“Love protects us from nothing, even as it inexplicably sustains us in all things.”
Saint John of the Cross
Saint John of the Cross
For the last couple of days I have been rearranging the 2000 volumes in my library. Going through the shelves, taking one and putting it with its companions as to subject or concern is a kind homecoming among old and beloved friends. Some are much older than my 67 years. Another arrived this afternoon in the mail. Upon entering my new digs, people often question, “Have you read all these books?” “No, I say, explaining the collection are the guidebooks for my exploration of what it means to be human. There are few mathematics or accounting books, but many history, psychology, literature and religious studies. These members of my intellectual tribe travel on together. We set out on the journey almost 4 decades ago in Albertville, Alabama. There were many fewer then. Now we have moved into a office building, resting after five moves these past 36 years. I open one, reading my notes written in pencil (I have never been confident enough to write in ink) that are the marginalia of my life. Notes made in the margins. Scribbles marking my place in a book and the thought in my head.
I looked a for a particular title and after a time my eye spied it, my hand reached and my eye remembered the cover. It is a modest volume, 9 by 5 inches and only an half inch thick. It’s title, “A Letter To A Man In The fire” by the late Reynolds Price. It’s subtitle are the two questions a young medical student asked Reynolds (who survived cancer though paraplegic). Jim Fox asked, “Does God exist and Does He Care?” What a question? Mr. Price then wrote Jim a letter of 86 pages honestly speaking to those questions with the kind of honestly a cancer survivor owes a cancer patient. He spoke of faith, not the easy recitation of empty platitudes or even the unthinking repetition of ancient holy writ. No, he struggled to say that he did believe that God does exist and that somehow in the mix of chance and circumstance where the innocent are afflicted and the rain falls on the just and the unjust. He then says the things that has resonated in my soul ever since the day I first read this letter. Now, let me stop. I know its unfair. But please believe me that I have a good reason. We shall here again, please be patient with me.
I moved to Mississippi in 1989 to take up the rectorate of The Chapel of the Cross in Madison. The Chapel was an ancient (1848) Gothic revival treasure that by the late 20th century was filling with the new suburbs of Jackson. I took up and took to my task at hand. In those first days the community numbered around 125 souls. We had the elegant church, a five room sharecropper house served as as everything else save too rundown single-wide trailers that served as educational space. The place began to grow. Over the next decade the place grew rapidly. I imagined it was like driving a bus with no brakes. Careening down the road and every time I risked a glanced over my shoulder the bus was longer and packed to the gunnels with more people. By the end of the decade the community was nigh 900. I celebrated Eucharist 4 times on Sundays, taught, opened and closed. This went on for years until I was almost used up. In 1998 I was rescued. The Vestry instructed me to find a priest for the team. So I did. The Reverend Doctor David Christian come onboard and we moved to 6 masses on Sundays: 7:30, 8:45, 11:00 & 5:00. The middle two were doubled: a mass in the church and one in the parish hall (now named for David). He and I waited until the two processions were ready to move. Then and only then did we decide which one of would go to which service.
David went to seminary from a medical practice. He, his wife and two kids moved from Jackson MS to the General Seminary of the Episcopal in New York City. He after his first academic year he did Clinical Pastoral Education at a city hospital, working as a chaplain, learning the ropes of institutional ministry and learning about himself in the work of a priest. That hospital routinely gave each person who came on staff in any capacity a physical. David’s physical revealed that he had a very serious non-symptomatic cancer in one lung. The only thing to do was remove one entire lung. They did that very thing leaving David with one lung and a very tenuous diagnosis. To everyone’s amazement. David lived, finished his last two years of seminary and returned to Mississippi. He told me once that he believed that he survived because he was so thrilled and happy with what he was doing that it pumped his immune system. I don’t doubt it. Upon returning to Mississippi, David was assigned to the parish in Bovina, MS. Only behind the Magnolia Curtain would a town be named for the genera of medium to large-sized ungulates!
I was delighted to have such a gifted fellow as a colleague and so we were off to the races. Honestly, I don’t recall how long we lived in Eden together. I do remember that David was cancer free for at least a decade and even was cleared to buy life insurance. But one day he went into town for his routine physical. There was cancer in his remaining lung! Gobsmacked out of denial the parish and greater community sank into depression. Introverted by nature, my friend David turned deep inside to process this news. Reluctant to intrude his contemplation, I resisted giving him, A Letter to A Man in the Fire, though that was my first thought. A few days passed.
