06 - Pascha in Nain, October 9, 2011

II Corinthians 6:16-7:1

Luke 7:11-16

The inner life of the Christian is the life of the Church. What animates this inner life of the Christian is the love of God and of His Holy Mother, the blessed Panagia – the All-Holy One. The power that energizes the inner life of the Christian is gratitude, thanksgiving, Eucharistia to God for all the riches of His glory and divine, uncreated life that He gives to us out of His abundant mercy and goodness and compassion. In the sanctuary of the Christian’s heart and mind worship moves unceasingly in the fear of God, with faith and love. Communion with God in the hidden deeps of his inner life is what occupies the Christian’s mind and beats in his heart in a rhythm of constant prayer, “Blessed art Thou, O Lord,” and “Lord, have mercy!”

This morning’s Gospel records for the pious meditation of us all the wonder and awe that fell upon those who beheld the miracle of resurrection, a prefiguring of Christ’s Holy Pascha, that took place in the small village of Nain. The Gospel proclaims that the Lord, when He saw the grieving widow walking alongside the funeral bier of her only son, felt compassion for her. And so, when it says that all who beheld the miracle were filled with fear, and that they glorified God, saying, “God has visited His people!” surely the fear they felt was the fear that seizes all who encounter the Glory of the Lord’s compassion. We know from many accounts in Scripture that it is a terrible thing to behold the Glory of the Lord’s love. One thinks of Abraham when the Lord visited him, of Moses when he came upon the burning bush on the holy mountain, Elijah in the cave, Isaiah when He saw the Glory of the Lord filling the temple, St Peter at the great catch of fish, the holy disciples Peter, James and John when they saw the Lord transfigured on the Holy Mountain, of St Thomas when he beheld the Risen Lord in the Upper Room, of the holy apostle Paul when the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus.

The Scriptures say that the Lord is a consuming fire, and that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Lord. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Lord because those hands are the flames, if you will, of the all-consuming fire of His love for us. It burns with such intensity that He emptied Himself and was obedient to the Father even to the point of death on the Cross in order to destroy death and give us life – not the life of the world but His own divine life of glory and of incorruptible joy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ: thanks be to God! In the Church, the very body of Christ, the fullness of Him who is all in all, and in the sacred beauty of her holy mysteries, we have fallen into the hands of God. We have approached the consuming fire of His divine love. We have ingested His love as our food and drink. We have received His Heavenly Spirit.

Do you see how each one of us who has passed through the waters of baptism is like the son of the widow of Nain in this morning’s Gospel? How the funeral procession that our life was, as we made our way through the days, the months, the years of our life to the grave where our bodies would be laid to their final rest and dissolved back into the dust, do you see how we have been raised from death to life in our baptism, and how the funeral procession that our life was has been transfigured into a procession in the fear of God, with faith and in love from the font as from a bridal chamber to the ambon of the Church as to the glory of His Resurrection to receive from the Tree of Life the fruit of the Virgin’s womb, the Bread of Heaven and the Cup of Life as partakers of the divine nature, communicants of the all-consuming fire of divine love, to receive the All-Holy, Good and Life-Creating Spirit of God?

In the mysteries of the Church, you have been touched in body and soul by the hand of the Lord, as was the widow’s son in this morning’s Gospel. The divine hand that has touched you, like your own hand, is fashioned from the dust of the ground; and yet, there is this difference, of course. It is dust of the ground that has been re-fashioned in the all-holy temple of the Blessed Panagia’s womb into the hand of God.[1] The Church, which is the body of Christ, the fullness of Him who is all in all, is the mystery of our earthly bodies transfigured into a living temple of God in God the Word who was born of the Holy Spirit and the ever-Virgin Mary and who became flesh and dwelt among us. In the consecrated water, oil, bread and wine of the Church, we have been touched in body and soul by the hand of the Lord’s crucified and risen body. With that touch, we have been raised from death to life. The darkness of our ignorance has been illumined with the Light of God’s Wisdom, the Lord Jesus Christ. Through the work of faith, the work of taking up our cross to put to death the old man in us with its fleshly lusts and desires, we now live our daily life in this world as a procession from the font of our baptism to the Chalice of Holy Eucharist, Holy Thankfulness to become communicants of the Savior’s own divinity and to become one body with Him Who has filled all things with joy, the joy of His Holy Resurrection.

In this glory of the Gospel, the Christian takes up His Cross in the spirit of joy and thanksgiving. In the fear of God, he takes up his cross out of love for the Savior; and, the agony of the Cross, the inconvenience, the irritations and annoyances of this worldly life’s trials and tribulations are discovered as the manifestation of our weakness by which the strength of God is perfected in us, the dying of our earthly bodies is revealed as our union with the Savior in the divine life of His Holy Resurrection. We experience the prophecy we heard in St Paul’s epistle this morning as the new principle of our daily life: in Our Lord Jesus Christ, God dwells among us. In the life of the Church, Christ walks among us. He is in our midst. And in the sacramental mysteries of the Church, His divine hand touches us and we receive the grace of His Holy Spirit in so many ways, seen and unseen. He raises us from death to life and begets us in the baptismal font as His holy and virginal sons and daughters, no longer lying dead in the tomb of our hearts but walking in the good, holy and life-creating Spirit of His Holy Resurrection.

The Savior raises the widow’s son to life – not the life of the world, but the life of His own Holy Spirit. And then He gives the risen son back to his mother. Having raised us from death to life, the Savior gives us back to our mother, the Church, even to His Mother, the blessed Panagia and ever-Virgin Mary Theotokos, that we may be nurtured by her and taught by her how to walk in this heavenly life of her Son and our God that we have been raised up into.

I believe these meditations that are evoked in our hearts and minds by this morning’s Scripture lessons offer a glorious example of the kind of reflections we should be giving our minds to not just on Sunday morning but every day, every hour, every moment of the week; the kind of words we should be giving our ears to, the holy vision we should be giving our eyes to, the glory and joy we should be giving our hearts to, so that in the secret places of our heart and mind, we, too, may live in this inner life of the Church into which we have been born. If we could give ourselves to this inner life of the Church, would it not guide our hands and feet into the miraculous transformation of our daily life? It would become a daily preparation for receiving Christ as the Living Bread and the Cup of Life that comes down from heaven in Holy Eucharist.

In the holy fear and sacred joy engendered in us by these promises given to us in the life of the Church that lives in us if we would but live in it, we take up our cross. We take up the ascetic works of prayer, of vigilance, of fasting, of obedience to Christ’s holy commandments, in order to purify ourselves from every uncleanness of flesh and spirit, to make perfect or whole or complete the sanctification, the holiness and righteousness of God, that has been granted to us in the beauty of Christ’s Holy Church. Amen.

[1] Cf. George Gabriel, Mary, The Untrodden Portal of God, p. 25.