April 29, 2018

THE FIFTH EOTHINON GOSPEL

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 24:12-35

At that time, Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, wondering to himself what had happened. That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered Him, “Art Thou the only visitor to Jerusalem Who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, Who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find His body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So He went in to stay with them. When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

THE EPISTLE

The Reading from the Acts of the Apostles 9:32-42

In those days, as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints that lived at Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years and was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. Now there was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him entreating him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he had come, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing tunics and other garments, which Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.

THE GOSPEL

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John 5:1-15

At that time, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Bethsaida, which has five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and troubled the water; whoever stepped in first, after the troubling of the water was healed of whatever disease he had. One man was there, who had been ill for 38 years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your pallet.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me said to me, ‘Take up your pallet, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your pallet, and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befalls you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus Who had healed him.

Thee who art the mediatrix for the salvation of our race, we praise O virgin Theotokos. For in the flesh assumed from thee after that He had suffered the passion of the Cross, thy Son and our God delivered us from corruption, because He is the lover of mankind.

AT THE DIVINE LITURGY

RESURRECTIONAL APOLYTIKION

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad, for the Lord hath done a mighty act with His own arm. He hath trampled down death by death and became the first-born from the dead. He hath delivered us from the depths of Hades, granting the world the Great Mercy.

THE APOLYTIKON OF THE PROTECTION OF THE MOST

HOLY THEOTOKOS

“Today the Virgin stands in the midst of the Church, and with choirs of Saints she invisibly prays to God for us. Angels and Bishops venerate Her, Apostles and prophets rejoice together, since for our sake she prays to the Eternal God!”

KONTAKION OF PASCHA

O Immortal One, when Thou didst descend into the tomb, Thou didst destroy the power of Hades; and Thou didst rise victorious, O Christ God. Thou hast said to the ointment-bearing women: Rejoice! And Thou gavest peace to Thy Disciples, O Bestower of Resurrection to those Who had fallen.

ORTHROS

RESURRECTIONAL APOLYTIKION

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad, for the Lord hath done a mighty act with His own arm. He hath trampled down death by death and became the first-born from the dead. He hath delivered us from the depths of Hades, granting the world the Great Mercy.

RESURRECTIONAL APOLYTIKION IN TONE THREE

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad, for the Lord hath done a mighty act with His own arm. He hath trampled down death by death and became the first-born from the dead. He hath delivered us from the depths of Hades, granting the world the Great Mercy.

RESURRECTIONAL THEOTOKION IN TONE THREE

Both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Fourth Sunday of Pascha

Healing of the Paralytic

John 5:1-15

From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. John by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

1-4. After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. It was a feast of the Jews, Pentecost, I believe. The Lord went up on this feast for two reasons: first, so as not to appear by His absence to be opposed to the law, but to be seen celebrating together with the others. Secondly, He went up to the feast to draw more people to Himself by His signs and teaching, especially from among the guileless multitude. For the farmers and craftsmen, who on other days would be busy at their work, always gathered together on the feast days. The pool was called Sheep’s Pool, because the sheep intended for sacrifice were gathered there, and after they were slain their entrails were washed in its water. It was the common belief that simply from the washing of the sacrificial entrails the water took on a divine power, and because of this, the angel would come to it at certain times to work a miracle. Here we see divine providence guiding the Jews from the beginning towards faith in Christ, preordaining for them this miracle of the pool. In these Judaic beliefs and practices God prefigured Baptism, which would contain great power and the gifts of cleansing sins and bringing souls to life. He had already given them water for the cleansing of stains, not of the fundamental stain, but those which appeared as such before (the New Covenant), such as the stain of touching a corpse, a leper, and so forth. Then He gave them this miracle of the pool, preparing them to receive Baptism. An angel would come down at certain times and trouble the water, infusing it with healing power. Truly, it is not the nature of water to heal by itself (if this were so it would invariably heal); it is entirely through the activity of the angel that the miracle was accomplished. So it is with us that the water of Baptism is simple water, which, through the invocations made to God, receives the grace of the Holy Spirit to free us from spiritual disease. And this water heals all: the blind, whose spiritual eyes are darkened and unable to discern the better from the worse; the lame, who can neither move towards doing good, nor even advance towards what is better; the withered, who are in total despair, and have no part in anything good. All are healed by the water of Baptism. Before, our very weakness had prevented us from being healed, but now there is no hindrance to our being baptized. In the waters of that pool just one was healed, while the others remained sick; now, even if the whole world should approach at once for Baptism, the grace would not diminish.

