Put On Incorruption — The Heavenly Man

“Saint Paul rejoices in the knowledge that spiritual health has been restored to the human race. Death entered the world through Adam, he explains, but life has been given back to the world through Christ. Again he says: The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven and it is heavenly. As we have borne the image of the earthly man, the image of human nature grown old in sin,so let us bear the image of the heavenly man: human nature raised up, redeemed, restored and purified in Christ. We must hold fast to the salvation we have received.Christ was the first fruits’, says the Apostle; he is the source of resurrection and life. ‘Those who belong to Christ will follow him. Modelling their lives on his purity, they will be secure in the hope of his resurrection and of enjoying with him the glory promised in heaven. Our Lord himself said so in the gospel: Whoever follows me will not perish, but will pass from death to life.

Thus the passion of our Saviour is the salvation of mankind. The reason why he desired to die for us was that he wanted us who believe in him to live for ever. In the fullness of time it was his will to become what we are, so that we might inherit the eternity he promised and live with him for ever.

Here, then, is the grace conferred by these heavenly mysteries, the gift which Easter brings, the most longed for feast of the year; here are the beginnings of creatures newly formed: children born from the life giving font of holy Church, born anew with the simplicity of little ones, and crying out with the evidence of a clean conscience. Chaste fathers and inviolate mothers accompany this new family, countless in number, born to new life through faith. As they emerge from the grace giving womb of the font, a blaze of candles burns brightly beneath the tree of faith. The Easter festival brings the grace of holiness from heaven to men. Through the repeated celebration of the sacred mysteries they receive the spiritual nourishment of the sacraments. Fostered at the very heart of holy Church, the fellowship of one community worships the one God, adoring the triple name of his essential holiness, and together with the prophet sings the psalm which belongs to this yearly festival: This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. And what is this day? It is the Lord Jesus Christ himself, the author of light, who brings the sunrise and the beginning of life, saying of himself: I am the light of day; whoever walks in daylight does not stumble. That is to say, whoever follows Christ in all things will come by this path to the throne of eternal light.

Such was the prayer Christ made to the Father while he was still on earth: Father, I desire that where I am they also may be, those who have come to believe in me; and that as you are in me and I in you, so they may abide in us.” Source

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Christ is Risen — I Am a Witness of the Things Accomplished Among Us

“Christ is Risen!!”
“Indeed, He is Risen!!”

This is the enthusiastic exchange that is being heard this morning among the Christian faithful in the Western portion of the Church.

“Who says?!,” one might ask. Someone might respond, “Well, that is what the Scriptures say.” And, they would be right.

But, I would hasten to add that the Scriptures say more than “Christ is Risen” in some general sense. The faithful, in the New Testament, say it in the first person singular. “I say, Christ is Risen. I am a witness to this event.” The New Testament faithful are also emphatic that if we say we have fellowship with them, we need to say it too and not just say, “They say so and I believe them.” No, they put us on the spot and say, “Join us in saying, ‘I say so.'”

Jesus, prior to the exhortation of the apostolic faithful, commanded us to bear witness to the saving message and work of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. To bear authentic and authoritative witness that He had died, risen, is present, and is coming.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samar′ia and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1.8)

Witnesses. Those who, in union with the Holy Spirit, speak in word and deed of the marvelous works of God the Father in Christ Jesus His Son.

St. Paul speaks of himself as a testifier.

Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (I Corinthians 15.1-11)

St. Paul goes on to speak of the importance of the living testimony of the Church and its members.

You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men;  and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3.2-6)

St. John speaks of himself as a testifier.

This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. (John 21.24)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1.1-4)

St. John adds a crucial aspect – the fullness of joy.

Our report of the appearing of the crucified and resurrected Christ Jesus in our lives brings the fullness of joy. You might say, if I may be so bold, it completes what is lacking in the sufferings and resurrection of Christ Jesus so to speak.

There is an essential fullness to our salvation that includes testimony – being a witness and bearing witness – to the resurrection of Christ Jesus.

Indeed, it was out of the creative environment set in place and governed by the Holy Spirit that first, the authentic testimony/witness of the Church issued forth into the world. And, it must be emphasized, it was first the proclamation by their way of life. Second, and simultaneously, the words of the believers emerged from this lived life of testimony/witness. These words became, in due course, the New Testament.

The Church is a community of disciples who testify to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Our way of life as well as our words manifest the dying and rising of Christ Jesus by grace. In so doing, we experience and rejoice in the fullness of the joy of our victorious Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Oh the delight and bliss of that joy ! !

By the authorization and grace of the Holy Spirit we are to be trustworthy witnesses of these things ! !

As St. Cyril of Alexandria says, “But now let the testimonies concerning His resurrection itself go with us on our way.” And let us add ours to it. Bear authoritatively by the grace of the Holy Spirit the marks, in your soul, on your body, through your way of life, and the words you use, the saving message:

Christ has died.

Christ is risen.

Christ the coming One is in our midst.

Our joy is full.

Jesus wept … Lazarus come out!

Everyday life is filled with death. And, everyday death is filled with life. The present is always “a matter of life and death.”

The Burial Rite in the Anglican tradition affirms the paradox.

In the midst of life we are in death;
from whom can we seek help?
From you alone, O Lord,
who by our sins are justly angered.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty,
Holy and merciful Savior,
deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death.

Lord, you know the secrets of our hearts;
shut not your ears to our prayers,
but spare us, O Lord.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty,
Holy and merciful Savior,
deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death.

O worthy and eternal Judge,
do not let the pains of death
turn us away from you at our last hour.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty,
Holy and merciful Savior,
deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death.

and,

You only are immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and to earth shall we return.  For so did you ordain when you created me, saying, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

We, in the economy of God’s saving work live IN this world but not OF this world. We are invited, indeed commanded, to be full participants in both worlds. Both must be true in order for us to “work out [our] salvation.”

