12 The Crippled Woman - November 26, 2006

Ephesians 2:14-22

Luke 13:10-17


With the Feast of the Theotokos’ Entrance into the Temple at the age of three, which we celebrated this last week, the personal embodiment of the OT, the Virgin Mary, enters the Temple and prepares herself to become the “beautiful dwelling place,” the “Bride and Mother of God.” The Law of Moses attains its perfection in the Theotokos, and in her, prepares to give birth to the personal embodiment of the NT, the Lord Jesus Christ our God. The Law of Moses makes ready to bring forth the Grace and Truth of God’s only-begotten Son made flesh. And so, already on the Feast of the Theotokos’ Entry into the Temple, the Light of Christmas is sending forth its first light over the horizon. Even now with the Theotokos in the Temple, we look and see a strange and most wonderful mystery: the cave is heaven; the Virgin the throne of the cherubim; the manger a room, in which Christ, the God whom nothing can contain, is laid.[1]

Last Sunday, in preparation for the Feast of the Theotokos’ Entry, we read of a rich man storing in even bigger barns the worldly wealth he had accumulated. The Lord rebuked his foolishness because he was putting all his hope in these riches of the earth that he could not take with him when he died. The rich man and his barns holding all his wealth stands in marked contrast to the humble Virgin Mary entering the Temple of God to offer herself to him as an acceptable sacrifice. She shows herself to be the offering of the Mosaic Law. She offers herself to God by saying no to the seduction of worldly riches. This is the Second Eve saying no to the seduction of the serpent and breaking the curse of the First Eve.  Even at the age of three, she is wise enough to say no to the serpent, and with that no, she passes over into the Temple where angels minister to her to prepare her for the coming of God. Because she said no to the serpent, she is able to say yes to God. She is granted to become the Bride of God the Father. She receives the seed of his Holy Spirit and becomes the Mother of God the Son. Her womb becomes more spacious than the heavens, and she is elevated higher than all of creation as the Bride and Mother of God. She is the Second Eve, truly the Mother of all the living – that is, of all those who live in God.

In this morning’s Gospel, we come upon the Lord teaching in the synagogue. The synagogue was not the temple. No sacrifices were performed in the synagogue. Synagogues were found in every city and village where the Jews had dispersed. In the synagogue, a kind of reader’s service took place, reading and teaching from the books of Moses, the Law and the prophets. Every synagogue faced Jerusalem and the Holy Mount on which the Temple stood. The Lord entering the synagogue, we could say, corresponds to him coming to us wherever we have dispersed, in every city and village, to teach us the meaning of the Law and to orient us to his Holy Temple and to his Holy Mount: the Theotokos, and by his teaching to lead us with his holy Mother into the Temple and into the Holy of Holies, the sanctuary of our heart, that we, too, can make ourselves ready to become his beautiful dwelling place on the Feast of Christmas whose mystery we enter in the Holy Eucharist of the Divine Liturgy.

As so often in the Gospel, we see the Lord this morning between two kinds of persons: the crippled woman is like those persons he meets who are suffering from some kind of malady and are presenting themselves to him for healing. The other kind of person is the Scribe or Pharisee. They are not suffering physically from any malady, and yet they are bitterly opposed to the Lord, to his teaching and to his healings.

Most often in the Gospel, the Lord’s healings happen on the Sabbath. This reveals the Paschal character of the Lord’s healings. When the Lord heals on the Sabbath, he is pointing us to his Holy Sabbath, when he is resting in the tomb after destroying death by his death on Holy Friday, and making ready to recreate the world on the First Day of the week, Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the First Day of the Age to Come in his holy Resurrection.

In this morning’s Gospel, the crippled woman who is bent over and is unable to look up is in contrast to the ruler of the synagogue and others whom St Luke describes as the Lord’s adversaries who physically stand perfectly straight and tall. And yet, by the hostility they show to the Lord when he heals on the Sabbath, the ruler of the synagogue and his fellow adversaries of the Lord show that in their mind and heart, they are bent over, unable to look up; for, they are not able to see how the Lord healing on the Sabbath is bringing out the inner meaning of the Law of Moses. The physical condition of the woman bent over, unable to look up, then, reflects on the one hand the spiritual state of the ruler of the synagogue and the other adversaries of the Lord; but, on the other hand, her physical condition of being bent over reflects her inner humility in contrast to the inner arrogance and self-righteousness of the scribe and Pharisee.

Both the crippled woman and the adversaries of the Lord that are in the synagogue this morning are children of Eve. But it is the crippled woman who offers herself to the Lord in the humility of the Theotokos who is raised up to become a daughter of the Second Eve, the holy Theotokos and the Church, when the Lord lays his hands on her. This is her baptism. The body of her transgressions that was bent over, unable to look up, is put to death in the likeness of Christ’s death, and she immediately stands up straight. This is her being raised from the baptismal font in the likeness of Christ’s holy resurrection as a new creature. And she glorifies God. She speaks. You’ll remember that the word for ‘soul’ in the Hebrew is throat or mouth. She glorifies God with her mouth: she gives gratitude to God from her soul. She has become Eucharistic. Entering the synagogue this morning, she enters into the dawn of Christmas just as we have in the Feast of the Theotokos’ Entrance into the Temple, and in the Light of Christmas that has begun to shine already, she receives the healing touch of Christ, just as we receive it in Holy Eucharist.

The Gospel calls to each one of us this morning to look away from those standing around us and to look into our own heart and soul. Can we humble ourselves, can we submissively incline our necks in contrition and brokenness of spirit to stand bent over with the crippled woman in the presence of the Lord? In this, the crippled woman is an image of the sacrament of confession, which is the extension of our baptism into our everyday life. It is through our baptism, and through the sacrament of confession that we enter into the Temple with the Theotokos and into the Cave of Bethlehem, the cave of our soul to receive God the Son in Holy Eucharist. He enters into us, into our members, our veins and heart, and unites us body and soul with his own crucified and risen body.  Through our baptism and the sacrament of confession, we become members of his crucified body. We partake in the likeness of his death; and so we partake also in the likeness of his resurrection in our Chrismation and in the absolution of the sacrament of confession. In the sacramental mysteries of the Church, to the degree that we ground our everyday lives in them by taking up the spiritual disciplines of the Church – this is also the taking up of our Cross and following the Lord – we can become like the crippled woman, Eucharistic, standing straight in our spirit glorifying God in the joy of the newborn Christ Child, Immanuel: God With Us!

[1] Festal Menaion, p. 193.