The Incarnation & Evangelism: Part II

There was a brief period of time, roughly ten days, between Christ’s Ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.  The disciples were told by our Lord to go into Jerusalem and wait for the Promise of the Father.  Jesus gave them great hope and comfort when He said to them, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This account is found in Acts 1 : 4 – 8.

We have a compelling testament as to the result of this great promise when we read Acts 5 : 12 – 16.  As you read this passage and consider the scene presented therein, ask yourself a few important questions:  Where else, in the New Testament, have you seen similar incidents?  Who’s ministry does this seem to mirror?  Let’s have a look.

Acts 5 : 12 – 16

12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. 13 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. 14 And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. 16 Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

Now have a look at this account from the Gospel of St. Mathew.

Matthew 4 : 23 – 25christ the healer

23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. 24 Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.

What do we see here?  In the Gospel of St. Matthew we see Jesus healing all kinds of diseases and casting out demons from those tormented by the demonic.  From these good works we see numbers added to those who would follow Christ as He moved from one place to another.

What do we see in Acts 5?  We see the same good works being done, but this time they are being done through those who have been filled with God by the gift of the Holy Spirit.  We find the sick being brought to the Apostles and healed.  We have those who are in bondage to the demonic released from their captivity.  And, we see numbers of those who would follow the Living Christ added to the Church daily.

Are we truly making the connection?  Are we beginning to comprehend the awe-inspiring breadth of such a critical truth being illuminated for us here?  Jesus Christ was the embodiment of the Holy Trinity. And through His flesh and blood the reality of the Kingdom of God was made manifest to the world that it might be saved.

So, too, we who have been filled with the Holy Spirit have been collectively made the Body of Christ.  As such, we have become the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  We have become the embodiment of the Holy Trinity through which the manifest reality of the Kingdom of God is to continue for the salvation of the world.

This was purposed by God all along.  This was and is His desire and design.  It is why Jesus said that it is better that I leave you and go to my Father (John 16 : 5 – 24).  It is also why our Lord would say in John 14 : 12 – 13:

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Dare we believe that these words of our Lord Jesus Christ are true?   This world, particularly in this current age, does not need intellectual reasoning and arguments as the main thrust of the Gospel message.  This world needs to see the Living Christ through demonstrations of His life, power, nature, and love.  May we grow to embrace the truth that we are the Body of Christ; that is, we are the continuing incarnate ministry of the Holy Trinity and made so by the divine wisdom of the same.

The Incarnation & Evangelism: Part I

How did the Apostles both comprehend and fulfill our Lord’s Great Commission to go into the world and make disciples of all nations?  The answer to this question has far less to do with any particular process, plan, or means by which to evangelize.  Rather, the answer has far more to do with how the Apostles understood the Church as the Body of Christ and the incarnate reality therein.

Let us consider how St. Paul reflects on the manner in which he came to the people of Corinth:

1 Corinthians 2 : 1, 4 – 5Paul-icon

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

He writes in this portion of his letter that he did not come with great speech or wisdom.  There is something we must understand about the Greek culture which was certainly the culture of Corinth at the time of the Apostle.  The culture of the day was a culture of great philosophy and rhetorical expression.  And it was also a time in which the best rhetorical expression won the day even if that very expression was truly an inferior argument comparatively.   This was also a culture that thrived on the pursuit of wisdom.

Consider this:  Had Paul come to them with a great and well-formed argument teaching “about” Jesus, he would have been merely “white noise” to the culture of the day.  Why?  Because verbal eloquence and sparring is just what all of the great rhetorical philosophers of the day were offering the masses.  His message would have been perhaps interesting to some but salvific in the lives of few.

So, in light of this reality, how did Paul come to the people of Corinth?  He says he came to them “not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”  Paul did not come to Corinth making an attempt to convince them solely through teaching and arguments to convert from their polytheistic faith to monotheistic Christianity.  Paul came to Corinth and introduced them to the Living God in the person of Jesus Christ who was dwelling within the Apostle by the Holy Spirit.  He did not offer an argument.  He offered the reality of God.

