12 - 'Woman' Becomes 'Orthodox'

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Ephesians 2:4-10

Luke 13:10-17

It says that the LORD enters the synagogue this morning and sees a woman ‘possessed of a spirit of weakness’ for many years such that she is unable to straighten and lift herself up. She was unable to be orthodox until the LORD touches her with His hand and heals her. Then, it says, she straightened up (anorthothe) and glorified God (edoxazen). Is this not what it is to be an Orthodox Christian: to stand up straight in one’s ‘inner man’ and look up to heaven ‘whence cometh my help’ and glorify God from a heart of thanksgiving, joy and love, to be full of inner joy from living in one’s soul in the presence of God?

We read that the LORD was teaching in the synagogue. That means that He, the WORD of God, was preaching the word of the prophets which He Himself had spoken to them before He became flesh of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. While teaching, He saw this woman who was possessed of a spirit of weakness and was unable to lift herself up.

The LORD addresses her as: ‘woman’. We learn from the holy fathers of our ancient Syriac Christian Tradition that by this address, the LORD was going back to the woman He ‘built’ from the rib of Adam, and of whom Adam said: “This is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’ for she was taken from Man.” In this, He is calling out to each one of us in the interior depths of our soul, or as St Andrew of Crete says in his canon, to the ‘Eve’, the soul, that is within us.

Such tenderness now comes to light, such beauty, such wonder! The LORD is looking on each of us as He looked on this crippled woman. He sees how broken we are beneath our sophisticated veneers as He saw how this woman was unable to raise herself up. It says that the LORD ‘called her to come near to Him’ (that’s what the word means in Greek), even as He calls each one of us this morning to come near and draw near to Him. He addresses her as ‘Woman.’ Can you now see the LORD as the New Adam, saying to her as Adam said to Eve, as He says to the Eve in each one of us: “Dear bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh!” It says that He touched her. Can you now see how tenderly He touches her, surely as Adam caressed His beloved ‘woman’, surely as the LORD would touch us with the tenderness of His loving compassion?

“Let your infirmity be loosed!” He says. “Let it be dissolved and disappear altogether!” This is an absolution, a forgiveness, a cleansing of the Eve within us in our deep heart. This is an action, a ‘mighty work’ of divine love that comprehends and fills the cosmos from top to bottom, from side to side, past, present and future. For what caused ‘woman,’ Eve, each one of us, to be possessed of a spirit of weakness rather than the Holy Spirit of divine might and power? Was it not our ‘adultery’, our spiritual fornication with the serpent, our ‘harlotry’, our ‘idolatry’, giving the love of our heart not to the LORD, the true Lover of Mankind, but to the serpent and to his minions—to Mars, the god of anger, for example; to Aphrodite, the goddess of lust, to Poseidon, the god of greed—who stripped us of our innocence and filled the womb of our soul with the dark seed of perversity and corruption and all uncleanness?

He stands in the synagogue in the flesh. In the flesh, He stands in the loving embrace of His most-merciful Mother for He came to be flesh in her womb; and in her loving embrace, He embraces each of us here in His Church this morning. Entering the Church this morning, we have entered into the tender and loving embrace of the Son of God and His Holy Mother, the New Adam and the New Eve.

He touches her, but she is more than healed. She is straightened and raised up, an image of the resurrection from the dead; and, she glorifies God. Her soul is awash in divine joy.

This is what Orthodox worship is: to glorify God in the joy that descends on the soul who has been drawn by the tender voice of the LORD to come near to Him and to be enfolded in the loving embrace of His Holy Mother and His own arms stretched out on the cross. This is a mystical, a hidden, an unseen reality, but it is experienced palpably in the soul when, in our heart, we draw near to the Christ who is calling out to us from within us! It’s because Christ is ‘in our midst’ in the embrace of His Holy Mother even as He embraces her, that we feel in the worship of the Church a spiritual tenderness caressing us our soul. At least for a moment, it warms and softens us and raises us heavenward. We are given to taste of that heavenly joy, that same Spirit of Power that chased away the spirit of weakness and took possession of this woman this morning, filling her with light and thanksgiving.

Dear faithful, this is a taste of ‘Christ in you’! This is the really real, this is the love and joy of God that we are fighting to be possessed of in the world ‘out there’ so that we are not taken by a spirit of weakness that would drag us down into despair and anger and bitterness. We want to be possessed of the Spirit of God who makes us able to straighten up and glorify God in joy.

This Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of the Church is in you. How could it not be? You were washed in Him in your baptism; you received Him in the sacred gifts of Holy Eucharist so that He was your food and drink. Greater is He than the devil in the world. The LORD calls to us this morning to draw near to Him and to be touched by Him, so that His Spirit and not the spirit of the world takes possession of us, so that even when we must needs go out into the world, we can rise up in joy and in the Eve that is within us, glorify God. Amen!