Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: [orthodox-synod] Seeking understanding.

Expand Messages
  • Philosoph
    According to St Nikolai Velmirovich: Gergesa and Gadara were cities in the pagan lands on the far side of the Sea of Galilee. They were two cities among ten
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 24, 2005
    • 0 Attachment
      According to St Nikolai Velmirovich:

      Gergesa and Gadara were cities in the pagan lands on the far side of the Sea
      of Galilee. They were two cities among ten that once stood on the shores of
      this sea.

      Here is St Nikolai's excellent homily for this Sunday's gospel about the
      Gergasenes from Volume 2 of his Homilies. I really enjoyed this homily. I
      highly recommend this book to you. It has lengthy homilies for every Sunday
      of the year.

      5. THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST The Gospel on the Men's Salvation and
      the Pigs' Destruction Matthew 8:28-9: 1

      And when He was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes,
      there met Him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding
      fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And behold, they cried out,
      saying: "What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God? Art Thou come
      hither to torment us before the time?" And there was a good way off from
      them an herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought Him, saying: "If
      Thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine." And He said
      unto them: "Go." And when they were come out, they went into the herd of
      swine; and behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place
      into the sea, and perished in the waters. And they that kept them fled, and
      went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen
      to the possessed

      of the devils. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus, and when
      they saw Him, they besought Him that He would depart out of their coasts.
      And He entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into His own city.

      Men work unrighteousness against God, and so they are angry with God. 0 men,
      who has the right to be angry with anyone?

      The godless close their mouths and think: "Let us not mention the name of
      God, so that He will vanish from this world!" 0 miserable men, your mouths
      are in the minority in the wide world. Have you seen and heard how a weir
      gives a river a voice? Without a weir, the river would be inaudi­ble and
      dumb; but the weir has opened its throat and every droplet has received a

      Your weir will do the same thing: it will open the throat of the voice­less
      and teach the dumb to speak. If your lips stop confessing the name of the
      Lord, you will be filled with fear at hearing the irrational and the dumb
      con­fessing it. In very truth I tell you: if you keep silence, the stones
      would imme­diately cry out (Luke 19:40). If all men on earth keep silence,
      the grass will give tongue. If all men blot out the name of God among
      themselves, it will be written in the rainbow across the sky and with fire
      on every grain of sand. Then sand will be men, and men will be sand.

      The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His


      Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

      handiwork. One day telleth another, and one night certifieth another (Psalm
      18/19:1-2). Thus speaks the Seer and Psalmist. And how do you speak? You
      scornfully keep silent about God; therefore the stones will give tongue. And
      when the stones speak, you will want to speak, but will not be able to.
      Speech will be taken from you and given to the stones. Then stones will be
      men, and men will be stones.

      It came to pass in olden times that hard-mouthed men beheld the face of the
      Son of God and did not know Him, nor were their tongues loosened to glorify
      Him. Then the living God opened the tongues of demons, that they should
      shame men by their recognition Of the Son of God. Demons, worse than stones
      and of less value than sand, cried out in the presence of the Son of God
      while men stood dumb around Him. And when that which had utterly fallen away
      from God was constrained to confess His name, how could not blameless stone,
      that blindly submits to God's will?

      God gives men a lesson, not only through the sky, filled with angels and
      adorned with stars, or through the earth, all covered with the media of
      God's created beings, but even through the demons. Just to give the pagans,
      who so easily find the way to hell, a chance to be ashamed of
      something ­anything whatsoever - and rise up to the heights, and save their
      souls from the abyss, fire and stench.

