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Posts Tagged ‘St. Mary’

“Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”

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

 

“Speaking the wonderful works of God”

 

God has spoken to Man throughout the ages.  God communed with Adam in the cool of the morning.  God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but not Cain’s.  God commanded Noah to build the Ark.  God chose Abraham and sent him on his journey, communicating to his through angels.  God spoke to Moses from the burning bush to lead the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt and gave him his sacred Law.  The tabernacle of the Ark of the Covenant signified the presence of God to the priests and people of Israel.

Yet even when the Ark was lost, God still spoke through the prophets of Israel, correcting and admonishing the priests, kings, and people when they grew lax with God’s Law and sought to worship themselves instead of God.  These prophets and the calamities visited upon the Israelites scattered many of them but sharpened and honed others.

Out of these others came Ss. Mary and Joseph, Ss. Elizabeth and Zacharias, and those who waited for the consolation of Israel.  The Son of God the Father became Man in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Holy Ghost came upon her and the power of the Most High overshadowed her.  God raised a great prophet in the elderly womb of St. Elizabeth.  As her son, St. John the Baptist, preached and prepared those hoping for the restoration of Zion to receive their king, Jesus grew in stature and wisdom until his Baptism by St. John and his ministry amongst the Jews.

Thus we understand the first two verses of Hebrews:  “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;”

As we have worshipped in the cycle of Holy Church through the preparation for Easter, Pre-Lent and Lent, and thence through Passion Week and Holy Week, worshipping through the Passion, death, Resurrection, and then Ascension of our Lord Christ, so we come to the time Christ promised us:  Pentecost.

WHEN the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Christ gave the Holy Ghost to the Church to hold her accountable to what He taught her.  We are given the Holy Ghost in the Sacraments to bring God’s presence into our lives and accomplish all things necessary for holiness.  The Third Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Holy Ghost, instructs us, seals us in the knowledge of God, and preserves the teachings of Jesus Christ.

 

From the Confirmation rite found in the Book of Common Prayer:  “Strengthen them, we beseech thee, O Lord, with the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, and daily increase in them thy manifold gifts of grace: the spirit of wisdom and under-standing, the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength, the spirit of knowledge and true godliness; and fill them, O Lord, with the spirit of thy holy fear,”

Zechariah vii.11-12:  “But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.  Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts.”

St. John iv.22b-24 “…Salvation is of the Jews.  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Romans viii.9-11:  “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”

I Corinthians ii.9-10, 12:  “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God…. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”

 

We are comforted – strengthened – by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit also leads us into all truth.  The two come together in that teaching of Christ, that the Holy Ghost will preserve and keep us in the word of God from Christ.  He “brings all things to remembrance”.

In the Collect, God “didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit” and we beseech God to “Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things”.

Teaching the hearts of the faithful and granting us right judgement are both brought about by the first thing St. Peter does after receiving the Holy Ghost at Pentecost.  He preaches.

He preaches that those who have not heard may hear.  He preaches that those who do not understand may understand.  He preaches that those who fail may be strengthened to succeed.  He preaches that the faithless may find faith.  He preaches that the stout-hearted give glory to God and lead others to glorify God as well.  He preaches by telling the truth that the authorities do not want to be told.  He preaches by speaking the wonderful works of God.

Will you stand up alongside the great apostle and speak the wonderful works of God?

 

“Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”

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

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“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”

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

 

“Son of God and Son of Mary”

 

When we think of Christ, what do we think about Him?  In G. K. Chesterton’s marvelous 1925 book The Everlasting Man, he notes that nobody has ever raised a “statue of Christ in wrath”.  That is, we have made no statues of Christ thrashing money-lenders at the Temple, cursing the fig tree which produced no fruit, or as the fearsome judge and warrior of Revelation.  Instead, we make statues of Christ as “almost entirely mild and merciful”.

Without a doubt, there are many times that Christ was mild and merciful.  But he was also fierce and demanding.  Our Saviour was a real person, with a real personality.  Sometimes we read the Gospels and find seemingly contradictory descriptions of Him, His words, and His actions.  But real people are complex and not simple.

Christ is a historical person.  He lived in Judea of the Roman Empire, an area that spoke Greek because of the Hellenization which followed the victories of Alexander the Great.  Christ was the culmination of the people of Israel.  Christ had a human mama, a young lady whose heart was pierced by a sword in the sorrows she experienced through Him.  He had relatives who initially disapproved of His ministry.  He had a hometown which accepted Him as a carpenter but rejected Him as a religious prophet.  Christ ate.  He cried.  He had friends.  He worshipped in the synagogue and in the Temple.  When He was scourged, He bled.  When He was crucified, He died.  Christ is a man.

