|47 - Kingdom of the Heart, Aug 11, 2013|
As we hear in the prayers of Holy Baptism, we are transfigured in our baptism. We are no more children of the body. We are children of the Kingdom of God.
By the grace of God, the gates of the Kingdom of God are open to us and the Holy Spirit begins to live in us; yet, can we honestly say that we are seeking first the Kingdom of God? I see myself still living in the body; i.e., I see myself seeking first the comforts and pleasures of the body.
That includes my soul and my mind. I live for my soul and not the Kingdom of God when I pursue vanity, when I seek a kind of fame or the good opinion of others. Of course, we must work to attain these pleasures of the body and soul. Oftentimes, they are out of reach. Is this not when we are inclined to escape from the troubles and cares of life by retreating into what I like to call the “Theater of the Mind”. There, we produce scenarios of fantasy that we live in, where we have all the pleasures we wish we had in our real life.
Beloved faithful, when this is what we seek first in our life, how different are we from those who live in the world; since, we, too, even though we are baptized, are seeking first not the Kingdom of God but the comforts and pleasures of the body? Is it any wonder, then, that, looking at us, the world would see the Christian Faith as just another of the world’s religions, just another peculiar configuration of universal religious themes and motifs, since the world sees us living for the body like everyone else, as though we were children of the world and not of the Kingdom of God?
Yet, perhaps we live as though we were children of the body because we do not see the Orthodox doctrine of Christ’s Holy Church. Perhaps we do not understand it, so that even though we love Christ, or at least want to love Him, we don’t know how to follow Him into His heavenly Kingdom and to live as children of the Kingdom.
Let’s note, therefore, that in this morning’s Gospel, the two blind men, in their blindness, follow the Savior into the house. There, He asks them: “Do you believe that I am able to open your eyes?” They answer, “Yes, Lord.” Touching their eyes, He says to them: “According to your faith, let it be done to you.” And their eyes are opened.
The movement here looks very much like the movement of Holy Baptism. The house is the Church, and the dialogue between the Savior and the blind men is the dialogue between the priest and the candidate for baptism. The touching of their eyes is the anointing and chrismation of the candidate on his eyes and all the senses of his body, his hands and feet. And, of course, the opening of the eyes of the blind men is the “illumination” that takes place in our soul in Holy Baptism, when we are raised from the font in Christ’s Holy Resurrection as children of the Kingdom.
On a deeper level, “the house” in this morning’s Gospel is our body. Now, of course, at our baptism, we notice no change on the “outside” of our “house”. We look the same after our baptism as we did before, just like the house in this morning’s Gospel looked the same before and after the healing of the blind men. It’s “inside” the house of our body where a marvelous change takes place. A certain joy and lightness that does not feel like anything we’ve ever known in the world is announcing that change to us. I believe that “feeling” is the still small voice of Christ calling to us from the Kingdom of God that He says is within us (Lk 17:21) and which is now open to us inside “the house” of our body.
That feeling is also telling us that this Kingdom of God that is within us is not a “metaphor” nor a religious idea or sentiment. It isan actual, spiritual place in our body. Or rather, I think it is more accurate to say that the entrance to the Kingdom of God is in our body. There is, that is to say, a spiritual place within “the house” of our body, which we can actually enter into in a real way. It opens onto the Kingdom of God. The Holy Tradition of the Church tells us that this spiritual place is in the physical region of the heart. There are many who have found it and who bear witness to us from their own experience that the Church’s teaching on this spiritual place is true.
This spiritual place in “the house” of our body, that I’m saying is the entrance to the Kingdom of God, is the core of our being. I would describe it as that “point” at which we burst into being, when we “come forth”, as it were, from out of the “abyss” of nothingness and begin to exist as body, soul and mind. From the teaching of the holy fathers, I understand this spiritual place of the heart to be the image of God in which we are made; it is our true self that “stands underneath” the movements of our body, the desires and feelings of our soul, the thoughts and reasonings of our mind.
In the first Adam, our heart became a tomb inside “the house” of our body because of Adam’s disobedience. But, in the Second Adam, in Christ, the tomb of our heart has been transfigured into a bridal chamber that opens onto Eden, onto the Kingdom of Heaven.
Oh, the wonder! The soul that follows Christ into “the house” of the heart as into Christ’s holy tomb, to be buried there with Christ in a death like His, enters as the blind men in this morning’s Gospel, unable to see the things of God. She comes forth as from a bridal chamber, her eyes “illumined”, glorifying God because of what she has seen, heard and felt, radiant in the Robe of the Light of Christ’s Holy Resurrection. An unseen mystery took place in “the house”, in the tomb of the heart whereby the soul that was dead and stinking, wrapped in the burial clothes of her sins and trespasses, was transfigured to become no more a child of the body but a child of the Kingdom, radiant now as a bride who has adorned herself with jewels, shining like “the stars of heaven” in God’s own uncreated light. Ah, but those who have followed Christ into the tomb know that the unseen, mysterious transformation of the soul in Christ is no myth. It is real, even more real than this earthly life of the body!
Outside of the Kingdom of God that is within us, we are blind to this spiritual mystery, this spiritual treasure in the house of our body. To find the spiritual place of that Kingdom that is within us, the Gospel this morning shows us that we must follow Christ as did the blind men. This spiritual place in our heart where we open onto the Kingdom of God is subtle and hidden; it cannot be found by the soul that lives for the material comforts and worldly pleasures of the body; because, when we live for the body, our eyes are covered over by the materiality of the body so that they cannot see the spiritual light of this spiritual place that is within us. How, then, could the mouth of such a soul speak of anything that would be of interest to the soul seeking first the Kingdom of God?
Beloved faithful, having been baptized, we do not observe the ascetic lifestyle of the Church out of obligation or to please God. We observe the ascetic lifestyle of the Church – according to our strength and circumstances –because that is the Way of Christ’s Cross by which we follow Him into the tomb, “the house” of our heart where the mystery of His death and Resurrection are accomplished in us, where we are transfigured to become children of the Kingdom of God. To follow Christ into “the house”, to seek first this Kingdom of God that is within us by taking up our cross, the ascetic life of the Church, according to our strength and circumstances: this is how we live in this world as Christians if our desire truly is to “unite ourselves to Christ”, and if the prayer of our heart truly is: “Remember us, O Lord, when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom!” Most holy Theotokos, save us! Amen.