What does this tell us about the Church and evangelism?  God came in the person of Jesus Christ to rescue the world back to Himself.  After Christ’s Ascension and on the day of Pentecost a wonder occurred that stunned the universe.  By the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into fallen humanity, the incarnate ministry of Jesus Christ was now set to continue in no different way than witnessed in and through the life of Jesus Christ Himself.  The Body of Christ became a present and eternal reality.

The Apostles knew, lived, and handed down this reality and the Church spread throughout the world.  And it spread because mankind encountered the person of Jesus Christ through His Body on earth.

So what do we do with all of this?  Where do we begin?  Allow me to offer a few suggestions to prayerfully consider.  Ask our Lord in prayer to grant you a continuing revelation regarding the certainty that we, as the Body of Christ, have been made one with God.  Pursue God with questions such as, “What does it mean that I am, as part of the Church, the temple of the Holy Spirit?”  Ask our Lord to open your eyes to the reality that it is the express desire and plan of God that the ministry of Jesus Christ in redeeming the world back to Himself continue through you as a part of that very Body.  And, by all means, having asked these questions, be still and listen for the answers that just may transform you.

May it be that we all return to live in and from the life of God within us to such a degree that this present world, which is not so far different from the world of Corinth, may put their faith in the Living God and not just teachings about Him.

Water into Wine: Nature Transformed

wedding at canaThe first miracle of our Lord Jesus Christ was changing the water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.

Click here to read the story.

I find that as we reflect on this story we tend to turn our attention to a number of possible considerations. Sometimes we glean from the relationship between our Lord and His mother.  Perhaps we look at the heart of God demonstrated in and through Christ as He would provide for the wedding attendees when they were lacking.  On other occasions we may seek to gain understanding as to the meaning of Christ’s words, “My time has not yet come.”

Today I read a very interesting teaching from Maximus of Turin regarding this passage.  Maximus was a bishop in the Church during the mid-5th century.  He was well known as a theologian and defender of the Faith against certain heresies of the time.  As Maximus reflects on our Lord’s first miracle, his attention is set on the actual transformation of the water into wine.  He offers us the following:

Addressing His servants, Jesus said, “Fill the jars with water.”  The servants promptly obeyed and suddenly in a marvelous way the water began to acquire potency, take on color, emit fragrance, and gain flavor – all at once it changed its nature completely!  Now this transformation of the water from its own substance into another testified to the powerful presence of the Creator.

Maximus emphasizes that the nature of the water definitively had changed to become something that it was not prior to the miracle.  And he desires that we understand the precise catalyst for the transformation.  It was “the powerful presence of the Creator” that wrought the change.

When I see the nature of a creation so transformed by the hand of the One who created it, I find my thoughts perpetually moving to consider the way in which God orchestrates His salvation within us.  Every aspect of our restoration and being made whole, which is the definition of salvation, is completely and utterly dependent on both the incredible wonder of our absolute union with God and our willingness to remain in Him (John 15 : 1 – 8).

You see, we come to God through Jesus Christ lacking potency.  We are colorless, odorless, and even flavorless.  So, it could be considered that we come to Christ with a particularly bland nature. But God fills us with Himself upon our baptism.  That precise catalyst is imparted into the earthen vessel.  Over time the bland nature of the earthen vessel becomes more and more transfigured into the nature of the One who has joined us to Himself.  We gain the potency of the Living God and display His array of colors.  We emanate the fragrance of the Divine and become the salt of the earth.

Take just a moment to prayerfully read again the words of Bishop Maximus as he describes for us the transformation of water into wine.  Ask our Lord to grant you a growing revelation of the “powerful presence of the Creator” who has given Himself to you.  May we all grow from our union with the Holy Trinity to experience our nature becoming His nature.  And, may the glory of the Lord be expressed through our earthen vessels.

wedding jars of cana

 

 

 

The Activity of the Holy Spirit and the Annunciation

Icon of the Annunciation 2In Luke 1 we have recorded for us the moment at which the Archangel Gabriel announces unto the Virgin Mary that she will conceive and become the Mother of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Within that great announcement we read in Luke 1 : 35,

And the angel answered her and said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, the Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”

The key word for this reflection is “overshadow.” I find it interesting that within the meaning of the word overshadow found in this passage of Scripture, we find the connotation of a hovering over an object or a person.  It is as if the Archangel Gabriel is letting the Virgin Mary know that the Holy Spirit would hover over her as the power of God would come upon her womb for the conception of the Messiah.

