Galatians 2.16 – 20

2 Corinthians 4.6 – 15

Mark 8.34 – 9.1

 Matthew 22.35-46

No one is justified by the works of the Law, says St Paul, but by faith in Jesus Christ. To be justified, to be made righteous, is to be made immortal, for ‘righteousness is immortal,’ says Wisdom (Wisd 1.15); and God made man for immortality, He made him an image or icon of His own eternity (Wisd 1.23).

No one is justified by the works of the Law because the Law is the copy, an image of God. Jesus Christ is the ‘Heavenly Pattern’ that the Law is the copy or image of (Ex 25.9&40). The Law is the light that the LORD created on the First Day; and the LORD Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God, is the uncreated Brilliance of the Father (Wisd 7.26). So, the Law is the created light that is the copy of the Heavenly Pattern, the uncreated Light. The Law delineates the shape of man, made in the image and likeness of God. Man was made to be light, he was made to be immortal, to be righteous in the image and likeness of God. The purpose of the Law was to lead us up to the eternal Light, Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God. The Law meant to test our hearts, if we would love the uncreated Light of God, whose copy we are and in whose image we were created, or if we would love our own light and seek to be ‘as though’ we were gods (Gn 3.23) apart from God.

Now, if Jesus Christ is the heart of the Law, the perfection and goal of the Law (Rm 10.4), then the heart of the Law is the uncreated Light that is Christ, the Righteousness of God, He who is Himself the eternal Life of God. The Law in itself, because it is a copy and not the Heavenly Pattern, cannot justify us; that means it cannot make us immortal in the eternal Life of God, the Righteousness of God; it can only prepare us to receive the eternal Life of God, by our freely choosing to love the heart of the Law, who is the LORD Jesus Christ, and to conform ourselves, in our words, thoughts and deeds, to His righteousness by observing His commandments. If we observe the Law of God, our ‘inner man’ will be shaped in the love of God. We will grow into the likeness of God, loving Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves. This is what that faith is that justifies us, that makes us righteous in God, because it makes us ready by making us strong enough to receive in the bridal chamber of our heart’ the uncreated Brilliance of the Heavenly Light of God, the Wisdom of God, Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit of the Father.

For God is love (1 Jn 4.8&16). God is the Holy Trinity. God is love because He is not one Person but Three who are one in the one essence of God, which is love, which is the ineffable and incomprehensible and Most Holy Communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This love of God is the ‘substance’ of the uncreated Light of God that is the life of men, as St John says (Jn 1.4). This immortal Life of God’s own eternity is the life we were created for. That is, we were made to live, to move, to exist, to be in the Holy Communion of the Holy Trinity.

In the last days, the LORD told us in our Gospel reading yesterday, many false christs and false prophets will rise up and deceive many. Lawlessness will abound, and the love of many will grow cold. Therefore, ‘take heed,’ the LORD says, ‘that no one deceives you…for it is he who endures to the end who will be saved.’ (Mt 24.4-12)

In this morning’s Gospel, the LORD gives us the recipe for taking heed that we be not deceived by the false prophets and christs that have risen up in these last days, so that our love for our LORD and Master, Jesus Christ, does not grow cold but becomes hot, so hot that we receive grace and power from on high to become martyrs, witnesses, to the true nature and destiny of man in the eternal Life of God Himself.

The LORD says, ‘whoever would follow Me.’ Dear faithful, where is the LORD going that those who love Him would follow Him? You know from reading the Gospels, and from your own experience of Great Lent and Pascha, that the LORD is leading us back to Eden, by way of the Cross and Burial in His Tomb in the Garden, the Garden of Eden! But do you know the back story of the LORD’s Cross? The Psalmist tells us:

‘The LORD bowed the heavens, and came down. He made darkness His covering around Him. The LORD Most High uttered His voice. He sent out his arrows, and scattered them; He flashed forth lightnings, and routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.’ (Ps 17/18.9-15)

St John the Baptist bears witness to Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (Jn 1.29); St John the Theologian in his Apocalypse saw the vision of the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world.’ [Rev 13:8] And the Church, says St Paul, which is the crucified and risen Body of Christ, is the Pillar and Foundation of the world (1 Tim 3.15).

That is, the LORD on His Cross lays bare the foundation of the world; He reveals the mystery of the Church. It is the mystery of God hidden from the ages, where the world and all that is in it come from. If the creation comes from the Church, from the crucified and risen Body of Christ, it comes from out of the extreme humility and compassion of God that was made manifest in history when the LORD, the Righteousness of God, was voluntarily lifted high on the Cross so that all would see Him, and so that all who would, would be drawn to Him and be saved – be justified, be made righteous, be raised from death to the uncreated, eternal Life of God in the Most Holy Communion of the Holy Trinity, their hearts and minds and souls and bodies knit to Him, ‘nailed’ to Him in love and thanksgiving and praise and eternal joy.

Those who would follow the LORD, then, are following Him to the foundation of the world. They are following Him into their own secret heart; for the mystery of God is Christ in you (Col 1.27). It is from the heart that the springs of life flow (Prov 4.23). And it is in our secret heart that we come to those gates the Psalmist speaks of (Ps 24.7, 25.1), that open out onto the deep, beyond all things (Jer 17.9), that open out onto the LORD Jesus Christ, the Fountain of Life. And on the Cross the Fountain of Life who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the Righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5.21). He emptied Himself, He denied Himself, He lost His life for our sake that He might find His life in us, out of His great love for us, that we might find our life, our righteousness, in Him.

It is in our own secret heart that we come to the foundations of the world that were laid bare when He Who Is the Sun of Righteousness was voluntarily lifted high on the Cross that made visible the invisible mystery of our salvation: ‘The God who said, Let the Light come out of the darkness, is the God who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the Knowledge of the Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Cor 4.6).

Take heed that you be not deceived. The love of God, the eternal Life of God that is our true nature and destiny is found within us – but only as we deny ourselves and take up our cross to follow Christ into the Tomb of His death and descend with Him to the Foundation of the world, the mystery of the Church. That is, only as we take up the ascetical disciplines the Church gives to us as our cross. It is by these that we begin putting to death all that’s earthly in us, all that kills us: all the passions that are the weeds, thorns and thistles of unrighteousness: gluttony, lust, greed, anger, self-esteem and the rest.

The cross the Church gives to us are the ascetical disciplines of prayer and fasting. Through prayer and fasting, we descend with our mind into our heart, to the foundations of the world where the springs of our eternal life flow from the rib of the crucified Body of Our LORD Jesus Christ, the Fountain of Life. The Church Herself will guide us and teach us how to make this descent. We need only to listen to Her and do what She tells us to do: study Her Scriptures, make Her prayers our own, study Her God-bearing fathers, learn the lives of Her saints and martyrs, make the rhythm of Her liturgical worship the rhythm of our life in this world, and so She will teach us and shape us in the way we should go, renewing our mind and transforming us within so that we begin to radiate the eternal Light of Christ as martyrs of Our Savior. Amen!