You know, even in the church calendar there are mistakes after all these centuries. One of the problems is when we scrunch the readings of Luke into the pre-Lenten, there’s a question of what you read. Our calendar was right, what was sent to me over the internet was wrong. It had the gospel reading of the Syro-Phonecian woman. You will hear that next week. But oddly enough you’ll hear the same reading from the apostle Paul next week that you heard this week, but we’ll talk about that then.
What I’m going to talk about today is the Gospel and the real significance of this particular gospel at this time. We’re now back to the beginning of the cycle of Pascha. The three Sundays before we begin are the Lenten Triodion, the Pre-Lenten Sundays start, are dedicated to the blind man, the Syro-Phonecian woman, and then to Zaccheus – the little man who climbed up into the sycamore tree to see Jesus. The thing that unites the blind man and the Syro-Phonecian woman is the knowledge they had through faith that the people surrounding them did not have because they were living in their minds, in their brains, not in their hearts. One was a Jew, one was a Gentile, but both of them recognized Jesus as divine, and as the Savior. Both of them came to Him and both of them were rebuked. When the blind man heard that Jesus was coming, he cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on me” – that is, “Messiah, have mercy on me” – and the crowd told him, “Shut up. Be quiet. This is an important Rabbi, but don’t make a fool of yourself.” And when the Syro-Phonecian woman came up and threw herself at Jesus feet and said, “Lord, have mercy on me,” the disciples wanted to push her away. She was a gentile dog. But both of them insisted, both of them persisted, and both of them received what they wanted. When we gave up Pascha, when we had the last Sunday of Pascha, we celebrated it with the Feast of the Man Born Blind. You remember that every year. The man whose eyes Jesus created out of clay and told him to go wash in the pool of Salom. And then we begin the cycle that brings us to the Triodion, the Pre-Lenten times, we begin with the blind man again. This blind man, this man who cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on me,” was actually the only one there who had sight.
You see that now many of our teachers are reminding us, as Father Alithios Webber pointed out, we’re deceived into believing that we are our brains, that our brains are us. But our brains are simply a database, and that database is corrupt. It’s full of all kinds of garbage, it’s been attacked by all kinds of viruses, all kinds of program deviations. And so it makes us think things, and about things, that we have no business thinking about. I was thinking today, “Is anybody going to notice that the hem on this vestment is too long? I wonder how coffee hour will go. Are the kids going to do a good job for St. Sava’s day?” All these little thoughts intruded on my prayer life, and probably two dozen more, some of which, if I told you, you would be ashamed of me, so I won’t. but these are called by the Fathers “logosmoi.” They are little words uttered in our ear by the demon, by the deceiver, to make us think we are thinking. They are little words that distract us and occupy our minds. Words about self-importance, or about self-deprecation; words that exalt us in our own hearts, or depress us and drive us down, so that we feel we are “lower than a toad’s belly.” These logosmoi are just the distractions that flow into our ears. They make us think things are important that are not. They make us fear. They make us occupy ourselves with thoughts of acquiring entertainment or stimulations that when we acquire them we wonder why we did and we don’t really want them anyway. They make us want things we don’t want. And they’re assisted now, because we are bombarded by the availability of all sorts of information. Why do you suppose God confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel? It is because, he said, “if people could all communicate about every idea that they have, they’ll be able to devise all manner of evil. It will be harmful for themselves. I have to divide them up, spread them out.” But now with the computer, all kinds of knowledge and ignorance, all kinds of wisdom and foolishness, all kinds of beauty and ugliness come into our house from every corner in the world. Sometimes we seek it out, sometimes it just throws itself in your face, but we have available to us logosmoi in the billions. Little evil thoughts, little self deceptions.
But the blind man was not looking at Jesus with the eyes of body, because they were blinded. He’s different from the man born blind because he had seen once. He had been born with vision and had lost, and so he knew what it was to see. But he cried out, seeing in his heart that this man coming to him was the messiah, he proclaimed him as the children did on palm Sunday when nobody else was willing to conjure up the gumption to identify our Lord as what he really was – the savior. “Son of God, have pity on me,” he cries out, and Jesus comes to him and He heals him.
