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Posts Tagged ‘nicene creed’

“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

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

 

That Christ will come with glory to judge the quick and the dead is an unalterable dogma.  It is plainly taught in the Holy Scriptures and by Holy Church.

We find this article of faith in the Creeds, the Gospels, and in the New Testament.  Attached to it is Christ’s judgement of sins.  We just said in the Nicene Creed:  “And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead….”  The Apostles’ Creed and the Advent collect say the same in slightly different words.  In order to be faithful Christians, we must believe this article of faith, that Christ will judge all men when He returns from Heaven.

 

Now, Advent is not simply the name of this season of the Church’s kalendar.  It means arrival, emergence, dawn, and occurrence.  It comes to us from the Latin words for to come.   Advent means Christ coming to us:  “O come, o come Emmanuel.”

In this holy season, our focus often rests on the prophecies leading up to Christ being born a babe in Bethlehem.  Today’s Epistle to the Romans (xv.12) reads:  “And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.”  This is the first advent of Christ into the world.  We remember this when the priest reads the Last Gospel after Mass:  “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”

The Second Coming of Christ is His returning in glory to judge the living and the dead.  Our risen and glorified Lord will then confront all mankind.  He will end the world as we know it and usher in a new world of redeemed mankind living fully the life of Heaven.

Today’s Gospel wondrously tells of Christ’s return.  In St. Matthew’s Gospel (xxvi.64b), Christ answers the high priest during His Passion, “nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

After Christ ascends into Heaven, angels tell the astonished apostles (Acts i.11):  “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

Christ will return.  We do not know when.  Christ says in St. Matthew (xxv.13):  “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”

We know that Christ’s return will be spectacular.  Christ says in St. Matthew (xxiv.27), “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”  The Bible uses strange prophetic imagery regarding His return to convey truth beyond our experience.  Our knowledge of the Lord’s return is of necessity partial.

But we are promised that:

  1. The trumpet will sound and all men will hear it,
  2. Our bodies, whether living and dead, will change in an instant,
  3. The cosmic regeneration of a new heaven and a new earth will occur as the former will have passed away,
  4. Our Lord will appear in glory,
  5. We will all be judged according to our deeds, and
  6. God’s Kingdom will be perfectly established.

 

Divine judgement is the process whereby Christ determines the eternal fate of men.  All men live forever.  Christ’s judgement determines where and how we will live forever.  We mean two things when we speak of Christ’s judgement of our souls in the end:  His particular judgement of each of us upon our deaths and his general judgment of us all at His Second Coming.

Jesus is our judge.  St. Paul says in Colossians, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Christ is God.  He is omniscient.  He judges truly.  He plumbs the secrets of each man’s soul.  He better understands why we do things than we understand them ourselves.  He considers every fact in His judgement; He is unlike a human judge who only has a limited and fallible understanding.  Christ fully shares the love of God as creator and as redeemer.  He values the souls of men more highly than we value ourselves.

God created us good, but we, like a dog returning to its vomit, continually turn to sin, to destruction, to death.  What can God do with us in such a state?  He can either dispose of us or save us.  God has chosen to save us from sin and death.  With infinite love and grace unbounded God sent his only-begotten Son into the world to save us from our sins.  He restores us to life.  The judgement of God is personal, but if we step back, we may consider it as the presence of God which reveals the truth about our state.  In order to live with God in love forever, we must first be judged.  Christ’s presence effects judgement.

 

When we die, we face the particular judgement, one of the two last judgements of God.  Before this judgement, we faced the daily judgement of our conscience.

The particular judgement differs from the general.  It is less a formal judgement than the completion of our life’s work.  We will have lived our life and made our inclinations and habits known to Him.  It is a private affair between Christ and the soul.  It is preliminary.  It is the last of the long line of similar judgements in our life.  The time of decision is over, for we are dead.  If we have not stifled our conscience, we will have been judging our actions during our life.

As we look at ourselves and other men, widespread solid evidence of our salvation is not apparent.  We do not die perfectly loving, perfectly moral, and perfectly faithful.  One must be holy to live in Heaven, and we do not die holy.  Our righteousness is that of Christ, but Christ does not take over our selves, remove our free will, and govern our actions to be only righteous.

Christ judges us upon our deaths as either saved or damned.  If saved, our spiritual progress does not end there.  It continues on after our deaths until our dross is fully burned off, leaving only purity behind.  Isaiah (i.25) says:  “I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin:”  One must not hold to the peculiar Roman doctrines of Purgatory, indulgences, and the treasury of merits to acknowledge the universal Church’s teaching on the matter.

