produces in us are bitter: maladies and infirmities of all kinds, anxiety, fear, worry, restlessness, bitterness, sadness, despair. The last fruit it produces in us is death.
St Paul tells us that we are enslaved to the devil through the fear of death. (Heb 2:15) In this fear, are we not afraid of the world, even of life? We seek to protect ourselves from the life of this world by working to carve out for ourselves a secure place where we hope to live out our days in relative peace and comfort. Yet, even if we are blessed with a relatively healthy and trouble-free life, are we at peace? In the stillness of our soul, are we not haunted by an inner loneliness that stares mournfully at us like the spectral face of what feels like a dark formless emptiness that our soul opens onto? We are afraid even of ourselves, and we flee to worldly diversions for refuge, we hope to escape in some fantasy or dream that exists only in our imagination, or in the façade of an inflated self-image that makes us appear to be something we are not.
Do we not prove from this, our own experience, the truth of the bible’s witness: that we have eaten from the serpent’s tree of disobedience and have become dead in our sins and trespasses? We are like a tomb inside. When we open the eyes of our soul, do we see the Glory of Christ in us? Or, do we see that we are naked, empty, dark, alone, “food for the worms and stench”?
Beloved faithful, the ark of the Church draws near to the blessed season of Advent, the “Nativity Fast”, when she calls us to that inner stillness of soul that we fear through fasting and prayer. She calls us to empty our soul of her fantasies and worldly diversions, because she wants to fill us with the holy joy of God With Us on Christmas Day.
Dearly Beloved, only the Gospel of the Church’s Christmas has the power to fill the emptiness of our soul with real meaning. Only the Church’s Gospel proceeds from out of the fathomless fullness of God’s mercy to fill our soul with the heavenly joy and divine life – the Holy Spirit Himself – of the Lord’s Christ. Our Gospel readings of these last two Sundays proclaim the joy of the real Christmas: God is with us! He has clothed Himself in our dust to dwell among us here in the region and shadow of death; and He calls us to draw near in the fear of God, with faith and love, so that He might clothe us in His Glory and make us children of Heaven. He is the River of Living Water seen by the prophet Ezekiel (Eze 47), going forth into Galilee (Eze 47:8) from the womb of the Virgin, from the Gate of the Living Temple of the Lord, and everywhere He goes, He pours out His Holy Spirit on all those who receive Him, healing them and freeing them from the power of the devil and raising them up into his Kingdom of Light. (Eze 47; 1 Pet 2:9)
This is what we see in this morning’s Gospel. Jairus’ daughter dies, and the Lord raises her to life. The woman with the flow of blood, which no physician could heal, was in effect dying. The Lord heals her and in effect raises her from death to life, which only He can do, for He alone is the Great Physician.
Then St Luke tells us: “when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people why she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately. And He said to her, ‘Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.’”
At the Feast of the Theotokos’ Entry into the Temple (Nov 21), the first great Feast of Advent, we will hear in the first OT reading how Moses set up the tabernacle in the wilderness as the Lord instructed him to do. And then, it says, “a cloud covered the tent, and the Glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle, and Moses was not able to enter the tent because of the cloud, and the Glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” In the second reading, we will hear how Solomon brought into the “most holy place” of the temple the Ark of the Covenant with the two tables of stone that Moses had placed there at Horeb. Then, it says, when the priests had come out of the holy place, the Glory of the Lord filled the house and the priests could not stand to serve at the altar, because of the cloud of the Lord’s Glory that filled the temple. Finally, we will hear of Ezekiel’s vision of the heavenly temple. Ezekiel sees the Prince entering into the House of the Lord and the Glory of the Lord – which Ezekiel earlier had seen leaving the temple of Jerusalem because of the sins of Israel (Eze 10:17) – filling the house of the Lord.
