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Gnostic Homilies
by Rev. Steven Marshall

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Collected here are are a number of homilies from throughout the liturgical calendar of the Ecclesia Gnostica. They are arranged to follow the cycle of the liturgical year as much as is possible. The homilies are written by Rev. S. Marshall, pastor of the Queen of Heaven Gnostic Church in Portland, Oregon.

   

 Seeking the Light:   A homily for the First Sunday in Advent

The First Sunday of advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. Like Lent, it is a penitential season and a preparation for a new cycle. Traditionally Advent is a time of fasting and praying. For the Gnostic the penitential seasons are a time for quiet introspection and self-reflection in preparation for the great festivals of Christmas and Easter. more

 

"As one by one the Light is awakened in others, then the pain and suffering in the world can be transformed."

 God Within:   A homily for the Second Sunday in Advent

The Second Sunday of Advent has traditionally borne the theme of Divine Love, yet in the Christian mythos of the birth of Jesus this Love comes to earth in the name Emanuel, which means "God with us," or "God in us," the God within. Since the beginning of the New Age movement the cliches, "I am God" and "God is within me", in their popularized form, have nearly become a dogma. Dogma comes out of ignorance, out of the expressions of those who have not had the direct experience of this quintessential Gnostic insight of interior being. This is why the ancient Mystery religions were secret. If people get too much information or other's ideas about the mystery, they tend to get caught up in the dogma of it, rather than the mystical experience of it. So we too must guard against the triteness of such expressions, and move beyond belief structures and dogmatic statements, no matter how popular or politically correct, to get to the real experience and insight of Gnosis. more 

 

"There is an impersonal place of consciousness within us where we can let this light and love in, a core of Divinity that is alone worthy of praise."

 Recognition of the Messenger:   A homily for the Third Sunday in Advent

In the tradition of the Church calendar, the 3rd Sunday in Advent is often called Rose Sunday, because it represents a lightening of the dark violet of the rest of the penitential season of Advent. This lightening has two points of significance. One is that of a greater light shining through the violet to reveal the rose tint signifying the coming of the Light, the other is a lightening of the mood, for which reason the Church has traditionally ascribed this Sunday to the quality of joy. The rose color expresses the joy of recognition, the recognition of the One who shines from beyond the veil of violet, who is the Messenger of the Light. more 

 

 The Nativity of the Divine Light:   A Gnostic Homily for The Nativity

Christmas Eve, sometimes called Holy Night, celebrates the ageless story of the birth of Christ. As the divine light of Christ incarnates in a tiny babe in a lowly manger, to us this story represents the nativity of the divine light within the Gnostic soul, the coming of the royal light into the lowly frame and darkness of this world. When the outer world grows cold and dark it is even more necessary to keep the spark of divine light kindled and bright.
Though the light shines in the darkness, the darkness can not itself give birth to the light. The earth would be naught but cold damp clay without the life coming from the light of the Sun. Even so, the spirit which gives life comes from somewhere else, a mystical dimension beyond time and space
. more 

 

"It is a mystery that can only be witnessed individually in each one’s own heart. Then one knows, one knows in a crack between the worlds, what the mystery of Christmas is all about."
"The consummation of Gnostic rebirth gives us a way to transcend the sense of loss and pain, and to make the transitions and passages in our lives occasions for renewal and joy."

 Renewal of Life:   A Homily for New Year's Day

The New Year';s holiday is part of the progression of the Christmas season. Occurring subsequent to the winter solstice, Christmas and the New Year have similar significance as the rebirth of the light and the renewal of life at the darkest time in the semester of the sun's waxing. The birth of the new year, like the holy birth of Christmas, is symbolized as a child,
the birth of the infant light. Many old European customs and celebrations reflect the symbolism of the child during this beginning of the new year. One such custom is the election of the Children's Bishop (episcopus puerorum). The elected child would dress up as a bishop, journey in children's procession to the archbishop's palace, and from a window in the palace, give a pontifical blessing upon the entire gathering.

