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Homily for 12/11/11 - P 26 - two women, two men

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  • Fr David Moser
    Luke 13:10-17 Last week was the feast of the Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple. When the Virgin Mary turned 3 years old, in accordance with their vow,
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 11, 2011
      Luke 13:10-17

      Last week was the feast of the Entry of the Mother of God into the
      Temple. When the Virgin Mary turned 3 years old, in accordance with
      their vow, her parents brought her to the temple where she would grow up
      dedicated to the service of God. This was an established practice that
      some children were brought to the temple at an early age and that there
      they would grow in the service of God until they became adults at which
      time they would return to their parents homes, be married and begin to
      live their adult lives. What was different and miraculous about the
      entry of the Virgin into the temple was that the High Priest at that
      time, Zachariah, was inspired by the Holy Spirit to do something
      extraordinary. It was revealed to him by God that this child was the one
      who would bear the Messiah, God Incarnate. She would become the “living
      ark” of which the ark of the covenant was but an icon. God would dwell
      in her and through her God would come to save His people. Seeing this,
      Zachariah took the young child and in recognition that here was the ark
      of God set her in the place of the long lost ark of the covenant in the
      Holy of Holies. This was something that was just not done, it was out of
      the ordinary and contrary to all law and custom - but this the High
      Priest did at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as an act of prophecy.
      (Is it any wonder that the father of the last and greatest of the
      prophets was himself a prophet?)

      The Holy Virgin Mary lived there in the temple and was given the
      greatest task - that of spinning the purple thread that would be woven
      into the cloth which would be used for the curtain separating the Holy
      of Holies from the rest of the temple. She lived a life without willful
      sin, always choosing to serve God and never choosing to act in any way
      contrary to the law of God. Certainly she was subject to the corruption
      and sinfulness which is our common heritage as the result of Adam’s
      ancestral sin, however, in as much as it was possible, she herself never
      willfully sinned. In this state of exalted purity the Virgin grew and
      matured while working in the temple, praying constantly. Because of her
      piety and righteous life, she was visited frequently by the angels and
      by God’s will and provision, taught by them of the mysteries of the
      Kingdom of Heaven. She did not as yet understand that she would be the
      one to bear God Incarnate, however, knowing that the coming of the
      Messiah was promised and knowing that His mother would be a woman of
      great blessing, the Virgin desired that she might someday serve that
      chosen woman who would be the instrument of the coming of our salvation.
      Little did she realize that she was to be that woman. Is it any wonder
      that God would choose such a pure and holy person as His earthly mother
      and would come to her and dwell within her?

      We have, by contrast, today in the Gospel another woman to consider.
      This woman was afflicted by a bent and twisted spine such that she was
      bent double, unable to straighten herself for eighteen years. She was
      ugly and twisted and no one could bear to look at her without being
      repulsed. She herself could not look into the faces of men, but only at
      the ground in front of her. She could not raise her eyes to heaven to
      see the sun and moon, the stars and clouds or any of those lofty
      testaments to God’s greatness. She could only see the earth, and only a
      small patch of that earth. In appearance, this woman was everything that
      the Most Pure Virgin was not; she was not perfect, she was twisted; she
      was bound by a demon in this deformity and unable to raise even her
      eyes, let alone her arms and hands and her whole body to heaven in
      prayer. While angels came and spoke to the Most Holy Virgin, not even
      men would speak to this woman. While the Most Holy Virgin occupied
      herself with the lofty task of making the curtain for the Holy of
      Holies, this woman could do no task and was dependant on the charity and
      care of others. While the Most Holy Virgin was brought into the Holy of
      Holies, the heart of the temple and the heart of the worship of the One
      True God, this woman was barely tolerated in the synagogue, far away
      from the temple. These two women were worlds apart, there was no
      likeness between them.

      But to each of them, something common happened. To each of them God
      Himself came. Certainly we can understand how God would come to the Most
      Holy Virgin for she had been prepared by centuries of history to be the
      one chosen for the incarnation of God. But how was it that God would
      come to this twisted and deformed woman held captive by a demon and
      despised by men?

