|08 - Of Barns and Temples, Nov 22, 2015|
We read our Scripture lesson this morning in the light of the Feast of the Theotokos’ Presentation in the Temple. She is the OT Temple seen by the prophets perfected and consummated. She is received into the Holy of Holies and prepares herself to be overshadowed by the Glory of the LORD as was the OT temple several times, but with this significant difference: she is overshadowed by the Glory of the LORD and becomes the Mother of God. With the Feast of her Entrance into the Temple, we also make ready for the joy of Christmas when the eternal God – who was conceived in the Holy of Holies of the Virgin’s womb and became flesh to dwell among us as in His Temple, the Body He took from her – is born of her in the Cave and reveals Himself to us in the first Theophany of His Incarnation.
Seen in the light of the Feast, how foolish is the man in this morning’s parable! He reasoned within himself: he listened to and followed after his own thoughts, his own wisdom that is foolishness in God’s sight. He did not cock his inner ear to hear the Word of God in his heart. (Dt 30:14)
The huge barn he builds that stores his wealth so that he may rest and live out his days indulging his body eating and drinking and making merry stands in sharp contrast to the Temple of the Theotokos who holds God. The rich man gives his soul wholly over to the good things of the earth. He rests. He stops working. But, the barn he builds is but a beautifully decorated tomb for his body soon to become a corpse and for his soul that lives for the world that dies and passes away.
The Blessed Virgin devotes her life in the temple to the ascetic work of faith (cf. St Gregory Palamas, Homily 54) and she becomes the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven, arrayed in golden robes all glorious – i.e., glorified, sanctified, deified, radiant in the uncreated Light of the eternal God of whom she became the most Holy, most Blessed Mother. Her body the LORD made into a throne, her womb He made more spacious than the heavens. She became the living Temple of God foreseen by the prophets from whom God came forth as a mighty river to heal and make alive everything He touched (cf. Eze 47) – including above all the human nature that He took from the Most Blessed Virgin Theotokos.
St Peter says that the LORD has called us to His own glory and virtue that we might escape the greed and lusts of the world that proceed from the corruption of the tomb and become partakers of the divine nature. (II Pt 1:3-4) He calls us from His Holy Temple, built on the Stone of His Body that was rejected by the “builders” and laid in the tomb outside the city where it became the cornerstone of the New Temple not made with hands, not of this creation (cf. Heb 9:11), the Temple of His Risen and Glorified Body that He took from the Virgin. If He calls us from His Temple, He calls us from the Kingdom of Heaven where He has ascended in Glory and now sits at the right hand of the Father. But, He says that this Kingdom of Heaven is within you. (Lk 17:21) St Paul says that the riches of His Glory, hidden from the ages until the revelation of Christ is “Christ in you!” (Col 1:27)
Taking His body of flesh and blood from the Virgin, the LORD made Himself a partaker of us, for the flesh and blood He became is the same as ours. (cf. Heb 2:14) So, when He raised it up from the tomb “in the midst of the earth” (Ps 74:12) i.e., from the dead where we lay fallen in our sins and trespasses, and when in that same body He ascended in Glory, He made our bodyof flesh and blood to be His Holy Temple in the Kingdom of Heaven.
All of this means that His call to us from His Holy Temple that is in His Heavenly Kingdom comes from within us. So, when it says that this rich man reasoned within himself and said: “Dear soul, you now have many good possessions stored up for you for many years to come. So, rest now, eat, drink and make merry,” it means that he was turning the face of his soul toward his body in the world that passes away and away from the Body of Christ in Heaven that is eternal.
Does it really matter if his soul would be required of him tonight or a thousand nights from now? When the night comes, it will be the end, forever. The LORD says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Lk 12:34) What you love, what you live for, what you give your soul to is your treasure, your barn. That’s where your heart is, where you are. If you’ve given your heart to your body in this world, where will you be when your soul is separated from your body on the night of your death if not in the darkness and emptiness?
The parable calls us to turn away from barns in the world outside of us in order to find the way leading to the Cave of Bethlehem and to Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven within you. The call comes from within the grave, or rather from beyond the grave, from a “place” that is within you far beyond the world and its barns, big or small. The call comes from Christ, the King of Glory, from where He has passed through the everlasting doors of heaven. (Ps 24:8-10) When He opened the Virginal womb of His most blessed Mother, the Path to Heaven Himself came forth. He came forth from her womb clothed in our flesh and blood. When He was crowned the King of Glory at the coronation of His Holy Baptism, the everlasting gates of Heaven opened as He rose from the waters in the flesh and blood He took from the Virgin. And He who is the Path (Jn 14:6) entered those everlasting doors by way of the wilderness, the cross and the tomb, in the flesh and blood He took from the Virgin.
Born of the Holy Virgin, the Path to Heaven clothed Himself in our flesh and blood; so that if we in our flesh and blood clothe ourselves in Him, the King of Glory, our flesh and blood are joined to the very Path who has passed Himself in our flesh and blood through those everlasting doors into His Heavenly Kingdom.
We have this treasure in these earthen vessels of ours (II Cor 4:7), the very riches of God’s Glory (Col 1:27), Christ the King of Glory who is in you in His Heavenly Kingdom! (Lk 17:21) The foolishness of this rich man is that he gave his soul over as the servant of his body that will pass away, and not as the slave of the King of Glory who was in him. and so, he struck out on the path that leads to the rest of death, and not onto the Path within him that leads through the wilderness to the Cross and into the tomb and into the rest of God in the everlasting Kingdom of Heaven. (cf. Heb 4) The rich man was a fool because He rested too soon. He took the path that was outside of him in the world and not the Path to the Kingdom of Heaven who was in Him.
I said that the Path, Christ God, clothed Himself in our flesh and blood that He took from His Holy Mother so that our flesh and blood has been made to be the Path of the King of Glory that passes through the everlasting doors of heaven. To take that Path, we must go where it goes. That means we must go into the wilderness, into the desert of our heart in order to triumph over the devil in the power of the King of Glory’s Cross. I.e., we must work to put to death what is earthly in us, above all the law of sin that is active in our fleshly members. That means we do not rest on this side of our death, for the Path of Christ in us does not enter the rest of God until He passes through the everlasting doors of heaven that are in the tomb, in the midst of the earth.
In this world, then, what we work to gather (sunago, to concentrate: an important word in Christian spirituality) is our inner thoughts, the faculties of our body and soul to remember God in unceasing prayer and in obedience to His commandments, following Christ away from the indulgences of our body, away from “barns”, and into the desert of our heart toward the “Temple” of Heaven built on the cornerstone of Christ’s crucified, risen and glorified Body. We “make merry” in the joy of the Church. We eat and drink the love of Christ that He gives to us as His Body and Blood in Holy Eucharist as we follow Him to the Cross and into His tomb that opens onto our heart and onto the everlasting doors through which the King of Glory leads us into the everlasting rest of His Heavenly Kingdom.