We read these OT prophecies at the Feast of the Theotokos’ Entry into the Temple because they are talking about her. She is the real Ark of the Covenant, she is the real Temple. Without her, there is no Incarnation, no Christmas. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Prince of Ezekiel’s vision who takes His seat in her womb to become flesh. The Glory of the Lord that filled the temple so that no one could enter it is the Holy Spirit who overshadows the Virgin, making her the Panagia, the Most Holy Temple of the Lord, the Theotokos, Mother of God (Lk 1:43), because she gives birth to God in the flesh and He dwells among us in the temple of the body that He receives from her, and that He will refashion in His Resurrection, as He took it from the dust and fashioned it into a “living soul” in the beginning. So, what is born of the Panagia, the Lord’s “body of dust”, is holy, as Gabriel tells her;even more so than was thetemple in the days of Moses and Solomon; for, what comes forth from the Virgin’s womb as from the Holy of Holies, is the body of God the Word made flesh, dust that has become the Temple of God, filled with the Glory of the Lord, the Holy Spirit.
Now we see why the woman healed of her flow of blood approached the Savior trembling. She was drawing near the Temple of the Lord’s Body covered with the same Glory that filled the temple of old. But, do you also see now the Gospel of Christmas in her trembling approach? She trembles, but she approaches even to the point of touching the hem of His garment – even the Glory of the Holy Spirit that clothed Him? For, at the birth of Christ, Eden was opened to all. The flaming sword gives way before all who approach in the fear of God, with faith and love, to partake of the life-giving tree in Eden. (FM 207 & 253)
The Lord told His disciples that power had gone out from Him. What was this power but the same cloud of Glory that filled the temple of old and now fills the Temple of the Lord’s body? It has gone out to cover this woman and it heals her, raising her from death to life! Now, she becomes a temple of the Lord, clothed in the Glory of the Lord’s Holy Spirit, filled with His life-giving power.
It says that she fell down and worshipped Him, as the shepherds and the wise men will do on Christmas Day. For, this Child born of the most blessed Panagia Virgin is the Lord’s Christ, God the Word by whom all things were made, Himself the Resurrection and the Life, who has clothed Himself in the dust of our body so that we may be clothed in the Glory of His Heavenly Kingdom. Do you see the wonder, the glorious joy in this Gospel of Christmas? Through the fear of death, we have become enslaved to the devil. Through the fear of God, we are delivered from the devil, raised from death to life in the cleansing of our sins, and covered with the Glory of the Lord in the healing, even the glorification, of our soul and body!
This is the holy Glory, beloved faithful, that Christmas is all about. This is the Glory of Christmas the Church calls us to see when we open the eyes of our soul, the Glory the Church wants us to love and keep. And, she calls us to prayer and fasting so that through this discipline of taking up our Cross, we may flee the empty diversions of the world and, in the inner stillness of that Holy Night, raise our minds on high and go to Bethlehem in spirit to see with the eyes of our soul the wonder, the joy of the Virgin giving birth to God, the Lord of all. (FM 201) This is the real Glory of Christmas that our children need to hear and to experience, that they mightkeep it in the fear of God, with faith and love.
But to learn to fear it with faith and love, beloved faithful, we must approach the Living Temple of the Lord’s Body as did Jairus. We must reach out with trembling to touch the hem of His garment, as did the woman with the flow of blood. We must enter into the stillness of the Church’s prayer and fasting, and approach the Savior in the confession of our emptiness, our loneliness that have grown from the death of our soul because of our sins and trespasses. Our soul is the dying daughter of Jairus; she is the dying body of the woman with the flow of blood. We must approach the Lord in the confession of our sins, in the humility and sincerity of a broken and contrite heart and pray to Him from “out of the depths” for healing and for life. The Gospel proclaims that He gives to him who asks. He gives nothing less than the healing power of His own Holy Spirit. Then, we become “temples of the Lord”, covered with the Glory of Christ’s Holy Resurrection, shining in this dark world with the joy of the light of Christ that the darkness cannot destroy. May God help us to attain to the joy of the Church’s Christmas! Amen.