St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

The Light and the Law

Sermon Preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, July 15, 2007

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Jesus, the Light of the World, says that we, too, are the light of the world. He is the Sun and we are the moon, reflectors and receptors of the Divine Radiance. And this is why we were created: to bear the light of God and to become brighter and brighter, progressing in the likeness to God in whose image we have been made.

St. Paul writes of the potential we hold saying that the whole of creation eagerly awaits the revealing of the children of God. It is the revelation of the Light of God overflowing from the human heart for which the cosmos is holding its breath.

Psuedo-Macarius writes, “The countless lamps which are burning were all lit at the same fire…thus Christians shine brilliantly through the action of the divine fire, the Son of God. Their lamps that have been lit are in the depths of their hearts.”

To shine like this is contingent on the purification of our hearts.

St. Isaac of Syria writes, “Purify yourself and you will see heaven in yourself. In yourself you will see angels and their brightness, and you will see their Master with them and in them. The spiritual homeland of the person whose soul has been purified is within. The sun that shines there is the light of the Trinity. The air breathed by the entering thoughts is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter…Such a person rejoices every hour in the contemplation of his soul and marvels at the beauty that appears, a hundred times brighter than the brightness of the sun. That is the kingdom of God hidden within us, according to the words of the Lord.”

The other day I passed a man on a bicycle who was shouting and cursing at everyone he saw. Filled with a terrible, consuming anger he could not hold it in. This was as sure a glimpse of hell as I have ever seen. Naturally, we try to avoid such people. They frighten us, but are we really much different? The same thing happens to us in varying degrees when we are overwhelmed with some passion. Still the light cannot be extinguished. It burns, even if only an ember, in every heart. The debris of life might seem to smother the flame, but we are assured by the Lord that it cannot go out. All we need to do is turn consciously from the passions that all spring from fear and ignorance and awaken to the truth that we are loved by God.

When we come to embrace the love of God and accept it as our own both the heart and body are inflamed with light. What was seen as metaphor becomes much more than metaphor. The Divine Light in the faithful shines like the sun with a light that can be seen and warmth that can be felt. There are those among us whose countenance is bright and whose spirits are warm. St. Isaac says that when you find such a person you can be sure that it is the activity of the Holy Spirit at work in them. We are drawn to such people as moths to flame.

After Jesus speaks about light and lamps he says a few words about the law and the prophets. Not even the tiniest part of the law will pass away until all is fulfilled. This does not mean that we are bound to complete the entire law ourselves! That would be impossible! Jesus did this for us. Throughout his life all the way to Cross and beyond He fulfilled the law and the prophets for us. That is why He said on the Cross, “it is finished,” or in another translation, “all is accomplished.”

Jesus taught that the law really consists in two commandments “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself.” By taking on the human nature we all share the Lord has accomplished this completely. Now we are invited to share in this fulfillment by partaking of His Divine Nature.

St. John Climacus writes that, “Love is an abyss of light, a fountain of fire.” This is the fire that transforms, purifies, heals and ushers us into the deepest mysteries. The brightness is so bright that we think we cannot bear it and yet, the potential is unlimited.

Listen to this amazing account from St. Isaac.

“It happens that at certain moments that delight and enjoyment invade the whole body. And the fleshly tongue can say no more; to such a degree now have earthly objects become but dust and ashes. The initial delights, those of the heart, fill us while we are awake. The spirit burns at the hour of prayer, the moment of reading, in the course of frequent meditations or long contemplations. But the final delights come to us differently, often during the night, in the following way: when we are between sleep and wakefulness, when we are asleep without being asleep and awake without really being awake. These delights invade a person and the whole body throbs. It is clear that this is nothing other than the kingdom of heaven.”

“It does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know we shall be like him,” writes the Apostle. Hearing the testimony of the scriptures and the saints what is left for us to do, but allow it to happen in us?