A knock at my office door, “Come in.” It was David. “Sit,” I invited.” He continued to stand in the door. “On my way to my doctor’s appointment I stopped by Lemuria (the world-class book store in Jackson) and having a little continuing education money left, bought a book.” From behind his back he produced a thin beige volume, “A Letter to a Man in the Fire.” “Would you believe that I have a copy of that book for you, synchronism, huh?” “At least,” he said, “I was afraid to read it for several days.” “Now you have, I asked?” Nodding, he opened the book and begin to read, framed in the door.
My bred-in-the-bone conviction about you is that you’re bound toward a goodness you can’t avoid and that the amount of calendar time which lies between you and that destination is literally meaningless to God, though surely of the greatest importance to you.
That was the very passage I wanted to show him. He closed the book, looked at me, saying nothing. Our gazes met for a few seconds. He closed the door and went down the hall.
We never spoke of the book again. He soldiered on. So did I. I was not wise enough to realize that while the cancer diagnosis predicted that David would not die an old man, it also marked the beginning of the end of my work in that place. Used up, I sank into a deep depression and in 2001 was hospitalized for eleven weeks. I resigned by years end.
The end of the story did not come immediately. David continued his ministry at the Chapel. Chemotherapy staved off the killing blow but prevented him prospering. He spent a long of time meditating, praying in his office behind a closed door.
I moved to Memphis, TN as interim rector for Saint John’s Parish in 2002. At mid-year in 2003, I was called to become the sixth Rector the Parish and continued in that job until February first of this year. I was not there when the end came.
In early Summer of 2005 after celebrating the early Eucharist at the Chapel of the Cross, he retired to his office for quite a long time. Then he phoned his beloved wife, Frances, and asked her to come for him. They drove to the hospital and he died a day or two later.
The books on my shelves are my old friends. There are stories in pencil on many of their margins. They traveled with me as they instructed me for my work on the journey. One day they will go with someone else, but for now, we continue our work together.
I live in hope, in spite of the facts.
John W. Sewell,
August 5, 2018
St Michael Archangel
Michael can be asked for protection against any sort of physical or spiritual danger.
Prayer to St Michael Archangel
Holy Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do you, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
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The Archangel Raphael is the Angel of Healing.
Prayer to St. Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings
O Raphael, lead us towards those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us! Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings, lead us by the hand towards those we are looking for! May all our movements, all their movements, be guided by your Light and transfigured by your Joy.
Angel Guide of Tobias, lay the request we now address to you at the feet of Him on whose unveiled Face you are privileged to gaze. Lonely and tired, crushed by the separations and sorrows of earth, we feel the need of calling to you and of pleading for the protection of your wings, so that we may not be as strangers in the Province of Joy, all ignorant of the concerns of our country.
Remember the weak, you who are strong–you whose home lies beyond the region of thunder, in a land that is always peaceful, always serene, and bright with the resplendent glory of God
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The Archangel Gabriel is the Angel of Guidance.
Prayer to St Gabriel, for Intercession
O Blessed Archangel Gabriel, we beseech thee, do thou intercede for us at the throne of divine Mercy in our present necessities, that as thou didst announce to Mary the mystery of the Incarnation, so through thy prayers and patronage in heaven we may obtain the benefits of the same, and sing the praise of God forever in the land of the living. Amen.
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Prayer To St. Uriel, Archangel Of Justice
O Illustrious St. Uriel, the Archangel of God’s Divine Justice, as you hold the heavenly scales that weigh our lives on earth, we ask you to intercede for us, that God may forgive us all our sins. Obtain for us the grace of true repentance and conversion of heart that we may be spared of the punishment we deserve. Offer our prayers to God in our search for true peace and happiness founded on truth and justice. We pray for those who are suffering of inhumanities, dying because of injustice and the oppressed due to manipulation and exploitation. We also pray for our less fortunate brothers and ourselves. Present to God the Father all our petitions through Jesus Christ our Lord together with the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen
It was a brutally cold December weekend, unusually so, for Memphis Tennessee. At St. John’s we canceled the 8:00 AM’s holy Eucharist that morning so that our staff would not have to be out quite so early. So about 9 o’clock or so the choirs were upstairs preparing for the service. Eucharistic ministers and acolytes checking the readings into whether or not there that they had found the right pages. Altar Guild was going to and fro adding a bit of water to the flowers, while the first arriving ushers stacked service bulletins by every entrance.
