Homilies

Written homilies by The Most Reverend Steven Marshall (Tau Stephanus, II), Bishop of Queen of Heaven Gnostic Church, a parish of the Ecclesia Gnostica in Portland, Oregon.

Seeking the Light

A Homily for The First Sunday in Advent

God Within

A Homily for The Second Sunday in Advent

Recognition of the Messenger

A Homily for The Third Sunday in Advent

The Nativity of the Divine Light

A Homily for Christmas

Renewal of Life

A Homily for New Year’s Day

Divine Guidance

A Homily for Epiphany

Kindling of the Light in Darkness

A Homily for Candlemas

The Mystery of Divine Love

A Homily for The Day of Holy Valentinus

A Legacy of Liberation

A Homily for Montségur Day

The Message of Gnosis

A Homily for The Annunciation to Our Lady

Purification

A Homily for Ash Wednesday

Self-Examination

A Homily for The First Sunday in Lent

Yearning for God

A Homily for The Second Sunday in Lent

The Temporary Triumph of the Light before its Obscuration

A Homily for Palm Sunday

The Inner Resurrection

A Homily for Easter Sunday

The Wealth of Spirit

A Homily for The First Sunday after Easter (Low Sunday)

Return to the Light

A Homily for The Feast of the Ascension

Coming of the Holy Spirit

A Homily for Pentecost

Devotion to the Triune Deity

A Homily for Trinity Sunday

Bread From Heaven: The Inner Transubstantiation

A Homily for The Day of Corpus Christi

The Beloved of the Logos

A Homily for The Day of Holy Mary of Magdala

Rising into the Light

A Homily for The Assumption of Sophia

The Nativity of Our Lady

A Homily for The Descent of the Holy Sophia

The Angelic Defender of the Gnosis

A Homily for The Day of the Holy Archangel Michael

The Knights of Holy Wisdom

A Homily for The Day of the Martyrdom of the Holy Templars

Heroes of the Gnosis

A Homily for The Day of All Saints

The Gnosis of Remembering

A Homily for All Souls’ Day

Renewal of Life

A Homily for New Year’s Day

by Bishop Steven Marshall

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.

The Children’s Bishop was also called the fatuorum papam, the Fool’s Pope. At this time of the new year people would celebrate the festum stultorum (feast of fools). During this feast, a servant at court or, more often, the court fool would serve as the Lord of the Misrule in place of the usual head of the manor. The Lord of Misrule would rule for the one night of the feast and entertain the assembled guests with the making of foolish and madcap rules for everyone to follow. In the reversal of the relationship of the ruler to the ruled, a reversal of conventions and values also occurred.

The Lord of Misrule has a function similar to that of the medieval fool, whose task it was to mock authority and give a humorous and compensatory perspective to the convention of rulers and rulership. His task is also to point out the absurdities of convention by poking fun at the head of the court and keeping the conventional authorities from getting too puffed up with themselves.

The Gnostic in the world has a role similar to the role of the fool in medieval society. The role of the Gnostic is sometimes to reverse the conventional view of reality, to turn the wisdom of the world on its head, like the image of the Hanged Man in the Tarot with his radiant nimbus and beatific smile. The Gnostic writings often point out the absurdities of the conventional figure of Jehovah and reverse the interpretation of the Old Testament myths. The values of the world and the spiritual values of the Gnostic are often contrary. Even so, the values of unconscious are often polarized to the values of the conscious persona as well.

The “Time of Misrule” provides an opportunity for entering into the unconscious, so that something greater may come into consciousness, so that a greater consciousness might come to birth. The writings of Hermes Trismegistus describe a technique for bringing forth this birth of consciousness. “Your consciousness is in God; draw it into yourself, and it will appear; will, and it takes birth; suspend the senses of the body and the birth of the Godhead takes place.” Suspending the senses of the body breaks down the world that the lesser self (ego) has built up. The breaking up of the ego’s conventional structures for obtaining information allows consciousness to bring in and assimilate the birth of greater consciousness. This is the way of the birth of the Divine Life within. As stated in a Valentinian homily, “Those who dissolve the world and are not dissolved themselves are lords of all creation and destruction.”

The ego in the psyche has a function similar to the Gnostic Demiurge, which means “architect.” Like an architect, the ego creates an ongoing stream of worlds and ideas, but they are artificial creations. There is a difference between an artificial creation, lacking life and consciousness, and a creation to which we have given birth. The process does not so much involve a dissolution of the ego itself but a dissolving of the world that the ego has artificially created out of error and ignorance. Consciousness must overcome the four functions of the ego: sensing, thinking, feeling and intuition; it must overcome the power of the four elements in order to enter the stillness and silence of Midwinter where, in the hush of the night, in our own soul, the spiritual birth takes place.