God is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-wise.  He can search a man’s heart and weigh what he finds, even if the man had few opportunities to make moral actions in the light of God’s revelation.  Out of the least opportunities in the young and the ignorant, Christ can make accurate and unerring judgements.  His judgement is not hampered by our limits.

If a man is damned at his particular judgement, it will be as Abraham said in the parable of Lazarus and Dives (St. Luke xvi.31):  “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”  Which is to say that the pattern of wickedness and resistance to goodness the man had chosen for himself during his life will carry on for eternity.

But for those who are who are saved comes something entirely different.  Hebrews (xii.14) reads:  “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:”  None of us reach perfection in this life of ours, this vale of tears, of labor and pain and death.  But we start a good work that is made perfect in Christ.  Christ makes us perfect.  Christ makes us holy.

All men, no matter what heights of holiness they have achieved in this life, will no doubt have much to learn and much to cast aside before they finally enter into God’s presence in Heaven.  Our personal journey towards perfection will continue on until the day of the Lord’s Second Advent.  The purification of our souls is precious for those who desire God.

There may be pain in this growth, as perfection in Christ might require a necessary suffering on our part to refine our imperfect souls.  St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians (iii.15), “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”  Rest assured, Christ will weigh our life upon our death, and we do not want to be found wanting.

 

The general judgement follows the Resurrection of the Dead at Christ’s Second Coming.  Having been raised from the dead, all men will stand before Christ our Judge.  Our Lord describes this in St. Matthew (xvi.27):  “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”

The Revelation has a longer description of it (xx.11-15):

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

 

Sin is enticing.  If sin were not so tasty, nobody would sin.  In the Garden, Adam and Eve were not only set for life, but for all eternity; yet sin was so tasty to them that they risked it all and suffered death and misery just for a bite.  We love our sin.  We love our greediness.  We love our booze and pills.  We love our prideful contempt of others.  We love talking behind each other’s backs.  We do love our sin.  So we focus on our beloved sin instead of Christ and His judgement.

We do not like to admit it, and perhaps some of us never will, but we tend not to live our lives as if we were in the presence of Christ.  Maybe we think that God has greater things to do than concern himself with our lives.  Maybe we act like atheists, living our daily lives as if God did not exist, not praying to him, not thanking him, and doing what we like instead of what he requires.

Reverend Fathers, brothers and sisters, it is better to judge ourselves now so that we may amend our broken and sinful ways while there is time.  When we die, we will no longer have time to repent and amend our wrong ways.  So must we comport ourselves and live our lives that we can joyfully and hopefully anticipate Christ’s Second Coming.

 

“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

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

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“he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.”

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

 

“The Apostles”

What is an apostle?

‘Apostle’ literally means, ‘one who is sent’.  Which raises the questions, sent by whom?  Sent for what?  And sent where?

The apostles are personally commissioned by our Lord Christ.  They continue Christ’s ministry in His Church and the world by proclaiming the Gospel and governing the Church.  The apostles are sent to all the nations of the earth.

Acts ii.42:  “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

The apostles are key to the continuation of Christ in His Church.  The apostles’ doctrine and fellowship are the doctrine and fellowship of Christ.  They spent three intense years under Christ, not merely learning but being formed by Him, walking with Him in His ministry and Passion.  He spent forty further days explaining all they had experienced through in light of the Resurrection.  They were the first given the Holy Ghost in St. John xx.22 and then more broadly in Acts ii.4 along with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The apostles possess grace and authority from Christ Himself, which they then passed on to their successors the bishops as the Church grew.  And the Church here on earth grew rapidly while losing many to martyrdom.

The four marks of the Church are found in the Nicene Creed:  One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.  These four characteristics or marks are found in the Nicene Creed.  Unfortunately, due to a printer’s error centuries ago, our Book of Common Prayer omits the word “Holy”.  Every Sunday we proclaim aloud that the Church is Apostolic.  What then is the character of the apostles?

 

First, apostles are humble.

The Gospel shows the Lord chiding the disciples regarding position and lordship.  Instead, Christ shows another way.  “For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.”  Only the humble may be great in Christ’s kingdom.  They shall rule and lead, but they must serve as they rule.

This is contrary to the way of the world.  Many leaders in the Church have not followed Christ’s path of humility.  But we are called to crucify our old selves and put on Christ.  We must mortify, that is kill off, our old sinful self to put on the Resurrection life of Christ our Lord.