New Year's Day occurs in the Christmas cycle as one the twelve days of Christmas, the period between the ending of the lunar calendar and the beginning of the solar year, a time betwixt and between, a time of misrule when the usual rules and authorities of the world are suspended. It is a time of temporary chaos, confusion, celebration, and breaking down of
old established forms to make way for a new light and new resolutions, the eternal new-born child of the year. These twelve days represent an opportunity for a psychological and spiritual renewal as well.
more 

 

 Divine Guidance:   A Homily for The Epiphany

In Matthew 2: 9-11, the ageless story describes a Star in the East guiding three wisemen, or magi, to the place of the divine birth of Christ. Legends of the Celtic peoples tell that their druids and seers, through study of astrology and signs seen in the sacred fires, also foretold this divine birth.

According to medieval legends, the three wisemen were named Melchior, Balthazar and Gaspar. Each of them came from a different culture: Melchior was Asian, Balthazar was Persian and Gaspar was Ethopian, thus representing the three races known to the old world. These three priest-kings and wisemen brought royal gifts to the divine infant: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Melchior brought a golden cup, which, according to legend, was preserved by the Blessed Virgin Mary and was the same cup used in the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Balthazar brought a gold box of frankincense. Gaspar brought a curiously chased flask of myrrh, a royal embalming oil. more 

 

"The way to dispelling the darkness of the world is not in attempting to enlighten others with our personal ideas, or taking up crusades in some particular cause, but in becoming beings of light ourselves."

 Kindling of the Light in Darkness:   A Homily for Candlemas

Candlemas comes at a time in the year that certainly reflects its spiritual meaning for the Gnostic. In early times, the Celts knew this feast day as Imbolc, the first day of the month by that name in their calendar. During this time of year the days were still sufficiently short that the evening meal was often prepared and eaten by candlelight or torchlight. It is also the season of the first spring lambs being born from their mothers; and so the time for the milking of the ewes to supply what was needed to bolster the dwindling supplies of food put away for the winter. We no longer live in such an agrarian society and these metaphors from the past may not relate to us as they once might have, but we can use these images and metaphors to open a window to something else, something transcendent to the world in which we find ourselves.

The image of the candle lit in the darkness can signify to us the kindling of a spark of the light in the darkness of our material existence. more

 

 

 The Mystery of Divine Love:   A Homily for the Day of the Holy Valentinus

February 14th has been a holiday associated with love and lovers, since ancient Roman and Pre-Christian times. The Roman festival of Lupercalia, a spring festival celebrating sexual and romantic love, coincided with this date. Ancient Romans believed that the springtime mating of birds occurred on this date as well.

The naming of this holiday after a St. Valentine seems to be a case where the Catholic Church of Rome attempted to find a saint's feast day to substitute for a popular pre-existing holiday. In fact, there were three saints who could be associated with the theme of love, all three of them named Valentine.

It is thus only fitting that we, as Gnostics, should pick our own Valentinus as the saint for whom this feast day is dedicated. In studying the Valentinian tradition of Gnosticism, particularly in that of his disciples in Ptolemaeus' Letter to Flora and the Gospel of Philip, we find that this is more than a mere coincidence of the name, but that the Valentinian literature is filled with the imagery and metaphor of spiritual love and the Gnostic sacrament of the Bridal Chamber and marriage. more

 

 The Legacy of Liberation:   A Homily for Montsegur Day

Montsegur Day reminds us of what certainly comes to us as a great tragedy in human history. On March 16 in the year 1244, beneath the imposing ediface of Montsegur, the defenders of the Cathars and approximately 200 of the remaining Cathar parfait (perfecti), marched out in file where they were rounded up on a great field, fenced around and piled high with dry tinder and branches, and there burned to their deaths—effectively blotting out the outward glory of the Cathars from that time on.

