|21 - The Talent the Lord GIves His Own, Jan 31. 2021|
In this morning’s parable of the talents, the LORD says: “[The Kingdom of God] is like a man leaving to go far away.” The man is the LORD Jesus Christ. His journey to a far country refers to His Holy Pascha, when He leaves this world to go to the Kingdom of His Father, which is truly far, far away. It is not anywhere in the world. It is not anywhere in the farthest reaches of space that one could get to, theoretically, by spaceship. It is not anywhere in this creation, whether seen or unseen. It is altogether beyond this world, beyond earth and sky, far beyond sun, moon, and stars, so far that even if you traveled from end to end of the universe from now to eternity, you’d never get there.
And yet, if one knows how, one can get there this very day, this very hour, this very moment. In our Gospel lesson for last Wednesday, the LORD told us how: “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” (Mk 8.34) That is, love Me who have loved you.
The answer to our riddle is another riddle. This Land far away that the LORD is going to is nowhere in the world or in the universe because the whole universe is on this side of the grave. The Land the LORD is going to is on the other side of the grave. Actually, it’s beyond even the other side of the grave because it is beyond even the ‘place of the dead,’ beyond hell, beyond the ‘Elysian fields.’ It is the Land of the uncreated God and of uncreated, eternal Life; and there is only one Path that gets you there, and but one ‘vehicle’. The Path is the LORD Jesus Christ Himself, His very Body and Blood. And the ‘vehicle’ is a certain Chariot we come upon a number of times in the OT (Elijah, e.g., and Ezekiel). That Chariot is, again, the Body and Blood of the LORD Jesus Christ.
There is a door that opens onto the Path that goes to this Land far away, on the other side of the grave. But it, too, is nowhere in the world. It’s in the Tomb of the LORD’s Pascha. This means that God must Himself become flesh so that He can die and be buried. For He alone can roll away the stone in the tomb to reveal within our own soul the door that opens onto the “better and changeless Path that ascends to this Land of the uncreated Kingdom of the Father that is far away within you (Lk 17.21).
Catch the full force of this “journey to a far country” and you may be suddenly struck by the joy the LORD is revealing to us in His parable of the talents. This Land is impossibly far away. It is impossible for us to get there by our own wisdom or resources. The LORD says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (which is impossible) than for a man of riches (an idolatrous man, which is what we are) to enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” this Land of the uncreated God far, far away.
Understand this and we may begin to feel the force of the joy in this parable: “This man,” it says, “called His own servants.” Knowing that this man is Jesus Christ, we recognize His own servants to be those who have united themselves to Him through Holy Baptism. And, it says, “He gave to them His substance.” The Greek here can mean wealth or goods or property; but it also means one’s very being. It’s the verb, He gave, that gives us to know immediately that the substance this man, the LORD Jesus Christ, gives to His own servants is His own Body and Blood; for the verb is Eucharistic: “I received from the LORD,” says St Paul, “what I gave to you; that on the night He was betrayed, He took bread and the cup and said, ‘This is my body, this is my blood.’” (1 Cor 11.23-25)
What the man, the LORD Jesus Christ, gave to His own servants as He was preparing to go far away, then, was His own Being, His own deified Body and Blood, Himself; He gave to them the Holy Eucharist of the Church. And, if this place He’s going to far away is our own heart, then in going far away, the LORD Jesus is in fact drawing very near to us.
In the Latin, this verb, “He gave,” comes from ‘traditio.’ This helps us to see that the Tradition of the Church is her Holy Eucharist, the LORD Jesus Christ’s own Body and Blood. So then, is the Tradition of the Church a handing down of the Faith, or is it more properly understood as a “calling” people to the Faith? And is the Faith handed down a body of doctrines and practices that differentiate us from others as ‘Orthodox’, or is it the awakening to our soul’s innate love for the Only Lover of Mankind, the true and eternal God, giving Himself to us in His Body, the Church? “We have found the true faith,” we sing after receiving Holy Eucharist: we have found Him whom our soul truly loves!
The talents the LORD gives to each of His own servants from out of His own ‘substance,’ His own Body and Blood, now come into view as the “Heavenly Spirit” whom “we have received” in Holy Eucharist. These talents are uncreated rays of the uncreated Light we have seen with the eyes of our soul in the heart’s love for God. They are the Light that shines in the darkness of this world (Jn 1.4-5) to illumine within the darkness of our own body and soul the better and changeless Path, the LORD Jesus Christ Himself, who has ascended to this far country deep within us. They are the uncreated energies of God that fill the world, and the parable affirms that they would transfigure our own body and soul if we would receive them and work them.
Feel now the force of the joy Our LORD proclaims in His parable. In the Old Covenant, the faithful looked to God to give them their inheritance in the form of land. But in the New Covenant, the inheritance the LORD gives to us sinners is Himself in His own Body and Blood. In the Old Covenant, by the blood of bulls and goats, one became ‘righteous’ by observing the Law. In the New Covenant, by the Blood of Jesus (Heb 10.19), we become gods, sons of the Most High (Ps 82.6, Jn 1.13) by ‘partaking of the divine nature’ (2 Pt 1.4) in Holy Eucharist.
It says, He gave talents to each one according to his own strength; that is, I think, according to how much we desire Him. But, whether He gives much or little, He gives the same Heavenly Spirit. Therefore, even one talent will grow in us, if we work it, to transfigure our body and soul, bit by bit, talent by talent, until we become each one all light and all life, each of us a member of Christ’s Body, His Blood the eternal Life that lives in each of us.
So now, what if we read our epistle this morning as a manual for growing the talent of the Heavenly Spirit that we have received in Holy Eucharist? Each of these things that St Paul lists—compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience—are a talent of the Heavenly Spirit. When we clothe ourselves with any one of them, we are putting on Christ; and so, if we put on any one of them, we take up all of them, for they are each one an uncreated thread in the same fabric of the Heavenly Spirit. Put on any one of them and we are continuing to ‘be baptized into Christ,’ and so we are now ourselves going with the LORD on a journey far away, for in the LORD, we are drawing near the Door in our heart (Jn 10.7&9) that opens onto this ‘far country’ that is within us (Lk 17.21, Col 1.27).
These talents are not mine. They are the uncreated energies of Christ. We receive them, each of us in accordance with our desire for the LORD. My desire may be ‘little’—I may be strong enough only for half a talent! But, if I work that talent, it will double, and double again. My desire, too, will double because my desire is receiving Him whom my soul truly loves; and as the talent grows in me, I become less and less conformed to this world that is passing away, and more and more transformed by the renewing of my mind [Rom 12:2] in the New Man in the knowledge of—in intimacy (Ps 25.14) with the Icon, Christ Himself, who created me, in His Kingdom of uncreated Light that is within me far away.
St Paul also tells us how to work the talent we receive in Holy Eucharist: forbear one another. As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (in beauty). And let the peace of Christ, not the anger of men, rule in your hearts. And be thankful, be eucharistic. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Teach and admonish one another in all wisdom. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (not the theme song of the latest movie!) with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks: being eucharistic, that is, giving yourself body and blood to God the Father through Christ Our LORD [Col 3:13-17] as He gives Himself to us in His Body and Blood.
But, if we have received the LORD’s Substance in His own Body and Blood, then perhaps the greatest talent He has given to us is the ‘one talent’ of His own living presence with us here on this side of the grave, so that in His Church, His Body, even here we are with Him there in the Far Country of His Father’s Kingdom of uncreated, eternal life. Let us not bury this Talent, this mystery of God who is Christ in us (Col 1.27)! Let us work it in our soul’s love for Him who is the Beauty and Goodness our soul longs for! Amen!