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Posts Tagged ‘God the Son’

“. . . Walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God . . . .”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

St. Paul noted the marvelous progress shown by the Christians at Colossae.  They bore evidence of good Christian life regarding our Lord, each other, and themselves.  St. Paul had heard of their “faith in Christ Jesus”.  He had heard of the love which they had “to all the saints”.  And he had heard of “the hope which is laid up” for them in heaven.  The Colossians had progressed beyond the basics of the Christian Faith, and St. Paul loved them all the more for it.

St. Paul knew that progress towards God continues on.  So, the Lord moved the Apostle to the Gentiles to make repeated intercession for the perfection of his brethren.  Five times he prayed for the Church at Colossae to continue to grow in the faith.  St. Paul knew nothing of resting on his laurels.  He prayed and preached and urged and loved until he was martyred in Rome.

God created us in his own image.  We love, we have a soul, we create.  God the Father loved us so much He sent His Son to be born of a woman, to die for our salvation.  St. Paul experienced conversion of his soul and increased in the Holy Ghost until he died and went to heaven.  Likewise, we follow our Lord Christ and the saints before us.  We put off the old man of sin and put on the new man of salvation.  Donning righteousness, we grow into Christ.

Spiritual growth is the maturity and continuation of our salvation.  As Christians, we are called to Christ, to His sacred Person.  Getting up and following Him, the journey changes us.  As we continue walking, we grow.  We are all lame and befuddled, running into each other and going in circles entirely too often.  But so long as we walk the way of Christ, we continue to progress in the Holy Ghost.  If we sit down and go no further, then we jeopardize our growth and our salvation.

 

What does this past progress and future perfection mean for the Colossians and for us?  Here are five theological words united by doctrine and their ending:  “Justification, sanctification, consecration, purification, and assimilation.”

Christ saves us in justification and sanctification.  As Fr. Francis Hall wrote, “Justification initiates sanctification, and sanctification affords the explanation and fulfils the implied promise of justification.”  Consecration, purification, and assimilation are aspects of sanctification.

Justification is Christ making us acceptable to God.  Christ makes us acceptable by His Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection.  Justification is both an instant and a beginning.  Christ’s death and His sanctifying work in us sets us on the way of becoming united with Christ.

Christ continues the work of justification through the Holy Ghost in the process of sanctification.  Sanctification is part of our salvation.  Our continuing growth in holiness cannot be understood apart from Christ’s saving of us.  The two are bound together.

St. Paul depicts an image of the mature Christian, full grown.  Spiritual growth is not just about the initial act of salvation.  Rather, we wend our way along the path our Lord went before us.  We respond to a calling.  Being called to the Person of Christ, we change along His way.  This sanctification is part of our journey.

Sanctification has three aspects:  consecration, purification, and assimilation.  We are set apart as holy, or consecrated.  We are made clean from our sinful ways, or purified.  We are made to grow into the likeness of Christ, or assimilated.

As members of Christ’s Body and justified by Him, we are a holy people united to Christ.  We are consecrated.  The Holy Ghost mystically joins us together with Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.  In the waters of Holy Baptism, our sinful natures die, and we arise in Him.  Through Christ, the Holy Ghost sets us apart from sin.

If we are set apart, we cannot fall back to our earlier state of sinfulness.  To remain consecrated, we cannot sully ourselves continually with the filthiness of sin.  We must also be purified of all sin.  This second aspect of sanctification called purification assists in the retaining the state of the first aspect of sanctification called consecration.

Christ calls us to grow into the likeness of the divine nature of God.  He is God incarnate.  He is God with us.  As He lived, so are we to live.  He avoided all sin.  He lived in the will of God the Father.  He loved everyone.  He prayed for His persecutors and died for our sins.

This is the life we too must live.  This is the life which will let us live in the presence of God for all eternity.  This is the image of God in which we were made.  We must join in the divine character of God.  We must assimilate into Godliness.  This is the third part of sanctification.

