45 - A SERMON OF ST MACARIUS (4TH CENTURY), August 1, 2021

Romans 12.6-14

Matthew 9.1-8

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

  1. The kingdom of darkness, the evil ruler/prince [of the power of the air Eph 2.1], took man captive from the very beginning. He engirdled and clothed the soul in the power of darkness…

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.

  1. For when the apostle says: ‘Put off the old man’ [Eph 4.22], he means the whole man: the old eyes for new eyes, the old head for the new head, the old ears for new ears, the old hands for new hands, the old feet for new feet. For the evil prince defiled the whole man, and dragged both soul and body down [to his kingdom of darkness] and he clothed man with the old man; he clothed him with defilement and uncleanness, so that he began to fight God and would not submit to the law of God—this insubordination itself is sin—so that man could no longer see as he wanted to see, but he saw in a way that was evil, he heard in an evil way, his feet ran on the field of wickedness, and his hands practiced lawlessness and his heart was given to evil thoughts.

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.

  1. So then, it is impossible to separate the soul from sin if God does not make the evil wind that dwells in our soul and body to cease and to stand still.

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.

  1. Here is yet another example. It’s like a certain savage wind that blows on a dark and gloomy night. It stirs and shakes and searches out every plant and seed. So also, when the man falls under the power of the night of the darkness, which is the devil, and dwells in night and darkness, he is driven in confusion by the mighty wind of sin that blows, and he is shaken and tossed about. The wind searches out his whole nature, his soul, his thoughts and his mind. And all his bodily members are shaken. No part of his soul and body is left free or unaffected from the sin that dwells in us.

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.

  1. Indeed, the LORD clothes them with the royal garments of His ineffable Light: the garments of faith, of hope, love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness and gentleness, and all the other divine and living garments that go with these, garments of Light, and of inexpressible rest, so that, just as God is love and joy and peace and kindness and goodness, so also the new man becomes by grace. And just as the kingdom of darkness and sin are hidden in the soul until the day of the resurrection, when the bodies of sinners will be covered by the darkness that is now hidden in the soul, so also the Kingdom of Light and the heavenly Icon, Jesus Christ, who now mystically illumines the soul and rules over the soul of the saints but is hidden from the eyes of men, Christ being seen in truth only by the eyes of the soul until the Day of the Resurrection, will cover and glorify the body with the Light of the LORD who now is in man in the soul, so that the body will reign with the soul which now receives the Kingdom of Christ and now abides and is illumined in eternal Light.

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!