44 Third Sunday After Pentecost, July 6, 2008

Romans 5:1-10

Matthew 6:22-33

God created the world in seven days, according to the bible. These are not seven days in ordinary time, measured by the movements of sun and moon that came and went millennia ago. For one thing, the sun and moon were not created until the Fourth Day of creation. These seven days of the world’s creation are days of the Spirit. They are of spiritual time that is measured, as described in early patristic texts, by the movements of Christ as the Sun of Righteousness and the Church, his bride, as the moon of righteousness. These seven days of creation are not in the past. They are mystically present. They are the spiritual matrix in which the days and weeks, months and years of calendar time move. The seven days of the week are an icon of the Seven Days of Creation; they open mystically onto that spiritual time of creation.

From patristic texts, there is good reason to understand the light that God created on the First Day four days before he created the sun and moon as the Church. In the light of the Church – which is the body, the mystery, of Christ – God the Word created the world and everything in it as an expression of his goodness. At the summit of creation, he made man in his own image and likeness. He made man in Spirit, the Holy Spirit, and in Truth, his only-Begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. He made man in his own image and likeness, in his only-begotten Son and in the Holy Spirit, so that man might be a partaker of the divine nature, so that through man, made as he was from the earth and made to live in the Holy Spirit of God, all of creation might rejoice in God the Father as communicants of life eternal, eating, drinking, breathing and living in the Holy Spirit of God.

The creation was completed on the Sixth Day of the week, Friday. On this day Our Savior was crucified in calendar time. By his Death on the Cross and his descent into hell, the Savior, who created the world in those Seven Days of biblical time, reestablished calendar time in the biblical time of creation. Every Friday morning, now, the one who confesses Christ with his mind alert, his eyes open, understands that he is waking up mystically to the Sixth Day of creation when in the beginning the Lord made man in his own image and likeness, and then re-created him on that Great and Holy Friday when he was lifted up on the Cross – or rather lifted himself up on the Cross – and cried out, “It is finished!”, breathed out his Spirit on the creation as he had done on the Sixth Day, and descended into hell, flooding the darkness with the mingled Lights of his  divinity and humanity, the Church, and to call those who had fallen into the formless void of the abyss because of their transgressions out of the darkness and into the light and the life of his Father’s Kingdom.

Seven Days are revealed to us in Moses’ theology of creation; but implicit in the bible’s theological drama, like the seed of the mustard tree hiding in the ground, is an Eighth Day. It is implicit in the words of God to Adam and Eve after they had transgressed his commandment not to eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “From the dust you were taken and so to the dust you shall return.” By this sentence, God reveals the Eighth Day hiding in the biblical narrative of creation as the Day of Judgment. It is so understood by the prophets. It is the Great Day of the Lord; but it is great because it is terrible, a day of unspeakable fear and trembling, for it is the Day of God’s wrath and of his vengeance on the unrighteous.

But in the prophets (for e.g. Joel 2 and Eze 37) and in Christ’s holy resurrection on Sunday, which is the Eighth Day of the week that is also the First Day of the week, the Day of Judgment is revealed also as the day of man’s re-creation when those who have received Christ and who have been raised with him from the dead are made living souls again as at the beginning by the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost. When the faithful wake up to Sunday morning, the day of Christ’s Resurrection, they should remember that they are waking up to the Day of Judgment that because of Christ’s holy Resurrection, his Ascension and Pentecost, dawns also as a day of our re-creation. Those who submit to the Judgment of God and return voluntarily through their baptism to the dust of the ground are raised up from their baptism as Adam was raised up from the ground, and they are fashioned from the baptismal waters as Adam was fashioned from the clay as new creatures in the New World of God’s Heavenly Kingdom. They are established no longer in the First Adam and the First Eve whose “eye” lusted after the fruit of good and evil; but in the Second Adam, Christ, and in the Second Eve, the Holy Theotokos, whose inner “eyes” were on the will of the Father and so filled with light, and their bodies were filled with light – not simply the light of the sun and moon, but much more the Light of the Father and the light of the Church, holy lights united together through God’s Holy Spirit in the mystery of Christ becoming flesh to dwell among us, to pitch his tent among us, and to give the uncreated Light of God’s Wisdom and the eternal Life of God’s Holy Spirit to those who received him.

