Holiness Of Body
(Prodigal son, but ON HOLINESS OF THE BODY
7 February 1988
In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
Today's Epistle of Saint Paul acquires all its depth and beauty in the context of the Feast of the Nativity of Christ. How precious, how full of meaning is the human flesh of man that God could become Man, take on humanity not only as a soul, but as a body! How wonderful is the human body, that the fullness of Divinity could abide in the flesh through the Incarnation! And we must reflect on this in all our relationships with one another: not only human personalities in their soul, in their spiritual being can be related to God intimately, deeply but also our bodies can be pervaded with the divine presence.
Speaking of the Incarnation, Saint Maxim the Confessor says a thing which I have said so often here that the Divinity and the humanity were united in Christ as fire can pervade a sword of iron, so that one can no longer separate the one from the other and yet, they are not mutually exclusive; there is no confusion, there is not a change in the one or in the other; both remain themselves, and yet fire become part of iron, and iron become part of fire.
And so it is also with us when we are merged into the waters of Baptism; these waters of baptism a r e like the fire of the furnace; they cleanse us from all the impurity of sin, from all our separatedness from God; they burn away, as it were, all that is alien to our God and to our Saviour. And we are united in a new way to Him; we don't become now creatures in the sense in which Adam was; we become the new man in the sense in which Christ is man in all His depth and glory. And we are called to carry in ourselves both the deadness of Christ – that is His alienation to all that is evil, all that is sin, all our separation from God, all our separation from one another, all the brokenness of our (inner self), and at the same time carry within ourselves at work within us, conquering us gradually, the power, the reality of the Resurrection.
And this is effected by the Holy Spirit Who is sent to us; the Spirit Who is represented on icons as flames of fire that weld us to Christ, that is not only indwelling us as though we remained unchanged and He lived within us as one can live within a room, within a temple; He pervades us, m o u l d i n g us into the likeness of God, changing us and making us through the gift of the Spirit and through all the action of the Spirit of God, making us new, day after day re-conquering the ground which we let go off by waxing old, returning to old ways.
He unites us to Christ, and we become the living members of (it), an extension of His incarnate presence, incipiently first, and as we grow spiritually, as we become more and more Christ's own – ever increasingly.
And when we look at one another – with what sense of awe, of veneration should we see each other! Not only in spiritual beings, not only as minds and hearts that touch us deeply, but as bodies of the incarnation in whom life divine flows, /which is/ being pervaded with the life of God Himself – in prayer, through the sacraments. With what veneration should we look at one another: touch one another: we are touching the body of Christ!
And it is only through pure love, through the purity of love that we can touch one another in a holy manner; and in marriage unite in a way which is c o m m u n i o n. In the words of one of the great Saints of Orthodoxy, a communion that can be compared to nothing but to (a, the) communion of God with us in the holy sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
If we only could look round us and see in each of us, not only spiritually but also bodily, the divine presence, worship one another, truly worship G o d in one another – how different our world would be! And it is never too late to start – let us start now! Let us start now, let us make haste to see in the very bodies of those who surround us the flow of life divine, the presence of Christ incarnate, the presence of eternal life communicated to each of us through the Baptism, the sacraments, and the free, loving gift of the Holy Spirit. And let us build a world that is worthy of this holiness of the body, this holiness of matter sanctified, divinised by God. Amen!