The apostles also continue the ministry of Christ in His Church through their morality and way of life.  The maniple I wear today is derived from the heir of the old deacon’s towel, ready to wipe and to clean.  This humility is also symbolized by the washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday, when the bishop or priest kneels before his people.  Our own archbishop ordinary, that is to say our regular bishop, is quite modest in his life and manners.

 

Second, apostles proclaim the gospel.

Apostles are men duly commissioned by Christ who are sent to preach the Gospel to the whole world, carrying with them Christ’s doctrine in humility and love.  This proclamation of the Word of God is central to their character.  All of them, except St. John, died the martyr’s death preaching the Gospel of Christ.  Today’s Saint Bartholomew is said to have been horribly murdered for converting the King of Armenia through Gospel preaching and the great work of exorcism.  We see this emphasis on preaching the Gospel in Christ’s own words, from St. Peter on Whitsunday or Pentecost, and from St. Paul in Corinth.

Christ tells the remaining eleven disciples in St. Matthew xxviii.18-20 to teach the nations:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

When the people of Jerusalem wondered if those gathered in the Upper Room who had been given the Holy Ghost on the feast of Pentecost were drunk, St. Peter answered with mighty preaching.  We read the result in Acts ii.37-42:

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.  And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.  Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.  And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

St. Paul refers to his own preaching to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians xv.1-4, in which he preaches the Gospel he himself was taught:

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

The successor to the apostles appointed over us here at St. Luke’s Church is Archbishop Mark Haverland.  He will come to visit us this November 2nd.  He will preach the Gospel, administer the Sacraments, and tend to his flock.  He is the one responsible for our missions both overseas and domestically.  He teaches well and has proven himself to be a staunch and unmovable believer in the Gospel of Christ which he ensures is taught faithfully to you, his faithful people through the likes of me, one of his priests.

 

Third, apostles rule with authority.

Today’s lesson from Acts refers to the wondrous workings of St. Peter, showing that the apostles held healing power comparable to Christ.  St. Paul does similar work later in the Acts.  The apostles work wondrous miracles, they are to be a paradigm of humility according to the Gospel, they preserve the Lord’s doctrine, they form the core of the Church’s fellowship, and they are to become the rulers of Israel.

We ought to remember that the wonderful works and teachings and love shown forth the apostles and their successors are not theirs; they are Christ’s.  Without Christ, none of us can do any good work, can teach God’s honest truth, or love one another and God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds.  All our good works, teaching, and love bear fruit in Christ alone.

The Church today is in continuity with the Apostolic Church through the Apostolic Succession.  Our own bishop has received the ensured Sacramental grace of Holy Order through both touching hands on heads and by practicing today the faith of the early Church.  Our doctrine conforms to the doctrine of the early Church.  If it does not, then we must reform so that it does so conform.

The Church is Apostolic because she keeps the faith delivered to her by Christ through the apostles and the successors of the apostles, the bishops.  Their consecrated touch in the Sacrament of Holy Order freely and certainly bestows the Holy Ghost which enables them to perform the work necessary to their calling.  This is clearly shown by St. Clement before the end of the first Century, conforms to the Holy Scriptures, supported by others immediately afterward, and taught throughout the Catholic Church.

Today’s Gospel shows that the Lord will have the Twelve Apostles judge the tribes of Israel.  As those ministers directly commissioned by Christ to grow the Church which He has planted, the apostles have the authority to rule over the Church.

After Pentecost, the apostles delegate authority to bishops, or overseers.  The Greek word for bishop is episcoposEpi means “over” and skopeo means “to see”.  A bishop oversees the church.  They continue the apostolic rule of those of Christ’s own ministry to Christ’s own Church.

Today, we crave Christ’s ministry amongst us.  Christ knew we would, and so He appointed those who would continue His ministry to the Church.  The apostles and the heirs of the apostles provide this leadership.  They are a great blessing from Christ to us.

The bishops ensure we hear the true Gospel every Sunday.  The bishops ensure every priest is vetted and trained before ordination.  That is why I read the Si Quis this morning, so that if any of you had something the bishop needed to know about Dr. Malone before his ordination, he would hear it.  Bishops convene synods of all the parishes, intervene in disturbed parish situations, discipline the clergy, and try to keep unity with good discipline and proper dogma with other Christian bodies.

 

Ask the holy apostles for their prayers.  They were personally selected by Christ, taught by him, and died for him.  They are alive in Christ in His Body, the Church Triumphant in Heaven.