      God came to the Most Holy Virgin out of love and compassion for all
      mankind. He came that He might free us from our enslavement to sin,
      death and the devil. Even though the Most Holy Virgin lived a life that
      was as pure and free of sin as possible, still she had within her the
      seed of corruption, that sinful kernel rooted in her soul that kept her
      bound to sin and death. Despite her pure and holy life, she needed the
      coming of the Savior as much as anyone else, in fact perhaps more for
      she is the pinnacle of human spiritual achievement and yet all she
      accomplished was not sufficient to free her from sin, for that she
      needed the help of the Messiah – God incarnate. And so out of love and
      compassion for her and for all like her, God came to her and became man
      through her. She became truly the ark of God, bearing within herself Him
      who bears all, containing in her womb the Uncontainable, and from her
      God took flesh and became man and dwelt among us.

      But our Lord did not only come to those of ultimate purity and holiness.
      He did not come only to save the “beautiful people”. He came to seek and
      to save the lost, he came to heal the sick, free the captive, give sight
      to the blind and raise the dead. He came even to touch and save the most
      lowly and despised person in the world. And in the course of his life,
      he came to this woman. Having entered into the synagogue, He saw her and
      was not repulsed, did not turn away in disgust, but was instead moved by
      compassion and love. Rather than drive her away, He called her to
      himself. Rather than insult her, He spoke to her with respect and honor.
      Rather than turn her away, He reached out and touched her and raised her
      up and healed her. Just as the Most Holy Virgin needed a savior, so also
      this woman, bent over and enslaved by the demon needed a savior - and to
      both of them the Savior came.

      It does not matter whether we are pure and holy, like the Virgin Mary,
      or whether we are bent double with a load of sin as was the crippled
      woman we too need a Savior. And just as God came to both of these women,
      He also comes to us. He sees our righteousness, but He sees beyond our
      righteousness to the seed of corruption that rests in our soul and
      applies to it the balm of grace that we might no longer be enslaved by
      it. He sees our sin and the distorted and disfigured appearance of the
      soul, but looks beyond our sin to see the desire to be freed, the desire
      to love God, the desire to follow Him - and He frees us, bidding us to
      come after Him. Whether we are “righteous” or sinful, whether we are
      good or evil, whether we are naughty or nice, whether we are beautiful
      or disfigured, no matter what or who we are in the world, we all need a
      savior - one Who will free us from our sins, one Who will set us on the
      paths of righteousness, one Who will shower us with His grace that we
      might be transformed into the image and likeness of God. We need Christ.
      And to each of us Christ comes.

      We spoke of these two women, but there are also two men to compare. We
      have first the holy prophet and High Priest Zachariah, who contrary to
      all law and custom receiving the divine vision - recognized God’s voice
      and hand and took the Most Holy Virgin Mary and placed her in the Holy
      of Holies signifying that she was chosen to become the living ark of the
      covenant. On the other hand we have the ruler of the synagogue who
      seeing that this suffering woman had been healed and freed from her
      torment on the Sabbath, berated our Lord Jesus Christ, not recognizing
      the voice of God or His hand, for not abiding by the law and custom. One
      man saw God and recognized Him, the other saw God and did not recognize
      Him. One man broke the “law” to follow God and the other kept the law,
      but did not follow God.

      Christ came to each of the women who were in need and Christ came to
      each of the men and Christ comes to us. Each time that we encounter
      Christ, whether it be in the Church, in the sacraments, at home in our
      prayers, in the world in those that we meet, the question before us is
      how will we respond. Will we say, as did the Most Holy Virgin - “let it
      be unto me according to the word of God” - or will we turn away from God
      as did the ruler of synagogue - saying to God, “how dare You act in a
      way that is not according to my expectations.”

      Today we see the great compassion and love of God which encompasses all
      mankind from the greatest to the least. Today, and every day, we also
      are faced with the choice to follow Him or to follow our own
      expectations and our own will. This is the choice that we each face from
      moment to moment, to live according to this world and our own
      understanding, or to live according to the Life of Christ. Which will it be?

      --
      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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