The Threshold of the Eternal Feast

A Homily for the Third Sunday of Pentecost

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The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Mt. 6:22-33).   

The Lord speaks in today’s Gospel about the secret to a simple life—that amongst our sorrow, amongst our trials, among our hardships, we take thought for nothing.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but live easily, to not be a slave to all that wants to enslave us and deprive us of our joy in life”—this is what His words mean. Then our eye will be simple, childlike, bright, trusting in God, because the light of the body is the eye. If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, says the Lord, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. Your whole body will be dark if your eye will be darkened by some sin, if it loses that simplicity, the integrity of the vision of life to which the Lord calls us.

Such impure, dark eyes so many have today! Such a dark life and dark paths of those who do not clearly see what the Lord reveals. They reason thus: “Of course it is good to serve God, but we are not spirits; we have bodies, earthly lives, and we must watch after them.”

Serving two masters, the Savior says, inevitably leads to a state where we begin to hate one master and to love the other: All of our attention goes to pleasing one, and we relate to the other with great negligence. The more people begin to love “the other master”—mammon—the God of worldly riches—the more they hate the Lord and the Church. Their hatred continues until they renounce God, doing everything so that nothing can prevent them from becoming rich and being confident that everything is under their control, that they are completely secure.

The idol of mammon, in fact, is death, the Lord tells us today. It is precisely upon our many cares, which make our whole life useless and meaningless, filling it with constant fear, that we will eat and drink tomorrow. And truly, soon there will be nothing to eat or drink. And there will be, thanks to our many worries, nothing to breathe, because due to the excessive development of science and technology, from the desire to ensure ourselves far into the future, mankind destroys even nature. Even nature will soon cease teaching man. Look, it edifies you, the Lord tells us today, but man destroys everything.

From vain living, Russia, the richest country in the world in natural resources, became the most impoverished. If many cares penetrate into the Church, Christ says today, it means the end of the world is approaching. If we first give thought to that which people who don’t know God care about, not knowing who to trust and what to rely on, if the order of living without giving care for tomorrow will be overturned in the Church, then the light which is in us will become darkness. If therefore, says the Lord, the light that is in thee be darkness, then what kind of darkness? It is that darkness which will be at the coming of darkness—the powers of darkness, of the end of the world.

We must learn to trust God, to learn to see the whole path of history and all that happens in our lives with simple childlike eyes. The more we trust the Lord and seek His kingdom and His righteousness, the more hope we will have that all will be settled with our Fatherland, because the Lord Himself will then participate in our want.

We must seek not only for the Heavenly Kingdom, but for His righteousness—that is, not only to fulfill everything and go to the Divine services, and then leaving the church, to go about our business, thinking, “Prayer is prayer, and work is work.” In such an instance, the greatest religion—the true faith—turns into superstition. From not seeking God’s righteousness, we deprive ourselves of the gift of trusting the Lord.   

Photo: Bardsey's Wildlife Photo: Bardsey's Wildlife

The Lord speaks today such beautiful, wondrous works about how man should live, pointing to the birds of the heavens, and to the lilies and grass of the fields. Behold the fowls of the air, He says, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

“Well, but,” some say, “do the birds really not toil, not gathering anything into their barns? Look at the sparrows, or the swifts, or the swallows, or the wagtails. How much they labor for their daily food!” But the Lord is speaking of something else—not about them not toiling, but about not worrying. They have no cares. They live absolutely carefree, easily. It is such a free life that the Lord proclaims to us. He does not speak about not giving our life the ordinary forethought. He’s not speaking about being negligent, irresponsible, and thoughtless people.

Idleness is a temptation from God. Just as the devil tempted the Lord Himself, suggesting He throw Himself from a height, referencing Scripture: He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone (Mt. 4:6), so it is here. Instead of trusting God—pride. Instead of joy and wisdom—madness and despair. The greatest secret of life which we must learn is boundless trust in God.

Not knowing God, people seek earthly things, because they don’t know any better. They seek earthly goods with anxiety and concern, because they live without God in this world and do not understand that there is the providence of God, that there is the Heavenly Father, Who loves us endlessly and knows better than us what we need.

Why are we able to endlessly listen to birds and look at field flowers? From what darkness and cold do flowers grow, and with what radiance and joy does the Lord vest them, such that no earthly king in all his glory has not such festive clothes! Flowers exist to remind us that life is a feast—the threshold of the eternal feast for which man was created. And birds, giving thought to nothing, live the very happiest of lives. They sing amongst the branches and praise the Lord. If we will worry about nothing as they do, we will sing as they do, always rejoicing, always thanking God.

Archpriest Alexander Shargunov
Translated by Jesse Dominick


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