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August 22, 2021

Homily for the Epistle Reading on the Ninth Sunday After Pentecost (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Homily on 1 Corinthians 3:16

"Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"

Being a Christian is a great blessing from God, it is a great gift. By Baptism, Chrismation, and Divine Communion, a member of the Church receives the Grace of God, is connected with the Head, Christ, and communes of the Body and Blood of Christ. Every division, every denial of the gifts given by the Holy Spirit, every separation and jealousy and strife is a sign of the absence of the Holy Spirit and therefore shows carnality.

The Apostle Paul saw some sad events that were happening in the Church of Corinth, identified the division that prevailed among some Christians, despite the gifts they had, and asked them: "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"

In this sentence one can observe two meanings. The first is that the Church, which is the Body of Christ, is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Having in mind a temple, a building of stone, in which the Church meets and the Divine Liturgy is performed, we can say that the Church as the Body of Christ is the living temple of God and in her dwells the Holy Spirit. First the temple is the Church, the Body of Christ, and then the temple is also called the building in which the living Church gathers to perform the divine Eucharist and other services. The second meaning is that every Christian is a temple of God and in them dwells the Spirit of God. In this second sense I will formulate some thoughts, according to the teaching of the Apostles and the Holy Fathers of the Church.

Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite interprets that the human body is an icon of the Temple, the inner man is the sacred Bema of the Temple, the heart is the Holy Table, the nous is the Priest who enters the sacred Bema to liturgize, the volition and desire of man is the Sacrifice which the nous offers to God upon the heart. There the inner liturgy takes place with the love of God and the noetic prayer of the heart. This is how the "holy priesthood" is interpreted, the "royal priesthood", "the spiritual house", in which the spiritual sacrifices are offered, according to the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 2:1-10).

Saint Gregory of Sinai, referring to this inner Divine Liturgy, speaks of a "secret priesthood of the nous", of a "true priesthood", of a "spiritual priesthood", which secretly officiates at the altar of the heart the lamb of God and partakes of it.

This teaching is not just the teaching of some Fathers, who are particularly characterized as neptic and hesychast, but it is a teaching found in Holy Scripture. After all, watchfulness and silence are characteristics of all the saints. For example, the Apostle Peter exhorts Christians: "Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts" (1 Peter 3:15). The Apostle Paul speaks of psalms and hymns and spiritual odes chanted and sung "to the Lord from the heart" (Eph. 5:19), which presupposes that the heart, that is, the center of man's spiritual existence, is an altar, is the place where God is glorified and praised. There dwells God, according to the apostolic word "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph. 3:17), "there shines the light of God" (2 Corinthians 4:6), there man is assured that he is a temple of God (Gal. 4:6), there is our inner man.

We must attend church, participate in the common worship of the Church, where all members of the Body of Christ meet. But we should also pray in the inner temple, in the sacred Bema of the heart with the inner noetic prayer of the heart. When human reason repels evil thoughts and the noetic energy which is the most careful attention enters the heart, it is concentrated there with love and heartache and then this inner Divine Liturgy takes place. Such inner prayer is the appropriate condition for one to attend church properly and in the churches and to participate in the Divine Liturgy.

Let us never forget that we must be temples of the living God, and as we move, we carry this living temple, so that God may be glorified. Thus every sin will be avoided and every temptation will be confronted.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.