|02 - The Wedding Feast, September 10, 2017|
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2 Corinthians 1:21-2:4
Standing in the temple at the Matins for the Synaxis of Joachim and Anna yesterday morning, my attention was caught by these verses in Ode I of the Canon:
“The most blessed Joachim and the glorious Anna, the authors of all creation, gave birth to the pure, immaculate and all-pure Theotokos.”
“Shining with the splendors of the virtues, O divinely wise Anna and ever-blessed Joachim, ye were vouchsafed to give birth to the lamp which emitted the noetic Sun Who shone forth from her in the flesh.”
These verses confirm again, for me, that the “principle” of the world – its inner essence that makes it to be what it is, how it is put together, how it moves – is not accessible to “science”. It is accessible only to theology, in the knowledge of faith that comes only from the Wisdom of God, the LORD Jesus Christ born of the Most Holy Virgin Theotokos.
For, in these verses from the Matins service I just set before you, can you hear how the mystery of the Virgin’s birth from Joachim and Anna is the inner essence, the hidden shape of the creation? The Theotokos, i.e., is the principle of creation. Her Nativity is the template that gives creation its shape. She is the stamp that gives to it its form. This is to say that the principle of creation is the capacity to receive God, to become one with God, and to bring forth as the fruit of one's spirit the Uncreated Light of God.
In the vision of creation I see in these Matins verses, “In the beginning (en arche),” (Gen 1:1, Jn 1:1) is the veil that covers the mystery of the Cross, the love of God in which the world was created. I.e., God suffering on the Cross was not plan B; it was not an afterthought, a desperate “fix” of an unexpected “fall”; it is the principle of creation. But, I just said the Theotokos is the principle of creation. Would there have been a Cross if the Theotokos had not been born?
The principle of creation is the mystery of the Theotokos and the Cross.This is why it was “necessary” for the LORD to suffer and to rise again on the Third Day. Knowing without pre-determining that man would choose to turn away from Him, but knowing beforehand that the Most Holy Virgin would say “yes”, God established the world so that it should never be moved away from the purpose for which He created it. He established it in the mystery of His Cross “from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8), so that the world could never be shaken in its foundation, which is God Himself, the Stone rejected by the builders that became the cornerstone of the Temple, His own Body (Jn 2:19-21), that He received from the Virgin. Rejected by the builders, He was taken “outside the city” and put to death on the Cross – the outer veil of the inner reality set forth in this morning's Gospel: “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.” I.e., He descended into the human heart, our true self where we are “outside the city” or “deep beyond all things” (Jer 17:5/9 LXX). There, in the tomb, in our heart where we were dead in our sins and trespasses, He worked His salvation in the midst of the earth, the very “salvation” in which He had made the world in the beginning (Wisd Sol 1:15).
This is the theological vision of the Church in which I hear Joachim and Anna set before us in these verses from Matins as the “authors of creation who give birth to the all-pure Theotokos.” So, when it says, “In the beginning, God created heaven (masculine) and earth (feminine),” as though a curtain has been drawn, I suddenly see God creating heaven and earth in a prophetic prefigurement of Joachim, the heavens, and Anna, the earth; and, when it says: “And God said, ‘Let there be light’”, I see the prophetic prefigurement of the birth of the Theotokos from Joachim and Anna. She is the light that God created from the barrenness of Anna, the earth that was without form or shape, and from the sterility of Joachim, the darkness that covered the face of the deep.
Of course, all of this is as well a prefigurement of Christ God coming forth from the Tomb in the Glory of His Holy Resurrection. But, do you see? All of these “moments” of creation are originating in the mystery of the Cross, of the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” the Beginning or Origin of (the arche?) as the Cross is called in the Matins for the Procession of the Cross on Aug 1. Dear faithful, I think this may be the mystery of the wedding feast in this morning’s Gospel parable to which we all are called.
“Joachim most rich, the ancestor of God," we heard from another verse in the Canon yesterday, "now sets before us a spiritual banquet, for he hath begotten the Mother of God” (Ode IV). The Nativity of the Theotokos, the creation of the light in which all of creation came forth (Gn 1), is the birth of the bridal chamber of God. So, the creation of heaven and earth, of Joachim and Anna is but preparation for the creation of the light, the birth of the Theotokos; and, the creation of the light or the birth of the Theotokos, as the bridal chamber of God, is but preparation for the birth in the flesh of the Uncreated Light, the only-begotten Son of God who becomes the only-begotten Son of the Virgin. She is the “root”, the arche of our life, as it says in liturgical texts; she is therefore the fountain of life of whom the Psalmist speaks in a veiled manner (Ps 35:9), In her, the “light” of creation, we see the Uncreated Light, the Creator of all, for taking flesh from her He becomes flesh that our eyes can see, that our hands can touch, that our ears can hear.
The world was made in light to bring forth the Uncreated Light, God Himself. The principle of creation is the light of the Theotokos, made to be clothed with the Uncreated Light of God as with a garment, itself made to be the garment with which the Uncreated Light clothes Himself. I.e., the world was made in the “bridal chamber” of the wedding feast, in the mystery of the Cross, on which the Nativity of the Theotokos and the Nativity of Christ open like Royal Doors. The Cross is the sanctuary, the Holy of Holies of the human heart. Here, we are deep beyond all things; here, we come upon who we truly are, here, we find our true selves in the love of God, the only-begotten Son of God who gives Himself to us as the Bridegroom gives Himself to His Bride in the Bridal Chamber, in the profound intimacy, of her heart.
Dear faithful, the Theotokos, the light of creation who comes forth out of the darkness of the heavens and the formlessness of the earth, comes forth out of the barrenness of Joachim and Anna. She is the light who brings forth the Uncreated Light. She is the inheritance or Promised Land (Akathist to the Theotokos) found in the midst of the desert who brings forth the Uncreated Rose that makes the desert to blossom like the Rose (Isa 35:1).
I ask you to see that the light, the Promised Land, the Bridal Chamber, the deep mystery of our heart, our true self, where we find the Uncreated Light, the Uncreated Rose, “Christ our true inheritance (Eze 44:28), is found “in you!” (Col 1:27), in the desert of our soul (Ps 62:1 LXX).
Note that Joachim and Anna in their barrenness were a desert, but that they took refuge from their grief in God (e.g., Ps 62:7). The took refuge; that is they came to the wedding feast in the mystery of the Bridal Chamber of the LORD’s Cross and Tomb, and He raised them up in the mystery of His Resurrection and made them “authors of creation”. Dear faithful, where do we seek refuge from the sorrows of our life?
To find the refuge of light who brings forth the Light, the Theotokos who brings forth Christ our God; to come to the wedding feast, we must embark on the inner Exodus of the Gospel. We must deny ourselves, take up our cross in the ascetic disciplines of the Church. That is how we follow Christ into the desert of our soul and to the wedding feast in the bridal chamber of our heart. We must face ourselves – or rather, we must face God in our soul. It is a New Year. In the joy that the Nativity of the Theotokos proclaims to the whole universe, shall we fight to take our refuge not in movies, the internet, the latest apps, this and that worldly diversion, but in the LORD, the Uncreated Light, in the Bridal Chamber of our heart, in the light of the Most Holy Theotokos? Amen!