To Groan to Him

From “Homily 10 on Ezekiel” (590)

What does it mean that God the Creator of all things, when he willed to heal the man who was deaf and dumb, put his fingers in the man’s ears, and, spitting, touched his tongue? What is signified by the fingers of the Redeemer, if not the gifts of the Holy Ghost? And this is the reason why he said in another place, when he had cast out a devil: “If I by the finger of God cast out devils, doubtless the kingdom of God is come upon you” (Luke 11:20). And it is recorded by another evangelist that he said: If I by the spirit of God cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come upon you (Matt. 12:28). So from either place we gather that the Spirit is called the Finger of God.  Therefore, to put his fingers in the man’s ears, is to open the soul of the deaf man to faith through the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

And what does it mean that, spitting, he touched his tongue?  For us the saliva from the Redeemer’s mouth means the wisdom contained in the divine word.  For saliva flows from the head into the mouth. So when our tongue is touched by that wisdom which he is, it is thereupon made ready to preach his words.

And looking up to heaven, he groaned; not that he had need to groan who himself granted what (as man) he prayed for, but to teach us to groan to him who rules in heaven, that our ears also may be opened by the gifts of his Holy Spirit, and our tongue loosed by the saliva of his mouth, that is, by the knowledge of his divine words, so that we shall proclaim them.

“And then he said to the man: Ephpheta, which is, Be thou opened; and immediately his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed.” And let us here note, that it was because of closed ears it was said: “Be thou opened.” And to him the ears of whose heart are opened to faith, there will without doubt also follow that the string of his tongue shall be loosened; so that he may speak to others, and encourage them so that they also may do the good he himself has done.

And here, fittingly, was added: “And he spoke right.”  For he speaks right who first obeying God, does what he tells others they must do. Therefore, in all that our mind dwells on, in all that we do, let us pray that we shall at all times meditate according to His inspiration, and act by his aid, who lives and reigns with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.  Amen.

St. Gregory the Great (ca. 540-604) served as Bishop of Rome from 586-604, during a series of invasions and political turmoils. He was a skilled administrator and diplomat, as well as a gifted preacher and writer on the spiritual life. He preached a series of expositional homilies on Ezekiel in 590, as the city of Rome was being besieged by the Lombards. His feast is celebrated on March 12.


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