This thought of the Holy Spirit hovering over something or someone might sound a bit familiar to us; for we see it in the very first verse of Genesis in the creation narrative:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.holyspirit

We see the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters just prior to all things being created by God.  The Holy Spirit
hovered awaiting the Word of God to speak into existence the perfect order of God to His glory and for the benefit of mankind.

Is it not interesting that the Holy Spirit would hover over the empty womb of the Virgin Mary bringing the gift of the Word of God for the life of the world?  And the Word of God, just as He spoke into existence the perfectly ordered creation of God, would come again and voice through His conception, birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, the renewal of all things to Himself restoring once again the perfect order of God through a new creation.

I am forever in awe of the perfect order of God in His creation, rescue, and restoration of mankind.  Yet I feel we all fail to enter into the true wonder of the Incarnation, God became man so that we might become like God.  As we draw near to the great Feast celebrating the Nativity of our Lord, may we by the grace of God be filled with both wonder and great praise that Emmanuel has come and God is with us.

The Spirituality of Spiritual Warfare

St. Michael the Archangel.0The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 6:

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand…18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.

So many Christians will look at St. Paul’s instruction teaching us to “put on the full armor of God” and earnestly agree that this is something that every Christian should do.  I also find that most of those in Christ will tend to readily concede the reality, at least intellectually, that our battle is “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

If the Apostle, in light of this reality, instructs us to “put on the full armor of God…with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,” there is an honest question that would be good for us to consider:

What portion of our time communing with God through prayer is spent attending to this spiritual warfare?

When we look to St. Paul’s teaching in this chapter of Ephesians, part of the spirituality of every Christian is spiritual warfare through our collective intercessory prayers as the one Body of Christ. Let’s reflect on three areas of life in which we can begin, through prayer and supplication, to engage in this war against these principalities, rulers of darkness, and spiritual hosts of wickedness:

  • Intercession regarding our own soul

Consider the words written by St. Peter in 1 Peter 5 : 8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”  We have a very real enemy that seeks to separate us from God and desires nothing short of our destruction.  Part of our being sober and vigilant is unceasing prayer that God might deliver us from evil just as our Lord taught His disciples to pray when He gave to His disciples what we now know as The Lord’s Prayer.

  • Pray for the Church, your brothers and sisters in Christ

Part of our spiritual warfare must be on behalf of one another.  We must intercede with prayers asking God to protect all those in Christ from the deceits, temptations, and aggressions of our enemy.  We lift up to God specifically those whom we know are suffering the incursion of the powers of darkness; that our Deliverer would come to their defense and show them the victory already established through Jesus Christ our Lord.

  • Intercede for the world outside of Christ and His Church

How appropriate it is that we join with heaven and earth praying for the Kingdom of God and His salvation to come to earth as it is in heaven.  So many around us where we live, work, and even frequent are in such need of new life through union with God who is life Himself.  If Jesus came to bring release to the captives, give sight to the spiritually blind, and heal the broken; then part of our sharing in the reconciling ministry of Jesus Christ is to pray for ones such as these. We intercede for their release from the principalities of this world and all that holds them in captivity and darkness.

“Put on the whole armor of God…with all prayers and supplications in the Spirit”

St. Paul teaches us very clearly that part of our Christian spirituality is arming ourselves with the armor of God through prayers and supplications by which we intercede against the rulers of darkness in the world.  May we all come to incorporate this reality into our Christian journey that we may stand strong in the day of temptation and see many freed from their bondage and brokenness finding healing for their soul and the peace of God abiding in their lives.

 

Mount Beatitudes

Mount of the BeatitudesI had the opportunity of journeying to Israel in the Spring of 1997.  As I was there, we spent a portion of one day at the location where our Lord gave the Sermon on the Mount which is otherwise called Mount Beatitudes.