Pray for your bishop, Archbishop Haverland, and your priests, Father Martin and me.  Christ has given us grace in the Holy Ghost to continue His work amongst his people.  But we are still frail sinful men like yourselves.  Pray that we stay humble, proclaim the true Gospel, and rule with loving-kindness and authority.

 

“he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.”

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

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“The four living creatures had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”

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

 

“The Holy Trinity”

The Athanasian Creed, found inside your bulletin, is not in our 1928 American Book of Common Prayer.  However, it has been in other Books of Common Prayer, most notably the English 1549 and 1662 books.  Reciting this Creed in public worship is very Anglican.

The Athanasian Creed itself is about fifteen centuries old, going back three-quarters of the way to Christ.  It is newer than the Apostles and Nicene Creeds.  It differs from those two by declaring that those who do not agree with it “cannot be saved”.  In this, it is very similar to the first version of the Nicene Creed.

The need for this Creed arose when the Visigoth and Ostrogoth barbarians were conquering what remained of the Roman Empire in Western Europe and North Africa, bringing with them heretical doctrines expelled from the Greek-speaking Church in Eastern Europe and West Asia.

The first half of the creed explains the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in a way which we can understand.  The second half explains the doctrine of Christology in a way which we can understand.  Both of these are complicated doctrines.  They are complicated because both fully conform to Holy Scripture, and the Bible is not a simple book of doctrines.

This Creed simply and repetitively states these complex doctrines in a way the common Christian can understand.  There is no need to go to seminary to grasp a basic and truthful understanding of the Holy Trinity and of Christ.

If you hearken to the words of the Athanasian Creed and understand these basic doctrines, your reading of the Holy Scriptures will be richly rewarded.  You will better understand Genesis, the Gospels, the Epistles, and the Prophets.  Today’s lesson from Revelation and the Gospel particularly make more sense to us when we read them with the true understanding of the Holy Trinity and natures and Person of Christ.

Also, you will better understand the prayers of our incomparable Anglican liturgy.  Your worship of God and your closeness to God will bear fruit from educating your mind in the God’s eternal truth.  We will live forever with God.  We ought to desire to know him a bit.

 

Here is the Athanasian Creed, or Quicunque Vult, along with some explanatory notes.  You may read along in your insert if you like.

 

“WHOSOEVER WILL BE SAVED,

before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.

(This does not mean the modern Church of Rome and her peculiar doctrines, but the entire, whole, ancient, Apostolic, and Catholic Faith.)

Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled,

without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

 

And the Catholic Faith is this:

That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity,

neither confounding the Persons,

nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father,

another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.

But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the

Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.

Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.

 

The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate.

The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible,

and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.

The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.

 

And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.

As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated,

but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.

 

So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty,

and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three

Almighties, but one Almighty.

 

So the Father is God, the Son is God,

and the Holy Ghost is God.

And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord,

and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.

 

For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity (or truth) to acknowledge

every Person by himself to be both God and Lord,

So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say,

There be three Gods, or three Lords.

The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten.

The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten.

The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son,

neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

 

So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons;

one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.

And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other;

(That means that no Person of the Godhead comes before another Person.)

none is greater, or less than another; But the whole three Persons

are co-eternal together and co-equal.

So that in all things, as is aforesaid,

the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

He therefore that will be saved must think thus of the Trinity.

 

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also

believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(That is, when we believe in Christ, we know of Whom we believe.  Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, believe that Christ is a creature of God the Father and not God Himself.  Thus, through their misunderstanding of Who Christ is, even if they say they believe in Christ, they believe in something other than the Christ, in a creature not our Incarnate God.)

For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess,

that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;

God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds;

and Man of the substance of his Mother, born in the world;

Perfect God and perfect Man,

of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

 

Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the

Father, as touching his manhood; Who, although he be God and Man,

yet he is not two, but one Christ;

One, not by conversion of the Godhead

into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God;

One altogether; not by confusion of Substance,

but by unity of Person.

(That means that the two substances of God and Man are not mixed together.  Christ is not fifty percent God and fifty percent Man.  That is incorrect.  Rather, Christ is both entirely God and entirely Man.  He is one Person with two different natures.)

For as the reasonable soul

and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ;

Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell,

rose again the third day from the dead.

He ascended into heaven, he sitteth at the right hand of the Father,

God Almighty, from whence he will come

to judge the quick and the dead.

At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies

and shall give account for their own works.

