October 30, 2023

Homily on the Daughter of a Leader of the Synagogue and the Healing of the Woman With the Issue of Blood (Theophanes Kerameus)

By Theophanes Kerameus (+ 1152)

Today our sacred Gospel (Luke 8:41-56) described a two-fold story of miracles. And perhaps this is by far the most amazing of the great miracles than what preceded them. It is more wonderful than the healing of the deaf, or the paralyzed, or the blind, or the maniac, that one who has died should live again. And now the Lord works miracles, beginning with the resurrection of Jairus' daughter and taking this virgin from death at the onset (the first plunder), and thus he begins to overtake hades, and He does this more afterwards, because the entrance of death into the world was made by the virgin Eve. But, opening the sacred book of the Gospel, let us listen to its own words: "At that time, a certain man called Jairus, who was a leader of the Synagogue, approached Jesus. He fell at the feet of Jesus and begged Him to go to his house, because he had an only daughter of twelve years old, who was dying" (Luke 8:41-42). As I begin the explanation, let me be allowed to admire, how much earlier the Gentiles believed in Christ and surpassed the Jews. Because that centurion, believing this, considered that even from afar the Savior could heal his servant with just one word, that is why he said: "Just say the word, and my servant will be healed" (Luke 7:7). Here, however, Jairus the leader of the Synagogue begs the Lord to enter the house, thinking that there is no other way to bring healing to his daughter. She was the little daughter of Jairus, very good, having the flower of virginity undefiled, and kept intact as in a calyx of a flower. The Evangelist included a lot in a few words, weaving in the narrative the lament: "For he had an only daughter" (Luke 8:42). Do you see how heavy the calamity is? For what does it show? After she died, there was no other child for the parents to look to, to stop the tears. She was an only daughter. But even saying that she was twelve years old, this shows the cuteness of her age. This is when girls think of their wedding, and a handsome bridegroom and the bridal chamber, and many again quarrel about beauty, and to their natural youth they add some hair ornaments, to appear beautiful to those who see them. Perhaps somewhere there were many suitors, and there was competition among them, not shameful, as to who would be preferred to become the husband of the virgin. And suitors, entering the house one after the other and each praising another bridegroom, made the matter quicker. But the hopes for the daughter are succeeded by the illness, threatening with the death that comes shortly after. So the father hastens, as his insides are burning with grief, and with a fervent heart he brings the prayer to the Savior. Christ, who came for the salvation of the world, accepts the request. And making amends for the Synagogue leader's disbelief by action, He slows down His journey with the healing of the bleeding woman, as if allowing death to hold the daughter and the miracle to become more paradoxical.

"As He went, the multitudes thronged Him. Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any" (Luke 8:42-43). Notice how multitudes followed Him, so that they pressed Him, for the streets were narrow. Among them was a woman suffering from a constant flow of her blood, who spent her fortune on doctors, without finding any cure. Because her disease was, in human perceptions, incurable. Rejecting everything, she acts on a prudent thought to run hastily to the Physician who takes no payment, bringing rather her faith as a great payment. For she said, as reported by another Evangelist, that "If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well" (Matt. 9:21, Mark. 5:28). But why doesn't she come openly like the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:22) and the woman bent double (Luke 13:11)? She was prominent and known to all and, according to the law, anyone who had a flow of blood was unclean, and was not allowed to touch anything sacred. For the law says: "If a woman bleeds for many days, beyond the time of her period, she will be unclean as long as the blood flows, and anyone who touches her will be unclean" (Lev. 15:25, 27). Because, therefore, she was afraid to touch the undefiled feet of Christ, and at the same time wanting to hide what prudent women are ashamed to reveal, she contrives to steal salvation.

"She went behind Jesus, touched the edge of His garment, and immediately her bleeding stopped" (Luke 8:44). O what a great miracle! The Lord displays a new kind of miraculous work, without touching the sick woman, nor healing the malady with words, but for her faith He returned mercy. The woman came with faith and did not fail in her hope. How, truly, good faith is, so that it has the power to prepare for us the grace that God gives. However, having doubts is harmful. For if the hem of the undefiled garment was sacred and most sacred, because it touched the flesh of God, yet faith produced grace. For the soldiers also touched the Lord's garments in the time of the passion, dividing them by lot, but this touching was not profitable. Saint Mark explains the event in more detail: "She felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction" (Mark 5:29). What does this reveal? How the afflictions of the body, like some wounds, come for the most part to the souls that misbehave. And that this is true, the reason will be shown without difficulty. To the healed man, therefore, who was in the five-fold portico of Solomon, this is what Christ said: "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you" (John 5:14). And for those who with an unexamined conscience receive the divine communion, the Apostle said, "For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep" (1 Cor. 11:30).

"And Jesus said, 'Who touched Me?' When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, 'Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, Who touched Me?'” (Luke 8:45). The praiseworthy theft of the woman did not escape Him who examines thoughts and desires, nor, of course, does He hide her with silence. Why is it, however, when He cured others, He sent them home, exhorting them to keep the cure a secret and not to speak of it, but here, He reveals the event? He does this very correctly, because at the same time He shows the woman that He did not miss the fact that He gave her the cure, and again He reveals what was the result of her wholehearted faith. But also note that disciples are not perfect. For the Lord asked them: "Who approached Me and touched Me with faith?" And they ascribed it to sensible touch. And what does "I perceived power going out from Me" mean? (Luke 8:46). Was there any diminution of His power that was dispersed among the healed? Begone! For just as from one lamp, even if you light a thousand others, it remains whole and carries the flame to all, so also the inextinguishable power of God, granting to all the grace of healings, remains whole. And what's more, just as the sciences imparted to those taught by the teachers remain whole, so the grace of God distributed to those who receive it is not diminished in the least.

"Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately" (Luke 8:47). The woman, it says, being afraid and trembling, in case this theft was not done for good, falls at His feet and confesses the secret. The Lord, however, praises her faith and calls her a daughter, since she became intimate with Him through faith. How blessed, truly, is this wonderful woman, since she enjoyed health without effort and entered the kinship of God, having been called a daughter of Jesus. And blessed is her soul, which followed behind Jesus, and touched merely the helm of His garment, teaching with this story of the Spirit, that as long as one walks behind Jesus with the imitation and approximation as humanly possible of virtuousness according to God, it is enough to only touch the helm of the garment, for virtue is infinite and indefinable.

"While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the leader of the Synagogue's house and said to him: 'Your daughter is dead. Don't bother the Teacher anymore'" (Luke 8:49). So great was the delay in the journey, that death prevailed over the little girl, and she begged her father not to give useless trouble to the Teacher. For they thought that until then the power to act was while the soul was with the body. This is what Martha also believed from what she said: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 10:21). Thus, it was considered very difficult for the dead to come back to life. But what did the Savior say to the father? "Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well" (Luke 8:50). Perhaps it reminds Him of the miracle that preceded it, that it was accomplished with faith alone. So the young maiden died, and those in the house wept, as was natural, and lamented, and there was a continual mingled noise, a concourse of relatives, the lamentation of servants, the sweet lamentation of women, the wailing of men, all mingled with wailing and tears. And why does the Lord remove the others out of the house and bring inside the daughter's parents and the three disciples? So that no one thinks that the daughter returned with the noise of those who were mourning, or that she had not died. Therefore, those who were making noise, He removed them and brought inside only witnesses from among the disciples, the most prominent of His followers, and from the crowd the parents of their little daughter.

Jesus said to them: "Do not weep, she is not dead, but sleeps"" (Luke 8:52). And they mocked Him knowing that she died. He says "she is not dead, but sleeps" because He is well aware of her resurrection that will happen shortly. At the same time it shows that what we infamously call death is a sleep. So he takes the daughter's hand and with authoritative words, He raises and brings the little girl back to life as if from sleep. He, of course, takes her hand, showing that His divine and undefiled flesh created by this union took the glory of divinity and gave life.

The narration of the story here ends, so let us proceed and examine what these things mean. The telling of this two-fold story was the prototype of the Synagogue and the Church among the nations. For the Lord came first, of course, to the daughter of the leader of the Synagogue, but the healing of the bleeding woman came first, showing, I think, with this event, that He became primarily a man not first for the nations, but for Israel, as He Himself said: "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 15:24). And because Israel had shown disbelief, salvation came to the nations who follow the preaching, and touch the voice and teaching of the gospel, as if they were the garments of the Lord. And thus there was a stop to the flowing of crimson sin, which by the flow of sacrificial blood was preparing men to worship demons. But that too, of course, is a follow-up to the narrative, the afflicted spending everything on the doctors and not benefiting at all. Because the nature of men was bound to the disease of impiety, having spent all the natural strength which they had from the wise men of the world, they were by no means freed from superstition. And examining at the same time the little daughter's life and the woman's illness which is measured in twelve years, we are not surprised to see the following: As long as the Synagogue lived, the Church of the Gentiles was held by the disease of sin. When the first turns away from Emmanuel and dies in disbelief, the second is freed from the disease. But also the number of years indicates the senses and time, in which nature held sway the disease of impiety. For time consists of seven days and the senses are five. And if again and after the cure of the bleeding woman the deceased is resurrected, this is also not consequential in the formulation of what is being examined. Because "only a small remnant will be saved" (Is. 10:23, Rom. 9:27), according to the Apostle "until all other nations receive salvation" (Rom. 11:15). But why should I speak of calling the nations and proceeding to the Israelite remnant? And in describing the external, don't I see myself depicted in the narrative? Very well, therefore, as in a mirror, let us look carefully at the story, to find each of us the wretchedness of his soul. Because the soul is also like the bleeding woman and the daughter. It is like a bleeding woman, because with the power which was given to her, to produce pious words and good deeds, she was dragged in a bad way into the fluid matter of passions and made her barren of virtue and conceived only the indelible impurity of sin. As a daughter, again, she is the same soul, because she has virginity and purity and the likeness to the undefiled good, and thus being perfect to pure marriage and union with the noetic Bridegroom. In her turning to wickedness, she fell into bed in the house of the body, having a fever with the sickness of sin. And because evil prevailed, she was deprived of the life of virtue. What, then, is the hope of salvation? Let the mind mourn, like the father of the daughter, let the senses which are the fellow-dwellers of the mind suffer together, that the physician of souls may raise it from its fall, and the heavenly hosts will rejoice over it, "for there will be joy in heaven for the repentance of a sinner" (Lk. 15:7) who returns to God. To Him belongs all glory, honor and worship throughout the endless ages. Amen.

Source: (PG 132, 281-292) Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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