Why do we commemorate such a tragic day? What connection does our contemporary and seemingly dissimilar practice of Gnosticism have to these simple exemplars of the Gnosis? One answer to the latter question is that we might conceive of Gnosticism as an ancient, underground stream, the living waters of the Holy Spirit that comes up to the surface in response to the descent of its Messengers of Light at various times and places throughout history and under various forms and guises; yet, it is still the same stream and the same message of liberation. The Cathars are one such surfacing of the Gnosis. more

 

"As far as human history is concerned the Cathars came and went very quickly, but something mysterious and timeless remains from their brief time upon the earth. They brought a treasure, a spiritual treasure that could not die."

 The Message of Gnosis:   A Homily for The Annunciation to our Lady

The Annunciation to our Lady has been an important feast day in the calendar
of the Church for a very long time. Annunciation is a synonym for "announcement," and refers to the announcement of the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary concerning her role in the advent of Christ. The traditional date of the Annunciation is March 25, which signifies the mystical conception of Christ, occurring as it does exactly 9 months before the date of Christmas when we celebrate the Christ's birth. The popularity of this feast day in the traditional Church is most likely due to the emphasis on the divine feminine in the image of Mary to which many people related as the familiar mythological image of the woman or goddess who gives birth to the Divine Child. If the image of Mary embodies such a potent archetype, why is so little importance given to her in the Gnostic writings, and why then have we, as modern Gnostics, begun to honor her festivals?
more

 

 
"In order to have a conscious awareness of this power, we must empower the rite to reveal the meaning that it has for us. The conscious awareness and meaning does not happen automatically. The sacrament does not happen somewhere out there, it happens in here, in the heart."

 Purification:   A Homily for Ash Wednesday

The significant rite of the beginning of Lent is the signing with the ashes on Ash Wednesday. The sign of the cross is traced upon the forehead with the words, "Remember Thou, O soul, that thy body is dust and unto dust it shall return." These words signify a release from the identification of the self with the mortal and corruptible body and personality. A detachment from our conventional identification with our mortal shell can result in an altered state of consciousness where our bodies can communicate to us
a spiritual reality and we can develop in actuality a more caring attitude toward it.  St. Francis often referred to his mortal frame as his humble and dutiful "donkey" that bore him through this life, like the donkey that bore the blessed Virgin to Bethlehem.
more

 

 Self-Examination:   A Homily for The First Sunday in Lent

The season of Lent extends from Ash Wednesday up to the eve of Easter Sunday. The word "lent" comes from a German word meaning "spring." It is a time of purification and introspection in preparation for the renewal in spring. The first day of Lent occurs on Ash Wednesday, 40 days before Easter Sunday. The number forty has much significance in relation to the mythic story of Jesus and the preparation of Lent. According to scripture
and tradition, Jesus was forty hours in the tomb before his resurrection and forty days fasting in the wilderness before undertaking his public mission.

The forty days before Easter is a time for us to also fast from the outer world. In an agricultural society, Lent is the time in the year when the winter stores are dwindling and it becomes time to tighten one's belt, until the food stores can be renewed in the spring. It represents a period of self-examination, rest and introspection prior to the arrival of spring.
In our self-examination, it is a time to work on overcoming our weaknesses, rather than a time to mourn over our past errors--a time to die to the old in preparation for the renewal in spring. more 

 

 

 Yearning for God:   A Homily for The Second Sunday in Lent

The season of Lent bears an overall character of introspection and self-examination. When the attention of the psyche turns inward, one finds an initial sense of alienation and emptiness, a yearning for something only vaguely formulated that we intuitively know would bring true wholeness and fill the emptiness we feel. Such, for the Gnostic, is the yearning for God. It is the longing for the healing of a separation that is felt on both a personal and a collective level. The healing of this separation is symbolised in the image of the Bridal Chamber in the Valentinian writings and the union with the Light-Twin in the stories of Mani. more

 

"The message of Palm Sunday is the recognition that we can become authentically translucent to our interior light of being, which, shining outward, allows us to see through the worldly and temporal reality to the eternal things that are truly real."