5-7. And a certain man was there, who had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, He saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered Him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. The perseverance of the paralytic is astounding. For thirty-eight years he lay there waiting, each year hoping to be healed, but always prevented by those who were stronger. Yet he neither gave up, nor despaired. This is why the Lord questioned him, in order to show us the steadfastness of the man, and not of course because He was ignorant of the answer. Not only was it unnecessary for Him to learn the answer, it would have been foolish for anyone to ask such a question, whether a sick man wanted to be healed. The Lord spoke as He did only to bring to our attention the patience of the man. How does he answer? With great kindness and gentleness. “Yea, Lord, I wish to be healed, but I have no man who is able to carry me into the water.” He does not answer with blasphemy; he does not rebuke Christ for asking a stupid question; he does not curse the day of his birth as we often do, fainthearted as we are, when undergoing a much lesser affliction than his. He answers meekly and pleadingly, indeed not knowing to Whom he was speaking, and also intending perhaps to ask Christ to carry him into the water. Note also that Christ did not say, “Wilt thou that I make thee whole?” lest He appear to boast.

8-10. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the Sabbath. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the Sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He commands him to pick up his bed in order to confirm that the miracle was not an illusion, for the man would not have been able to carry his bed if his limbs were not firmly and solidly knit together. The Lord does not require faith of him before the healing, as He did with many others, for the paralytic had never seen Him work any signs. And of the others of whom the Lord did require faith, it was not before but after He had performed miracles in their presence. See how the paralytic immediately heard and believed the Lord’s command. He did not hesitate and say to himself, “Is he not mad to command me to get up at once? I have been here thirty-eight years without ever being healed, and now I should suddenly stand up?” With no such thought, he believed, and rose. The Lord heals on the Sabbath, teaching men to understand the observance of the law in a new way, that they should not think that it is by bodily rest that they honor the Sabbath, but by refraining from evil. How could the law forbid one from doing good on the Sabbath when the law comes from God, Who is always doing good?

11-13. He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed knew not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed Himself away, a multitude being in that place. One must marvel at the boldness of the man towards the Jews. While they badgered him, saying, “It is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed on the Sabbath,” he boldly proclaimed his Benefactor, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. It is as if he were saying, “It is nonsense to forbid me to obey the man who saved me from such a long, hard sickness.” The Jews do not ask him, “Who is it that made thee whole?” but, “Who is it that said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?” It is as if they chose to be blind to the good, but were obsessed by what they considered to be a transgression of the Sabbath. Jesus conveyed Himself away so that the man’s testimony to his healing would be evidence of the truth, and not liable to the accusation that he was attempting to curry favor with Jesus by crediting Him with the miracle. (For not only did the man not know who Jesus was, but) Jesus Himself was no longer present on the scene. Jesus left that place for another reason as well, to avoid arousing the Jews to further anger. He knew that the mere sight of the object of envy is enough to ignite a flame of spite. Therefore, He allows the facts of the matter to be examined entirely on their own merit. And the more the Jews accuse, interrogate and examine, the more swiftly travels word of the miracle.

