|12 - THE GREAT SUPPER. SUNDAY OF FOREFATHERS, Dec 12, 2021|
‘When Christ our Life appears,’ says St Paul. On one level, St Paul is referring to the LORD’s Second Coming. But, on the level of the Church’s liturgical and spiritual life, we think immediately of the upcoming Feast of Christmas. In a divine and inexpressible manner, the only-begotten God who was sown like a seed in the soil of the Virgin’s sacred Womb, blossoms forth from the Virgin on Christmas as the Fruit of the Tree of Life. If we partake of Him, we shall not die as did Adam, but we shall live, for Christ now born of the Virgin, has renewed the image that fell of old.
The Great Supper of this morning’s Gospel is, of course, the Holy Eucharist of the Church. As such, it is the mystery of God hidden from the ages, the mystery of ‘Christ in you, your hope of glory!’ And so this Great Supper of the Church is a mystical supper. The Banquet Hall is not on this side of the grave but on the other side. To come into its hidden, spiritual reality, we must come out of this visible world as on an Exodus. We must enter the mystery of the LORD’s incarnation. It is the mystery of the Cave of Bethlehem where we see Him as a newborn Child, clothed in our body and blood as the Son of Man; and it is the mystery of the New Tomb of His Holy Pascha, where we do not see Him.
That is, we do not see Him in our body and blood, not because He is no longer clothed in our body and blood, and our body and blood have disappeared in His Resurrection; but because He has raised our body and blood from the dead. In the mystery of the Incarnation of God the WORD, the angels proclaim to us in effect that we will find ourselves no more among the dead. If we wish to find ourselves as we have been re-fashioned by the LORD God in the mystery of His Incarnation, we must look for ourselves in the mystery of the LORD Jesus Christ who is risen from the dead. We must look not for the old man that we were when we were subject to death and corruption; we must look for the new man that is now to be found among the living in the Land of the Living, in the mystery of Christ, the Living One, in the mystery of His Holy Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him who is all in all.
And so, when we make our visible journey to come to the Church, something invisible is happening. We are coming visibly into the invisible mystery of the Great Supper. On the visible level, we offer to the LORD bread and wine; but on the invisible level, we are offering the bread and wine to Him as emblems of our own body and blood. When, in the Epiclesis of the Church, we pray in the Name of the Father and of His Son, the LORD Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirit would descend upon us and upon these gifts we have offered, the Holy Spirit, as He did the Virgin, overshadows our offering (Lk 1.35). He fills the bread and wine with Himself, that is, with the Glory of God, and He transforms our gifts, mystically, spiritually, truly into the Glorified Body and Blood of God the WORD incarnate, the very same Body that was crucified, dead, buried and raised from the dead and now sits at the Right Hand of the Father in the ‘Land of the Living.’ And so, eating of that Great, Mystical Supper, we become partakers of the divine nature. We eat and drink the mystery of God hidden from the ages. We eat and drink the Resurrection and the Life, and now we can say with St Paul, it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us, for in the Great Supper of the Church, ‘Christ is in you,’ and if Christ is in you, then the hope of glory is in you, the hope of becoming a partaker of the Glory of God for we have partaken of the mystical body and blood of Christ who is risen from the dead in our own body and blood.
But if the mystery of this Great Supper is within you, can you see that, in order to come to this Great Supper within you, there must be a turning of our mind inward, in order to come in our spirit into that place within us where the Great Supper is being held. For it is being held in the mystery of the heart where we come upon the place where our will originates, the place where we choose what we will give the love of our heart to, where we choose which LORD we will serve. Can you see that when we stay in the world of the old man, we are choosing to continue living in a life that is filled with death? The marks or characteristics of this life of the old man, this life that is filled with the bitterness of death, are what St Paul lists in this morning’s epistle: fornication or sexual immorality, or being obsessed, enslaved to sexual desire, or to covetousness, which St Paul says is idolatry; malice, anger, wrath, blasphemy, filthy language (swearing and vulgarities), lying and deceit. We are taught that death is to be separated from God; it is absolute loneliness, darkness, bitterness, grief, utter hopelessness. Imagine it if you can; imagine it if you will!
All of these marks of the old man, then, that we see so prevalent in this outer, visible world, proceed from a heart that is lonely, afraid, bitter, in short, a heart that is dead. And all of these marks give birth in turn to loneliness, fear, bitterness, in short, to death.
I think we can say that those in this morning’s parable who choose not to come to the Great Supper are choosing to remain in the outer, visible world. They are choosing not to turn their mind inward in order to come to that place in their heart where they could find the new man that they could become if they would choose to love the LORD Jesus Christ; instead, they are choosing to continue loving the old man that they were.
So, can you see that if we choose to come to the Great Supper, so that we turn our mind inward in order to make our way into that place in our heart where we choose what we will live for, what we will give our love to, who we will subject ourselves to as our God—can you see that this means taking off the old man in us as we would take off old clothes? It would mean no longer clothing ourselves, for example, with anger or with the impure sexual desires of fornication; that is, it would mean not giving in to those desires. When they come upon us, we choose not to put them on. Instead, we choose to put on the new man by turning our mind away from the outer world of the old man with all its values and mores, and turning our mind steadfastly toward the inner world of our heart, where Christ is to be found within us, where the hope of glory is found, the hope or becoming partakers of God Himself in the Glory that the LORD Jesus had with the Father before the world was, and that He wants to give to us, this hope that is real, substantive, even healing and transforming, healing us from bitterness, and transforming loneliness into the joy of being found in the living presence of the Living One, Jesus Christ, our Hope of Glory. That is to say, can you see that the way we accept the invitation to come to the Great Supper is by choosing to live according to the commandments of Christ, the Living One, Christ the Resurrection and the Life, Christ, the Hope of Glory who is within you, and choosing not to live according to the impulses, the emotions, the feelings, even the ‘logic’ of anger, wrath, malice, deceit, and sexual immorality?
With this teaching in front of us, we now can see that there is a way to find the real Christmas that is hidden in the world’s ‘tinsel-town’ Christmas. It is the way of choosing to turn our mind inward so that we are living for Christ and not for ourselves or for the world. It is then that we may find the great gift that Christmas is in truth all about: the gift of our own body and blood glorified, transfigured, healed, deified in the mystery of God hidden from the ages that has been revealed now to His saints, beginning with the Feast of Christmas! For at Christmas, in the Church, yes, we see a Child born of the Virgin. But we see much, much more than that! This Child is God the WORD Himself who was before the ages, the Image of God Himself in whom we were made and came to be. He is the Life of God, as a Child clothed in our death and corruption; and this can only mean that our death and corruption are about to be destroyed. The Great Supper has been set. All is in readiness! We need only to come to the Feast. We need only to ‘raise our mind on high and to come in spirit to Bethlehem—that is, to the House of Bread, that is, to the Church, that is, into your own heart where the mystery of God, the mystery of Christ in you, the Living Bread from Heaven, is to be found!
Let us look upon the Virgin as She hastens to the Cave to give birth to God. Let us look with spiritual understanding! The Virgin gives birth not just to a man, but to the God-Man, He Who is Himself the Resurrection and the Life. The Glory of God has come into the world! The Resurrection and the Life have come into the world! Come and receive Him! Let all who desire the water of life, the River of Joy, come! For the Great Supper is set! All is ready! Come! Amen!