08 - Gerasene Demoniac, Oct 27, 2019

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2 Corinthians 11:31-12:9

Luke 8:26-39

Perhaps we would catch the full impact of this morning’s Gospel if we understood that the unclean spirits of the demons are active in our world today, as they always have been, in the “passions” that assail us and enslave us when we give in to them. The passions include gluttony, lust, greed, anger, envy, vanity, pride and sloth or spiritual laziness. I think it fair to say that these all swim in an undercurrent of ultimate meaninglessness, the state of the mind that has rejected God. When our worldly comforts and diversions are taken from us, the undercurrent of meaninglessness seizes us in the gut; it envelops us and we feel ourselves sinking into despair and hopelessness like the demoniac this morning “living” in the tombs.

Consider the demoniac’s wild behavior caused by the many demons or passions indwelling him. Is it not a fair description of our soul when we are overpowered and tossed about by the passions so that we cannot rest? Why does quietude frighten us so? What is it about stillness that must fill it with constant noise and activity? Is it because we draw near our inner emptiness, the fear of our death?

Consider the demoniac’s behavior once the LORD had cleansed him. He was no more living frenetically in the tombs. The tombs were “empty” of him; for, he was now found sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. He was quiet, at rest and at peace. It’s clear that the emptiness of his soul was now filled with joy; and the joy, we can say, was the radiance of his love for the Savior.

St Luke says that a great fear lay hold of the townspeople at the scene. So also did a great fear lay hold the myrrhbearers at the tomb of the risen LORD. From this, it is clear that this cleansing of the Gerasene demoniac is of the LORD’s death and Resurrection. We can say, therefore, that, whereas before, the demoniac’s soul was convulsed with the fear of death, now it was filled with the peace and joy of the LORD’s Holy Pascha. He was no longer dark inside. He was radiant. He was no longer dead inside. He was alive. It was no longer he who lived but Christ who was living in him.

Let’s ponder how this came to be. We see a tomb in the foreground of this morning’s Gospel. But, again from the clear Paschal indications in St Luke’s description of the scene, there is another Tomb hidden in the background. It is the LORD’s Tomb. The LORD Jesus “came down” into the region of the Gerasenes and its tombs as into the region and shadow of death. He is the True Light coming into the world. Coming to the tombs of the Gerasenes and cleansing the demoniac, we see more fully all that is contained in St John’s proclamation: “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not comprehend it!” (Jn 1:5) It’s not just that the darkness could not hold Him; it’s that He overpowers the darkness. He cleanses it and purges it of all unclean spirits.

This is a good story perhaps for children who are afraid of the dark. So, when you’re in bed in the dark at night, why do you let your mind dwell on images of ghosts and goblins? Why would you not think back to Pascha night? You came with all of us into the darkened Church at 1130 pm to begin the Nocturns service. The darkness was empty of all ghosts. There were no bogey monsters to fear. And, if at Church, you have eaten and drunk the Resurrection and the Life of Christ as your food and drink, why wouldn’t your darkened bedroom be the very same as the Church on Pascha Night or any night? Christ is there. More than that, He is in you! The darkness of your bedroom, like the darkness of the Church is filled with the joy of excitement over the Light of Christ’s  Holy Resurrection that is about to burst into flame! We hold the candles in our hand and at Midnight, they are lit from the candle burning on the holy altar, just as it happens at the LORD’s Tomb in Jerusalem on Great and Holy Saturday by the Holy Fire of the Holy Spirit that burns and does not consume! The temple that was dark and still, a darkness filled with peace and joy, begins to glow with a soft, warm light from the flames of our many candles. The Temple glows with a warm sacred beauty that one can feel in one’s soul is not of this world!

But is this not the same glow we experience at our baptism, whose liturgical dance captures us with a sacred beauty that lifts our soul and anoints it with a joy and peace that we feel within?

The Tomb of the LORD that stands hidden behind the tombs of the Gerasene demoniac this morning is the same Tomb into which you were immersed, and from which you were raised into the Light of Christ and His Holy Resurrection. Dripping wet with the living waters of the Holy Spirit, you were clothed as a child of God in a Robe of Light. You put on Christ. You were enveloped in the True Light that doesn’t just resist the darkness. It overpowers the darkness; every unclean spirit flees from you; and now, the darkness for you is a soft stillness saturated with the Holy Spirit. In your union with Christ, which happened at your baptism, the fear of death that enslaved us was replaced with the “great fear” of Christ’s life-creating death. This is the fear we should feel in the darkness of our bedroom at night: but, this fear raises the soul to the Light. It raises her to Christ; for, it announces the beginning of our conception as children of God, and the transfiguration of our tomb into the Font of our Resurrection.

 The LORD, the True Light, has come into the world as He stepped onto the shores of the Gerasenes in this morning’s Gospel. In His Holy Spirit, the Light the darkness cannot overcome is everywhere present. It fills all things even as the rays of the sun illumine the whole earth. And, every temple of the LORD’s Holy Church is, mystically, really, the Tomb of His Holy Pascha that stands hidden beneath the tomb of everyone.

Here, in the Temple of St Herman’s, we are in the LORD’s Tomb. We are in the Font of His Resurrection; for, we are in the mystery of His death. We are in the power of His Cross by which He destroyed death and opened the gates and took captive all those held captive by death, whom He bathed in the warm brilliance of His Holy Resurrection.

Dear faithful, if we would be held captive by the peace and joy of Christ’s life-giving Holy Pascha and so be delivered from our enslavement to the life-destroying passions, the venom of the unclean spirits, we need do as did the demoniac this morning. We draw near the Savior both with our soul and with our body. We come to His Holy Temple, the Church, the Garden of His Tomb.

Note that the demons want nothing to do with Jesus; and yet, the demoniac draws near to Jesus, clearly against the demon’s will. So, too, we can draw near to Jesus against the will of our passions, if we desire it. If we desire to draw near to Jesus, nothing can stop us.

Here in the Church is where the LORD’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. How is it made perfect? By completing its work in us, the work of delivering us from the passions, destroying our death and raising us up, clothed in the Robe of His Holy Resurrection and in our right mind.

This, then, is our work: to draw near to the Savior and fall down before Him every day, every hour, every moment of our life, that He may not only shine on us from without but illumine us and transform us from within. Glory to Jesus Christ! Amen!