|31 - Holy Myrrhbearers. Third Sunday of Pascha, April 26, 2015|
Mark 15:43 - 16:8
Imagine a glass of clean, pure water set on the window sill in bright sunlight. The sunlight doesn’t just shine on it; it fills it with its light so that the glass of water is filled with light, and in the light, it becomes warm.
Neither are the sunlight and its warmth something different from the sun. They are the sun radiating from the sun so that the light that fills the glass and makes it warm is the sun.
Here is another image, more hidden. Place a potted plant on the same windowsill. The leaves of the plant absorb the sunlight and “work” it in photosynthesis. The plant and the sunlight become one. The light fills the cells of the plant and the plant grows tall, firm and verdant.
Creating man in His Image, God created man in the Person of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, Light from Light, true God of true God. Like the glass of water, man was filled with the light of Christ in warmth of the Holy Spirit, the light and the warmth of the Father. God raised man up from the dust of the ground like a tender young plant in the full light of the sun. Like the light of the sun, the Holy Spirit of God was breathed into man. Like the plant, man absorbed into his every cell, tissue and nerve, into every part of his body, soul and mind Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Unlike the plant, however, man was created in the Image of God with a mind, a will, a heart; i.e., in the freedom of love. The biblical text to me seems to say that it was man’s work to finish the creation that God had begun (Gn 2:3 LXX) by “working and guarding” the garden. (Gn 2:15) The command was to work and to guard the soil of his heart, the “font from which the springs of life come forth” [as in an exodus] (Prov 4:23), his personal center where he burst into being as a creature made in the image and likeness of God, so that from his heart, illumined and warmed by the divine light and fire of God, man would be illumined throughout his whole body and soul, mind and heart with the light and warmth of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, we could say that the light of God filled the whole of man; but, it remained outside the Holy Doors of his heart, waiting for Adam to open them of his own will; for, love is not forced. As soon as it is forced, it ceases to be love. This is what was required, then, for the creation that God had begun to do to be finished: man must freely deny himself for the sake of Christ, the Image of God in whom he was made, and open the doors of his heart to God. Then he would come to love God with all his heart and the Holy Spirit could come into the sanctuary of man’s heart and fill him with light. Then would man attain to the likeness of God. In God, he would be light as God is light. In God, he would be fire as God is fire.
This is the work that Christ finished on the Cross (Jn 17:4 & 19:30), and so His tomb on the third day was filled with light, not the light of the sun, but the uncreated Light of Christ Himself who is the Resurrection and the Life. His body was raised from the dead to life – not the life of the flesh that passes away but the eternal, uncreated and divine life of the Holy Spirit – and filled with light; or rather, it was filled with God, with Christ, the Resurrection and the Life, for it was, after all, His body. Every cell, every tissue, every nerve, every part of the LORD’s body, soul and mind received and absorbed into itself, like a sponge immersed in water, the uncreated Light and Glory that was His from the beginning, because His heart lived and moved and had its being, from the moment of His conception in the womb of the Most Holy Theotokos, in the Holy Fire of the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father. From this, I wonder if the brilliant light that clothed the angels and filled the LORD’s empty tomb wasn’t Christ Himself, radiating from Him like sunbeams from the sun. “He is not here,” then, didn’t mean, “He is not here!” It meant, “He is not here as a dead man!” He is not of the earth or physical anymore. (I Cor 15:44) “He is risen!” He is spiritual, of heaven. Yet, He is here in the Light. The light that surrounds you – that is the LORD, just as the sunbeam that radiates from the sun and fills the glass of water is the sun. And so, you – and we – are standing in Him!
So, when the myrrh-bearing women came to the Holy Sepulcher “deep in the morning” of the “One [Sabbath] of Sabbaths” (Lk 24:1), they were coming to that place where Christ has opened earth onto heaven, time onto eternity. And so, they were coming to an image of the LORD’s “inner man”; i.e., to an image of the heart of man that Christ has opened onto the Father in the Holy Spirit, where the uncreated light of God now streams into the nature of man and out into the world as through an open window. Entering the empty tomb, they came into the mystery of the Church, the mystery of the Body of Christ in whom human nature’s natural destiny is now fully realized: to be filled with God so that in every cell, every nerve, every tissue, in every part of our body, mind and soul all the way down into the “inmost chamber” of our heart we are illumined with Christ, the Son of God, so that we become “sons of God”; with Christ who is Light from Light so that we become light; with Christ who is true God of true God so that we become god in God.
This vision of human nature and destiny is the theological vision of the holy fathers, which their minds, illumined by the Holy Spirit in the Church, in the Body of Christ, saw in the word of the prophets and holy apostles and in the Gospel of Our LORD Jesus Christ: viz., that the purpose for which God made man was that man should become so filled in the love of God that abides forever with the Light and Fire of God that man would himself become a “god” in God. This is why God became man: that man might become “god” in God, in the love of God that abides forever. The “Incarnation” of God was for the purpose of the “deification” of man.
Let us therefore not think that, “Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ,” we’ve reached the “end” of the Christian Faith. If that were so, I think the Christian Faith would be about nothing more than our becoming morally better. In the mystery of Christ’s Holy Pascha, we are created anew. But, this is but preparation for an even deeper mystery: Holy Pentecost when new and right spirit, the Holy Spirit, is breathed into us to make us alive in Christ so that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us. (Gal 2:20)
Through our baptism, having been made partakers of Christ in His Holy Pascha, we have been placed in the Garden, the sanctuary of our heart. Like Adam, we are given the command to keep and to guard the grace of the Holy Spirit that has raised us to life as from the dust of the ground. This is the work of keeping and guarding our heart. (Prov 4:23) In the sweat of our brow, we till the soil of our heart through prayer and fasting as we work to root out the thorns and thistles of carnal desires and impulses that grow from the soil of our heart because of our egotism. We must do that work because it expresses our freely chosen desire to open the doors of our heart to the God who created us in Light and then re-created us in Light in His inexpressible love for us on the Cross so that He may come in and abide with us (Rev 3:20) and fill us with the living waters of His Holy Spirit (Jn 7:37) and so make us to become god in God, light in light, fire in fire, love in the love of God that abides forever.
The LORD “goes before us into Galilee”, the angel says. I take that to mean, among other things, that the LORD has made Himself the Way that returns to the dust of the ground, through the tomb and out into the Garden and up to the Kingdom of Heaven. And, He is the Light that illumines the Path. So, if we are striving to walk in His commandments, we are absorbing His Light like tender, young plants into our bodies and souls and working His light in us as the plant works the light of the sun and grows. And He is the Master Gardener. Knowing our station in life, our circumstances and our strengths, He works in us according to His good pleasure to raise us up to become children of light and to prepare us for the descent of His Holy Spirit in the mystery of Holy Pentecost! Amen!