And the marriage analogy is what Jesus uses in today’s
Gospel when he speaks of a king which made a marriage for his son.
the language of the Song of Solomon (the lover and the beloved), in Revelation
(I saw the heavenly Jerusalem descending out of heaven as a bride adorned for
her husband), or in the prophets – and it is a favourite analogy used by the mystics, e.g.
Richard of St. Victor, Mechtild of Magdeburg.
Last week we were being encouraged, not to be
afraid to enter into that rest, out of fear of condemnation, but
rather, to be of good cheer, knowing our sins are forgiven. Jesus
said to the paralyzed man, Arise, take up thy pallet, and go into
I spoke of how we know something of this
experience when we are alone, we often find ourselves uncomfortable
with simply resting in our selves, in a loving beholding of God.
There can be a kind of fear in the silence to look at ourselves, or
perhaps just a lack of hope that it might be of any value, and so we
deliberately find things to distract us continually – entertainment,
work about the house, career, food, sleep, something, anything other
than simply resting in God. And Jesus is encouraging us not to be
afraid, but rather, if there is something that we are uncomfortable
about with ourselves, to face it and ask forgiveness and rest in His
mercy, being at peace because of the blood of Jesus shed for us.
So last week it was to not be afraid to
But this week, something different is being told
us, something to fill out the picture more completely.
In the Gospel parable, God invites many. Some
refuse the invitation, some murder those who are sent by God to do
the inviting – that is obviously a bad thing. But some who are
invited do come in - that is the case for every one of us here today
– we have heeded the invitation, because each of us know that we are
welcome here and in fact are encouraged by our Lord to come here.
The invitation, though, is not just to attend Church, but most
importantly to attend to the Lord in our hearts. Our outward acts
here at church are to be accompanied by an inward movement towards
God, to enter into the inner man and be renewed in the
spirit of our minds.
But in the Gospel today, there is one who comes
in and is found to be without a marriage garment and is cast into
outer darkness. It is a clear warning to us all to be ready for
this high calling with the marriage garment since we have heeded
Christ’s invitation to go into our houses.
This warning is found in the writings of the
Listen to Dante near the beginning of his final
book of the Divine Comedy, the Paradiso:
O you who that follow in light cockle-shells,
For the song’s sake, my ship that sails
Carving her course and singing as she sails,
Turn back and seek the safety of the shore;
Tempt not the deep, lest, losing unawares
Me and yourselves, you come to port no more…
Or listen to the warning at the opening of the
Cloud of Unknowing by the author:
I charge and beg you, with all the strength
and power that love can bring to bear, that whoever you may be who
possess this book…you should, quite freely and of set purpose,
neither read, write, or mention it to anyone, nor allow it to be
read, written, or mentioned by anyone unless that person is in
your judgement really and wholly determined to follow Christ
perfectly…take time over the reading speaking writing or hearing…If
a man saw the matter only partially, he might easily go wrong.
Therefore, to avoid this error, for yourself as well as for them, I
pray you for love’s sake to do what I tell you.
I don’t know how you would respond if you read
this, but when I read those warnings many years ago, it didn’t stop
me, but it did give me pause to think, it heightened my awareness of
the great danger of the spiritual life, to be alert. And this is
the intention of today’s Gospel, because we know that our Lord wants
us to come to Him, but He also wants to warn us to be alert.
When the king came in to see the guests, he
saw there a man which had not on a wedding-garment: and he saith
unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a
wedding-garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the
servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him
into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
For many are called, but few are chosen.
Our acceptance of the invitation is vital to our
salvation, but we are being reminded by our Lord and warned about
the One into whose arms we are falling. It is like the warning in
But ye are come unto
mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly
Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general
assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven,
and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made
perfect, …See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. …let us have
grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly
fear: for our God is a consuming fire.
We do not approach the throne of grace here in
the Church, the altar, but with the greatest care – examining our
hearts, confessing our sins, trusting in God’s forgiveness.
Likewise, we are not to approach the throne of grace in our hearts
when we are quiet at home in an inward way, with presumption, with
pride or self love, but with awe and reverence and godly fear – a
gift of the Spirit – for our God is a consuming fire. We
will not remain unchanged as we draw near in faith, but all dross
will be burned up. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands
of the living God.
Here we begin to catch a glimpse of the wedding
garment that is required of us – an awe, a holy reverence, a sense
of the majesty of God, a holy fear, a sense of unworthiness on our
own account, but our being made worthy by the garment of Christ’s
Who would have thought there could be such danger
to sit alone in your house and enter into God’s rest. Are you
stirred with desire for this highest adventure? Have confidence in
Christ to enter in, but beware, there can be great danger.
Listen to the warning of the mystic John of
Now mark this: when a man wishes to possess inward rest in idleness,
without inward and desirous cleaving to God, then he
is ready for all errors; for he is turned away from God, and
inclined towards himself, in natural love, seeking and desiring
consolation and sweetness and everything that pleases him.
contemplation is not about resting in ourselves, being satisfied
with ourselves, just taking – Christian contemplation is about
resting in God. Ruysbroeck continues…
...All these men live contrary to charity and to the loving
introversion in which a man offers himself up, with all that he can
achieve for the honour and love of God; and in which nothing can
give him rest or satisfactions but …God alone. For charity is a
bond of love, in which we are drawn up to God, and through which we
renounce ourselves, and whereby we are united with God and God is
united with us. But natural love turns back towards itself, and
towards its own profit, and ever abides alone.
What could be worse than to be abiding alone, it
is as our Lord says, cast out into outer darkness and there
will be weeping and gnashing of teeth because there is no
consolation there whatsoever.
So we see a little more of the wedding garment
here. It is a theme repeated in the writings of the mystics, the
contemplatives. We must cleave to God in love. God fills us with His
love, with desire, the garment – we are to take that desire, that
love and return it to Him. Seek God out with longing in our
hearts, in true love, which is a mixture of joyous expectation and
godly fear. God is the ultimate lover and we are being invited
today to love Him and to enter into His kingdom, to a marriage feast
that we may evermore dwell in him, and he is us.
St. Paul knew that we must cleave to God in love
– he’s the one through whom the mystics learned this:
be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess
[let’s not return to trying to seek ultimate satisfaction in
the senses]; but be filled with the Spirit [that
is, with Love, and then return that Love to God]; speaking to
yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and
making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for
all things unto God, even the Father, in the Name of our Lord Jesus
Christ; submitting yourselves to one another, in the fear of God.
Loving God, loving our neighbour – in the garment
Is this where we find ourselves during the day
when we are on our own, or with others? or at night on our beds?
perhaps with one of the hymns we sing today going through our minds,
inwardly in a state of continual thanks in all circumstances,
cleaving to God in love and with a sense of awe at all times? ready
to give ourselves completely, perfectly?
This is what is needed if we would enter into
This is what is needed if we would enter into
union with Him.
This is what is needed if we would become fiery
red like those leaves we see in some of the trees, and that are so
pleasing to God’s eyes.