And Jesus said: “The kingdom of God is inside you, and all around you, not in mansions of wood and stone. Split a piece of wood … and I am there, lift a stone … and you will find me there.”
~Gospel of Thomas, 77
Here is me with our beautiful lily of the valley blooms, wishing you Happy Orthodox Easter!
May the church within our hearts and sacredness of family and home always be lit and warmed by the hearth fires of love! May this love then be embodied by our lips, hands and every day gestures!
As I was taking my morning walk today, I passed by a house where a woman in her late 70s was standing in the driveway and asked if I could please help her – because the top of her convertible car wasn’t closing. “Yes, of course I’ll help you,” I smiled, “though I don’t have much strength.” “Neither do I,” she smiled back, “but together we’ll do it.” And there we were – me and all my 45 kilograms climbed up to push the top down, and she – inside the car to make it work from underneath. And we did it!
There is a beautiful tradition in the Christian Orthodox church for Easter about the Holy Fire. The Holy Fire is a miracle said to take place every year at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Great Saturday, just one day before Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter. During the miracle, it is thought that a beam of blue light emanates from the tomb of Jesus, creating a fiery pillar from which candles are ignited – and priests from around the world light their own candles from it, which they then bring into their countries.
And so on Great Saturdays the churches remain dark until midnight, when the pope would light a candle from the sacred holy flame. The little moment of silence and darkness before midnight is us as human beings to self-reflect and come into the humility that this life we’re given is actually a great gift – and that heaven is found within. Then at midnight, all people in the church and the towns and villages would pass to light their own candles and bring them home. In the old days this was also practically helpful for the people who would light their houses and cook with the flames; but even today, the deeper spiritual meaning of this is to bring this light within us – within the church that is our heart – and to light our world with inner flames of love and clarity. These are the flames that matter – the light inside of us – our inner wise lantern. Faith is not found in man made structures or images, in churches, temples and cathedrals, neither is it found in books, it is inside of us. This is why Jesus Christ always points to the heart.
And where is heaven?
And the disciples said to Jesus: “Tell us what the kingdom of heaven is like!”
He said to them: “It is like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds on Earth, a single grain of mustard seed. But when it falls on cultivated soil, and is sowed and nurtured by the woman’s loving hands, it becomes a branch, and it becomes shelter for the birds of the sky.”
~Gospel of Thomas, 20
Heaven is your love.
Love is a seed of God, which then grows inside of us to become a church, a shelter, a home, loving hands for all others to hold and be held.
Heaven can be your home, your relationship, your body within which you live each day and nurture its inner emotional and spiritual wildlands. Heaven can be larger too, outside of you, when we have the eyes to see it and the loving hands to build it, and the loving words to speak it, and the loving gestures through which our love will shape. Sometimes heaven is the simple of just knowing someone – because they helped you love more, be kinder, more open, more generous, more tender, and so the seed of love within you was nurtured to blossom.
It’s the little things that can become the big stories, love stories, life stories – and this little seed of heaven is there for you inside you right now even if you think it isn’t because it’s small and you perhaps cannot feel it nor see it nor hear it but it is still there I promise you. And it’s quiet yes, but God is often quiet – and his light is like the wings of a butterfly. It’s not a big bright light on a world stage – it is the light touch of love, gentleness, laughter and compassion. Soft and light, with a patience and kindness of rhythm, and almost invisible, like the wings of a butterfly that graced your shoulder or strand of hair.
On Holy Friday a truth we must remember and have the humility to treasure is that we’ll never know it all; and we need to be better and kinder people. We crucified a man whose heart was full of love and who never did harm to anyone – and then still men kept the hate in their hearts because even this could not free them from inner conflicts.
“My people,” Christ said on the cross, “what have I done to you? Did I not heal you? Did I not love you? For all my healing to you – you give me wounds; for my all life I gave to you in service, devotion and love – you give me death, you kill me, you crucify me on a tree.”
Christ asked God to forgive the men saying, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.”
While Christ was on the cross humans were silent – the universe spoke, the stones spoke, the soil spoke, the earth and dust spoke, even the sun withdrew its light from earth – and all those things seemingly without a voice showed themselves to be more sensitive than humans, more sensitive to the pain of a man who was essentially a teacher of love and the human heart. All things had compassion for the cruficied son of God, except men who lived in spiritual poverty within. Still, Christ pleaded and prayed for them and all, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.”
With quietness and humility God had clothed himself to enter our world by becoming human – because what greater quietness and humility than to be in a human body and exist in our limited and corrupted world – and through the hands, lips and gestures of Jesus Christ he healed and taught people to love, and still men crucified him. Would they have done the same if they knew?
How do we act when no one is watching or validating us? How do we speak of someone behind their back when they can’t hear us? After 2000 years, what have we learned? We seek the shining and bright and popular, yet inside of ourselves there is spiritual poverty and emptiness. We listen only to those with large followings and put them on pedestals; and yet how much wisdom are we missing from those who perhaps aren’t famous? Can we appreciate the softeness of butterfly’s wings and hear the wisdoms that the heart speaks? Does knowledge equal Instagram likes? We swipe human faces on apps, we’ve lost family values and the sacredness of intimacy. And while people preach on world stages about goodness and taking care of the environment, they then turn to the person right beside them and treat them with disrespect.
And the men drove each sin they had as a nail in the Christ, and Christ still stood there praying for them to someday have the light of heart to see clearly. Pride is fought through humility, rudeness is fought with gentleness, hate with love, grudges with forgiveness, slander through prayer. Forgive them, they do not know.
“Why do you still hate me?” asked Jesus Christ. “I suffer, I die, and still it is not enough for you. Why do you carry this hate and anger inside you? Who has hurt you? Why is your heart so sad and grieving that you need to hurt others? I carry your pain for you now, through these nails and the blood from me falling on the soil and earth, why is your heart still not free?”
Good Friday is often a day of quietness and not doing any chores – because it is time to self-reflect. We have very little God in ourselves in our modern world, which is reflected in the way we mistreat one another. During Holy Week Christ becomes nothing – earth, dust, and the One. We too must sometimes soil ourselves, in humility, self-honesty, compassion and acceptance.
People with self-knowledge are needed in our world. So if there is one thing to do, one gift to give yourself in this life – know thyself, know thy heart. Explore your unique emotional and spiritual inner wildlands that you walk each day, see what is happening within you. When we reconcile the inner, the outer will be more peaceful and harmonious also. On Easter Christ rises, and we celebrate the rising of love, the resurrection of love – because love is God is eternal.
Then, now, always.