|07 - COME RECEIVE THE LIGHT, Nov 7, 2021|
In our Gospel this morning, we see Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue coming to Jesus and imploring Him to come with him to his house to heal his 12 year old daughter who is dying.
The ruler of the synagogue, Jairus is a historical icon of all those who follow Moses, the Psalmist and the Prophets; for the synagogue was the place outside the Temple of Jerusalem where the books of Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets were read and studied. And so, as the ruler of the synagogue, Jairus shows by his action what it means to follow Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets: it means to follow them to Jesus. He is the ‘Unwaning Light’ that shines in the Law; He is the True Light coming into the world that the Law is leading all those to who read and study the Law. He is the ‘only-begotten God, He Who Is in the bosom of the Father, as St John teaches us in His Gospel (Jn 1.18). And I believe that John means to teach us by this that Jesus is the Name of God Who revealed Himself to Moses in the Burning Bush on the holy mountain (Ex 3.2-14). Jairus, then, whose own name in Hebrew means, ‘He whom God illumines,’ is approaching the Name of God, the True Light Who revealed Himself to Moses in the Burning Bush to prepare Israel for her Exodus from her bondage in Egypt through the Red Sea and to the Land of her Inheritance which the LORD had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
But, we read in the Psalms, for example: ‘Thou, O LORD, art my portion in the Land of the Living!’ (Ps 142.5) That is, the LORD Himself is the portion of each faithful Israelite in the Land of their Inheritance that the LORD God promised the children of Abraham. The Promised Land, Canaan, Palestine, is a historical icon of the Land of the Living, which is the mystery of the Body of the LORD Himself. The Inheritance of the Land promised to Abraham, then, is the promise to the children of Abraham that they could become, in the faith of Abraham, ‘partakers of the divine nature’ in the Land of the Living One, in the Mystery of God hidden from the ages, the Mystery of Christ in you, the Mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven that is within you! (Col 1.26-27, Lk 17.21).
But to get to the ‘Land of the Living,’ Israel had to pass through the Red Sea. To get to the Kingdom of Heaven that is within you, to become a partaker of the divine nature, to inherit our portion in the Land of the Living, we must pass through the Sea of death as Israel passed through the Red Sea. Israel passed through the Sea under the staff of Moses, the historical icon of the Cross of Christ under which we pass through the Sea of death.
All of this and more, to be sure, is what is happening to us whenever we, as does Jairus this morning, approach Jesus—whether through the Holy Scriptures, or in the struggle to put to death our earthly members through obedience to His commandments, or in the liturgical worship and ascetical disciplines and sacramental mysteries of His Body, which is the Church—beseeching Him to heal our soul of the passions that are the seeds of death in us, as Jairus besought the Unwaning Light to heal his daughter. We are entering the mystery of Pascha, we are coming to the Unwaning Light who is risen from the dead! That means we are drawing near His Cross and the Tomb of His Sabbath Rest. We are approaching the True Light whose brilliance darkened the sun at midday when they raised Him up on the Cross! We are approaching the only-begotten God, ‘He Who Is’ the very Radiance of the Father, whose uncreated and Living Light (Jn 1.4) was already pouring forth from His Tomb when they placed His ‘corpse’ in it (Lk 23.54). We are approaching the very Name of God who came to Moses in the Burning Bush, but who now comes to us in the flesh, in our flesh that He received from His Mother, the Holy Virgin Theotokos. He comes to us in His Church, which is His Body incarnate in the world Today (Eph 1.23). In the bush of our humanity, in Bush of the Church, the Fire of God that suffused the Law of Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets now comes to us to suffuse our human nature with the life-giving Fire of His divinity. The human nature of the Virgin, dear faithful, which is our human nature, the Church which is Christ’s Body, is the LORD’s Garment whose hem the hemorrhaging woman touched and was healed! This is why we approach the Virgin when we approach Jesus Christ! We are approaching the mystery of His Incarnation by which He has saved us, destroying our death by His death in the flesh, in our flesh, in His Body the Church that He received from His Holy Mother.
