|11 - Sunday of the Forefathers, Dec 13, 2015 (with audio)|
[For audio click here]
The certain man in this morning's parable is God, the Father of the LORD. The Great Supper is the Banquet of Christ and His Bride, the Church. The Great Supper takes place in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is the reality of the Church’s Holy Mysteries.
The Kingdom of Heaven is within you, says the LORD (Lk 17:21). The Great Supper, then, is the heavenly mystery that was hidden from the ages but is now revealed in the coming of Christ: “Christ in you, the hope of Glory!” (Col 1:27) The mystery of the Great Supper, then, is found in the inner chamber of our heart, our true self that is deep beyond all things (Jer 17:5/9 LXX). St Isaac of Syria (7th Cent.) says: “Enter into the inner chamber that is within you and you will see the Inner Chamber of Heaven (cf. Mat 6:6), for these are one and the same and with one entry you will behold them both” (Hom 2).
That this Great Supper of the Heavenly Kingdom takes place in the inner hall of the heart, St Isaac would tell us, means that the food offered to the guests of the LORD’s Great Supper is the love of Christ. “The man who has found love,” he says, “eats and drinks Christ every day and hour and hereby is made immortal….When we hear the LORD say, ‘You shall eat and drink at the table of My Kingdom,’ what shall we eat if not love? Love is sufficient to nourish a man instead of food and drink. This is the wine ‘that makes glad the heart of man’ (Ps 104:15) Blessed is he who partakes of this wine!” (Hom 46) This love St Isaac speaks of is the love that God is (I Jn 4:16), and so it is love that never ends. Whoever eats and drinks this food and wine of the Great Supper, then, lives in God and will never die because God lives in him (Jn 11:26).
It says that the LORD who made this Great Supper – a word that leads us to associate this Great Supper with the creation of the world and the New Creation of the LORD’s Holy Pascha – called many. The Servant sent by the “certain man,” the Father, is the Suffering Servant of God we hear of in the holy prophets. He is the LORD Jesus Christ who was sent into the world by His Father to call sinners to repentance (Lk 5:32), to set our affection not on things on the earth but on things above (Col 3:2); i.e., to turn around and set the face of our soul toward the Great Supper taking place in the “inner chamber” of our heart.
This Word of the Father’s call is the very the LORD Jesus Christ who became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:1-14). And now, He comes to us in the words of His Holy Church, which is His Body, in the words of the Church’s teaching and preaching. The words of the Church, then, are not of man, nor even of an angel in heaven (Gal 1:11). They are of the Word of the Father. Given by the Son to His holy apostles, they are given to the Church in the Holy Spirit and to us in the dogmatic words of the Church. The dogmatic words of the Church, then, carry Christ so that when we receive them in faith, we receive Christ. And, in the joy that touches the soul who receives the words of the Church, and sets her face toward their Source, there is given a taste already of the beauty and the joy of the LORD’s Great Supper.
But, who are we that God should be mindful of us or that the Son of God should care for us (Psa 8:4)? We are but dust, our days are like grass. We flourish, but like the flower of the field that is gone when the wind passes over it (Ps 103:15-16). Our years come to an end like a sigh. Even if we live to old age, the span of our years is but toil and trouble. They are soon gone, and we fly away (Ps 89:9-10 LXX).
What can we possibly offer to the LORD for all His bounty to us (Psa 116:2)? The LORD raised us up from the dust of the ground and fashioned us in His own image so that when He would appear, we could be like Him for we would see Him then as He is (I Jn 3:2). His will for us from the beginning was to make us “partakers of His own divine nature,” (II Pt 1:4) to clothe us in the radiant Glory of His Holy Spirit. He is the Tree of Life (St Anthony the Great); and so, in His command to us at the beginning, He was giving Himself to us as our food and drink so that it would be Christ who lives in us and we in Christ in the love of God that abides forever. How profoundly worthy of condemnation, then, are we in the ingratitude of our self-love in which we have each one turned to our own way. By our own choice, we have fallen into the pit of death; we stink from our sins and trespasses. And yet, we dare to stand before the LORD as though we are entitled to His mercy!
Even so, the LORD has no pleasure in our death. His will for us is that we should turn back from our evil ways and live (Eze 33:11), and so He sends forth His Word from Heaven to become flesh of the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin, so that He might taste death and be like us in all things (Heb 2:14).
This Word of the Father’s Call, then, calling us to the Great Supper does not come from outside of us. It comes from the Kingdom of Heaven that is within us. We experience it as coming from outside of us because we live outside of ourselves. We think we touch our heart when we experience strong feeling about something. This is not the heart, for the heart is deep beyond all things; it is but the feeling part of the soul.The Call of the Father comes to us in the dogmatic words of the Church. The embodiment of the Word of God that is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, they penetrate to the division of joints and marrow, even to the division of our soul and spirit to discern the thoughts and intentions of our heart. (Heb 4;12) If we would receive these words, they would lead us all the way into the tomb of our heart where, in the fear of death, we cower before the prince of the power of the air, the dark spirit of hell that works in us and makes us children of wrath, separated from God and without hope (Eph 2:12). That means that the Call of God that we receive “out here” where we live in our earthly bodies is really coming from our heart that is deep beyond all things. In calling us to the “things above”, these words of the Word of God are calling us down into the tomb of our heart where we are dead. But, that’s where Christ was buried spiritually when His Body was laid physically in the tomb. And, that’s where the Resurrection and the Life of Christ now fills all things. We can’t see it not because the LORD doesn’t want us to see it but because we are blind by our idolatry and our disobedience and we can’t see it.
Our epistle readings this morning set before us how we find and set out on this spiritual path that would lead us into the “inner chamber” of our heart where Christ is, filling all things. “Put to death,” writes St Paul, “your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another…Put off the old man with his deeds, and…put on the new man [this is Christ with whom you were clothed at your baptism] who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” “Walk in the Spirit. Do not become conceited, do not provoke one another, do not envy one another. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
These instructions from St Paul would turn the face of our heart, i.e., our affection, on seeking the things that are above; seeking, i.e., Christ as our life,or our love, and not the things on the earth. In this, when we are presented with the desires and impulses of our earthly members, we don’t give in to them. We turn the face or the affection of our heart steadfastly away from them and set it on Christ, so that in our daily life we are enslaved no more by the fear of death – which in most of us is unconscious, and so it drives us like witless sheep to lay hold of the things on earth that keep us enslaved to death – but by the fear of God. This is a blessed fear; it leads us to the Great Supper of the LORD’s Banquet where we eat and drink the love of Christ our God, that we taste even now in the Church’s Holy Eucharist. In the hope of that joy, we turn and set the face of our affection on Christ above and make our way on the path of this life to the Great Supper of the Spirit and His Bride (Rev 22:17). Amen!