37 - He Went Throughout Galilee, June 30, 2019

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Romans 2:10-16

Matthew 4:18-23

Led by the Holy Spirit, the LORD Jesus goes into the desert to triumph over the devil. Hearing that John the Baptist has been imprisoned, as though this is a prophetic signal that the time is now at hand, He goes up in Galilee from Nazareth to Capernaum. The vision of Isaiah “comes to be” incarnate. It takes flesh. The True Light of the world (Jn 1: 4-9) dawns on those sitting in darkness and in the region and shadow of death (Mt 4:15f.). The LORD is not the first light of the creation (Gn 1:3). That light was created; it was the Law, the divine “shadow” cast by the uncreated Light who was coming (Jn 1:9, Heb 10:1). He goes up to Capernaum as the uncreated Sun rising on the world that He is creating anew (2 Cor 5:17). He creates the world anew by clothing Himself with her as with a garment, so that she might clothe herself with Him. But what is this “clothing as with a garment” but His encircling her in His warm embrace so that she, as Eve—just as He had promised her in the Garden of old—can find her refuge in Him as her LORD, the New Adam (Gen 3:17), her Kinsman (Cant 1:12-13), whom her soul loves (Cant 3:1)?

Clothed in the garment of His beloved spouse, His sister (Cant 4:10; for, she is created in His Image and Likeness), He, her LORD, her Kinsman, comes like the Mighty River “with healing in His wings” (Mal 4:2) from the Gate of the Temple of the prophet Ezekiel’s vision (Eze 47:1-12). What Ezekiel saw in his vision was not the Temple of Jerusalem; it was the True Temple of which the Temple of Jerusalem was the “shadow”. Nor was it the earthly Jerusalem. It was the true Zion, the Living Temple, the Most Beloved All-Holy Theotokos. Like the Mighty River in Ezekiel’s vision, Jesus, the Heavenly Bridegroom, flows into the “hill country” (Galilah), Galilee, that is to the East (Eze 47:8 LXX). His destination, as Ezekiel foresaw, is the desert (the Arabah), even the Dead Sea (Eze 47:8 LXX). Shall we say, as He did in Genesis; or, shall we say: as He has been doing since Genesis (Gen 3:8), when Adam and Eve heard Him coming to them in the cool of the evening, He comes into the Garden like the north and south wind (Cant 4:16)? He comes in His Holy Resurrection; He comes in answer to the cry of His beloved Spouse, His sister, calling out to Him from the depths of her heart: “Awake, O north wind! Come, O south. Blow through my garden and let my spices—my loving desire for Thee, my beloved Kinsman—let my spices flow out!” (Cant 4:16) Let my desire become one with Thine in that union of loving desire that surpasses all other unions (St Maximus, 5th Cent Var Txts §89).

For, when He came into Galilee with His holy disciples—might these be His brethren and His “friends” (Cant 5:1, cf. Jn 15:15)? Are they the fishermen of Ezekiel’s vision (47:10)?— on the plane of the visible, He was coming, well, into Galilee, walking on the shore of the Sea of Galilee to the north; but, on the plane of the invisible, in the “Church of the Heart,” He was coming into His Garden, as we are given to understand, for example, in the Song of Solomon. In the time of the Bible, Galilee—because of the abundance of her rain, her many streams and valleys, her lush vegetation, her snow-topped mountains of Hermon and Carmel, the fragrance of her cedars of Lebanon—was loved as a garden. From the encomiums of Galilee in the prophets and in the poetic books of the Bible, I get the clear sense that Galilee is a veiled image of Eden, even of Eve, the very “self” of Adam (Gn 2:23), in her original, virginal beauty.

“Galilee” means “circle”. The hill-country of Galilee was so-called because it was encircled by hills and mountains, including Mt Tabor, Mt Hermon, Mt Carmel. And, these mountains may be the veils that, if we lift them as Holy Scripture directs, may uncover the hidden theological meaning of Galilee and of this morning’s Gospel.

