The wedding.

Homily 578 – 33 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
January 21, 2023
Epistle – (250) Colossians 1:12-18
Gospel – (89 Slavonic, 90 Greek) Matthew 22:2-14

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

The Kingdom of heaven is like …

A lot of Christ’s descriptions begin like that.  There is the field with the hidden treasure.  There is the pearl that was very expensive.

And here, a wedding feast.

In Matthew 13, where the parables of the hidden treasure and the expensive pearl are found, not only do we understand that the kingdom of God is valuable, more valuable than anything this life, this world can throw at us, but that it also requires us to give up everything to obtain it.

What about this parable?

There are a couple of things to point out.  First, the easy part – those who were invited decided not to go, for their own reasons – and they are understood by us, in hindsight to be the Children of Israel.  They didn’t have the opportunity taken from them – rather they chose not to attend, and to pursue their own, if I might suggest, selfish aims.  A farm, a merchant’s goods, and so on.

Then, we see that everyone gets an invite – everyone!  When the servants went to the highways, that was understood to be those who were undesirable, and in fact, most likely, robbers and bandits.  There were some good people as well, but the good people were typically not on the highways, which were dangerous places.

So far, so good.

And then we get to a part that troubles some people.  There is a man, who isn’t dressed appropriately for a wedding, or to be in the presence of the King.  We’re not really told, and scholars can’t find anything in the historical record about this wedding garment, other than perhaps the occasion called for the best one had available to them.

And he, this man, gets thrown out.  Not just thrown out, but thrown into the outer darkness, meaning a place with no light – where God’s light couldn’t be seen.

And in that place there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.  We might say agonizing or whining, but we really don’t know what it means.  It is an idiom that only appears to us in the New Testament, and doesn’t appear to have an equivalent Hebrew idiom.

So we aren’t sure – but the imagery is pretty clear.  It isn’t a place that is pleasant.  It seems to be a place of physical, mental, and emotional torment and pain.

And, if we look at the images together, a place we choose to go.  By not choosing God.

Now, I’m not much of a fire and brimstone kind of guy.  But even I have to admit the imagery is pretty scary.  The English translation makes it sound like this guy may have showed up by the command of the King, and maybe accidentally forgot to wear his best.  It’s that accidental part that gives most of us pause.

As it should!  We shouldn’t be accidental in what we do – we need to be intentional.

The Fathers and mothers of the Church tell us pretty consistently that this wedding garment refers to the virtues.  We can clothe ourselves with Christ, if we choose, just as it is sung at baptism – to put on Christ.  To clothe ourselves with light, the uncreated light of the Transfiguration, as with a garment.

The other thing it suggests, to me at least, is the idea that everyone will stand before the King at the wedding.  We are invited – but in actuality, we are commanded to be there.  Everyone will be there – both the good and the bad.

And God will call us friend.  But if we haven’t put on Christ, we will be thrown out.  If we haven’t at least tried to put on Christ, we will end up leaving.

And the saddest part – in reality – is that we aren’t just guests.

We’re the bride.

Not individually – collectively.  The Church is the bride of Christ.  Christ is our bridegroom.

And what bride doesn’t dream of that wedding day, presenting herself as beautiful, attired in beautiful clothing – not, as we might think, to bring praise on ourselves, but because we love our bridegroom, and want to make ourselves not just presentable, but radiantly beautiful for Him.

The opinion of others won’t matter, or at least, shouldn’t matter.  Only one opinion matters – that of our bridegroom.

We are, in a few weeks, beginning our travel to this wedding to which we have been invited, and celebrating our bridegroom risen from the dead.

So, we need to begin thinking about what we will wear.  How will we present ourselves at the great feast of all feasts?  It isn’t about fabric.  It isn’t about outward beauty.  It is about virtue.  It is about denying ourselves, denying our own ego, and living with every fiber of our being to please our Bridegroom.

We enter into lent with the idea of ascetical sacrifice.  We’re giving up things – food, entertainment perhaps, giving up the things that bring us physical comfort and pleasure.

We substitute prayer.  We attend Church more.  We go to confession, and tell God what we both know to be our weaknesses and failures.  He knows, but He wants to hear that WE know.

We beg His mercy, we appeal to His love.  We ask our bridegroom to teach us how to repent – how to put on the virtues.  And the virtues begin with self-denial.  If we put the needs of others first in our lives, the virtues will follow without much effort.

We will be clothed with Christ, bathed in the Spirit, and be a suitable bride for the Creator and redeemer of our world, and of us.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.