St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

Like a Pure Diamond

 

Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (5:14-19)

In stark contrast to the horror of the terrorist attack in Nice, we are drawn by Christ to speak of what is true and beautiful about human nature and about the Gospel of peace and compassion.  We cannot allow ourselves to forget the Lord’s truth especially in the face of the truly demonic. If we do, then the light in us may flicker in the face of despair, although we are assured by the Beloved Apostle that it can never be extinguished.

“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.”

It is our choice whether to manifest this light or to hide it.

You are the Light of the World

Today’s Gospel reading begins with the startling words, “You are the light of the world.”  In another place Jesus says this of himself. Do you see the truth of Julian of Norwich’s teaching that between God and the soul there is no in between?  Both assertions are true. For this reason I want to quote Thomas Merton who capsulizes this truth so beautifully.

“At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak His name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely ... I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is every-where.”

I don’t know about you, but I am inspired and deeply moved by this vision. In another place Merton says that if we could see this in others the only danger is that we would have a tendency to fall down and worship each other.  The message, “You are the light of the world,” extends inward and outward and we can also say to one another, “You, too, are the light of the world.”

We Are At War With ourselves

Even the most wicked among contain this light and that is why they are so often tortured from within; their unnatural wickedness vies with their natural goodness and the internal war often gives birth to terrible deeds.  So, the scripture that speaks of “turning swords into plowshares” is a metaphor for ending the war within and also the war without. 

The “peace that passes understanding” cannot be realized in us until the internal war comes to an end. Peace in the world cannot be realized until we make peace within. And once tasted and realized this peace becomes a real possibility, a foundation and framework for life, and our spiritual effort pivots to the preservation and sharing of this peace in all circumstances. “Do not let anything take away your peace of mind,” teaches the Elder Thaddeus.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

Our Vocation as Christians

…is to be at peace and to share this peace. And so every choice we make must be in service of this peace. We must choose only those things in life that help to every more aware of the light within and never allow darkness to dictate to us how we are to live.

There are few more beautiful examples of this teaching than in the well-known Prayer of St. Francis. Let me end my sermon by praying it with you. And to emphasize the significance of this as a prayer worthy of the Church and of our devotion and in the face of the grief of all people around the world who suffer from those who prefer darkness to light, please rise as we pray and determine to be a light in this sad world.

The Peace Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

In closing let me offer these beautiful and peaceful words of the poet Rumi and ask that we all consider making them a motto for living our lives every day.

“Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone's soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”
     ― Rumi

How we live is a choice we make moment by moment. May we never be a source of pain to this world.