      The chosen men who accompanied the Lord Jesus on His travels had shown their
      faith to be shallow, so the Lord led them to a region of the great­est
      paganism, in order there to shame them and denounce their lack of faith by
      means of that which was to happen. What happened is described in today's

      And when Jesus was come to the other side into the country of the
      Gergesenes, there met Him two possessed with devils, coming out of the
      tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. Gergesa and
      Gadara were cities in the pagan lands on the far side of the Sea of Galilee.
      They were two cities among ten that once stood on the shores of this sea. In
      the accounts given by Mark and Luke, Gadara is mentioned instead of Gergesa,
      which means only that these two cities were very close together, and that
      the event being recounted took place somewhere between the two. The
      Evangelists Mark and Luke mention one madman, while Matthew speaks of two.
      The first two Evangelists mention one of these two, who was more fearsome
      than the other and was a terror to the whole region, while Matthew mentions
      them both, for they were both healed by the Lord. That one of them was
      better-known than the other is seen from Saint Luke's account, when he says
      that this madman was from the city - out of the city a certain man, and he
      must, as a townsman, have been better-known than the


      Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

      others, who was probably a villager. It is also seen from Luke's words that
      he had devils long time, that means that he had been sick for years and
      must, because of this, have become well-known in the whole region. That he
      was a great deal madder and more frenzied than the other is clear from
      Luke's Idling us that he was kept bound in chains and in fetters; and he
      brake the bonds, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness (Luke
      8:29). This is, then, the reason why two Evangelists only mention one man,
      although there were two of them. We often do much the same thing today in
      giving an account of some incident, mentioning, for example, only the leader
      of a gang of thieves that has been caught. When the whole gang has been
      arrested with its leader, we say that such and such a leader of a gang of
      thieves has been apprehended. The Evangelists do the same. As Mark and Luke
      fill out Matthew's account in one detail, as in the description of the
      sickest of the madmen, so Matthew does the same for Mark and Luke in others,
      as in the mention of the two madmen.

      These madmen lived in the tombs, and left them to wander in the wilderness,
      terrorizing the people in the fields and on the roads, especially the road
      that passed near where they were living. The pagans most often had their
      tombs on the roadside, and this was not a rare practice among the Jews.
      Rachel's tomb is beside the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem; Manasses' tomb
      is by the road to the Dead Sea. Overcoming these two men, the devil then
      used them as his weapons to bring other men to destruction, for it is the
      chief characteristic of men who have been possessed by devils to work only
      destruction and wickedness. They are stripped of every good thing. It is
      said of one of them that he wore no clothes. Along with his physical
      nakedness, his soul was not clothed in any good thing, any gift of God's
      Spirit, but was utterly naked and empty of good, that is God's gift. And
      both of them were

      so evil and wicked that no man might pass by that way.

      And behold, they cried out, saying: "What have we to do with Thee, Jesus,
      Thou Son of God? Art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?" In
      this cry made by the devils, the most important thing is that the devils
      recognised Jesus as the Son of God and, in an extremity of terror, cried
      this aloud. Let those who look on the Lord's face and cannot recognise Him,
      or who recognise Him but do not acknowledge Him and publicly con­fess Him,
      be ashamed. (Zigaben says: "As the disciples and the people saw Him as a
      man, the devils therefore now come and proclaim His divinity.")

      The devils, it is true, did not proclaim Christ with any joy or pleasure,
      like a man who finds some great treasure, rejoicing and crying aloud, or as
      the Apostle Peter cried out with joy: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the
      living God!" (Matthew 16:16); but they cried out in fear and horror, seeing


      Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

      Judge before them. They cried out, and proclaimed Him from whose name they
      most greatly shrank in fear, and whose name they kept most secret among men
      and erased from men's hearts. They cried out in torment and despair, in the
      same way as many men, who only in torment and despair shape their tongues to
      the pronouncing of God's name.

      "What have we to do with Thee, Jesus Thou Son of God?" ask the demons. ~at
      is there in common between Thee and us? What is the mean­ing of this
      unexpected and undesired visit of Thine? "What concord hath Christ with
      Belial?" (II Corinthians 6:15). None whatever. And therefore Belial's
      servants, man's tormentors, ask Christ why He has come to them "to torment
      us before the time". They are expecting the hour of judgement and torment at
      the end of time. Christ's appearing before them is in itself a tor­ment, and
      this a more terrible torment than light to a mole or fire to a spider. In
      Christ's absence, the demons are so insolent and arrogant that they debase
      the men in thrall to them to a level lower than that of cattle, and terrify
      the whole neighbourhood so that no man might pass by that way.

