02 - Wedding Feast of the King's Son, September 9, 2012

2 Corinthians 1:21-2:4

Matthew 22:1-14

Reading the Greek literally, Our Lord says in this morning’s parable: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king who made a wedding for His Son.” This is the same word found throughout Holy Scripture – the Greek LXX and the NT – when it talks of God creating or making the world; e.g., Gn 1:1: – “In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth.” This word tells us, then, that the marriage feast that God makes or arranges for His Son in this parable of the Lord refers to God creating the world.

The marriage of Christ and His Bride, the Church, in other words, is what the creation of the world is all about; and there are so many confirmations of this: for example, when Christ prays to the Father: “That they may be one even as we are one;” (Jn 17:11) or when He says: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love;” (Jn 15:9) or when St Paul says of the marriage of a man and a woman, “This is a great mystery, and I take it to refer to [i.e. it signifies as an icon] Christ and His Church;” (Eph 5:33) or when St Peter prays that we may, “become partakers of the divine nature;” (II Pt 1:4) or again, when St Paul says: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)

It is right in front of our noses every time we pick up to read from the Holy Scriptures; for, in Genesis, the Scriptures show God creating the world as preparation for the creation of Adam and Eve, whom He raises into being in the mystery of marriage. (Gn 1:27-28 & 2:23-24) And, in the book of Revelation, the Scriptures show the world ending, in other words, attaining its ultimate climax in the marriage of the Lamb and His Bride. (Rev 19:7) Do you see the ascent that is the inner principle of world history: from the marriage of Adam and Eve at the creation – itself already an ascent called into being from out of the abyss of nothingness (the ekklesia: she who is called out) to the mountain of existing in the goodness of God’s creation – to the Marriage of the Lamb and His Bride, Christ and His Holy Church, on the Last Day?

In the worship of the Church we can hear rolling down from the summit of the Last Day of the world, like a mighty thunder clap, like a mighty wave of the ocean breaking on the shore of the present moment, the call, the wedding invitation, of the Spirit and His Bride that sounds throughout the whole of creation and to kiss the ears of all those who thirst for the life of God: “Come and drink of the water that is given as a gift” to all who hear and come! (Rev 22:17) It echoes and augments the call that Christ, the Wisdom of God, had already cried out to Israel centuries earlier through His servant, Solomon: “Wisdom has built her house.” Wisdom is a feminine word in Greek, but the Church understands “her” to be Christ. “She has set up her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her beasts, she has mixed her wine. She has set her table. She has sent out her maids to call from the highest places in town: ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed” [Can you hear today’s parable here?]. “Forsake your foolishness and live, and walk in the way of life!” (Wisd 9:1-6) From this we can see that the marriage feast of Christ and His Church at the end of the world is the Church’s Holy Eucharist, offered even now in these, the last days of the world, to all who come and consent to be clothed in the wedding garment, the glory, of Christ’s Cross:

Do you see now that the wedding feast on the Last Day of the world, which God the Father as the certain king has arranged for His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, is the mystery of God hidden before the ages, revealed in these last days in the coming of Christ, the coming at Midnight – at the end of the world, Pascha Night – of the Heavenly Bridegroom. It is the mystery, says St Paul, of “Christ in you!” Can you see the nuptial character of the mystery of the world hidden in Christ God from before the ages?

As the climax, the goal of creation, the marriage of Christ and His Church sets the history of the world in motion. This inner movement of the world is the inner essence of the Church’s liturgical cycles. In the liturgical cycles of the Church – the daily and weekly, the monthly and the yearly – we pass over as into a cosmic sanctuary to enter the hidden, inner movement of the world that has been ascending Mt Zion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit up to the Garden of Eden, the Kingdom of Heaven, from the beginning of time. This is the glorious mystery of the world hidden in God from before the ages revealed to the faithful on Pascha Night and at every Divine Liturgy and every feast of the Church. It is the glory of Christ’s Cross, the beauty of His Holy Resurrection, the joy of the inexpressible love of “Christ in you!” in the marriage of the Lamb and His Bride.