Coming from my office to the church, the elevator doors opened revealing a man sitting on a bench by the Bride’s Room. He clutched a steaming cup of coffee in both hands. Not knowing him, I introduced myself. He said his name was Kirby (not his name). Later I heard the back story.
Kirby had literally found no room in the inn in downtown Memphis. Turned away from the last available shelter he began to walk east. He walked all night, realizing that to sit down to rest was to tempt death. So he kept walking. About 9 o’clock on that Sunday morning he was walking up Central Avenue and apparently the first place he had found people stirring was St. John’s. Trying the door he found it unlocked. Hearing sounds upstairs, he followed the sounds and discovered the choir rehearsing. The organist choirmaster, Dr. Ward, realizing that he was dangerously chilled, got him some coffee and settled him on the bench by the elevator. It was there that Deacon Emma spied Kirby and invited him to church. Kirby settled in a pew, say 10 rows back. A parish family was seated in the pew behind him. At the conclusion of the Eucharist, the husband asked Kirby, “Man, do you have a coat?” The answer, no. That man took off his own elegantly, fine overcoat and put it on Kirby and they parted ways. That man was Joe Orgill, laid to rest with his ancestors today in Bolivar TN.
Having recently retired as Rector of Saint John’s, I did not have the privilege of preaching today at his funeral. I regret that I could not tell the story of that day when the Kingdom of God came near us on a frigid Sunday morning. We live in an age of malignant narcissism fueled by greed, self-entitlement and hubris. I will testify that such was not the case with my friend Joe Orgill, III. He would not approve my telling this story, I ask his forgiveness.
In the March issue of Harper’s, Rebecca Solnit explored the relationship between empathy and power. She turned to psychologist Dacher Keltner’s study of the rare proximity of empathy and power.
While people usually gain power through traits and actions that advance the interests of other, such as empathy, collaboration, openness, fairness, and sharing; when they start to feel powerful or enjoy a position of power or enjoy a position of privilege, those qualities began to fade. The powerful are more likely that other people to engage in rude, selfish, and unethical behavior.
Joe was acquainted with power, wielding some, more than some. Yet the atrophy of morals and soul, pixelated by power, was not his lot. I can testify that I was in a place just yesterday where the staff knew Joe well. Their unanimous chorus was sorrow at the passing of such a good man. The waiters, ushers, servers of this world always know the truth about such things.
Godspeed brother. I rejoice to know you. I count it my honor to be your priest. You brother, practiced Christianity, day in and out, year by year. I testify that on a very cold day, when you gave Kirby your coat, you did what Jesus would have done had he been in church that morning. But, then Jesus didn’t need to be incarnated that morning because Joe Orgill, III was here and the Kingdom of God was manifested among us.
Rest brother, we’ll meet again.
John W. Sewell
In ordinary life a coincidence is a piece of design for which we can find no practical use.
—Frye, Northrop. The Northrop Frye Quote Book (p. 79). Dundurn. Kindle Edition.
The divine birth cannot be forced. You can only create the conditions for this birth to take place. How do you know if the new soul is born in you? The famous mystic Meister Eckhart wrote about this: Now you turn your face entirely to this birth. Yes, you will encounter this birth in everything you see and hear, whatever it is. You are like someone who looks for quite a while at the sun, and afterwards sees the image of the sun in whatever he looks at. As long as you do not seek and perceive God in everything, this birth has not yet occurred in you.
I finally located a copy of Origen’s work on John’s Gospel in English! Origen is one of the most creative minds in all of Christian history. Dip in if you like. JWS
That people which was called of old the people of God was divided into twelve tribes, and over and above the other tribes it had the levitical order, which itself again carried on the service of God in various priestly and levitical suborders. In the same manner, it appears to me that the whole people of Christ, when we regard it in the aspect of the hidden man of the heart, that people which is called “Jew inwardly,” and is circumcised in the spirit, has in a more mystic way the characteristics of the tribes. This may be more plainly gathered from John in his Apocalypse, though the other prophets also do not by any means conceal the state of matters from those who have the faculty of hearing them. John speaks as follows:
And I saw another angel ascending from the sunrising, having the seal of the living God, and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, Hurt not either the earth, or the sea, or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads. And I heard the number of them that were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand who were sealed, out of every tribe of the children of lsrael; of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Roubem twelve thousand.