So, our view to the circumstances of our everyday life is paradoxical. It is a human view and a divine view. It is a view that is honest about the struggle of purification. It is honest about the grief and sense of loss and defeat with which we still struggle. And, it takes seriously the faith conviction that “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”

We began Lent in the Western Church with the honest statement, “remember that dust you are and to dust you shall return.” And (not but) on Easter we will sing with faith conviction, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.” We say both.

That does not mean we are affirming a static both/and. We are affirming that we are in the midst of a journey of purification, illumination, and deification. In the midst. We must be honest in order to be victorious – “I believe, help Thou me unbelief.” We live in the paradox of “already but not yet” and it is a moving edge. Moving toward the day when:

“… sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35.10)

and,

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night within his temple; and he who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7.13-17)

I believe Jesus, in the story of the raising of Lazarus does wept and He does say with boldness, “Lazarus come out!!” He does both as God and He does both as man. He does both as fully God and fully man, the God-man.

I offer the following reflections from Fr. Alexander Schmemann and Elder Sophrony, to properly contextualize my comments, surrendering them to the affirmation and/or correction of the Holy Tradition.

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Lazarus, the Friend of Jesus

Let us first of all understand that Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, personifies the whole mankind and also each man, and Bethany, the home of Lazarus the Man, is the symbol of the whole world as a home of man. For each man was created friend of God and called to this Divine friendship: the knowledge of God, the communion with Him, the sharing of life with Him. “In Him was life and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4) And yet this Friend whom God loves, whom in love He has created, i.e. called to life, is destroyed and annihilated by a power which God has not created: death. God encounters in His own world a power which destroys His work and annihilates His design. The world is but lamentation and sorrow, tears and death. How is this possible? How did this happen? These are the questions implied in John’s slow and detailed narrative of Jesus’ coming to the grave of His friend. And once there, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) Why does He weep if He knows that in a moment He will call Lazarus back to life? … the Orthodox Church teaches that all actions of Christ are “theandric,” i.e., both Divine and human, are actions of the one and same God-Man. But then His very tears are Divine. Jesus weeps because He contemplates the triumph of death and destruction in the world created by God.

Love, the Power of Life

“It stinketh.” say the Jews trying to prevent Jesus from approaching the corpse, and this awful warning applies to the whole world, to all life. God is Life and the Giver of Life. He called man into the Divine reality of Life and behold “it stinketh”…The world was created to reflect and proclaim the glory of God and “it stinketh.” At the grave of Lazarus God encounters Death, the reality of anti-life, of destruction and despair. He meets His Enemy, who has taken away from Him His World and become its prince. And we who follow Jesus as He approaches the grave, enter with Him into that hour of His, which He announced so often as the climax and the fulfillment of his whole work. The Cross, its necessity and universal meaning are announced in the shortest verse of the Gospel: “and Jesus wept”… We understand now that it is because He wept, i.e., loved His friend Lazarus, that Jesus had the power of calling him back to life. The power of Resurrection is not a divine “power in itself,” but power of love, or rather love as power. God is Love and Love is life, Love creates Life…It is Love that weeps at the grave and it is Love that restores life. This is the meaning of the Divine tears of Jesus. In them love is at work again—recreating, redeeming, restoring the darkened life of man: “Lazarus, come forth!…” And this is why Lazarus Saturday is the beginning of both: the Cross, as the Supreme sacrifice of love, the Resurrection, as the ultimate triumph of love. From The Christian Way, 1961 Archpriest Alexander Schmemann

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In refusing to accept Christ as Eternal Man and, more importantly, as True God and our Saviour – whatever the form the refusal takes, and whatever the pretext – we lose the light of life eternal.

‘Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovest me before the founda­tion of the world’ (John 17.24).

There, in the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, must our mind dwell. We must hunger and thirst to enter into this wondrous Kingdom.

Then we shall overcome in ourselves the sin of refusing the Father’s love as revealed to us through the Son (cf. John 8.24).

When we choose Christ we are carried beyond time and space, beyond the reach of what is termed ‘tragedy’.

The moment the Holy Spirit grants us to know the hypostatic form of prayer we can begin to break the fetters that shackle us.

Emerging from the prison cell of selfish individualism into the wide expanse of life in the image of Christ, we perceive the nature of the personalism of the Gospel.

[…] It is a recognised fact that the ego is the weapon in the struggle for existence of the individual who refuses Christ’s call to open our hearts to total, universal love.

The persona, by contrast, is inconceivable without all-embracing love either in the Divine Being or in the human being.

Prolonged and far from easy ascetic effort can open our eyes to the love that Christ taught, and we can apprehend the whole world through ourselves, through our own sufferings and searchings.

We become like a world-wide radio receiver and can identify ourselves with the tragic element, not only in the lives of individual people but of the world at large, and we pray for the world as for our own selves.

In this kind of prayer the spirit beholds the depths of evil, the sombre result of having eaten of the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’.

But it is not only evil that we see – we make con­tact, too, with Absolute Good, with God, Who translates our prayer into a vision of Uncreated Light.

The soul may then forget the world for whom she was praying, and cease to be aware of the body. The prayer of divine love becomes our very being, our body.

The soul may return to this world. But the spirit of man, having experienced his resurrection and come near existentially to eternity, is even further persuaded that tragedy and death are the consequence of sin and that there is no other way to salvation than through Christ. Elder Sophrony (1896-1993; Orthodox): from His Life Is Mine, London 1977, p. 37-40

Ascension: Heaven to Earth Come Down And Earth To Heaven Gone Up

As I indicated in my last post, the Feast of Ascension is upon us. As a matter of fact it is, in the western church, going to be celebrated this Thursday. It, along with Pentecost, are favourite feasts of mine. The reason ascension of Christshould be clear in view of the name of this ministry – “Upward Call.” Our discipleship is call heavenward. It is a mysterious union of upward and downward not about geography. Up and down are not terms that speak of presence and absence but of relational reconciliation and consummation. It is the great commission issued to us by our Lord to become one with Him not only in death but in the fullness of His life in ascended (consummate) glory. And all of this as we live in the midst of a world that is passing away and giving way to this consummate life – “on earth as it is in heaven.” The upward movement — the movement of relational consummation — is implied in the resurrection of Christ Jesus. The Feast of Ascension makes explicit and fulfills the promise of our salvific journey as it moves toward fulfillment.  Here is a wonderful reflection on this theme by St. Maximus of Turin that was assigned to be read on the 5th Sunday of Easter (28 April 2013). I offer it for reflection now as a preparation for our celebration of the Ascension of Christ and of our own ascension in Him from one degree to another as we mature in Him. I have highlighted a portion for emphasis.

