We folks with our attempt to live a righteous life are inclined to use our understanding of God’s Law and how it currently applies to us at this particular time on earth and in the history of our existence. As we know, God created in us the longing to do good, but within the painted lines of the ever-inclining highway to salvation we all read the road signs differently. What does “Slow Down”, “Men Working” or “Speed Limit 65” really mean? How slow do we need to slow down to and how quickly, and I see one man working and five watching and of course then the speed-limit sign suggestion! Our brain takes all these things into consideration and helps us apply them to our individual daily drive based on what we have learned in the past! But, we should always be open to a more beneficial understanding as we travel on this path.
Even in the beginning in the luscious garden, man tried to apply the rules as he wanted to understand them. It was very simple back then, don’t eat the fig!! (Gen 2:17) But of course mankind wished to be god and live by his own interpretation of what was best for him on his daily drive. And we see those choices continue to occur throughout the teachings in the Bible and if we look closely, we will see choices in some of our decisions we make throughout the normal day in life here in our little bit of paradise as well.
Our Gospel lesson today happens to center around the fourth commandment (Exod 20: 8-11) which was given to mankind as a helpful guide on our path to salvation some time much later after we had already failed to follow the just one simple rule entrusted to Adam and Eve in the garden. Today’s lesson reads: “Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work,” (Ex 20:8-10) what does that mean for you today? In my personal kingdom I prepare and attend church, I go to church the evening before liturgy, as all Orthodox Christians do! I prepare to receive the most precious Body and Blood of our Lord and I try to spend some time with my neighbors here at the temple. I don’t go home and mow, weed eat or fire up my chain saw as I try not to disturb my neighbor. This was greatly influenced on me by my grandfather Rufus who let his farm rest on Sunday with the exception of animal care. But today I fail in spending time reading self-help books about saintly teachings as I nap to the sounds of entertainment coming from my flat screen piercing my brief glimpse of silence. And I on occasion on my path to or from church, I will need to stop and refuel my gasoline horse. What is your definition of “holy”?
For some folks, they spend time Saturday preparing to live more simply on the Sabbath by fueling their vehicles and preparing food in advance. They don’t eat at a restaurant or go to COSTCO or do things that would require someone else to break their Sabbath, however the hospital and fire stations are open if they are desperately needed! These same people turn off the world and its’ lying serpents and rest on the Sabbath, as they prepare to re-center themselves for the upcoming week to the glory of our Lord. Well anyway, that is their understanding of the road signs, and after all, they don’t have to work that day as their job does not require it or they have chosen a different path with a set of different signs that allow this way of life so they can set aside the Sabbath day as holy!
Our Gospel reading disturbs many religious people’s rubrics as Christ heals the woman infirm for eighteen years; after all, it was the Sabbath! Saint Theophylacyt teaches that: The woman suffered from this affliction as a result of demonic assault, as the Lord Himself says, This woman, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years. Perhaps God had departed from her on account of certain sins, and as a result Satan was punishing her. For Satan is in part the cause of all the hardships which afflict our bodies, when God on high permits him.
From the very beginning it was Satan who brought about our fall by which we lost the incorruptibility in which we had been created; it was Satan who caused us to be bound to diseased bodies prone to suffering, symbolized by the garments of dead skins in which Adam and Eve were wrapped (Gen. 3:22). But now the Lord, with the majestic voice of the Godhead, full of power, drives out the infirmity of this woman. He places His hands on her, so that we might learn that His holy flesh imparted both the power and the energy of the Logos. For His flesh was His own, and not that of some other human person alongside Him, separate from Him in hypostasis, as the impious Nestorius thinks. So great is the goodness of the Lord, Who in this manner took mercy on His own creation.
But Satan, who had bound the woman in the first place, was vexed at her deliverance because he desired her continued affliction, and so he bound the ruler of the synagogue with spite, and through the mouth of this man, Satan reviled the miracle. This is how he always attacks the good. Therefore the Lord uses the apt example of irrational animals to rebuke the man who was indignant that a healing had taken place on the Sabbath. And thus not only this man, but all the other adversaries of Jesus as well, were put to shame by Christ's words. For it was insane to hinder the healing of a man on the Sabbath using as a pretext the commandment that the Sabbath be a day of rest. So it was, that even while the people were rejoicing at the Lord's deeds, His adversaries were put to shame by His words. For these adversaries, instead of joining in the jubilation which followed His work of healing, burned with rage that He had healed at all. But the multitude, because they derived benefit from His signs, rejoiced and took pleasure in this healing. You must also understand these miracles to refer to the inner man. The soul is bent over in infirmity whenever it inclines to earthly thoughts alone and imagines nothing that is heavenly and divine. It can truly be said that such a soul has been infirm for eighteen years. For when a man is feeble in keeping the commandments of the divine law, which are ten in number, and is weak in his hope of the eighth age, the age to come, it can be said that he has been bent over for ten and eight years. Is not that man indeed bent over who is attached to the earth, and who always sins in disregard of the commandments, and who does not look for the age to come? But the Lord heals such a soul on the Sabbath in the assembly of the synagogue. For when a man assembles together within himself thoughts of confession (Judah means "confession") and keeps the Sabbath, that is, he rests from doing evil, then Jesus heals him, not only by word when He says to him, Thou art loosed from thine infirmity, but also by deed. For when He has placed His hands on us, He requires that we accept the energy from His divine hands to do in collaboration with Him the works of virtue. We must not be satisfied to receive only that healing which comes by word and by instruction. (From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria)
So for us inhabitants, the Sabbath is a day that needs to be set aside and made different than a normal work day. Ask the Lord for direction and He will convict you as to just what is most beneficial for your salvation now and in the future. As we hear from the Apostle Matthew: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. (Matt 5:17) Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:19) We must always remember that even the great Creator of this world rested, are you greater than He? Make the Sabbath day a day of worship and rest so that you may a solid part of the foundation of our new church and a most valuable worker in our Lord’s vineyard!