“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”  This is Christ’s clearest declaration that He is divine.  It is obvious from the Jews’ reactions that they understood Him to be saying exactly this; they were offended by His “blasphemy”.

 

Christ’s words, “I am”, can be used without great theological importance:  “I am Fr. Otwell.  I am Angela’s husband.  I am Ray’s boy.”  But Christ says here, “Before Abraham was, I am.”  He is Who He is.  He exists.  This echoes God’s answer to Moses when Moses asked who was speaking to him out of the burning bush:  “God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM:”  God is existence.  “I Am” is the Old Testament name of God, what we know as Jehovah or Yahweh, spelled in four Hebrew letters known as the Tetragrammaton.  This is an existential name, this is a holy name.  Jesus, in this sense, has two holy names.

At one place in the Greek version of the Old Testament that the early Church used, “I am” is translated, “I Am the Existing One.”  This sounds cryptic and unusual to our ears, but it did not sound odd to the hearers of the Gospel in the First Century.  Jews, Gnostics, and pagans all used “I am” in special occasions to point to something beyond, to point to something other, to point to something holy.  And so St. John puts Christ’s sacred words into this context.  Christ declares that He is God.  St. John began his Gospel with the words, “In the beginning was the Word”, the Word that was God, the Word which came into the world.

Christ is God.  God is the existing one.  Every single other creature, including St. Michael and Satan, St. Mary and Judas, our oldest member here to our youngest, dogs, cats, goats, cows, rocks, trees, mountains, plains, planets, and stars all depend upon God for their existence.  God created everything that exists out of nothing.  God is without beginning and without end.  God is not matter; God created matter.  God did not always have us; God created us at a point in time before which we did not exist.

God exists.  We conditionally exist.  We are utterly and profoundly dependent upon God for our very existence.  God created us in love.  God chose us.  We are not accidents.  We are beloved creatures God painstakingly made in his own image so that he could enjoy us and we could enjoy him.  God is love.

Understand here what Christ was saying.  Christ said that He was God – in particular, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.  Christ explicitly claimed divinity, and the pious Jews with Whom He was arguing understood, for they picked up stones to stone him to death for blasphemy.  The Jewish religion, the Jewish Church if you will, of the Old Testament prepared the Jews for Christ, but God’s gift of himself as a Jew amongst Jews was too much for many of them to accept.

Before we scoff at them, we are in the same boat.  We have enjoyed two thousand years’ of understanding that Christ is God and Man, and yet we still cannot hardly understand it.  But doesn’t it make sense?  God created us out of love, and in the great good gift of freedom, at our creation we chose to worship ourselves instead of him.  So what is he to do?  He sets out to destroy us in the Flood, but saves Noah and then repents of the idea.  So again and again God shows a better way, a way pointing to holiness.  And in the “fullness of time”, God the Father sent His only-begotten Son into the world so that we may be freed from sin and live in beautiful loving communion with God forever.

 

Understand when we contemplate the Cross that we and our sins did not only send a man to die for our wickedness.  We sent the Person Who is the Incarnate God on earth amongst us to His death.  We tried to kill our God; we tried to kill our maker and our lover.

But we cannot keep life himself down.  God is.  God is love.  God is life everlasting.  We can kill the things of God for a while, but God redeems and resurrects.  This is why we not only have love and we not only have forgiveness of sins, but we have everlasting life free of hatred, sin, decay, darkness, and death.  We will live in unblemished glory forever with God, in loving-kindness and praise forever.

The things we think are good here are still only created things.  We think we know love.  We think we know loyalty.  We think we know a job well done.  My dear children, we don’t know nothing yet!  “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

Christ is God, and Christ is Man.  Christ is the Son of God, and Christ is the Son of Mary.  He has two full and complete natures in one sacred Person.  This is why we say that there is no salvation without Christ, why He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  No man can come to the Father, for not a one of us is pure and unspotted and not a one of us is God the Son, Who can approach His Father.

By our Holy Baptism, we are joined into the Body of Christ, and through Christ’s Body are we brought into everlasting life in perfect communion with God.  That is why Baptism is necessary for salvation.  We do not make this stuff up.  This is from Christ, and taught by Christ’s Body, Holy Church.  We set aside our peculiar opinions and foolish notions and selfish desires and lean in the everlasting arms of Christ our Lord.  “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.”

My dear children, open your hearts and wills and imaginations to the love of God and the presence of Christ in this Holy Mystery.  Be ye converted.  Whatever you are holding back from God, offer it up to Him.  Knock down whatever false idols you have raised in love’s place and make the love of God and the love of your neighbors your highest priority in your life,.

 

“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”

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

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