St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

The Seeds of Divine Company

Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, October 14, 2012

Luke 8:5-15 (4th Sunday of Luke)

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

Glory to Jesus Christ!

God is the great sower of the seeds.  From the beginning of creation he has been sowing and all the way to its end he will still be sowing.  In one of Paul Simon’s most beautiful songs he writes "creation is never done."  Science tells us that the universe is still expanding! Into what, who knows?  But once a creator always a creator.

And we too are being created, if we allow it, moment by moment as seeds of Divine Grace fly to us on the winds of the Spirit.  If we are conscious, awake, and aware, that is, if our hearts are open, soft, and pliable, then those seeds will find the good soil in us to plant themselves and grow. 

Mindfulness of the incalculable, unlimited, ubiquitous Love of the Holy Trinity is the only requirement.  Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me.”   The Lord is knocking on the door of every heart.

Every moment we live the Lord is sending us signs of his presence.  We whisper his unpronounceable Name with every breath we take, are surrounded with the beauty of his creation, enjoy the fruits of all his creative labors at each and every moment, come face to face with his Divine Image in every person we meet.  Each of these is a knock at the closed door of the heart.  Each is a seed of the Word of God.  Each a refreshing breeze from heaven.  It takes extraordinary effort to ignore God.

We have but to listen, hear, see, and be willing to drop everything we are doing in the busy houses of our tangled and chaotic minds and acknowledge him.

Often we are too busy. We are in the kitchen cooking up either a delicious meal for our friends or concocting some poisonous brew for our enemies like Shakespeare’s witches.  Whichever is the case, when the knock comes and  our little world lights up with the signs of his immanent arrival we are faced with a choice.  Drop the cooking and run to the door or not.

Think of how annoying it is when the doorbell rings and you do not want to answer.  At every ring more frustration sets in. “Does he not know I am busy and do not want to be disturbed?” And the bell rings again. We grow more and more tense. Our shoulders hunch, our face becomes tight, our lips are pursued.  All our energy is spent trying with all our might not to give in and answer the door. And then in our distracted state we forget to put tahini in the homos and add sugar instead of salt!

The practice of meditation and prayer is the act of hearing the knock and opening the door, and inviting the Lord to come in and sit with us awhile.  During that time we attend to him like good hosts and sit at his feet like Mary did listening intently to every word he speaks or enjoying the moments of silence when we have an opportunity to simply bask in his presence.  We become overjoyed like Zaccheus. “He has come to my house today!”

We must make our preparations first. The television and the phone must be off during the visit.  If we have prepared well, no trips to the kitchen will be necessary. The tea and cookies are on a tray on the coffee table in the sitting room. Everything we need to be able to sit with him undistracted by anything is done.  The time has come to listen and let go of everything else.

So, as we prepare to pray we make sure there is a comfortable place, clean and tidy, with whatever we need available to inspire us, a Bible, a candle, an icon.  The phone is off. The television, off.  We spend some time calming our hearts and collecting our thoughts so that we can be as receptive as possible.  For ten, twenty, thirty minutes or more we sit in the presence of God each and every day. Don’t worry about saying much.  Words are alright of course, but often just get in the way.  Imitate God when you pray.  He says very little with words and so much with silence.  God does not communicate in soliloquies.

What I am talking about is described by St. Gregory of Sinai. When we are in meditation we are not to allow ourselves to be distracted by anything – by bad thoughts or good ones.  Even the good ones are distractions.  There is only one thing needful and that is to attend to the sound of his voice.  And the sound of his voice is mostly Silence.  Make no mistake.  Silence is his voice.  His audible words are few.  Lovers do not need many words to express themselves.  And every visit of God to our soul is the visit of the Lover of our soul.  People are often afraid of silence, but there is no need.   Instead of using many words imitate God when you pray.  He says very little with words and so much with silence.  God does not communicate with soliloquies that can be heard with the ears, but only with the heart..

Silence reveals two voices: that of the wounded self and that of God.
Silence reveals them, Love unites them.

So our job is to make sure we are listening and paying attention, being wakeful and open to the sound of the Lord’s knock at the door.  It is for us to make sure that we are paying attention to the prayer that is taking place with every breath we take and to the signs of God’s omnipresent Love all around us.  So we must practice letting go of distractions and prepare our hearts for his coming.    Confess what must be confessed so the living room of the heart is clean.  Dust it often, vacuum daily, polish the furniture every time dust settles, clean the windows and the mirrors.  Say, I’m sorry, as often as necessary to everyone we wrong, but only when necessary. Hearts can become cluttered with false piety as with dirt.  And we must not be afraid when he comes and all our weakness and sadness are put on display by his Radiance.  Perhaps in the very next visit we will ourselves become radiant.

Just a little opening is all it takes.  Rumi says, that every wound we have is the place the light shines through.  The wounds we have are his wounds. He has shared them with us already. There is nothing to fear and Enlightenment to gain.