One can see from this that the holy Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, and Pentecost are three feasts that together comprise the one mystery of God’s Day of Judgment. In his death on the Cross, Christ does much, much more than simply appease an angry God so that man can be considered righteous before God. When he dies on the Cross, Christ returns man to the dust of the ground and puts to death the law of sin that had become the operating law of the flesh. But as he died, so the Scriptures say, Christ breathed out his Spirit. This is the Holy Spirit of God. He breathed it out into hell just as he breathed it out into the formless darkness of the abyss in the beginning. He filled the darkness with Himself and hell was flooded with the only-begotten Son of God who is Light of Light, true God of true God. In the darkness of hell, he through whom all things were made renewed the light of the Church, and in his holy Resurrection, he created heaven and earth anew. He raised man from the grave just as he raised him from the dust of the ground in the beginning and fashioned him anew in his image and likeness. In his holy Ascension, he bridged the abyss with his Cross and united earth to heaven. Pentecost is the consummation of this Day of Judgment. Having destroyed the law of sin by his death, and having raised man up to heaven in his holy Resurrection and Ascension, he breathed his Spirit on the disciples in the Upper Room just as he breathed the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils in the beginning to make him a living soul. In your baptism, you have been united to this mystery of Christ by which he has transfigured the condemnation of God’s Judgment against us into resurrection, our re-creation. United to Christ in the likeness of his death through your baptism, you are not just considered righteous. You have been made righteous, you have been re-created as a new creature, a child no longer of darkness but a child of Light, born from the union of Christ the Light of God with his bride, the first light of creation, the light of the Church that is the body of Christ.

In your baptism, your holy Chrismation and in your partaking of Holy Eucharist, you have been raised up into this mystery of the Church that is revealed to us in the Lord’s Pascha, in the mysteries of Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost. You have passed over from death to life. You have died to this world whose inner eye is turned wholly to the lusts and desires of the flesh and which therefore is dead in its trespasses. You have been raised up to the eternal life of God’s Holy Spirit that is filled with light, the light of the Church that on the First Day of the week, Sunday, was raised up from the darkness of hell and into the Light of God’s heavenly Kingdom in Christ’s holy Resurrection, just as it was raised up from out of the darkness of the formless void into being in the beginning, and has been wedded to the only-begotten Son of God who is Light of Light, true God of true God. In the life of the Church, we move and have our being in this mystical time of the Eighth Day of Creation that before was hidden and has now been made manifest in the mystery of Christ’s death and Resurrection. We live in this mystical time measured by the movements of Christ and his bride, the Church, movements of communion in which the children of their union, those born of water and the Spirit, are made communicants of life eternal, partakers of the divine nature, as children of God.  

According to the Scriptures, only Christ’s disciples, those who loved him, saw him in his holy Resurrection; and they always saw him in the setting of the Eucharist. This is teaching us that our inner “eye” does not “see” the Last Day, the Great and Holy Saturday in which calendar time now moves since Christ’s death on the Cross until we turn our inner eye to our own secret heart and, in submission to the Judgment of God against us, wake up to the fact of our darkness, to the fact that we are dead in our trespasses, sold under sin, and that we stand under the wrath of God because of our transgressions: that is to say, until we repent as the Lord commands us and turn our inner eye away from “mammon”, from the lusts and desires of the flesh and to the light of God that has shone on us in the mystery of Christ. “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” This is the first command of the incarnate God, and therefore the central theme of his Gospel. He is calling us to follow after the Light that has dawned on us in his descent to us in order to “pitch his tent” and dwell among us. Follow after the Light, pursue it. The pleasures of darkness burn away like the morning mist when the Light of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, dawns. Therefore, pursue not the mist but the Light itself. It establishes you in the image and likeness of God and gives you true being that is Light not darkness. It floods your whole being with the uncreated Light of God in the dawning of the Eighth Day of Christ’s Resurrection, and it raises you up from non-existence into being in the eternal life of Christ in the Holy Spirit of the Father.

