Hebrews 11.33-12.2

Matthew 10.32-33, 37-38, 19.27-30

Our Gospel this morning in which the LORD tells us that we are not worthy of Him if we love father, mother, brother or sister, even wife and children, homes and land more than we love Him is something of an evangelical riddle. But, it sets before us the key to finding the joy and fulfillment of our true nature and destiny precisely in a family that is filled with the Holy Spirit of God to become to its children the source of a sound and healthy mind and soul.

Consider that man was created by God as a family. God created him as male and female, or as man and wife, and gave man the command to multiply and to fill the earth and subdue it—to subdue it not to himself but to his own kinship with God; that is, to subdue it in the love, the humility, the compassion and the goodness of God and to the joy of communion with God.

Man therefore came into being as a family—as man and woman, as man and wife, and this not of himself but of God. The true head of the home is not Adam but God; and this is not a ‘supernatural’ thing; it is what is truly natural to the family of man; for, man came into being as a family—as male and female, as man and wife—from a divine source outside of himself. He was made a family in the Image of God, which is Christ (Col 1.15), and in the Likeness of God (I have wondered if the ‘Likeness’ of God indicates the Holy Spirit).

And so, it is in God, not apart from God, that man is constituted as a family. Apart from God, what holds the family together? What gives it its life? What makes it wholesome, healing, joyous, even heavenly, divine and holy? Apart from God, the family quickly becomes an environment of abuse and harm and not a healing force. Because of sin, it becomes filled with bitterness, anger, strife, contention that debilitates and harms mom and dad and the children emotionally, psychologically and, tragically, sometimes physically. But in God, the family becomes an environment of holiness; a ‘church’ rooted in the Church, the Body of Christ. In Christ, it is rooted not in the tomb of the life of this world in which we return to the dust, but it is rooted in the Tomb of the LORD that He emptied of death and corruption and in which He gave life to those in the tombs of this world. And so, in God, the family becomes—not in itself but in God—the source of eternal life in communion with God; through the family, one becomes ‘a partaker of the divine nature.’ (2 Pt 1.4)

Now, here’s something else that close reflection brings into view. In a moment, I will explain why I am focusing on this with such emphasis this morning. There is no family without the woman. Man does not become a family until God builds the woman from his rib. The woman is man’s help suitable to him [kat’ auton], so it says in Gn 2.18; or, a better translation in my opinion, in accordance with his nature, which means: who is able to partake of him, or to be intimate with him, as he—Adam made in the image and likeness of God [kat’ eikona; i.e., the same construction as in 2.18] as male and female—partakes of God and therefore is able to be intimate with God (Gn 1.27).

But let me point out that the word for ‘help’ in the Greek is the same word used many times especially by the Psalmist for God as man’s ‘help.’ This would give us to see that the woman is a ‘divine help’ to man, and this alerts us to look for how she is a help to man in a way much more profound than just being his intimate companion who helps him by ‘healing’ him of loneliness and giving him comfort and joy. (In this, of course, man is completed by the woman in the image and likeness of God; God is a communion of persons; man and woman are a communion of persons, the man being an image of Christ, the Bridegroom, the woman being an image of the Church, the LORD’s beloved Bride. They are in the image of God, moreover, in their capacity to create life from out of themselves, as God does!) To be man’s intimate ‘beloved/lover’, of course, is ‘very good,’ to be sure; but as his ‘divine help,’ the woman is man’s ‘help’ in a way infinitely more glorious even than this. She ‘helps’ him by making it possible for him to become a son of God, born from above; for it is the woman who becomes Theotokos, birth-giver or Mother of God. It is by the woman that God becomes man so that man can become, by the grace of God, God in the uncreated Life of God that begins to live in Him when he receives the Holy Spirit in the sacramental mysteries of the Church, the Bride of Christ, the Theotokos who gives birth to God in all those who descend into the ‘womb’ of her baptismal font—called in ancient texts the uterus ecclesiae, the womb of the Church—and raises them up as ‘children of God,’ born of the Spirit from above.

I ask you to see in this that the woman is the heart of the family; and, as such, she is the root, the source of our salvation; for without her, there is no Christ God incarnate. Without her, man cannot receive God in his flesh so that He, God, becomes man. Let’s say it more forcefully: without her, not even God Himself can become flesh and so become ‘one of us,’ so that we become His ‘brethren’ (Heb 2.14), His ‘kinfolk’! Without her, He cannot become flesh of our flesh, bone of our bones.

This is what the bible reveals to us about the woman, how she is man’s divine help. The woman is named Eve, ‘Mother of the living,’ because it is the woman who becomes Theotokos, Mother of the Living God in the flesh who, in the flesh, ascends the Cross, is buried in the tomb of our death and thus becomes absolutely one with us. In the womb of the woman and in the tomb where His becoming flesh of the woman is consummated, He destroys death by His death and gives life, the uncreated life of His own Holy Spirit who rests upon Him from the Father, to those in the tombs.

It is therefore no accident, in my opinion, that the Greek word describing woman as man’s ‘help who is suitable to him in Gn 2.18 is the same word we find especially in the Psalms to describe God. She is the source or the root of our salvation because she gives birth to God in the flesh, which means that without her, there is no salvation because without her there is no Christ God in the flesh.

You see, then, that the biblical vision of the woman is one with the biblical teaching of salvation as deification or theosis, becoming one with God as He became one with us, becoming ‘a partaker of the divine nature’ as He partook of our flesh and blood (Heb 2.14). Because of the woman, salvation is not just being forgiven and considered righteous, even though we aren’t. It is to become truly holy, truly perfect as God is holy and perfect. It is to become, by grace, God; it is to be deified, ‘God-ified’, a partaker of God who partakes of us because, through the woman, it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us. Without the woman, then, our salvation cannot happen!

