|39 - Second Sunday After Pentecost, June 22, 2014|
So, on Pascha Night, the angel said to the myrrhbearing women, “Follow the risen LORD into Galilee: there you will see Him.” Following the lead of the Church, we came to see that the angel’s “riddle” means: Follow Him to the beginning of the Gospel, i.e., to His baptism and to your own baptism when you were united to Him in the likeness of His death and resurrection. Take up your Cross and follow Him; i.e., do His commandments; or, in the words of the Paschal Matins: “Purify your senses and you will see the risen Christ!” There, in your union with Him in the likeness of His death, you will see Him in the glory and joy of His Holy Resurrection.
Holy Pentecost is a Theophany. It “shows forth” what the LORD God does to those who “follow Him into Galilee”. We receive His Heavenly Spirit as rivers of living water flowing from our koilia, our inmost parts. Our heart is created anew and made clean. We receive a new and right spirit that reveals the heavenly glory couched in the word of Solomon: “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the waters of life.” (Prov 4:23)
On the first Sunday after Pentecost, the Church gave us another riddle. “He who does not leave father and mother, brother and sister, even wife and children for My sake is not worthy of Me.” But now we are in the liturgical season of the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth; and so here it is the LORD Himself who gives us directly the answer to His riddle. It happens to be the same answer as that of the angel’s riddle. The LORD says: “He who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”
And now, on this Sunday, did anyone notice where this morning’s Gospel is taking place? “And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee…He went about all of Galilee…” In the Church, we have been led into Galilee; and, we are given to see Christ in Galilee, if not with our physical eyes then with the eyes of our mind from the icon drawn in our mind’s eye by what we heard in the words of this morning’s Gospel.
Brothers and sisters, we do not answer the Church’s riddles from our own wisdom. We do what the Church tells us to do and she answers her riddles, and she gives us to know the answers from the inner experience of Faith, i.e., from uniting us to Christ in the likeness of His death and resurrection.
The Church has led us into Galilee this morning. Leaving our nets – i.e., father, mother, brother, sister, even wife and children, home and lands, i.e., taking up our cross – with Andrew and Peter, James and John, and following Christ as He goes about all Galilee, we see Christ healing every sickness and every infirmity among the people. It says that He was teaching and preaching and healing, as though these are one action, giving us to understand that there is something about His teaching and preaching of the Gospel that not only illumines the mind but also heals us in soul and body, and something about His healing that not only heals us in soul and body but also illumines our mind. In this, we see that to go into Galilee in order to see the risen Jesus, to take up our cross to follow Christ, is to enter a healing that illumines our mind and a doctrine that heals us in soul and body.
Did you hear? The LORD said to St Thomas: “Blessed are those who do not see but believe.” To see the risen Christ in the way of the Church is to see Him not through the eyes of the body but through the eyes of faith, which open – i.e., which are healed of their blindness so that we are able to see the unseen in an unseeing way – only as we leave father, mother, brother and sister, home and lands, only as we go into Galilee, only as we go back to our baptism and take up our cross and deny ourselves for Christ’s sake and unite ourselves to Christ in the receiving of His teaching and in the doing of His commandments; and when we follow Christ into Galilee, we become, like the disciples, first-hand witnesses of His healing that illumines the mind and of His doctrine that heals the soul and body. We become first-hand witnesses because we are the ones who are healed and illumined in mind, soul and body.
It is this miraculous healing power of Christ’s doctrine that I want to see into this morning. And, I want to share what I see with you so that you can see into it, too. Perchance, by God’s goodness, as we have come into this synagogue of St Herman’s in Galilee this morning, the preaching of Christ’s doctrine may touch the eyes of our soul and His healing doctrine might begin to work on us in the joy that the call of Christ sows in the soul of those who receive it, producing a desire to leave father, mother, brother and sister, to take up one’s cross, to deny oneself and follow Christ into Galilee that we may be illumined and made whole in the sweet goodness and tender love of Christ and His Holy Mother.
