|27 - The Spiritual Marriage, Mar 8 2020|
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Hebrews 11.24 – 26, 32 – 12.2
John 1.43 – 51
What is this ‘Faith’ that inspired the righteous of old to choose affliction over the passing pleasures of sin, or to endure bodily tortures for the promise of a resurrection yet to come? In what was this Faith grounded such that it would have been easier, let’s say, to bend a stone than to make them deny this Faith? The answer is hidden in our Gospel this morning. The LORD says to Nathanael: ‘You will see the heavens open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’ This phrase occurs in only one other place in Holy Scripture.
Centuries earlier, Jesus’ grandfather, Jacob, was sent by Jacob’s father, Isaac, to the other side of the desert to find a wife from the house of Jacob’s mother, Rebecca. (Gn 28.1-29.14) Jacob obeyed, and on the way, it says, he came to a certain place when the sun had set (so, the sun was darkened!). He took a stone and placed it beside his head, and while he slept, he had a dream. He saw a ladder standing on the earth, fixed firmly in it (sterizo), and he saw ‘the angels of God ascending and descending on the ladder. The LORD was standing on (epi-sterizo) the ladder.’ When Jacob awoke, he was afraid and said: ‘This is a fearful place. This is the House of God, the Gate of Heaven!’
Jacob continued on his journey and came to his mother’s house on the other side of the desert. There, he saw a well for watering the sheep, but there was a great stone covering the well. Then, a certain Rachel came to the well with her sheep. She was the daughter of Laban, the brother of Jacob’s mother. Jacob saw her and fell in love with her. He rolled the stone away from the well for her. He kissed her and embraced her and told her who he was. She brought him to her father, and Laban said to Jacob: ‘Thou art [bone] of my bones, and [flesh] of my flesh,’ which is to say that Rachel was bone of Jacob’s bones, flesh of Jacob’s flesh, for she was Laban’s daughter. Then began fourteen years in which Jacob labored to win Rachel for his wife.
Here we have a biblical story, an icon, of the Christian Faith; and, it’s a love story. This love story is ‘historical’ That tells us that history is not an illusion. It is real and meaningful because it moves in the descending movement of God’s ‘erotic love’ for His Bride, Israel or the human soul, and in the ascending movement of the human soul’s primordial love for the LORD, her Heavenly Bridegroom. Moreover, it reveals our body to be sacred as the chamber of this movement, even the movement of this erotic love ‘embodied.’ This erotic love of the soul for the LORD who first loved her is biblical Faith; it is the very stuff, the real fiber of human nature made in the Image and Likeness of God. It is the love hiding in the love of family, of the father and mother for their child, the child for his father and mother; the child for his grandparents, the grandparents for their grandchildren, the love of the husband for his wife, the wife for her husband. The righteous are they who walk in this Faith, who live in the ascending and descending movement of this warm, familial love of God and the human soul that is the true fiber of human nature. This is the biblical Faith that inspires the righteous to choose affliction over the passing pleasures of sin for the promise of a resurrection yet to come.
Jacob saw the angels ascending and descending on the ladder on which the LORD, his great grandson, stood. They were ascending and descending, then, on the LORD standing on the ladder. Jesus says Nathanael will see the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man. Jacob’s Ladder is the Cross on which the LORD Jesus stood. On His Cross the LORD consummated His love for His Bride in the flesh. The Cross, then, is the ‘marriage bed;’ and the Christian Faith is thereby revealed to be the true fiber of human nature because it is the ‘spiritual marriage’ of the Heavenly Bridegroom and His Bride, the human soul, in the bridal chamber of the LORD’s Body, the Church; and, the LORD’s Pascha, where the mystery of the ‘spiritual marriage’ that was hidden from the ages is revealed, is the primordial mystery of creation, for it is ‘from the foundation of the world.’
Jacob called the place of his dream, the ‘House of God.’ We heard Isaiah calling to Israel this last week: ‘O House of Jacob, come and let us walk in the Light of the LORD.’ (2.5) Nathanael sees the LORD not in a dream but in the flesh; he sees Him in the ‘House of Jacob.’ For, in the flesh, through His Mother, the LORD is the great grandson of Jacob! If the fullness of God dwelt in Christ bodily, then it dwelt in the House of Jacob bodily, and the House of Jacob has become, in Christ, the House of God in whose Light we are called to walk (Lk 3.50). In the mystery of the Incarnation, the spiritual marriage of God and His bride, the human soul, is consummated and human nature, as was Jacob’s Ladder, is fixed firmly in the midst of the earth where the LORD has worked His salvation. (Ps 74.12)
Rachel saw Jacob when he had come to where she was on the other side of the desert. Nathanael sees Jesus in the flesh because Jesus has descended to come to the other side of the desert, to this side of the grave where we are to find His bride from among His Mother’s kinfolk, a bride who is ‘bone of His bones and flesh of His flesh’ that He received from His Mother that made Him kin to us, just as Jacob received from his mother, Rebecca, her flesh and bones that made him kin to Rachel.
This House of God where Jacob slept was a ‘fearful’ place, and he was afraid. The LORD’s Tomb was a fearful place, and the myrrhbearers were afraid. Clearly, Jacob’s ‘House of God’ is the LORD’s Tomb. But, in Christ, the House of God has come into the House of Jacob, and the House of Jacob has become the House of God, transfigured into a bridal chamber, for in it the Heavenly Bridegroom came to us, His bride, and united Himself to us in the bridal chamber of our heart where we open onto God beyond all things. (Jer 17.9)
But, the myrrhbearers were not afraid at the LORD’s Tomb until they came upon the Resurrection! Nor was Jacob afraid in the ‘House of God’ until he rose from his sleep! The House of God, then, is the LORD’s Tomb not as the fearsome place of the dead but as the fearsome Font of Resurrection, the virginal womb that gives birth to children of God. In the Church, we’re in the other side not because we’re there yet, but because we are in the presence of the risen Christ in His Holy Spirit, as Rachel was in Jacob’s presence at the well! In the Church, we are at the deep well of Living Water, the mystery of the LORD’s Tomb; and as did Jacob for his Rachel, so the LORD rolls the stone away from our heart for us that we may drink Him and thirst no more.’ (LT 260) Rachel became Jacob’s bride and returned with him to his home. So we become the LORD’s bride in the bridal chamber of the Font. From the Font, we rise with Him to ascend to His Heavenly Kingdom, which ‘is within us!’ (Lk 17.21)
We ascend with Him on His Cross, the Ladder on which He descends to us. This ‘Ladder…is within you, hidden in your soul,’ says St Isaac of Nineveh. ’Plunge deeply within yourself, away from sin, and there you will find steps by which you will be able to ascend.’ (Hom 2, p. 11) To ascend is to come out of ourselves to give our soul’s erotic love to the Heavenly Bridegroom, who descends to us in His erotic love for us to come out of Himself to be received into the bosom of our soul’s primordial love for Him. Might the ascending and descending of the angels of God on ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ be an icon of the erotic love that is the primordial movement of the cosmos? For, the Ladder is the Cross of the LORD of creation, and He is standing on it. It is the supreme Theophany, the supreme ‘Icon’. For on the Cross Christ, the Icon of the invisible God (Col 1.15), reveals to His saints, those who love Him, the mystery hidden from the ages: ‘God is love,’ ‘Christ is in you!’
We have etched only the outline of this biblical Icon of Jacob’s Ladder. Yet, even in this, the Fast, the flower that blossoms from the wood of the Cross, is seen as a concrete way by which we enter the House of God that has come to dwell in the bridal chamber, the heart, of the ‘House of Jacob,’ and to ‘walk in the Light,’ to walk in the erotic love of the LORD and His bride, the soul, that ascends and descends on the Ladder of the Savior’s Cross,
So, when I say we ‘ascend with Him on His Cross,’ I mean, we ascend in the erotic love of God that is the primordial principle of our soul, the very fiber of our being! When, then, we take up the Fast, we are waking as from sleep to the love of our soul for the Heavenly Bridegroom to walk in the Light of the LORD; or rather, we are coming out of ourselves to ascend to the Bridegroom in our soul’s primordial love for Him who has come out of Himself to descend in His love that abides forever to us at Midnight in the bridal chamber of our heart!
When we enter Great Lent, then, we enter this love story of the bible that is the foundation of the world. Now does the Christian Faith begin to become incarnate in us! Now are we drinking the living water flowing from the deep well of the Savior. It cleanses us deep within, and restores us to our original beauty so that we are made ‘worthy’ as in ‘strong enough’ to bear in the womb of our heart the Seed of the love of God, and so rise or ascend with Him, take up our Cross, the primordial erotic love of our soul, and ascend with the Bridegroom who comes to us at Midnight—in the bridal chamber of our heart—to His Heavenly Kingdom. May it be so! Amen!