09 - THE LORD HEARD MY CRY, Oct 30, 2022

Galatians 1.11-19

Luke 8.26-39

St Maximos the Confessor (d. 662 AD) gives to us the Church’s ‘key’ for interpreting the Bible. He says: ‘The mystery of the Incarnation of the Logos is the key to all the arcane symbolism and typology in the Scriptures….He who apprehends the mystery of the cross and the burial apprehends the inner essences of created things; while he who is initiated into the inexpressible power of the resurrection apprehends the purpose for which God first established everything.’ [1st Cent Theo, §66, Philo I, 127]

That is to say, ‘Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ,’ we read Holy Scripture from inside the empty Tomb of the LORD’s Resurrection; we read it from the altar of the Church’s worship; we read it with the eyes of faith that have been illumined by what we have beheld in the empty Tomb of the LORD’s Resurrection. We read it from inside the mystery of our heart where we are deep, beyond all things; we read it from a heart that has been emptied of death, a heart that has been purified in the humility of contrition and illumined in the love of God.

In the LORD’s Tomb, at the altar of the Church’s worship, Holy Scripture becomes an icon, a mirror, that reveals the inner man of the heart and the movement of the soul’s erotic desire by which she longs to go out of herself ardently seeking for eternal Beauty and Goodness, for the Heavenly Bridegroom, for the LORD Jesus Christ. And her ardent search is suffused with hope, for the Heavenly Bridegroom Himself cries out: ‘I love those who love Me. Whoever seeks me diligently will find Me!’ (Prov 8.17)

And His cry goes out into all the earth, its ‘melody’ to the ends of the universe. For He has ‘placed’ His Tent, His Body, in the sun. He has gone forth as a Bridegroom from His Bridal Chamber. His Exodus and His going down is from one end of the heavens to the other. And there is no one who is hidden from the warmth of His heat, from the warmth of His erotic love for His creature (Ps 18).

For He loved the world so much (Jn 3.16) that He emptied Himself. He took on the form of a servant. He clothed Himself in our nature and was obedient to the Father even to the point of death on the Cross (Phil 2.11-16). He desired to become absolutely one with us in our death so that He could uproot the devil from our heart and deliver us from the power of death (Heb 2.14-15), and raise us from our graves and lead us into the Land of our Inheritance (Eze 37.1-12), into the Garden of Eden to the East (Gen 2.8), into the Land of Resurrection, into the Land that is Christ Himself (Ps 16.5), the mystery of God hidden from the ages, the mystery of ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory!’

We behold this mystery of God hidden from the ages, hidden in the Tomb of the LORD’s Sabbath Rest, the mystery of ‘Christ in you,’ incarnate and visible in our Gospel this morning. We read in Psalm 18: ‘The cords of death encompassed me, the torrents of perdition assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me, the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From His holy temple He heard my cry, and my cry to Him came into His ears. [Psa 18:4-6 RSV]

Surely this was the cry of this morning’s demoniac coming from his deep heart where he was truly himself, beyond the reach of the demons who were holding him captive in the tombs. That is to say, the demoniac, like any of us, was not a ‘demoniac.’ He was not a demon. He was a man made in the image and likeness of God, a man whom God made for immortality, an image of His own eternity (Prov 2.23), a man God made to become a partaker of His own nature. God did not make him for the darkness and misery of the tomb and of Sheol.

So, how did the man become imprisoned by demons, his dwelling the tombs? How do any of us become imprisoned in dark tombs, held fast by the demons dwelling in the idols we worship? We read in Ps 107: ‘Some sat in darkness and in gloom, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. Their hearts were bowed down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help.’

In this regard, then, the demoniac of this morning’s Gospel is an icon of our own ‘inner man’ where we are paralyzed and weak because, like Israel of old, we turn away from God and give our love to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

But I see the demoniac this morning also as an image of the soul who has ‘come to her senses,’ and, as the Psalmist says, begins to cry to the LORD in her trouble. And the LORD, when I confessed my sins, when I hid from my guilt no longer, says the Psalmist, forgave me (Ps 32.5).

The Psalmist cries out: ‘The cords of Sheol entangled me, the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD; from His holy temple He heard my cry, and my cry to Him came into His ears.’ Can you see how the LORD coming to the demoniac this morning in the tombs is an image of Christ coming to the souls in the darkness of hell in the mystery of His Cross and Burial?

What filled the LORD’s ears on the Cross? It was not the derision and mocking of the soldiers and the crowd beneath Him. The Psalmist says: ‘My cry to Him came into His ears.’ It was the cries of all those in the tombs, all those scattered to the far ends of the earth, all those disintegrating in the dust of death, all those entangled by the snares of death and the cords of Sheol. This is what was filling His ears on the Cross. For on the Cross, He was surrounded by all the souls in hell crying out to Him in their distress because they were held fast by the cords of Sheol. And if my soul is in hell, it is my cry that is entering into His ears on the Cross.

Why did He not send for a legion of angels to destroy those crucifying Him and mocking Him? Because He had ‘stepped out onto the earth’ in the Boat of the Holy Virgin precisely to come into the tombs and to penetrate our death all the way down to its root in our heart, to gather all who were scattered from the east, the south, the north, the west [Psa 107:2-3], and to draw all men to Himself (Jn 12.32), to break their bonds asunder, to deliver them from their distress, to bring them out of darkness and gloom. [Psa 107:10-17]

From His Holy Temple, says the Psalmist; from His Body on the Cross, my cry came into His ears. And He answered me. He shattered the doors of bronze, He cut in two the bars of iron. Those who were sick because of their sinful ways, who suffered affliction because of their iniquities, these cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He sent forth His Spirit (Mt 27.50) and He healed them, He delivered them from destruction.’ [Ps 107.19-20]. He opened their graves (Mt 27.52-53). He put His Spirit into them and raised them from death to life, and He placed them in the Land of Resurrection (Eze 37.12-14)

When the village folk ran out to see what had happened to their swine, they found the man clothed, in his right mind, seated at the feet of Jesus as though worshipping Him at the foot of His Cross, the footstool of His Heavenly Throne!

This is what happens when we turn to the LORD in the tomb of our heart, when we confess our sins and hide from our guilt no longer, when in a broken and contrite heart we acknowledge that we love the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life and not God, and that we are prisoners of the demons dwelling in the idols we love. Our cry goes into the ears of the LORD in the Holy Temple of His Body on the Cross, planted in the midst of Sheol. He breaks our bonds, He shatters the bars of iron, He gathers us from where we were scattered, He delivers us from our distress, and we are found clothed and in our right mind, worshipping the LORD at His footstool, the Cross. Amen!