|16 - Be Lifted Up Ye Doors, Jan 16, 2016 (with audio)|
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When the LORD was baptized in the Jordan, the heavens were opened. This takes us to the Psalm: “Lift up your gates, ye rulers and be lifted up you everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in!” (Ps 23:9-10 LXX/OSB) From the voice of the Father: “This is My Beloved Son!” (Ps 2:7) it is “shown forth” that this was the LORD’s Coronation as the King of Glory foretold in Psalm 23/24; and that, when He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, He was beginning His ascent to come into heaven that opened and were lifted up as “everlasting doors”. The Psalm says, “Lift up your gates, ye rulers.” This is the same word for the ruler of this morning’s Gospel (archon); and so, when the LORD says, “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in the heavens, and come, follow Me,” is the LORD not, in fact, saying to this ruler: “Lift up your gates and the King of Glory shall come in!”
But, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you,” says the LORD (Lk 17:21); i.e., in your heart that is you. (cf. Jer 17:9/5 LXX/OSB) The “everlasting doors” of heaven, then, are the gates of our heart. But, our heart is a tomb (St Macarius, Hom 11:11) because, “We are dead in our sins and trespasses.” (Eph 2:1) If, then, when He goes into the wilderness, the LORD is ascending to heaven to come into His Kingdom, it means that He is descending into the “lower parts of the earth,” i.e., into the “heart” of the “rulers” of the earth.
The sanctuary of the Temple in Jerusalem was Israel’s spiritual heart where she opened onto Heaven. So, when the curtains of the Holy of Holies were opened at the moment of the LORD’s death on the Cross, the “gates” and “everlasting doors” of heaven were being lifted up. But, that means that the LORD was entering the lower parts of the earth, i.e., the heart of man that is deep beyond all things, where we were held captive to the devil through the fear of death. (Heb 2:14-15)
We read in the Psalms: “The LORD has redeemed us from the hand of the enemy (and, the final enemy is death, I Cor 15:26). He brought them out who were sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, for He has broken the gates of brass and cut the bars of iron asunder.” (Ps 107:10-14 LXX/OSB) So, when we see the stone rolled away from the tomb, and we hear the angel announcing, “He is risen!” again we hear: “Who is this King of Glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. The LORD of Hosts, He is this King of Glory!” (Ps 107:9-10) And, it tells us that the human heart has been lifted up as the Gates and opened as Everlasting doors onto Heaven and the LORD has come into the Kingdom of Heaven that is within us.
So, when the LORD says to the ruler: “Go, sell all that you have and follow Me,” He is saying, turn away from the idols of wealth – Pluto, Poseidon to whom belong all these worldly riches of yours in the dark pits of the sea – and follow Me, the King of Glory, Strong and Mighty in Battle even over the King of Death. I am the King of Glory who delivers you from the power of darkness and carries you, in the Fiery Chariot of My crucified, risen and glorified Body, into My Father’s Kingdom of love (Col 1:13) that is within you! (Lk 17:21)
Two weeks from now, we come to the Feast of the Meeting of the LORD in the Temple. The Most Blessed Theotokos, herself more glorious than the Seraphim, will place the Fiery Chariot of her infant Son, the King of Glory, in the arms of St Simeon as the Seraphim placed the Fiery Coal from the heavenly altar on the tongue of Isaiah the prophet (Isa 6). And, St Simeon will pray: “LORD, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace…” LORD, take me now up to heaven with Elijah!
Liturgically, the Jordan is behind us. With St JnBapt, we at our baptism saw the heavens opening when we were united to Christ and the Holy Trinity was made manifest to us in the Faith of the Church that we received as St Simeon received into his arms the Fiery Chariot of Christ. The Cross is before us – the Tree of Life, Christ, in the wilderness, the sword living and active that penetrates to the division of soul and spirit, down to the “lower parts of the earth” and breaks the gates of brass, cuts the iron bars in two to open the gates of the heart and to take captivity captive as the King of Glory enters into the Kingdom of Heaven that is within us! The Feast of the Meeting of the LORD stands beyond the Jordan on this side of the liturgical cycle as the Gate that opens onto the path that would bring us to Golgotha outside the city. This morning, liturgically, we are drawing near that Gate.
From last Sunday’s Gospel, we are given to see that spiritually, liturgically we are sitting on this side of that Gate in the hill country of Zebulon and Naphtali; i.e., in the region and shadow of death. But, the Fiery Chariot of the LORD’s Body is “parked” among us! And the LORD, the driver of that chariot, is calling out to each one of us as to the ruler in this morning’s Gospel: “Sell all that you have and follow Me!” “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” A decision is set before us: do we wish to turn back and hold on to the “sweet things of this world”, or shall we resolve to put our hand to that Gate of the Meeting and open it to receive the Light of Christ into our arms that would serve as the lamp unto our feet and a light onto the path (Ps 118:105 LXX/OSB) into the lower parts of the earth, i.e., into the wilderness of our souls and into the tomb of our heart to come upon those everlasting doors that open onto the Kingdom of Heaven that is within us?
Beloved faithful! Is it not here that we discover where the treasure of our heart really lies! Look to yourself! Are we not standing before that “wall of enmity” that is within us, built brick by brick from the choices we have made throughout our life to follow our own wisdom and to love the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life – the “riches” of the world that enslave us to darkness in the shadow of death? See how the ruler’s face was turned to the LORD until he was given an obedience; and then he turned his face away from the LORD and went away sorrowful for he loved his riches more than the Cross. Is this not the tragedy of our heart?
The ruler turned his face away. He forsook faith.The LORD’s call uncovered the wall of enmity in his soul, the law of sin that was active in him. But even so, he turned away! Was he forced to turn away? Did he not make a conscious choice and turn away freely?
Brothers and sisters, when we feel rising up within us an angry resistance to this call of the King of Glory to deny ourselves and to take up our cross to follow Christ, do we have to turn away? What if, instead, we chose to not to listen to the anger or the enmity rising up within us and instead, chose to keep our faces resolutely turned toward Christ? Would that not in itself be an act of denying ourselves? Would we not then hear the disciples giving voice to our own prayer? “LORD, who then can be saved!” LORD, how can I be saved? I do not love Thee!
If we choose to keep our face resolutely turned toward the LORD, our Gospel this morning tells us what we would hear Him say to us: “For you, this is impossible; but for God, all things are possible!” How so? He is the King of Glory, strong and mighty in battle. But, His power is not the power of coercion; it is the power of His visceral compassion for us. By that power He destroys the wall of enmity in us; for, the divine Light of His cleansing Fire heals our souls as the Living Waters of His divine compassion softens our hearts and we feel the enmity within us dissolving brick by brick. We feel ourselves growing warm, becoming our true selves again, coming to life and truly feeling again the love that is natural to our heart as children made in the image and likeness of God.
Beloved faithful, shall we go to the Feast together to open the Gate and to receive the Light of the Gentiles, the Glory of Israel, the Spirit of the King of Glory, Strong and Mighty in Battle, and in the power of His Spirit, deny ourselves and make our way into the wilderness of Great Lent to follow the Tree of Life, Christ, to Golgotha, into the tomb and into the Kingdom of Heaven that is within us! Amen!