|31 - Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017 (with audio)|
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Today, we enter Jerusalem with the Savior. We have come to the opened gates of Holy Week. In the liturgical rites of Holy Week, we will act out the events of Our LORD’s suffering and death and burial. These events seem very near to us this week; it’s as though the veil of time and space is torn in two and we feel that we are there.
But, if the liturgical rites of Holy Week are nothing but a “memorial” by which we remember what happened long ago, then when we go back into the world and the power we felt in the rites of Holy Week is overpowered and chased away by the daily troubles of the sea of life surging with the storm of temptations, we may think back to our experience in Holy Week and wonder if we weren’t taken in, thinking that these sacred events either were long ago and are no longer relevant, or even that they never really happened in the first place. Now we are easy prey for doubt, leading to discouragement and loss of faith and the loss of a sure anchor to hold us steady against the onslaught of life’s billowing wave. We begin to sink in confusion and bitterness, looking everywhere but to the Church – we’ve decided that’s for sentimental saps or the weak-minded – for our hope and guide. But what we feel ourselves touching in our experience of the liturgical rites of Holy Week goes much deeper than the remembrance of something that isn’t there anymore.
“Days are coming,” said the prophets when they spoke in the Spirit of the sufferings of Christ and of His subsequent Glory (I Pt 1:11). E.g., “’Days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch’” (Jer 23:5). “’Days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘when I will make a New Covenant with Israel and Judah’” (Jer 31:31). JnBapt, the last and greatest of the prophets, came preaching in the wilderness. His was the message of the prophets; but, in his preaching, the prophets’ “days are coming,” became: “The time (kairos) is fulfilled. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Mk 1:15). And, when the LORD came preaching and teaching, the “days” of the prophets were now, the “hour”.
Even so, the LORD would say, not yet has my hour come (e.g. Jn 2:4) – until today. Immediately following what we read this morning, the LORD says, “Now, the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jn 12:23). But, this was two millennia ago. Why do we hear the Church saying this week: “Today” and not, “Yesterday”? E.g., on Holy Thursday, “Today, He who hung the earth upon the waters was hung upon the Tree?” Liturgical poetry? Of course! But liturgical poetry not of this world. We say today not because the substance of these events is some timeless myth. They took place in “history”. The WORD of God became flesh and dwelt among us. The reason we say these “historical” events of yesterday are today goes “deep, beyond all things!”
The kairos is fulfilled, says JnBapt. The prophets’ “days” and the LORD’s “hour” are clearly of the LORD’s Pascha. They refer to a moment in chronos (calendar time) but they are not of chronos. Kairos, we can say, is not time (chronos) measured by the movement of the sun, moon and stars. It is an opening in time through which the eternal enters the temporal and the temporal is taken up to become one with the eternal. I see the movement of kairos measured by the descending and ascending of the Son of Man. This is the movement of the love of God uniting with His beloved Bride, the Church, and becoming “perfectly one” with her in the mystery of the Most Holy Virgin and all the saints.
The LORD tells the Jews that the true Temple is His Body that would be crucified and would rise from the dead (Jn 2:19). Who is the God in that Temple of the LORD’s Body? It is the WORD of the LORD who made heaven and earth. Might we say that the kairos is in some way the LORD’s Body that was born of the Virgin, that suffered and rose from the dead? Is not the Holy Virgin Theotokos the “Gate of Heaven”? In her womb heaven and earth, time and eternity are made one when the WORD of God is conceived in her of the Holy Spirit. I.e., the Temple of the LORD’s Body that comes to be in space and time holds within its sanctuary – the heart (the Greek fathers’ nous) – the eternal Creator who in the Glory of His Spirit is everywhere present and fills all things.
But, the Church is the Body of Christ, the fullness of Him who is all in all; and, in the Church Christ is the God who “is in our midst”. In the Church, we stand in the Temple of the LORD’s Body that was crucified and risen from the dead and ascended to Heaven. We stand in the kairos, if you will, of the Virgin’s womb and here in the Church, in the Temple of the LORD’s Body, even here on the corner of 38th and 54th, at this specific moment in space-time, we “think ourselves in heaven” (From the concluding prayers of Matins), for here – not in a way that can be seen by the eyes of the body but in a way that is seen by the “eye” of the soul – the eternal is present in this moment and this moment opens onto and becomes one with the eternal.
But, dear faithful, says St Paul, do you not know that you are the temple of God and that God’s Spirit dwells within you? (1 Cor 3:16) What we see with our eyes and hear with our ears and feel with our hands in the liturgical rites of Holy Week is an icon of the Icon – a mirror that reflects the mystery of Christ in you! (Col 1:27) The LORD says, “The Kingdom of heaven does not come with signs that can be seen in a visible way (parateresis)” (Lk 17:20), because the Kingdom of Heaven is “within you!” (Lk 17:21)
Again, we turn to St Macarius: “When you hear of tombs, think not of physical ones only; for, your own heart is a tomb” (Hom 11.11). The LORD enters Jerusalem Today in the fulfillment of His kairos. Where is He going Today? Not to the physical tomb; He did that “yesterday”. He is going to the tomb of our heart. How is He “going”? How is He moving? He is emptying Himself (Phil 2:6). He is descending in His love for us (Rom 5:8) even to the point of becoming perfectly one with us in our death. Why? To finish on the Sabbath the works of creation He had begun to do on the First Sabbath (Gn 2:3 LXX). What are those works? To deliver us from the evil one (Heb 2:14) and make us perfectly one with Him that, Today,His love may be in us and that we may be with Him in His Glory (Jn 17:23-26) as children of God born from above (Jn 1:13, Ps 81:6), partakers of the divine nature (II Pt 1:4).
Six weeks ago, we began the Fast having beheld with the myrrh-bearing women the tomb and how His Body was laid (Lk 23:55). From our Scripture lessons today and in the coming days of Holy Week, we find that we are still at the LORD’s tomb. Yet, there has been movement, not of chronos time but of the kairos of the LORD’s Pascha. Taking upthe cross of the Fast in obedience to the LORD’s command (Lk 23:56), we have turned inward with the myrrhbearers in the stillness of prayer (Lk 23:56) to descend into the tomb of our heart and to become like Lazarus, waiting for the LORD to command us to “Come forth!”
And now Today, in the unseen kairos of our soul, we rise up like Lazarus to go with Mary in the love of our heart to be with the LORD who Today is hung on the Tree and enters His Holy Sabbath. We go in obedience to the LORD’s command and in the fulfillment of the kairos of His Holy Pascha: “I will raise you from your graves, O my people, and I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land!” (Eze 37:12-14)
But, The LORD says: “I am your inheritance! I am your possession!” (Eze 44:28) Our own land is the LORD Jesus Christ, the WORD of God in whose image we were made. He is found always Today in the sanctuary of our heart. It is this mystery of “Christ in you” we feel calling to us in the liturgical drama of Holy Week. If we know that this is the LORD (Eze 37:14) speaking to us and that this is why our hearts burn within us (Lk 24:32) when we participate in the liturgical drama of Holy Week, we should now see that when we leave Pascha 2017, we do not leave Pascha at all and the LORD does not leave us! In the hope Holy Week confirms in us, let us in the fear of God, with faith and love, take up cross daily and walk in the newness of life that lives in the temple of our body as in the Holy Temple of the LORD’s Body, His Church. Amen!