As Lebanon, Galilee in the Song of Solomon is the land of the LORD’s cherished Bride, or rather of her bridal chamber, or shall we say her inmost heart (hidden, perhaps, in Leb-anon; for, lev is heart)? “Come from Lebanon, My bride!” sings the royal Bridegroom, the LORD Jesus! “Thou shalt come from Hermon. My sister, my bride; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes (the eye that is the lamp of the body?)… My sister, my spouse is a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed.…a fountain of a garden, and a well of water springing and gurgling from Lebanon.”

On the plane of the visible, having come into the Church this morning, we have entered a building (we call it a temple), on the corner of 54th and 38th. But, there is a hidden world that moves beneath this visible world; it is the Church of the Heart. It is not separate from the visible Church. The visible Church is the form of the invisible Church of the Heart, and the Church of the Heart is the real substance of the visible Church. So, when we come into this visible temple, we stand in the invisible Church of the Heart; and, in this invisible Church of the Heart, we are in Galilee, “encircled” or embraced by the mountains of the true Zion, the Holy Theotokos, and Golgotha. Golgotha is our “Temple-Mount,” for on the hill of Golgotha is the Cross, to which is affixed forever the Tree of Life, the Body of Christ which is the Temple of God, the Church, the pillar and ground of the Truth. The Cross is the “marriage bed” on which the Heavenly Bridegroom became absolutely one with His Bride in the tomb of her heart, in the “garden enclosed” (cf. Jn 19:41), where she was dead in her sins and trespasses, and which He has restored into the Bridal Chamber, Lebanon’s “Garden enclosed.” Golgotha He has transfigured into Mt Tabor, which is in Galilee; and her heart (lev) He washed clean (levan) and she became as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon, a well of living water springing from her belly (Jn 7:38), a fountain springing from Lebanon in Galilee, in the “garden enclosed” of her heart (cf. Cant 7:2).

Here in the “garden enclosed,” in the “Church of the Heart, we, children born from above of God in the Holy Font, are encircled by the warm embrace of our Holy Mother and her Son in the visible form, the rubrics, of the Church’s liturgical and sacramental worship, consummated in the joy of Holy Eucharist. In the worship of the Church, we come into the garden enclosed of “Galilee”, encircled by the hills and mountains of the saints, all of them living stones that have been set in place in the Living Temple of God, the risen Body of Christ, the Cornerstone of the Living Temple that extends from the lowest depth to the highest height in Heaven (cf. Mt 27:51). They shine on us in the darkness of this world with the uncreated Light of Christ (Heb 1:1-3; they have become epiphanies, each one of them, of the love of the Father (I Ch 16:34 passim) for His children (Ps 102:13 LXX), of the ineffably tender love of the Mother for her Son, and of the Son for His Mother, and of the exquisitely joyous love of the Heavenly Bridegroom for His Bride, the Church, and of the Church for her LORD.

So, when it says that the LORD went throughout the whole of Galilee, we should understand that He has come to each one of us in that Mighty River of Ezekiel’s vision (47:1-12). That River flows with ever increasing depth and strength from the Father into the inmost Sanctuary of the Living Temple of the Most Beloved Panagia, and through the Holy Gates of her sacred womb out into the world, into Galilee, to your soul, healing and making alive every creature whom those Living Waters touch (Eze 47:9). They are the waters of the Holy Spirit we receive in Holy Eucharist. They are the waters of the Holy Font. In them, we were conceived and born of the Spirit from above as children of God, restored to the beauty of our original virginity.

Is it not so that when we give our love to the LORD in repentance that we can feel our soul stirring to life? We can feel His Presence healing our shame and guilt, our darkness being illumined with the light of a heavenly joy.  Why, then, would we not long to join them from Galilee, from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and beyond the Jordan who followed the Savior? He goes forth from Lebanon as a Bridegroom in procession. In the powerful current of His Mighty River, the Holy Spirit, the love of God, He would bear us up and carry us to our own land in the hill country of Galilee, the garden enclosed, encircled in the embrace of the Holy Trinity, His Holy Mother, the apostles and prophets and all the saints. Amen.