Christ is risen! He has burst open the gates of hell and let the dead go free; he has renewed the earth through the members of his Church now born again in Baptism, and has made it blossom afresh with men brought back to life. His Holy Spirit has unlocked the doors of heaven, which stand wide open to receive those who rise up from the earth. Because of Christ’s Resurrection the thief ascends to Paradise, the bodies of the blessed enter the holy city, and the dead are restored to the company of the living; there is an upward movement in the whole of creation, each element raising itself to something higher. We see the underworld restoring its victims to the upper regions, earth sending its buried dead to heaven, and heaven presenting the new arrivals to the Lord. In one and the same movement our Saviour’s Passion raises men from the depths, lifts them up from the earth, and sets them in the heights. Christ is risen! His rising brings life to the dead, forgiveness to sinners, and glory to the saints. And so David the prophet summons all creation to join in celebrating the Easter festival: Rejoice and be glad, he cries, on this day which the Lord has made. The light of Christ is an endless day that knows no night. Christ is this day, says the Apostle; such is the meaning of his words: Night is almost over; day is at hand. He tells us that night is almost over, not that it is about to fall. By this we are meant to understand that the coming of Christ’s light puts Satan’s darkness to flight, leaving no place for any shadow of sin. His everlasting radiance dispels the dark clouds of the past and checks the hidden growth of vice. The Son himself is the day to whom The Day, his Father, communicates the mystery of his Divinity. He it is who says through the mouth of Solomon, I have caused an unfailing light to rise in heaven. And as in heaven no night can follow day, so no sin can overshadow the justice of Christ. The celestial day is perpetually bright and shining with brilliant light; clouds can never darken its skies. In the same way, the light of Christ is eternally glowing with luminous radiance, and can never be extinguished by the darkness of sin. This is why John the Evangelist says: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never been able to overpower it. And so, my friends, each of us ought surely to rejoice on this holy day. Let no one, conscious of his sinfulness, withdraw from our common celebration, nor let anyone be kept away from our public prayer by the burden of guilt. Sinner one may indeed be, but no one must despair of pardon on this day which is so highly privileged; for if a thief could receive the grace of Paradise, how could a Christian be refused forgiveness? Source: St Maximus of Turin, Sermon 53, 1-2 (CCL 23:214-216); Word in Season III, 1st ed.

Onward and ever upward in Christ Jesus by the Holy Sprit while we reside right here with our feet solidly on the ground !! P.S. — For those who want to follow where the feast, in its profundity, will lead us in our discipleship: Why, in the icon of the Ascension, is the Theotokos in the center below the ascending Christ? Or, to put it another way, what does the feast of Ascension and Pentecost have in common with the Feast of the Annunciation and Nativity in terms of the Theotokos as an icon of the Church and the believer?! Fr. Thomas

“Where are We Headed?”: Pascha – Ascension – Pentecost

arrowWe are approaching the end of the season of Pascha in the western church. The feasts of Ascension and Pentecost will soon be upon us. It is important, therefore, to be reminded of the way of life that is supposed to be borne out in and through the Church and her members as a result the resurrection of Christ Jesus. To put a not too fine point on it, “Where are we headed?” The Holy Tradition proclaims and facilitates an answer: We are to become partakers of the divine nature in the person of the Holy Spirit; daily live out the grace of our baptism, dying and rising with Christ Jesus and more consummately manifesting our union with God the Father in His Son – in other words, to grow up into the likeness of the Son by the same Spirit; and to have Christ Jesus make His appeal through us to the world and continue His ministry in the world.

The season of Pascha initiates this message. The grace proclaimed and communicated through Ascension and Pentecost continue it and bring it to fruition. Once again, St. Macarius the Egyptian speaks eloquently regarding this trajectory. I must admit that his allegorical application of the prophecy of Ezekiel to the disciple was new to me. I found it to be wonderfully enlightening as I consider the meaning of Pascha, Ascension, and Pentecost. Here is the segment of Homily I articulates, “where we are headed.”

HOMILY I – An allegorical interpretation of the vision described in the prophet Ezekiel

1. The blessed prophet Ezekiel relates a glorious and inspired vision or apparition which he saw, and his description is that of a vision full of mysteries unspeakable. He saw in the plain a chariot of Cherubim, four spiritual living creatures. Each living creature had four faces, one the face of a lion, another the face of an eagle, another the face of a calf, and the fourth the face of a human being. To every face there were wings, so that there were no hinder parts to any of them. Their backs were full of eyes; their bellies likewise were thick set with eyes ; there was no part about them that was not full of eyes. There were also wheels to every face, wheel within wheel. In the wheels there was a Spirit. And Ezekiel saw as it were the likeness of a man, and under his feet as it were a work of sapphire. The Cherubim-chariot J and the living creatures bore the Master who rode upon them. Wheresoever He chose to go, it was with face forward. Beneath the Cherubim he saw as it were a man’s hand supporting and carrying.