      In Christ's presence they were not only abjectly terrified but were, in
      their terror, humbled - like every tyrant before its judge - for they began
      humbly to beg the Lord not to send them into the depths of the sea: And they
      besought Him that He would not command them to go out into the deep. "That
      He would not command them" means that, had He commanded them, they would
      have had to go there. Such is the authority of Christ, and such is His
      power, the deep being their true abode and place of torment. The discern­ing
      Prophet spoke of the leader of all the demons: "How art thou fallen from
      heaven, 0 Lucifer, son of the morning ... thou shalt be brought down to
      hell, to the sides of the pit" (Isaiah 14:12,15), where there is wailing and
      gnashing of teeth. Because of men's sins, and by God's permission, the
      demons are let loose among men. Is it not easier for them among men than in
      the pit? When they are among men, they torment men; when they are in the
      deep they have only themselves to torment. When they are among men, they are
      in great tor­ment, but this torment is lessened by that of others.

      The devil is the body's destroyer, a thorn in the flesh, as the Apostle
      Paul, who had felt his presence, called him (11 Corinthians 12:7). Through
      the body, as if on a staircase, he crawls into the soul and seizes on a
      man's heart and mind, until he has completely devoured them, disfigured them
      and emptied them of divine beauty and purity, of understanding and
      righteous­ness, of love and faith, of hope in good and the desire for good.
      Then he enshrines himself in the man as on his throne, and takes all the
      threads of the man's body and soul into his hands, and the man becomes to
      him an animal on which he rides, a pipe through which he plays, a wild beast
      through which


      Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

      he devours. The madmen described in the Gospel were like this. It is not
      said that these men saw Christ, recognised Him, named Him or conversed with
      Him; this was all done by the demons within them. The madmen were as though
      they did not exist, like two corpses that the demons drove before them and
      pursued with their whips. To heal such men was to raise the dead, and more
      than that, for a dead man means that the soul is separated from the body. If
      the soul is in God's hands, God is able to return it to the body and restore
      it to life. But these men in thrall to the demons were in a state worse than
      death, for their souls had been stolen from them and enslaved by the demons,
      and the demons held them in their hands. It was first necessary to wrest the
      men's souls from the demons and to drive them out, and then to restore the
      men's souls to them. Thus the miracle of the healing of these madmen is at
      least equal to that of the raising of the dead, if not greater.

      "Art Thou come hither to torment us before the time? ", the demons asked
      Christ. They already knew that torment awaited them at the end. Oh, that
      sinful men should know this: that torment awaits them in no less mea­sure
      than that which awaited the demons! The demons knew that, at the end, the
      human race, their main fodder, would be wrested from their hands, and that
      they would be cast into the dark pit where they would have only them­selves
      to gnaw at and devour. The great Prophet said of the leader of the demons
      that he will be cast out of thy grave (out of the body of the men in thrall)
      like an abominable branch ... as a carcase trodden under feet (Isaiah 14:
      19). And the Lord Himself testified: "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from
      heaven" (Luke 10:18). All men will see it at the end, when the sinful are
      also hurled like lightning into the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil
      and all his angels (Matthew 25:41).

      While the demons were, in fear and trembling, begging Christ, there was a
      large herd of swine, about two thousand (Mark 5:13), quietly feeding on the
      hill. The demons begged Jesus: "If Thou cast us out, suffer us to go away
      into the herd of swine." That is: don't drive us into the deep, but send us
      at least into the pigs' bodies. "If Thou cast us out". They did not say:
      "out of the man"; they would not even mention him, so dead was he to them.
      Of all creatures in the whole universe, there is none that the devil hates
      and envies as he does man. The Lord Jesus, on the contrary, laid especial
      empha­sis on the word "man": "Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit!"
      (Mark 5:8). They did not want to leave the man; they would infinitely rather
      have stayed in him than go into the swine, for what use would the swine have
      been to them? While the demons can make men like swine, and far worse than
      swine, what can they make of swine? In any case, even when they are in the
      swine, or in any other creature, their wickedness is still wrought against


      Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

      man. They will, through the swine, go on doing man harm; if in no other way,
      then by drowning the swine and provoking men's fury against God. So, when
      the void of the deep is in question, they prefer to go into the swine than
      into the deep.