There is a Church celebrating the event at the top of an incline that leads down to the Sea of Galilee.  The slope is a rather large one from top to bottom.  I would estimate it to be at least a football field in length if not more.  And if you have ever wondered how Jesus spoke to thousands of listeners noted to be present at the event, one must realize that the place is actually a natural amphitheater.  To demonstrate this, our guide walked all the way down to the shore of the sea while we stayed at the top near the Church.  He took a coin and flipped it in the air.  When the coin fell on the rocks of the shore you could hear it as clear as a bell all the way at the top where we stood.  It truly was something amazing to behold and it did offer us an understanding of how this natural setting would carry the voice of our Lord to all who would be listening.

That day was beautiful with temperatures in the mid-60’s and a very slight breeze blowing off of the Sea of Galilee up the incline of the bank.  I remember vividly the breeze carrying the wonderful scent of the sweet olive trees for us to fully enjoy and I will never forget the great sense of peace I experienced during my time in that place.

After being there for a while, I separated from the group to get a brief quite time.  I sat on the slope of the hill and opened Holy Scripture to Matthew Chapter 5.  I began reading our Lord’s words teaching us the virtues of the Kingdom of God.  As I sat there on the hill, I engaged my imagination and pictured myself among the crowd of people listening intently to the teachings of Christ.  And, for a brief time, I experienced what they experienced.  I listened to our Lord instruct me with ears to hear and eyes to see beyond the printed page.  And, as many others have described in times such as these, my heart was inflamed with a desire for what our Lord was offering.

What are the beatitudes?  They are the nature and character of God Himself.  And we are graced to grow in the likeness of our Father in Heaven.  But how can we walk in the grace we are given but by spending time with the Living God?  It is only by the experience of God in our lives that we can be saved.  And it is only through our active participation in Him that we can be transformed out of darkness into His glorious light.

We must practice God’s presence in our lives.  We believe in our minds that we are the temples of the Holy Spirit and even our intellect races to acknowledge that God has made us His dwelling place.  But do we really make Him our dwelling place?  Or, do we keep our Lord at arms length distance with our life choices, our intellect, or even our good thoughts of theology regarding Him?

Our God wants to commune with us and invites us into such an intimate existence with Him in the here and now as well as into eternity.  We simply must avail ourselves to Him and, by doing so, allow Him to present Himself to us.  For He alone is our life and our salvation.

And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

 

 

The Miraculous Catch of Fish – Part 2

Fishers of men iconThe Director of Evangelism

As mentioned in Part 1 of The Miraculous Catch of Fish, our Lord has called us to “go into the world and make disciples of all men.” And we have established that He has filled us with Himself empowering us to this end.

So now what?  How do we fish for mankind?  What do we do to be a vessel through which the Good News of Jesus Christ can be revealed?

These are all very valid questions.  I have asked these many times myself.  However, rather than answer with specific ideas, for now I think it more appropriate to direct us to the One who has the most accurate answers to these questions.  It is of utmost importance that we recognize this truth; it is our Lord Himself who leads us and directs us in all evangelism.

Consider the Luke chapter 5 passage.  The fishermen (Peter, James, and John) had been actively fishing all night and caught nothing.  Jesus presents some direction to Peter as he says, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Notice that Jesus does not simply get in the boat and allow Peter to determine where to let down the nets.  He tells Peter where to go for the catch of fish.

In the book of Acts we have demonstrated for us just how specifically God would direct His Church toward the geographic progression of the Gospel.  Acts chapter 16 tells us of Paul, Silas, and Timothy journeying together and preaching the Good News in each town along the way.  Have a look at the specific guidance the Holy Spirit gives to them as they sought to continue on:

Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

When one looks at a map of St. Paul’s second missionary journey (click here to see it), this passage really comes to life.  Paul is in Phrygia.  The next logical step for Paul is to continue West from there into Asia.  But the Holy Spirit stops him from entering Asia.  The next practical step, then, would be for Paul to go to Bithynia.  But the Holy Spirit did not allow them to take that journey.  The next option for Paul was Troas.  They travel to Troas and Paul is given a vision of a man in Macedonia pleading for help.  It is Paul’s conclusion, therefore, that they must go to Macedonia and deliver the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What you are seeing in Acts 16 is the active directorship of God to His Church regarding The Great Commission in no less specific of a way as when Jesus told Peter exactly where to go to let down the nets.