2. And this that the prophet saw was in substance true and certain, but it signified and foreshadowed something else, mysterious and divine – a mystery hidden verily from ages and from generations (Col. 1.26) but in the last times made manifest (1Pe. 1.2) at the appearing of Christ. The mystery which he beheld was that of the soul, that was to receive her Lord, and to become a throne of glory (Ma. 25.31) for Him. For the soul that is privileged to be in communion with the Spirit of His light, and is irradiated by the beauty of the unspeakable glory of Him who has prepared her to be a seat and a dwelling for Himself, becomes all light, all face, all eye; and there is no part of her that is not full of the spiritual eyes of light. That is to say, there is no part of her darkened, but she is all throughout wrought into light and spirit, and is full of eyes all over, and has no such thing as a back part, but in every direction is face forward, with the unspeakable beauty of the glory of the light of Christ mounted and riding upon her. As the sun is of one likeness all over, without any part behind or inferior, but is all glorified with light throughout, and is, indeed, all light, with no difference between the parts, or as fire, the very light of the fire, is alike all over, having in it no first or last, or greater or less, so also the soul that is perfectly irradiated by the unspeakable beauty of the glory of the light of the face of Christ, and is perfectly in communion with the Holy Ghost, and is privileged to be the dwelling-place and throne of God, becomes all eye, all light, all face, all glory, all spirit, being made so by Christ, who drives, and guides, and carries, and bears her about, and graces and adorns her thus with spiritual beauty ; for it says, the hand of a man was under the Cherubim, because He it is that is carried upon her and directs her.

3. The four living creatures which bore the chariot were a symbol of the ruling factors of the soul. As the eagle is the king of birds, and the lion of wild beasts, and the bull of tame ones, and man of creatures in general, so the soul also has its ruling factors. They are the will, the conscience, the intelligence, and the faculty of love. By these the chariot of the soul is controlled, and upon these God rests. According to another interpretation the symbolism is applied to the church of the saints in heaven. As it is here said that the living creatures were exceeding high, and full of eyes, and it was not possible for anyone to apprehend the number of the eyes, or the height, because the knowledge of these was not given ; and as it is with the stars in the sky, to see and wonder at them was given to all men, but to know and apprehend the number was not given ; and with the plants of the earth, to enjoy them was given to all, but it is impossible for anyone to know the number of them ; so with regard to the church of the saints in heaven, to enter into it and enjoy it was given to all who will but strive, but how to see and apprehend the number is reserved for God alone to know. The Rider, then, is conveyed and carried by the chariot or throne of the living creatures which are all eye, or, in other words, by every soul that has become His throne and seat, and is now eye and light. He is mounted thereon, and governs her with the reins of the Spirit, and guides her according to His understanding. For as the spiritual living creatures went not whither they were minded to go, but whither He that sat upon them and directed them knew and willed, so here it is He that holds the reins and drives by His Spirit, and they go accordingly, not by their own will when they are minded to go through heaven. Sometimes, discarding the body, He drives and takes the soul in thought through heaven; sometimes, when so it pleases Him, He comes into the body and its affairs; sometimes, when so minded, to the ends of the earth, and discovers to the soul mysteries revealed. Oh, the noble and good and only true Charioteer! In like manner shall our bodies also be privileged at the resurrection, the soul being thus pre-glorified even now, and mingled with the Spirit.

4. That the souls of the righteous become heavenly light, the Lord Himself told the apostles, when He said, Ye are the light of the world (Ma. 5.14) He first wrought them into light, and ordained that through them the world should be enlightened. Neither do men light a lamp, He says, and put it under the bushel, but on the lampstand, and it giveth light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men. (Ma. 5.15, 16) In other words, Hide not the gift which ye have received from Me, but give to all that are minded to receive it. Again, The light of the body is the eye ; if thine eye be full of light, thy whole body is enlightened, but if thine eye be evil, thy whole body is dark. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness. (Ma. 6.22,23; Lk. 11.34)) As the eyes are the light of the body, and, so long as the eyes are well, the whole body is enlightened, but, if any accident befalls them and they are darkened, the whole body is in darkness, so the apostles were set to be the eyes and light of the whole world. The Lord therefore charged them by this saying, If ye who are the light of the body, stand fast and turn not aside, behold, the whole body of the world is enlightened ; but if ye who are the light are darkened, how great is that darkness, which is nothing less than the world. So the apostles, being themselves light, administered light to those, who believed, enlightening their hearts with that heavenly light of the Spirit by which they were themselves enlightened.

5. And being themselves salt they seasoned and salted every believing soul with the salt of the Holy Ghost; for the Lord said to them, Ye are the salt of the earth (Ma. 5.13), meaning by earth the hearts of men. They administered in the souls of men the heavenly salt of the Spirit, seasoning them and rendering them free from corruption and from going bad, instead of that unsavoury condition they were in. Flesh, if it be not salted, corrupts and is filled with ill savour, so that everyone turns from the evil odour, and worms creep into the corrupted flesh, and there dwell, and feed, and burrow; but when the salt comes, the worms that dwell there are destroyed, and the offensive smell is at an end; for it is the property of salt to kill worms and to banish an ill smell. In the same manner, every soul that is not salted with the Holy Ghost, and does not partake of the heavenly salt, which is the power of God, corrupts, and is filled with the ill odour of bad thoughts, so that the countenance of God turns from the dreadful odour of the vain thoughts of darkness, and from the passions that dwell in such a soul. The evil and dreadful worms, which are the spirits of wickedness, and the powers of darkness, walk up and down in it, and dwell there, and burrow, and creep, and devour it, and bring it to decay. My wounds stink and are corrupt, says the Psalm. (Ps. 38.5) But when the soul flies to God for succour, and believes, and asks for the salt of life, which is the good Spirit that loves mankind, then the heavenly salt comes, and kills those dreadful worms, and banishes the ill savour, and cleanses the soul by the effectual working of its power, and thus the soul is made sound and free from deterioration by that true salt, and is restored to being useful and serviceable to the heavenly Lord. That is why in the Law God, using a figure, commanded that every sacrifice should be salted with salt. (Le. 2.13) from Fifty Spiritual Homilies of St. Marcarius the Egyptian, by A.J. Mason D.D., SPCK, 1921

3rd Sunday of Pascha – The Myrrhbearers

Here is a reposting of a previous article on the theme of today’s gospel reading. I have amended it a little as a result of my further reflections on the feast. I pray you enjoy it and are blessed …

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Today is the 3rd Sunday of Pascha. We are moving away from the tomb toward the Ascension of Jesus and Pentecost ten days later. Any yet, the Church brings us back to the tomb. Listen to another account of the visit of the Myrrhbearing women to the tomb from St. Luke.