And they that have done good shall go into life

everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

 

This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully,

he cannot be saved.”

 

We are to emulate the internal economy of the Holy Trinity in its perpetual gift of loving-kindness between the Persons of the Trinity.  This abundance of agape love pours forth as the gift which is called Creation.  We are creatures of that eternal and dynamic loving-kindness of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

We are creatures of this overflow of loving-kindness just as children are made by the abundance of love procreatively poured forth from parents in their marriage.  A man and a woman make love, and that love makes children.  So too, the eternal generous love between the three Persons of the Holy Trinity creatively poured forth to form and then sustains the good earth, the angels in Heaven, the stars and moon, and all the rest of Creation, including us.

We were created when God the Son spoke the Word and God the Father breathed the Holy Ghost upon us.  Our lives are inseparable from the Holy Trinity.  Only within the Holy Trinity do our prayers make sense.  Christ Himself taught us to pray by praying “Our Father….”  Christ Himself told His disciples that He would send us a Comforter, the Holy Ghost.

Today, release both your heart and your mind to Almighty God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and love him with your whole self and not just your emotions.

 

“The four living creatures had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”

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

 

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“And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”

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

 

Here are verses 16 through 19 of the Gospel lesson:  “A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.  Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me:  and again, a little while, and ye shall see me:  and, Because I go to the Father?  They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while?  we cannot tell what he saith.  Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me?”

There are three ways to interpret all these iterations “ye shall not see me” and “ye shall see me”.

First, some interpret this to mean that while Christ was dead, the disciples could not see Him, but they would see Him after His Resurrection.  Today’s lesson comes from the part of St. John’s Gospel which we call the Farewell Discourse at the Last Supper.  That is, this lesson comes right before Christ’s Crucifixion.

St. Augustine of Hippo held another way to interpret this.  After His Ascension, the disciples will not see Christ, but that after their deaths, they shall see Him in Heaven.

A third way, taken by many saints, interprets this recurring phrase to reference Christ’s Second Coming.  So the first “little while” is the time after Christ’s Ascension, and the second “little while” is until Christ’s return in glory.  The disciples could behold Christ with their eyes until He ascended into Heaven, thereby preparing a place for us, but removing Him from our sight.  And since we know that Christ will come again, we know that we shall all see Him then.

Like the Nicene Creed says:  “And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father: And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead;”

And lest we think that Christ’s saying “a little while” excludes the possibility of thousands of years passing from His Ascension to His Second Coming, let us consider the words of the Psalmist:  (xc.4):  “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, * and as a watch in the night.”  We do not experience time the same way God does.  “A little while” might mean a few minutes or a few days, or it might mean until the end of the age.

 

(Verse 20)  The next verse merits closer attention:  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

The disciples sorrowed when their Lord died, and they rejoiced after His Resurrection.  The world (those enemies of Christ who put Him to death) rejoiced when He died, while the disciples were sorrowing.  The experience of those faithful in Christ will be different from the experience of the world around us.

And this is something all believers should keep in mind when we push forward and strive through the tears and afflictions of the present in order to reach forward and grasp the joys eternal.  We have a promise:  “but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”  No matter how bad life gets here on earth for the Christian, there are joys waiting for us in Heaven.  No matter what physical pain, what family conflict, what financial poverty, what oppression by the world, the flesh, and the devil, Christians will meet relief and joy when we pass on to Christ.

Therefore, we should weep for the world, we should weep for those who do not know Christ, and we should diligently study our faith, practice our faith, and share our faith with others.  The world has no hope of joys to come for all its delight is in the present hour.  This is all they have.  Only in Christ can we find eternal joy.

We must pass through the veil of sorrow to enter into the joy to come, like we must pass through the veil of Christ’s flesh in order to gain access to the Holy of Holies in Heaven.

This travail we experience is out entryway into life everlasting.  We must suffer the agonies of death so that we may live in the peace and goodness of Christ forevermore.

Why must we suffer so that we may have joy?  Why must we die so that we may live?  Remember the words of St. Paul in First Corinthians (xv.36):  “that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:”  In this world broken by the Fall, to pass on to life, one must first go through death.

All this talk of suffering and travail leads us to the next verse.

 

Verse 21:  “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.”

St. Alcuin of York wrote:  “The woman is the holy Church, who is fruitful in good works, and brings forth spiritual children to God.  This woman, while she brings forth, i.e. while she is making her progress in the world, amidst temptations and afflictions, has sorrow because her hour is come….”