We are justified and sanctified to be made fit for eternal life in the Kingdom of God.  Thus, we must go through this consecration, purification, and assimilation.  St. Peter quotes Leviticus when he writes, “Be ye holy; for I am holy,” in 1 St. Peter i.16.  Our Lord Himself says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” in St. Matthew v.48.  Only in the participation of the divine life of God are we fit to enter Heaven.

This sounds like a tall order.  It is.  But, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians iv.13).

To be with God for all eternity, we must change.  We cannot stay as we are.  We are mortal.  God is immortal.  We are sinful.  God is holy.  We are selfish.  “God is love.”  We are made acceptable to God the Father by God the Son through God the Holy Ghost.  As Christ makes us acceptable through His death and Resurrection, so we must continually grow to become like Christ.  Set apart in holiness, purified of all sin, we assimilate into the perfect life of the Blessed Trinity.

 

Looking back to the epistle lesson, we probably find it incoherent to simply “walk worthy of the lord”.  We are called to become united with Christ through justification and sanctification.  What does this look like?

We must grow into and keep God’s will as it is known to us in Holy Scriptures, in Holy Church, and in our informed conscience.  In particular, Christians bear six basic duties in our progress towards God.  These are weekly worship, frequent Holy Communion, regular fasting, tithing, keeping a clean conscience, and keeping ourselves chaste.

If you are able, you have an obligation to attend Mass every week.  Due to my chronic illness, I was unable to regularly attend Mass over the course of two years.  I found it frighteningly easy to get used to it.  It is not good for the soul.  Regular attendance will not get you into heaven, but avoiding the worship of the Living God is no way to live with him forever.  If we will worship Him for all eternity, we had best get used to it now.

Almost all of us receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ at every Mass.  In olden times, this was uncommon.  I am thankful that this parish is faithful in receiving the Blessed Sacrament so frequently.  Frequent communion often comes at the price of poor preparation to receive.  We should all strive to diligently prepare to meet our Lord on Sundays and other festal days.

Fasting has faded as a Christian discipline and reëmerged as matter of diets and fads.  When we read the Gospels and devotional aids, fasting confronts us frequently.  If you look at page Roman number fifty one, “LI”, of our Book of Common Prayer, we see two fasts, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and three sets of fast days.  The first set is the forty days of Lent, the second is all the Ember Days, and the third is all Fridays outside Christmastide and the Feast of Epiphany.

The Church Kalendar is particularly helpful in noting fast days.  Sometimes we see a distinction between fasting and abstention, with fasting being the reduction of amount of food eaten and abstention being the reduction of the quality of food eaten, usually meat.  Fasting is to be accompanied by prayer.  Fasting is only reserved for those physically healthy enough to fast and who do not need great physical strength in the course of their day.

Tithing can be a difficult subject.  Suffice it here to say that God has given us various amounts of material wealth to support our lives, and we have an obligation to return to him an appropriate amount in thanksgiving.  We should especially note that tithing is less a manner of fundraising or meeting a budget than it is a spiritual discipline of thanking God with our substance.

Keeping a clean conscience is a most critical method of pursuing sanctification.  There are two parts to keeping a clean conscience.  The first is to confess our sins, for by it we present to God our sins for Him to wash away.  This continues the work begun in us in Holy Baptism.  Perhaps you commit fewer sins than I, but I find the three-fold discipline of confessing my sins privately at night, daily and weekly at the Offices and Mass, and occasionally privately with a priest most helpful.

This brings us to the second part of keeping a clean conscience.  We are to avoid sin.  Sin is an offense against God, and sin is a state of brokenness between us and our loving Savior.  We are to flee from sin and to Christ.  We need to educate our conscience by learning right from wrong and seeking counsel on tricky circumstances when needed.  We need to exercise our conscience by avoiding occasions of sin and participating in the sins of others.  The more we educate and exercise our conscience, the less we will need to confess our sins.

Lastly, keeping ourselves chaste means seeking holiness in our sexual relationships.  Single or married, we are called to comport our sexual lives like the rest of our lives:  faithful and consecrated to God.  We cannot remain chaste when we lust with a roving eye or when we sleep with those whom are not our spouse.  Keeping ourselves chaste, like all these other duties, is fundamental to our journey of sanctification.

