A Mysterious, Invisible Conversation

Sermon on Luke 8:41-56 on the woman with the issue of blood. Sunday, November 22, 2020


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The immortal human soul made in the image of God, for each of us the most important inheritance, has a particular quality. It is always in a state of communication, even during sleep. We remember the words of the King Solomon: I sleep, but my heart is awake (Songs 5:2) What is this conversation that goes on in the human soul, be it believing or unbelieving, pious or depraved? The soul calls out in a very particular way. It’s wonderful when it calls out to God! Sometimes it’s idle talk, sometimes it’s talk within the soul concerning circumstances in life and various worries. There is a reason why the Church sings at the beginning of the main part of the Liturgy, in the Cherubin Hymn: “Lay aside all earthly cares… Let us lift up our hearts…” The Lord Jesus Christ is the Seer of souls, the only one in the whole universe Who knows all the thoughts of every soul He created. He knows every thought in each of our souls, yours and mine.

Today we read in the Holy Scripture about this mysterious, invisible conversation between the human soul and God. The Lord was pressed by large crowd of people. They all desired help, healing, and support in whatever matters from the great Teacher and man of prayer. But it turns out that only one great and most exalted soul was truly conversing with Him, and He entered into conversation with her. God Himself not only spoke with her, but also showed her His great mercy—He answered her prayer. Pressed by those standing around Him, the Lord was making His way through the crowd. The disciples were gently keeping the people away because they were simply shoving the Savior. Suddenly the Savior pronounced the words that stunned His disciples and the people around Him: “Who just touched me?” The disciples said, “Teacher, a multitude of people are pressing against You! Every moment dozens of hands reached out to You and grabbed the hem of Your garment.” The Lord meant only one person. “Virtue (power) has gone out of me,” He said to His disciples in explanation. He Himself knew perfectly well who had touched Him, and turned to the crowd, asking, “Who touched Me?” with the aim of giving us an infinitely important lesson for all times in the life of the Christian Church. From out of the crowd came a misfortunate pagan woman who did not dare to raise her eyes to Christ the Savior, or to the disciples, or even to the people. Falling at His feet, she confessed that it was she who had touched Him. The multitudes of people who crowded the Savior were silent, and she answered: “I touched You.” Her soul had engaged in a mystical conversation with God. And her soul could not be deceived.

We recall how in one of the most tragic moments of the life of the chosen people and in his own life, Moses stood silent. And the Lord asked him, “Moses, why are you crying out to me?” although he was silent. Moses’s soul had turned to God, crying out to Him!

We remember another story when the Lord Jesus Christ saw people’s thoughts. The man who was healed on the Sabbath day arose, taking up his bed. But the Lord said to Pharisees, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” (cf. Matt. 9:2–5). The Pharisees envied Christ. The Lord saw these thoughts, which were in no way addressed to Him. Christ’s disciples were confused when they saw Him after His Resurrection, because they did not yet have faith in the resurrection; they were not yet confirmed in their faith. The Lord said to them: “Why are you troubled, and why do these thoughts enter your hearts?” “It’s not a spirit, it is I. Be not afraid. Touch My hands and feet—a spirit has neither flesh nor bones, as you see that I have” (cf. Lk. 24:38–39).

A person can talk. We can converse with the spiritual world without pronouncing a word. This is the great gift of the soul’s communion with God. Amidst the human clamor of the crowd, the only soul that had such conversation was this poor woman with the issue of blood (according to Church tradition her name was Veronica; she later became a Christian), who because of her illness could not even appear in society, never mind touch someone. It was considered that anyone whom such a person touched would become unclean and thus not permitted to enter God’s temple. But she dared to touch the greatest Teacher and miracle worker (as it seemed to her)—in fact, God Himself, incarnate and become man.

The Lord says to her these remarkable words, which each of us would like to hear: Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. [In the Slavonic, in place of “be of good cheer” is the word, derzai, which means, “be bold!—Trans.] He didn’t say, “It saves you…” or “You will be saved”, but “Be of good comfort”, and calls her “daughter”: “Your faith has saved you.” It’s already saved her! What astonishing words! The Lord calls her to boldness; He supports her action, which was in complete contradiction to the Old Testament law. Not only should she not have touched the sacred garments (as the holy fathers say, she touched one of the sacred parts of the Old Testament man—the tassel with blue wool, which indicated the Jews’ special position), she should not even have appeared in human society. And the Lord says, “Be bold! Your faith has saved you.”

What is this boldness? What is this faith, which the Lord approves of and blesses? What is this faith that each of us would like to have? We see the amazing humility and wonderful boldness of this woman. Her humility consists in the fact that in believing in God, believing in His inexhaustible mercy, regardless of all the laws, she resolved in her soul to break through to Him and ask for His fatherly care and mercy. She correctly believed in Him as infinitely merciful! And no boundaries, including religious ones, could stop her. Second is her boundless humility. Aware of the whole horror and unlawfulness of what she was doing, she fell down before the Teacher, the Lord Jesus Christ. She had the loftiest humility, and supreme boldness as a human being.

She was worthy of that mystical conversation, which took place amidst the noisy crowd, in the middle of an oriental bazar, in the quiet space between her soul and God. We all want such a mystical conversation, and we should all strive for it, we should all seek it. A multitude of works by the holy fathers teach us how to cultivate the habit of such a conversation in our souls. We of course want it. But will God want to talk with our soul? Does it have what Holy Scripture tells us about: “A heart that is broken and humbled, God will not despise” (Ps. 50:17)? If we have only pride and the passionate desire to force our way into communion with God, the Lord will not give us this connection until our heart and soul become truly humble. This is the task of our whole lives. This is the lesson of our whole lives. This is the greatest of spiritual arts—to find ourselves as we are in reality, without deceiving ourselves with arrogance and illusions about ourselves, without exalted myths about ourselves; to find ourselves as we really are, without deceiving ourselves, other people, or God. A soul that looks at itself honestly and without delusions can acquire humility, and later obtain that mystical conversation with God, which is the main goal of Christian life. This conversation, this communion is our constant abiding in God; it is salvation itself, and life eternal. Amen.

Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Pskov and Porkhov
Translation by Nun Cornelia (Rees)



Presbytera Judith Irene Matta11/30/2020 12:44 am
Your Eminence Tikhon! We greet you from far-away ( but near in Christ) and ask for Your Holy blessing! Your words here are sown deep in our hearts, as are the words of the Pskov Fathers in the documentary that you filmed so long ago- and now you are "home again" ! We know that Your joy must be great, as we remember the Holy Father Feophil (sp?) and the other holy fathers reaching into the camera and blessing us. We receive that blessing and ask that Your holy prayer be with us in our great trials with the Darkness of Atheism and hatred of Christ being revealed now among us here. Our small Mission reaches out through media in a humble way, having seen the dirth of teachings for Catechumens who are reaching out to the Holy Faith here. Our small talks attempt, with the Holy Spirit's help always, to answer some of those needs of American converts like ourselves, and we see many respond by receiving Holy Baptism - the Mystery strangely overlooked here by the clergy leadership - as they realize the foundational Grace of this Holy Mystery. We are looking forward with great anticipation and joy to seeing more from Your wisdom, for us who are "untimely born" as St Paul says, into the fullness of the Holy Orthodox Faith. Again,we ask You to please pray for us - we have no elders and few leaders here - but the Lord provides His direction through holy Bishops like Yourself. Your humble servant and Christ's handmaid, Presbytera Irene. Descent of the Holy Spirit Orthodox Mission (GOC under Vicariate of Jordanian/Palestinians in Santa Maria CA (805) 361-0433
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