While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? [6] Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.’  And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Mag’dalene and Jo-an’na and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles;” (Luke 24.4-10)

Who were these women whose encounter of the angels and the risen Lord are recorded in some form or another in all four gospel accounts? Of those whose names are known:  Mary the mother of James and Joses; Mary Magdalene; Mary, the wife of Clopas; Joanna; Salome, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome and Joanna, and another woman referred to as “the other Mary.”

Why are we taken back to the tomb? Why go back to the place of death? Why, in the middle of the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, should we be commanded by the Holy Tradition to consider the example of these women?

The answer has to do with our need to constantly be reexamining our expectations. In essence, the angels ask them and us, “What and/or who do you seek?”

Do we understand the relationship between what we seek and what we expect? One follows naturally and inevitably from the other. What we expect defines what we seek and what we are able to see and understand. To quote myself, “Nothing will change if nothing can change.”

The Myrrhbearing women were expecting to find a dead body at the tomb. That is what they were seeking. They could not find what they were seeking and ask the angels what they had done with the body!! The Myrrhbearing women are driven by love for Jesus that is among the greatest expressions of it to be found in the Bible. But, that love was set within the context of expectations that are “out of sync.” with the truth of God’s purposes.

I believe it has always seemed best to the Church and the Holy Spirit to remind us, in the midst of our Pascha excitement, of the need to ask the question of “expectations.” What do you expect to find in the lives of others, in your job, in your children, in your spouse, in yourself? That expectation/conviction of the truth will govern what you seek and what you offer and what you can see.

The women did not recognize the angels as angels. Mary does not recognize Jesus as Jesus in another passage. The women are “perplexed.” They are expecting to find what they are seeking – death and defeat. Instead, they find life and victory.

Their eyes and ours need to be opened. Their expectations and ours need to be challenged and changed. How else can they and we live in the midst of this present darkness with hope and resolve? How else can join with Christ in the expansion of His Kingdom? Are we trapped in our delusion; in the dead end of our delusional expectations? Is there no hope for God to break through? This question is crucial.

Can a breakthrough happen? If so, how can it happen? God respects the integrity of our free will. He does not violate the boundaries we set. However, the light of His love, as we have learned, PRESSES upon us, seeking to find a place of entry. How were the eyes of the women opened? What made it possible for them to be changed?! How can the breakthrough into New Life occur?

I propose there are a number of points in life where transformation is possible.

  • Yearning to know and receive the truth – “cost what it will, lead where it may”
  • Desperate need
  • Mercy in the response to deserved condemnation
  • The speaking of our true identity/name
  • Love

Our gospel for today sheds light on how the desire to show love can become the entry point for the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Let me quote from a wonderful homily on the subject of the Myrrhbearing women:

“… in the face of hopelessness, these women act. They buy ointments that will help his body dry out as it decays, and sweet spices so that even in death, his body is honored. Their actions show their steadfast love for Christ, that even after hope is shattered, they go the extra mile to honor Jesus. Such is their love for this dead man.

In their actions, we see that the myrrhbearers came to anoint Christ not out of a desire for any recognition or reward from Jesus, nothing that they could get out of it. He is dead. The women probably have no recollection that Christ said he would rise again, so they probably have no hope of triumph in Jesus’ death. They come not to receive, and probably not consciously to give either, but they are motivated by their love for Him, that they want His body to be blessed with sweet smelling fragrance.

Yet these women are honored with being the first witnesses to Christ’s resurrection. They were the first to know the joy that Christ had defeated death, that hope was fulfilled, that despair and grief were not all that was left to them. And, they were the first commissioned with going and telling others that Christ had risen from the dead.

These women were not seeking the excitement of some great commission, but they received this as a result of their desire to love and serve Christ even after death.

Both are present in the resurrection accounts. In the account of the myrrhbearers we have the presence of love. The women sought to express their love for Jesus even in His death. (The homily in its entirety can be found here.)

The Myrrhbearers were motivated by love. The love of the Myrrhbearers was shown in the context of what they believed was a massive and tragic defeat. They were not there to “get something.” They were there to give all they believed they could give. They were there to offer something – loving care for the dead body of their beloved Lord. Misguided expectations and convictions formed the context for their expression of love for their Lord. But, God used that serving love, misguided by inaccurate expectations though it was, to bring them to a deeper relationship with their Lord.

What is the entry point the point where transformation is possible in your life? Where are your misguided expectations keeping you from seeing and responding to the risen Lord?  You have been gathered to this Holy Table in this place, at this time, with these brothers and sisters. What and/or who do you seek? That depends on what/who you expect to find? What /who do you expect to find?

Repent and believe the gospel – Christ is risen and so have you!! Expect resurrection and seek it. Seek and serve Him who is risen in all persons and all circumstances.

How easy we forget. How often we need to be reminded. We need to visit the tomb – the place where crucifixion and resurrection meet – on a regular basis, not just once. This is the essence of the Divine Liturgy and the reason that it is celebrated on each and every Sunday, the Lord’s Day. But, as we do, let us do so with expectancy, to be reminded of, recommit ourselves to, and be nourish to participate in the victory of Christ’s resurrection, not to mourn defeat or with resignation to the inevitability of sin and death in our life. Thanks be to God for His merciful reminder and challenge. Repent and believe the Gospel. Christ is risen! He goes before you and is in whatever you face. Serve Him in the place to which He has instructed you to go. He will meet you there!!

