St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

The Temple of the Heart

 

Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, May 17, 2020

One of my teachers in seminary once told us that all preaching should be about the kingdom of God. I suppose it was because that was what Jesus talked about most during his three-year public ministry. In Matthew’s Gospel the Lord mentions “the kingdom of heaven” 32 times. In Luke and Mark the phrase kingdom of God is preferred. The Gospel of the Samaritan Woman is a prime example of this even though the word kingdom is never used.

Of all the amazing trailheads the Lord opens in his conversation with the Samaritan Woman I am most intrigued and inspired by this one.

"Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father…But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

This means that God, as spirit, cannot be localized or tied down to any place or thing, either “here or there.” Jesus, in fact warns us not to pay attention to those who say, “Looks here it is,” or “Look there it is.” And our prayers tell us that God is everywhere, filling all things, “here, or there” doesn’t work unless you add, like McCartney did, “here, there, and everywhere.” As usual, it is not either/or but both/and. 2 Corinthians 1:19 confirms this nondualistic approach,

“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not ‘yes’ and ‘no’, but in him was ‘yes...”

Now, Jesus does say that the kingdom of heaven is within you and among you, but he does not mean that to us exclusively. In God there are no favorites. There was a favorite argument we used to have at St. Vlad’s about whether the grace of God only exists in the church. Seminarians like to talk about such things. Silliness, if you ask me! The reason everything is alive and exists at all is because of grace. To say it only exists in this place or that makes no sense at all.

And so Jesus directs us not to hold too tightly to things that are temporal which “moth and rust consume and thieves break in and steal.” Instead he directs us to the heart where the Pearl of Great Price and the divine and eternal kingdom resides.

Here is a beautiful quote by Ansari of Hera, the 11th century Sufi saint:

“On the path to God two places of worship mark the stages, the material temple and the temple of the heart, make your best endeavor to worship at the temple of the heart.”

Worship in spirit and in truth is a matter of the heart. There is a “heavenly liturgy” in which the entire cosmos participates. You can hear it in the silence and in the sounds of nature and in daily life. There is nothing small and insignificant in God’s creation. Everything is a sacrament. If we do not learn to worship at the temple of the heart, we will miss it and, when we come to the material temple, we will not know how to worship “in spirit and truth” there or anywhere/

We must pray for the eyes to see and the ears to hear, that the Lord will send us his peace and our entire lives become a divine vision. Here is a beautiful prayer from Cardinal Newman that I offer you today as a prayer that does just that.

“Shine through Us Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that our lives may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through us, and be so in us, that every soul we come in contact with may feel your presence in our soul. Let them look up and see no longer us but only Jesus! Stay with us, and then we shall begin to shine as you shine; so to shine as to be a light to others; the light, O Jesus, will be all from you, none of it will be ours; it will be you, shining on others through us. Let us thus praise you in the way you love best by shining on those around us. Let us preach you without preaching, not by words but by our example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do, the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to you."

The Lord Jesus calls us to become true worshippers, to become acquainted with and to practice worship in “spirit and truth.” We must find the way to our hearts and when we do, we will know what it means. The pathway is open. It is the way of contemplation in which the eye of the soul unites the material and the spiritual worlds infusing the cosmos with the Light of Christ. His kingdom is in us and among us and yet we do not see it.

Lord Jesus, open our eyes.