The Gergesene Demonaic, and Zeal Not According to Knowledge


I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God—but not according to knowledge. Beloved, today’s Epistle opens with these words from the Holy Apostle Paul, which he wrote in his epistle to the Romans, in the tenth chapter. In our lifetime perhaps, there has never been a time such as now when many—clergy and laity alike—have displayed such a zeal not according to knowledge. They have also ignored the Apostles’ words—Brethren, to your faith add knowledge. At no time before have witnessed such ridiculous conspiracy theories as those regarding COVID-19; but we are also seeing strange theories that touch on deeper, eschatological questions. I will tell you why I personally disregard these many theories: There are too many parties (both political and ecclesial) with various agendas, most of which oppose and contradict each other. Yet, despite their many differences they seem to agree that COVID-19 is a serious illness and that precautions should be taken against it, as the medical experts recommend. This is the position of our own ecclesial authorities. My words today are not focused on this issue; the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church, regardless of jurisdiction, has spoken and continues to speak and advise that the faithful listen to the medical experts. This is my simple observation. Too many good priests and faithful I know either died of the disease or are experiencing serious chronic health issues due to it. It is in our benefit—and indeed a most serious Christian duty—to take the public’s health seriously and conscientiously.

Physical health is extremely important. We are called to preserve life, to be healthy, and to be sacrificial in our efforts to care for those around us—most especially those who are at socio-economic or physical or mental disadvantage. We are against abortion yet we say things such as COVID-19 only kills old people. This is a horrific thing for a Christian to say. My grandmother unfortunately reposed during the pandemic in hospital and she reposed alone. No one deserves to die alone; it will haunt you if your loved ones go this way, just as the big unknown of my grandmother’s final forty-eight hours haunt us. Our God became one of us—a perfect Man—and so this world is a beautiful place, and mankind is a beautiful phenomenon since God walked amongst us in the Flesh. This is the Truth of Christianity, the treasure of our whole system of belief: that the God-Man assumed our nature and died for us and arose victoriously. Now, it is possible for you and I and everyone to live eternally with and in Him. And one day in the future all generations will rise to meet Him when He returns to judge the living and the dead.

Yet the central question we ask today is: Since we live for that other, unending and external life (if I may borrow the words of the Paschal canon), do we discard the here and the now? Is it permissible to say, I await the will of God, I do not wear a mask indoors, I do not sanitize my hands (not wearing a mask and not sanitizing the hands is the new form of Christian confession against the Leviathan-of-a government set to “oppress” us)—whatever happens, happens, if I die—I die, and it’s God’s Will? I ask such people: Would you walk across the 401 with a blindfold? Surely, this is zeal not according to knowledge. We are walking confounded as if God has abandoned the Church, with many either being irresponsible with their health, and others cowing in fear or being over dramatic with their precautions, such as sheltering at home and avoiding churches (where health precautions are taken and distancing followed it is of course safe to attend), wearing a mask while driving alone, etc. There are extremes, and extremes must be avoided: I reiterate the point. Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic a wave of serious depression and isolation and paranoia has overtaken mankind. There is a serious breakdown in relations, within society, within families, within the Church. Quite frankly, never has society been more confused or confounded. Suicide rates are skyrocketing.

Never in our modern history have we been so close yet so also so alone. What is the solution?

Fortunately for us, we heard about two men who, like us, were confounded and confused—though in somewhat different circumstances. After Jesus Rose in triumph from the Dead, two Apostles, Luke and Cleopas, walked to Emmaus in utter confusion and anguish. Those of you who regularly attend Sunday Matins may even know the Sunday Gospel readings by heart, since there are eleven and they function on a rotation. This is the fifth in the cycle, and perhaps the longest. The two Apostles are frightened and confused. They discuss amongst themselves the events of Christ’s Passion, and Jesus approaches them in secret and asks them: Why are you sad?

What do they say to the Lord? Have you not heard the evil events of the past days!? The Lord replies almost ironically, with what things? Cleopas explains, The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened.

The Lord’s reply echoes through the Gospel to us, in 2021. O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? Foolish ones and slow of heart to believe! We have seen no remarkable improvement since those times. Our overall behavior in this pandemic—either being totally reckless by ignoring health measures in Churches out of a sense of invincibility, or out of the mistaken idea that illness does not spread in Church (for the record: People have, of course, even died in Churches, historically) on the one hand, and, on the other, shutting churches down out of paranoia, forbidding the veneration of icons (COVID-19 is not transmitted via surfaces according to the authorities) etc., are all results of one central problem: our foolishness and lack of faith and slowness of heart.

