Rick has an excellent post on Lent: Buried With Christ.
Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.
- Name: Jonathan
- Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
Rick has an excellent post on Lent: Buried With Christ.
Nicholas Cabasilas spoke of God’s love towards us as being manikos eros, 'crazy love', 'foolish love'. It is a vivid term, and has stuck in my head since I read it not to long back. For God’s love towards us is not some mere niceness that gently pats us on the head and whispers a few words of vague encouragement. It is not a philanthropy that, feeling sorry for us offers benevolence-money to salve its guilt. It is not a love that half-way loves: it is a love that seems even reckless, a love that lays down its life. His love is such that He does not only seek our betterment, but He seeks our profit (profit wildly beyond anything we could ever imagine, and utterly beyond monetary value) at the expense of His own life. Our Lord loves His bride- with intense jealousy and holy passion, as the Prophets delight in dwelling upon- and His love compels Him to take on His bride’s wretched estate, to make Himself man, bearing her infirmities, and die for her. His love is so great that He makes Himself man and dies for man, so that He might truthfully say flesh of my flesh to us, and raise us to His own estate. Adam’s bride was drawn from his side during peaceful sleep; Christ’s bride was drawn from His side in terrible agony and suffering. And Adam needed his wife as a helper, but the Lord has no such need; rather, His is the perfect love of God in Trinity.
Such is God’s love: love that gives freely of Himself, to creatures filthy and undeserving. Madness, we would probably call it, scandalous, manikos eros: why should Someone so high and lofty put on rags and poverty to gain a bride arrayed in such filth? Dust and ashes we are, but Immortality has put such on, and in so doing He has made the way for our dust and ashes to become light and life. Our fallen nature He has willingly borne, so that it might perish, and His Beloved be made radiant.
This is love, the love of the Cross, the perfect love of the Triune God, eternal and unfathomable, fiery in its beauty. It is the love with which we have been filled, the love that has pulled us up out of the slimy pit, that has promised to transfigure us into very sons of God. His love is joy, is mystery, is life past understanding.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Because I don't have anything sublime or insightful to say about the much discussed upcoming movie that no one else has already said, I'll just announce my intention to go see it, even if it will lead me to burn down synagouges, venerate icons and worship Mary, or get saved.
Al has a fine series of posts underway at his Sacramental Blog. I particularly appreciate it, as I have several Reformed Baptist friends with whom I on occasion engage in theological discussion (or dialouge if you prefer). Needless to say, our views on baptism and sacraments in general are quite antithetical.
Every Monday I visit, along with a few students from the BSU of my college, the local nursing home. It has become one of the highlights of my week, and often one of the hardest points in my week.
I suppose the most poignant and hardest thing about a nursing home is the ever prevelant sense of death. It always stands, just out of sight usually, in some residents rising to confront. You know that almost all of the people whom you visit do not have many years- or even months or days- left upon this earth. Only a little longer, and then we will be severed. Sickness and the consuming of death is evident upon every face, and in their bodies: so often bound to a bed or wheelchair, whithered and wracked. Some are barely able to lift their heads, utter a decayed fragment of a word. Their minds are laid low, fallen into darkness. Everything seems to be breaking down, dying, and wrapped in decay. It cannot be escaped here: elsewhere in our life we may go foolishly along, ignoring both death and our fellow man's suffering. Elsewhere it easy enough to look away from men's faces, and forget, or scorn. Here it is much harder: the rooms are small, the ceilings low, and the furnishings sparse. There is little to distract: only the mechanical pulse of medical machines, or the cries of the sick down the hall. The whole sadness of broken, diseased man's existence is easily brought down to a point, and confronts.
There is one lady particularly who I am always left deeply heartsore by. She is completely bed-bound, her mind and body terribly decayed. She can still utter attempts at words, which I understand occassionaly. But she is still very aware of herself and her surrondings. She listens to us when we talk to her, and understands, and will try to respond. We will ask if she would like for us to pray for her, and she always nods yes. And when we prepare to go, we tell her I love you (such simple words!). She tries to say the same. I will lean over next to her metal-barred bed, and she grips my hand, and holds it to her lips- worn away and incapable of drinking or speaking or eating- and kisses it. If I were a Dostoevsky I could describe what this is like; but I am not, and cannot. Perhaps- probably- it cannot be described. I lean over her and try to return her love, but I cannot. I whisper my love, make the sign of the Cross, and, silently praying Lord have mercy (I can barely pray anything else), leave. I am left confused and guilty. My heart burns. I want to cry out, to kiss, to embrace, to begin to love: but I feel utterly helpless.