 The Temporary Triumph of the Light before its Obscuration:   A Homily for Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week. Holy Week recounts a complex and meaningful series of mythic events which lead to the Resurrection on Easter Day. Palm Sunday represents a preparation, a setting up, for the Resurrection to occur. As Gnostics we may differ from the mainstream in our interpretation of these events, as to whether they are literal history or strictly symbolic, or something in between. What is important for us to focus on is that these events recount an interior experience of archetypal dimensions. It does not matter if the events of Holy Week are historical or purely mythical; they have a deep and archetypal meaning to the Gnostic soul. The series of events in Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday, describe a process of our own apotheosis and psychological transformation. Blind belief in historical events is not going to transform us; we must cultivate an experience of this archetypal reality. For this reason we celebrate Palm Sunday not as a commemoration of an historical event but as an archetypal mystery and another step in the process of psychological and spiritual transformation. more

 

 The Inner Resurrection:   A Homily for Easter

Easter is the major moveable feast of the liturgical year. It may fall on any sunday between March 22nd and April 23rd. The date of Easter accords with the date of the Jewish festival of the Passover which is based upon the old lunar calendar. By this method of calculation the date of Easter is the Sunday nearest the first full moon following the spring equinox. The spring season in which Easter occurs, with its renewal of life following winter, bears out a synchronous relationship with the resurrection theme in the mythic story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We find at this great Christian festival a conjunction between the the cycles of nature and the mythic cycle of the liturgical year, a conjunction between microcosm and macrocosm, a conjunction between the interior, mythic dimension of reality and the outer dimension of the cycles of life. more

 

"Easter represents a mystical experience of death and resurrection, not the celebration of an historical event. Something mysterious and miraculous happened; the disciples and early Gnostic writers experienced something..."

 The Wealth of Spirit:   A Homily for the First Sunday after Easter (Low Sunday)

The first Sunday after Easter has been called "Low Sunday", so as to distinguish it from Easter Sunday, which has been called "High Sunday". Ecclesiastics facetiously explain the title supposedly because attendance is typically so low on this Sunday in comparison to Easter Sunday. This phenomenon, not always born out in my experience, is in a certain way symbolic of the dichotomy of how the success of a religion, church or person is measured when contrasting a worldly versus a spiritual view of the matter.

The Gnostic point of view expresses this dichotomy most often in the contrasting of material wealth and an exterior, visible growth in the world with spiritual wealth and an interior, invisible growth in the Spirit. more

 

 

 Return to the Light:   A Homily for the Feast of the Ascension

Although not particularly emphasized in mainstream Christendom, the Ascension of the Christ has been of great and central importance to Gnostics throughout history. The importance of the Ascension to the Gnostic rests on two principle points: the first that, according to the Gnostics, Jesus delivered the deepest and most profound mysteries following the Ascension, and secondly that the Ascension of Christ conveys the promise of our own spiritual ascension and return to the Light, a theme central to all Gnostic teachings. more

 

"The spiritual ascension requires a capacity for Gnosis, an orientation toward the mysteries of the interior life, and the descent of a grace from on high."

 Coming of the Holy Spirit:   A Homily for Pentecost

Pentecost is a very important feast day in our Gnostic liturgical calendar. It commemorates the promised coming of the Holy Spirit to the Disciples, which was predicted by Jesus prior to his mystical death and resurrection. The mythic cycle of the liturgical year seems to come to an end at Pentecost, yet, for the Gnostic, it is the beginning of the true spiritual mission of the Christos. The Pistis Sophia describes twelve years of activity by the Logos among the disciples after the Ascension. It also describes the Apostleship of Mary Magdalen and the mythic cycle of the feminine power represented in the descent, suffering and assumption of Sophia.