Indeed, Christ says “for joy that a man is born into the world”, not “a boy” or “a child”, but “a man”.  That woman in travail is a figure of the Church, who is the Bride of Christ, our own mother, who brings forth spiritual children for God.

The Venerable Bede complements this understanding of the woman in travail being Holy Mother Church and the man who is born into the world being us:  “Nor should it appear strange, if one who departs from this life is said to be born.  For as a man is said to be born when he comes out of his mother’s womb into the light of day, so may he be said to be born who from out of the prison of the body, is raised to the light eternal.  Whence the festivals of the saints, which are the days on which they died, are called their birthdays.”

We are born to eternal life; then shall we see Christ and be glad.

 

The last verse (22):  “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”

The disciples who were with Christ in the body were to miss Him, and then they would come to see Him again.  They would “weep and lament”, but then their “sorrow shall be turned into joy.”  They would undergo the travail of sadness before joy which “no man taketh from you.”  As we read in Psalm xxx (v. 5):  “heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

We must trust in Christ.  We will see Him face-to-face on that last great day, the day of doom; each one of us; you can count on it.  He gave His life for us, and He will judge us.  We must resolutely follow Him through death into the glory that awaits us on the other side.

 

“And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”

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

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“Truly this was the Son of God.”

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

 

The Prologue to St. John’s Gospel reads:  “In the beginning was the Word” and then “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians reads:  “Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:” and continues later “took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

The Nicene Creed reads:  “Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; Begotten of his Father before all worlds” and “Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man: And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried:”

We think of a God who sits on high and looks down low.  We think of a God as pure Spirit who cannot really know what it feels like for us to live our limited bodily existence.  We think of a God who is too great to be concerned with our affairs.  Alternately, we think of a God who is purely a projection of our own needs, desires, and imagination and who serves as a defense against a cruel and wanton world.  But God is none of these things.

Before we were, God was.  As Christ said in last week’s Gospel, “Before Abraham was, I am.”  Before the Jews were called out of Egypt, He Whom we know as Christ dwelt with the Father and the Holy Ghost up in Heaven.  Before the world was created from nothingness, before space and time existed, He Whom we know as Christ was still the eternal Word, the eternal Son of the Father.  He was begotten of his Father before all worlds, for in the beginning was the Word.

God the Father sent the pre-existent Word of God out of Heaven to become one of God’s frail creatures.  Our minds, our hearts cannot conceive of such profound humility.  “How the mighty have fallen,” we cry when someone experiences a negative reversal of fortune.  We shall never in our whole lives suffer the humiliation Christ suffered in becoming man.  We may walk the Way of Sorrows with Christ, but we shall never suffer the humiliations Christ, our God and our King, suffered at our hands.  Only in our own death in Holy Baptism do we truly join to Christ, for He preceded us all in death.  And for those of us who die to the world in Christ Jesus, we too shall rise on that day of Resurrection like Christ rose from His empty tomb to ascend to the right hand of God the Father Almighty!

Christ bore the weight of the sins of the whole world upon His holy body as He hung on the Cross.  This made for deeper anguish than mere physical pain could cause, for Christ felt His beloved creatures’ wantonness, brokenness, and spiritual isolation more than we ourselves could feel it.

In the moment of complete defeat came the onset of everlasting and absolute victory.  The worst that man could do was not enough to keep the Son of God down.  The instrument of shame and torture became the sign of redeeming love.

As for us, when we consider the immensity of God and the great goodness of God the Father sending God the Son to become one of us, to suffer with us, and to die for us, we must shut our mouths and contemplate with awe the mysterious wonders of this week.

This is Holy Week.  We should attend diligently and meekly to the things of God.  I know that we all have our other duties:  family, household matters, work.  But this week is a week like none other in our faith, for this is Holy Week.  We acclaim Christ.  We witness His Passion.  We mourn His death.  And then we rejoice in His Resurrection!

“So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  This Holy Week is not about depression and sadness and death.  This week is about the hard humiliating work God the Son took up for us so that we might live forever with Him.  We owe God for our creation, for our redemption, and for life everlasting.

Let us put off worldly things this week and look to our Saviour.  Let us lift our thoughts out of the gutter and set them on the things of Heaven.  Let us quiet our minds and contemplate the things of God.  Let us worship our Lord faithfully this week of His blessed Passion and precious Death so that we may rise with Him on that great day of Resurrection.  Let us come before the throne of grace and bestow the gifts of our hearts to the King of the Jews!

 

“Truly this was the Son of God.”

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

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