The Centre—Sunday of St Gregory Palamas

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen.

“I know what people need,” I tell myself, “they need the Orthodox Church.  And I will bring them to it.”  And I work to bring people to the Church.  But I go about this in the wrong way: “they need me to bring them:” I lie to myself, “they need me.”

Such a focus, dear brothers and sisters, is wrong: they do not need me.  The person they need is the one who has authority to forgive sins, they need Christ.  Each of us should never lose focus that we should not place ourselves at the forefront, that we should vanish into the background and make room for Christ, make room for God.

Four friends of a man knew this.  They knew that they themselves were powerless to help their friend, that they could not do anything save bring him bread so that he might live to the next day, but they knew a man who could.  And they heard that Jesus of Nazareth was at home.  They took their friend to Christ.  And not being put off by a crowd, or by ridicule, or by shouting, or by any other obstacle, they brought him to Christ.

And I consider myself and my situation, that I want to place myself at the centre in front of Christ, that I want to obscure Christ from the picture, that I want to be the important one.  But if we are to be the Church, if we are to be the saints of God, I am not the Master, I am a friend carrying another to Christ: or, perhaps more appropriately, I am the paralytic allowing myself to be carried to Christ despite the shouting, despite the shame, despite the jeers.  “And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘My son, your sins are forgiven.’”  And he says the same to you and he says the same to me, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Whatever we have done we can receive the forgiveness of sins.

“If you love me,” says the Lord, “keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)  And the man does precisely this—he does not run around, shouting, celebrating, he follows the commandment of Christ, “rise, take up your pallet and go home.”  He does not draw attention to himself but pays attention to the Master and his commands.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, to be an orthodox Christian is not to draw attention to ourselves, nor even to draw attention to the Church—our Faith is to bring others to Christ.  Christ is the centre because he is the Way, the Truth and the Life: no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6).  And if we ourselves point to Christ, direct to Christ, then Christ will live in us and we will be with him.  Our Faith, all we do, is not about icons, nor liturgy, nor clergy, nor antiquity, nor councils, nor Fathers, nor saints, it is about Christ and all these point not to themselves but to Christ.  Let Christ, dear brothers and sisters, be all things for us—that, in the words of St Patrick the Enlightener of Ireland and great saint of our Church whose memory we celebrated this week, we may be with Christ and he in us,

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

St Patrick’s Breastplate, 8–9

To our incarnate, crucified and risen God and Saviour Jesus Christ be all glory, honour and might, together with his unoriginate Father and the All-holy, Good and Life-giving Spirit.  Amen.

In the beginning, Thou, Lord, didst found the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of thy hands; they will perish, but thou remainest; they will all grow old like a garment, like a mantle thou wilt roll them up, and they will be changed. But thou art the same, and thy years will never end.” But to what angel has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet?” Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation? Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For if the message declared by angels was valid and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him.
— Hebrews 1:10–14, 2:1–3

At that time, Jesus entered Capernaum and it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak thus? It is a blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven, ‘ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins”-he said to the paralytic-“I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!
— Mark 2:1–12