|09 - THE WOMAN AND THE ANTICHRIST, Nov 1, 2020|
This Sermon was recorded and can be viewed on our St Herman's YouTube channel or public Facebook pgae.
Many of us believe the upcoming election is one of if not the most critical in our nation’s history; but, not for political reasons. Many believe the outcome of this election will determine if our nation steps directly into the devouring maw of the darkness or steps back from it, even if only for a time. Others may see that the darkness has come and will only deepen regardless of the outcome.
We are in the midst of a pandemic. Fear of the virus has made many afraid even to come to Church, the only place where the Light, which the darkness cannot overcome, shines. Days may well be coming when fear of a virus is not the only thing that will keep people away from the Church!
These are not easy times, to be sure. With St Paul, we are hard-pressed and perplexed on every side (2 Co 4.8). Let us remember the timeless words of St John: “Little children,” he says. He means, children born of God, still growing and maturing in the womb of the Church to attain the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4.13). “Little children,” he says. “It is the last time; and, as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now, there are many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time. For, the spirit of antichrist already is in the world.” (1 Jn 2.18&4.3).
Let the words of St John lift our eyes to see the larger horizon that illumines the present moment: the spirit of antichrist who is already in the world is out to destroy our nation only to get to the woman. It hates the woman. It hates her Child, and her children. Already, our nation, along with others, has been beguiled by its lies to pass legislation that destroys the mother and the family. But, all of this is just appetizer to the spirit of antichrist. It is out to destroy the Woman, the Church, for she is the Mother of the Christ Child who has crushed the serpent’s head by His Cross.
And, precisely here, in the Church, is the hope and the strength of those who wish to become children of light and to be saved. The hope and the strength are real. For here, in the Church, in the Body of Christ, the uncreated Light of God, the Light in whom is the Life of the world, shines. It shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot destroy it, neither can it destroy the Woman’s children in whom the Light shines, even if they die!
This Light is proclaimed to us in this morning’s Gospel. Let us attend to it, for the signs are indicating that it is the evening of the Last Day. The Last Day dawned (Lk 23.54, epefosken) on the evening of Great and Holy Friday when they crucified the LORD of Glory and placed His Body in the Tomb.
So, what means this darkness now settling on the world? Does it mean we’ve come to the Twilight of the Last Day, the ninth, the tenth, the eleventh hour? But, that would mean that the Dawn of the New Day, which knows no evening and no darkness, is just below the horizon! This is what we must attend to with all sobriety and vigilance; for herein alone, even here within the mystery of lawlessness that is already at work in our nation, in our world (2 Th 2.7), here the Sun of Righteousness, our Light and our Salvation, our Refuge and our Strength, was placed when He was placed in the Tomb; and, it is within the mystery of lawlessness that the Light of the New Day of His Second Coming is already beginning to dawn (Lk 23.54)! This is the mystery of your baptism, of your being united to Christ, the True Light who is in the world in His Body, the Church, which He received from the Woman, whom the antichrist hates and seeks to destroy, the Woman whose holy beauty and warm goodness he is already destroying in those women of the world who swallow his lies.
Dear faithful, where you see the LORD Jesus here in the land of the Gerasenes, see the Chalice of the Church. For the Body and Blood of Christ that are in the Chalice of Christ’s Holy Church are the same Body and Blood that, when He was lifted up on the Cross, darkened the sun by the invisible brilliance of the uncreated Light shining forth from Him as it did on Mt Tabor; the same Body and Blood in which God destroyed death by His death. The consecrated wine in that Chalice is the very Blood that poured from the Savior’s side as a stream of incorruption, filling the whole universe. The consecrated bread in that Chalice is the very Body that was placed in the tomb and illumined the Tomb from within already with the radiant uncreated Light of His “redeeming grace” (“And the Light of the Sabbath was already beginning to dawn (epefosken)’ Lk 23.54), suffused with the same Holy Spirit that emptied the Tomb, transforming it into the Font of our Resurrection.
The LORD Jesus Christ by His death and burial opened the Tomb. He opened the graves. He opened hell and flooded it with His uncreated Light, the Light in whom is the Life of men, the Living Waters of the Holy Spirit that pours forth from the rib of the Savior as the Mighty River that poured forth from the Gate of the Temple, the mystery of the Woman, the Holy Virgin Theotokos, in Ezekiel’s vision of the Last Day (Eze 47)! When you eat and drink from the Chalice of the Church, you are eating the Living Bread that comes down from Heaven, you are drinking from the Living Cup of Heaven, you are eating and drinking the uncreated Light, the uncreated power of the LORD’s Holy Spirit, you are eating and drinking the Heavenly Spirit Himself, you are eating and drinking the Body of Christ that has overcome the world and against whom the gates of hell cannot prevail.
