IF YOU ARE WILLING, YOU CAN HEAL ME
Archpriest Sergiy Baranov
Holy Trinity Cathedral. Iveron Monastery of Orsk
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
I did not tell you a sermon on the Feast of Theophany because I did not feel well, but I do not want to skip this great event. This is why now, two days later, I would like to say something about this great Feast.
Baptism is also called Theophany. This name, Theophany, is personally closer to me. It is closer because it is theologically deeper. It is not simply about the Baptism of the Lord. Theophany speaks about the manifestation of the Lord before humankind. Again, this phrase might stop some people and not let them go into the depth. God appeared in the flesh and for some this seems to be all.
However, I would like to go deeper, closer, greater and more solemnly. Theophany is not only about God Who appeared in the flesh, it is about God Who appeared in His essence. What do I mean when I say such words “God appeared in His essence?” At this moment, again, God underlines the depth of His essence: God is Love. What is the point of the Feast of Theophany in relation to this phrase “God is Love?”
When we blessed the holy water, the great agiasma, on Theophany after the service, we used the special order of water blessing for priests and the choir. In the end of this order, there is a footnote in small red print, a footnote for a priest, like a guideline. There, in this footnote, it is said something that common people, who stand at the church, do not read. Only the priest reads it. This explanatory note says, “And then the priest blesses everyone and everything with this holy water.” The definition of this note says that this “everything” includes that “He blesses by sprinkling barns and even (there is such a word) dirty places.” Why are these words great? Because in His love for the humankind, the Lord is ready to humble Himself and go to the dirtiest places.
Some of you might have read the Life of St Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia. Once he went to bless houses after the service on the Feast of Theophany. They have such a tradition to bless houses on Theophany. He came to a house, a woman opened the door and he said, “Blessed Theophany! I came to your place to have it sprinkled with holy water and blessed everywhere!” After a short pause, suddenly, that woman told him with sarcasm, “Priest, where have you come? This is a brothel.” To which Father Porphyrios said, “There are no obstacles for the Lord anywhere. Today we sprinkle and bless everyone and everything. We do not simply throw seeds into the soil understanding that there will be no sprouts in advance, but we throw them everywhere hoping that the Grace of God will make sprouts and fruit grow even on the dry ground.” Then he came in and blessed all those poor girls, no matter what and despite everything. This was the essence of the Feast of Theophany, which the Lord manifested through the Venerable St Porphyrios.
I repeat it again, there are the words written for the priest, “The priest blesses everything.” Orthodox people usually observe everything ardently, “This one can do but this one cannot.” But suddenly, in the order of the great agiasma, we read, “Everyone can, everything is possible.” Nevertheless, it does not mean that people should relax and think they can lead a loose life and the good God will save everyone. No, this is blasphemy. This is about the readiness of the Lord to descend to the bottom, in the midst of filth, without disdaining or having an aversion to take us by the hand and pull, pull into the light from this filth.
Unfortunately, we speak less about this essence of the feast on Theophany! We speak about the miracle of the holy water, about how it is blessed and that the worthy people take it worthily. It turns out to be even for the unworthy. The only virtue we can have is to admit our worthlessness. Lord, I am at the very-very-very-very bottom. Do you remember that leper? “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me healed.”* “I lie at the very bottom, Lord, if You are willing, You can heal me.” This is how these lepers differed from those puffed Pharisees and Lawyers who pray to god at church and say, “I fulfilled everything to the tiniest detail, I am clean, I am gorgeous, I am worthy.” How the lepers differ from them! Look, what they say, “ Lord, if You are willing, You can heal me.” Everything is in Your will, everything is in Your hands. I am nothing. I am simply (forgive me for such a word in a sermon), I am lower than sewage, I am a shame. Lord, if You are willing, You can heal me. Just call me and I will go. That’s it. That’s all our salvation. It is not in long prayers, prostrations, hard fasts, or going to church. This is the point. Lord, if You are willing, You can heal me.
Do you know what I hear from God? “Yes, My child, I will.” And this strengthens me a lot.
Glory to our God always, now and ever and unto the ages of ages!
* “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” (Mt. 8:2)