01 - Wedding Garment, Sept 6, 2015 (with audio)

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II Corinthians 1:21-24

Matthew 22:1-14

Our parable this morning follows the parable of the vineyard last Sunday, in which the King’s Son was identified as the stone. That stone is the Body of the Son, the real Temple of God (Jn 2:19) that was rejected by the builders to become the cornerstone of the New Temple: the Son’s crucified, risen and glorified Body.

Both a wedding and a cornerstone unite opposites. The imagery of these two parables shows us the Kingdom of Heaven as a mystery of the union of God and man in Christ, Son of the King, the Cornerstone of the New Temple not made with hands (Heb 9:14), in which earth and heaven, time and eternity, death and life are united in a union filled with the power to create living persons and to nurture them in the loving faithfulness of the intimacy of the marriage of Christ and His Bride, the Church.

In the imagery of these two parables we pass over from the old to the New Year. The imagery reveals beneath the veil of astral or atomic time a deeper movement, the passing from death to life in the love of Christ and His Bride. The passing of time but veils the inner movement of the heart deep beyond all things, our true self (Jer 17:9 LXX/OSB) longing to exist in the love of God who descends to us in love that we may ascend to Him in love.  

These two parables are like two clusters of grapes harvested from the vineyard of Heaven where Christ is the vine and we are the branches. When we squeeze them together through the wine press (cf. Mt 21:33 & Isa 63:2-3 LXX/OSB) of Christ’s death and resurrection and glorification, they produce a heavenly wine of rich theological flavors, tinctured with fragrant notes of the fruits of the Spirit.

The stone of last Sunday’s parable of the Kingdom was taken out of the vineyard and killed, an image of Christ taken out of the city and killed on the Cross. At the moment of His death, the curtain of the Temple was torn from top to bottom, exposing the Holy of Holies, just as the Heavens were “torn” when He came up out of the waters of the Jordan at His Baptism. The parable of the vineyard, then, as a parable of Christ’s Holy Pascha, shows this wedding of the King’s Son taking place on the Cross of Christ outside the city. We see the banquet Hall as the Sanctuary of the Heavenly Temple; and, we see the path those called to the wedding of the King’s Son must take. It is the path that disappears in tomb of Christ outside the city.

The Body of Christ, this rejected stone, was taken down from the Cross and laid in a tomb, i.e., in the “midst of the earth”. (Ps 74:12) The stone that was rejected, then, became the cornerstone outside the city, beyond the temple of Jerusalem. It became the cornerstone of the New Temple in the tomb, “in the midst of the earth.” The union of earth and heaven, of time and eternity, death and life, of man and God, begun in the conception and birth of Christ of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, was “finished” on the Cross, and the Church, the Bride of Christ, brought forth her First-Born Son in the Resurrection of Christ, for He is the “First-Born of the dead.” Christ is now the beginning, the cornerstone not “out here” but “in here”, in the tomb, “in the midst of the earth,” in the unseen mystery of the heart that is deep beyond all things, i.e., outside the city.

That the stone becomes the cornerstone outside the city is of the highest importance because it means that when Christ is crucified on the Cross and buried in the tomb, the wedding of the King’s Son and its consummation are taking place in the unseen depths of the human heart, that in us which is the man deeper than all things (Jer 17:9 LXX), our true self that is outside the city, beyond our body, soul and heart, beyond space-time where we truly exist in an eternal dimension, but which has become the eternal darkness of the tomb because we have been separated from Christ our God, the Image in whom we were made, Who is Himself the Life and the Resurrection. (Jn 11:25) By the disobedience of our self-love, are dead in our hearts. Our souls lie in the darkness of our heart as a spiritual corpse laid in a tomb. (Eph 2:1 & Heb 9:14)

That the stone is laid in the tomb outside the city to become the cornerstone, the mystery in which earth is united to heaven, time to eternity, death to life, man to God, means that the wedding of the King’s Son and its consummation take place where we are dead in our sins and trespasses – outside the city, in the tomb, in the midst of the earth, in the tomb of our heart that is deep beyond all things. It means that the blood of Christ on the Cross is poured out on our dead souls buried in the tomb of our heart. The “living waters” of His Holy Spirit penetrate to the division of our soul and spirit (Heb 2:14) and the imperishable and living “Word of God” (cf. I Pt 1:24) unites itself to the corpse of our dead soul as the seed of the man unites with the egg of His beloved wife. He becomes one with us there, even in our deep heart, outside the city. But what does that mean but that we are made to become one with Him who is the Resurrection and the Life in the tomb of our deep heart outside the city, in the mystery of the stone that has become the cornerstone, the mystery of the wedding of the King’s Son, in the “spiritual marriage” of the Church that is “deep beyond all things.”

This “spiritual marriage” of the Church is the mystery of the “Kingdom of Heaven that is within you,” (Lk 17:21) it is the mystery of “Christ in you,” (Col 1:27) it is the mystery wherein He works our salvation “in the midst of the earth”, i.e., in the tomb of our heart that we might be born from above in the power of His Holy Spirit as children of God.

What, then, are we to make of this wedding garment that the man in our parable this morning is not wearing so that he is cast out of the banquet hall?

We read in Isaiah: “Who is this that comes with red garments from Bozrah? Why are Your garments red and Your apparel as one who treads in a winepress?” (Isa 63:1-4) Isaiah’s vision is of Christ’s Holy Pascha and Glorification. The garment the LORD wears in Isaiah’s vision is the garment of our flesh. The wedding garment of our parable this morning, then, is the Glory, even the divinity of Christ (cf. Jn 17:22 – “The Glory Thou hast given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” II Pt 1:4 “…That you may become communicants of the divine nature.”) It is the Robe of Light, i.e. the Glory of the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead that we put on when we “put on Christ” at our Holy Baptism after swearing with an oath (sacramentum) to unite ourselves to Him in the likeness of His death. If this man is at the wedding banquet, it must be that he has died; he has passed out of his body to find himself outside the city in the tomb of his heart. In the banquet hall, he finds himself before God the King who judges the secrets of men by His Son, Christ Jesus. (Rm 2:16) Now, the things hidden in the darkness of his heart are brought to light. (I Cor 4:5) If he is found without a wedding garment, it must be that he never put it on, or if he was baptized, he took it off and in his heart he returned to live in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of the life of this world that passes away and disappears into the eternal darkness of the grave, and not in the death of Christ that opens onto the resurrection. It must mean that in his heart he had lived in the one sin that cannot be forgiven: the sin of refusing to repent, seeking to save his life and not taking up his cross to follow Christ into his deep heart outside the city beyond all things so that it could be transfigured into a bridal chamber. That would mean he made no effort to put to death what was earthly in him or to unite himself to Christ in the likeness of Christ’s death so that he could be cleansed and refashioned, born from above as a child of God.

We pass over into the New Year as into the dawn of the Last Day heralded by the nativity of the Theotokos. A call from on high has gone forth from the altar of the Church: take up your cross and follow Christ into the chamber of your heart. Wed your soul to the cornerstone that is Christ who has been laid there outside the city. “Put on Christ” and let the Church give birth to you as a child of God in the death and resurrection of her Bridegroom, the King’s Son. Amen.