|16 - When Christ Our Life Appears, Dec 15, 2019|
When Christ, your [eternal] life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in Glory—that is, in the Holy Spirit in the uncreated Light of the Father. These words from our epistle this morning, reveal in a most beautiful and profound way the inner content that unites Christmas and Pascha, the inner, unseen mystery that unites the LORD’s Nativity in the flesh to His death and burial and Holy Resurrection in the flesh.
Christ appears to us at Christmas. That is His first appearing in the flesh. But, the way for us to appear with Christ in Glory is not open to us until His Cross and Burial. For, we do not appear with Christ in the Glory of His Holy Spirit until we have entered His Tomb in Holy Baptism. His Tomb is the Gate through which we pass over into the Glory of His Holy Resurrection. For, His Tomb is a new Tomb, for it is a new kind of death.
The LORD’s death came from His perfect obedience to the Father, whereas our death came from our disobedience. Death and disobedience go together; they are the same thing. Therefore, the LORD’s death destroyed our death. By His obedience in the flesh He destroyed the disobedience that has become embodied in our flesh, separating us from God in enmity.
The LORD’s Tomb is therefore eternally empty! There is no death in His Tomb, except the death of death. There are no corpses in His Tomb; only corpses that have been raised from death to life. Since the night of the LORD’s Holy Pascha, how many millions of corpses both bodily and spiritual (Eph 2:1) have been brought into the LORD’s Tomb—that is, into the sacred Font of Holy Baptism? Corpses simply do not ‘survive’ in the LORD’s Tomb; they are immediately cleansed, washed, purified, made holy, raised from death to life! When they are raised from the death that held them in bondage, they are not raised back into the life of this world that returns to the dust. They are raised up and grafted onto the Tree of Life in the Garden. (Jn 19:41)
The mystery that unites Christmas and Pascha, then, is the mystery of Christ in you, the Hope of Glory! (Col 1:26-27), the mystery of God becoming one with us that we might become one with God, our soul made to become a living soul, made alive not in the biological life of this world that returns to the dust but the eternal life of God that returns to the Father in the Person and Mystery of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord in the Glory of His Holy Spirit. This is the mystery of Christ’s Holy Church, the mystery of His Body, crucified, dead and buried and risen and ascended in Glory. It is the mystery of God and of His Christ and His Glory that is in you!
Let’s not receive this morning’s Gospel as a ‘parable’. It is a Christmas Card from Heaven! It proclaims the Call of God that, through His prophets and Apostles has gone out to the ends of the universe (Ps 19:4). From what we have set forth, it is clear that this Great Supper is taking place in the Great Hall of the LORD’s empty Tomb which is one with the Cave of Bethlehem. The Great Hall of the LORD’s Supper is radiant with uncreated beams from the Savior’s Holy Face. Here is the Supper of the true ambrosia, the Living Bread that comes down from Heaven. Here is the Cup brimming with the Fountain of Life. They are not found in the life of this world; they are found in the empty Tomb of the risen LORD Jesus Christ!
This Christmas Card from Heaven goes out to everyone. Everyone of us is called to “raise our minds on high to go in spirit to see with the eyes of our soul the great mystery of the Virgin giving Birth in the flesh to the pre-eternal God in the Cave! Calling us to Bethlehem, it calls us to where the Path to the Empty Tomb of the LORD begins. But that Path is Christ Himself. Shepherds and angels call us to come into the embrace of His arms in the Cave, in the tomb of our heart, to let Him gather us up into His arms stretched out on the Cross, that He may carry us as lost sheep who have been found upward in His Glorious Ascension to the Father in the Glory of His Holy Resurrection, in the eternal, the uncreated Life of His Holy Spirit.
In our epistle this morning, St Paul then is mapping out for us the path by which we make our way to the Great Hall of this Great Supper. Put to death what’s earthly in you, He says. Put to death what is of death in you. Put to death what separates you from God: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness; that is, our idolatry.
But how can we put our death to death if we do not unite ourselves to the Christ who alone can destroy death by His death? How can a corpse make itself to live if it is not united to the Corpse of Christ—a corpse from which there flows blood and water! Who has ever heard of a corpse sending forth blood and water as an overflowing, gurgling fountain? The LORD’s Corpse, the Holy Font of our Baptism, the LORD’s Empty Tomb—these are all the Fountain of eternal Life in the Resurrection of Christ our God and Savior!
Does it strike you that those who decline the invitation this morning all do so in favor of an activity that has to do with sustaining this earthly life that comes from the dust and returns to the dust? One wants to attend a wedding. Marriage outside the Empty Tomb of the Savior, produces only biological sexual life that cannot but return to the dust. Another wants to tend to his newly purchased plot of ground, which has to do with raising the crops one needs to sustain oneself in this earthly life. Another wants to test his newly purchased yoke of oxen, the ancient versions of John Deere, which are the ‘machines’ needed also to cultivate the food that sustains earthly life.
This path to the Cave, then, is followed by orienting our life toward the Love of God that wants to sustain our life by giving to us the Living Bread and the Living Cup from Heaven, the Son of God who is Himself the Resurrection and the Life—Divine Life is not a thing; it is the mystery of love and communion with the Persons of the Holy Trinity.
This love of God has appeared to us visibly in the Glory of the Incarnation, the birth of God the Son from His All-Holy Mother, the Most Blessed and Beloved Virgin Mary Theotokos! This ineffable mystery is made visible to us in the many icons of Nativity, in the beauty of the Church’s liturgical and sacramental worship. And, when we receive that Beauty and cherish it as our new raison d’etre, it makes itself manifest to us invisibly in the fear of God and in the faith and love in which our soul now draws near to the God who is calling us from the Cave of His Nativity in the flesh that is visible to all, and from the Cave of His mystical Nativity in the Spirit—His Holy Resurrection—that is visible only to those who receive Him in their ‘inner man.’
May we say that we know we have joined the leper, for example, the Shepherds and the Wise Men, and all those who are raising their minds on high and going in spirit to see with the eyes of their soul the beauty of God born of the Virgin in the Cave if we discover in our heart a warm flame of love burning with fear and trembling, joy and longing to go and see this great thing that has come to pass? For, dear faithful: we are not drawing near to a memorial. The Church herself is the Cave and the Empty Tomb! Come to the Church on Christmas Eve and enter mystically the Great Supper of the LORD’s Heavenly Banquet. He wants you to come; for, He gave Himself for you and to you. He wants you to live; He wants you to fill your heart with His Glory, with Himself! He wants to give Himself to you as the food and drink that sustains the life of your soul in the love of God that abides forever! In this joy, we take up our cross and unite ourselves to Christ in order to put to death what is earthly in us, everything that separates us from God, that we may belong wholly to the Only Lover of Mankind in the Glory of the Father. Amen! Glory to Jesus Christ! Most Holy Theotokos, save us!