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On spiritual paralysis

The Great Lent

In one of the Sunday Gospel readings we hear of how the Lord forgave the sins of a certain man sick of palsy, who was brought over by four friends and let down through the roof of the house to rest at the feet of Jesus Christ. Son, thy sins are forgiven thee, the Lord said to him. The man sick of palsy had been brought to Christ to be healed of his illness, but Christ first cures his soul of sin and only afterwards cures his body of illness. Son, He said to the man sick of palsy, thy sins are forgiven thee, and only after forgiving his sin did the Lord say to him: Arise and take up thy bed, and go thine way into thine house.

If this man sick of palsy had been brought to an earthly physician, the latter would definitely not have paid any attention to his patient’s sins, but would have tried to cure him with various physical medications. But the Lord does otherwise: He cures bodily paralysis through forgiveness of sins. Why is that? Because the illnesses that come upon us are a consequence of our sins, and because it is impossible to be completely delivered from illness without first being cleansed of sin. All illnesses and death itself began from the spiritual debilitation of the human soul, and now for many thousand years sin produces all manner of illness of soul and body in people.

Why then did the Holy Church establish this reading about the man sick of palsy? For the simple reason, dear brethren, that is sees all of as being enfeebled, it sees us in the grip of spiritual palsy, i.e. sin, and wants all of us to hurry to the Lord Jesus Christ to be healed. In truth, all of us are in the grip of spiritual palsy. Sin causes our heart to be paralyzed, our mind becomes blunted to all that is spiritual, and our will to do good weakens. For this reason the Church, knowing how important firmness of heart is for man, instructs us with the words of St. Andrew of Crete’s canon: O Lord, upon the rock of Thy commandments make firm my wavering heart, for Thou alone art holy and Lord.

Thus we are all enfeebled. Some of us, prodded by our conscience, recognize our own illness and go to Christ to be healed, while others need earnest outside help, need friends such as the ones the man sick of palsy had, who let him down through the roof to rest at the Saviour’s feet. For this reason the Lord encourages us both to repent ourselves and at the same time, through our own example and faith, help others become aware of their sins, leave off their profligate life, and lead them to Christ.

It is very convenient to come for repentance to the Lord – our celestial phy-sician. He has «visiting hours» every week. Every Saturday and Sunday in the church the Lord receives all those who are enfeebled by sins and heals them commensurately with their faith, with the priest serving as an intermediary. Each time a sinner sincerely repents of his sins, the Lord Himself says to him internally: Son, thy sins are forgiven thee. What can prevent us from approaching Jesus Christ and receiving a cure from Him? Come, dear brethren, and be healed: the «doctor’s office» is open throughout the entire Great Lent. The Lord Himself will see you. The priest only serves as a witness before Him, as an intermediary between Him and you. Only do not forget that one must come to the Lord with a keen awareness of one’s sins, with a recognition of one’s spiritual enfeeblement, and we must believe with all our heart that He alone has the power on earth to forgive sins. Also do not forget that after being cured of spiritual palsy it is dangerous and unreasonable to fall into a state of enfeeblement anew, i.e. continue to commit sins that had already been forgiven. Let us clearly remember the words which the Lord said to the Gospel paralytic: Behold, thou art cured; sin no more, lest worse things befall thee. Amen.

 Father Rostislav Sheniloff

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