 

To “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing”, we ought to pursue God vigorously and to respond when he calls us.  Our ultimate end is with God, and our journey here on earth should take us to heaven with him.  Taking care of our fundamental obligations helps us work with Christ and the Holy Ghost and not against them.  Remember today’s epistle.  The Colossians began the race well, and St. Paul earnestly prayed that they would continue the course until their reward.

 

“. . . Walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God . . . .”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

Good tidings of great joy

 

Holy fear is a gift of the Holy Ghost.  It is the appropriate awe of God and the deep recognition of his otherness.  God is creator; he creates.  We are creatures; we are created.  We are utterly dependent upon him; God, thankfully, takes great pity upon us.

There is an impassable gap between Heaven and earth, between the realm where God splendidly lives in ineffable light and this mortal realm where those we love grow sick and die, where we constantly struggle against sin and each other, where even after a good day’s work we ache.  We and God are far, far away from each other.

Sadly, we are the ones who caused this gap, this distance between God and ourselves.  Our ancient ancestors, Adam and Eve, first sinned.  Ah, true, they were tempted.  But temptation doesn’t make a sin.  The sinful heart turns that opportunity of temptation into a sin.

That original disobedience from our Heavenly Father thrust us out into a world of our own making.  I don’t know about you, but I can spend a lot of time on a project, going over and over it again, and still find mistakes on the finished product.  I would rather live in a world of God’s making rather than one of my own.

Or at least I tell myself that.  In fact, I prove with my every act of rebellion against God that I want to live in my own world that is centered on me.  And I am not the only one.  If you listen to your own heart, you too will hear it beating for yourself and not for another.

For God, who is our creator and is so high above us, to become man, He had to abase Himself, to set aside His rightful place, to bear indignities for our sake.  Philippians ii.6-7:  “[W]ho, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:”

Imagine if you had to become again a helpless newborn baby.  You would go mad from lack of control over your own body and from the indignities you would face.  Yet God the Son created the universe from nothing, created all life and our very race from dust, and He voluntarily came down to live amongst us in such a limited fashion.  But even as a baby, He was still fully God the Son.

For what is great in the eyes of man is not great in the eyes of God.  The shepherds are lowly in the eyes of this world, but in the eyes of God the Father, they are worthy for his angelic hosts to sing the announcement of God the Son’s human birth.

The word St. Luke uses for glad tidings has the same root as evangelize and evangelist.  Those “glad tidings” are truly the Good News, for God has come to redeem his people.  We are no longer alone in the cosmos.  We are no longer ultimately separated by sin and death from our loving creator.  Heaven bowed down and kissed earth that night in Judea.  The world will never be the same.

And indeed, the world never has been the same.  Around the world the Good News of Christ our Lord spreads.  In this last year, Christians in the Congo, in Egypt, and in Nigeria have lost their mortal lives amidst the business of saving their eternal lives.  The world today is as sinful and difficult as it was for those shepherds on the hill outside of Bethlehem the day before Christ was born, with one difference:  God is now with us.  Our savior has lived among us.  He comes to us in every celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

And just as Christ first came into this world quietly in a stable, so He will come again to right every wrong, to lock sin and death away for all eternity, so that we might live with Him in glory everlasting with God, with the holy angels, with the holy martyrs, and with all our spiritual brothers and sisters.

It is on this day of Christ’s birth that the world changes.  Christ comes and turns the world upside down.  What is expedient in the ways of the world is revealed to be wicked.  What is foolish in the ways of the world is revealed to be holy.  Loving-kindness replaces selfishness as the smart way to live your life.  Loving your neighbor as yourself kicks loving yourself first and foremost off its idolatrous pedestal.

But it is not only we poor creatures huddled together for warmth in the face of the cold night outside for whom Christ comes.  Christ comes and redeems the whole world, for in saving us, He also saves the world:  The world of all humanity, by craftily subverting the faithful into living lives honoring Him and not the world:  But also the wider world of all creation, for it is on Christmas Day, on the Feast of Christ’s Nativity that God the Son sanctifies the material world with His very own presence.  The supernatural and the natural, the spiritual and the physical, the immaterial and the material meet in Christ.