Let’s consider a few questions:

  • Are we prayerfully seeking God asking Him how and where we should let down the nets?
  • Are we listening together as the one Body of Christ for such guidance?
  • Are we, like Peter and Paul, willing to follow our Lord’s direction?

I am persuaded that those who seek God with pliable hearts will find direction on both how to proclaim the Gospel to this world and how not to do so.  Remember, He is the one who prepares the heart of mankind to receive the seed of the Good News.  Therefore, let’s bend our will to the direction of God and may we all enter into the joy of seeing mankind reconciled back to our Father in Heaven.

Reflections on Reflections

reflecting-JesusThe Church has forever taught us that in the beginning we were created in the very image of God and postured through our unity with the Holy Trinity to grow in His likeness.  In other words, it could be said that we were destined by design to become just like our Heavenly Father.  But unity with God having been broken by the Fall of mankind, as told in  the Genesis narrative, resulted in mankind’s lack of ability to attain this created purpose.  Man had separated himself from his very source of life and, by this act, lost the very grace needed for God’s intended gift of transformation.

Restoration in the Likeness of God

St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3 : 18:

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

St. Paul is writing regarding an incredible aspect of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  That which was lost at the Fall of mankind has been restored in and through the work of the Word of God.  We once again have a means by which we can live in eternal unity with the Holy Trinity.  Our lifeline has been restored for us and remains available to all who abide in Him.  The result of such a wonder is that we may now realize in our very being God’s created purpose for our lives; to become like Him.

St. Paul uses the imagery of one looking in a mirror.  Yet instead of seeing one’s own reflection, we see the reflection of the glory of God.  He even speaks to this eternal process stating that we “are being transformed from glory to glory.”  This is very clearly both the ongoing path of the disciple and the result of the one who follows the living Christ.

But when we reflect on the idea of transformation, we must see both sides of this coin.  We are being transformed, yes, into the likeness of our God as we participate in His divine nature.  But we are also being transformed out of all the ways in which we are unlike Him and opposite His nature.  And this is cause for great rejoicing.  For what we leave behind is the very nature that robbed us of the true peace and joy offered to us by God.

We see this as our Lord Jesus Christ states in Luke 4  that He is the fulfillment of the prophecy given to the prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

We are the brokenhearted whom He longs to heal.  We are the captive whom He desires set free.

To be a disciple and follower of Christ is to remain in Him from Whom we obtain our life.  From His life we are transformed in such a way that our reflection diminishes and the reflection of His glory increases in us.  And because of our Lord’s desire that none should parish, we are called to go, and go we must, to make disciples of all nations.

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

 

Nativity of the Mother of GodOn September 8th of each year, the Orthodox Church celebrates The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  It is on this day that the Church joins together to rejoice and celebrate the moment in which the vessel, through whom the God of our salvation would come into the world, was given life.  Mary, the Mother of our Lord, would be born to her parents Joachim and Anna as one separated unto God for a most extraordinary purpose.

St. John of Damascus teaches this regarding the Nativity of the Virgin Mary:

The day of the Nativity of the Theotokos is the feast of joy for the whole world, because through the Theotokos the entire human race was renewed and the grief of the first mother Eve was changed into joy.  For whereas the later heard the divine statement, “In pain you shall bring forth children,” the former heard, “Rejoice favored one!”  The later heard, “Your recourse shall be towards your husband!” And the former heard, “The Lord is with you!”

Panagia3But what are we, as Orthodox Christians, taught to notice very quickly about any icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Christ child?  We are instructed to see that her gaze and the tilting of her head are shifting our focus to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Her right arm is postured in such a way as to appear to be presenting Jesus ever to us.

It is for this reason that, when celebrating a feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we look to see how the event in the life of His mother reveals to us something of her Son, the God who came to save us.  So what might we reflect upon regarding the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary to encounter this revelation?  We will draw from the lineage through whom the Virign Mary was born to find our contemplation.

