Today’s readings are about our relationship to truth. 2 Kings shows how the community is dependent on God’s life giving truth. When the community abandons truth, its life is endangered. Matthew 7.1-5 speaks of this relationship in term of an unconditional imperative. One must cling to truth through the efforts of making right judgement. When one’s ego is presented, harm is done to our neighbour. Jesus emphasises the importance of correct judgements. Being unjust with others, ultimately, provokes God’s judgement on us. ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged: because the judgement you give are the judgements you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given.’
The direct link between the personal and the collective levels of justice should be noticed. Any historical captivity is the straightforward consequence of ignoring God’s presence in our neighbour. ‘The king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites’ for ‘the worshipped other gods.’
God’s presence is ‘like a play; which, akin to a large metallic ball is rolling even when it is not being played. Just like truth is present and effective in such towns too where no one tells the truth and every act is hypocrisy.’ (Janos Pilinszky, Conversations with Sheryl Sutton, Szépirodalmi Könyvkiadó, Budapest, második kötet, p.152.)
Truth is a warning. Truth is a call for conversion. Truth is the precondition of any life and growth. ‘Turn from your wicked ways and keep my commandments and laws in accordance with the entire Law I laid down for your fathers and delivered them through my servants and prophets.’
he spirituality of the Book of Common Prayer 1: Grace and ‘the molten calf’ (Deuteronomy 9,11-end; Acts 9,32-end)
‘ The Lord gave me the two tablets of stone, even the tablets of the covenant.’ ‘For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the Lord was wroth against you to destroy you. But the Lord hearkened unto me at that time also… I prayed therefore unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy greatness.’ Here, we see how Moses is a powerful intercessor. Jesus is our new Moses. We can imagine what an immense job it is to appease God and intercede for us – regarding our sins, as mankind, of historical scale.
‘ They are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image.’ The Sacred seems to provoke in us a contrary behaviour. It is almost like a Freudian dynamic. When we achieve something good, establish a meaning, a new moral code ‒ we tend to undermine it. ‘The molten image’ is a powerful existential metaphor. This is the resulted distortion of our best qualities. In religious terms, ‘the molten images’ stands for our lack of openness and thanksgiving for God’s gifts.
When Moses returned from Mount Sinai, ‘the mount burned with fire’. Our culture, at present, is revolting against its best principles of life and care for Creation. The land of our culture burns with fire. This is a sign that the ‘Symbolic Order’ (Kristeva) is being melted into the volcano of its own underlying chaos.
The good news is that our new Moses, Jesus has the power to solidify these melting foundations. What a dramatic image! ‘I prayed for Aaron also the same time. And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust.’ It is deeply symbolic that it is Aaron, the other ‘sacred leader’, who had submerged in the ‘revolt’ and led the making of the golden calf. There is a fallible part in all of us at the core of our ‘ability for culture’. Here, we are offered a vision of healing. The sins of our history, on a massive scale, can be seen from the outside as receding and becoming small. The source of this process is the powerful intercession of our new Moses, the Risen Lord: ‘I prayed therefore unto the Lord, and said, O lord, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance which thou has redeemed through thy greatness.’
The healing of Aeneas in Acts shows how God’s grace reverses and reshapes us. ‘And there Peter found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. And he said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.’ Symbolically, ‘illness’ is our distorted image, when who we supposed to be, fully functioning is ‘molten’.
Dorcas represents a ‘counter-force’ to this distortion. ‘Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.’ She was an active disciple. Active discipleship is important in reshaping ‘our molten/distorted image’.
When Dorcas had died, ‘all the widows stood by weeping’. They showed Peter ‘the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.’ The tears of these widows is an important existential image. The goodness of others can trigger out an inner transformation in us. We are transformed by their good works; and by those of ours. When Peter kneels down in the scene of healing and bringing Dorcas back to life, he kneels in front of this transformative goodness ‒ the source of it, Christ.
Peter heals. He participates in the power of Moses and Jesus to intercede. They restore Dorcas, and us, through his intercession. ‘Peter…kneeled down, and prayed; Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she was Peter, she sat up.’
