At the beginning of the Church Year, on Saturday, 1st September 2018, His Grace Father Bishop Macarie of the Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Northern Europe served the Divine Liturgy in the church of the Romanian parish in Göteborg, Sweden. On this occasion, the hierarch baptized a young Swedish, converted to Orthodoxy, and a child in the community.
The faithful present at the ministry worshiped the icon of the Mother of God “Inexhaustible Chalice” in the parish church.
In the word of preaching, the Most Holy Macarius referred to the Parable of the Wedding of the Emperor’s Son in the Gospel of Matthew (XXII, 1-14): The parable of this Sunday is about us. Every Sunday we are called to the Church at the wedding of the Emperor’s Son. We are called to the Divine Liturgy, where the heart of the whole universe beats, where we meet God, where He gives Himself to us without shortage, entirely, for our sanctification and salvation through the Holy Communion. The Divine Liturgy, the wedding with the Emperor’s Son, is the center of the world and the source of life. It is the most important event we engage in here on earth. Why?
We know how much care, attention and excitement we invest when we are called to participate in a worldly event that is important to us, for one reason or another. With so much emotion, we prepare ourselves spiritually to make a good impression. We leave aside the everyday worries we have and we are concerting for this event, which becomes the priority of our “agenda”. We do not want to miss the moment. But we now ask ourselves, do we act in the same way when we come to the wedding of the Emperor’s Son at the Divine Liturgy?
Do we leave all our worldly cares to one side, give our souls and our state of being to God, so that we do not miss the moment, not to let this event pass aside us? Are we ready for the wedding?
Behold, beloved lovers, a question for us, Christians. Are we ready to meet Christ, the living God? Saint Theophanus the Recluse, goes even further and asks us, related to this parable: are we, faithful? Of course, we are. Formally, we are here at the Liturgy, maybe even Sunday by Sunday. Formally we worship. Formally we say the creed. Maybe we still feel something, maybe we feel a moment in the Liturgy, maybe a song of faith.
But it is not enough, dear brothers. It is not enough to be present here with a quarter of our person, with only a part of our heart, while the rest remained in the worries, in sins, in passions. Give Me My Son, your heart, it is written in Scripture (Wisdom of Solomon, 23, 26). God wants our whole heart. God wants us fully here, to be with body and soul, truly present, at the wedding of His Son. God does not go with half-measures and formalism. We know very well that the Lord God spits out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16). We know that the prophet Jeremiah says that Cursed is all that makes the things of the Lord with indifference (Jeremiah 48:10).
Beloved believers, all this is to our awakening. Let’s not lie to ourselves: we are not ready for the wedding. We are not yet truly believers, to the end. We come to the wedding always unprepared, always unrenewed, always with a bent heart, captured by the roar of worldly worries. And always God holds us, forgives us, calls us, and waits for us. Let’s not make God’s long love an opportunity for sin for us! Let’s understand what’s going on! Because, beloved, the hour comes and it is almost, when each of us will be called to a wedding that will not be repeated and will not suffer a delay: that is the moment of our end. Then we will look at Christ Himself and be not, Lord, that any of us should not have the wedding garment, that is, the unprepared, unsound soul, not relieved of sins.
What remains to be done, how can we prepare for the wedding? First, by understanding what and by whom we are called. Understanding that this world is transient and that we belong to another, eternally, prepared by Christ Himself. Then, understanding that we can not play with fire. We can not play with our salvation! Salvation is won, dear brothers! It is not given “for free”, it is not “automatic”, no matter what we do with our lives and our fellow men! Win or lose! Do we realize this all the way? If we find out that we have a disease that can be deadly, would not we care intensely only to find the cure and do all the things that bring us health? Will we still have other concerns or worldly worries if our lives are in the middle? There is much more here, for eternity is at stake! Can we still be negligent, comfortable, warm only, neither cold nor hot, if we really understand what battle is given for our soul?
Another thing we can do to prepare is the follow-up to the Savior’s call: Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is coming. Repentance, this is the shortest, the best, the safest way we can clean our wedding dress. Let us humble ourselves, see our own sins, feel the hurting of our removal from God, let us pierce our hearts and weep. Because, as a great contemporary father said, we are only true when we weep. And we can not enter the kingdom and joy of our Lord if we are not true.