So, if the woman is the heart of the family, this means, does it not, that the family is the source of our salvation—but only if the family is rooted in the woman and only if the woman as Eve, mother of all living, is rooted in the Theotokos, Mother of the Living God. Do you begin to understand now why the anti-Christ’s mission, as was revealed to St John in his vision that he recorded in his ‘Apocalypse’, is to destroy the woman?

This is why I focus so intently on the biblical vision of the woman that is present in this morning’s Gospel.

And can you not see how the woman is being destroyed in our modern world and in the darkness that has fallen even on our American culture? This effort to destroy the woman acquired a programmatic force in the early twentieth century and has accelerated with an exponentially increasing pace in the last ten years. Is it an accident that the central issue that has risen up in our time and is about sexuality and gender? Can you not see how the world’s ungodly solutions destroy the woman, for they either destroy or deny in one way or another man’s capacity to create and generate life? They reduce everything in human relations to ‘power’, which is understood in terms of the ‘power’ to subdue another to one’s own self-centered will, to force another to follow one’s own agenda whether political, social, religious or philosophical or whatever—whereas, in the bible, true power is the power to create life that is healthy, that is holy as God is holy! In this, can you not see how the family is being destroyed in our time? I am asserting this not from any books I’ve read but from what I have witnessed with my own eyes over the last forty years! And if the family is being destroyed because the woman is being destroyed, that means that our salvation is being taken away from us.

Or, would we do better to say it in this way: Our salvation is being crucified and buried in the Tomb, and a great stone is being rolled over the opening of the Tomb to seal it?!

With this, let’s return to the LORD’s words in our Gospel this morning. If you love father, mother, brothers and sisters, lands and houses more than Christ, well, you are living outside the LORD’s Tomb in which He has destroyed death by His death and given life to those in the tombs. You are living in the region and in the shadow of death. You are choosing not to come to the light. You are choosing to love the darkness more than light, and this should tell you, if ever you should wake up to look for the reason you love the darkness more than the light, that it is because your deeds are darkness. You are rejecting God because you love yourself more than God; you love the life of the world that is passing away more than you love the life of God; you love the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the ‘pride’ of life which are of the world that is passing away more than you love the uncreated Life of God’s Holy Spirit that has overcome this world. You are killing God and you are setting up a man without God. You have rejected the ‘divine’ help of the woman for you have made the woman to be like the man, or you have made her into a ‘robot’ that just looks like a woman. For in creating a femininity according to your own wisdom, apart from God, you are succeeding only in destroying her femininity for she is no more to you your ‘divine’ help to your salvation. You are killing the heart of the family. You are killing the root of our salvation.

But can you, finally, do that? The woman, in the Theotokos, is rooted in God. And in the Spirit of God she gave birth to the Son of God in the flesh who ascended the Cross, was buried in the Tomb and in the Tomb, He destroyed death by His death. He gave life to those in the tombs. And, He rolled the stone away! The fact is, if you kill God and the woman whom He made from Adam’s rib to be his helper, the source of his deification and of his ‘salvation’ in God, you succeed only in committing suicide; seeking to set up a family without God, governed by your own perversions, you succeed only in destroying the family. But you do not kill God and you do not kill the woman, the Theotokos, whom He raised from the Blood and Water that came forth from His rib as the New Adam. For the Theotokos has become—in some mystical and holy way that is not of this world but of God—the Church, the Body of the crucified and risen and ascended Christ. And in the woman, not apart from her—for it was in the flesh He received from her—He has overcome the world! The woman, the crown of God’s mighty act of creating man as male and female, is the Glorious Temple in whom dwells and abides the Light of God the darkness cannot extinguish, the Body of the crucified and risen God-Man against whom not even the gates of hell can prevail.

So, which woman do you choose? The woman of the bible or the apparent woman of the world? The temple of the anti-christ in which the woman, the family, and our salvation are destroyed; or the Temple of the Living Christ, in whom the woman and the family become the source of our salvation, our healing, our wholeness, our communion with God? Let us be children of faith and so find ourselves in the family of Christ our God and His Holy Mother, in whom all the saints of the OT are our brothers and sisters. They did not receive the promise. Why? So that they would not be made perfect apart from us! They waited for us so that we could receive the promise with them in Christ the Son of God who became flesh for the sake of us all, so that we could all be together in the joy of the fellowship of the holy apostles, which is a fellowship that is with Christ, His Father and Holy Mother who, in the Church, are now our Father and Mother! Is this not the joy of the faithful Christian? It is the unconquerable and divine joy generated from the wood of the Savior’s Cross, which He as God was made able to do because the ‘woman’ said, ‘Let it be done to me according to Thy will!’ It is the unconquerable joy that has been established in the death-destroying Resurrection of Christ from His Tomb. In this family of the Church, we receive the Living Waters of the Holy Spirit and we become theokoi; we become ‘woman’ rooted in the Theotokos who is rooted in the Holy Spirit of her Son and our God; so that in her, in the woman, in the Church, the Bride of Christ, we receive the ‘power’ not to subdue others to our will but the power to become children of God born from above. We receive the divine power of God that alone can raise us from death to life and subdue the world in the humility and love of God that the world hungers and thirsts for. Therefore, as faithful ‘children of God,’ let us strive to lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us—greed, self-love—and in the company of all the saints, even with the ‘divine help’ of all the saints, let us run the race set before us, a race whose course ascends the Holy Mountain of Eden into the Land of our Inheritance, which is the Kingdom of Heaven that is within us! Amen!