|05 - A ROOT EXCHANGE, October 2, 2022|
2 Corinthians 6.1-10
The Greek word in our Gospel this morning, charis, that is translated in most English translations as ‘credit,’ and in the KJV as ‘thank’ is, for me, the key word for rolling away the stone from the LORD’s Tomb and beholding the Resurrection of Christ in this morning’s Gospel. But, the translation of the word as ‘thank’ or ‘credit’ does not roll the stone away; it keeps us outside the Tomb, still running around in circles on this side of the grave.
The word also means, grace. I would translate it like this: ‘If you love those who love you, how is the grace of God working in you? Even sinners love those who love them.’
Charis also is the root word in ‘Eucharist,’ translated as ‘Thanksgiving.’ That’s fine as far as it goes, but that translation doesn’t do anything with the prefix, ‘eu’, which means good, well, even healthy. So, ‘Thanksgiving,’ too, does not roll the stone away, keeping us still outside the Tomb. The Church’s Eucharist is the Body and Blood of the incarnate God, Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. We call it the ‘medicine of immortality.’ It takes away all our sins and removes all our iniquities because it is the Body and Blood of the incarnate God who is Himself the ‘Resurrection and the Life,’ who destroyed our death by His death, and gave life to us who were in the tombs. A better translation of Eucharist, then, might be something like the ‘Healing Grace’ of God, because it heals us from the death and misery of our sins and raises us from death to life. Through it, the Heavenly Spirit is received into the tomb of our heart; He burns away the old heart of stone, the dead heart, and builds in us a new heart of flesh, a living heart. Our clay is reshaped and put into God’s Oven – His Tomb – and fired in the Heat of His Holy Spirit to become a ‘living stone’ fit for His Heavenly Temple, His Body risen from the dead, and so we are created anew to become what God made us to be in the beginning: immortal, images of His own eternity (Wisd 2.23).
When we translate the Greek word, charis, according to the biblical theology of the Church, suddenly, the earth shakes, and the stone of the LORD’s Tomb is rolled away. We peer into it, we enter, we see the linen cloths folded neatly, the turban off to the side; and suddenly, the strings of our soul begin to vibrate with the ‘music of the lyre,’ the music of Heaven, and we know that we are peering into the mystery of God hidden from the ages. We see with Mary Magdalene the risen LORD in the Garden not on this side of the Tomb but on the other side – in the deep, beyond all things, in the deep of our heart!
Now what we hear the LORD saying is this: ‘If you love only those who love you, where is the Grace of My Body and Blood in you?’ Where is the Power of My Resurrection in you? Have you not taken up your cross to follow me? Are you still running around in circles with all the other sinners here on this side of the grave, trying to save your life here in the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life in this world that is passing away, outside the Tomb of my Sabbath Rest?
For, if we love only those who love us, it means that we are still dead in our sins and trespasses, however religious or spiritual we may think we are. We are not denying ourselves, we are not taking up our cross, we have not begun to lose our life for the sake of Christ in the hope of finding it in the Tomb of His Resurrection. The love of the world that is passing away is what’s working in us, not the love of God that has overcome the world in the LORD’s Holy Pascha.
‘Self-love,’ says St Maximos the Confessor (d. 662 AD) ‘is the root of all evil. Where self-love is absent, there no trace of evil can exist.’ And is it not from self-love that we fear death; and is it not in our frenzied effort to save our life so as not to lose it, that we create and become enemies of one another?
St Silouan (20th cent.) was asked by Archimandrite Sophrony: what is the evidence that one has received the Holy Spirit and not an alien spirit? St Silouan answered: love for your enemy. St John the Theologian: ‘Beloved, test the spirits to see if they are of God. Every spirit that denies that Christ came in the flesh is not of God … By this you know the Spirit of God: if you have love for one another. How can you believe you love God whom you have not seen if you hate your brother whom you have seen?’ And Our LORD says to us this morning: ‘Love your enemies and do good to them, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.’
Here, then, is the test for those who long to become ‘sons of the Most High’: are you ready to deny yourself, to take up your cross, and begin losing your life for the sake of Christ that you may find it in His Tomb where He puts to death everything that puts us to death, even death itself? Are you ready to unite yourself to Christ in the likeness of His death; i.e., are you ready to participate in His death by putting to death hatred of the enemy in your heart, that you may be united to Him in the likeness of His resurrection; i.e., that you may begin to be raised from the dead as a new creation with a fleshy heart, a living heart, that lives in the Resurrection of Christ and is empowered to love the enemy even as Christ loves us – we who are His enemies because we are friends with the world?
The Israelite was directed by God in Leviticus to ‘declare his sin’ at the entrance of the tabernacle, and his sins would be forgiven him through the blood of the sacrificial bulls and goats offered to God. But we live in the New Testament. That is, we live not in the blood of bulls and goats but in the Blood of God, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. His Blood seeps down to the division of our soul and spirit all the way into the heart (Heb 4.12), our true self where we are deep, beyond all things (Jer 17.9 LXX), and it cleanses our heart; it heals our conscience, it destroys the root of sin, self-love, and sows in the soil of our heart the seed of God’s divine love. In the mystery of God, the mystery of Christ in you, the hope of glory, we are rooted in the death and resurrection of Christ who, on the Cross, prayed to the Father for His enemies: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’
If our desire is to receive this new heart of flesh that lives in God, the LORD shows us the way. Begin to deny yourself and to lose your life for the sake of Christ and ‘declare your sin.’ We confess, we don’t hide, the self-love in our heart that engenders hatred for our enemy. For, ‘if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.’ The LORD cleanses our heart from self-love, the root of sin, by putting it to death in His death, and He replaces it with the root of His Resurrection.
We are spiritual corpses, paralyzed, powerless to walk in this Way of God. We cannot love our enemy because we are dead in our sins and trespasses. But, we can begin to love our enemy by uniting ourselves to the LORD in the likeness of His death. ‘Likeness’ means that we participate in the LORD’s death. We exercise our God-given power of self-determination, and we choose, freely, to deny ourselves the pleasure of loving only those who love us. We can begin the long climb of love for our enemies by at least praying for them and not returning hatred for hatred, but by doing good to those who hate us.
In this, we are exercising our free will and, as far as the strength of our soul allows, we are uniting ourselves to Christ in the likeness of His death and resurrection. Now we are beginning to be crucified with Christ, so that it is Christ in the power of His Cross, which is the power of His resurrection, who is beginning to live in us. Now we are on the way to becoming ‘sons of the Most High,’ of becoming ‘merciful as our Heavenly Father is merciful.’ For we have set our face toward the Cross of Christ. We are now living in order to lose our life for the sake of Christ and the Holy Gospel, in the hope and expectation that we will find it in His Tomb, the Font of our Resurrection. Amen!