And he mentioned each of the tribes singly, with the exception of Dan. Then, some way further on, he continues:
And I saw, and behold the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him a hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder.
And the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers harping with their harps; and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four beasts and the elders, and no one could learn the song but the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are they who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were purchased from among men, a first fruits to God and to the Lamb; and in their mouth was found no lie, for they are without blemish.
Now this is said in John with reference to those who have believed in Christ, for they also, even if their bodily descent cannot be traced to the seed of the Patriarchs, are yet gathered out of the tribes. That this is so we may conclude from what is further said about them: “Hurt not,” he says, “the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads. And I heard the number of them that were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed from every tribe of the children of Israel.”
These, then, who are sealed on their foreheads from every tribe of the children of Israel, are a hundred and forty-four thousand in number; and these hundred and forty-four thousand are afterwards said in John to have the name of the Lamb and of His Father written on their foreheads, and to be virgins, not having defiled themselves with women. What else could the seal be which is on their foreheads but the name of the Lamb and the name of His Father? In both passages their foreheads are said to have the seal; In one the seal is spoken of, in the other it appears to contain the letters forming the name of the Lamb, and the name of His Father. Now these taken from the tribes are, as we showed before, the same persons as the virgins. But the number of believers is small who belong to Israel according to the flesh; one might venture to assert that they would not nearly make up the number of a hundred and forty-four thousand. It is clear, therefore, that the hundred and forty-four thousand who have not defiled themselves with women must be made up of those who have come to the divine word out of the Gentile world. In this way the truth of the statement may be upheld that the first fruits of each tribe are its virgins. For the passage goes on: “These were brought from among men to be a first fruits to God and to the Lamb; and in their mouth was found no guile, for they are without blemish.” The statement about the hundred and forty-four thousand no doubt admits of mystical interpretation; But it is unnecessary at this point, and would divert us from our purpose, to compare with it those passages of the prophets in which the same lesson is taught regarding those who are called from among the Gentiles.
But what is the bearing of all this for us? So you will ask when you read these words, Ambrosius, thou who art truly a man of God, a mall in Christ. and who seekest to be not a man only, but a spiritual man. The bearing is this. Those of the tribes offer to God, through the levites and priests, tithes and first fruits; not everything which they possess do they regard as tithe or first fruit. The levites and priests, on the other hand, have no possessions but tithes and first fruits; yet they also in turn offer tithes to God through the high-priests, and, I believe, first fruits too. The same is the case with those who approach Christian studies. Most of us devote most of our time to the things of this life, and dedicate to God only a few special acts, thus resembling those members of the tribes who had but few transactions with the priest, and discharged their religious duties with no great expense of time. But those who devote themselves to the divine word and have no other employment but the service of God may not unnaturally, allowing for the difference of occupation in the two cases, be called our levites and priests. And those who fulfil a more distinguished office than their kinsmen will perhaps be high-priests, according to the order of Aaron, not that of Melchisedek. Here some one may object that it is somewhat too bold to apply the name of high-priests to men, when Jesus Himself is spoken of in many a prophetic passage as the one great priest, as “We have a great high-priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God.” But to this we reply that the Apostle clearly defined his meaning, and declared the prophet to have said about the Christ, “Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedek,” and not according to the order of Aaron. We say accordingly that men can be high-priests according to the order of Aaron, but according to the order of Melchisedek only the Christ of God.
Now our whole activity is devoted to God, and our whole life, since we are bent on progress in divine things. If, then, it be our desire to have the whole of those first fruits spoken of above which are made up of the many first fruits, if we are not mistaken in this view, in what must our first fruits consist, after the bodily separation we have undergone from each other, but in the study of the Gospel? For we may venture to say that the Gospel is the first fruits of all the Scriptures. Where, then, could be the first fruits of our activity, since the time when we came to Alexandria, but in the first fruits of the Scriptures? It must not he forgotten, however, that the first fruits are not the same as the first growth. For the first fruits are offered after all the fruits (are ripe), but the first growth before them all. Now of the Scriptures which are current and are believed to be divine in all the churches, one would not be wrong in saying that the first growth is the law of Moses, but the first fruits the Gospel. For it was after all the fruits of the prophets who prophesied till the Lord Jesus, that the perfect word shot forth.
