|44 - He Healed Them All, July 27, 2014|
Everywhere the LORD goes, He heals those who come to Him or who are brought to Him. What the LORD ultimately heals us from is death. Healing us from death is what the Christian Faith is all about.
But, even Christians die. How is it, then, that the Christian Faith is all about saving us from death? What does Christ mean when He says to Mary and Martha: “He who believes in Me, even though he were dead, yet shall he live”? (Jn 11:25)
We learn in Holy Scripture that death is the wages of sin. (Rm 6:23) That we all die is the proof that all have sinned. Yet, even before we die, we are dead in our inner man, dead in our sins and trespasses. Our inner death manifests itself in the many different maladies that can afflict us in soul and body. Our anxiety, our fear, irritability, anger, self-justification, our jealousy, our envy, our and vanity: these are all the thorns and thistles that sprout from the root of death. Depression and despair are symptoms of our inner death. It shows itself in our laziness: when we don’t want to pray or keep to a rule of prayer because we prefer to watch a movie or play a video game; when we don’t want to keep the fast, because we don’t want to give up the pleasure of eating; when we don’t want to study Holy Scripture because it’s not entertaining.
From these things, we can see that the cause of our death is not in the body but in our inner man, in the soul, more specifically in the will that follows the desire of the heart. We die in the body because we are already dead in our soul; and, we are dead in our soul because of what we give our love to: the things of the world that are passing away, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
What we love, then, is what determines whether we live or die. This is what I hear in the word of the LORD’s “teaching”.
Now, the “beginning” in which Christ God created the world and everything in it is the love of God for the Theotokos, and of the Theotokos for God in and through which God became man so that man might become god – i.e., a partaker of the divine nature. (II Pt 1:4) We live and are healthy in soul and body when we live in the love of God. We die and become dead in our soul when we do not love God.
So, how can we claim that the Christian Faith is all about saving us from death when even those who believe in God die?
Brothers and sisters, in love, do we not come out of ourselves to give ourselves in love to our beloved? Is this not the same movement as dying? When we die, do we not come out of ourselves when we leave our body?
Contemplating the mystery of the Christian Faith in light of the biblical vision, it is clear to me that what we experience as dying is the corruption of our soul’s original natural movement of love by which she yearns to come out of herself to give herself in love to the LORD who first loved her. But, like Eve, we have turned away from God and given our love to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, these things that are of the world that is passing away. We have loved the darkness instead of the light. In our sins and trespasses, our soul’s original movement of love is not offered to God who is love that abides forever; it is offered to the world that passes away. And so, our soul’s original movement of love has become a movement in which our soul moves out of herself and into the darkness of her “lovers”, her “idols”, the demons of hell. Our soul’s original loving movement has been devastated, corrupted almost beyond recognition to become what one modern psychologist has dubbed the “death instinct”.
Do you begin to see? Do you begin to hear? God so loved the world that He emptied Himself – He came out of Himself – and became man even to the point of death on the Cross. This self-emptying of Christ even to the point of death on the Cross was but the movement of His love. We sing; “O Thou who without change didst become man,” i.e., Thou who without changing changed because when he “changed” and became man, Christ did not change at all, because His becoming man was but the movement of His love, even the Incarnation of His love that never changes but abides forever.
The Gospel of our LORD Jesus Christ, His “teaching” that heals, reveals the shape of the beginning in which God created the heavens and the earth: it is the shape of the Cross, or rather, of Christ crucified – and the Theotokos standing in the grief of her love for Christ, her Son and her God, at the foot of His Cross. Christ’s death on the Cross is the “beginning” in which He created the world, and on which He “finished” the creation that He had begun. (cf. Gen 2:4 LXX) Christ crucified is the consummate revelation, the most complete epiphany of the God who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whoever believes in Him might be saved, i.e., healed from death. How so?
If the shape of God’s love for us is the Cross He took up for our sake, so also the shape of our love for God is our cross we take up for His sake. When we deny ourselves and lose our life, i.e., when we die for the sake of Christ and His Gospel, i.e., for the love of Christ, we are restoring the original movement of our soul back to its original character as the soul coming out of herself in love for God. So, when we “die” in Christ, we are coming to life in the hidden inner reality of the soul. We are offering ourselves to the hands of God that He may reshape us and re-create us, this time not from the dust of the ground but from the crucified, risen and glorified Body and Blood of His Beloved Son, Our LORD Jesus Christ.
This is the Christian Faith, brothers and sisters: not a “belief system”, not a set of rules and regulations that we follow hoping God will like us enough to let us into Paradise, but offering ourselves to God in the desire that He create in us a clean heart and that He put a new and right Spirit within us, the Holy Spirit. We follow His teaching, His commandments because we want to be healed of our love for the darkness and set free from our slavery to death. We take up our cross, the ascetic disciplines of the Church, in order to heal our dying so that it becomes again the movement of our soul coming out of herself in love for God that she might live in His love that abides forever and so have eternal life.
This is why those who believe in the LORD Jesus Christ, i.e., those who love Him and follow His commandments, even though they were dead, yet shall they live. It’s because when we die for the love of Christ – when we deny ourselves and lose our lives for the sake of Christ and His Gospel and take up our Cross to follow Christ -- our dying becomes the movement of our love for Christ. Our dying then becomes the healing of our soul because we are restoring her natural movement of offering herself in love to God. Thus, our dying in Christ becomes our resurrection, and even though we die, we live; or rather, precisely as we die in Christ we live in the love of God that abides forever. For, He creates in us a clean heart. He puts within us a new and right Spirit, His Holy Spirit. We become a new creation, restored in the image and likeness of God. Amen.