You know today we celebrate two saints: Athanasius, who was a deacon at the council of Nicaea but became patriarch of Alexandria, and Cyril who later followed him as patriarch of Alexandria. And we have in these two men, these men who looked at the world through the eye of their soul, two heroes who stood up against everything that just made sense because it wasn’t true. Athanasius was dealing with Arius. Arius was a brilliant orator. He was also a pretty good song writer – would have probably had three songs in the top ten today – that’s why the church stopped letting people make up hymns like the Protestants have in their hymnals because heresy has a funny way of sneaking its way in between the truth. Arius said, “Look. Everybody knows that there had to have originally been a monad – that is, on little ball of stuff, God stuff. And that then that monad emanated the Son and the Holy Spirit, that’s why we call it Father. And so, there has to have been a time when Jesus didn’t even exist. He came into existence at the first instance of time, He wasn’t eternal. There is no trinity, because,” he said, “all these Greeks, all these people who were trained in Platonism, the whole world knows that everything started out with a little ball of oneness and the emanations came from it. Let’s not be foolish. Even if we want to believe that Jesus is eternal,” he said, “doesn’t it make more sense to get people into the Church by catering to their delusions.” So his only doctrine was an antidoctrine – there was a time, he said, when God the Son did no exist. And Arius spread this heresy, and all the Platonists who couldn’t accept the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as the undivided, consubstantial, eternal trinity, said, “Oh! We’ll go to church now. We’ll be baptized. This is a lot like what we believe. Thank you for changing your teaching so that we could accept it.” And Athanasius said, “No! This is heresy. It’s not true. God the Holy Trinity created the world, but there was not a time when the Trinity did not exist. The world is not the product of some mad monad who needed people to obey and worship him. The world is the product of a loving community of persons whose love overflowed so much that they made others to share that love with.”
And then, having defeated Arius, the Arians came back with what was called semi-Arianism: “Well, lets say just that it’s possible there was a time when God the Son did not exist.”
And lots of people in the Church said, “Athanasius, you’re causing lots of trouble. Our pews are full. Our offering plates are running over. Why don’t you just shut up? If people want to believe that there was a time when the Son of God did not exist, let them believe that. We can believe what we want to. NO! It’s not true. We’re not going to say that the Son is homoousios – that is of one substance with the Father, we’re going to say that He is homoiousios – the same or similar substance with the Father, and that’ll make these people happy.”
And Athanasius said, “I refuse. I refuse to compromise with heresy. I refuse to look through the eye of my logosmoi. I want to look through the eyes of my heart at my God, who is the eternal Trinity.” So he was thrown out of communion. The church did that to him! The bishops were more interested in the money; they were more interested in the people in the pews or standing up in church in those days. They were so interested in power and importance that they buried the truth. So, he spent most of life in exile until finally, in his old age, he was called back, vindicated by the monks who lived in the dessert – not very well educated, but not distracted – the monks who knew that there was never a time when God the Son did not exist, that God the Son was of one essence with the Father. And so he was restored, and vindicated.
And then along came a patriarch of Constantinople. This guy was a, well, we’ll say he was a woman hater. And the empress, who was the ruler of the empire at that time, came to him and said, “Patriarch Nestorius, on the day of my coronation, I intend to enter the Holy Altar and receive communion at the Holy Table.” Do you know women can do that? When we had deaconesses – who were not woman deacons, they were women who ministered to women – the deaconesses received communion at the Holy Table. They didn’t serve in church, but they came into the altar for communion. When an empress is crowned, she receives communion at the altar. Why? Because she’s sharing in the ruling on the earth of the priesthood of Christ.
And he said to her, “You can’t do that.”
“Well, why not?”
“Well you’re a filthy woman.”
And she said, “What?!? I am a virgin.”
And he said, “You’re still a filthy woman.”
She said, “Was the Theotokos a filthy woman?”
And he said, “She’s not Theotokos; she’s not ‘God-bearer.’ She’s just Christotokos- Christ-bearer.”
See, he looked through the eyes of his prejudices and he distorted and twisted the faith to fit his bad attitude. So, he tried to teach that Our Lady only carried the human nature of Christ. Now, what does that mean? It means that Jesus couldn’t be truly and completely God and truly and completely man, right? If she only carried his human nature, where was his divine nature? Hovering above her? Hiding out in her skirts? I don’t know. But it was a stupid, and asinine idea. But because he saw with the eyes of his body, because of that, he created a whole heresy. And it was Cyril, the successor of Athanasius, who stood up and said, “Enough with the blasphemy.” They summoned a council, the Council of Ephesus. And they declared that our Holy Lady, the Mother of God, is Theotokos God-bearer. That she not only gave birth to Him that was God, but she carried in her womb ___ who is God, that she became the temple, the arc of the covenant, the habitation of the divine on earth. And so, what we need to do, brothers and sisters, as we face the questions that come to us – spiritual questions: How often should I pray? How much money should I give? Should I be kind to this beggar? Should read my morning and evening prayers – and practical questions like: How should I act toward others? What should I think of myself? How am I going to deal with my sickness? How am I going to deal with my children? We need to look at these things from the eyes of the heart, and not listen to the logosmoi, the little words the devil whispers to us: “you don’t need church. You can pray anywhere. That’s not really the body of Christ, we just say it is. Those icons are just holy pictures, they’re not windows into heaven.” The happens to us then when we do what’s wrong to the eyes of our heart is that the logosmoi, when they die, when these dead ideas fall out of our head when we’ve entertained them for a while, the form like bat manure in a cave, a collection of garbage inside of us, and they cover up the eye of our soul. So then let us come to Jesus and fall down before Him say, “The eye of our heart is blind Lord, at least it’s distorted, warped by the bat guano surrounding it. Son of David, Messiah, have mercy on us,” and hear Him say, “Thy faith hath made thee whole. Go in peace.”
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Glory to Jesus Christ.