Next service: April 19, 18:00

HEALING THE PARALYTIC AT CAPERNAUM
AND THE MEMORY OF SAINT GREGORY PALAMAS



Fr. Dr. Augustine Sokolovski

The second, fourth and fifth Sundays of Great Lent are special. Because they have a double initiation. Initially, just like other Lenten Sundays, they were dedicated to Gospel readings.

For example, the Gospel text of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, in the center of which is the idea of an icon, speaks of the vision of God (John 1:43-51). Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree, being far from him. Because at that moment Nathanael was thinking about God, that is, about the One who is one with Jesus. “I and the Father are one,” He says in the Gospel (John 10:30). Theology expresses this kinship and uniqueness of Jesus in relation to His Heavenly Father with the word “Consubstantial”.

The third Sunday of Great Lent, which is called the Sunday of the Cross, has a reading from the Gospel text that you cannot follow Jesus without taking up your cross (Mark 8:34-9:1). The first and third Sundays of Lent have only one dedication. There are no other topics in their memories.

In a certain sense, the Gospel readings of the second, fourth, fifth Sundays of Lenten have gone into the shadows. After all, over time, it was on these days that the memories of the saints were added. These saints - Gregory Palamas, John Climacus, Mary of Egypt - are epochal for Orthodoxy. Like precious frames on ancient icons, the intense remembrance of these saints contributed to the departure of the original thematic concept. But this plan was great, and it has not been canceled.

Thus, the Gospel reading of the second Lenten Sunday is the story of the paralytic. This is the Gospel of Mark, chapter 2, verses 1-12. The event took place in the city of Capernaum, it is described in all the synoptic gospels (Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26).

According to the story, the paralytic was lowered through the roof of the house, which had to be dismantled for this. Jesus forgave the paralytic's sins. “Some of the scribes sat there and thought in their hearts: Why does He blaspheme like this? who can forgive sins except God alone? (6–7). In modern language, there were people in the house who did not believe God.

These were evil people. And they justified their anger with religiosity. Obviously, they would harm this paralytic. They could trample him. They could curse him. They could cause any harm, because in ancient communities a serious illness was considered a curse and punishment from God. Indeed, in ancient religiosity, a person who is sick, moreover, terminally ill, is punished. If a person is distorted, it means God punished him. Or he was punished by the gods. Accordingly, the paralytic would simply not be allowed to approach Christ. People brought the paralytic over the roof. From the point of view of an external observer, they did this with skill, cunning, and, at the same time, regret. “Jesus saw their faith,” says the Gospel (5).

It is very interesting that this way of bringing the paralytic symbolically tells us about dogma. It symbolically reflects the image of Orthodox veneration of saints. Reflects the image of the intercession of the saints. “I believe in the communion of saints,” says the Apostles’ Creed.

Saints cannot heal us themselves, saints cannot grant immortality, and cannot forgive sins. But they can intercede with God in Heaven. They bring God down to us through the roof of the firmament, or, better and more accurately, they bring us to God through the heavenly firmament of the prayer cover, they bring us down to Jesus in the Church, which is God’s House.

The Lord Jesus obviously understood that many of the people gathered around Him in the house were evil. He understood what all this meant. He saw their madness. Therefore, he began with the main thing and forgave the paralytic’s sins. The question arises as to why He did this in the first place. After all, he could tell the paralytic “Get up, go, do the job,” pronounce any command or “give an order.”

It is possible that if this man, who lay in paralysis, had not been forgiven his sins, he would have become even worse. Perhaps he was damaged not only from the outside, but also from the inside to such an extreme degree. In other words, he simply could not have been healed apart from the forgiveness of sins.

We, following the age-old philosophical tradition, believe that the body is closer to death than the soul. But in fact, the body of any person dies in the same way, due to the same processes it is deprived of life. The fall of the soul into the funnel of evil is endless. The soul is characterized by “mortality”; it is more compatible with death than the body through sin. The Lord Jesus knew about this. Therefore, He forgave the paralytic’s sins.

But the scribes thought it was a hoax. Moreover, if God, as they most likely thought, punished the paralytic, then no one has the right to destroy what happened. Moreover, how can one not do anything visible, but simply declare forgiveness of sins. The scribes knew and studied the Scriptures, but they were entirely “flesh and blood”; they were not spiritual people.

