Monday, September 28, 2009

the cure

as prescribed by St Gerasimos There is not much information about the life of St Gerasimos, who we celebrate on the 20th October and which our church is dedicated to. He is also patron saint of the island of Cephalonia and the Cephalonians throughout the world. We do know that he was born in Trikala in the Peloponnesus and in his adult life traveled throughout various lands (to Zakynthos, Mt Athos - where he learnt ascetic life, to Mt Sinai, Antioch, Alexander, Egypt, to Jerusalem and there he was ordained a priest by Patriarch Germanos. Eventually he settled on the island of Cephalonia and there he restored an old church, building a convent around it where it still stands to this day at Omala Valley.

His sacred relics, which remain incorrupt are kept there for the edification and sanctification of the faithful til this day. He reposed, fell asleep on the 15th August 1579, but we celebrate it on 16th August and the 20th of October occupies his feast day.

What we know about his personhood can be gleaned from the church hymns that are attributed to him. He is: ...the protector of Orthodoxy ...a God bearing miracle worker incarnate angel ...he had a discipline of asceticism (solitude, silence, fasting, vigil, prayer) ...tree planting ...a healer, and over-flowing divine grace that strengthened those with diseases and healed those with demons and unclean spirits. He pours healing for all. We are all honoured and blessed to be a part of this church and graced that this church is dedicated to him.

Now... I'd like to draw your attention to his icon and draw out the meaning behind the words in the scroll that he is holding. It's not only that he is famous for healing, making people better, but it is these words that is the cure. These words are the cure throughout the centuries, but especially the cure for us now. Because they capture the conviction of our spirituality, of our biology, of our behaviour, of our thinking, of our intentions, of our disposition, of our personhood - at a time, and place, and society where everything seems to be haywire, madness, crazy (there is no one without some complaint).

It is not just our society that is crazy, pathological - but in the time of Jesus as well. The gospel reading of Luke 8:26-39 brings this out: Jesus arrived at a country called Gardarene and there met a man from the city who was possessed and was extremely fierce (he wore no clothes/lived among the tombs). When he saw Jesus Christ he fell down before him and said, "What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?" Jesus heals him. He casts out the demons. The man is now clothed. Sitting at the feet of Jesus. In his right mind.

When the people from the city came to see this...what did they do? "Then all the people asked Him to depart from them for they had great fear." What's the madness, the sickness? The demon possessed confessed Christ as God - a confession of faith - "Jesus, Son of the Most High God". (But it didn't do him much good - because it was lip service). The city dwellers saw someone healed, made whole, cured...and they asked Him to leave. They had God...and rejected Him. Who is the sane and who is the insane?

The words that are captured on the scroll that St Gerasimos is holding in the icon prescribes the cure...the medicine. Not medicine that we take orally, a tablet, cream or intravenously (needles). Not lip-service or affirmations or rituals or habits. But a way of life. St Gerasimos is the example of this way of life. A way of thinking and perceiving things.


The translation: "Children have peace within yourselves - be at peace and don't forget the high, Do, gain the above - the heavenly (and don't be in fantasy)" and (it has a double meaning) "Humble and don't think highly of yourself/proud. Be planted on ground"

All this craziness, madness to pathological proportions (just look at our families, our societies, our cultures), is because we don't have the real God. We have the affirmative God. We have the negative God. We have the self-made God. We have the tailor-made God. We have the smorgasbord God. We have the crystal gods. But...we don't have the real God, as God is.

Now the doing of our medicine, is done every Sunday - in the Liturgy. That is what the words of St Gerasimos means. How do we start off in the liturgy? With God. How many times do we say "peace"?

"In peace let us pray to the Lord"

"Again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord"

The Liturgy is the cure. The Liturgy is the medicine. St Gerasimos led everyone to the Liturgy.

"In peace let us pray to the Lord" - what peace?

"For the peace from above and the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord" "For the peace of the whole world"

The peace descends... "For this holy house and those who enter it with faith..."

"For our Archbishop and honourable priesthood..."

"For this land, its civil authorities..."

"For this city, and every city and country and the faithful who live in them..."

"For seasonable weather, the abundance of fruits of the earth and peaceful times..."

"For this who are traveling by land, sea or air, the sick and suffering, for captives...

"For our deliverance from all affliction, anger , danger and distress..."

"Help us, save us, have mercy on us and protect us, O God, by your grace..."

Everything is in Liturgy. Everything stems from Liturgy. Everything concaves back to Liturgy. One has to be involved in is the doing of the medicine. The liturgy is the biography of Jesus Christ's life, our God - in the doing. This is what St Gerasimos reminds us of...this is his example. This should be our example in the Liturgy. This is the blessing and task for us being part of this church. So when we venerate his icon, we receive his be responsible to his words. Amen.
~ Fr Leslie