      And He said unto them: "Go." And when they were come out, they went into the
      herd of swine; and behold, the whole herd of swine ran violent­ly down a
      steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. The demons could
      easily have driven these two wretched men to drown themselves in the sea,
      were God's power not to have prevented this. It does happen, though, not
      infrequently, that those out of their minds break themselves to pieces by
      falling from a great height or drown in water, or leap into fire, or hang
      them­selves. The wicked demons drive them to it, their aim being not only to
      cor­rupt human life but also to kill men's souls in both worlds. It also,
      though, frequently happens that God, in His most wise dispensation,
      preserves men from such a death.

      Why did the Lord Jesus send the evil spirits into the swine? He could have
      sent them into the trees or the rocks, so why particularly into the swine?
      Not in order to do what the demons asked, but in order to teach men. Where
      there are swine, there is uncleanness, and the impure spirits love
      unclean­ness; where it does not exist, they create it by force. Where there
      is a little, they very quickly add to it, and soon make that little into
      much. When they settle within the purest man, they very quickly amass
      swinish impurity with­in him. By the swine's rushing downhill and drowning
      in the sea, the Lord wanted to teach us how weak a defence voracity and
      gluttony are against dia­bolic powers, and to remind us about fasting. What
      do voracity and gluttony have to do with the swine? See how quickly the
      demonic power overcame them and drove them to destruction! So it is with
      voracious and gluttonous men, who think that they can, by gluttony, build up
      their strength. They do not, however, increase their strength in this way,
      but their weakness, both physical and spiritual. (Basil the Great, in his
      Word. No. 10, on fasting, says: "I know that doctors do not prescribe sick
      people various foods, but absti­nence and fasting. Do you reckon that a
      ship's captain will more easily save his ship by overloading it, or by
      loading it lightly, in moderation?") Gluttonous people are lacking in
      character, weak before men and even weak­er before demons. There is nothing
      easier for the demons than to drive them to drown in the sea of spiritual

      We see here an even clearer teaching: how terrible the demons' power is when
      God does not hold it in check. The demons, who had been in only two men,
      overcame, and drowned in a few moments, about two thousand pigs. But God
      held them there until Christ came - to show His power and


      Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

      authority over them; and then He let them go - to show the power of the
      demons. Were God to have allowed it, the demons would, in a few moments,
      have done with all men on earth as they did with the swine. But God loves
      mankind, and His limitless love holds us in life and protects us from our
      fiercest and most terrible foes.

      Some will ask if God did not grieve, firstly, at the destruction of so many
      swine, and secondly, that the townsfolk should sustain such a loss. Only the
      devil leads men to such thoughts, as though to show himself more
      compassionate than Christ. What are swine but grass on the hoof? When God
      does not grieve for the white lilies of the field, that are today clothed
      more sumptuously than King Solomon, and tomorrow are burned up, why should
      He grieve for the swine? Is it somehow harder for God to create swine than
      lilies of the field? But some, again, will say: it is not a matter of their
      beauty but of their usefulness. And are swine of use to men only when they
      feed and Fatten the body, and not when they assist in the enlightening of
      his soul? Here it is the second case. "Ye are of more value than many
      sparrows" (Matthew 10:31), said the Lord to men. Are not men of more value
      and importance than many swine - even than two or three thousand swine? Let
      each ponder on himself and his own worth, and he will quickly come to the
      conviction that the teaching for mankind that is given through this incident
      with the swine is a very low assessment. It was obviously necessary - and
      fairly drastically so - to show the blunted human race, firstly, how impure
      the devil is and, secondly, how great is his power. No words on earth could
      express this as clearly as the madness and drowning of the swine at the very
      moment that the evil spirits entered into them. What words could convince
      the pagan citizens of Gergesa and Gadara if this terrifyingly clear proof -
      no, not proof; revelation - could not arouse them from the sleep of sin and
      bring them to the consciousness of the pit into which the demons - as they
      did with

      the swine - were mercilessly dragging them, or instruct them in the faith of
      Christ the Almighty?

