October 25, 2022

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Luke - Power in the Name (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Luke

Power in the Name

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, 'What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?'" (Luke 8:28).

Beloved brethren,

The possessed man of the Gadarenes cried out, fell at the feet of Christ and said: "What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?" (Luke 8:28). The presence of Christ was terrible for the demons that existed inside that unfortunate man. This great power also is in the name of Jesus, which declares His presence, which is why the Fathers often recommend that we pray with "the prayer" of Jesus, in order to be freed from the exploitation and oppression of the devil.

However, it is necessary to understand the meaning, the properties and the nature of the name of Jesus. The Evangelist John writes at the end of his Gospel: "These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31). And the Apostle Paul writes: "Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,..." (Phil. 2:9-10). We can see the power of the name of Jesus in what they will go on to write.

God, who in terms of His Essence is anonymous and unknown, in terms of His Energies is known and "named". We know from Holy Scripture that God successively revealed Himself to people through names. Each revelation of a new name to the Prophets meant the revelation of an energy of God. The name had a double meaning, according to Saint Sophrony the Hagiorite. On the one hand, it manifested the presence of the Living God, on the other, it offered knowledge of Him. Thus, the name "Jesus" shows the presence of God as Savior and that He is also Salvation and also shows that God took our own nature and therefore it is possible to become children of God.

This is felt by the saints, who, when they invoke this name, are filled with the presence of Christ. Thus, by invoking this name, people expel the evil demon, and they obtain true life, which is the knowledge of God. The prayer of Jesus, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner" is, as Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki writes, "a prayer and a promise and a confession of faith, a granter of the Holy Spirit and divine gifts, a purification of the heart, an exile of demons, a dwelling place of Jesus Christ, a source of spiritual concepts and divine thoughts, a forgiveness of sins, a healer, an asylum of souls and bodies, a granter of divine illumination, a spring of divine mercy, an ambassador for the revelation of the mysteries of God."

Christ asked the possessed man what his name was and those who were inside him answered: "Legion," because many demons entered him (Luke 8:30). This shows the destructive, debilitating and tyrannical energy of the devil.

Saint Maximus the Confessor writes that man is constantly under the influence and warlike rage of demons. The whole person (soul and body) is subject to Satan's influence and captivity. Demons work in all parts of the soul and body. Some of the demons mislead man into the pit of sin and ignorance through the senses, others act through passionate thoughts, others using the body inflame passions in the soul and create impure fantasies.

Therefore, demons always act through the thoughts, desires and passions, but sometimes they also take over the human brain and thus the person becomes completely demonized. Then the man does not speak, but the devil himself speaks for him. We see this in the incident described in today's Gospel reading. As soon as Christ approached the possessed man, the demons spoke and at the same time they begged Christ to allow them to enter the pigs and not to order them to be led to the abyss.

This reveals a great truth. The Apostle Paul writes: "And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" (1 Cor. 14:32). That is, the Holy Spirit, when He comes to man, does not take away his freedom. The Prophet experiences great situations of Grace, without losing the human element, his reason, his freedom. Thus, the Holy Spirit told the Evangelists what they would write, while how they would write it was a matter for each Evangelist.

However, this does not happen with evil spirits. When they occupy a person, they deprive him of his freedom and they speak for him. The person becomes mute and deaf. We see it in the demon-possessed that we still meet today in the holy shrines of the Saints. From the way they speak and from the content of their words, it seems that there is someone else inside them, who forces them to do what they themselves do not want.

Finally, the devil, as we saw in today's Gospel reading, removes from the person the clothing, i.e. the garment of Baptism, leads him out of the house, i.e. out of the Church, makes him remain among the tombs, i.e. in the dead works of of sin and alienates him from himself. Christ makes man "clothed and sensible", residing in the Church.

Therefore, let us pray with all the strength of our soul with the "prayer" of Jesus: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner."

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.