St Herman's Orthodox Church
Orthodox Church in America (OCA)
Minneapolis, Minnesota
April 21, 2019

CHRIST IS RISEN!
CHRIST IS RISEN!
CHRIST IS RISEN!
THE TRUE LIGHT

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Philippians 4:4-9

John 12:1-18

Jesus Christ is the WORD of God who was in the Beginning with God the Father, who was God in whom all things were made. He was the True Light, says St John, who illumines every man. In Him was Life and that Life was the Light of men. To be in the Light, then, is to be in God; and to be in God is to be alive. To be in darkness is to be outside of God, and to be outside of God is to be dead.

Now, we read in Genesis that the first thing God created was light. In this light, He fashioned the heavens and the earth, He created the plants and flowers of the field, and the animals and birds and every living thing. Finally, He created Man in His own Image as male and female. Note that the origin of all things is in this light. The principle of all things that defines its inner essence is hidden in this light. The origin and principle of all things is spiritual, hidden in the light.

But within this light, Man is created in the Image of God. The origin and principle of creation lies in the light created by God. The origin and principle of Man lies in the WORD of God Himself, the True Light Who is not created but uncreated, the Light that is Light from Light, true God of true God, the WORD of God Who is Himself the very Image of God in which Man was made. (Col 1:15)

That’s why Holy Scripture says that Adam was a son of God. We are created; we are not uncreated. Yet, we are kin to God. Holy Scripture says that we are, by nature, children of God (Ps 82:6, Lk 3:38, Heb 2:14). Obviously, the divine act of creating has an apophatic quality about it; for, we are creatures who come to be in Him who is uncreated. We come to be from beyond ourselves, from beyond our nature, and so, beyond our comprehension.

Yet, in the ancestral disobedience of our first parents, our heart has turned away from God, and His Spirit has departed from us (Wisd 1:3-4). And so we are conceived “outside the law” (Ps 50:5 LXX; anomiais, outside the light). We are brought forth outside of God (hamartiais).” If, then, we could ever be born “from above” as children of God, born not of blood or from the desire of the flesh nor of the desire of men but of God (Jn 1:13), it would but restore us to our original human nature and our original beauty in the Image, in the WORD of God, in Him who is the True Light of every man and woman, and the source of their True Life which is the Holy Spirit of God, the truly living waters of creation.

But, as I said, the light in which the heavens and the earth were first created was itself created. It was not the true light. It was an image or icon of the True Light, not as a picture that showed a likeness of the True Light who was somewhere else, but a mirror that reflected the True Light who was there. Thus, when the True Light, the WORD and Image of God, was conceived in the womb of the Most Beloved Panagia, the Image of God made Himself to be in our image. When, then, He received from the Virgin our human nature, He was but restoring us in both our body and our soul to our natural origin and principle, which was in Himself. In God the WORD incarnate, Jesus Christ, and His Holy Mother, we see what Man really looks like: the living Temple of God in whom the living God dwells.  

But, if God the WORD became flesh, it means that the WORD of God built our flesh round Himself as His Temple. But, our flesh, since the “ancestral sin”, is conceived in sins “outside the Law”. Clothing Himself in our flesh, therefore, means that He was putting Himself inside our death, making it His own. It means that our body, which He made into His Temple and took up His dwelling in it among us, was His tomb.

Even the angels, it says, were astonished. For sure, then, the prophets would have been. We know the myrrh-bearing women were (Mk 16:5-8), and we know from the Gospels that the holy disciples were absolutely blind and deaf to the WORD of the LORD, even when He gave it to them straight. For, when they saw the dread mystery of His Cross with their eyes, they still did not see how the WORD of God was fulfilling the WORD He had shown to His prophets, as when David cried out: “In my distress, I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God, and He heard my voice from within His Temple, and my cry did enter into His ears.” (2 Sam 22:7) Not until they came into the Empty Tomb and into the presence of the risen Savior —i.e., beyond the visible surface and into the mystery of our origin and our end—did they finally begin to understand the Scriptures.

Do you understand? Can you see? The LORD heard our cry from within His Temple, is what David said. He heard our cry from inside our tomb; He heard it as Immanuel, God with us in our death that He made His own.