Here, however, some one may object, appealing to the notion just put forward of the unfolding of the first fruits last, and may say that the Acts and the letters of the Apostles came after the Gospels, and that this destroys our argument to the effect that the Gospel is the first fruits of all Scripture. To this we must reply that it is the conviction of men who are wise in Christ, who have profited by those epistles which are current, and who see them to be vouched for by the testimonies deposited in the law and the prophets, that the apostolic writings are to be pronounced wise and worthy of belief, and that they have great authority, but that they are not on the same level with that “Thus sayeth the Lord Almighty.” Consider on this point the language of St. Paul. When he declares that “Every Scripture is inspired of God and profitable,” does he include his own writings? Or does he not include his dictum, “I say, and not the Lord,” and “So I ordain in all the churches,” and “What things I suffered at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra,” and similar things which he writes in virtue of his own authority, and which do not quite possess the character of words flowing from divine inspiration. Must we also show that the old Scripture is not Gospel, since it does not point out the Coming One, but only foretells Him and heralds His coming at a future time; but that all the new Scripture is the Gospel. It not only says as in the beginning of the Gospel, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world;” it also contains many praises of Him, and many of His teachings, on whose account the Gospel is a Gospel. Again, if God set in the Church apostles and prophets and evangelists (gospellers), pastors and teachers, we must first enquire what was the office of the evangelist, and mark that it is not only to narrate how the Saviour cured a man who was blind from his birth, or raised up a dead man who was already stinking, or to state what extraordinary works he wrought; and the office of the evangelist being thus defined, we shall not hesitate to find Gospel in such discourse also as is not narrative but hortatory and intended to strengthen belief in the mission of Jesus; and thus we shall arrive at the position that whatever was written by the Apostles is Gospel. As to this second definition, it might be objected that the Epistles are not entitled “Gospel,” and that we are wrong in applying the name of Gospel to the whole of the New Testament. But to this we answer that it happens not unfrequently in Scripture when two or more persons or things are named by the same name, the name attaches itself most significantly to one of those things or persons.
Thus the Saviour says, “Call no man Master upon the earth;” while the Apostle says that Masters have been appointed in the Church. These latter accordingly will not be Masters in the strict sense of the dictum of the Gospel. In the same way the Gospel in the Epistles will not extend to every word of them, when it is compared with the narrative of Jesus actions and sufferings and discourses. No: the Gospel is the first fruits of all Scripture, and to these first fruits of the Scriptures we devote the first fruits of all those actions of ours which we trust to see turn out as we desire.
Now the Gospels are four. These four are, as it were, the elements of the faith of the Church, out of which elements the whole world which is reconciled to God in Christ is put together; as Paul says, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself;” of which world Jesus bore the sin; for it is of the world of the Church that the word is written, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” The Gospels then being four, I deem the first fruits of the Gospels to be that which you s have enjoined me to search into according to my powers, the Gospel of John, that which speaks of him whose genealogy had already been set forth, but which begins to speak of him at a point before he had any genealogy. For Matthew, writing for the Hebrews who looked for Him who was to come of the line of Abraham and of David, says: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” And Mark, knowing what he writes, narrates the beginning of the Gospel; we may perhaps find what he aims at in John; in the beginning the Word, God the Word. But Luke, though he says at the beginning of Acts, “The former treatise did I make about all that Jesus began to do and to teach,” yet leaves to him who lay on Jesus’ breast the greatest and completest discourses about Jesus. For none of these plainly declared His Godhead, as John does when he makes Him say, “I am the light of the world,” “I am the way and the truth and the life,” “I am the resurrection, “I am the door,” “I am the good shepherd;” and in the Apocalypse, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” We may therefore make bold to say that the Gospels are the first fruits of all the Scriptures, but that of the Gospels that of John is the first fruits. No one can apprehend the meaning of it except he have lain on Jesus’ breast and received from Jesus Mary to be his mother also. Such an one must he become who is to be another John, and to have shown to him, like John, by Jesus Himself Jesus as He is. For if Mary, as those declare who with sound mind extol her, had no other son but Jesus, and yet Jesus says to His mother, “Woman, behold thy son,” and not “Behold you have this son also,” then He virtually said to her, “Lo, this is Jesus, whom thou didst bear.” Is it not the case that every one who is perfect lives himself no longer, but Christ lives in him; and if Christ lives in him, then it is said of him to Mary, “Behold thy son Christ.” What a mind, then, must we have to enable us to interpret in a worthy manner this work, though it be committed to the earthly treasure-house of common speech, of writing which any