St Herman's Orthodox Church
Orthodox Church in America (OCA)
Minneapolis, Minnesota
June 13, 2021

PENTECOST, June 20, 2021

Recording of this sermon should be uploaded and viewable on our public Facebook page, and on our St Herman's YouTube Channel.

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, it says, the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters like a mother hen incubating her eggs [this is the sense of the Hebrew]. Following biblical, liturgical and patristic sources, we can see the ‘waters’ as an image of erotic desire, the root movement of creation.

Following this imagery, note that what is hatched from the face of the waters incubated by the Spirit of God brooding over them is light. The creation of the days of the week proceeds in this beauteous light. The light is the Law of Moses, or of the Law of creation. Now, remember that the account of creation was revealed to Moses on Mt Sinai. There, God showed him the heavenly pattern which he was commanded to copy in the liturgical worship of Israel, so that the account of creation reveals the essential principle of Israelite worship. Following this testimony of Exodus, then, creation is a ‘copy,’ or an image or icon of, a mystery of participation in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Heavenly Pattern of which the Law of creation, the light, is the copy, is Christ. He is the True Light coming into the world in whom is the Heavenly Spirit, the True Life of men. We see, then, that the principle of creation is not of physics but of the Holy Spirit. The meaning of creation therefore is theological: it is to become a partaker of the divine nature in the Heavenly Spirit of Christ.

In this light of the Law of God, we see all of creation moving in the Spirit to the creation of man as male and female in the image and likeness of God. Man as male and female comes into view as the supreme copy of the heavenly pattern. And the primary principle or essence of man made in the image or as a copy of God, following the teaching of the holy fathers, is his capacity to become like God; that is, to become a partaker of the divine nature.

But the movement of creation does not end here. It continues to the Sabbath Rest of God, which we learn from the great mystery of Christ is the death of God and His ‘rest’ in the Temple of His Tomb. But, the Tomb of Christ, can you not see, is but an extension, an image of the body of man which became a tomb because man, as a consequence of his disobedience, is dead in his sins and trespasses.

But not even yet do we see the end of the movement of creation. Read the biblical text closely and note that it is in the Sabbath Rest of God—i.e., in the mystery of His death and burial—that God fashions man, again, a second time, raising him from the dust of the ground and breathing the Spirit, the Breath of Life, into his face as He brooded over the face of the waters at creation. That is, God breathed His Holy Spirit, the Living Waters of His own divine eros, into the face of the waters, the erotic longing of Adam and so filled Adam’s desire [his erotic longing, epithumia] with every good thing, i.e., with the Holy Spirit.’ [Ps 103.5]

Even this, however, is not the end of the movement of creation. God leads the man He fashioned from the clay into the Garden He planted facing the East. Here is the beginning of the unseen inner Exodus that runs throughout the whole Bible and is given incarnate expression in the ‘Exodus’ of Israel from Egypt to the Land of her inheritance. But this Exodus is but the ‘copy’ of the ‘heavenly pattern’ which comes into full view when God Himself is incarnate of the Virgin and journeys all the way to the Cross and the Tomb—He returns to the ‘dust of the ground’—and into the Kingdom of Heaven in His Holy Resurrection and Glorious Ascension.

What we are seeing in Eden and in the history of Israel is a visible image of the invisible movement of creation into the heart of man. Here is where creation opens onto the deep beyond all things, that is, onto God in the Kingdom of Heaven. Here is where the ‘waters’ of his erotic desire, the deepest desire of his soul, mingle and become one with the Living Waters of the Holy Spirit, an image of God’s erotic love for man. Man’s heart is where he steps into the Living Waters, the erotic love of God, as into the mighty River of the Spirit that, united with Christ in the Holy Spirit, flows in union with man’s spirit, man’s erotic love, from man’s ‘belly’ or his ‘heart’; that is, from his guts, from the root of his being. In the Spirit of God issuing from his belly, man is carried by the mighty current of the Spirit of God, in which the Son of God has destroyed death by His death and given life to those in the tombs, all the way to the ‘outlet of the sea’, that is, all the way to the ‘Holy Doors’ of the Kingdom of Heaven, all the way to the Father.

In this, we see the movement of man’s coming from nothing into being as an ascent up to the top of the ‘cosmic’ mountain (Eden)—or, into the tomb, images which denote the same mystery—and beyond, into the heavens, all the way to the Father’s Right Hand to become, through his union with the Son of God in the Spirit of God, a son of god, even a god in God [Ps 82.6] because it is no longer man who lives but the Spirit of God who lives in him [Gal 2.20].

