You Are The Light. You Are The City on the Hill!
The famous philosopher Aldus Huxley once wrote: “If most of us remain ignorant of ourselves it is because self-knowledge is painful and we prefer the pleasures of illusion.” Huxley wrote “The Perennial Philosophy” in 1945 and suggested that the basic wisdom of authentic human reality is common to all religions. An interesting historical note, he died the same day as C.S. Lewis and President John F. Kennedy. There is a great little book written that imagines these three having a conversation after death. It’s called “Between Heaven and Hell” by Peter Kreeft. I recommend it highly!
While I would argue that Huxley misses some vital information that would draw him to the better conclusion that it is Faith focused exclusively on Jesus Christ that best sets humans free, I do agree with his statement above that we humans all too often prefer the ease of temporary pleasures over the hard work of truly knowing ourselves. And I would agree that timeless wisdom isn’t subject to the temporary whims of fads of philosophy or moral relativism. There is the Wisdom that stubbornly refuses to be modified by our selfish desires. And fighting against that wisdom only leads to destruction personally and communally. Just look at the chaos that passes itself off as wisdom today, and you can see how destructive to human lives a false ideology truly is.
Look at our lesson today in Matthew 5:14-19:
The Lord said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
The basic misunderstanding of the ministry of Jesus is that He came to set up something different than the “Old Testament” idea! This is wrong. Jesus is the fulfillment of the “Old Testament” wisdom and He is the continuity of the wisdom of God from “let there be light” to “even so, Come Lord Jesus.” The wisdom from start to finish is the same, and that wisdom is made flesh and lives among us in the Person of Jesus Christ. He is THE Way, THE Truth, and THE life, and no one comes to God the Father except through Him. This continuity between the First Covenant and the New Covenant inaugurated by Christ is vital to the understanding of WHO the Church is, who YOU are meant to be!
The message of the Orthodox Faith is that This Wisdom of God, this “Logos” of God, is the Person of Jesus Christ, and Christ has come to go into battle on our behalf to destroy the “enemies” of God’s humans, namely Sin, Death, and Satan. Jesus Christ does this by perfectly living the Wisdom of God in the very flesh we all share with Him. And then He enters into death, a very horrible and ugly death so that He can destroy death from the inside. And He confronts that old serpent, the devil, and removes any and all power from that old Deceiver to enslave us to the slavery of mortality. Jesus Christ is Light and He destroys darkness so that we no longer stumble and fall, gripped by not being able to SEE the wise way to live.
What does that have to do with wisdom, you may ask. Well, look at the passage. Jesus now says we are the light of the world as we embrace Him as the Light. And he goes on to explain that He hasn’t come to destroy any of the wisdom of Moses and the Prophets. On the contrary, He is here to fulfill all that wisdom and personify that wisdom, and now share His light with all of us so we, too, can embrace and be embraced by that wisdom! SO THAT we might be as free and alive as He is! And, so we can share His Light with all around us so they can be free too!
Powerfully, one of the implications of this reality is that this wisdom is never subject to the fads of this or that current shallow ideology that might currently be infecting our society. This wisdom means that no matter what might be popular now or widely accepted as “the current thing” the wisdom of Christ isn’t subject to popular vote or the spirit of the age. In fact, Christ’s wisdom stands above all these shallow winds of human folly and reveals them for the childish sentimentality that they are. His Wisdom also invites us out of the slavery of the narcissistic undisciplined passions fed by our own egos into the freedom of passions disciplined and now turned into the “servants” they were meant to be!
Today, as we recall the Feast of the Three Great Hierarchs – St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. John Chrysostom, we are confronted with the lives of these three great heroes of the Faith that was meant to be a healing of our rational minds and a lifestyle of experiencing intimacy with God Himself. So, are you tempted to fall into the spirit of the age that questions the wisdom of the Church concerning morality or perspective? Well, you are not alone. The deceiver wants nothing more than for you to question the timeless wisdom and morality of Normal Orthodoxy so that you will be enslaved to the dark passions that destroy. Our Three Hiearchs invite you to embrace a Normal Orthodoxy that sets a man free.
P.S. The three most great luminaries of the Three-Sun Divinity have illumined all of the world with the rays of doctrines divine and true; they are the sweetly-flowing rivers of wisdom, who with godly knowledge have watered all creation in clear and mighty streams: The great and sacred Basil, and the Theologian, wise Gregory, together with the renowned John, the famed Chrysostom of golden speech. Let us all who love their divinely-wise words come together, honoring them with hymns; for ceaselessly they offer entreaty for us to the Trinity.