Our being is restored: our ‘molten image’ regains its original shape and moral content. It is impossible to miss the scene from the Orthodox icons of Jesus’ descent to Hell. The detail of the image is the way Jesus holds the hands of the fallen Adam and Eve leading them to new life. ‘And Peter gave his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.’ We are re-melted into our fully functioning moral image. Your moral wholeness points beyond itself. It is a new ray of faith, hope, and love added to the ‘general brightness’ of our culture. In this way you are the icon of Christ, our Resurrected Lord. ‘And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.’
The value of spiritual life (Deuteronomy 5,1-21; Acts 5,12-6,7.)
The Lord who is Lord of life, wants to confirm us: our life is precious in his sight. ‘The Lord Our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.’ When one appreciates his or he life and is aware of its value then the value of the world in which we life opens up for us in its full weight. Being valuated by God we start recognising the dignity and value of the world which surrounds us. Our own value in the sight of God also shows the value of the lives of those people with whom we have contact, and of those whom we do not know. So when we look at the Holy Body of Christ on the Altar, we face our God, who loves us; who confirms our unique value. ‘The Lord talked with you face in the mount of the midst of the fire.’
When we experience how precious we are in the sight of God, his glance shines into the depth of our lives. In this loving exchange, we are called to recall the past events of our lives. Whatever we did, good and bad, God embraces us as a whole. He valuates us with our full story. The events of our lives are marked by his Providence. ‘I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.’
The term ‘spiritual life’ is very biblical. This is the nature of having a spiritual life that we reflect on our past, present and future. This Adoration of the Eucharist is an encouragement that we can recall past events. We can revisit them. Not only for the purpose of being assured of God’s healing of our past. There is a communal element in this recollection. When we give thanks for the healing of past events or the joys and gifts of the past, this is an opportunity to pray for those who were involved in those events.
‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me’. This is a call that we have to work on our spiritual life. Having a physical life or biological life (day-to-day businesses of life) is not enough. We need to acquire a spiritual life; a spiritual face. This life and this face is not fragile, not perishable. It is marked by God’s love. It is through this ‘contact of our faces’, between ours and God’s that his Spirit keeps us alive, really alive.
‘Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.’ This jealousy of God is one of the most intriguing feature of God. In view of the above said, it has an important meaning in terms of our spiritual life. ‘God is jealous’: he invites us to focus on him. This is a firm call to centre- and re-centre our life on Him.
For an individual, for a community, and for a culture ‒ it is dangerous to live without a spiritual life. It effects not only the course of how our individual life unfolds. Losing spiritual life, ignoring it, does affect the future of our community. Losing the contact with the Sacred (‘meaning of life’) inflicts upon the community a transgenerational trauma. Losing the joy and guidance of the Holy Spirit ‒ is ignoring the Covenant with God. The repair of this loss is a long, ‘transgenerational’ work.
In view of this loss, and gain, we can really valuate the life giving Face of God which his commandments reveal. Let us read them in love. ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain… Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man servant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor they stranger that is within thy gates… Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Thou shalt not kill. Neither shalt thou commit adultery. Neither shalt thou steal. Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour. Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or is ass, or any thing is thy neighbour’s.’
The Acts shows, symbolically, a ‘community of spiritual life’. We are united in the Spirit, and our individual lives form a community. ‘And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; so they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.’
As the Community of the Eucharist, we shall be prompted to find those ways in which our environment best can be served. The stake of being spiritually alive is precisely this: through prayer we can grow into a pro-active community. We shall have our vision of what to do… and we shall have the joy of the community as a resource.
The escape of the imprisoned apostles, symbolically, shows the liberation from our age, which spiritual life brings about. Our life in the Holy Spirit makes us free from the harmful constraints of our age. This is what the guards of said: ‘The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.’
Peter’s witness draws a beautiful portrait of Jesus whom we contemplate in the Eucharist. ‘The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, who ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.’
Let us re-read and cherish the words of Acts as the tangible very core of our spiritual life.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..