The Lord Jesus literally caught them in this invisible sin. So, he repeated: “Which is easier to do, visible or invisible, to forgive sins or to say go”? The Lord healed the paralytic. After this, the scribes decided, sir, to say. This is precisely the charge of blasphemy. Then Jesus, immediately after this event, called Matthew (Matthew 9:9). I read Matthew’s calling in the Gospel text but is not included in the Sunday reading (Mark 2:14).

According to the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus went out and saw a man sitting at the toll booth. Matthew was a tax collector, that is, an accountant, bookkeeper, and a very educated man. His middle name “Levi” suggests that he most likely came from the tribe of Levi, therefore he knew the Scriptures well and was versed in the Law. It turns out that at that time there was no one among the Apostles who would be able to write down the testimony about Him word for word. From now on, Matthew was called to follow the Lord and record His words and deeds.

This happened following the example of Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah, feeling threatened, gathered around him scribe-secretaries who wrote down his words and deeds in detail.

“Bind a testimony, and seal the testimony among my disciples,” he wrote God’s command (Is. 8:16). Therefore, his book, significant in size, has reached us. The Lord loved the prophet Isaiah, and Matthew also revered him. The Gospel he wrote abounds in quotes from Isaiah.

Jesus clearly understood that this would not end well for the Gospel. For the leaders of the people were evil in the likeness of demons. Moreover, they were like people possessed by a demon. Their anger was very great.

Jesus clearly understood that this would not end well for his mission on earth. For the leaders of the people were evil in the likeness of demons. Moreover, they were not like those possessed, for the Lord healed those possessed. They were like a person who himself inhabited a demon. Their anger was very great.They denied forgiveness from God, thereby blaspheming the Holy Spirit. This is a great and unforgivable sin (Mark 3:29).

The paralytic in the Gospel of Mark has a “brother.” The paralytic in Capernaum had a brother in Jerusalem. Reading about him takes place on the fourth Easter Sunday (John 5:1-15). But there is a different context and a different story. During Great Lent, the image of Jesus is mournful. He is led to the Cross for the healing he has accomplished. He Himself will soon become paralyzed when He is taken down from the Cross.

This is the price of goodness and all good deeds. In the Easter narrative we see the Christ of Glory who heals in an instant. Moreover, He foresees that if the healed person begins to sin, then even greater evil will befall him.

In the Easter narrative we see the Christ of Glory who heals in an instant. Moreover, He foresees that if the healed person begins to sin, then even greater evil will befall him. “Go and sin no more,” he says to the “Easter” paralytic (John 5:14), who was alone and, unlike the “Lenten” paralytic, did not have a person at all who could help him go into the waters for healing. The paralytic one, healed today, by the will of God, remains without reproach and can simply praise the Lord. “He immediately arose and, taking up the bed, went out before everyone, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this” (Mark 2:12).


The memory of Saint Gregory Palamas (1296–1359), which takes place in the second week of Great Lent, “overshadowed” the event from the Gospel, like a precious setting on ancient icons. Like God, whom the Greek text of the Creed literally calls “Poet of Heaven and Earth,” Saint Gregory was the poet of the human soul. He taught how prayer can enlighten not only the soul, but also the body; in the biblical spiritual sense, he taught a person to fly. He said that the light that the Athonite ascetics see in prayer is not a physical light or fantasy, but a genuine spiritual one.

Contrary to the conceptual series and rules of classical philosophy and theology, Gregory Palamas said that God is an uncreated and completely inaccessible essence and the uncreated, but accessible to man, actions of God, His energies.

These constructions, in a language that is “childish” for classical theology, are stunningly true. Among the written works of Gregory Palamas there is also a sermon on the second Sunday of Lenten. He preached about healing the paralytic while he was still alive. In 1368, the second week of Great Lent, by decision of the Church of Constantinople, became the day of his memory.

The Church is a community of believers, the Church is a communion of interpreters. By reading the Gospel text over and over again, she teaches herself the ability to understand. In the Eucharistic prayer of the Divine Liturgy, Saint Gregory Palamas stands with us, and rejoices that on this day we interpret the Gospel with him.

Share: