28 - IN THE HOUSE, Mar 12, 2023

Hebrews 1.10 – 2.3

Mark 2.1 – 12

This morning’s Gospel icon of Jesus ‘in the house,’ contemplated within our liturgical setting of this Second Sunday of Great Lent, shows itself to be an image of the LORD in the Tomb of His Sabbath Rest. (Remember, Great Lent begins at the sealed entrance of the LORD’s Tomb and takes place liturgically and mystically in the mystery of the LORD’s Sabbath Rest, the Font of Resurrection.) Crowds fill the house and spill out of its doors, surrounding the house so no one can get in, as though the crowds are the stone sealing the entrance of the LORD’s Tomb.

And yet, the rumor that He is ‘in the house’ has gone out into all the surrounding regions. The rumor is like the ‘Light of the Sabbath that was dawning upon the earth’ when they ‘placed’ His Body in the tomb. (‘It was the Day of Preparation, and the Light of the Sabbath was dawning.’ Lk 23.54) Where was that ‘Light of the Sabbath’ coming from? It was coming from the ‘corpse’ of Jesus lying in the Tomb; for Jesus is the True Light who has come into the world.

It says, in Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men (Jn 1.3), and the Light shone in the darkness, but the darkness could not put it out (Jn 1.4). So, when they placed His Body in the Tomb, they placed the Light of God into the Tomb, and the darkness of hell could not put it out. And, when they placed the Light of God into the Tomb, they placed the Life of men into the Tomb that death could not destroy.

Our Gospel icon this morning gives meaning and depth to the LORD’s WORD: ‘When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself!’ (Jn 12.32) People are naturally drawn to the light, and Christ is the True Light in whom is the true Life of men. Our Gospel icon this morning, as an icon of the LORD’s Burial, shows that the LORD draws all men to Himself, the True Light, by placing Himself at that place no one can escape: in the grave. The grave is but the outward form of our hearts that are desperately corrupt and deceitful beyond all things (Jer 17.9). The crowds in our Gospel icon this morning show that everyone is pressing at the door of the grave, which in our Gospel icon this morning is the ‘house’ where – so it has been rumored by the preaching of the Gospel – the LORD is found! Our Gospel icon this morning proclaims the Light of God ‘in the house’ of the grave, filling the darkness of our death with Life! Our Gospel this morning proclaims that the Light of the Glory of God has been placed in the midst of the earth, in regions dark and deep. The brilliant aura, the divine, uncreated Glory of God radiates from the incarnate Body of the Person of Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, the Power and Wisdom of God (1 Cor 1.24). For He is Himself the very Brilliance of the Glory of the Father (Heb 1.3). He is Himself the breath of the uncreated Power of the Father (Wisd 7.25).

Let’s go back to Lk 23.54: ‘The Light of the Sabbath was dawning.’ That is, the uncreated Light of Christ that is itself the radiance, the glory of the Life of men that is in Christ, was pouring out of the Tomb. The grave could not hold it. Death could not destroy it. For Christ is Himself the very Glory of the Father. He pours forth from the All-Powerful Father as Light, or like the Snow-Melt River of Ezekiel pouring forth from the gates of the Temple, healing and giving life to everything it touches as it flows through Galilee all the way to the outlet of the sea (Eze 47.1-12), all the way into the grave and into the deep, beyond all things, all the way into the heart and into the Kingdom of Heaven (Jer 17.9 LXX; Eze 37.1-12). Christ, the Wisdom of God, is Himself the Brilliance of the eternal Light. He is the unspotted Mirror of the energies of God; He is the Icon of the divine Goodness (Wisd 7.25-26; Col 1.15, 2 Cor 4.4); or, as St Paul says in Hebrews, ‘He is the very character, the exact form, the facsimile, of the Father. (Heb 1.3)

St Paul describes the Gospel of the Church like this: ‘The Light of the Gospel of the Glory of Christ.’ (2 Cor 4.4) Do you see? The Gospel proclamation itself is Light. That means that the words of the preaching of the Gospel are so many sparkles of divine, uncreated Light clothed, made ‘incarnate,’ in the sounds and sights of earthly words and images. And this is what the Gospel of the Church proclaims: that He, the Brilliance that pours forth from the Glory of the Almighty, now pours forth from the Tomb as the Light of the Sabbath now dawning on the world. By His death and burial, He has transfigured the grave, as it were, into the eastern horizon that gives birth to the Resurrection. This is the ‘rumor,’ this is the ‘proclamation,’ the Light that irradiates from the Gospel of the Church: Christ, the Wisdom and Power of God, the Brilliance of the Father’s Glory, is ‘in the house.’ Christ is in you; God is in our heart where we are dead in our sins and trespasses, desiring to cleanse us from every impurity and to make us children of the Light.

If He is in our heart, it means He can be found. He Himself tells us this: ‘I, Wisdom, love those who love Me; and those who search for Me diligently will find Me.’ (Prov 8.17) ‘Whoever seeks Me early will find Me sitting at his doors; for I myself go searching for those worthy of me (those who love Him and search for Him – Wisd 6.14-15). I call from the heights beside the way; I stand in the paths of life; beside the city gates, in front of the doors, I cry aloud! (Prov 8.1-3)

How, then, is Christ, the Brilliance of the Glory of the Father, how is He found? Let’s reframe the question. When has the Brilliance of Christ, the Glory of God, shone most brilliantly? Was it not on the Cross when the sun was darkened by the LORD’s Glory that flashed forth from His Body on the Cross—as the Psalmist foretold—like Lightning, and exposed the channels of the sea and uncovered the foundations of the earth (Ps 18.9-16)? That is, the Brilliance of the Glory of God shone most brilliantly in His extreme humility.

We therefore find the Brilliance of the LORD Jesus Christ shining within us, ‘in the house,’ when we turn inward, in repentance, and begin pursuing the way of humility by fleeing the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Pt 1.4); or, following St Isaac of Nineveh (7th cent., p. 13), through greed, carnality, vainglory and self-esteem, envy, lust for power, bodily indulgence.

Following St Gregory Palamas, 1296 - 1359, the way of repentance is found in this morning’s Gospel image of the men carrying the paralytic to the roof, and dismantling the roof in order to let the paralytic down into the house into the presence of Jesus [Homily 10]. The paralytic, he says, is anyone addicted to sensual pleasures, lying on the bed of the deception of bodily ease and laziness. His being taken up by the four men is an image of one who confesses his sins and triumphs over them and the paralysis they have brought upon his soul. The four men, says St Gregory, are self-condemnation (focusing on the beam in one’s own eye rather than the speck in the other’s), confession of sins and the resolve to renounce our sinful ways from now on, and prayer. ‘Be diligent,’ says St Isaac, ‘to enter into the treasury that is within you and you will see the treasury of Heaven; for these are one and the same, and with one entry you will behold them both. The ladder of the Kingdom [the Cross] is within you, hidden in your soul. plunge deeply within yourself, away from sin, and there you will find steps by which you will be able to ascend.’ (p. 11) One cannot draw near to God, however, says St Gregory, without uncovering the roof, the reasoning part of our soul. For our mind has lying on top of it, like a large quantity of building material, its attachment to the passions and earthly matters. But once this attachment has been loosed and shaken off by means of these four ‘men’, then we can be let down in truth; we are humbled, and falling down before Him, we draw near to Him and ask and receive His healing, the forgiveness of our sins.

We are healed when our mind has our body under control and brings to light the fruits and works of repentance that bring glory to God. We see, then, that the Light of Christ, the Brilliance of the Glory of God, shines forth in us and becomes concrete, incarnate, when we walk in the Light as He is in the Light; when we observe His commandments. These are a light on the earth, a lamp to our feet. The Lenten Path of the Church leads to the Life of Christ’s Holy Resurrection shining forth from His Sabbath Rest. It brings life and healing to our souls, so that even if we die yet we shall live, for the Life that lives in our mortal bodies is Christ Himself, He Who is the Resurrection and the Life. Amen!