|43 - GO TO YOUR HOUSE, July 24, 2022|
Romans 12.6 – 14
Matthew 9.1 – 8
We could say that paralysis is the distilled essence of all the symptoms that follow from idolatry (and, idolatry is adultery: it is loving a lord, a ba’al, who is not our true husband, the LORD Jesus Christ). The symptoms of idolatry are given by the prophets. They include blindness, deafness, muteness, lameness, madness or possession by demons—in short, all the maladies and infirmities the LORD Jesus went throughout Galilee healing. Blindness, for example, is a paralysis of the eyes so that one cannot ‘see’ the hidden mysteries of God. Deafness is a paralysis of the ears so that one cannot hear the heavens singing the Glory of God. (Ps 19.1) Paralysis renders our body into a kind of corpse even before we ‘die.’ Paralysis of our spirit renders us spiritually dead long before we ‘die’. Thus, the connection we see in this morning’s Gospel between the forgiveness of sins (idolatry) and the healing of the paralytic.
Let us note that the ‘healing’ is not only the forgiveness of the paralytic’s sins, which releases him from the paralysis of his idolatry. It is also being raised up and walking to his house. This is what I want to focus on this morning: the LORD says to the paralytic: ‘Rise! Take up your bed and go [down] to your house!’
In the parallel between ‘your sins are forgiven and ‘rise, take up your bed and walk,’ can you see Holy Baptism? In the living waters of your baptism, you were forgiven your sins and you were released from your paralysis and you were raised from spiritual death.
At your baptism, the priest, as an image of Christ, grabbed your hand and lifted you up from the Font. Can you see in this the LORD Jesus in the victory of His Resurrection grabbing the hands of Adam and Eve and raising them up from the jumble of iron bars and brass gates that He has broken and shattered by His ‘coming to the other side and to His own city’? What? Hell is His own city? It is now! It has been annexed to the Heavenly City because Jesus Christ is now the King and LORD of both the dead and the living!
But can you not also see in these movements of Holy Baptism and in the Icon of the LORD’s Holy Resurrection, the movement we are making this morning coming to the Chalice? ‘Lo! This has touched your lips! It takes away all your sins! It removes all your iniquities!’ What do we sing after receiving the Body and Blood of Our LORD as our food and drink? ‘We have seen the True Light!’ Our eyes have been released from the paralysis of blindness! ‘We have received the Heavenly Spirit!’ We have received the Living Waters of Christ. We have received the Holy Fire of God that consumes all our sins so that we ourselves become all fire. We are purged. We are cleansed. Good LORD! We have received God! Christ is in you. God is in you! We have been deified!
And now what do we do? Do we not each one ‘go down’ to our house—some of us more literally who ‘go down’ to the basement for coffee hour!
So, let’s look more closely at this ‘house’ the LORD commands us to go down to once He has forgiven our sins, cleansed us of all our iniquities, released us from our spiritual paralysis, raised us from the dead, and filled us with Himself, making us holy fire, even making us ‘gods’ and ‘sons of God’ (Ps 82.6) because we have been made to become by His Grace partakers of the divine nature. (2 Pt 1.4) For in this command is where our salvation in Christ is to be found.
The word ‘house’ is also the word for temple. So, go down to your temple. And what is this house that is your own temple? It is your own body, your mind, your soul, your spirit in the ‘sanctuary’, in the ‘bridal chamber’ of your heart. As St Paul says: ‘Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God. You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.’ [1Co 6:19-20]
Glorify God in your body! Dear faithful, if you have received God Himself as your food and drink in Holy Eucharist, you have received God in your body. And, the Body and Blood of the LORD Jesus Christ you eat and drink are the Temple of God in which He destroyed death by His death and gave life to us in the tombs! Your body and all its members—your mind, your soul, your heart—have been built into the Temple of God. You are members of the Body of God incarnate so that your body, mind and soul are now a Temple of God.
‘Go down to your house.’ Go down to the sanctuary—your heart—of the temple of your body and live in the presence of the God who is in you as in His Holy Temple!
This commandment to go down to your house is what the other commandments of Christ are leading up to and making possible. The other commandments are the commandment to be forgiven of one’s sins. This makes possible our deliverance from spiritual death; and this makes possible our rising up strong enough to take up now our bed, to take up our cross, and walk.
Do you see the LORD’s commandment? ‘Whoever would follow Me must first deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. He must lose his life for my sake (i.e., out of love for Me) so that he may find his life [not in the tomb of his death but] in the Tomb of My death, that he may find his life, not dissolved into dust and ashes, but in My Holy Resurrection and thereby become what I made him to be: ‘an image of My own eternity (Prov 2.23) in the Image of God (that is Christ, Col 1.15) and in the Likeness of God (that is the Holy Spirit), living no more in himself but in God; for in Christ, it is not we who live but Christ God who lives in us.
This commandment, then, ‘Go down to your own house,’ is what all the other commandments of Christ make possible. It is in obedience to this commandment that the LORD raises us from our grave and brings us to the Land of our inheritance, which is the Heavenly Kingdom, which is Christ God Himself.
We go down to our own house. We follow Christ to the living waters of the Font as to the waters of the Jordan. We are raised from the Font to follow Him from His baptism at the Jordan into the wilderness, the wilderness of our own soul, led by the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of being tempted by the devil.
The devil tempts us in the form of trials and tribulations and afflictions. Through the suffering that comes from these, however, by the power of Christ’s Resurrection, we are made ‘heirs with Christ.’ I am thinking of St Paul: ‘If we are children of God (cf. Jn 1.13), then we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. [Rom 8:17] The LORD allows us to be ‘tested’ by the devil so that ‘the genuineness of our faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.’ [1Pe 1:7]
The suffering that comes from the trials and tribulations of this life includes suffering from the seductive assaults of the passions. In these, the devil and all his host and all his pride are seeking to draw us away from the God who is in us so they can cripple us with the paralysis of blindness, deafness and the rest. They do not want us to take up our bed and go down to the temple of our body and into the sanctuary of our heart to live in the presence of God. They want us to take up our body and ‘go up’ to the cities of the world and thereby, instead of ascending in Christ to the Glory that is our inheritance, we descend in the passions back to the dust we came from.
We go down to our house, then, by following Jesus into the wilderness and into His Tomb. We follow Jesus: that means that we do not follow our own wisdom or rely on our own strength to fight the devil. We follow Jesus so that is He who fights the devil. Our work is in fact not to fight the devil—that is the LORD’s work, and only He is strong enough to defeat the devil. Our work is to maintain ourselves in the living presence of Christ through mindful and steadfast prayer. This work includes fasting, regular confession and nourishing both our soul and our body with the Body and Blood of Christ. For in Christ alone do we receive the healing that gives us the strength to go down to our house to be with the LORD henceforth and forevermore. Glory to Jesus Christ! Most holy Theotokos, save us!