Faith and worship

The Lord is everything to me. He is the strength of my heart and the light of my intellect. He inclines my heart to everything good; He strengthens it; He also gives me good thoughts; He is my rest and my joy; He is my faith hope and love.

St. John of Kronstadt

Recent sermon

Sunday of the Paralysed Man

15th May 2022

In the Kontakion for this Sunday, we pray:
With your divine protection, O Lord, as you once raised the paralytic, now lift up my soul paralysed with all kinds of sin and evil deeds of wickedness, so that, as saved, I may cry out to you: Glory to your might, O merciful Christ.

In this prayer we identify ourselves with the paralytic in today’s Gospel, as those who are paralyzed with all kinds of sin.

The Lord says to us as to the paralytic: Do you want to be made well?

When asked Do you want to be made well? the paralytic responds:

Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.

On the one hand it seems the paralyzed man sees his situation as hopeless, after all he has been in his condition for 38 years, in a text from vespers he is described as being like an unburied dead man,

Yet, the following passage, also from vespers, suggests the paralytic has hope in Christ’s offer of healing.

When he [the paralytic] saw you, O Lord, he cried out: Have mercy on me, for my bed has become my grave. Of what use is my life? I have no need for the Sheep Pool, for there is none to put me into the water. Therefore I come to You, O Fountain of all healing, that with all I may cry to You: O Lord Almighty, glory to You!

In the Gospel text, in describing his predicament I have no one, it seems the paralyzed man acknowledges a desire to be healed. He is speaking to The One who can bring about true healing, the one who shares completely in his suffering and who can raise him up again, who offers him Resurrection.

What kind of healing is Christ offering? When he meets the paralytic in the Temple, after he has been healed, Christ says: See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more. In vespers, there is a prayer speaking of the paralytic as having been made whole.

What does it mean to be made whole, to be freed from paralysis? Quoting from a hymn honouring Saint Segius of Radonezh:

He lived his bodily life spiritually, spent his days on Earth as if it were heaven, communed with people as if they were angels, and his own world was otherworldly. ( Sergei Fudel - Light in the Darkness P.9)

Sergei Fudel, in commenting on this prayer, says: Perhaps we do not want to live like this. We might put it another way: Perhaps we do not want to be healed? Sergei Fudel goes on to say. But each one of us must try, within the measure of his strength, to live on earth in this heavenly way.

The Lord taught us to pray: Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Do we truly make this prayer our own, pray it from the bottom of our hearts? Do we really want to live on Earth as if in heaven?

We also pray for the forgiveness of our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We might note that in this hymn honouring Saint Sergius, it is not he himself who is likened to an angel. Rather, it is said of Saint Sergius that he communed with people as if they were angels. To be healed, is to see others as if they were angels. To commune with people as if they were angels requires a forgiving heart.

Healing comes through forgiveness. Implied in the question Do you want to be made well, to be made whole? is another: Do you want to truly forgive from the bottom of our hearts?

As Sergei Fudel says, perhaps we don’t want to live like this, or perhaps not very often, but each of us must try to live The Lord’s prayer: Thy Kingdom Come. In the time of Christ, people were expecting a King who was going to fight their corner, a strong leader. When Pilate asked him Are you the King of the Jews Christ responded:

My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here. (John 18: 36)

Sergei Fudel says:

I do not understand the suffering of the world. I only understand that the Creator of the world became part of the world’s suffering and let his beloved Son share in it. Christianity speaks to us of God who suffers, suffers not because of His guilt, but because of compassion, because of love. (– Sergei Fudel - Light in the Darkness P.77)

Thy Kingdom Come. We have a King who came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, a King who was betrayed by one of his own, or rather as we pray in the Divine Liturgy: gave himself up for the life of the world.

Today we celebrate Saint Pachomios the Great who is generally recognised as the founder of cenobitic monasticism, that form of monasticism involving living as community. To commemorate Saint Pachomios we enumerated the fruit of the Holy Spirit in the Epistle to the Galatians, and in the Gospel we remembered Christ’s words in the beatitudes, those things very much necessary for living with one another, living as community, living in the image of God the Trinity.

Our celebrations as we come to the midpoint between Easter and Pentecost, are illumined by both feasts:

Having beheld the Resurrection, let us accept Christ’s offer to free us from our paralysis, through his Cross, through which joy has come into all the world. Anticipating Pentecost, let us acquire the Holy Spirit, the fruit of which is love, joy, peace and so-forth, that Christ may rule in our hearts, the one who gave himself for the life of the world, the one who said Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven and Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Let us acquire peace in our hearts, our prayer for the peace of the whole world is made personal in this petition we pray frequently: Let us pray for those things which are good and profitable for our souls, and peace for the world.

Christ is risen!