Pentecost with the insertion of the Trinity season begins an entire half of the year, representing the mythic cycle of the feminine aspect of God, the season of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost, like Advent, is a beginning, the beginning of a new level of spiritual activity in our archetypal life. The Holy Spirit, like a great wind, blows into our spiritual life with something new, unexpected, and, even if somewhat unsettling, yet as a consoler and comforter that is not of this world. more 

 

 Devotion to the Triune Deity:   A Homily for Trinity Sunday

One of the common questions we receive as Gnostics is “Why do you espouse the doctrine of the Christian Trinity?” To answer this question we have only to listen to the voices of the early Gnostics themselves. In the entire canon of Biblical scripture there are only a few vague references to a trinity in the letters of St Paul, yet the Gnostic scriptures of the Nag Hammadi collection are filled with trinitarian expressions of God. In the Gospel of Philip,we see written, “...the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” There is no place in the mainstream canon of the Bible where we can find so clear a reference to the Christian Trinity. In this way, we can state quite emphatically that we, as Gnostics, are trinitarians, yet we encompass far more than any dogma of the Church concerning this Trinity. more

 

 

 Bread From Heaven: The Inner Transubstantiation   A Homily for the Day of Corpus Christi

The feast of Corpus Christi , celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday as a solemn commemoration of the Holy Eucharist, is a fairly recent festival in the development of the liturgy of the Western Church. It was officially adopted by the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Clement V at the General Council of Vienne in 1311. It later became an especially important date in the recognition of various esoteric orders and mystical developments from within Christianity, such as the Freemasons and the Rosicrucians. The date carries a central importance in the Fama Fraternitatis, the seminal document of the Rosicrucian orders throughout the world. During the late Middle Ages the festival was observed with a grand procession of the exposed host in a pageant joined by religious orders, prelates, sovereigns, princes, magistrates and members of various craft guilds. The procession was followed by miracle plays put on by Guild members. Some have hypothesised that such ritual dramas were the beginnings of the degrees in Freemasonry. One of the reasons for its adoption by more Gnostic and mystically oriented movements throughout its history could be similar to the reasons for the veneration of St. Paul the Apostle by the early Gnostics, that being that this feast day was originally inspired by a spiritual experience. more

 

"When we have this Gnosis, we know the Beloved in eternity, we know who we are, from whence we have come, and whither we are going. This is the ecstasy of the union with the Beloved, out of time, out of the limitations of flesh."

 The Beloved of the Logos:   A Homily for the Day of Holy Mary of Magdala

The figure of Mary of Magdala, also known as Mary Magdalen, is both complex and controversial. She has remained a mystery for a very long time and an object of difficulty for the Church from the very beginning of Christianity. One question we receive from those of mainstream backgrounds is why the importance of Mary Magdalen in the Gnostic scriptures and our contemporary practice of Gnosticism. more 

 

 Rising into the Light:   A Homily for The Assumption of Sophia

August 15th is the traditional date for the feast of the Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary in the Roman Catholic Church and the Dormition of Mary in the Orthodox Church. The feast commemorates the assumption of Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life. It was not until the year1950 that the doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was made a dogma in the Roman Catholic Church, yet her feast goes back to the middle ages. According to C.G. Jung the proclamation by the Pope was accompanied by visionary revelations of the Blessed Virgin to himself and others. This suggests that the image of the Assumption of Mary relates to a phenomenon of the archetypal feminine in successive experiences of a revelatory nature. The story of the Ascension of Sophia, originating in the fourth century, predates the Feast of the Assumption by many centuries, and yet its imagery seems to be the archetype upon which later revelations about Mary are patterned. For this reason, it seems apt as Gnostics, to celebrate the Ascension of Sophia, on the Sunday nearest the feast day of the Assumption. more

 

 

