|39 - All Saints, May 30, 2010|
With last Sunday’s celebration of Pentecost, the Church has sent the faithful who love Christ out into the world, like apostles, “those who are sent”, in order to bear witness in the joy of the Holy Spirit to the life and the love that Christ gives to those who love Him. Over the next few Sundays, the Church will set before us the saints, those who loved Christ above all things and who bear witness to us of the joy given in holy Baptism and holy Chrismation when we are united to Christ in the grace and the goodness of His Holy Spirit, so that we might be inspired to take the Faith of the Church that we have received with all seriousness, and take up our cross in repentance to live not for ourselves alone but for Christ and for the things of the Spirit in the life, the light, the joy and the love of Christ’s Holy Church.
The witness of the saints leads us to consider, what are the essential qualities of saintliness? And, since saintliness is what happens to those who receive the Christian Faith and practice it, it leads us to consider: what is the essence of the Christian Faith?
There are a number of different ways to describe the essence of the Christian Faith and of the holiness that it produces in the faithful. It is Life; not biological life that is powered by sexual energies and whose animating spirit is the soul. But, it is divine life that is powered by the Spirit of God. I call biological life “psychic life” to emphasize that the soul that animates worldly life is not the Life of God. Indeed, psychic life is not really life. This is easily confirmed simply by observing that the soul does not have the power to sustain any of the particulars that come to life in it. Every particular powered by the soul dies; and so, it is obvious that the “center” or the “root” of psychic life, its womb, is the tomb. At its heart, therefore, the life of the soul is dead. Insofar as psychic life lives at all, it is impersonal because it is the energy of biological life that lives on, while the particulars that are powered by that energy do not. You could say, in terms of this morning’s Gospel, that it is the family – as the psychic life in which mom and dad, brother and sister come to exist – that lives on, but mom and dad, brother and sister do not. They die as the next generation is born, and then it dies; while the family lives on through the generations. This is why I say that the psychic life of the world, the life of family, is impersonal. Ancient philosophy observed this, too; but the philosophers concluded that it is the impersonal energy of psychic life, which lives on as the particulars pass in and out of existence, that is the real life, they called it zoe, and that the individual life of the particulars, they called it bios, is illusory, not real, at the most simply the carrier of zoe. Zoe is like the string on a necklace that runs through all the individual pearls; bios is the pearls on the string. The pearls can fall off, but you still have the string.
The joy of the Holy Spirit given by God’s grace on Pentecost reveals how dark and tragic is this worldly understanding; for, the Holy Spirit, whose energy is the eternal Life of God, is able to sustain the particulars that it brings into existence. It is able even to raise them from the dead just as it raised them from the nothingness of the abyss in the beginning. To live, then, in the Life of the Holy Spirit is truly to live. In the Holy Spirit, one does not die. What we experience in this world as death, is in Christ the death of death. Therefore, the saints are alive in God, and in His Holy Spirit, both their souls and their bodies are powered by the energy of His divine Life.
Therefore, the Christian Faith is a path – specifically, the better and changeless path that ascends to God – that ascends from the death of this biological psychic life to the divine Life of the Holy Spirit in heaven. It is therefore the healing of psychic life, sanctifying it in the Holy Spirit to heal it of its impersonal, biological character in which individual persons are forever dying, dissolving back into its impersonal, so-called eternal life of zoe, by raising psychic life, body and soul, up to the eternal life of God and restoring it to the principle of our nature, which is a personal character because we were made in the Image of God which is the Person of Jesus Christ. In Christ, then, we are healed body and soul. We begin to exist in the divine life of God for which we were made, subject to death no more. The path before us leads to the gates of the Garden of Eden that open onto the Tree of Life and to Christ, the Fruit of the Tree of Life, so that we can once more become in Christ partakers of the divine nature. In the Holy Spirit of Christ, we are united to God in Christ. United to God in Christ, we are united to one another in the communion of the Holy Trinity. And in the communion of the Holy Trinity, the life of the family is no more impersonal; individual persons are not lost to the family crest. The family becomes personal because it lives in us, mom and dad, brother and sister, who have been made in Christ to live in the Persons of the Holy Trinity. Persons become truly alive. Familial fellowship and communion becomes now a real possibility because the individual persons do not die, they do not disappear. They live in Christ; and in Christ, they live in the Holy Trinity, a Trinity of Persons who do not dissolve into one another even as they are one in their loving communion. Raised up into the family of the Holy Trinity, the faithful are raised up into the life of Christ’s Holy Spirit who has destroyed death. In Christ, death no longer has the power to separate us from our loved ones or from our Creator or from the divine principle of our nature, the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Image of God in whom we were made.
Therefore, to live the life of God in Christ is to live in the love of God that makes us truly alive. Here we come to the most essential quality of the Christian Faith: love.
When a man and a woman fall in love with one another, do they not begin to live for each other? They live to please the other. Each becomes the center of the other’s life. What the one wants becomes the “law” of the other so that each lives his/her life according to this “law of love”, anxious to act and to speak in a way that pleases the other. And, this is not experienced as a burden. It is liberating; fulfilling, the ultimate satisfaction, such that when the other dies, the one left behind doesn’t feel freed, but weighed down by grief.
Each sees the world through the other; life is lived in the other. They are in a personal relationship. In their love, they freely choose to unite in marriage, and the two become one; yet, they are not dissolved into the other. Quite the contrary: they come alive. In living not for themselves alone but for each other, their life takes on the essential quality of joy. When they are united to one another in marriage, they also are united to each other’s families. The father and mother, brothers and sisters of the one become the father and mother, brothers and sisters of the other.
Here is an icon of the Christian Faith right before our eyes. The whole world lives in this icon of the Christian Faith. The Gospel simply opens our eyes to see what’s right in front of us. It proclaims to us that the principle of love that qualifies the psychic life of the world is not an abstract energy or an impersonal force. It is a person, the person of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, the Son of God who is one with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the Heavenly Bridegroom. He is the only Lover of mankind. He is the true Beloved who so loved the world that He offered Himself on the Cross in order to destroy the power of death from within and to deliver us from its mastery that we might be healed by His grace in the love of the Father and restored to our true nature to live in the communion of the Holy Spirit, to re-create us once again to be “gardeners of immortal plants”, that is to say, gardeners of the attributes and qualities of the Holy Spirit, stewards of the Waters of Life that flow from the side of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, who is Himself the Fruit of the Tree of Life, the Heavenly Bridegroom, the Greatly Compassionate One, the Only Lover of mankind. And when we unite ourselves to Christ in the spiritual marriage of His Holy Church through the mysteries, the sacraments of the Church, His Father becomes our Father; His Holy Spirit becomes our Life. His will, what He wants, what pleases Him, becomes the Law of our life. And the children born of our union with Christ are spiritual, alive in the virtues of the Holy Spirit.
Who would not be stirred by this Gospel proclamation of the depths and the breadth, the height and the width of the divine love of Christ crucified for us on the Cross and raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit for our salvation, our liberation and healing in the love of God the Father? The soul’s response to the Gospel of God’s love is the irreducible evidence of its truth; for, the soul recognizes it immediately as true. No argument, no philosophical reasoning, no mediating third party, no references are required for the soul to know that the Lord Jesus Christ is indeed the Savior, Our Lord and Our God who calls out to us with His Bride, the Church, “Come! Let him who is thirsty come. Let him drink and from his belly – from his sexual, biological life – will flow rivers of living water, the eternal Life of the Holy Spirit, in the joy and in the love of God.” Amen.