The Lord sat with Luke and Cleopas at Emmaus. He sojourned with them on the way, He opened the Scriptures, their hearts were aflame! They do not recognize who it is still; Jesus is so familiar yet so unfamiliar. Abide with us, they pray Him, it is toward evening and the day is far-spent. While we ignore mask rules out of a sense of defiance in Church, while we slander those who have different opinions from ours in regards to the pressing issues of our day, or when we put signs above the icons that say, do not kiss—do we not realize: The day is far spent? Each person can answer this for his or herself. The Lord stayed with the Apostles. He broke bread with them and imparted life to them in the breaking of the bread, and this is how He was recognized—and then He vanished. Perhaps when we recognize that God has visited our loneliness, perhaps then it will be too late.

And we too will repeat the words of Luke and Cleopas: Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us? I would like us to now contrast this warmth, this living Faith, with the faithlessness shown today by the people of a distant Galilean town, that of the Gergesenes. The residents of this town were terrible Jews; they disregarded the law of Moses, they grew and ate swine. They were faithless. And Jesus visited them, as we heard in today’s Gospel at the Liturgy, from the eighth chapter of Matthew, beginning at the verse 28. These people, like us, were vexed with a problem that would not leave them: Two demoniacs, that is, two men possessed by demons, roamed those places and inhibited the normal life of the region. Christ provided the solution to their chronic problem by permitting the demons to leave the men and enter the herd of swine, which ran down a cliff and into the Sea of Galilee. Christ’s visitation and presence comes at a cost. And sometimes this cost, seemingly, cuts into our plans and endeavors. And sometimes, as is the case in today’s Gospel, those benefited by Christ remember the swine and the profit which came from the swine and they repeat to Christ the words of the Gergesenes, which in essence, are two words: Get out.

Notice the distinct contrast between the two Apostles in the Matins Gospel and the Gergesenes at the Liturgy’s Gospel: The Apostles heart is warmed at the Lord’s presence, while the Gergesenes say to the Lord, Leave now, get out! Perhaps we also partake in this faithlessness; and if we do, spare us, Lord! It is easy to be caught up in the debates and controversies of the age and to dogmatize them. Christians are called to be men and women of balance, and moderate concerning the things (and also in the opinions) of this world. Extremism and fanaticism are never healthy qualities. There are extremes on each side of the COVID debate, which should be avoided. Whatever we do in our time, the following Tolkien words from the Fellowship of the Ring should resonate within our conscious: I wish it need not have happened in my time, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Time is given to us. This life is a gift by Christ. And the time we have is a gift which should not be recklessly discarded under the pretext that God’s Will is a mechanical construction. Our Church is not Calvinism. If God added years to Hesechia’s life, He may also do so to yours—if you repent, and if you care and sacrifice for others. And caring for others means that you, yourself, are healthy: mentally, spiritually, and physically. Yes, it is important to care for oneself so one may be of service to others. Take the time to reorient your life to Christ by reading His Gospel and obeying His Church. And may you be gladdened in heart and soul when He also accompanies you and walks with you in the way wherein you go.