passer-by can read, and which can be heard when read aloud by any one who lends to it his bodily ears? What shall we say of this work? He who is accurately to apprehend what it contains should be able to say with truth, “We have the mind of Christ, that we may know those things which are bestowed on us by God.” It is possible to quote one of Paul’s sayings in support of the contention that the whole of the New Testament is Gospel. He writes in a certain place: “According to my Gospel.” Now we have no written work of Paul which is commonly called a Gospel. But all that he preached and said was the Gospel; and what he preached and said he was also in the habit of writing, and what he wrote was therefore Gospel. But if what Paul wrote was Gospel, it follows that what Peter wrote was also Gospel, and in a word all that was said or written to perpetuate the knowledge of Christ’s sojourn on earth, and to prepare for His second coming, or to bring it about as a present reality in those souls which were willing to receive the Word of God as He stood at the door and knocked and sought to come into them.
But it is time we should inquire what is the meaning of the designation “Gospel,” and why these books have this title. Now the Gospel is a discourse containing a promise of things which naturally, and on account of the benefits they bring, rejoice the hearer as soon as the promise is heard and believed. Nor is such a discourse any the less a Gospel that we define it with reference to the position of the hearer. A Gospel is either a word which implies the actual presence to the believer of something that is good, or a word promising the arrival of a good which is expected. Now all these definitions apply to those books which are named Gospels. For each of the Gospels is a collection of announcements which are useful to him who believes them and does not misinterpret them; it brings him a benefit and naturally makes him glad because it tells of the sojourn with men, on account of men, and for their salvation, of the first-born of all creation, Christ Jesus. And again each Gospel tells of the sojourn of the good Father in the Son with those minded to receive Him, as is plain to every believer; and moreover by these books a good is announced which had been formerly expected, as is by no means hard to see. For John the Baptist spoke in the name almost of the whole people when he sent to Jesus and asked, “Art thou He that should come or do we look for another?” For to the people the Messiah was an expected good, which the prophets had foretold, and they all alike, though under the law and the prophets, fixed their hopes on Him, as the Samaritan woman bears witness when she says: “I know that the Messiah comes, who is called Christ; when He comes He will tell us all things.” Simon and Cleopas too, when talking to each other about all that had happened to Jesus Christ Himself, then risen, though they did not know that He had risen, from the dead, speak thus, “Dost thou sojourn alone in Jerusalem, and knowest not the things which have taken place there in these days? And when he said what things? they answered, The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet, mighty in deed and in word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to be sentenced to death and crucified Him. But we hoped that it was He which should redeem Israel.” Again, Andrew the brother of Simon Peter found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, Christ.” And a little further on Philip finds Nathanael and says to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, wrote, Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
Now an objection might be raised to our first definition, because it would embrace books which are not entitled Gospels. For the law and the prophets also are to our eyes books containing the promise of things which, from the benefit they will confer on him, naturally rejoice the hearer as soon as he takes in the message. To this it may be said that before the sojourn of Christ, the law and the prophets, since He had not come who interpreted the mysteries they contained, did not convey such a promise as belongs to our definition of the Gospel; but the Saviour, when He sojourned with men and caused the Gospel to appear in bodily form, by the Gospel caused all things to appear as Gospel. Here I would not think it beside the purpose to quote the example of Him who . . . a few things . . . and yet all. For when he had taken away the veil which was present in the law and the prophets, and by His divinity had proved the sons of men that the Godhead was at work, He opened the way for all those who desired it to be disciples of His wisdom, and to understand what things were true and real in the law of Moses, of which things those of old worshipped the type and the shadow, and what things were real of the things narrated in the histories which “happened to them in the way of type,” but these things “were written for our sakes, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” With whomsoever, then, Christ has sojourned, he worships God neither at Jerusalem nor on the mountain of the Samaritans; he knows that God is a spirit, and worships Him spiritually, in spirit and in truth; no longer by type does he worship the Father and Maker of all. Before that Gospel, therefore, which came into being by the sojourning of Christ, none of the older works was a Gospel. But the Gospel, which is the new covenant, having delivered us from the oldness of the letter, lights up for us, by the light of knowledge, the newness of the spirit, a thing which never grows old, which has its home in the New Testament, but is also present in all the Scriptures. It was fitting, therefore, that that Gospel, which enables us to find the Gospel present, even in the Old Testament, should itself receive, in a special sense, the name of Gospel.