To be sure, we can approach Jesus as did other ‘rulers’ of the synagogue, not in brokenness of heart, beseeching Him to heal our soul or a loved one as did Jairus, ‘Enlightened of God,’ but in the conceit of our own wisdom to test Him according to our own opinions, looking to entrap Him in His words so that we may delude ourselves into believing we are justified in crucifying Him. But then we put ourselves on the side of Pharaoh and his armies, and we do not pass through the Red Sea of death to come out into the Garden of the LORD’s Resurrection in the land of our inheritance, the ‘Land of the Living.’ We come into the tomb of death that destroys life, not into the LORD’s Tomb that destroyed death!
Once we begin to see all these Paschal undertones in this morning’s Gospel, we are not altogether surprised to read that Jairus’ daughter died after he besought the LORD to come to his house to heal her. She died while the LORD was on His way to her. It’s in the Paschal Light shining within this morning’s Gospel that one is suddenly caught by this little detail: Jairus’ daughter dies in the moment that He heals the woman with the flow of blood; and that the report of the death of Jairus’ daughter is at the same moment that the LORD is saying to the woman: ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace!’
Could it be that the girl’s healing from death, her salvation in the LORD began in the moment Jairus came to the True Light and besought Him to heal his daughter? Could it be that the daughter’s death is a historical icon of the Church’s Holy Baptism, the mystery of our illumination in Christ, the mystery of our being united to Christ in the likeness of His death, the beginning of our death being destroyed in the death of Christ and opening out onto the Garden of His Resurrection, the beginning of our ascent on the Path, which is Christ Himself, that ascends from the nethermost darkness of hell to the summit of the Holy Mountain of the LORD’s Holy Ascension and beyond, to the ‘Land of the Living’ and to our portion in the Body of Christ, filled with the Hope of the Glory of becoming partakers of the divine nature in the Kingdom of Heaven that is within you?
We have come only to the foothills of the mountain range of theology that this morning’s Gospel is. We have touched only the hem of the LORD’s Garment! Yet see how much it is teaching us! It is teaching us how it is that our souls are saved, and what it is to be saved. It is to be illumined in the Light of Christ in the Life of His Holy Spirit; it is to come in our inner man into the Tomb of the LORD by uniting ourselves to Him in the likeness of His death so that the tomb of our heart becomes one with the LORD’s Tomb and, in the LORD’s Tomb, opens out onto the Garden of His Resurrection. To be saved, then, we need only to come and receive the Light from the unwaning Light, as did Jairus and the hemorrhaging woman, so that in purity of heart—that is, in the tomb of our heart now emptied, now cleansed of all death, now fragrant with the Glory of Christ’s Holy Resurrection—we may glorify Christ in the Land of the Living, in the Kingdom of Heaven that is within us!
Come to the Light! Turn the thoughts of your mind away from the wisdom of men, away from your own wisdom, and open your ears to hear the Holy Gospel whose music is singing from one end of the universe to the other (cf. Ps 19.2-4), from the beginning of time to the end of time, and beyond, playing on the harp string of Light (Ps 19.3-4) that pours forth from the Tomb of the LORD’s Sabbath Rest (Lk 23.54)! Come into the courts of the Church, for it is the Body of the True Light. Knit your life with the pure blood of the incarnate God, the sacramental mysteries of His Body, by which He cleanses our souls and destroys our death so that our death becomes the gate that opens onto the garden of His Resurrection. Receive the Light! Receive His commandments. Receive the Robe of Light from the unwaning Light in Holy Baptism and Chrismation. Receive His very Body and Blood in the mystery of His Body, the Church. The sacramental mysteries of the Church are His Garment of Light, and if we touch but the hem of His Garment, if it but touches you, ‘Lo, it takes away your sins, it removes all your iniquities!’ For the sacraments, elements taken from the creation, are of the Virgin Theotokos, they are of the Bush that burns with the Fire of God and is not consumed—for to burn with the Fire of God, to be filled with His Glory, to be Light as He is Light, this is what it is to be man!
The Spirit and His Bride cry out: ‘Come! Let everyone who is thirsty come and drink from the font that is given freely—from the Mighty River that pours forth from the Living Temple of the Virgin all the way to the outlet of the sea, all the way into our death to destroy our death by His death and to open the tomb of our heart onto the Garden of His Resurrection! (Eze 47.1-12) Come ye and receive the Light from the unwaning Light and glorify Christ who is risen from the dead in the mystery of God that is hidden from the ages; for He is revealed in the secret chamber, now the bridal chamber, the Holy of Holies that is your own heart! Amen!