Fr. Thomas
Note: I realize that in the course of writing posts for this blog that the convictions I share may inadvertently conflict with the Holy Tradition. I stand joyfully under the authority of this Tradition to test my words. If, in any way I have erred, I stand joyfully corrected. Lord have mercy on me a sinner.

Christ Jesus is Risen ! ! — Death and Sin are Destroyed — New Life and Righteousness are Established

Christ Jesus is Risen ! ! — Death and Sin are Destroyed — New Life and Righteousness are Established …

Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; let those who hate Him flee from before His face (Ps. 68:1)
As smoke vanishes, so let them vanish; as wax melts before the fire (Ps. 68:2a)
So the sinners will perish before the face of God; but let the righteous be glad (Ps. 68:2b)
This is the day which the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps. 118:24)

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life!

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη ἐκ νεκρῶν,
θανάτῳ θάνατον πατήσας,
καὶ τοῖς ἐν τοῖς μνήμασι,
ζωὴν χαρισάμενος!

Transliteration:
Christós anésti ek nekrón,
thanáto thánaton patísas,
ké tís en tís mnímasi,
zoín charisámenos!

Bless you on this day on which we celebrate and renew our full participation in the new universe,

Fr. Thomas

Back to the Tomb. What or Who are You Seeking? What Do You Expect?

Myrrhbearing Women

Today is the 3rd Sunday of Pascha. We are moving away from the tomb toward the Ascension of Jesus and Pentecost ten days later. Any yet, the Church brings us back to the tomb. Listen to another account of the visit of the Myrrhbearning women to the tomb from St. Luke.

“While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.’ And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Mag’dalene and Jo-an’na and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles;” (Luke 24.4-10)

Who were these women whose encounter of the angels and the risen Lord are recorded in some form or another in all four gospel accounts? Of those whose names are known: Mary the mother of James and Joses; Mary Magdalene; Mary, the wife of Clopas; Joanna; Salome, Mary Magdalene, and another woman referred to as “the other Mary.”

Why are we taken back to the tomb? Why go back to the place of death? Why, in the middle of the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, should we be commanded by the Holy Tradition to consider the example of these women?

The answer has to do with our need to constantly be reexamining our expectations. In essence, the angels ask them and us, “What and/or who do you seek?” Do we understand the relationship between what we seek and what we expect? One follows naturally and inevitably from the other. What we expect defines what we seek and what we are able to see and understand. To quote myself, “Nothing will change if nothing can change.”

The Myrrhbearing women were expecting to find a dead body at the tomb. That is what they were seeking. They could not find what they were seeking and ask the angels what they had done with the body!! The Myrrhbearing women are driven by love for Jesus that is among the greatest expressions of it to be found in the Bible. But, that love was set within the context of expectations that are “out of sync.” with the truth of God’s purposes.

I believe it seems best to the Church and the Holy Spirit to remind us, in the midst of our Pascha excitement, of the need to ask the question of “expectations.” What do you expect to find in the lives of others, in your job, in your children, in your spouse, in yourself? That expectation/conviction of the truth will govern what you seek and what you offer and what you can see.

The women did not recognize the angels as angels. Mary does not recognize Jesus as Jesus in another passage. The women are “perplexed.” They are expecting to find what they are seeking – death and defeat. Instead, they find life and victory.

Their eyes and ours need to be opened. Their expectations and ours need to be challenged and changed. How else can they and we live in the midst of this present darkness with hope and resolve? How else can join with Christ in the expansion of His Kingdom? Are we trapped in our delusion; in the dead end of our delusional expectations? Is there no hope for God to break through? This question is crucial.

Can a breakthrough happen? If so, how can it happen? God respects the integrity of our free will. He does not violate the boundaries we set. However, the light of His love, as we have learned, PRESSES upon us, seeking to find a place of entry. How were the eyes of the women opened? What made it possible for them to be changed?! How can the breakthrough into New Life occur?

I propose there are a number of points in life where transformation is possible.

• Yearning to know and receive the truth – “cost what it will, lead where it may”

• Desperate need

• Mercy in the response to deserved condemnation

• The speaking of our true identity/name

• Love

Our gospel for today sheds light on how the desire to show love can become the entry point for the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Let me quote from a wonderful homilyon the subject of the Myrrhbearing women:

“… in the face of hopelessness, these women act. They buy ointments that will help his body dry out as it decays, and sweet spices so that even in death, his body is honored. Their actions show their steadfast love for Christ, that even after hope is shattered, they go the extra mile to honor Jesus. Such is their love for this dead man.

In their actions, we see that the myrrhbearers came to anoint Christ not out of a desire for any recognition or reward from Jesus, nothing that they could get out of it. He is dead. The women probably have no recollection that Christ said he would rise again, so they probably have no hope of triumph in Jesus’ death. They come not to receive, and probably not consciously to give either, but they are motivated by their love for Him, that they want His body to be blessed with sweet smelling fragrance.

Yet these women are honored with being the first witnesses to Christ’s resurrection. They were the first to know the joy that Christ had defeated death, that hope was fulfilled, that despair and grief were not all that was left to them. And, they were the first commissioned with going and telling others that Christ had risen from the dead.

These women were not seeking the excitement of some great commission, but they received this as a result of their desire to love and serve Christ even after death.

Both are present in the resurrection accounts. In the account of the myrrhbearers we have the presence of love. The women sought to express their love for Jesus even in His death. (The homily in its entirety can be found here.)

The Myrrhbearers were motivated by love. The love of the Myrrhbearers was shown in the context of what they believed was a massive and tragic defeat. They were not there to “get something.” They were there to give all they believed they could give. They were there to offer something – loving care for the dead body of their beloved Lord. Misguided expectations and convictions formed the context for their expression of love for their Lord. But, God used that serving love, misguided by inaccurate expectations though it was, to bring them to a deeper relationship with their Lord.