Panagiotis7/30/2021 2:42 am
If God wants to punish someone, a thousand vaccines will not stop that person from catching the Coronavirus... as the old saying goes "The FEAR OF GOD is the beginning of wisdom"...
Paul7/27/2021 4:57 pm
Thank you Father for this message. Interestingly enough I noticed that you did not mention the vaccines in your message before reading your comments below. I have tried to take a balanced view throughout this time, obeying the authorities as we are commanded to do providing it does not go against God. Trying to strike a balance between keeping people safe and living life, remembering that COVID isn’t the only threat we are faced with. Like you I am declining vaccination as I cannot reconcile the links to abortion with my faith. There was an excellent piece on this website a while ago. Unfortunately due to my profession and recent legislation in my home country of England, this may cost me my job. I have noticed a change in narrative from governments over the past 6 months from encouragement to receive the vaccine to coercion and threats. For example people are going to lose their jobs now if they decline vaccination, may be denied entry to certain social events and even talk of being barred from university. All of this despite the evidence that vaccines don’t prevent transmission. There is something very sinister driving this vaccination programme that I think should concern us all, whether vaccinated or not. God have mercy on us all. [Note for the moderator - I made this comment on the wrong page earlier, if you would kindly remove it!]
JJ7/27/2021 11:41 am
Father Seraphim Bell produces no documented evidence for his sweeping généralisations. But evidence never convinces those who are determined to subscribe to a particular theory. Such unsubstantiated threats and généralisations provoke a spirit of fear whereas God has given Christians a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind. Do not trust those who peddle fear; especially in condemnatory and judgmental généralisations.:This is the province of the cults who are propagating wild fear-provoking stories on Covid in order to have their adherents their leadership “under control”
Utrecht7/27/2021 6:32 am
The SEC and FDA class all of these mRNA shots as gene therapy. Those who think this is some made up term are not paying attention - they are not vaccines. "Currently, mRNA is considered a gene therapy product by the FDA. Unlike certain gene therapies that irreversibly alter cell DNA and could act as a source of side effects, mRNA-based medicines are designed to not irreversibly change cell DNA; however, side effects observed in gene therapy could negatively impact the perception of mRNA medicines despite the differences in mechanism. In addition, because no product in which mRNA is the primary active ingredient has been approved, the regulatory pathway for approval is uncertain. The number and design of the clinical trials and preclinical studies required for the approval of these types of medicines have not been established, may be different from those required for gene therapy products, or may require safety testing like gene therapy products. Moreover, the length of time necessary to complete clinical trials and to submit an application for marketing approval for a final decision by a regulatory authority varies significantly from one pharmaceutical product to the next, and may be difficult to predict."
Jacob7/26/2021 11:14 am
Joseph: As Mark Twain said, there are three kinds of lies: Lies, damn lies, and statistics.
sherlock_holmes7/26/2021 5:59 am
Talking about another zeal and no knowledge,Saint Paul once said: " Yet now,brethren,I know that you did it in ignorance,as did also your rulers " Acts 3:17... I don't think that those who are taking the vaccine have knowledge about it but mostly faith and trust in Cesar to protect their lives...The European Union database of suspected drug reaction reports is EudraVigilance, and they are now reporting 18,928 fatalities, and 1,823,219 injuries, following COVID-19 injections.( )
Ivan G.7/25/2021 11:17 pm
God bless you @Fr. Seraphim Bell! May we have your blessings!! Brother @Gary Cox, all these deaths are from the covid “vaccines” and these numbers are official, in EU, the data reporting system EudraVigilance has reported over 18 000 till now and over million people who had side effects and 50% of them have very serious ones, this is only for the EU and remember - official numbers. As for “covid”, it is real, it might be real, who can say for sure since the virus itself has never been isolated, but certainly is something(some poisoning or idk) but what we definitely know is that the ventilators, the corticosteroids, the masks, etc - caused great damage. The treatment prescribed by WHO literally murdered thousands of people. But good doctors all over the world who saw this nonsense treated their patients with 100% success rate!! They used the standard medicines for pneumonia, also ivermectin and other medicines and vitamins. It is 100% curable, but now since these vaccines got introduced, well thats another story…. We will see what happens, saints and elders have warned us and elder Ephraim of Arizona is one of them(i believe he is a saint), he said that the side effects will start after a while and they won’t be pleasant.
Fr. Ioannis Fortomas7/25/2021 10:31 pm
Dear Father Seraphim - thank you for your comment. I, too, at this moment have decided for the time being to not be vaccinated. However, I did not touch upon the issue of vaccination in this article, hence I do not understand why you say I am making a straw man argument. Perhaps you read my comment on crossing the 401 with a blindfold and inferred something which was not there. That being said, doctors I spoke to (who are pious Orthodox Christians) have emphasized to me that indeed, there are many potential issues with the vaccines which could become a apparent - in short history will judge - yet, at the present, it is their opinion as professionals who know how to interpret the science that vaccination is indeed warranted and beneficial for the general public. These are men and women who I personally know, in Greece and Canada and Germany, and they are faithful. I trust their judgement while holding my own hesitations for the time being.
Borislav7/25/2021 9:12 pm
I feel sad when I see distinguished Orthodox priests commenting on this text, and talking about "novel experimental gene therapy"? Brothers and sisters, and esteemed fathers, please do not use the terms you are clearly not familiar with. Even better, do not discuss the subject you evidently know very little about, and in which you cannot even differ the experts from the "experts".
