|09 - Gerasene Demoniac, Oct 29, 2017|
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It says that the LORD “sailed down” into the region of the Gerasenes which is opposite Galilee. This description is a theological, prophetic image. It shows this to be an “epiphany” of the LORD emptying Himself (Phil 2:5) to come down from heaven into the region and shadow of death (Isa 9:2) as the Light shining in the darkness. It is the imagery of Ezekiel’s vision of the Mighty River, itself a prophetic icon of the Holy Spirit (Jn 7:38) flowing from the LORD’s side (Jn 19:34), flowing from the gate of the Temple as far as Galilee to the north and the Arabian Sea to the south, healing the waters and raising to life every soul wherever the Mighty River goes (Eze 47:1-12). The imagery here, then, is of the Holy Spirit overshadowing the Virgin Mary (Lk 1:35) as He overshadowed the OT Tabernacle and Temple, and the WORD of God being conceived in her womb by the Holy Spirit.
This is to say that the Blessed Virgin Theotokos is the true Living Temple of the OT; and since the LORD Jesus Christ took the Temple of His Body from her, to say that the LORD, the WORD of God, sailed down into the region of the Gerasenes is to say that the Holy Temple of God, the Temple seen in the visions of the prophets such as Isaiah and Ezekiel, is here on earth, here in the darkness of death. The Spirit of God, i.e., is brooding – like a Mother Hen over her chicks – over the waters of creation, and those who sat in the darkness of the deep have seen a Great Light, the Uncreated Light of the Holy Sanctuary (the debir or WORD), Who is the WORD of God Himself now incarnate in the flesh. And, this is to say, that there is a creation that is about to “come to be”.
It says that He came upon the earth. Here is the image of Christmas, the first Theophany when God the WORD appears in the flesh, born as a little child of the Virgin Mary. The Temple of the LORD’s Body is fashioned from the substance of the Temple of the Virgin and in the Holy Spirit by whom He was conceived in her womb, He comes forth as the Mighty River in Ezekiel’s vision from the East Gate of the Temple, the Gate that remains shut because the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered through her (Eze 44:2), and He “sails down” into the region of the Gerasenes, the “region” and shadow of death.
When we read the Gospel events of the LORD Jesus in the Spirit of the prophets and of the Church, which is Christ’s Body, we no longer read them as mere events but as epiphanies of the WORD of God “coming to be” in the flesh and dwelling among us; i.e., the WORD of God dwelling among us in His Holy Temple, healing and raising to life the world He created, even creating it anew and sanctifying it, “justifying” it, or making it to be “righteous”, making it to live and coming to dwell in those who receive Him so that it is no longer they who live but Christ who lives in them, transfiguring their body into His Holy Temple and their inner man into the Holy of Holies in whom He who is the Resurrection and the Life abides, creating in them a clean heart and putting a new and right Spirit within them.
It says that as soon as He came upon the earth – i.e., as soon as He was born of the Virgin Mary and appeared on earth – He was met by a certain man from out of the city, having demons, and who for a long time had not worn a garment or lived in a house but he abided in the tombs. The man, i.e., was naked. He is a son of Adam and Eve whose eyes were opened by their disobedience to see that they no longer wore the Robe of Glory, the Holy Spirit, with which they had been clothed at their creation but were now naked.
It is in the tombs nearest the shore, outside the city and beyond the swine fields, where the action takes place this morning. The spiritual reading of this I take from St Macarius the Egyptian (4th cent.). He is preaching to his monastic brothers, and his reference is the LORD’s Pascha, but hear how it fits this morning’s Gospel – which tells us that Pascha is the setting of the LORD’s Incarnation, His teaching and all His mighty works of healing and deliverance:
“Death keeps fast hold of the souls of Adam, and the thoughts of the soul lie imprisoned in the darkness. When you hear of sepulchers, do not think only of visible ones; your own heart is a sepulcher and a tomb. When the prince of wickedness and his angels burrow there, and make paths and thoroughfares there, on which the powers of Satan walk into your mind and thoughts, are you not a hell, a tomb, a sepulcher, a dead man towards God? A fountain of mire springs there. But, the LORD comes into souls that seek after Him (that come out from the city to meet Him!), into the deep of the heart-hell, and there lays His command upon death, saying, ‘Bring out the imprisoned souls that are seeking after Me, which you detain by force.’ So He breaks through the heavy stones that lie on the soul, opens the sepulchers, raises up the man that is dead indeed, brings out of the dark jail the imprisoned soul. So the LORD looses from her bonds the soul that is bound with the chains of death, and lets her go, and sets the mind free to walk at ease and unhindered into God’s fragrant air (they found the man from whom the demons had come out sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed [with the Robe of Glory] and in his right mind)! ” (Hom 11.11-12).
Note the LORD is found outside the city, even in the tombs; i.e., in the “tomb” of our heart where we are deep, beyond all things; where we are at the “shore” or the edge, where this earthly life bounded by death opens onto the “deep” of the abyss. It doesn’t say in our Gospel what precisely this abyss is; but it says in our prayers. It is the abyss of the LORD’s compassion. It is the Mighty River of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is a cleansing fire that burns the chaff and the stinking impurities of death and corruption, while the bush that is the Theotokos it does not consume. She – and those born from above as her children – it makes radiant with the Glory that is the Light of Christ in whom is the Life of men. The demons hate the Light. The townspeople fear the demons, but they are more comfortable in the darkness than in the Light. Willy-nilly, their minds have become swineherds, tending their swine, their passions, their idols, on the paths and thoroughfares of the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. They fear the Light because it illumines what’s in the darkness, the tomb of their heart. They want the Light to leave, so they can go back to the comforts of their city life, back to their houses and to the distractions of the city, hiding from what’s in the tomb of their heart behind the niceness and liberality of their urbanity.
Yet, even in the city, they live in the tombs with the demons. For, “attend” to what is going on inside of you beneath your life in the city. Are you not assaulted by gluttony, lust or anger, e.g., or by the subtler passions of envy, vainglory and pride, even “in the city”? Does not the passion seize you and drive you, even as you are “in the city”, into the desert, i.e., into yourself away from loved ones, breaking every chain of restraint and tearing off the garment, let’s say, of peace and your capacity for intimacy, love and joy? Beneath the façade of our urbane civility, how many of us are living in the tombs, tormented by shame, guilt, loneliness, fear, anxiety, confusion, depression?
Coming to Church this morning, you have come with the demoniac to Jesus coming down on the earth to the shore of your heart where you open onto eternity; for the Church is the Body of Christ. You have come out of the city to the Tomb of the LORD, the Font of our Resurrection and Life. Simply by His presence, the darkness is illumined, the demons scatter. Those who cling to Him in prayer and fasting, in the worship of the Church’s way of asceticism, are loosed from the bonds of the passions holding them and wounding them. The Tomb of the Church is empty – empty of death, of darkness, of evil; for, it is filled with the Uncreated Light of Christ in His Holy Resurrection, whose wounds heal and cleanse our wounds, the Fire of whose Holy Spirit burns away all that is earthly in us. We, too, are plunged into the abyss; but, with the demoniac, we experience it as the abyss of God’s compassion that swallows our death and all the demons and impurities that are in it, leaving us seated at the LORD’s feet, clothed in His Robe of Glory, in our right mind.
As we round the bend on our way to Bethlehem, let us come to ourselves: where are we living? In the city, unhealed, or in our heart where the LORD is found, delivered and healed; and, where, if we have received Him and not chased Him away, we can be found seated, clothed, and in our right mind? Most holy Theotokos, save us! Amen!