Brothers and sisters, you are becoming the Church, you are becoming the woman. In your baptism, you became children of God; and as you eat and drink the precious Body and Blood of Christ, and walk in the Life that begins to radiate within you from the Body and Blood of Christ, and suffuses your body, your soul, your spirit, you are growing into the measure of the fullness of the stature of Christ! “You are of God, little children!” says St John. But, you are little children in God, and God in you; and, in God, “you have overcome the antichrists and the spirit of antichrist, for greater is He that is in you, the LORD God Jesus Christ, than he, the spirit of antichrist, that is in the world.” (1 Jn 4.4)
Do you believe that? Look at this morning’s Gospel—or is this morning’s Gospel just a story to entertain you? It is not just a story. It is a Mighty Act of God in the flesh, in our flesh, calling out to us from within the darkness of the tombs to draw near the uncreated Light shining in the darkness, that we may be illumined and saved and delivered from the spirits of antichrist, as was this demoniac!
The LORD Jesus has destroyed death by His death in our flesh. He has overcome the evil one in our body. When you draw near to the Chalice, in the fear of God, whom or what shall you fear! The same Christ who by His very presence—yes! What does it mean when the priest cries out in the Church, Christ is in our midst!—the same Christ who by His very presence compelled these demons to draw near to Him, and whose WORD held them riveted at His feet, trembling, quaking, shrieking in terror and pain from the fiery brilliance of His uncreated Light that pierced them—even as the demoniac, longing to be delivered from the demons and to be saved, fell at the LORD’s feet and worshipped Him, beseeching Him from the depth of His soul to deliver him from these dreadful demons, these spirits of the antichrist—the same Christ whose WORD held those dark spirits rooted fast to the ground until He granted them to enter the swine, this is the very Christ whose Body and Blood you eat and drink from the Chalice, so that even just by touching the Chalice with your lips, as though touching the hem of the Savior’s garment, your sins are wiped away, your iniquities are removed, you eat and drink to the healing of your soul and body.
Do you believe this? Where is your mind, your heart when the Church gives you to pray, “I believe, O LORD, and I confess, that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that this is truly Thine own most pure Body, and thine own precious Blood!” Do you believe that; or are these just words to you?
Here is our hope, here is our strength, here is our Light, here is our Life, given to us not as a lofty religious ideal or empty teaching, but as the Living Bread and the Living Cup that you eat and drink, that you receive into your body; which, if you would let it, and if you would work it as the LORD and His holy apostles command us, you would receive the LORD God Himself into the tomb of your heart to transfigure it into a glorious Bridal Chamber of uncreated Light.
“Little children!” The power of the Savior’s Cross, by which He destroyed death through His death, is the uncreated energy of God. Uncreated, it is not bound by creation, by space-time. It radiates from the Cross through the whole of creation, the whole of space-time. Its saving and life-giving Light radiates ‘back’ into the past; it shines ‘forward’ into the future. This uncreated Light of Christ is the divine power by which the Gerasene demoniac was healed. and which scattered the demons as they fled from the LORD’s presence, shrieking in terror the instant the LORD released them! This is the power that flows like a mighty river through the centuries, and is even now flooding Christ’s Church, His Body, even St Herman’s this morning, with His healing and life-giving presence.
Christ is in our midst! Is He or isn’t He? Little Children! He is! The Living Waters of His uncreated Light are flowing through you, for you are the Church, born from the Tomb of Christ’s Holy Resurrection that has transfigured your heart into the Bridal Chamber! The Church, the all-powerful, life-giving Body of Christ is in you! Why should you be afraid? Of what could you possibly be afraid when the Christ who has destroyed death, your death, by His death, is in you!
He who hears my word and does them, says the LORD, is like the man who dug deep and built his house on the Rock (Lk 6.48). Little children! In the midst of the darkness, let us attend to the Light of Christ that hides in the mystery of lawlessness. Yes! It hides in the mystery of lawlessness, in its heart, killing it from within the hearts and souls of those who unite themselves to Christ. Let us therefore dig deep into our soul, far deeper than the politics of the world that is passing away. For, even if the world in the blindness and cowardice of its idolatry, succumbs to the spirit of antichrist—like the villagers in this morning’s Gospel—this does not extinguish the Light of Christ that is in you, nor does it close you off to the ‘tomb’ of your heart, preventing you from entering it to behold, with St John, the linen cloth folded neatly and the turban laid off to the side, and to believe, and to understand the Scriptures, that the Savior must suffer and die, but on the Third Day would rise again, making all who receive Him, in the Power of the Holy Spirit He gives to them, into little children of God who are unconquerable by the darkness of antichrist and his puppets!
Let this, then, be our most essential work: working out our salvation in the fear and trembling of Christ’s Holy Pascha to lay the foundation of our life in the Rock that is Christ, so that our hearts become a royal Bridal Chamber, and we, through the power of Christ’s Holy Spirit working in us, become living stones built on the foundation of the prophets and the holy apostles into the Temple of God whose cornerstone is the Rock that is Christ, laid in the very pit of hell to fill even the nethermost regions with His uncreated Light. Jesus Christ has overcome the world. He has destroyed death by His death. The gates of hell cannot and shall not prevail against His Church, for the Church is His Body that is risen from the dead. Therefore, we have every reason to be strong and to take courage. Our refuge is not in a vaccine or in the outcome of an election. It is in the Woman, the Most Holy, Most Beloved, Most Glorious Panagia Theotokos; for it is in her arms that we receive her Son and our God, Our LORD Jesus Christ, the true Savior and Light of the world. Amen!