October 23, 2022

Homily One for the Sixth Sunday of Luke (St. Luke of Simferopol)


 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on November 25, 1951)

The Lord Jesus Christ sailed with His disciples on the Sea of Tiberias, sailed to the eastern shore of this lake.

On the way, He performed a great miracle of calming the storm by one command of His: He ordered the wind and waves to calm down - and they calmed down.

We went ashore in the country of the Gadarenes, and look what happened there.

“And when He got out of the boat, immediately a man who came out of the tombs met Him, possessed by an unclean spirit, he had a dwelling in the tombs, and no one could bind him even with chains ... he tore the chains and broke the shackles, and no one was able to tame him; always, night and day, in mountains and graves, he shouted and cut himself with stones; but when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him...” (Mark 5:1-6).

From tombs... From what? Certainly not one of those cemeteries in which we bury our dead. The ancient Jews buried the bodies of the dead in the rocks, in caves carved into the rocky mountains.

And in these tombs lived an unfortunate man, possessed by a whole legion of demons.

What is a legion? The legion is an integral part of the Roman army - about 6000 people.

And a whole legion of demons moved into the soul of this unfortunate man.

How, perhaps unbelievers will ask, how can unclean spirits enter the soul and heart of a person; how can a legion of demons fit in one person?

They can, they can enter, they can fit in innumerable numbers, for these are incorporeal spirits, occupying no space, they can fit in a huge amount in the smallest space.

So this unfortunate man was possessed by a whole legion of demons. He was so terribly rampant, he was so violent that people were afraid to pass by the place where he lived in tombs. They tried to tame him, fettered him with iron chains, but he tore apart the iron fetters with an unimaginable power for us. He lived naked, did not wear clothes; naked, he ran out to meet the Lord Jesus. This unfortunate man screamed furiously for days and nights, cut himself with stones and was driven by demons into the desert. And then, when he saw Jesus, he, like a meek lamb, ran up and bowed to Him on the ground.

Did he bow to someone? He attacked everyone, and everyone ran away from him in fear, and then he ran to Jesus and bowed, “and crying out in a loud voice, he said: 'What have you to do with me, Jesus, the Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!'" (Mk. 5:7).

Who said it? Could he, being a man, say such words? Could he call Jesus, whom he saw for the first time, the Son of the Most High God? Could he ask: do not torment me? Didn't he want to be freed from his torment?

Who spoke in his language? And who prompted him to worship Jesus? This was said by the demons who had taken possession of him, they asked Christ: “Do not torment, do not torment until the time!”

They knew that the time of eternal torment would come for them, and now they asked: leave, leave! Don't torment us, don't torment us for the time being!

The Lord Jesus Christ, of course, knew who was speaking: He knew that it was the demons who were speaking. And He commanded them to come out of this unfortunate man. That is why the demons asked Him: do not torment, do not torment us ahead of time!

What was their torment? It was torment for them to leave the soul of this unfortunate person in peace, torment for them is when they cannot do evil, and evil for them is like air for us. Torment for them is when they cannot torment a person, but they torment us all; remember, all of us.

Unbelievers laugh at our belief in demons. And how can we not believe when our Lord Jesus Christ Himself spoke about demons, when He cast them out by His command, when He healed the possessed - not this one, but many others.

And what prevents us from believing? After all, our soul was created similar to incorporeal spirits, and therefore it can have direct communication with them, for it is itself similar to them in its spirituality.

You know from your own experience that we often perceive with our heart, with our soul, the thoughts and desires of the people we love, who live with us as one soul.

In this way we can perceive the suggestions of angels and demons.

Why then reject the possibility that incorporeal spirits can inhabit our souls?

Very, very infused! They move in, because we often go berserk, we are often possessed by the gravest spiritual filth, and this is obsession.

I think there is nothing to convince you of the existence of demons and the possibility of their attacks on you.

See what happened next.

The demons, knowing that Christ would cast them out of this unfortunate man, asked not to torment them, asked to be allowed to enter the herd of swine, which was grazing right there on the shore, upon leaving the demoniac. The Lord allowed it. And the demons entered into the herd of swine. And the herd was huge - about two thousand. And the pigs went mad, and rushed to the shore, and they all jumped into the deep lake, and they all drowned.

