22 - Parable of the Talents, February 3, 2013

Colossians 3:12-16

Matthew 25:14-30

When you were baptized, you were clothed with the “Robe of Light”. That “Robe of Light” was the emblem of your union with Christ. So, when you were clothed with Christ as your “Robe of Light”, you were clothed in God. Clothed in the white Robe of Light, your outward appearance became an “epiphany”, a “showing forth” of what took place inwardly, unseen within your soul. You became a child of light. The procession around the baptismal font three times, and all the other ritual movements and gestures of your baptism showed forth the marvelous wonder that took place in your soul when you were baptized into Christ. You were united to Christ, and the seed of His Holy Spirit was sown in the soil of your soul in the Garden of your heart once a tomb, now a bridal chamber.

That is to say, your soul was raised from spiritual death to spiritual life in the Spirit of Christ. She was clothed in all the virtues of God. That is what we hear in St Paul’s epistle this morning: Since you are “called out” (elect) of God, he says, you are now holy and beloved; i.e. you have been made alive by the seed of God that has been sown in the ground of your heart. The virtues of God have been planted in your soul: these are the seeds of tender-hearted mercy, goodness, meekness, humility, and long-suffering. The energy that gives all of these virtues their beauty, their glory, their warmth and fragrance is the love of God, and this, too, has been sown in your heart. This is what establishes you in the peace of Christ that is not of this world. As it grows, it can fill your heart more and more with such love and joy that you become like a fountain, spontaneously pouring forth thanksgiving and praise to God. Your inner man becomes like a candle, aflame in the fire of a divine love that is visceral as well as spiritual. Perhaps this is what St Paul is seeking to convey in his use of the word, splagxna, to describe the mercy of God that clothes you. The word means “of the bowels”. It conveys the sense of a feeling, here a mercy, a loving compassion, that grips you at the pit of your gut. It is so deep, all the way to the core of your gut, that it cannot be expressed in words, so that the soul aflame with the fire of the tender-hearted love of God, can no longer express herself in words. She becomes a fountain of tears that well up from the “bowels” of the heart that before Christ was a tomb, but has now become a bridal chamber, constantly coming out of herself in procession with her beloved Bridegroom, Christ, who has made her alive with the love and joy, the mercy and peace of His inexpressible goodness, so that the soul lives in praise and thanksgiving to God her most blessed Savior.

This is the “life”, the “love”, the “joy” that was planted in the soil of your heart at your baptism. These plants are the light of the fire of God’s love that makes your baptismal Robe a “Robe of Light”. They are the hues that make the Light of your baptismal Robe irradiant with the uncreated virtues and glory of God’s own uncreated nature; they are what make you holy and blameless, sanctified and deified, living no longer the life of this world but the life of God the Father, which is the love of Christ in the communion of His Holy Spirit.

But, as St Paul says, you put on this Robe of Light. That implies that you put it on because you want to. You have been raised to life by the grace of God; you have been made a child of light; the virtues of God’s goodness have been sown in you so that your soul is now light and no longer darkness. Yet, it is up to you to choose, each day, every hour and every moment of your life, whether to wear this Robe of Light that was given to you at your baptism, or to put on the garment of the old man, the robe of the world.

Presumably, you are here this morning because you want to wear this Robe of Light that was given to you at your baptism. We are being taught this morning how we put on the Robe of Light and then go out into the world, walking not in the darkness of the world but in the Light of Christ every day, every hour, every minute of our life, so that our whole vessel, body and soul, becomes “holy and blameless”, sanctified, so that our heart is illumined, cleansed, purified so that we can begin to see Christ as He is and become like Him, so that we can become a living temple in whom the Living God dwells, living as we were created to live: in the praise of God who first loved us.

The Robe of Light with which we were clothed at our baptism is the talent in this morning’s parable. Both the Robe of Light and the Talent represent the Holy Spirit that clothed us at our baptism. So, you could say that only a Christian is truly talented, because only the Talent of the Holy Spirit is able to do more than amaze. It is able to raise what was dead to life, to make what was dark light, what was ugly and smelly into something beautiful and fragrant.

Now, just as a garment is made to fit the size of our body, so also the Holy Spirit accommodates Himself to fit our soul, so that there are some of us who wear, if you will, size 5 Holy Spirit – i.e., the servant with the five talents; others wear, if you will, size 2 Holy Spirit; others, perhaps, wear size 1 Holy Spirit. We have different capacities, different strengths, different levels of spiritual sensitivity and awareness, given to us according to the inscrutable good will of God out of the wealth of the Treasury of His Holy Spirit.

Whatever may be the size garment we wear, whatever may be our “talent” in the Spirit, whether it is large or small – whether we’re called to be monastics or bishops or mothers, or whether we’re called to be “simple” laymen working in the world – we are called to work it, to cultivate it, to make it grow, so that our size 5 Holy Spirit grows to become a size 10, our size 2 a size 4, our size 1 a size 2. This work is the work of faith; the work of taking up our cross to crucify our love for the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, that we may grow to the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that our souls can be made worthy – i.e., strong enough (ikanao) – to receive Christ in the fiery fullness of His love.

So, how do we work this talent that has been given to us so that it grows? How do we put on the Robe of Light every day, every hour, every moment, so that we’re wearing a garment of Light and not of darkness? We fast, we pray, we practice charity. We fast with our stomach, our eyes and ears, our hands and feet. We pray; we fill our minds with the words and images of heaven, the vision of God as proclaimed to us in Holy Scripture and in the Living Tradition of Christ’s Holy Church. We practice charity: we give out of our abundance to those in need. It may be material goods. It may be a service or ministry. It may be something as simple as a smile or a kind, or at least a cordial word.

Here are some other examples. When we are beset with anger, we don’t give in to it. We fast from it. We force ourselves, if we have to, to be polite, cordial, even noble and dignified. Here we are praying; and so, in this specific situation, we are fasting and praying in a very concrete way. We work to keep our thoughts pure by fasting from provocative images. We are careful about what images we “feed” our eyes or our ears. We give our mind to the contemplation of divine beauty and goodness; for, according to the witness of Scripture and Holy Tradition, God is the originator and begetter of the erotic force within us. He is the true beauty, the most intimate love that our soul yearns for. We work to sanctify our erotic desire either through the ascetic discipline of celibacy or of marriage. In this way, we are turning away from the west and the darkness and toward the East and the Light, as we did at our baptism, in our everyday life.

These are but a few examples to illustrate the principle we see in this morning’s Scripture lessons. We work to make the Talent of the Holy Spirit grow that has been given to us by taking up our cross, we consciously strive each day, each hour, each moment, to wear the garment of the Spirit that we received at our baptism by striving to practice kindness and mercy, goodness, meekness, humility, patience and long-suffering, even or especially when we don’t feel like doing so; for that is especially when we are crucifying the old man in us with its lustful desires and growing the seed of the Holy Spirit that was sown in our souls at our baptism.

May God, when He comes to judge the world on the Last Day, find that we have worked to “redeem the time”; that we have spent the peace and tranquility we enjoy at this time in this country profitably; i.e., growing the Talent of the Holy Spirit that was given to us at our baptism, working to put on Christ as our daily garment, that we may become worthy, strong enough, to receive the fire of Christ’s love, so that our hearts may be established in the peace of Christ, in the joy of Holy Eucharist, the joy of thanksgiving and praise to God. Amen.