Come and See the Light! - July 3rd 2022
3rd Sunday of Matthew
Link to Gospel and Apostolic Reading: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
The Lord said, "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear? For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well."
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.
Christ is in our Midst!
Spring in Jordan
In Jordan, construction of houses is totally different than it is here in the US. For example, blinders are embedded in the construction within the concrete blocks, and they can be rolled up and down as they are part of the window. And usually, they are made of heavy solid wood that a little child cannot roll them up. They need strong muscles.
So every winter my parents would close the blinders to help with heat insulation, and we as children we could not open them, so they would stay closed till the winter ends. And when they are closed, and when the lights are off, the room is pitch-black. In the spring my mom would come and open those blinders, and becomes time to open the windows, clean them from the dirt that has been accumulating through the winter time, and let the light in. It is a totally different experience, a totally different feeling, and totally different life when the windows are open. This was my first experience with physical enlightenment.
The Gospel this morning has two main themes that I would like to focus on if your love allow me: Spiritual Enlightenment, and Fearlessness.
The first thing ever that we hear God speak He says: “Let there be light”,
The reason He said that because He himself did say in Matthew 12: 34 “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”, so God Himself is light, in Vespers Psalm 103 we say: “Who weareth light as like a garment”, so He creates what is according to Him, what is He abundant of. In Psalm 35 we sing: “For with thee is the fountain of life, in thy light shall we see light”. Hence the Church sings, “We glorify the Father, we exalt the Son, and we worship the Holy Spirit—the indivisible Trinity who exists as One—the Light and Lights, the Life and Lives, who grants light and life to the ends of the world”
And since God is spirit, we understand all of these verses in the spiritual and not physical understanding. God is the source of spiritual uncreated light.
So what did the Lord Jesus Christ mean when he said “if your eye is sound”? He meant keeping our mind (our nous) which is the spiritual eye of the soul healthy. A healthy soul lives a life of obeying God’s commandments, and this obedience gives enlightenment, and it manifests itself in unceasing prayer.
Whenever we hear the term “unceasing prayer”, we immediately think of the monks of Mount Athos, or the monks in the Egyptian desert who are praying and fasting, and doing vigils day and night, and we immediately think to ourselves: “well, I cannot imitate that”, and we dismiss our ability of prayer without ceasing.
But what I would like to tell you brothers and sisters today is that unceasing prayer is required from all of us, who are spiritually sick, and strive to be healed. The light of our constant prayers heals all darkness. The form of our spiritual life might change for us who are struggling with work, family, mortgage, bills, and our cars breaking down, than those who are outside the world, and fighting even bigger and more fierce fights than ours, but this is what we all are striving to do as Christians who want to live all of their eternity in the presence of God: unceasing prayer.
So How Can We do it
For us in the world, daily prayer is our daily medicine, and has to be part of our daily life, akin to a blood pressure medication that has to be taken daily. The amount of which is left to the discretion of the doctor, the spiritual father, but the practice of it is vital to restoring our spiritual life to its fullness. Second, everything that we do during the busy day should be done in the purpose and the form of a prayer: which is to give Glory to God in all we do. If you work with patients, or projects, or study, offer your work as a sacrifice of praise to God. If you deal with hard people at work, or you are suffering from sickness or pain, ask God for patience, and offer your patience as prayer to God. If you are around your family or friends, Glorify God for them and ask God to bless them and bless your time with them. When it is time to sleep, ask for the rest from God and glorify Him for the day you spent. When it is time to wake up, Glorify God for the rest He has given you, and for the new day He has given you to repent and walk towards Him. In everything that you do, Cross yourself. When you wake up Cross yourself. Before food, after food, before work, when you are dealing with tough people, cross yourself and ask for wisdom, patience, and grace. Do everything with your eyes, both physical and spiritual, on the Lord. As the prophet of the Lord Elisha would say in 2 Kings 5:16 “The Lord lives, before whom I stand”. He always saw himself standing in the presence of the Lord. As we also say when we pray to the Holy Spirit: Who art everywhere present and fillest all things.
Hence, we are not drowning in the business of life, but we are flying above earthly life, on the winds of the Holy Spirit, and we are in direct sunlight where no shadow can cover this light. And therefore, we can be “light in the Lord. And Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8)
What helps our nous in healing and keep us enlightened is the daily reading of scriptures. Here is THE PRAYER that the priest reads BEFORE THE GOSPEL
Priest: Illumine our hearts, O Master who lovest mankind, with the pure light of thy divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of thy Gospel teachings; implant in us also the fear of thy blessed commandments, that trampling down all carnal desires, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living both thinking and doing such things as are well-pleasing unto thee. For thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God, and unto thee we ascribe glory, together with thy unoriginated Father and thine all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
The second theme for today’s Gospel is healing from anxiety, and since most of us are children of the Church, and love Christ, some of us might experience a different form of anxiety than worrying about food and bills, some of us feel anxiety about spiritual manners. A number of examples would be: they feel afraid because they have not prayed enough, or when they sin they feel utter despair, or they want to obey the Church commandments, not out of love and understanding why we do what we do, but out of fear and anxiety, or even setting a high bar for themselves spiritually and constantly feeling that they are doing less. All of these are struggles that we face as people who live in the Church. But this is not what the Church teaches. Those of us who live this way are like a 5-year-old who keep constantly telling themselves: “Dad is going to kill me,” While their father is most loving and most merciful. Let me read to you from St. Athanasius the Great’s book: “Against the heathens”, while this was talking about people who were worshipping idols, it also applies to people who are living in any form of fear or anxiety:
4. For as if a man, when the sun is shining, and the whole earth illumined by his light, were to shut fast his eyes and imagine darkness where no darkness exists, and then walk wandering as if in darkness, often falling and going down steep places, thinking it was dark and not light—for, imagining that he sees, he does not see at all—so, too, the soul of man, shutting fast her eyes, by which she is able to see God, has imagined evil for herself, and moving therein, knows not that, thinking she is doing something, she is doing nothing. For she is imagining what is not, nor is she abiding in her original nature; but what she is evidently the product of her own disorder. 5. For she is made to see God, and to be enlightened by Him;
How many times we sing in the Church “For that art a good God and lovest mankind, and unto thee we ascribe Glory”. Thou art a merciful God, Thou art compassionate, etc… How many times we sing in the Church “Lord have mercy” asking that God gives us His infinite mercy?
The Holy Spirit is called the comforter, He is called that way because he gives us the spirit of consolation and peace that surpasses all thought. God is love and is inviting you and me to a communion of love, not judgement, not anxiety, but love as the father of the prodigal son who is always opening his arms and ready to offer the fatted calf for his child. Any thought that does not give you peace, is not from the Holy Spirit, even if it was about your spiritual life. Wake up to these thoughts and ask for discernment. If you have any question about what we do in the Church, come and ask, if I don’t know the answer, and many times I wont, I will try to find it or at least direct you how to find it. Don’t come to the Church and obey rules blindly. Open your hearts and eyes to the love and understanding of God’s love and wisdom of His Church, I will let St. Paul address you as he addressed the Ephesians in Chapter 1:
16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.
Practice the medicine of unceasing prayer, and open the eyes of your soul to the light, and let the darkness of anxiety flee away so you are healed.
May the Mother of God and all the Saints help us in lightening the candles of our hearts by the light of the Lord, all the days of our life. Amen.