And yet, in the midst of it, I am certain that Christ is there. Such a place, and such a person, is not where I would expect faith to flourish, and the divine vision appear. But it does. How is it that I (I, who am as concerned with my own ego and my perceptions as I am of the suffering image of God before me) can percieve Him here? This is not where I should find Him: not in the dying, in the broken, is it? But of course it is. We serve a God Who suffered and died. Who hung upon a blood-stained rough Cross, Who was beaten and bruised mercilessly, Who was coldly embraced by death, by man's hatred. My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? He has been forsaken; therefore He is in the forsaken, and is our healing. His love flows into the very heart of this weary, dying world, and, by being embraced by it, embraces it and speaks redemption, works redemption.
I do not understand any of this. St. Augustine wrote of believing first, and understanding later. I think this is what he meant. And yet I also begin to understand in another sense that I cannot truly describe. The Incarnation is manifested, and in the senseless, it makes sense. Love is found in the midst of death. Glory flows from suffering. Love shows Himself, and kisses my hand. He has come, and He will make all things well.
Come Lord Jesus
"We are rejoicing," the little, thin old man went on. "We are drinking the new wine, the wine of new, great gladness; do you see how many guests? Here are the bride and the bridegroom, here is the wise governor of the feast, he is tasting the new wine. Why do you wonder at me? I gave an onion to a beggar, so I, too, am here. And many here have given only an onion each- only one little onion... What are all our deeds? And you, my gentle one, you, my kind boy, you too have known how to give a famished woman an onion to-day. Begin your work, dear one, begin it, gentle one! ... Do you see our Son, do you see Him?"
"I am afraid ... I dare not look," whispered Alyosha.
"Do you fear Him. He is terrible in His greatness, awful in His sublimity, but infinitely merciful. He has made Himself like unto us from and rejoices with us. He is changing the water into wine that the gladness of the guests may not be cut short. He is expecting new guests, He is calling new ones forever and ever.... There they are bringing new wine. Do you see they are bringing the vessels...."
From Cana of Galilee
The one who loves God cannot help but love also every man as himself even though he is displeased by the passions of those who are not yet purified. Thus when he sees their conversion and amendment, he rejoices with an unbounded and unspeakable joy.
The one who fears the Lord always has humility as his companion and through its promptings is led to divine love and thanksgiving. For he recalls his former wordly life and different transgressions and the temptations bedeviling him from his youth, and how the Lord delivered him from all these things and made him pass from this life of passion to a divine life. And so with fear he recieves love as well, ever thankful with deep humility to the benefactor and pilot of our life.
St. Maximus, Four Hundred Chapters on Love
Taylor Marshall has posted a bit on the sacraments other than Baptism and Communion, if they are to be so called. I agree with his position- and I believe also orthodox Anglicanism- that they should be, though, of course, not in the same sense as Baptism and Communion (an important distinction).
Firstly, I would clarify the term Sacrament. Bishop Hooker says this:
As oft as we mention a Sacaments properly understood, (for in the writings of the ancient Fathers all articles which are peculiar to the Christian faith, all duties of religion containing that which sense or natural reason cannot of itself discern, are most commonly named Sacraments) our restraint of the word to some few principle divine ceremonies importeth in every such ceremony two things, the substance of the ceremony itself which is and visible, and besides that somewhat else more secret in reference whereunto we conceive that ceremony to be a Sacrament. (Ecclesiastical Polity, L. ii)
A Sacrament is an operation of the Holy Spirit within the Church through a specific rite or ceremony, in a certain way, and for a certain end. Sacraments work within the life of the Church: bulding up and sustaining the Body. The Sacraments bestow and manifest the grace of the Spirit to the world. This is done through the Church, the mystical (but visible in its flesh-and-blood members!) Body of Christ. The Sacraments manifest this life, especially and most importantly in the 'universal' rites of Baptism and Communion. However, the other rites manifest the Spirit's grace, though in other manners. The working of God is expressed and bestowed upon matrimony, the ordination of ministers, and the illnesses of men: the Church embraces these things, and sheds her gifts from God upon them, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Who is the source and worker of all such things.
