Monday, April 14, 2014

Homily on true happiness

I am happy with the ancient Church of which I find myself a member. I delight in her endless cycle of lavish worship, poetically crafted and lusciously ceremonious. I even love the unscheduled pauses in worship when the cantors have to fill the time with nonsense syllables till the next stage of the liturgical dance is reached. All these things were carefully designed centuries ago to administer teaching and healing to barbarous nations who knew nothing of reading or writing, and were fallen into sometimes hideous diseases of body, mind and morals. This the ancient Christian architects knew prophetically would have application and relevance from their time till the end of the age. Human nature never changes, except when it is joined by transfiguration to the Divine Nature, in the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

Yet, there is an horrific proviso to my happiness with and delight in the elaborate, soul-fulfilling and mystical tangibles (but not the faith) of this Church. All that is seen, heard, smelled, tasted and touched in the conveyance of the mystírion to the logical flock of the great Shepherd King Jesus must be rooted in, must rest upon, must grow out of, must lead to, and must nourish in us, the evangélion, the eternal gospel, the living good news of the living God, which alone makes us disciples, alone heals our iniquities, alone frees us from bondage, alone empowers us to be passion-bearers, alone realizes in us our divine sonship, our royal priesthood, and finally brings us to the threshold of incorruption and life eternal. For all that is grasped by our senses is worthless unless we are made worthy by Christ to enter Paradise.

The world enthralls us and purchases our loyalty by its false promises and tantalizes us with the fear that we will be ‘left behind’ if we do not conform to its every demand. This is true of the world outside the walls of the ancient Church, and of the world within. But no matter, for all have been given equally the privilege of the yoke of Christ, from hierarch to humble believer. If you are a bishop, you are shepherd of souls in place of Christ, and your worldly life is forfeit for the sake of the burden laid upon you by your own choice. If you are a presbyter, your life is now and forever hidden with Christ in God and no longer your property, and you too must be willing to be broken but not divided, eaten but not consumed, as your Divine Prototype. If you are a deacon, your call begins with ‘waiting tables,’ but where does it end?

As for the rest of us, there is next to nothing to do, who live in the ancient Church, but to worship the Lord, to glorify Him by our every move, to consecrate our every thought and all our words to the work of mercy enjoined on us by Him who says, ‘blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.’ To this nothing superfluous can be added, nor anything essential cut away. Our lives in Christ are all or nothing, and we know where our treasure is. No, not our treasures, for there is only One, and everything else is His gift to us, who says ‘and all these other things shall be added to you as well.’ How can any of us forbear to be in Christ and not just say we are, when God has revealed Himself to us, face to face, in Jesus, who unashamedly tells us by way of invitation, ‘If you have seen me, you have seen the Father’?

Yes, the ancient Church, the one built on the Rock, no, not on St Peter though his name means the same, but on that Rock of which the psalmists chanted and to whom they cried incessantly for salvation. That Rock followed them in all their wilderness wanderings watering their bodies and souls, and then, when they least expected it, reappeared among them, as He does among us, as a Rock against whom all our iniquities crash and break. They rejected Him and refused the water He gives that wells up forever and gives drink to all who thirst, and still He offers without stint that life-giving spring to us who ring the miraculous font of new birth. Will we allow ourselves to be triply immersed, yield all our members to that death-defying plunge, and come out truly alive to join the cherubim, and not just represent them?

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