Wedding Garment (Matthew chapter 22 verses 11 and 12) - Printable Version
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Wedding Garment (Matthew chapter 22 verses 11 and 12) - Mark Fletcher - 09-02-2007
Quote:11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there was a man which had not on a wedding garment. 12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
In the Parable of the Feast (Matthew chapter 22 verses 1 to 14), Jesus speaks of a wedding garment. Does Orthodoxy believe that this wedding garment is a reference to the bodies of spiritualised matter which Christians will receive at the Second Coming of Jesus?
Is it correct to see the Holy and Divine Fire that 'builds' these new bodies as in some sense 'golden' in nature, and therefore to refer to this as in some way a golden wedding garment ?
- admin - 09-02-2007
That's an interesting question.
The idea of 'being clothed' and 'putting on' is found in much of the New Testament, which explains and explores what Christ spoke of.
Here are some of the passages which seem relevant:
Quote:For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
This speaks of our human physicality as being a 'tabernacle' or tent, and that it will be changed for something more permanent, an eternal building made by God Himself for us. This seems to me to describe something which is still physical but even more real than our present reality, just as a house made of bricks and stone is more solid than a tent.
And this passage speaks about the longing for something more real that many or most of us feel as we struggle with illness, weakness, sin and various other deficiencies in our present condition - but our new life will not be 'naked', we are not called to be purely spiritual beings, but it is the will of God for us that we be completed with a physicality, but a better and more substantial one. Heaven is not a ghostly sitting on clouds - as far as I can see from the Scripture and my reading of the Fathers - but we will have a new physicality that is described as 'life', even while our present physicality is described as 'mortality'.
So I think this passage would allow us to understand the 'wedding garment' as a new physicality which is filled with divine life, in every sense. Yes, indeed, filled with a Holy and Divine Fire, which in our present state is rather hidden, and manifested only occasionally as a glorious and uncreated light, but which in that state will be openly revealed, just as a wedding garment is the best and most expensive set of clothes a guest has.
Quote:He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
This passage suggests to me that the imagery of clothing uses whiteness, and this fits in which the traditional clothing of candidates for baptism who wear white, and in the West the clothing of those being confirmed is also white, and in recent times the dress of the bride at a wedding.
This passage suggests to me that those who are clothed by God are those who persevere in faith and life. I sense that this is important to Orthodoxy. The Christian Faith is not about intellectual acceptance of certain propositions, but about entering into life and persevering in life. I drive past a Baptist Church near my house and I notice that many of the things that they have on their posters are propositions about faith, not faith in Christ Himself as a person. Ultimately, though I do believe that right belief is necessary because like taking medicine, if we have wrong ideas we may harm ourselves or make ourselves ill, nevertheless we have a relationship with Christ, the Son of God, as we have a relationship with a doctor. We do not get health by believing propositions about our Doctor.
What I think I am trying to say is that the ones in white garments are not those who go to Church a lot, they are not those who believe that Jesus died for their sins as a mere proposition, rather they are those who entered into life, divine life, and persevered in that life and these garments are reflective of that life, and are white as a sign of the purity and holiness of this life.
Quote:I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
Here again is another interesting passage which ties together 'overcoming' and 'white raiment'. There is also the idea of not being naked, which came up earlier. And there is the idea here also that these who are clothed are those who have invited Christ to become the centre of their life, the root and foundation, they are those who share His life and share their life with Him.
If we take a look at some of the passages which talk about putting on clothing we find:
Quote:And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
This opposes one type of clothing 'works of darkness' with another type of clothing 'armour of light'.
This suggests to me that our 'spiritual clothing' is not only something in the future but is something we should have a care for right now. Can the angels see how we are spirtually dressed, even if we can't? I wonder if I am dressed in dark and dreary tatters or if I begun in some small sense to prepare for the wedding banquet?
Quote:For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:53-54)
This is another good passage with a clothing connection. As the first passage spoke of mortality and putting on life, so this passage speaks of corruption and incorruptibility, mortality and immortality. And I suggest that death, which shall be utterly defeated and eliminated is found in our corruptibility and our mortality, it is not merely the cessation of breath and heart-beat, or the separation of the soul from the body for a time, but it is all of the weakness and burden of our present state. This is death. But we shall be clothed with life.