St. Francis of Assisi, one of my favorite saints, made the first Christmas crèche in Greccio on Christmas Eve 1223.  He made a scene with a live baby surrounded by live animals.  He did this so that we would not only understand with our heads that God is very near us, but so that we could feel in our hearts that God is very near us.

In the nativity scene I grew up with, the Holy Family gathered in the middle while animals were off to each side.  Above them, angels kept watch and sang the Lord’s praises.  All three levels of creation were visibly represented to me there:  The angels up above, creatures of pure spirit; the animals on either side, creatures of pure flesh; and the Holy Family in the middle, creatures of both flesh and spirit.  Christ came to become one of us, and in doing so, He redeemed every part of God’s creation.

The angelic host of Heaven sings with joy and celebrates the Advent of Christ into our lives.  All God’s spiritual creatures sing out with gladness for the great love and mercy which the Father has bestowed upon us, which the Holy Ghost has made possible, in that the Son now breathes with a boy’s nostrils the air of our earth.

We regale each other with stories of how a president slept in a specific house or how some famous figure touched the lives of one of our ancestors.  But here we speak of the True King of all that ever was, that is, and ever will be living amongst shepherds and sheep and lying in a manger.  The idea is too wondrous for us.  We choke on it, thinking that He must not be so majestic to live with such common folk.

And friends, that is what the world will tell you tomorrow.  Foolishly thinking Christmas to be over, they will tell you that this Christ is not so majestic after all.  “He’s a fable, a story.  He’s so far lost in the mists of mythology that we actually don’t know anything about Him at all.  He’s all well and good for the fools and simpletons who need Him as a crutch, but I am important and have things to do.”  And indeed, some desperate souls will think these things.

But for those of us who travel with Him to that manger crib in Bethlehem, we have met our Lord Christ.  That is why I have included in each bulletin a Christmas devotion I encourage you to use throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas – right up until January 6th, the Epiphany.  But whether or not you use this particular devotion, think on the gift of God’s presence both now and into eternity from our God and Savior Jesus Christ:  I warmly encourage you to give Christ yourself in return.  After all, before we loved Him, He loved us first.

 

 

Christ came to us to take His place amongst us as flawed and fallible people struggling against temptation and living between birth and death.  Never before had God taken upon Himself such vulnerability.  Never before had God come, not in booming voice or cloud or fire, but in human flesh, not simply appearing like one of us, but actually becoming one of us.  We can say Christ is our brother more truly than we can call an angel or a horse our brother, for Christ truly is born of a woman into the family of Man.  Christ knew the love of a child for his mother.  He knew the sweat and exertion of physical toil with his earthly father.  He knew the camaraderie of the disciples.  He knew temptation, betrayal, suffering, and death.  And He is the first of all men to know the eternal reality of Resurrection — but He won’t be the last.

For it is through this veil of His human flesh that we come to enter into Heaven.  We are able to enter into the Holies of Holies in Heaven “by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;”  Christ does not only come to earth and become a newborn Jewish boy in Bethlehem to live alongside of us.  No, He comes down to us and becomes one of us so that we follow Him up into Heaven, into His Resurrection, into the presence of God the Father in the Holy Ghost forevermore.

Our human world, our world of family, of temptations, of nations and wars, of sickness and death, this our human world has on Christmas morning been pierced with the lava-hot loving-kindness of God’s own presence.  God is this day with us.  Christ our Lord is born in Bethlehem so that He may live amongst us, to the end that He might show us His love, become the way to salvation, die upon the Cross for our redemption, and leave us His Church.

And tonight we remember and recollect that blessed night over two thousand years ago when God the Son came to us in that little child.  Tonight we celebrate the invasion of this world of sin and sadness, death and decay by the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Alpha and the Omega.  We look forward to when that little boy will come again as a conquering king on the Last Day, when He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

Because God became Man in Christ our Lord, we are free.  We are free from the sins and mistakes of our past. That is what makes this night so special.

So tonight, let us gather around the Christmas crib and forget ourselves for a moment, letting ourselves rest and worshipping Christ our God and our Savior.

 

“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

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