We submit to the judgment of God in our baptism when we allow him to return us to the dust of the ground through the hand of the priest as the priest’s hand pushes us down into the water. Through the confession of our sins, we place ourselves voluntarily before the judgment seat of God and acknowledge that he is justified in his sentence and blameless in his judgment against us. But the brokenness of a humble and contrite heart raises us up out of the water to the Good News, the Gospel, of Christ. In the confession of our sins, the Spirit of God unites us to his Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and puts us to death with him. And, as the tent-maker, St Paul, said in our Scripture readings this last week, if we are united with Christ so that we are reconciled to God in the likeness of Christ’s death, how much more are we made alive in Christ because, if we are united to his death, then we are united also to his holy Resurrection. Through our union with his death, we are raised up to the life of the Holy Spirit in his holy Resurrection, born again from above, refashioned as children of God in the image and likeness of God.

We abide in the judgment of our baptism when we renounce self-indulgence, self-will and self-esteem for the sake of the love of Christ who loved us and gave himself for us. In the Church, we draw near in faith and in love to the altar of Christ’s holy Church as to the Tree of Life in the Garden, and we partake of his flesh and blood, we partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life, in Holy Eucharist. We receive his Heavenly Spirit and we are made alive in the true faith that has been revealed to us in Christ on this day, Sunday, the Eighth Day of creation. When we strive in our daily life, in every hour and every moment of the day, to keep ourselves in our baptism and in the death of Christ through the ascetic disciplines of the Church and in the observance of Christ’s holy commandments, our inner eye opens beyond calendar time to “see” into biblical time, to behold the risen Christ standing “in our midst” here, even now, in the sacred mystery of his Divine Liturgy as he stood “in the midst” of the disciples in the Upper Room. We become full of light as we turn our inner eye to gaze upon him that we may walk in the light as he is in the light. We walk not in the light of the sun and moon, but in the Light of Christ and his holy Church, as we give ourselves to charity rather than to self-indulgence, to mercy and to forgiveness even of our enemies. In this way, we are submitting in the moments of our everyday life to the Lord’s hand raising us up in his holy resurrection to re-create us in his own image and likeness.

In the practice of Christ’s commandments, and with the help of the Church’s ascetic disciples, we are awakened to the fear of God on this Day of Judgment in which the days of the world now transpire. In that fear, we submit through the confession of our sins to the Judgment of God that has been revealed to us in the mysteries of the Savior’s Death and Resurrection, his holy Ascension and the Mystery of Pentecost. If we strive to stand in our secret heart always before the Divine Judge, laying aside every excuse, the Church teaches us that we will discover the mercy of his Judgment against us; for in his Judgment against us, executed in the mystery of the Lord’s saving Pascha, he is in fact re-creating us. He returns us to the dust of the ground in order to raise us up again, refashioned, as partakers of his own divine nature, children of God renewed in his image and likeness.

Beloved faithful, reflect prayerfully on this mystery of Christ that I have set before you as we continue in the worship of our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, and prepare to offer yourselves to God on behalf of all and for all, and to draw near in the fear of God, in faith and love to the Tree of Life that is now open to all who would receive its blessed Fruit here in the Church, here in the body of Christ, here in the Garden of Eden, on this the Day of God’s Judgment and of his divine Mercy, when he has recreated us in his own image and likeness, that we may be raised up to life eternal to be forever with the Lord in his Heavenly Kingdom. Amen.