Quote:For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27)
And how do we 'put on' this new life? We are taught that it is through baptism, and this then leads to a need to understand what is meant by baptism in the Orthodox perspective. Not a mere ritual, but a renewal of our spiritual being and the beginning of the renewal of our physicality. We become a 'new man'. Indeed we become Christ, in that we share His life, and the word Christian does mean 'little Christ'.
All of this, all of these analogies, are far removed from the idea that a Christian is someone who goes to Church, believes things about God, or has a merely intellectual relationship with faith. To cover our nakedness it is not enough to 'know about' clothes. It is not enough to have owned a piece of clothing at some time in the past. It is not even enough to spend a lot of time in clothes shops! We need to put some clothes on and be in intimate connection with them such that all that we do our clothes do with us. In the same way we must put Christ on, not know about Him, not merely visit places where others have a relationship with Him, not even have prayed to Him at some time in the past. We need to be in an intimate relationship with Him, as close as between clothes and the one who wears them.
One last passage, and there are many others
Quote:And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:24)
This is what I think the wedding garments are. They are the 'new man' we receive in baptism and must then 'live out' in the rest of our lives. This 'new man' only grows to maturity in a living and sacramental relationship with Christ. It can become stained and need renewal. It can become weak and need strengthening. It is a new principle of life within us which we must discover and live out from. (Indeed I have become recently interested in the ideas of the Society of Friends in regard to the indwelling light, which I think echo the traditional Orthodox descriptions of the spiritual life).
Even here though there is a linking of the new man with a change of life. The garments are white - holy and pure - and we do not receive new life so that we have an excuse to continue in sin. But this white garment is a gift from God without any obligation on His part. We do not receive this garment because we are good enough, because we are never good enough, we receive it so that we can begin to share in God's life, now and in the life to come.
Back to your question...
I think that the wedding garment IS related to the spiritualised body which we will receive, but also that it is related to our becoming spiritualised persons even now, since the source of our being has been spiritualised by union with Christ in baptism.
I hope some of this is useful, it certainly helped me to consider these passages.
Thanks - Mark Fletcher - 09-02-2007
Thank you so very much for your comprehensive and interesting reply which I will consider carefully.
Over 15 years ago, I went on holiday to Glastonbury with a friend. We both attended a quiet, midweek Anglican Eucharist celebrated by a very elderly priest. One couldn't fail to notice his "true personhood": a sort of ordinariness which seemed exceptionally holy, pure and loving. I mentioned this to my friend afterwards, and she told me that as soon as she saw him, she noticed that he was suffused with a gentle, golden light. She also told me that she used to know an elderly Anglican priest in Surrey who demonstrated exactly the same personal qualities and had the same golden light within and around him. That was my reason for asking the question!
- admin - 09-02-2007
I am not able to comment on the colour of the uncreated and transfiguring light which suffuses some of those who have true personhood in Christ, but it may indeed be as you describe. You may know this passage from St Seraphim of Sarov's conversation with Motovilov, which describes this light. And this whole piece is worth reading here.
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Quote:"And in fact the Lord has frequently demonstrated before many witnesses how the grace of the Holy Spirit acts on people whom He has sanctified and illumined by His great inspiration . Remember Moses after his talk with God on Mount Sinai. He so shone with an extraordinary light that people were unable to look at him. He was even forced to wear a veil when he appeared in public. Remember the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor. A great light encircled Him, and His raiment became shining, exceedingly white like snow (Mk. 9:3), and His disciples fell on their faces from fear. But when Moses and Elias appeared to Him in that light, a cloud overshadowed them in order to hide the radiance of the light of the divine grace which blinded the eyes of the disciples. Thus the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God appears in an ineffable light to all to whom God reveals its action."
Discussion - John Charmley - 09-02-2007
As the process of theosis advances, we do, perhaps, put on the white garments - it would not be surprising if it were so, or that those so attuned could see signs of it.
We have, many of us (I hope) had the experience of being with someone who seemed to radiate quiet holiness; such people are a sign of what it is possible to be as a human being in this world.
Our Lord, knowing us, does His best to keep it simple, telling us in Matthew 22:37-40:
Quote:37 Jesus said to him, `You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'If you ponder these words, you will see how they are the pattern for the Christian life.
- admin - 09-02-2007
I was fortunate to meet Brother Ramon a couple of times before I got married, in fact I spent some days on retreat at Glasshampton, the Anglican Society of Saint Francis monastery over near Gloucester just days before I got married.
He was such a man...and his spirituality was transforming and indeed he radiated the light of Christ within him. He was a wonderful man, and it was a sadness to discover that after many years, when I decided to get back in touch with him, he had died a few months before of cancer.