The Sacraments also pointedly express the reality of God's graciousness. It is the Church as a whole that possesses the stewardship of these gifts, not any one man: and they are most certainly gifts, not things of our making. The power through which we live and act comes from the Holy Spirit, and not ourselves. Bishop Hooker demonstrates this in speaking of the grace recieved in Holy Orders:
Whether we preach, pray, baptize, communicate, condemn, give absolution, or whatsoever, as disposers of God's mysteries, our words, judgments, acts and deeds, are not ours but the Holy Ghost's. (LXXVII. viii)
The Sacraments help form up the fibre of Christ's Church, of His operations within an organically united, cohesive, Divinely-energized Body. This is most importantly and most powerfully expressed in Baptism and Communion: they are the points at which Christ presents Himself and His grace to us unto salvation. The other Sacraments flow from these. They are specialized expressions, one might say, of the sacramental life of the Church, and can only operate with and in subordination to Baptism and Communion.
'So the proper character of both natures was maintained and came together in a single person. Lowliness was taken up by majesty, weakness by strength, mortality by eternity. To pay off the debt of our state, invulnerable nature was united to a nature that could suffer; so that in a way that corresponded to the remedies we needed, one and the same mediator between God and humanity the man Christ Jesus, could both on the one hand die and on the other be incapable of death. Thus was true God born in the undiminished and perfect nature of a true man, complete in what is his and complete in what is ours. By "ours" we mean what the Creator established in us from the beginning and what he took upon himself to restore. There was in the Saviour no trace of the things which the Deceiver brought upon us, and to which deceived humanity gave admittance. His subjection to human weaknesses in common with us did not mean that he shared our sins. He took on the form of a servant without the defilement of sin, thereby enhancing the human and not diminishing the divine. For that self-emptying whereby the Invisible rendered himself visible, and the Creator and Lord of all things chose to join the ranks of mortals, spelled no failure of power: it was an act of merciful favour. So the one who retained the form of God when he made humanity, was made man in the form of a servant. Each nature kept its proper character without loss; and just as the form of God does not take away the form of a servant, so the form of a servant does not detract from the form of God.'
From Tome to Flavian
I have begun reading through the works of St. Leo and St. Gregory the Great (their works being appended together in the Oxford translation of the Fathers), and have found Leo to be an immensely profitable exponent of the Incarnation. I understand that he is the most esteemed of the Latins in the East, primarily for this Tome, which was employed at Chalcedon. I would quite concur with the judgment of the East.
St. Leo makes a point employing the final chapters of the Gospel of John, refering to the Lord's repeated demonstration of His physical reality. Carrying Leo's thoughts further: notice the settings and actions that the Risen Lord engages in after the Resurrection. Most of them are remarkably human: He sits down to eat and drink, He is touched, He kindles a fire and broils fish- all very human actions. There are relatively few miracles recorded: the miraculous apperances, and the remarkable catching of the fish, but besides these and a few others, most of what the Lord does demonstrates His humanity. The ending of John's Gospel is thus quite different in emphasis from the prologue. At the beginning we see the Word in His divinity, creating, proclaimed as Life and Light, existing before and above the ages. At the conclusion we see the wholly Divine Word made flesh cooking and eating fish with His friends beside a campfire. And yet He is most certainly a Man like no other: He is risen from the dead, He does not seem bound (in the same respect as ourselves) by time and space, and He is still certainly Lord over nature, even in His Incarnation. He is glorified, but His humanity is not destroyed. This is one of the central points of our salvation, and the idea that sets it off from so many other schemes of redemption: we do not look for the destruction of our humanity; rather, we look for the rebirth and complete renewal, the realization and fulfillment, of our humanity. We are not absorbed into God; we are united with God in perfect communion. These are all brought about and reflected to us in the person of Christ- and hence the necessity of maintaining the orthodox understanding of the mystery. Wrong thinking here is most perilous, for its reverberates through every other avenue of thought.
'There is nothing unreal about this oneness, since both the lowliness of the man and the grandeur of the divinity are in mutual relation. As God is not changed by showing mercy, neither is humanity devoured by the dignity received.'
ALMIGHTY and everliving God, we humbly beseech thy Majesty, that, as thy only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in substance of our flesh, so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts, by the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
"Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel."
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Today old age holds the Infant, and beholds Him Who brings the renewing of the world. Today the Infant passes through the rites of the Law, so that we may pass from them into Him. Today He Who is Holy is declared holy. He Who fulfills the Law keeps the Law, and He Who is blessing is blessed. Today Simeon holds his Maker in his arms.