 The Nativity of Our Lady:   A Homily for the Descent of the Holy Sophia

The date that Gnostics celebrate as the Descent of Sophia corresponds to the traditional date for the Birth of Mary in the Church Calendar. Both of these mythic motifs relate to the coming down to earth of the feminine image of the Redeemer. The story of the descent of Sophia is the story of our own fall into matter. The story of the birth of Mary describes the role of the Holy Female Power in our own redemption and liberation. more

 

 The Angelic Defender of the Gnosis:   A Homily for the Day of the Holy Michael, Archangel

The Day of the Holy Saint Michael the Archangel, also known as Michaelmas, is an important feast day in the Gnostic liturgical calendar. The Archangel Michael has enjoyed a surprising prominence in all three of the great world religions of the West—Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. It was a day of particular importance among the feast days of the liturgical calendar of the Medieval Christian church, thereby obtaining the common name of Michaelmas. Of the three Archangels mentioned in the canonical writings of the Roman Catholic Church, none has enjoyed more popularity or had as many Churches and Chapels dedicated to him, as the Archangel Michael. His popularity and presence in the mystical dimension of the human psyche eventually forced the Roman Catholic Church to include him in their theology as a Saint. more

 

 

 The Knights of Holy Wisdom:   A Homily for Day of the Martyrdom of the Holy Templars

In commemorating the Martyrdom of Jaques de Molay and the Holy Templars, we do not so much commemorate their martyrdom but their legacy of the Gnosis to us, their heirs. The Gnosis of which they were the custodians might be symbolized in the image of an underground stream traveling through time and geography to surface and appear at various times in history. The Templars then are one such upwellings or surfacings of the Gnosis within the various and superficially dissimilar trappings of time and culture.

Like many potent symbols of the Gnosis, the legacy of the Templars must be approached as a mystery rather than a collection of historical facts or various opinions about who they were. They bear both a historical dimension and a mythical dimension. more

 

 Heroes of the Gnosis:   A Homily for the Day of All Saints

One of the traditions that fell out of favor with the rise of Protestantism was that of prayers to the Saints and so went the Day of All Saints from the mainstream culture of the USA in favor of Halloween. Halloween or All Hallows Eve is the eve of this feast day and from the Day of All Saints Halloween got its name. In almost every other Christian nation people celebrate the Day of All Saints and the Day of the Dead following, as occasions of great meaning in their spiritual life. This loss of the tradition of Saints has resulted for most of us in a breakdown in one of the intermediary levels of contact with the numinosity of the Divine. The Saints are those souls who have gone before us into the Pleroma, and can therefore provide spiritual guidance and assistance to those who seek the light of Gnosis. Because they were at one time incarnated human beings with all the limitations that such suffer, they are one rung closer to us than other intermediaries. more

 

"The opportunity for Gnosis is the opportunity to raise ourselves into the communion of the saints, to raise our souls into the immortal spirit which is beyond time, death and rebirth."

 The Gnosis of Remembering:   A Homily for All Soul's Day

All Souls’s Day is traditionally a time to remember the blessed dead. In Latin cultures they call it the Day of the Dead. They decorate the graves of the dead and remember the relatives and loved ones that have passed beyond those graves. They recall a spiritual connection with some spiritual and immortal part of those deceased whom they have loved or admired while in earthly life.

As we remember those loved ones and revered ones who have passed on, we must remember our own eventual death and contemplate why the dead are called “blessed.” Why is an intimate understanding of death so important to the Gnostic paradigm? One that comes readily to mind is that those who have died have passed over into another realm of consciousness, another world, another reality. Connection with such an alternative reality is very much a part of the Gnostic journey to wholeness. Through connection with an alternative reality we might achieve consciousness of the original Light from which we come and to which, with divine aid, we have the potential to eventually return. more

 

"To accomplish this renunciation we must have those experiences of the Light that allow us to consciously affirm our essential alienness to the veils that the archons have wound about us and give them back to them, to let the mighty fire of our spirit enter the soul and burn away these veils."

 

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