It is a blessing to know other people, even ordinary Christians who would not think highly of themselves, but who have a savour of Christ about them, I mean in their manner of life, their gentleness and kindness, their humility and sense of their own unworthiness.
I hope that one day the same might be true in some small measure of me as well.
Quote:Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good deeds and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
- admin - 09-02-2007
There is a lengthy paper here by Father Matta el Meskeen (Matthew the Poor) about the manifestation of light in the Christian life. I haven't read it yet but even the first page is good.
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Here is a bit..
Quote:Thus, God began his revelation to man based on the inner man, i.e., his spiritual consciousness, where God is revealed not through fire, but through the inextinguishable and uncreated true light. It is the light of God Himself that uncovers that which is hidden. It enlightens man's heart, mind and life. It reveals all Godly matters and the eternal life in which he is invited to live with God and to enter into an eternal relationship with Him. For the revelation of God is to know the truth, eternal life, and the total knowledge of God, which inevitably absorbs all that concerns God. It is the knowledge of eternal truth itself, acquiring it, owning it, uniting and sharing with it. It is impossible for anyone to get to know it unless he totally understands and grasps it. Therefore he who does not know the truth does not possess it and share it. Such are God's ways.
Thanks - Mark Fletcher - 09-02-2007
I felt moved to tears by your responses. Thank you both so very much for taking the time and trouble to respond in this way. I shall print off the pieces you suggest and look at them carefully.
The elderly priest known to my friend was a man of massive intellectual gifts who knew the late Metropolitan Anthony Bloom of the Russian Orthodox Church very well. He was totally humble and devoted to being a parish priest. He refused all offers of preferment, and enjoyed the company of children hugely. He gave her great peace of mind when her second son was born with handicaps and the possibility of death. He baptised him twice: once in the hospital, and once in the church as a kind of thanksgiving. There was something extraordinarily peaceful, loving and understanding about him which made him very attractive to people of all kinds.
Discussion - John Charmley - 10-02-2007
Those people mentioned by Peter and yourself are reminders of what we are called to be, and what, with His help, we can become.
Orthodoxy seems to me the only Christian teaching that brings together all the senses, and which makes sense; this life can be transformed for us by the love of God, and everything we do, and everything we experience can be part of the process of transformation - as long as we fix our minds and hearts on God, and as long as we love Him and one another.
Even though we have fallen away from what we are meant to be, He can bring us back - if we let Him.
Thanks - Mark Fletcher - 10-02-2007
Thank you for the posting John. I think that the word 'Allow' is a very important one! I have a feeling that Divine Life, Light and Fire is something that is given and not earned in any way - and yet there is a response which we have to make; an acceptance and a growth within it that is essential for it to retain its "hold" on us.
I remembered this morning Matthias Grunewald's extraordinary masterpiece of 1515: The Isenheim Altarpiece: The Resurrection:
One senses the 'otherness' of that golden radiance. It always sends shivers down my spine when I see it! Thank you for your kindness to me in helping me to understand a little, and for your prayers.
Thanks - Mark Fletcher - 12-02-2007
Thank you so very much for that. I shall print it off and treaure it as the feast of truth that it is and think about it prayerfully.
Light - John Charmley - 12-02-2007
Dear Fr. Simon,
Thank you for this sermon, which provides us all with much hope and inspiration.
Churchill once said 'We are all worms, but I do believe that I am a glow worm'. That, I suspect, was said in a spirit of hubris, but if we approach it in the spirit of your sermon, it would provide something at which to aim.
It sometimes occurs to me that we can complicate things too much, and your words pick a way through the thickets for us. If we walk in His way, if we obey His commandments, and if we love one another as He loves us, then our little light can flicker in the darkness; if we all light our candle, then the darkness is further diminished.
One of the things that has struck me about the BOC is that it is so good at conveying the deep simplicity of the Faith; love the Lord Our God, love one another, keep the commandments; there is such depth in these things that a lifetime spent in study would scarcely suffice to get far below the surface. But there is a radical simplicity in the Christian life and in prayer that we can all come to it and grow in Him.
I am grateful to the British Orthodox Church for providing a place where someone who is English can come and discover the fullness of the Orthodox Faith in an ethos which is welcoming and, if I may use the word, homely.
I would encourage any of the Fellowship here who have been thinking about converting to pray for guidance; what I have found has been so wonderful.