|40 - Lamp of the Body, July 3, 2011|
Having been justified by faith, writes St Paul, we have access by faith into the grace in which we stand. This grace is the uncreated grace that radiates from God like sunbeams from the sun.
God is love, St John the Evangelist tells us. The uncreated grace of God, then, streams forth from the God who is love and is therefore of the love of God. What we are standing in when we stand through faith in the uncreated grace of God is the uncreated love of God.
In this biblical light, we see that the faith by which we stand in the grace and love God is an expression of our love for God. We love God, St John tells us, because He first loved us. And, as St Paul writes to us this morning: God demonstrates His love for us by dying for us even when we were still sinners. We are justified by faith, then, because faith is our turning to God in love. In that love, we unite ourselves to Christ who united Himself to us in the mystery of His Holy Incarnation.
Faith makes our life on this earth into a labor of love. From the font of our baptism we journey to the Royal Doors of Heaven that open to us at the sacred moment of our death, our falling asleep in Christ – which is our entrance into His Holy Resurrection. In faith, we use the tribulations of this life as the opportunity for us to practice loving God and trusting ourselves to Him by doing His Holy commandments. In the midst of tribulation, we work to keep our trust in God and our focus on Christ so that we do not give in to the temptation to give ourselves over to fear or anger, or to trust ourselves to our own wisdom. When reviled or insulted we do not revile in return. When maligned or slandered or cheated, we return the evil with good. We strive to conduct ourselves always with honor and with grace in the dignity of Christ. This is the concrete way by which we put into action our faith or our love for God. By adhering to the commandments of Christ, especially when it seems to us difficult to do so, is how we grow in the faith or in the love of God.
In the Gospel reading this morning, St Matthew records for us the teaching of Jesus: “The lamp of the body is the eye.” The “eye” that Jesus is talking about seems to correspond to the soul when He says, “Do not worry about your soul, what you will eat or what you will drink, for your soul is more than food.”
The lamp of the body is the soul – that part of us that is eternal and that part of us where our love is centered, and where we choose what we will love. The soul is more than food and drink, the Lord tells us, because the soul is made, going to the Hebrew, as a living nephesh, a living throat, made by nature to eat and drink God Himself in the mystery of His Holy Eucharist, by which we become partakers of the divine nature. We were made in the Image of God. The Image of God is Christ Himself. Made in the Image of Christ, we were made to become like Him. And, since God is love, that means that we were made to become love, like God is. We were made to become lovers of God. And, we become like God only as we come to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.
St John writes in his first epistle: “He who says that he walks in the light but hates his brother, is still in darkness.” You see how the light that God is, is love, and the darkness that is alien to God is hatred, enmity, anger.
So, when we give ourselves in love to God, our soul is filled with the love of God. And, filled with the love of God, our soul is filled with light, the uncreated light of God. This light of God, says St John, is the life of men. It is the light of God, the love of God, that is Jesus Christ who illumines everyone as He comes into the world in the mystery of His Incarnation. And if our soul, the eye of the body, is illumined in the love of God, in Jesus Christ, then the life that the soul gives to the body is full of light, full of the love of God, and the whole body, the whole being of man, becomes light, it becomes the embodiment of the love of God, it becomes a living temple of the living God; it becomes the Church.
Coming to the Divine Liturgy, when we partake of the divine nature by eating and drinking the precious, all-holy and most pure body and blood of Christ from the Chalice of the Church, is like coming into a bridal chamber to unite ourselves in love with the Heavenly Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ. Living by faith amid the tribulations of this world – living amid the tribulations of this world by prayer and fasting: that is to say, by turning our love away from the ways of the world, the ways of conceit, greed and anger, through fasting, and giving our love to Christ through prayer – we become like the bride who sets out to make herself attractive to her Bridegroom because she loves Him as He has loved her. By faith, i.e., by our desire to love God more and more we work to renounce gluttony and lust, vanity and conceit, greed and anger, and we set out to cultivate humility and simplicity by submitting in humble obedience to Christ’s holy commandments. This is how the bride, the soul, adorns herself in the beauty of divine grace and makes herself attractive to Christ, her Heavenly Bridegroom. Standing in the grace of God by her faith, by her love for Christ, the bride becomes clothed in soul and body in the uncreated light of God, the uncreated love of God. The uncreated light of God becomes her life. And, it illumines her body and soul with the glory of the uncreated grace of God in which she stands through faith, through her love for God.
We know this beautiful truth of the Gospel because Christ Himself has told us. And, He has demonstrated His love for us by dying for us on the Cross. He has revealed the truth of the report of His ineffable glory in His Holy Resurrection, and in the lives of His saints who loved Him, and in whom He loves to dwell. So, if we believe this, why would we want to give ourselves to another master, to another husband? This Gospel of the Heavenly Bridegroom is calling out to us in His great love for us. He who is calling out to us is the Image of God in whom we were made. And, He is calling to the center of our being, to the eye, to our soul that is the lamp of our body.
You were created in the love of God. You were made for the love of God. The very principle of your being is the love of God. Come to the light, the uncreated light of God. Come to the love of God that is your true life. Take up your cross, take up your love and give it to the Lord Jesus by doing His holy commandments. And let your life in this world be adorned in the love of God, your life transfigured into a journey to the Royal Doors of the Kingdom of Heaven, and your death into the pouring out of your soul in love for God, the receiving of Christ’s Heavenly Spirit, and the partaking of the divine nature unto life eternal in the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit. Amen.