What is the entry point the point where transformation is possible in your life? Where are your misguided expectations keeping you from seeing and responding to the risen Lord? You have been gathered to this Holy Table in this place, at this time, with these brothers and sisters. What and/or who do you seek? That depends on what/who you expect to find? What /who do you expect to find?

Repent and believe the gospel – Christ is risen and so have you!! Expect resurrection and seek it. Seek and serve Him who is risen in all persons and all circumstances.

How easy we forget. How often we need to be reminded. We need to visit the tomb on a regular basis, not just once. Thanks be to God for His merciful reminder and challenge. Repent and believe the Gospel. Christ is risen! He goes before you in whatever you face. Serve Him in the place to which He has instructed you to go. He will meet you there!!

Fr. Thomas

From the Pascha to Pentecost — NEW LIFE Not Just A Second Chance

One of the readings last week (4-28-11) from the gospel in the Eastern Orthodox lectionary was the story of the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus (John 3:1-15). It is significant for many obvious reasons. I would like to briefly explore one of those reasons. Let me do so by posing a question: “What difference does the death and resurrection of Jesus make to the way I live my life right now?” Another way to put it is: “Where do I go from here?”

Implied in that question are a couple of presuppositions. First, the dissatisfaction with the conviction that the saving death and resurrection of Jesus is just about accomplishing the forgiveness of sins. Okay, so I am REALLY grateful that my past sins are forgiven and my sins in the future are forgiven. But, dare I say it?  That is not enough! I am just the same old sinner racking up sins as I go along. Grateful but not changed.

Second, if the death and resurrection of Jesus is about MORE than just forgiveness of sins, i.e. “eternal life” then to what degree is the rest of my life on this side of my physical death not just “waiting around” trying to “not sin” with no hope of ever succeeding until I am released from the torment of trying not to sin and never succeeding?

Third, quite frankly, it is hard, “well nigh impossible,” to keep the Pascha flame burning inside me in the midst “this present darkness” that is all around me and very much inside me. The glow is inevitably fading. At least it feels inevitable. And, it will be inevitable unless there is more to the gospel that just: 1) right the scales of justice 2) a promise of something better out there somewhere.

Get the idea?

The “Dynamis” reflection on John 3.1-15 (4-28-11) establishes an essential aspect of the Easter/Pascha proclamation. The death and resurrection of Jesus is about more than just forgiveness and the promise of eternal life. It is about NEW LIFE…
The proclamation of Pascha is that the risen Christ Jesus desires to bestow on all who come to Him NEW LIFE which includes the forgiveness of sin and eternal life.

Let me share an excerpt from the reflection. And then comment on it to establish the gospel point.

‘…one must be ‘born again’ to ‘see the Kingdom of God.’  Nicodemos understood the Lord’s miracles or signs as a function of God being ‘with Him’ (vs. 2).  ‘Rather,’ intervenes the Lord, “…the Kingdom of God is present, but is not seen nor perceived,” because those, like Nicodemos, who see only results or effects are not ‘born again.’  Because they are not spiritually regenerated, they do not see the Kingdom.  Nicodemos completely fails to understand.

The Lord then proceeds to deepen the topic of regeneration further, speaking of how one becomes spiritually regenerated.  New birth is required by ‘water and the Spirit’ (vs. 5), by receiving what we have learned to call the Christian Mystery: Holy Baptism, Holy Chrismation, and Holy Communion.  Subsequently, the Lord Jesus explains how it is that these Mysteries transform a person spiritually.  Rebirth is an action of the Holy Spirit: ‘that which is born of the Spirit is spirit…” (vs. 6).  It is beyond human manipulation or management.  “So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (vs. 8).  Nicodemos is utterly baffled and perplexed (vs. 9).

The Lord Jesus continues into the depths of spiritual regeneration: He Himself is the One by Whom men are reborn, and it is He Who teaches men how to receive the Mysteries of regeneration (vs. 11).  These ‘earthly things’ by which men may find the ‘heavenly things’ must be learned from the One “Who came down from heaven, that is, from the Son of Man” (vss. 12-13). The Lord concludes this teaching with the life-giving message that Nicodemos and all men need: “…whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (vs. 15).

NEW LIFE is the point of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is not just a motivational story to rev me up to “try harder” or to “make it all better” when I screw things up or a “pie in the sky by and by” promise to invigorate me to grit my teeth and tough it out until I am “raptured” by the Lord one way or another out of the miserable tribulation of living in a broken world that has no hope of getting better.

The point of the death and resurrection is also not just about me. It is about what God is doing to and in the midst of the whole universe. It is about change. About new birth. About the new that replaces the old. Not just with regard to me. Not just regard to even us. It is about everything being new – all things!! A new heaven and a new earth. I new universe – invisible and visible – spiritual and material.

NEW LIFE is a change. Opps, I said it. CHANGE… NEW LIFE requires change. But, it would be incorrect to just assume you know what is meant by the word “change.” It requires TOTAL change not just some “adjustments.” The death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ mandate my death and resurrection not just a methodology of moral or ethical improvement. Not just resolutions to “do better this time.” Not just adjustments. Not just starting over as the same “me” that I was before. Why? Because if I am just a “well adjusted me” I will find a way to become a “not well adjusted me.” There is really nothing in the gospel thus portrayed that offers me any hope of having things turn out the same this time as last time, if not worse.

