Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Christ Restoring Health to the Centurion's Servant

Luke 7: 1-10

HERE JESUS IS TEACHING IN CAPERNAUM AGAIN. A non-Jewish military leader, who is sympathetic and generous with the Jewish community, has asked for Jesus to come to cure a favorite servant, who later he will refer to as my boy. As Jesus approached the house the soldier sent word by way of friends, that Jesus should not actually come to the house because of the man's felt unworthiness, but please, to heal from a distance. Jesus complied, celebrating the soldier's faith, though he was a Gentile, and the boy was indeed cured.

We see the city and the boy in his bed. He seems to be enjoying some affluence, as the blanket or quilt is bright red and decorated. So are his pajamas. Only the wealthy had access to colors. The centurion and a another soldier are at the bedside with one of the messenger-friends. Though the gospel account doesn't tell us that Jesus ever wound up in the house, here he is shown at the foot of the servant's bed. An apostle has come along, maybe Peter, James or John, the three apostle-insiders. Though Peter is always more identifiable than any of these men. The boy's bed seems to be out in the yard, while the red curtain and the open door suggest the healing took place in the house. Again there is this trans-place going on in the icon: a wonder that goes beyond a particular geography.

When the Lord set out for the centurion's house
the soldier objected, declaring his unworthiness.
And so I stand with this soldier of humility, crying out:
Speak only the word and healing shall be mine.

Capernaum is a place of convergence,
where roads from distant places come together.
O Jesus, meet me in the place of my inner Capernaum,
where light and shadow conjoin.

This centurion had a servant who was sick and near death,
sending friends, beseeching Jesus to come and heal the boy.
O Christ, come and heal again, now, this slave
to power, possessiveness and pride.

The centurion was the leader of a hundred soldiers
with the imperial might of Caesar behind him.
In sickness he realizes his own powerless need,
as Christ sets out to heal where power fails.

It is the Word of Jesus which has real power,
healing even from a distance.
Speak your Word still, O Christ-God;
heal our world where we are far from your truth.

The Jewish elders told Jesus, This man is worthy of your attention.
But the centurion sent others to tell the Lord, I am unworthy of your visit.
In humility, let us rejoice in everything given:
unmerited gifts.

The centurion's slave was highly valued.
Quickly Jesus shares what's important to us.
Let's never trouble Jesus with trivial things,
but bring to him our secrets, born from deep within.

In Bethlehem's humility, the Lord assumed our form;
and the centurion asked for healing through the intercession of friends.
Glorify Christ whose Word demolishes pride
and raises us up, encouraged by love.

Jesus marveled when the Gentile soldier
trusted in his power to heal.
And I will share this commander's believing:
Jesus, beneath the roof of my soul.

The centurion sent a delegation, asking the Lord,
Heal my servant by your distant word.
And I will be a centurion too,
and Christ will delight in faith such as this!


  1. Father Stephen can you say a few words about the sort of "crazy" red swirl around the head of the boy. I don't think its a pillow behind him. It looks like something active moving around him, but not necessarily clear.
    Thank you,

    1. Father Stephen MorrisJune 22, 2013 at 7:00 AM

      The icons in the posts these days are painted by a workshop in Greece. They are contemporary, not ancient. A crackle glaze is used, not to fake people out into thinking they're old, but just because it adds to the ancient "feel" of an icon. The workshop also seems to delight in the use of bright colors and even a sense of whimsy. For example, in today's post, The Calling of the Apostles on the Sea, the bow and stern of the little boat are fanciful. The centurion's servant boy in the icon here does indeed seem to have a wild kind of swirl around his head - even a hoop. But look very carefully and see that it is two pieces that give the appearance of one. Behind him and to his sides is his fluffed up pillow, while the front is the top or neck of his pajamas. The artist likes to use dots as a decorative element: the pagama neck, the dots on the soldier's armor or uniform, more dots on the blanket - the fabric itself and along the edge. It seems to give the scene some life, but if not carefully applied (perhaps overdone) things might indeed get a little "crazy."