07 - The Sower and his Seed, Oct 19, 2008


The Sower and his Seed

October 19, 2008

II Corinthians 9:6-11

Luke 8:5-15

In a sermon of the early Church, dated around the end of the 1st century and found in a text called II Clement, the preacher speaks of the “first Church, the spiritual one, which was created before the sun and moon.”[1] Together with other biblical and patristic sources, one is led to conclude that this “first Church created before sun and moon” is the primordial light that was God’s first creation.[2] If so, it means that the Church is the primordial light in which the heavens and the earth were created; and that the primordial principle of creation is not chaos – as the early poet and Greek philosopher, Hesiod, wrote in the opening lines of his Theogonia: “In the beginning was chaos” – but light, and that light is the Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us.

Now, St Paul writes that the Church is the body of Christ. In view of what we’ve been saying about the Church and the primordial light of creation, one thinks immediately of Christ’s Transfiguration on Mt Tabor when his face – or his outward appearance was transfigured and shone with a brilliance like the sun.[3] This is the face or the form of Christ’s body that is shining like the sun – but it is not the sun, anymore than the primordial light that was God’s first creation was the sun; for the sun and moon were not created until the fourth day. This brilliant light that shone forth from Christ’s body is the light of the Church, the body of Christ; and this light, so it seems the Scriptures are telling us, is the primordial light that illumined creation.

There’s another detail from the Genesis theological vision of creation I want to set before you. We know that plants need light in order to grow; but in Genesis, the plants that God causes to come forth from the earth sprout and grow on the third day of creation. The light in which they grow, therefore, cannot be the light of the sun and moon; they’re not created until the fourth day. It is rather that primordial light of creation that is the Church, the body of Christ, which the preacher in II Clement calls the “first Church, the spiritual one,” and which he says has been in existence “from the beginning but was revealed in these last days in order that she might save us.”

All of this tells us that the Theotokos is a mystery far greater than perhaps even we who love her so much have imagined. For, she is the one who gives to Christ his humanity, his body that is the Church, this primordial light of creation, so that he can become flesh and dwell among us. Who is she? What is the mystery concerning her? We are taken immediately to the words St Simeon says to the Theotokos as she is brought to him in the temple on the Feast of her Entrance on Nov 21: “Strange is the manner of thy birth; strange is the manner of thy growing. Strange and most marvelous are all things concerning thee, O Bride of God, and they are beyond the telling of mortal man.”[4] 

But the force of my words is not directed to the mystery of the Theotokos, as marvelous as it is. I want consider how this vision of the Church as the primordial light created by the Word of God in the beginning illumines the parable of this morning’s Gospel. As the light in which God creates the heavens and the earth, the Church, Christ’s body, is the creation in its primordial goodness. It is the world as it was meant to be. It is the world existing in its own created light that was brought into being from nothing by the Word of God, who is himself Light from Light, true God of true God, and who clothes himself with the light of his creation, his holy Church, his body, as with a garment and so gives to his creation the uncreated life of his own divinity.

In other words, what we are reading in the opening chapters of Genesis is a theological description of what lies beyond the grave of those who love God. It is the world in its primordial goodness. At its eastern end is the Garden of Eden. This is the garden of the tomb where the crucified Christ was buried. Those who take up their cross for the sake of Christ and his Gospel enter into the death of Christ and in Christ they pass over from this fallen world and back into the Garden of Eden. United to the tomb of Christ, our baptism and the tomb of our actual, physical death are transfigured into the gate that opens out on the other side onto the Garden of Christ’s Holy Resurrection, the Garden of Eden, the garden that was in the place where Christ was crucified, according to St John.[5]

The Lord explains to his disciples that the seed is “the word of God.” The word of God is not only the teaching of God; it is the Person of the Son of God himself. He is the Word who was with God the Father in the beginning, who is himself God, through whom all things came to be. Coming from the Person of the Word of God Himself, the word of God that is his teaching falls on the earth like seeds, first in the words of the Law and the Prophets and now from the Word of God himself, just as it fell on the earth at the very beginning, so that the earth that was newly formed and was yet barren was made to bring forth plants and fruits and herbs in an abundance of verdant life growing not in the light of the sun and moon but in the primordial light of the Church.

So also in these last days, the Church that once was barren[6] because of the sin of Adam and Eve, has brought forth the Second Eve, the Theotokos. She is the “fertile ground who receives within her body the Bread of Life,”[7] Christ Jesus, the Word of God, Light from Light, true God from true God, just as the newly formed earth at the beginning received the seeds spoken into being by the Word of God. She receives her Lord, Christ the Word of God, into her body, and she brings forth Christ the Second Adam, the God-man, who unites himself to us so that he might unite us to himself and so make us complete and whole, and make perfect our nature created in his own image and likeness.

All of this means that when we step into that Church, we are stepping mystically into the Garden of Eden and into the world in its primordial goodness and holiness as it was made by God in the beginning. And, it means that the words we hear in the Church from her holy Scriptures and from her doctrines and from her prayers, are not just talking about God who is up there while we’re down here. These words of the Church are rays of light coming forth from the womb of the Church like the plants at the beginning shooting up from the soil and reaching up to the primordial light of the Church united to the uncreated Light of God’s Word. These words of the Church are rays of light coming to us from beyond the grave. They come to us from the Garden of Eden in Christ’s Holy Resurrection, from the creation as it was made by God in its primordial goodness; so if our mind receives these words of the Church as the earth received the seeds of God’s Word that fell on her on the third day of creation, we can be illumined as was the creation at the beginning when it was being shaped and coming to life in the primordial light of the Church, in whose light we see the Light of God. And if, like the Theotokos, we will keep these words and treasure them in our heart, these words of the Church like fiery rays of spiritual light will burn up the weeds in our soul and break up the stony ground of our heart and turn it into soft soil that brings forth the verdant life of God’s Holy Spirit in abundance like the earth in the beginning bringing forth the verdant, abundant life of the plants.

In this luminous vision of the Church, let us pray to God that he will help us to sow abundantly that by the power of his divine grace, we may reap an abundance for every good work. Amen.

[1] II Clement 14

[2] Gn 1:3

[3] Mt 17:1-2; cf Mark 9:2-3 and Lk 9:28-30

[4] Festal Menaion 182

[5] Jn 19:41

[6] From the Nativity of the Theotokos, FM 113

[7] FM 99