The Hermetic writings state that the body of Gnosis is built by an inner purification through the mercy of God. “But first you must purify yourselves from the mindless torments of matter, one of which is ignorance, though there are many others, which force the man who is confined to the prison of the body to suffer by way of the passions. But these at once depart from him on whom God has had mercy, and so the body of Gnosis in man is built.” The ego persona can not manufacture the body of Gnosis by way of its own creations. The process of giving birth to a greater consciousness within us is not under our ego control; it requires the grace of God for the miracle of spiritual rebirth to occur. Yet it also requires an act of will on our part, a fervent intention, a desire for this change to occur.

In interpreting this passage, we must meditate on the rising above or transcendence of the passions of the body. This is not at all the same as the repression of the bodily appetites with which most of us in our Puritan culture are well acquainted. In many ways the path of rebirth is the reversal of the Puritanical repression of the bodily passions. In repression we are exerting the control of our lesser wills; in transcendence we are invoking and receiving the grace of a higher Self within us, that takes us to a still place where, like in the hush of midwinter, the new birth comes about in us. “This is the way of true rebirth. And now my child be still, and keep solemn silence; and thus will the grace from God not cease to come upon us.” Kyrie Eleison. “O lord, pour forth thy grace upon us.”

As in the Hermetic Literature, C. G. Jung was also very much inspired by the subject of rebirth in Gnosticism:

“When a summit of life is reached, when the bud unfolds and from the lesser the greater emerges, then as Nietzsche says, “One becomes Two,” and the greater figure, which one always was but which remained invisible, appears to the lesser personality with the force of a revelation. He who is truly and hopelessly little will always drag the revelation of the greater down to the level of his littleness, and will never understand that the day of judgment for his littleness has dawned. But the man who is inwardly great will know that the long expected friend of his soul, the immortal one, has now really come, “to lead captivity captive”; that is, to seize hold of him by whom this immortal had always been confined and held prisoner, and to make his life flow into that greater life—a moment of deadliest peril.”

In the above quote we hear echoes of the insights contained in the Hermetic writings about rebirth. Here Jung describes the rebirth in relation to a summit of life. This suggests the transitions and passages that we experience in our lives. It also implies the need to transcend the “little will” and the “lesser personality” to make this transition from the lesser into the greater life. These changes and transitions are often painful and entail a letting go of a previous state in order for a new state to appear. In such a fashion, there is a mystical death before the interior and spiritual rebirth. How this spiritual rebirth differs from many life passages is that the aftermath of our suffering and loss transports us to a place of greater consciousness where the pain and sorrow is transcended. As promised in the Revelation of St John: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes and their shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be anymore pain.”

In order for all things to made new, the former things must pass away. 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. We can consummate this rebirth by becoming the dwelling place for the interior God and the greater life. The Revelation of St John proclaims, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” According to Jewish mystical writings the Tabernacle of God is dwelling of the Shekinah, the feminine presence of God. In the Gnostic writings She is Sophia, the Holy Spirit, the Heavenly City, the New Jerusalem. She is described as a city, a community of people not built by human hands, a fellowship of knowers. The fifth Gnostic Mystery describes this mystical fellowship in terms of a new birth of the light within our hearts.

“Behold a small star from the heavens descends to earth with light more brilliant than the sun. It comes to dwell in the hearts of the children of men and women, and these hearts are the foundation upon which is built the Eternal City, New Jerusalem.”

So this renewal in which there is no more pain, comes through the hearts of those in an invisible fellowship of Gnosis and in community with each other. If we care for each other through the passages, we can make them occasions for renewal and joy. Consciously will, desire and intend with inner resolve and the birth of the Godhead takes place within the tabernacle of our hearts. As we go into the New Year let us make our resolutions not on the basis of worldly expectations but on the true grace of insight and resolve that comes from the divine light within us. So may we prepare a place in our hearts and in our community for the mystical rebirth to take place. Then we shall proclaim with our Indwelling Divinity, “…for the former things are passed away. Behold, I make all things new.”


Steven Marshall is the Bishop of Queen of Heaven Gnostic Church, a parish of the Ecclesia Gnostica in Portland, Oregon.