      See what happened next: the swineherds fled, and went their ways into the
      city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of

      the devils. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus, and when they
      saw Him, they besought Him that He would depart out of their coasts. Fear
      and horror took hold of the swineherds and the townsfolk, and they were
      afraid (Luke 8:35). They all saw something they had never before seen or
      heard: the madmen from whom they had suffered for so many years sitting at
      Christ's feet, calm and in their right minds. They heard the story from the
      apostles and the swineherds of how Christ had healed the madmen, of how a
      legion of demons had trembled with fear at the very presence of Christ, of


      Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

      how they had begged Him in terror to send them into the swine if He would
      not let them remain in the men, and finally of how the evil spirits had,
      like a whirlwind, convulsed the swine and plunged them into the depths of
      the sea. They heard all this, understood it well and saw the two restored
      men who had, so little earlier, been like two dead men, now cleansed and
      raised from the dead; they looked into the face of the meek Lord, who was
      calmly and peacefully standing before them, as though He had not performed a
      miracle greater than that of throwing down the hill of Gergesa and casting
      it into the sea - and of all this those benighted townsfolk kept only one
      thing in their minds and hearts: that their swine had been destroyed without
      redress. Instead of falling to their knees and thanking the Lord for saving
      the two men, they complained at the loss of the swine! Instead of inviting
      the Lord to be their guest, they begged Him to go away as quickly as
      possible. Instead of singing God's praises, they raised a lament for the

      Let us not be in a hurry to condemn these Gergesenes' love for their swine
      before we consider the society of our day, and count up all our swine loving
      fellow-townsfolk, who would, just like the Gergesenes, have more concern for
      their pigs than the lives of their neighbours. Just think how few there are
      today, even among those who cross themselves and confess Christ with their
      tongues, who would not quickly make up their minds to kill two men if this
      would give them two thousand pigs. Or think if there are many among you who
      would sacrifice two thousand pigs to save the lives of two madmen. Let those
      who condemn the Gergesenes before first condemning themselves be filled with
      deep shame. Were the Gergesenes to rise up today from their graves, and
      begin to count, they would arrive at a vast number of the like-minded in
      Christian Europe! They at least begged Christ to leave them, while the
      peoples of Europe drive Him out. And why? In order to be left alone with
      their pigs and their masters, the demons.

      The whole of this incident, from beginning to end, has an even deep­er,
      inner meaning. This that we have said is sufficient as a teaching, warning
      and means of arousing all those who feel themselves in their bodies as if in
      a tomb; who perceive the working of demonic power in the passions that press
      on them like iron shackles and chains, dragging them down to the pit of
      destruction; who, along with all this, reckon man's worth in himself: his
      soul more than all pigs, all cattle, all lands and riches, and who seek
      healing and

      the Healer of their sickness at the cost of all they have.

      The whole account finishes with these words: And He entered into a ship, and
      passed over, and came into His own city. He did not say a word to the
      Gergesenes. What use would words be when such a divine miracle was of no
      use? Words did not bring them to submission. Of what use would it be


      Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

      to bring dead tombs to submission? He went down the hill in silence, got
      into the ship and left them. What meekness, patience and divine sublimity!
      What 1111 empty victory it was for the commander, one of the Caesars, who
      wrote to the Senate: "I came, 1 saw, 1 conquered!" Christ came, saw,
      conquered - and kept silence. And, by keeping silence, He gave His victory a
      wonderful, eter­nal character. Let the pagans learn, if they will, from the
      example of the meek Lord Christ, who never imposes Himself. He who receives
      Him receives eternal life; and he who drives Him away remains in the company
      of the swine, in eternal madness and eternal death.

      o Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners, heal us and save us! To
      Thee be glory and praise, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit - the
      Trinity consubstantial and undivided, now and forever, through all time and
      all eternity. Amen.

    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.