St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

A Life of Luminous Actions

 

Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, October 29, 2017

Mystics like De Chardin believed that the luminous heart of Christ is the center of the cosmos. We agree, of course.

Professor Jaroslav Pelikan said that the problem with modern theology is that it has lost sight of the Cosmic Christ. True Christianity always rests in the revelation that Christ is Forever and All-Encompassing.

The reason we have forgotten him, I believe, is encapsulated in this comment by St. Seraphim of Sarov, "The other person is my joy." We do not see. We do not see each other and so we do not see Christ. If we looked deeply with mindful awareness, we would see that he is the One who stares back at us through the eyes of our neighbors.

We also do not look deeply at nature for if we did we would also see God. One of the most memorable moments of my life was on the beach in El Salvador late at night with Jerred who had joined us that year on a mission trip.

The sky was so utterly brilliant with gigantic stars, hanging so low, it seemed that you could pluck them from the sky like clusters of grapes. The only sound was the gentle roll of the waves. The only artificial light was a single street lamp further down the beach and on boats far out at sea.

The only appropriate response to such astounding beauty was to stare wide-eyed in silence and amazement. No words were even possible. It would have been a sacrilege to allow even a single thought to disrupt this divine moment. That was pure, unadulterated Church. It was clear that we were observing and participating in the Eternal Cosmic Liturgy. The presence of God in that Moment was stronger than I had ever felt it up to that time.

But we are too distracted and too busy to look and to see. Usually instead of looking into the present moment, we are lost in our minds somewhere else entirely. We are either stuck in misty fantasies of the past or in fearful fantasies of the future. We are rarely in the present. We are sleep-walking and we miss God.

Presence and Awareness are everything. The Gospel story of the Woman with the Issue of Blood underscores this dramatically. Let me tell you how.

Because of the Law the Woman was imprisoned in her home for twelve years. If she had a family she could not touch them or cook for them or sleep near them. She could not leave her house. As I see it, she suffered from at least three traumas: the trauma of the disease, the trauma of the Law, and the trauma of her feelings of worthlessness.

The disease was horrifying. It destroyed any kind of life we might deem valuable. The Law defined her as unclean and she became identified in her own mind and that of society as Unclean. She was trapped in shame and fear. Shame is an emotion of the past and fear an emotion of the future. As St. Paul tells us, the Law is a curse. And far too often we bow to it even as it humiliates and mutilates human life. On top of this was the inevitable suffering of shame and guilt and the feeling of worthlessness. She had no choice but to surrender to trauma as her life. Freedom from suffering seemed completely out of reach… until God strolled by. 

Jean-Paul Satre put it well, “People often prefer a limited, punishing regime rather than face the anxiety of freedom.” The Woman had this choice: whether to remain imprisoned or to risk a mad dash for freedom.

But something happened one day to break open her prison. Jesus came to town. All of sudden a door opened. There was an alternative to living in shame and fear, the past and the future and she decided courageously to try it. He who is the embodiment of the Eternal Present was passing through and, no matter how difficult it would be, she was determined to see him by stealth. She became present.

At that moment when the moment she dared to enter into the Present Moment, her healing began. Shame and fear could no longer hold her. They melted in the Ocean of Grace in which all creation rests. The Divine Present is the ground of all existence. His creative and compassionate power surges through the universe like an electric current through wire. She touched him and connected with this power. 

In every present moment we have the possibility of connecting with him. As long as we resist the Present we will suffer a disconnect from the natural and life-giving flow which is the Holy Trinity. 

“I perceive that power has flowed from me.” His power surged through him and into her. Her disease was healed and she discovered the way of faith, which is, Present Moment living – non-resistant and non-clinging to past of future we live in freedom. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” as scripture tells us, and where is the Spirit? Always here and always right now.

To become fully present is to be with God and to touch eternity. The life of faith always invites us into the Eternal Present.

Faith is not something that we have, it is something that we do, not principals and doctrines, but luminous actions. All lumininous action is Mindful Moment-by-Moment Action. Remember “there are no enlightened people, there are only enlightened actions.” This means that enlightenment rests on living luminously moment from second to second. If we are not sure what to do, then there is a mindful response to that as well.  We wait, as Lao Tzu instructs, “unmoving until the right action arises by itself.” In the example of the Gospel, until we hear the Lord passing by. 

As we begin to life fully in the present, filling each moment with faith and love, we will begin spontaneously to “shine like the stars in heaven,” like the stars who danced before our eyes in the midnight skies of El Salvador.