We read in the testimony of the martyrs and of the saints of the Church, those who have seen God, that even to glimpse the beauty of Christ, simply to be brushed by a vision of His love for mankind can transform a man into a flaming pillar of love for God that consumes him body, soul and mind with love for Christ, the Heavenly Bridegroom, the Only Lover of Mankind, the Greatly Compassionate One, who is in you!

Because the wedding feast that the king makes for His Son is the creation, the invitation to the wedding is cosmic in its reach; so, when the Israelites, “those who are invited to the wedding feast”, but spurn it because “they do not wish to come,” as the parable says, the king’s invitation goes out to everyone, i.e. to all of creation; because to come into existence is to exist in this inner movement of creation that is moving to the wedding feast of Christ and His Bride, the Church, on the Last Day. So, the simple fact that you exist means that you have been called; your very existence is your invitation to the marriage feast of the King’s Son. This call to the wedding feast of the Lamb and His Bride is why you exist; it’s what life in this world is all about. It means that God desires you. That’s why you exist, because God desires you.

Hear the proclamation of the Gospel! St John writes, “God is love.” (I Jn 4:16). St Paul’s disciple, St Dionysius the Areopagite, writes: “God, through the beauty, goodness and abundance of His intense love for everything, goes out of Himself in His providential care for the whole of creation. By means of the supra-essential power of ecstasy, and spell-bound as it were by goodness, love and longing, He relinquishes His utter transcendence in order to dwell in all things while yet remaining within Himself.” St Maximus the Confessor writes:  “God, the originator and begetter of love and the erotic force… moves others and is Himself moved, because He thirsts to be thirsted for, longs to be longed for, and loves to be loved….He stimulates and allures in order to bring about an erotic union in the Spirit, so that He may be desired and loved by His creatures.”

That is to say, beloved faithful, that the call of God to you to “Come” to the wedding feast of the Lamb and His Bride is not an abstract concept. You can feel it. It is the very substance of your being and of your existence. It is the most palpable, the most concrete, the most profound, the most troubling experience of your being. It is the erotic force within you, that compels you to come out of yourself with intense longing to find a beloved who loves you so that you may belong to your beloved. The world’s Beloved is Christ, the “Only Lover of mankind”. He is the Beautiful and the Good God that every being who exists seeks at every opportunity. There is no being, says St Dionysios, that does not participate in this erotic yearning for what is truly beautiful, truly good, truly admirable, truly sought for, desired, pleasing, chosen and loved; i.e. for Christ, the Heavenly Bridegroom.

It is in the Church, the Bride of Christ, that we hear the proclamation of the Gospel: this erotic force within you, that agitates you and troubles you even as it promises you eternal happiness, beauty and goodness, is the call to you from none other than God Himself, the originator and begetter of that erotic force. It is the invitation to you from the Spirit and His Bride to come to the feast of their wedding, to drink from the wine that Wisdom has mixed, to eat of the Bread He has prepared for you, to drink the water of the Heavenly Spirit from the cup of life that the Spirit and His Bride give to you as a gift – but not without price! For, it was purchased for you by the precious blood of Christ, the Heavenly Bridegroom in His gracious love for you when He poured out His blood on the Cross for you, so that He could unite Himself to you in your death, so that He could unite you to Himself in the glorious light of His own divine, eternal life because of His love for you.

In Holy Baptism, the King’s Son clothes you with the Robe of Light. This is the wedding garment. It is the radiant garment of His love, so that you may become a partaker of His own divinity, a guest at the feast celebrating His marriage to His Bride, the Church, so that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us in the unveiling of the mystery of the world hidden in God from before the ages, the mystery of Christ in you!

To receive that wedding garment and to wear it in the observing of Christ’s Holy commandments is to receive the love of God for you. To take up your cross and to walk in the Way of Christ is to love God back; and when we return God’s desire for us by desiring Him back, that is when we really begin to exist, for that is when we begin to live as active and mindful participants in the movement of creation, and our life on this earth opens onto the hidden Way that ascends throughout the creation, from the beginning to the end of time, up the holy mountain of God’s creation to the wedding feast of the Lamb and His Bride in the Garden of Eden at the top of Golgotha, in the bridal chamber of the tomb of Christ’s Holy and Most Glorious Pascha. Amen.