Mary’s Lineage:  Joachim & Anna

Mary is born to Joachim and Anna.  When we investigate Joachim’s family line, we find that he comes from the line of King David.  As we look into Anna’s family lineage, we see that she comes from Aaron, the High Priest during the Exodus story who served God during the time of Moses.  Therefore, Mary is born of a royal kingly line through King David and is also born of a priestly line through the High Priest Aaron.  In her book Images of the Mother of God:  Perceptions of the Theotokos in Byzantium, Maria Vassilakis writes:

In this, Mary foreshadowed Christ who would be born of her as King and High Priest.

Jesus:  The Great High Priest

There is no greater passage that illustrates for us our Lord Jesus Christ as our Great High Priest than found in Hebrews 9 : 11 – 15:

11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

Jesus is our Great High Priest in the heavenly and eternal tabernacle.  He offers His own sacrificial blood from the sacrifice made once and for all.  He offers it for the cleansing of our conscience from the weight of guilt and shame.  He offers it for the very healing of our soul.  In Him we have a mediator and advocate at all times before the Father out of His infinite and inexhaustible love for all that He has created.

Jesus:  King of Kings & Lord of Lords

As to the Kingship of Jesus Christ, see the writings of the Apostle St. John both from his Gospel and from the book of Revelation:

John 18 : 37

37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?”

Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

Revelation 19 : 11 – 16

11 Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

We have this revelation of Jesus Christ presented to us through The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  He is our Great High Priest and is, indeed, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Therefore, let us stand together in awe of all that He is and all that He is done. And, let us set ourselves to worship and glorify Him as His Mother Mary directs us so to do.

The Miraculous Catch of Fish – Part 1

Fishers of men iconThe Story & The Revelation:  from Luke 5 : 1 – 11

In this Gospel passage we find the fishing partnership of Peter, James, and John cleaning their nets after a highly unsuccessful all-night fishing venture.  As they were washing their nets, our Lord gets into Peter’s boat, asks him to cast out a bit from the shore,  and begins to teach the multitude.

After concluding His teaching, Jesus asks Peter to “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  Peter complies, relocates the boat into the deeper waters, and casts his net.  As the net enters the waters it becomes so filled with fish that Peter has to signal for James and John to come out and assist him, for the number of fish was far too great for Peter’s net alone to contain. And, even as James and John would come to the aid of Peter, their nets and boat became so filled that the boat began to sink.

As we reflect on any of the signs and wonders done by our Lord Jesus Christ, it is always appropriate to ask the question, “What might Jesus have been doing by this miracle and what was the action revealing to those who witnessed it?”

First let us deal with the revelation of God to man in and through the person of Jesus Christ.  We must remember that we are being beckoned to behold the Word of God, the Divine Logos, as we attend to this Gospel passage.  This Jesus Christ is God incarnate.  He is the one who not only created the water by His command, but also created the very fish that would so completely fill the nets of the fishermen at His bidding.

Secondly, let us see what Jesus would show the fishermen about all of which He intended to do in and through them if they would but follow Him.  As those first disciples would witness the miraculous catch and as the Christ would be revealed to them as far more than just any mere mortal, they were humbled by their own sinful nature in the light of God’s holy revelation.  But we must see that our Lord would come quickly to them in their need and humble disposition both to draw them to Himself and show them His true intention as to their vocation.  For next He addresses Peter saying, “Do not be afraid.  From now on you will catch men.”

St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria in the early 5th century, offers us the following teaching based on our Gospel reading:

In the name of Christ, they let down the net, and immediately it was full of fish.  By a visible sign and by a miraculous type and representation, they were fully convinced that their labor would be rewarded, and the zeal displayed in spreading out the net of the gospel teaching would be fruitful. Within this net they should most certainly catch the heathen.

Our Lord Jesus showed them this visible and physical manifestation of the future spiritual reality regarding that portion of the Great Commission where we, His Church, collectively are called to “Go…and make disciples of all nations.”  The heart of the Christ is that all might obtain salvation by union with God through Himself.  Let us all be encouraged by the words of St. Cyril that our labor in this area will be rewarded and our shared zeal with Christ for the salvation of others will be fruitful. And, let us embrace once again the reality that the Church is filled with God as those intended for this divine task.