|45 - A SERMON OF ST MACARIUS (4TH CENTURY), August 1, 2021|
To be a paralytic is like being a living corpse because, like a corpse, you can’t move. In the prophets, paralysis is an image of what happens to the ‘inner man’ when one gives one’s heart to idolatry. For example: ‘Idols are the work of men’s hands [and, we must add, of his mind, they are the product of the wisdom of his own opinions by which he presumes to sit in judgment of God, his own speculations by which he presumes to assert his own answers to ultimate questions whose depths go beyond his mind’s ability to see]. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there [any] breath in their mouths. [And, let’s add; they have intelligence, but they understand not.] They that make them are like unto them: [so is] everyone who trusts in them. [Psa 134/135:16-18]
In Holy Scripture, paralysis goes with being blind, deaf, mute, crippled, and finally, dead, as an image of sin, giving our heart to idols: to the passions (anger, lust, greed, e.g.), to the wisdom of his own opinions. Idolatry is choosing to deny God in order to affirm oneself rather than denying oneself to affirm God, to increase so that God decreases rather than to decrease so that God can increase, to save one’s life for the sake of self-love rather than losing it for the sake of the love of God. Its terrible consequence is to become a spiritual corpse, a dead man toward God. Thus, the healing of the paralytic this morning is an image of the LORD’s Holy Pascha when, by His precious and life-giving Cross, He destroyed death by His death and gave life to those who were in the tombs.
I was on vacation all of last week and did not have the time or inclination to write a sermon for this morning. Allow me, then, to invite St Macarius the Egyptian to give the sermon this morning on the Paschal joy that is proclaimed in this morning’s Gospel.
A Sermon of St Macarius the Egyptian (4th century) Homily 2
So the evil ruler/prince clothed the soul and her entire substance with sin, and he defiled all of her, and he led all of her captive into his kingdom. He did not leave any part of her free from himself, not her thoughts, nor her intellect, nor her body, but he clothed all of her, from her head to her feet, in the dark, disquieting purple of darkness [did the soul then become the queen of the evil prince’s kingdom of darkness?] For as it is the body that suffers, not one part or member of it, but the whole body suffers, so is it that the whole soul suffers the defilements of evil and sin. And so the evil prince clothed the whole soul, the essential part and member of man, with his wickedness—that is, with sin—and so the body became subject to suffering and corruption.
Therefore, let us beseech God that he would take off from us the old man, because He alone is able to take sin away from us. For these [dark spirits] that have taken us captive are stronger than we are, and they have us completely bound in their kingdom. But the LORD has promised to deliver us from this imprisonment.
It’s like when the sun shines and the wind blows. The sun has its own body and its own nature. The wind also has its own nature and its own body, and no one is able to separate the wind from the sun. God alone is able to make the wind cease so that it stops blowing. In the same manner, sin has been mixed with the soul and each has its own nature.
Here is another example: Let’s say that someone sees a bird flying. He wishes he could fly, but because he has no wings he does not have the power to fly. So also it is with man. The desire is present in him to be clean, to be pure and spotless, and to have no evil in himself and to be always with God, but he does not have the power. He longs to fly up into the air of God and in the freedom of the Holy Spirit; but if he is not given wings, he cannot.
Therefore, let us beseech the Father that he would give to us the wings of the Dove [Ps 55.7], the Holy Spirit, so that we might fly to Him and be at rest and that He would take the evil wind—the sin that dwells in the members of our soul and body—away from our soul and body and make it to cease. For He alone has the power to do this, as it says: ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’ [Jn 1.29] He alone has accomplished this mercy for those who believe in Him. And those who are always receiving Him and hoping in Him, and who are ceaselessly seeking Him, these He cleanses from sin and [in them] accomplishes this unutterable salvation.
So also is it in the Day of the [uncreated] Light and Wind of God, the Holy Spirit, who blows and refreshes the soul that lives in the Day of divine Light. It goes through the entire substance of the soul and her entire story [from her beginning to her end], all her thoughts and the whole substance of the body, all its members, are refreshed and given to rest in a divine and inexpressible rest.
The apostle says this: ‘You are not children of the night or of the darkness, for you are all sons of the Light and sons of the Day.’ [1 Thes 5.5]
The old man, in his wandering away from the commandments of God, strips himself of the perfect man and wears the clothing of the kingdom of darkness, the garment of blasphemy, of unbelief, of not fearing God, of vainglory, of arrogance, love of money, lustful desire and all the other garments of the kingdom of darkness that, like these, are ragged, filthy, and defiled. So also, when he follows the commandments of God, Jesus takes off from all who would [call on Him in faith] the old man that is bound to the earth. He strips off the garments of the kingdom of darkness, and He clothes them with the new and heavenly Man, Jesus Christ; again, in the same way: new eyes for the old eyes, new ears for the old ears, a new head for the old head, so that the whole man is clean, wearing the heavenly Icon.
Glory to His mercy and compassion, because He is merciful with His servants, and He illumines and redeems them from the kingdom of darkness, and He grants to them His Light and Kingdom. To Him be Glory and Power forever. Amen!