Fr. Matthew Howell offers a homily about Christ’s healing of the woman in the synagogue who had been hunched over for 18 years. He talks about the liturgical use of the word “Orthoi” which means “straight” (usually translated “Stand Aright”). He also discusses how we need to straighten out our souls, and by doing so we receive the fruit of the Holy Spirit mentioned by St. Paul in the epistle reading from Galatians 5:22. Along the way he mentions how we get bent out of shape or out of sorts in both body and soul.
Post Script: A few days after delivering this homily, Fr. Matthew found the following relevant passage and note from the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament of the Orthodox Study Bible. It was not mentioned in the homily but is worth sharing:
“You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord. Now therefore remove the foreign gods from among you and make your heart straight toward the Lord God of Israel” (Joshua 24:22-23).
The note from the Orthodox Study Bible on this verse says:
“To ‘make your heart straight toward the Lord God of Israel’ means to return the soul to its natural state, as it was when the Lord made it. John the Baptist meant the same thing when he said, ‘Make His paths straight’ (Matthew 3:3). For if we abide as we have been made, we are in a state of virtue. When God made our soul, it was beautiful and exceedingly honest, but if we turn aside from our natural state to morally depraved thoughts, we shall be living in vice. Therefore, let us willingly return to the virtue endowed by God within our nature, for we have no need to leave our homes or cross the sea for the sake of God’s kingdom, to find virtue outside ourselves. All we need is a willing heart, for the moral integrity of the soul consists in its spiritual part being in its natural state as it was created. If this is the case, the Lord will recognize His work as being the same as when He made it” (Antony of Egypt).
Galatians 5:22-26; 6:1-2
Brethren, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
At that time, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.” And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and she praised God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.” Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?” As he said this, all his adversaries were put to shame; and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.