Strumica Diocese: News

Healing of the Paralytic ( 24.03.2008 )

            “…And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.

            When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you.’” (Mark 2:1-12)

            My children, listen carefully to my explanation of the Gospel reading for the past Sunday. This last sentence, which I have just read to you, contains mainly what is to be interpreted.

            In the Gospel text the first thing stressed is the faith of the paralytic and of those who carry him. First of all the faith of the paralytic…

            I have once already told you that faith or belief depends much on and differs in relation to the stage of spiritual growth at which a man is. The thing in which he who is at the stage of purification of the heart from the passions still believes and aspires towards, for him who is at the second stage is already knowledge and experience rather than a matter of faith. The thing in which one who is at the stage of illumination of the mind still believes and aspires towards, for the one who is deified is already knowledge and experience rather than a matter of faith…

            However, so that faith changes into knowledge and experience, great struggle and humility are required. Such struggle and humility we see in the effort, first of all of the paralytic, to come near Christ the Godman. First of all humility… To be brought through the roof with hope and for the sake of cure (just as in many cases so far), and instead of this to hear publicly only the reason for his illness (sin) and to accept without any thought all that—does not this show humility and gratitude? Yes, the paralytic’s behavior shows he has become aware of the reason for his illness, which is sin, as Christ also confirms, and accepts with humility and gratefulness the Lord’s decision, counting himself unworthy even for that much—to be forgiven ‘only’ his sins.

            As I have mentioned it to you before, the acceptance of God’s word for us, the acceptance of God’s will for us and the acceptance of God’s providence for us, with humility and thankfulness, simultaneously means our opening and our acceptance of God’s grace. Consequently, it also means our healing, both in soul and in body. Thus, the second thing emphasized in today’s Gospel reading is sin and apostasy from God as the reason for our illnesses, both psychical and physical.

            The third thing highlighted in today’s Gospel reading is the truth that God our Lord is the only One Who has the authority to forgive sins, if we approach Him with faith and repentance, i.e. with humility and gratitude. Genuine repentance means sin not being repeated. Genuine forgiveness of sins is also recognized by non-repetition of the sin. He who has true repentance will be given true forgiveness of the sin by the Lord Himself, which also means healing of the consequences of sin. True forgiveness of the sin and healing of its consequences is nothing but restoration of our union with God, with the Godman Jesus Christ.

            This moment exactly, the forgiveness of sin, is the reason for the scribes’ thoughts. They know from the Books of the Law that only God has the authority to forgive sins. That is why they would have probably not thought anything had Christ merely healed the paralytic, because that would have been just another healing among the many He had performed at that time; the proclamation of the forgiveness, though, scandalized them. For the sake of their conversion and salvation, Christ acts in the sequence in which the events take place: first He publicly forgives and then He publicly heals, too. Finally, He reveals them the thoughts of their hearts lovingly (with no reproaches, as He would do when seeing unrepentance), and He also manifests before them God’s power and authority from Himself with the healing of the paralytic. The Gospel itself also confirms this: “so that all [without exceptions] were amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’”

            My children, you notice that I am not interpreting the Gospel to you by means of parables, as is the custom in the ‘Alexandrian School’ and as some like interpreting, so that I say that, for instance, the house in which Christ resides is man’s heart and the grace of the Holy Spirit in it, while the uncovering of the roof and letting down the paralytic through it is the opening of the heart and the descent of the mind in it. Nor do I interpret it to you merely historically and ethically, as is the custom in the ‘Antiochian School’. This is an ascetical-hesychastic interpretation of the ‘Macedonian School’, which always in its interpretations starts from the personal principle, from the harmony of Orthodox spiritual life and no more from what God already gave us. That will be all about this.

            Genuine forgiveness of sins is purification of the heart from the passions and its opening for the mind-and-heart prayer. It is liberation from the slavery to passions, from sin and from the demon. It is detachment from the world. Therefore does the Lord fatherly address the paralytic with the word ‘son’…

Metropolitan of Strumica Naum