Tag Archives: Cain

Pigs and Sirens

Icon of Jesus Healing the Demoniacs

13th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday (Year II)

Amos 5:14-15, 21-24; Matthew 8:28-34

After Adam lost his one-pointedness, the single eye (Matthew 6:22) split in two and revolved in every direction like strobe lights in the theater of the world. Knocked off center from his still and tranquil union with God, he became a creature of distraction in search of entertainment and pleasure to fill his insatiable appetite. 

The descendants of Cain established the first city and pioneered the music and technology industries (Genesis 5:21-22). Murder escalated as distractions multiplied: “If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold” (Genesis 5:42).

When friendship with God was no longer a given, religion made use of forged instruments and tools in worship and sacrifice, but humanity fell into distraction, worshipping its own inventions instead.

I hate, I spurn your feasts, says the LORD, I take no pleasure in your solemnities; Your cereal offerings I will not accept, nor consider your stall-fed peace offerings. Away with your noisy songs! I will not listen to the melodies of your harps.

Ritual and music—servants of the liturgy—became idols in Amos’ day. The original harmony was found not in externals but in the “justice” of Adam’s faculties in which body, soul and spirit moved effortlessly in graced union with the Trinity. When the energy of the Holy Spirit animated the first-created person, “rivers of living water” flowed from within (John 7:38). Amos’ yearning plea hearkened back to this original harmony: But if you would offer me burnt offerings, then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream.

The demoniacs in Matthew’s Gospel portray humanity in its frenzy and madness of distraction, torn apart by multiple voices (“Legion”) and omnidirectional wandering. The approach of the Light invoked the wrath of the demons: “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?” 

Darkness recognized the Light, the original Source from which they freely departed. Its very existence depended on its Master. And so, its chaotic ensemble begged, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine.” 

To the consternation of the townspeople, the demons rushed into the herd and drowned in the sea—an economic disaster. Two brothers and members of their own Body were healed, but capital was more important. The people “begged him to leave their district.” 

Why did Jesus allow the pigs to die? Just as “it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29), it was better that the town as a whole—taken as one man—lose its economic base rather than drown in the sea. 

The loss of the pigs was no more extreme than the plucking out of an eye or the severing of a limb. Losses purify desire and reveal the heart’s true priorities. Great discipline, humility and silence are required to master the things of this world rather than to be mastered by them. “Music” (all human ingenuity), technology, and money are servants not idols, even in the sphere of religion. As the Sirens drowned many a man in Greek mythology, the pleasures and ambitions of this world are legion and lethal to the spirit if not ordered rightly.

-GMC

Children of the Heavenly Father

Icon of Desert Fathers and Mothers

11th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday (Year II)

I Kings 21:17-29, Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

The journey to become “children of the heavenly Father” is infinitely short and infinitely long—a journey to the center of the heart where the Trinity dwells. 

That place of tranquility in the still, silent center is what the desert tradition calls hesychia (from the Greek, meaning stillness, quiet, rest, silence). In this state, a person has conquered the passions through prayer, watchfulness and self-denial. A watchman is alert, awake and aware, like the wise servants waiting for their master to return from the marriage feast (Luke 12:35-38), or the five wise virgins who had their lamps alight when the bridegroom came (Matthew 25:1-13). 

The desert tradition also calls this state of tranquility apatheia (passionlessness)—a condition of inner equanimity when one is no longer moved against the will by thoughts and emotions. The person is fully aware of every action proceeding from thought and emotion, and takes responsibility for it. 

The state of being tossed in the storm of thoughts and emotions may be compared to the troposphere—the lowest layer of the atmosphere where weather occurs. Rain, sunshine, snow, hail, mist, clouds, etc… thoughts and emotions change continuously.

Above and beyond this tropospheric state, the person in hesychia/apatheia can observe with clarity the thoughts and emotions as they come and go, and act freely rather than by impulse or habit. Prayer, watchfulness and self-denial lead a person to interior freedom.

Self-conquest by the grace of the Holy Spirit allows one to sit in the lap of the heavenly Father and appreciate how “he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” The One who provides the weather for the earth is infinitely above it, and therefore perfectly loving and detached. Love and detachment go hand in hand. Above the spiritual troposphere, Jesus had compassion on those who hated him because he saw clearly that they were injuring themselves far more than they injured him. Such is the divine state to which we are called.

A watchful Eve and Adam would have stopped the serpent in his tracks as soon as the words, “Did God say…?” slipped out. A watchful Cain would have left his gift at the altar and reconciled himself with his brother before making his offering. 

There is hope for the Ahabs and Jezebels of the world. Murderers, robbers, prostitutes and ruffians became some of the holiest saints in the desert. Holiness is open to all, just like the sun and the rain.

-GMC