09 - In Our Secret Place, Nov 18, 2018

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Hebrews 9:1-7 (Theotokos)

Ephesians 5:9-19

Luke 10:38-42, 11:27-28 (Theotkos)

Luke 13:10-17

These shameful things done in secret, that St Paul says are too shameful even to speak of, are of the darkness. They are not of God. And, if they are not of God, they are not of us. They are alien to us. They are contrary to us; for, we were not made in the image and likeness of the darkness, but in the image and likeness of God. And, that Image is Christ! We were “conceived” in the “mind” of God. Even before we existed, we were known by God (Jer 1:5). And, when we were brought into existence, we were made, a work of art, a poem, in the Image and Likeness of God. And, that Image is Christ! He is the True Light that illumines everyone coming into the world (Jn 1:5). All the good things of the Light are of God and these are natural to us. Therefore, when we descend into our secret heart to dwell on these shameful, dark things, we fall away not just from God; we fall away from ourselves. Turning to the darkness, away from the Light, we turn to the sleep of death.

But, might our Gospel this morning of Christ coming into the synagogue and teaching, be an image of the Light of God coming into the “shadow” of the Law? The shadow of the Law could cleanse the outer man; it could accomplish forgiveness, it could bring a man near to the LORD, it could even illumine him; but, it could not cleanse him from the death that lay hold of his heart down in that secret place where, beneath the trappings of the law that one might observe, righteously, in his outer man, even beneath the moral and good thoughts he might foster in his mind, as surely did the righteous of the OT, he was still dead in the tomb of his heart.

Christ in the synagogue, then, is an image of “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” the Light of God shining now not just in the ordinances of the Law but in our flesh, even in the “secret place” of our heart. He has become flesh; and, in the flesh, He has descended even into the Holy of Holies of our heart where, by His Blood, He has cleansed the “tomb of our heart” from the “blood of death” and made it into a holy sanctuary, and our body He has made to be the Temple of the Holy Spirit. As from the Tomb of His Resurrection, He teaches us in the synagogue of our soul and mind, and the words of His teaching illumine our inner darkness, revealing in His Light the good things of God that are natural to us.

There is a woman in the synagogue this morning. Might this woman represent our soul? It says that she was weighed down by a spirit of infirmity and could not in any way raise herself up. Is this not our soul, weighed down by this “body of death”? However hard we try, whatever we do, however moral or blameless we might actually be, we cannot make ourselves rise up and live in the Light, because we are spiritual corpses, enveloped by spiritual darkness.

The synagogue was an extension of the Temple in Jerusalem. It represents the Christian parish that extends from the True and Living Temple of God, the Holy Theotokos and the crucified and risen Body of her Son. The parish is the mystery of the visible Church opening onto the invisible Church of the heart, which opens onto the Heavenly Church. For, the Church is the mystery of the Theotokos who holds and nourishes the Body of Christ. The Church is the dread and wonderful mystery of Christ’s conception and nativity, His death and resurrection. From the Church comes this fearsome teaching: Christ is in you! The Light of God is in you, illumining the darkness of your secret heart with the uncreated Light of God that radiates from the fearsome joy of His death and resurrection!

How is He in the synagogue? How is He in you?

“Blessed are the breasts that nursed you!” cries the woman in this morning’s Gospel that we read for the Theotokos. Blessed is your holy Mother! How can she not be most blessed? She is the Mother of God. And, the LORD tells us why she is blessed, and why she became the Mother of God: because she heard the WORD of God and kept it. In the inner beauty of her soul and spirit, she was chosen even before the foundation of the world to be the Bride and Mother of the Living God. And because of her, the uncreated Light stands bodily in the synagogue of our soul and mind. In her and through her, the fullness of divinity now dwells bodily as in His holy temple in those who receive Him in the sacramental mysteries of the Church.

The LORD in the synagogue this morning saw this woman weighed down by a spirit of infirmity. She could in no way raise herself up. Does not the LORD this morning sees you in the hidden, secret place of your soul? He called the woman to Him, it says. Is He not calling to us? “In the fear of God, with faith and love draw near!” Draw near the Holy Font, the Holy Tomb, the Sabbath Rest of God! Draw near the Light of His Resurrection shining in the darkness of the secret place in your secret heart.

The woman drew near. Why would she walk away from the Light? It is not a cold light. It is the Light of God that radiates the warmth of His ineffable mercy and compassion, that falls on the soul like warm, living water, washing away all our filth all the way down into the tomb of our heart where it washes even the seed of death away. Dear faithful! In your holy baptism, the seed of death that was in your heart was washed away. The Seed of divine Life, the Seed of Immortality, the Seed of God Himself has been sown in the earth of your body. You have been given Life. You have received the True Light. You have received the Heavenly Spirit, concretely, tangibly, bodily, spiritually as your bath, as your anointing, as your garment, as your food and drink.

In the healing Light of God that shines in you, from the Seed of Life that has been sown in the earth of your soul and body, “wake up! Rise from the dead. Walk in the Light of Christ that shines in you.

Our work now is the work of repentance. This is the work of turning away from “Egypt” and making our way to the Promised Land, Christ Himself. This is not an outer journey of geography. It is an inner journey, hidden, that descends into the secret place of the heart and into the Empty Tomb of the LORD’s Resurrection filled with His uncreated Light. This “exodus of repentance”, we’ll call it, is what the holy fathers teach us our life on this earth is all about. This is our central “work”, our central “occupation”.

On this inner Exodus, then, we put away the deeds of darkness. In our secret heart where no one but God can see, we put away the shameful thoughts and desires of the darkness. For, we put them away at our baptism, when took off our old clothes and were clothed in the Robe of Light, when we put on Christ. In our inner man, now, we are on an Exodus out of Egypt, not back to it. In our secret heart, we are walking toward the Light of the East, not to the darkness of the West.” This eastern Light, the Light of Christ’s Resurrection, is the Light the Church calls out to us to “draw near to, in the fear of God, with faith and love!” Let us draw near to it; let us give ourselves to it, let us love it with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. Live for that Light. Live in it. At our baptism, we walked around the Font and the Holy Gospel and the Cross. From this day, from this hour, from this moment, let us give our secret heart to these things that are of the Light of Christ, contemplating, studying, dwelling on and abiding in them, turning these things of the Light over in our mind and not the shameful things of the darkness.

Live in the mystery of the Theotokos! Let her nourish you with the milk of Christ. Let her mold you back to your original beauty in the Image and Likeness of her Son, Christ our God, who in His Holy Church illumines us and works in us the mystery of our healing in the good things of the Light of His Holy Resurrection. Amen!