The Gnosis of Remembering

A Homily for the Day of All Souls

by Bishop Steven Marshall

All Souls’ 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.

As we remember those who have passed over before us, we can begin to understand some of the cryptic sayings of the early Gnostics concerning death and gain insight into our own end. In The Gospel of Thomas the disciples ask Jesus, “Tell us how our end will be.” He answers with a question. “Have you then discovered the beginning that you inquire about the end? For where the beginning is, there shall be the end. Blessed is he that shall stand at the beginning, and he shall know the end and he shall not taste death.”

This logion is not the first place in the Gospel of Thomas where the phrase “shall not taste death” occurs, as it comes at the very beginning in the first logion where Jesus’ first utterance is, “Whoever finds the understanding of these words shall not taste death.” So from the very beginning the gospel the Savior points us to the mystery of death, of the birth which is a spiritual death, and the spiritual rebirth which transcends death. Dr. Jung in his commentaries on the Tibetan Book of the Dead describes this mystery in more contemporary terms:

“The supreme vision comes not at the end of the Bardo, but right at the beginning, at the moment of death; what happens afterward is an ever-deepening descent into illusion and obscuration, down to the ultimate degradation of new physical birth. The spiritual climax is reached at the moment when life ends.”

This logion from the Gospel of Thomas also suggests that our origin and our end are the same, but that we must first stand at the beginning before this is true. We must know our beginning in the Light before we leave this flesh if we are to enter the light beyond shadow after death. This also intimates that the immortality of the soul, so that we “shall not taste death,” also depends on this same salvific Gnosis of our origin in the Light. This is an act of remembering in truth, not an intellectualized affirmation, a stated belief, or an imagined reality. The injunction, “Memento morte,” remember death, might lead us to this same necessity of remembering the truth of our origin and recognizing the unfortunate condition into which we have been cast. This remembering might bring us sorrow in the recognition of the wretched condition into which we have been thrown, as the Mandaeans express it, “cast into a stump,” yet also the certainty and hope for transcending it. The logion quoted above also intimates that we have the potential to pass over and at least catch a tiny glimpse of that light while still in the flesh. Just one real taste is all it takes. Then you know, with a certainty beyond all doubt, that we have come from the Light, and to that place of repose we shall return when we lay aside the flesh. One of the few statements revealed about the Eleusinian mysteries is that they gave to the initiate a certainty regarding the immortality of one’s soul after death and a liberation from the fear of death throughout the remainder of one’s life. The aim of the Gnostic mysteries is very much the same.

The Repose mentioned in the Gnostic writings relates closely to this original end, and also to the peace which comes to the Gnostic through this experience. The initials on many tombstones, R.I.P., stand for “Rest in Peace.” The early Gnostics often referred to the repose of the Blessed Dead as the Rest as well. One of the major obstacles to serenity and peace in our lives that we all come in with is fear, the fear of death, the fear of how our end will be. This fear is the root of all other fears and anxieties in our lives, it is hardwired into our bodies. It inspires the first question asked of Jesus in this logion from the Gospel of Thomas. “Tell us how our end will be.”

One of the psychological complexes that blocks us from transcending and finding release from our fear of death is guilt. This is why so much of the sacred mysteries depend upon a granting of absolution and an inner purification to receive the Gnosis of the Light. In the Book of the Pistis Sophia it is written:

“Every man who is to receive the mysteries, if they knew the time wherein they would leave the body, they would be mindful and commit no acts of darkness, so that they might ever inherit the Kingdom of the Light.”

There is not a saint who lived who did not commit some act of darkness sometime during earthly life. The mere fact of incarnation puts us into a condition of alienation, forgetfulness and ignorance against which we must ever struggle. We come into this world and find only spiritual emptiness in ourselves, because we are blind in our heart, as related in the Gospel of Thomas. Some harm we do merely to guard our life and property in this world, other acts of darkness we commit, if not with the evil intents of our wounded egos, then through the mere clumsiness of the flesh or sheer stupidity or ignorance of the consequences of our actions. These we must accept as the ever present weaknesses and limitations of earthly existence. Yet there is an admixture of darkness within us that comes from the archons, such evil inclinations as vacillation, deceit, lust, pride, anger, greed and envy. All of these have fear as their foundation, for, in the great Gnostic myth, it was the fear of the first Archon, the Demiurge, that generated them. Of those acts which stem from the limitations of earthly existence we must be absolved and forgiven; of those latter evils which the archons have wound about us as veil upon veil of fog and obscuration and night we must be purified. According to the Book of the Pistis Sophia we are purified of these by receiving the mysteries and going to the Light. We are purified by consciousness; we are purified when we stand at the beginning by the fiery spirit which we become through our own consciousness of our origin in the Light.