Brothers and sisters, where were we, spiritually, when we came into Great Lent six weeks ago? We read on Cheesefare Thursday as we came into Great Lent: “It was the Day of Preparation, and the Light of the Sabbath was beginning to dawn (epifosken).” What light? It was the Light of God’s Sabbath Rest, the Light of creation; it was beginning to shine already from the Tomb of God. (Lk 23:54)

Again, the Lenten Fast is the “flower of abstinence that grows for all the world from the tree” of the Cross (LT 230).  The Fast itself is the Cross the LORD gives us as our weapon by which we lose our life for the sake of Christ and fight to make our way into the tomb of Lazarus, working to overcome the passions that bind us hand and foot, working in fear and trembling to put to death the “body of death”, the sin that has become embodied, incarnate, in us. But, hear the Gospel. When we take up the Fast, we are stepping into the Light of the New Creation that was beginning to dawn on the world already from the Savior’s Tomb, from the Sabbath Rest of God. As we go through Lent, holding fast to the Fast, the Cross, we are walking in the Light as He is in the Light. It is the Light in which we are losing our life for the sake of Christ, the Light in which we are laid to rest in our grave, that we may find our life in the Tomb of Christ, in His Light in which is our Life, the Holy Spirit of God.

Through the Fast (which presupposes prayer, the two are inseparable) we descend into the tomb of our heart as Lazarus into His tomb. Through the Fast, our ears open so that we can hear the wd of the True Light calling to us from inside the root of our being, from inside our heart; and through the Fast, we lay hold the Cross He gives to us to unite ourselves to Him in His Tomb that we may rise with him on the Third Day.

And so, from within the Temple of His Body, from within the tomb of our flesh He has made His own, from within the “tomb of our heart”, as St Macarius (4th cent.) along with St Paul and the whole of Christian Tradition teaches us to say, He cries out with a great voice that penetrates into the heart, the tomb, of each one of us: “Come forth!” You come forth! You, the real you, the you that is in the image of God, you come forth. Take up the cross, deny yourself; that is, deny your idolatry, let it fall away like the bandages and stinking rags that bound Lazarus. Hear the LORD’s call! It is even a command, and all the LORD’s commandments are life-giving! Hear the command. Seize hold of your will, your deep will that originates in the root of your being, your deep heart. Willfully, unite yourself to Christ who has united Himself to you. He denied Himself for you. He took up His Cross for you. He lost His life for your sake. Now, you come forth and deny yourself for Christ. Take up your Cross for Christ. Lose your life for the sake of Christ. Do you see? The point of our union with Christ is the Cross. This is the spiritual substance of the Fast and of all the ascetical disciplines of the Church. This is the mystery of the Church, the Body of Christ!

These ascetical disciplines of the Church are not something we think about, or study so that we can tag a lot of fancy consonants after our name and write learned books about and become famous and admired. They are what we do, hidden away from the eyes of the world deep in our inner man where no one can see; for our goal, our longing is to come out from behind the stinking rags that bind us, so that, in the root of our being, in our heart, we may find ourselves face to face with the Only Lover of Mankind, the divine Image in whom we were made, the Source of the Beauty and Goodness our soul longs for.

We cry “Hosanna! Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the LORD!” because as He made our death His own, we make His death our own and we are shaken with fear and trembling when we see what comes from the exchange: by His death, He destroys our death, so that when we lose our life for His sake, we find it in His Tomb that is empty of death. It is the Font of our resurrection. Now, we live in the Tomb of the Savior, the Sabbath Rest of God. In the Tomb of His most blessed Sabbath, we live no more in the life of this world that stinks from the rotting death and corruption at its core; for, we live in the True Light in whose death we find our true life and our true name. We who were so ugly, so stinking from the spiritual death and corruption that festers in our root are cleansed and restored to our original beauty in the sweet fragrance of the Holy Spirit. And, mighty deed of mighty deeds: we are born from above as children of God, children of the True Light in whom we ourselves become luminous and radiant, clothed in the Robe of Glory that originally clothed us, the Robe that is Christ Himself. And this is not a religious theory! The faithful throughout the centuries, nay throughout the millenia, all the way back to Enosh, Abel and Adam, know it as the really real. And we can really know it as real if we would but hearken to the voice of His command and come forth from the tomb of our heart and follow Christ into the joy and glory of His Holy Pascha! Amen!

 
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St Herman's Orthodox Church
5355 38th Ave So; Minneapolis, MN 55417
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Upcoming Services

Friday, May 24th
Fr Paul returns from vacation
Saturday, May 25th
5 pm Vigil
Sunday, May 26th
9 am "Synaxis" of St Herman's: "Summer in the Library" downstairs, with Fr Paul
Beginning series of reflections on Gender, Erotica, the Image and Likeness of God
940 am Hours
10 am Divine Liturgy of St JhnChrys
12 NOON Cof
Wednesday, May 29th
7 pm Daily Vespers