Beloved faithful, we can see the healing power of Christ’s doctrine in the very Face of Christ. (Jn 14:9; 2 Cor 4:6) We see it in His Face as He ascends from the waters of the Jordan – i.e., from His Baptism when the heavens were “rent open” (Mk 1:10); i.e., from the “beginning of the Gospel” (Mark 1:1); i.e., from the beginning of creation (Jn 1:1-4, John’s theological account of Jesus’ Baptism); i.e., from the Cross when the curtain of the Temple was “rent open” (Mk 15:38, Mt 27:51); i.e., from “Galilee” where those who take up their Cross for the sake of Christ “see Christ”.
There, at the Jordan, at our baptism, in the Creed we confess at our baptism, we are given to see Jesus as the “Only-Begotten Son of God the Father,” and we are given to see Him as the Christ, the Bearer of God’s Holy Spirit. That is to say, we see in the Face of Christ the Father and the Holy Spirit; we see the mystery of God hidden from before the ages but now revealed in the Face of Christ: the mystery of God as Holy Trinity: Three Persons in One Essence, One Essence in Three Persons.
Here is the essence of Christ’s doctrine that illumines as it heals and heals as it illumines. How so?
Brothers and sisters, only the doctrine of the Holy Trinity revealed in the Holy Spirit of Our LORD Jesus Christ proclaims eternal life in love that abides forever. To be clear: if God is not Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Three Persons in One Essence, One Essence in Three Persons, there is no eternal life, and there is no love that abides forever.
It is because God is Holy Trinity that Solomon can say in the Holy Spirit: “God did not make death. He made all things to exist, and all the generations to be saved – i.e., to be preserved, not to be dissolved. He created man for eternal life, He made him in the Image of His own immortality”. (Wisd 1:14 & 2:23).
It is because God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit that St John can say: “God is love.” It is because God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit that St Paul can say, “Love abides forever” – because in the Holy Trinity nothing dissolves or disappears into the other, yet God as Holy Trinity is One. His One Essence is not divided by the Three Persons. The Three Persons are not dissolved into the One Essence. Love abides forever because the Three Persons, the Three Loving-Beloveds in whom the One Essence of divine love “exists” abide forever.
And we are made in God’s Image and Likeness. That is to say, we were made to exist, to move, to have our being in the love of God the Father, the grace of Our LORD Jesus Christ, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. This is why Solomon can say: “God created man for eternal life, He made him in the Image of His own immortality” which means, in the image of His own love that abides forever.
Do we not carry the clear evidence of the LORD’s healing doctrine in our own souls? Who of us does not yearn ardently to be loved and to love? When we are loved and when we are able to love, then we are sound in mind and soul, and we are at peace. When we are not loved or when we are not able to love, we suffer all kinds of maladies and infirmities in mind, soul and body. We are out of sorts, anxious, irritable, frustrated, bored, restless, angry, depressed.
Therefore, when our LORD Jesus Christ went about Galilee teaching and preaching and healing every disease and every infirmity of body and soul, He was teaching and preaching the love of God that abides forever and He was creating in them a clean heart and renewing them in the Spirit of God’s Trinitarian love and so restoring them to the image and likeness of God’s own immortality, His own love that abides forever, in which and for which they were made.
Even today, even though we might not be healed of some physical infirmity, everyone who takes up his or her cross and follows Christ into Galilee is healed in his heart by the love of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As soon as and as long as we take up our Cross to follow Christ into Galilee, God’s Trinitarian love begins to cleanse us in our heart, in our koilia,and to refashion us in a new and right spirit. The love that is born in us when we take up our cross and follow Christ into Galilee illumines our souls with such light that not even the physical infirmities God chooses not to heal can darken it; and indeed, I have seen even “ordinary” faithful who exude such joy, such grace, such love that their physical infirmities are only made more compelling witnesses (martyrs) to the healing power of God’s love that abides forever in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These are the saints, even martyrs, known only to God.
Our goal, if we are moved by the beauty of Christ’s Trinitarian doctrine of eternal life in love that abides forever, is to receive it into our souls and bodies so that it becomes incarnate in us. To do that, we take up our Cross to follow Christ as He goes about all Galilee, teaching and preaching and healing every disease and every infirmity of our souls. Amen!