14-16. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath day. By the Lord’s words to the paralytic, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, we learn first of all that illness in man stems from sin. Secondly, we learn that the Christian teaching about hell is true, and that the punishment there is eternal. Where are those now who say, “I fornicated for one hour; how [is it possible] that I will be punished eternally?” Behold this man, whose years of sin were far fewer than his years of punishment, seeing that his punishment lasted almost the length of a man’s life. For sins are not judged by their duration in time but by the nature of the transgression. We also learn from the Lord’s words that even if we have paid a harsh penalty for our former sins, and then return again to those same sins, we will be punished more severely than before. Indeed, this is only right. If a man does not correct his ways after his first punishment, he must be treated more severely, because he is insensible to the good and scorns it. But why are not all punished in this manner? We see that many of the wicked are healthy and energetic and pass their days happily. But their lack of sufferings in this life becomes the grounds for even greater punishment in the next life. Saint Paul makes this clear when he writes, But when we are judged by the Lord, meaning, in this life, we are chastened, that we should not be condemned with the world, that is, in the next life (I Cor. 11- 32). What we receive in this life are only admonitions: in the next life they are truly punishments. So then, are all illnesses the result of sin? Not all, but most. Some illnesses arise from sin, as we see with the paralytic and also with one of the kings of Judah, who suffered pain in his legs as a result of sin (III Kings 15:23); other illnesses are given as a testing and proving of virtue, as with Job; yet other sicknesses result from overindulgence of various kinds, such as gluttony and drunkenness. Some have supposed that His words, Sin no more, indicate that the Lord knew that the paralytic would reveal Him to the Jews after He met him in the temple. But this is not so. It is apparent that the man was pious, for the Evangelist says, Jesus findeth him in the temple. If he had not been pious, he would have given himself over to relaxation and eating and drinking and run home to escape the ravings and questioning of the Jews. But none of these things dissuaded him from going to the temple. After recognizing Jesus, see how gratefully he proclaims him to the Jews. He did not say the words they wanted to hear, “It is Jesus Who told me to take up my bed,” but instead, “It is Jesus Who made me whole.” These grateful words infuriated them, for they held the breaking of the Sabbath to be a crime. If the Jews then persecuted the Lord, how was the man at fault by revealing Him to them? With sincere motives he proclaimed his Healer to them in order to draw others to believe in Him. If they persecuted the One Who did good things, it is their own sin. Understand the sheep’s pool to represent the grace of Baptism, in which the Sheep sacrificed for us, the Lord Jesus, was washed when He was baptized for our sake. This pool has five porches, symbolizing the four great virtues plus the divine contemplation of dogma which are revealed in Baptism. Human nature, paralyzed in all its spiritual powers, lay sick for thirty-eight years. It was not sound in its belief in the Holy Trinity (i.e. 3), nor did it have a sure belief in the eighth age (i.e. 8), that is, the general Resurrection and the Last Judgment. This is why it could not find healing, for it did not have any man to put it into the pool. That is to say, the Son of God, Who intended to heal through Baptism, had not yet been made man. But when He was made man, then He healed our nature and commanded us to take up our bed, that is, lift up our body from the earth, making it light and free, not weighted down by flesh and earthly cares, and raising it from slothfulness so that it is able to walk, which means, active in doing good. The troubling of the water in the pool suggests the stirring up the evil spirits lurking in the waters of Baptism, crushing and choking them by the grace of the Holy Spirit. May we also obtain healing, for we are paralyzed and motionless in the doing of anything good; we also have no man, that is, no human and rational thought, which distinguishes us from the irrational beasts, to carry us into the pool of tears of repentance, in which the first who enters is healed. He who procrastinates and puts off his repentance until later, and does not hurry to repent now, does not obtain healing. Hasten to be the first to enter this pool, lest death overtake you. And there is an angel which troubles this pool of repentance. What angel is it? The Angel of Great Counsel of the Father, Christ the Saviour. (see Is. 9:6). For unless the divine Word touches our heart and troubles it with thought of the torments of the age to come, this pool cannot become active and effective, and there is no healing for the paralyzed soul. The pool of repentance may also fittingly be called a sheep’s pool; for in it are washed like sheep the inward parts and thoughts of the saints who are made ready to become a living sacrifice pleasing to God, making them innocent and guileless. May we also obtain healing, and afterwards be found in God’s holy temple, no longer stained by unholy thoughts, lest a worse thing, the eternal torments, come unto us.