“Now then, let him who shall do what is worthy of the mysteries receive the mysteries and go to the Light. He who is to receive the mysteries becomes a great fire, very mighty and wise, and it burns up evils, and the flames secretly enter the soul and consume all the veils which the spirit of imitation has fastened on it, and the soul surrenders their destiny, saying to the rulers of destiny: ‘Take to yourselves your destiny; henceforth I come no more to your region; I have forever become alien to you, being about to go to the region of my inheritance.’ Thus the knower, the receiver of the mysteries is free in his body and out of it, whether born on earth or reborn in heaven.”

This saying from the Pistis Sophia describes the Gnostic Renunciation. This is in many ways an inner prelude to the Gnostic sacrament of Redemption. 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. We achieve this by recognition of our origin in the Light, the region of our inheritance. The Apocalypse of Paul describes the confrontation and passage of these seven archons. His conversation with the last and seventh archon, the Chief Archon, exemplifies the essential nature and goal of the Renunciation:

“Then we went up to the seventh heaven and I saw an old man surrounded by a cloud of light and whose garment was white. His throne, which is in the seventh heaven, was brighter than the sun by seven times. The old man spoke, saying to me, ‘ where are you going Paul, O blessed one and the one who was set apart from his mother’s womb?’ But I looked at the spirit (that accompanied me), and he was nodding his head, saying to me, ‘Speak with him!’ And I replied, saying to the old man, ‘I am going to the place from which I came.’”

It is possible and, indeed, required of us as Gnostics to pass over these veils and experience the place of light from we came while still in the flesh. We know then that we have come from that place of Light and to it we shall return when we cast aside this flesh. “Shall not taste death” does not mean that we will not lay down this flesh when it is time to depart this world, but that our consciousness will not taste death; our consciousness of who we truly are beneath all the obfuscations with which the veils of the archons have surrounded us will not die. We are assured of the continuity of our consciousness because we have gained conscious recollection of our existence before this life, even before any lives in this world. With this we cast off our fear of death and all other fears which stem from it from which those veils of darkness were generated. We may not have the experience of fully crossing over to the place of Light and bringing the memory back to bodily consciousness, but we need only remember a small taste, the tiniest whiff of the divine fragrance of that experience to remember the authenticity of that Light when we come to it again. Most of us have at some time had experiences of feeling just a little closer to a place of love and light and the company of spirits from which we have come. These insights and experiences of Gnosis do not happen upon command or worldly desire. Through diligent struggle and a sincere heart-felt longing we gradually, veil by veil, come closer to these realities. One insight, one experience builds upon another but only if we remember and make spiritual use of the experiences with which we have been graced.

If we do this, if we truly take on the “noble striver’s struggles” to achieve this greater consciousness, then we will find that we are no longer empty in this world, that we have a great treasure within us, a treasure that has been with us from the beginning, but that we were too blind to see. That which we took for treasure in this world becomes empty and we see the poverty of worldly existence. “But I marvel at how this great wealth has made its home in this poverty.” (Gospel of Thomas) Again we come to that Gnostic conundrum that we must find this spiritual treasure within us before we can relinquish the imitations that we take for wealth, yet these very imitations are what obscure that inward treasure and blind us to it. This is why we cannot accomplish this by individual struggle alone. Divine aid has been dispensed to us; mysteries have been left for us as “an outward sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” These mysteries can remind us of that treasure if we let them. In material form though they be, they can remind us of that spiritual treasure that cannot be taken away, that cannot be tarnished, that cannot rot, that moths cannot devour, nor worms destroy. Always the Gnostic task is to remember; as in the words of the Savior, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” In remembering the Blessed Dead, let us also remember the one who was sent for our deliverance and liberation, to awaken us from our forgetfulness and to remind us of our origin beyond this world. To remember death is to remember the beginning. On All Souls’ Day we are reminded of that beginning. We are reminded of our essential task of renouncing the world, of transcending death and of the communion with our fellow spirits. Let us remember. Let us stand at the beginning whereby we shall know the end and “shall not taste death.”


Steven Marshall is the Bishop of Queen of Heaven Gnostic Church, a parish of the Ecclesia Gnostica in Portland, Oregon.