Friday, August 6, 2010

Metropolitan Anthony on the Transfiguration

[On the Mount of Transfiguration ...] they saw Christ in glory at a moment when His total surrender to the will of the Father, His final and ultimate acceptance of His own human destiny, became revealed to them. Moses and Elijah, we are told, stood by Him; the one representing the Law and the other one representing the Prophets: both have proclaimed the time when salvation would come, when the Man of suffering will take upon Himself all the burdens of the world, when the Lamb of God slain before all ages would take upon Himself all the tragedy of this world. It was a moment when in His humanity Christ, in humble and triumphant surrender, gave Himself ultimately to the Cross.

Last week we heard Him say that the Son of God will be delivered in the hand of men, and they will crucify Him, but on the third day He will rise. At that moment it became imminent, it was a decisive point, and He shone with the glory of the perfect, sacrificial, crucified love of the Holy Trinity, and the responsive love of Jesus the Man, as Saint Paul calls Him. The Apostles saw the shining, they saw the divine light streaming through the transparent flesh of Christ, falling on all the things around Him, touching rock and plant, and calling out of them a response of light. They alone did not understand, because in all the created world man alone has sinned and became blind. And yet, they were shown the mystery, and yet, they entered into that cloud which is the divine glory, that filled them with awe, with fear, but at the same time with such exulting joy and wonder!

Moses had entered that cloud and was allowed to speak to God as a friend speaks to a friend; he was allowed to see God passing by him, still without a name, still without a face; and now, they saw the face of God in the Incarnation. They saw His face and they saw His glory shining out of tragedy. What they perceived was the glory, what they perceived was the wonder of being there, in the glory of God, in the presence of Christ revealed to them in glory. They wanted to stay there forever, as we do at moments when something fills us with adoration, with worship, with awe, with unutterable joy, but Christ had told them that the time has come to go down into the valley, to leave the Mount of Transfiguration because this was the beginning of the way of the Cross, and He had to be merged into all that was tragic in human life. He brought them down into the valley to be confronted with the agony of the father whose child could not be cured, with the inability of the disciples to do anything for this child, with the expectation of the people who now could turn to no-one but Him - that is where He brought them.

And we are told that He had chosen these three disciples because together, in their togetherness they held the three great virtues that make us capable of sharing with God the mystery of His incarnation, of His Divinity, of His crucifixion, to face His descent into hell after His death and to receive the news of His resurrection: the faith of Peter, the love of John, the righteousness of James.

There are moments when we also see something which is beyond us, and how much we wish we could stay, stay forever in this blissful condition; and it is not only because we are incapable of it that we are not allowed to stay in it, but because the Lord says, You are now on the Mount of Transfiguration, you have seen Christ ready to be crucified for the life of the world - go now together with Him, go now in His name, go now, and bring people to Him that they may live!

This is our vocation. May God give us faith, and the purity of heart that allows us to see God in every brother and sister of ours! Didn't one of the Desert Fathers say, ‘He who has seen his brother has seen God’? - and serve one another with love sacrificial, with the exulting joy of giving our lives to one another as Christ gave His life for us. Amen.

(Preached on 19th August 1990, and taken from the Sourozh website)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Love is Strong as Death - Baldwin of Canterbury

Baldwin (c. 1125 - 1190), born in Exeter, was educated on the Continent. By 1155 he had returned to Exeter Diocese where his father was an archdeacon, and became a Cistercian monk and abbot before being elected Bishop of Worcester in 1180. He was translated to Canterbury in 1184. Baldwin famously clashed with the monks of Christ Church Priory, disapproving of what he considered to be their luxurious and pampered lives. He was a controversial figure in his time - greatly loved by some, greatly loathed by others. A scholar, canon lawyer and man of genuine piety, he was involved in the politics of his day. He helped raise financial support for the Third Crusade and accompanied Richard II to the Holy Land where he died.

Death is strong: it has the power to deprive us of the gift of life. Love is strong: it has the power to restore us to the exercise of a better life.

Death is strong, strong enough to despoil us of this body of ours. Love is strong, strong enough to rob death of its spoils and restore them to us.

Death is strong; for no man can resist it. Love is strong; for it can triumph over death, can blunt its sting, counter its onslaught and overturn its victory. A time will come when death will be trampled underfoot; when it will be said: ‘Death, where is your sting? Death, where is your attack?’

‘Love is strong as death,’ since Christ’s love is the death of death. For this reason he says: ‘Death, I shall be your death; hell, I shall grip you fast.’ The love, too, with which Christ is loved by us is itself strong as death, since it is a kind of death, being the extinction of our old life, the abolition of vice, and the putting aside of dead works.

This love of ours for Christ is a sort of return, though not equal to his love for us; and it is a copy, a likeness of his. For he first loved us, and by the example of love that he sets before us, he has become a seal by which we are moulded to his image — putting off the likeness of the earthly and bearing that of the heavenly, loving him as we are loved. In this he leaves us an example, that we may follow in his footsteps.

That is why he says: ‘Set me as a seal on your heart.’ As though to say: Love me, as I love you; have me in your mind, in your memory, in your desire; in your sighing, your groaning, your weeping. Remember, man, in what state I fashioned you, how far I preferred you before the rest of creatures, the dignity with which I ennobled you; how I crowned you with glory and honour, made you a little less than the angels, and subjected all things under your feet. Remember not only the great things I did for you, but what harsh indignities I bore on your behalf; and see if you are not acting wickedly against me, if you do not love me. For who loves you as I love you? Who created you, if not I? Who redeemed you, if not I?

Lord, take away from me the heart of stone, a heart shrunken and uncircumcised — take it away and give me a new heart, a heart of flesh, a clean heart. You cleanse our heart and love the heart that is clean — possess my heart and dwell in it, both holding it and filling it. You surpass what is highest in me, and yet are within my inmost self! Pattern of beauty and seal of holiness, mould my heart in your likeness: mould my heart under your mercy, God of my heart and God my portion for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Former Atheist: Christianity Really Does Make Sense

Holly Ordway was a highly educated atheist who thought Christianity was "a historical curiosity" or "a blemish on modern civilization," or both.

"Smart people don’t become Christians," she thought, according to Biola University.

Her worldview, however, began to change at age 31. She recounts her journey from atheism to Christianity in the recently released Not God’s Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith.

Continue reading HERE.