Fr. Seraphim Bell7/25/2021 7:50 pm
Dear Gary Cox, You ask some good and important questions. The deaths I wrote of are deaths from the covid vaccines. There have been more covid vaccine deaths in the first few months since they were initiated this year than from all other vaccines in the history of vaccines. Scientists are now aware that the Spike Protein (which is inserted with the covid vaccines, including the Sputnik vaccine in Russia) is itself highly toxic, settles in all areas of the body and is actively causing hundreds of thousands of “adverse events,” things like deaths, blood clots, strokes, paralysis, etc. The warning from many of the most reputable doctors and scientists in the world is that the vaccines themselves will cause many more deaths and injuries in years to come and should be halted pending further testing. This information about the number of deaths and injuries comes from official government sites like the VAERS website (and they state that they probably only account for 1-10% of actual deaths). Already there are over 12,000 reported deaths in America (only 1-10% of the actual number) caused by the covid vaccines. In the 27 Schengen countries of the EU there are over 15,000 deaths (and again this is only a small fraction of the actual number). How many deaths in the other countries? We don’t know. Nothing like this has ever been seen before with vaccinations and it is shocking that these experimental gene therapies are not only not discontinued, but that now even children and pregnant mothers are being pressured to accept them. Bear in mind, these are entirely experimental. They have not been approved by the FDA. There are many other treatments that are successful against Covid. And for anyone under the age of 80, the survival rate is over 99.98%. If one is over 80 yrs old, the survival rate is still better than 98%. No one knows the long term consequences of receiving these vaccines, but we do know that the short term consequences already are deaths and permanent serious injuries on a scale never before seen in the history of medicine. Now government officials and some of our Church hierarchs want mandatory vaccinations. Such a demand to force people to receive an experimental medical treatment was condemned by the entire world at the Nuremberg trials of the Nazis as immoral, inhumane and illegal. To see government and Church officials calling for the same policies used by the Nazis is shocking and in my opinion, inexcusable.
Joseph Brown 7/25/2021 5:26 pm
It seems that the fact-based article on the effects of covid on various jurisdictions undermines most of what the author of this article says.
ACatharina7/25/2021 3:46 pm
It's like the society is losing ability to not think and act in extremes. But my own zeal is oftentimes careless and loveless. Such zeal is just destructive.
Gary Cox7/25/2021 1:34 pm
Father Seraphim Bell, I was not aware that tens of thousands have died from vaccines in America and the EU. Is this covid vaccines only or vaccines in general? Also, how are we to view the millions who have died from covid related causes? My brothers wife died recently because of damage to her body from covid so I understand that this disease is real. My understanding is that very few people die from the covid itself but it weakens the body and accelerates an existing problem so death comes prematurely ( sometimes several years prematurely ). Also how many have died or will die from vaccines compared to how many have died or will die from covid related causes? Since we have governments and media that we can't trust what are we to make of it? Thank you in advance! Gary
Ivan G. 7/25/2021 12:36 pm
You see, we do not make the divisions(the lay people), we just listen to our Orthodox bishops, priests, elders etc who told us that all of this is a plan of the wicked one to introduce the mark slowly but surely and that this is a war against Holy Communion(as we know it). We are not just some people who listened on some conspiracy news channels that masks are useless, we are Orthodox Christians who want to follow our Holy Fathers. Shaming us, won’t be of much help to nobody. Our Holy Fathers told us, dont change anything! Not to mention countless world renowned doctors who spoke out against these useless masks, the shots, and what not(if i say smt more maybe my comment wont be even allowed in here because im “endangering” people’s lives). So it’s definitely time for all of us to open our eyes and start loving the masked, the unmasked, etc and fight against our common enemy, the devil and his servants. Lord have mercy on us, amen! P.S. One brother in Christ asked me, so why you do not listen the advice of our Synod and get vaccinated? I answered and then he is like, “well you are not my brother anymore”!! Like I betrayed Christ! Lord have mercy..
Fr. Seraphim Bell7/25/2021 11:43 am
Father’s sermon seems like a balanced message...if you accept his straw man comparison. After having read hundreds, if not thousands of pages of medical reports on the covid mess, after having listened to hundreds of hours of interviews with Nobel Prize winning scientists, with the chief scientist for Pfizer who developed the mRNA platform, with the discoverer of the PCR test, with some of the world’s leading virologists, with many doctors active in treating covid patients, I have decided to follow the science and stay away from the so-called vaccines. He asks: Would you walk across the 401 with a blindfold? It seems to me that accepting an entirely novel experimental gene therapy about which no one knows the long term consequences (though we already know that 10’s of thousands have died from these experimental drugs already in America and the EU) which still has not been approved by the FDA because it hasn’t completed necessary tests, developed by companies that never before successfully developed vaccines, and which were fined millions of dollars for the harm done by their previous forays into the vaccine field, certainly could be likened to someone walking blindfold across the Freeway! He should realize that some of us are walking carefully, cautiously with eyes wide open while listening to the science and praying for discernment, and saying no thank you to being part of the experiment.
Basil Hill-Zeck7/25/2021 11:41 am
"Through sorrows and sickness you will be saved in the last times." -- Elder Gury (Chezlov)
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