Why did our Lord Jesus Christ allow demons to enter pigs? Some daring thoughts do not like this, and they condemn: why, why did the poor animals die?

I will not answer in my own words, I will give the answer of the great Saint John Chrysostom.

This was necessary, firstly, in order to manifest the omnipotence of God, for it was one of the great miracles of Christ.

He also intended to show people - and there were many spectators - how great, how immeasurable the malice of demons, to show in practice that demons cannot but do evil.

The third reason was to show that demons without God's permission, without God's permission, do not dare to do evil to people.

Only when God Himself finds it necessary to use them as executioners, when it is necessary to punish, severely punish someone who is hopeless for truth, for good, can they do their disastrous deeds.

So He punished the Egyptian pharaoh, all the people of Egypt, because the pharaoh showed disobedience to the requirements of Moses, for this is what the prophet David says about this: "And he sent upon them the wrath of his indignation: indignation and wrath and trouble, which he sent by evil angels” (Ps. 77:49).

He Himself sent it, it was His embassy: He used here "evil angels" - demons, as executioners.

We also read in another place in Holy Scripture about the same thing: the king of Israel, Ahab, was stubborn in sins. It was necessary to punish him, like the Egyptians. It was necessary to punish him for his stubbornness, for his disobedience.

“...and the Lord said to the host of heaven standing by him: Who would persuade Ahab to go and fall in Ramoth of Gilead? And one said so, the other said differently. And one spirit stepped forward, stood before the Lord, and said, 'I will entice him.' And the Lord said to him: 'With what?' He said, 'I will go out and be made a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.'" It was a demonic spirit, for the angel of light could not become a lying one. "'You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord” (1 Kings 22:20-22).

You see, again this is the intervention of the unclean spirit to draw Ahab, full of sins, into destruction.

In order to teach us and show us that incorporeal spirits can do evil, since the Lord allows it, Jesus allowed demons to enter the swine herd.

He showed their malice, and showed the dependence of their actions on the permission of God.

Do not think that demons have equal power over all of us. They have tremendous, immeasurable power over people who are like pigs in their spirit and deeds. These are destroyed by demons as easily as they destroyed a herd of pigs in the Gadarene country.

But they do not dare to approach the saints: they are afraid of the saints, they are afraid of the cross of Christ, they are afraid of their prayers.

In the third century there was the Hieromartyr Babylas, Bishop of Antioch. Many years after his martyrdom, Emperor Constantius transferred his holy relics to a small temple, specially built near the temple of the pagan god Apollo, in which the idol of his demonic power prophesied the future through his priests. And what? Near the holy relics of Babylas, the demons did not dare to dwell, and the broadcasting of the idol ceased.

This is how the demons fear the the saints, and this is how they will fear you if you are holy and blameless before God, if you protect yourself from their power with the cross and constant prayer.

This is what this event in the country of Gadarene teaches us.

“The pig-herders ran and told stories in the city and villages. And the residents came out to see what happened. They come to Jesus to see that the demon-possessed one, in whom the legion was, is sitting and clothed, and in his right mind; and were afraid. Those who saw it spoke about what had happened to the demon-possessed man and about the pigs. And they began to ask Him to depart from their borders” (Mark 5:14-17).

It seems strange why they asked Him: Go away, go away!

Why didn't they ask on the contrary: Come, come, in order to sanctify us with Your coming?

Do not think that they did it because they were wicked, because they were saddened by the death of the swine.

Not like that, not like that! They did not deserve this condemnation, for Saint Luke, speaking about this, says: "...because they were seized with great fear" (Lk. 8.37).

They were shocked, they trembled with fear, seeing an extraordinary miracle, they trembled before the One who cast out demons.

Their trembling was so great that they could not endure the presence of Jesus, and they asked Him: Go away, go away! We are unworthy, we cannot bear Your presence.

We will not ask like that, we will ask: Do not leave us, do not leave us ever. Don't go, Lord, Lord!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.