See at the center of this movement of creation the Sabbath Rest of God, the death of God by which He destroys death and in which He refashions man and all of creation from His own Blood and Water that come forth from His rib when He was pierced by the spear. In His Sabbath Rest, the LORD fashions the world anew and He raises man from the ‘dust of the ground’ restored to his original creation in the Image of God, which is Christ.

This Sabbatical center of creation, centered on the Great Mystery of Christ, is what the revelation of Holy Scripture is all about. In Holy Scripture, we see the Spirit always moving those who would follow the light of the Law to the Light of which the Law is the copy, the True Light that is Christ in whom is the true Life of men, the Holy Spirit of God. The Spirit of God, also called the ‘Glory of God,’ descends on certain men in the OT and makes them into an image of Christ: Moses and King David. He descends on certain women in the bible and makes them into temples of the Spirit that bring forth holy men of God who are images of Christ: Sarah and Hannah, for example. Or, He descends on certain men and makes them an image of John the Baptist: Elijah and Elisha, for example, or on certain woman, such as Deborah, and makes them an image of the Holy Virgin. Or, He makes them prophets who proclaim even in vivid detail, the mystery of God the Son coming in the flesh, born of the Virgin, and of His death and burial and His Resurrection on the Third Day. He overshadows the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon and fills them with such Glory that no one can enter, just as He overshadows the Holy Virgin [Lk 1.35]. In this, the Holy Spirit shows the mystery of the Virgin as the Temple of the Last Day, and of the mystery of the Body of God the WORD that He spun in the Holy Spirit from her blood to become the True Heavenly Temple of God incarnate; and, in this, the Spirit shows the tomb, that is the human body and soul, to be the final ‘resting place’ of His Holy Sabbath; that is, the human body and soul are made to be a temple of the Holy Spirit; and so the Tomb of Christ, empty, no longer a place of the dead but of the living, becomes the profoundest Theophany of salvation in Christ. Salvation is to receive the Heavenly Spirit in the Body and Blood of Christ to become, by the Holy Spirit, empty of death, our bodies no longer the place of the dead but living temples of the Living God!

We see in the history of Israel the Spirit of God moving creation to the Sabbath Rest of God. Therefore, the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost means that the LORD God is coming to us in His Sabbath Rest to re-create us, this time not from the dust of the ground but from His own Body and Blood, and to breathe into us His Holy Spirit so that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us! Pentecost announces the death of God, the filling of the waters of death with the Living Waters of God, making death in Christ to be the entrance to the mountain that ascends to God.

This explains why, in the Book of Acts, the descent of the Spirit on Cornelius and his household was proof to the disciples that the Gentiles, too, were called to Holy Baptism; that is, called to be united to Christ in the likeness of His death and resurrection, for they, too, are called to become ‘partakers of the divine nature in Christ’. That’s what the descent of the Holy Spirit is all about: to lead those who believe to the tomb of Christ, to His Sabbath Rest, the font of their resurrection to eternal life and the beginning of their ascension to the top of the mountain and into the Kingdom of Heaven, the true Promised Land of Israel’s Inheritance.

In His death and resurrection, the LORD Jesus Christ rolls the stone away and opens the path that ascends to Heaven. And the descent of the Holy Spirit on us in the Body of Christ, the Church, is what gives us the strength and the power to ascend with Christ into heaven. Pentecost, then, marks the beginning of our ascension into heaven in the mystery of God’s Sabbath Rest. Through our baptism into Christ, our Pentecost, our daily life is created anew to become our Exodus to the top of the Edenic Mountain. In the power of the Heavenly Spirit whom we receive in the Eucharistic mystery of the Church, we set out now on our Exodus to the Promised Land, the Kingdom of Heaven—this is the true Inheritance of those who believe—putting to death what is earthly in us so that our body may become a temple filled with the Glory of the Holy Spirit. Buried with Christ in Holy Baptism, our death becomes the Holy Doors that open onto our eternal Life in Christ, in the Kingdom of Heaven. This is our true inheritance; Christ is the true Promised Land. Union with God, partaking of the divine nature in the Spirit of Christ, this is our true destiny and purpose.

May the Spirit of the LORD soften our hearts and heal us of our blindness and grant us a glimpse of the Beauty of God so that our souls will awaken (become truly ‘woke’) and the waters of our erotic desire come to life in thirst and hunger for the eternal God whose Spirit alone makes us truly human as partakers of the divine nature. Amen!

 
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Thursday, June 24th
Nativity of the Baptist
[33rd Anniversary of Fr Paul's Ordination to the Holy Priesthood]
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