I must die and be reborn. The story of Nicodemus and Jesus joins the baptism of Jesus with the death and resurrection of Jesus. The events that serve to initiate and fulfill the ministry of Jesus are found in the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus. The “would-be” and “long-standing” disciple of Christ Jesus must die and be raised with Christ Jesus. The epistle reading that goes along with  the gospel reading, Acts 2:38-43, is perfect – “repent and be baptized” Peter says to the crowd on Pentecost when they ask, “What must we do?” It is what begins and fuels the ongoing Christian life. Without Pentecost, the Christian life is just one more “motivational” methodology or “self-help” formula. Without Pentecost, the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus is relegated to the “spectacular and powerful” event I admire but in which I have no investment or participation. That is blunt but true. I must participate or it is just an big “Divine drama” that fails to change humanity no matter how much it changes the rest of the created universe. If I do not enter into the baptismal waters and stay there by living a Eucharistic life then I am not part of the NEW LIFE in which the rest of the created universe is participating.

In Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist I offer my essential participation. Baptismal regeneration that results from the union of Divine initiative and my essential participation is, simply put, really dying to the old life and being born again – raised to new life not just “fixing up the old life in a major way.” The old life is not fixable. It must be discarded – die and be buried – completely. This is what baffles Nicodemus. He has (I have) been taught to “try harder” in so many different ways, all of which appear to be, and are to some degree, commendable. But, they are not the Christian life. They are a shadow. They fall short. They are not what Jesus is talking about with Nicodemus. That is why the story is, I believe, like so many other stories in which Jesus seems to be talking about something completely different than what the person has asked, jarring and upsetting. The disciples are talking about making the old better and Jesus is speaking about complete newness of life!! No wonder the stories seem so disjointed and nobody “gets it” – Nicodemus or us.

So, where does all of this place me? It places me (and you) in the position of needing to ask “how?”… And that, brothers and sisters is the point of the fifty days between Pascha (compels us) to go. The Holy Spirit drives us – prods us (one of the connotations of the verb “comfort”) – toward Pentecost.

Rebirth is an action of the Holy Spirit: ‘that which is born of the Spirit is spirit…” (vs. 6).  It is beyond human manipulation or management.

The point of the resurrection of Jesus is for me to do the same!! I am enabled by grace to be all that Jesus is by nature – resurrected. The resurrected life – NEW LIFE not just renovation or sin management – is the point of Pascha or there is no point to Pascha.

The empty tomb points me to the Holy Mystery of Pentecost – baptism by water and the Holy Spirit and the ongoing fulfillment of that baptism by identifying with the Lord via His life-giving Body and Blood in the life of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

This is the TRUTH regarding the WAY that is LIFE (not just a means for receiving life but also an aspect of the very life itself). The form and the content of my (our) salvation are one seamless whole. The Christian life cannot be lived “any old (or new) way.” The Holy Spirit has fashioned the identifiable WAY which is the LIFE of Christ the disciple is to live. It is called the Holy Tradition. It a living reality not a dead methodolgy. (It can, of course, be a dead thing if it does not remain what it truly is, the gift of the Holy Spirit to us that must be “Spirit-filled” and “Spirit-lived.”) It forms THE WAY WHICH IS LIFE. The life of Christ Jesus Himself is the WAY WHICH IS LIFE. My dying and being raised with Him and in Him is LIFE. It does not take me “somewhere else.” It is not just a means or a beginning toward another end. It is the end and it is the
beginning.

Dying and being raised with Christ Jesus by the baptism of the Holy Spirit – water and fire – and the NEW LIFE that it brings – bread and wine – becomes REIGNING with Him. It is a Lamb who was slain and raised victorious that reigns at the right hand of the Father.  Not one or the other. Both. The same is true for me. I must be, in the Holy Spirit, dying and being raised unceasingly in order to be REIGNING.

Before I close, let me spiral back to the issue of forgiveness of sins and eternal life lest anyone go away with the misconception that I have trivialized their importance in the saving work of Christ Jesus. When placed in the context of NEW LIFE “forgiveness of sins” ceases to be the effective proclamation of a distant (albeit compassionate) judge in a courtroom and becomes relational reconciliation between three persons who yearn for a new union and the fruit that it will bear – God, me, and others.

The meaning of “eternal life” changes as well. No longer is it a distant hope of being snatched out of the broken world. I am no longer consigned to living “in between” what I was and what I will become someday. The “future” and the “past” permeate the present by being taken, blessed, and filled with the new reality of the Kingdom of God. The past, present, and future are united in the Kingdom of God. The fullness of God’s saving actions are available to me now. They are not locked away in the past or the future. The fullness of all of God’s saving action is present in each and every saving action. The present becomes full of the life of Christ (the fullness of the saving action of the Father by the Holy Spirit) and therefore, abundant by being permeated with the Kingdom of God – with God’s love. Eternity ceases to be an indication of “when.” It becomes a quality statement. Eternity is a statement about the victory in which I am already fully a participant. Eternity is about becoming who I already am. Being and becoming.

Let me illustrate. The moment my son, Joshua, was born he was fully Joshua. He was not missing and of his “Joshua-ness.” He will spent his whole life consummating his identity, who he already fully is – Joshua. Likewise, I am becoming more and more who I already am in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Eternal life is a term that addresses the tendency to try and live a life more than “just historical” as if it were “just historical.”

As I continue to surrender myself to the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, who is fully present in the midst of time – all moments – I grow up into the fullness of who I already am. My physical death ceases to be a “crossing over” moment from mortality to immortality. From “not-eternal” to “ever-more-fully-eternal.” Instead, death becomes one more (albeit more profound than perhaps any other) event that is used by the Lord to promote and deepen the quality of my participation in eternal life.

I invite you to read the post-resurrection ministry of Jesus with all of this in your mind and heart. Notice how Jesus is pointing His disciples and apostles toward Pentecost. Notice how he is mentioning and beginning to establish in their minds and hearts the WAY of NEW LIFE in the Holy Spirit that will be initiated on Pentecost.

This, I believe is the answer to the inevitable question that Pascha prompts us to ask, “What difference does the death and resurrection of Jesus make to the way I live my life right now?”

Christ has died and Christ is risen to be our NEW LIFE by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit in the Mystery of Pentecost in which we die and are raised with Him and in Him.

Let us journey toward Pentecost with the risen Christ…

Fr. Thomas