July 16, 2022

Homily Two on the Fourth Sunday of Matthew - Teachings and Miracles (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

Homily on the Fourth Sunday of Matthew

Teachings and Miracles

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Beloved brethren,

Today there is great confusion in all matters and consequently also in religious matters, so it is necessary to present the theology of the Church in order to distinguish truth from error. It is known that a "Church" that does not theologize and a "Theology" that does not attend church will not serve to work towards our salvation.

Many times I think: How do some moralize God's word at a time when the Church, with its liturgical texts, hagiography, etc., insists on theology? Why is this division of ecclesiastical life taking place? How is it permissible, for example, on the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ for the troparia to present the entire mystical experience of the Church and for Christians to hear an non-theological moralistic sermon? Therefore, in simple words, I will present some theological aspects of the teaching and the miracles that Christ performed, taking the occasion of the miracle of the centurion's servant that we heard in today's Gospel reading.

The miracle of the healing of the centurion's servant that we heard about today happened immediately after Christ's descent from the Mount of Beatitudes. This is of great importance, because it shows us the relationship that exists between the teaching and the miracle, as it also shows us the relationship between these two and the Person of Christ.

Christ spoke as a God-man, "as one who has authority" (Matthew 7:29) and performed miracles as a God-man, as He said: "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working" (John 5:17). Sometimes, as we see in the Holy Gospels, the teaching precedes and the miracle follows, as a seal of the teaching, and at other times the miracle precedes and the teaching follows, which analyzes its deeper meaning.

This means that we cannot separate the Person of Christ from His teachings and His miracles, because the word of Christ is not empty talk, but divine energy, and the act of Christ is not a "charitable" work, which is done out of sympathy for people, but a seal of His divine mission. For example, Christ cast out the demons, so that we understand that He is the One who casts the demons out of the soul and gives us eternal freedom, as Saint Gregory Palamas says.

Today there are many who separate these three and break this wonderful unity. Others say that they believe in Christ as God-man, but they deny the miracles, which they consider to be the imaginations of men and they neither study nor apply His word. Others read the Gospel every day, but do not believe in the divinity of Christ, because they consider Him a good teacher, nor do they believe in the possibility of miracles. Others believe in miracles, seek to see miracles in their lives, maybe they run to all the "pilgrimage sites" out of self-interest, but they do not have much faith in the divinity of Christ, nor do they live evangelically. However, none of these cases constitute an Orthodox life.

I said before that the divine word is a divine energy and not a chatty human word. This is seen in the miracle of the centurion's servant. The centurion asks Christ for a word and is certain that with this word his servant will be healed. He said: "Just speak and my child will be healed." The Lord then said: "Go, and as you believe, so let it be done to you." And the result, as the holy Evangelist notes, was that "his son was healed at that hour" (Matt. 8:8-13), since divine energy came out through His word and that man was healed. This is evident from the beginning of creation. God said, "Let there be light; and there was light" (Gen. 1:3). The Prophet David sings: "By the word of the Lord the heavens were established, and by the spirit of his mouth all their power" (Psalm 15:6), that is, by the word of God the whole world was created.

Therefore, the observance of the divine commandments is a condition for obtaining the divine life. Saint Maximus says that in every commandment of Christ there is Christ Himself in secret. Thus, by keeping His commandments, we accept Christ within us. And because Christ is never without the Father and the Holy Spirit, therefore, by keeping the commandments of Christ, we accept the Holy Trinity within us: "He who receives a commandment and does it secretly has the Holy Trinity." Christ Himself taught that "he who knows the truth comes to the light" (John 3:21).

Saint Isaac writes that when a soul that has the energy of the Holy Spirit, hears a verse that has hidden spiritual power in it, then it is attracted to its application. Therefore, the divine sermon is necessary for the Church and is organically included in the space of the worship gathering. It is not an extraneous element of the Liturgy, but an integral part of it. Of course, the sermon must be a real word, an illumination of the Holy Spirit and not human pious reflection.

The sermon, when it is inspired by the liturgical atmosphere, when it moves within the Orthodox ecclesiastical life, when it is a revelation of the Word of God, prepares man for prayer and Holy Communion.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.