We must not, however, forget that the sojourning of Christ with men took place before His bodily sojourn, in an intellectual fashion, to those who were more perfect and not children, and were not under pedagogues and governors. In their minds they saw the fulness of the time to be at hand–the patriarchs, and Moses the servant, and the prophets who beheld the glory of Christ. And as before His manifest and bodily coming He came to those who were perfect, so also, after His coming has been announced to all, to those who are still children, since they are under pedagogues and governors and have not yet arrived at the fulness of the time, forerunners of Christ have come to sojourn, discourses (logoi) suited for minds still in their childhood, and rightly, therefore, termed pedagogues. But the Son Himself, the glorified God, the Word, has not yet come; He waits for the preparation which must take place on the part of men of God who are to admit His deity. And this, too, we must bear in mind, that as the law contains a shadow of good things to come, which are indicated by that law which is announced according to truth, so the Gospel also teaches a shadow of the mysteries of Christ, the Gospel which is thought to be capable of being understood by any one. What John calls the eternal Gospel, and what may properly be called the spiritual Gospel, presents clearly to those who have the will to understand, all matters concerning the very Son of God, both the mysteries presented by His discourses and those matters of which His acts were the enigmas. In accordance with this we may conclude that, as it is with Him who is a Jew outwardly and circumcised in the flesh, so it is with the Christian and with baptism. Paul and Peter were, at an earlier period, Jews outwardly and circumcised, but later they received from Christ that they should be so in secret, too; so that outwardly they were Jews for the sake of the salvation of many, and by an economy they not only confessed in words that they were Jews, but showed it by their actions. And the same is to be said about their Christianity. As Paul could not benefit those who were Jews according to the flesh, without, when reason shows it to be necessary, circumcising Timothy, and when it appears the natural course getting himself shaved and making a vow, and, in a word, being to the Jews a Jew that he might gain the Jews–so also it is not possible for one who is responsible for the good of many to operate as he should by means of that Christianity only which is in secret. That will never enable him to improve those who are following the external Christianity, or to lead them on to better and higher things. We must, therefore, be Christians both somatically and spiritually, and where there is a call for the somatic (bodily) Gospel, in which a man says to those who are carnal that he knows nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, so we must do. But should we find those who are perfected in the spirit, and bear fruit in it, and are enamoured of the heavenly wisdom, these must he made to partake of that Word which, after it was made flesh, rose again to what it was in the beginning, with God.
The foregoing inquiry into the nature of the Gospel cannot be regarded as useless; it has enabled us to see what distinction there is between a sensible Gospel and all intellectual and spiritual one. What we have now to do is to transform the sensible Gospel into a spiritual one. For what would the narrative of the sensible Gospel amount to if it were not developed to a spiritual one? It would be of little account or none; any one can read it and assure himself of the facts it tells–no more. But our whole energy is now to be directed to the effort to penetrate to the deep things of the meaning of the Gospel and to search out the truth that is ill it when divested of types.
Now what the Gospels say is to be regarded in the light of promises of good things; and we must say that the good things the Apostles announce in this Gospel are simply Jesus. one good thing which they are said to announce is the resurrection; but the resurrection is in a manner Jesus, for Jesus says: “I am the resurrection.” Jesus preaches to the poor those things which are laid up for the saints, calling them to the divine promises. And the holy Scriptures bear witness to the Gospel announcements made by the Apostles and to that made by our Saviour. David says of the Apostles, perhaps also of the evangelists: “The Lord shall give the word to those that preach with great power; the King of the powers of the beloved;” teaching at the same time that it is not skilfully composed discourse, nor the mode of delivery, nor well practised eloquence that produces conviction, but the communication of divine power. Hence also Paul says: “I will know not the word that is puffed up, but the power; for the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.” And in another passage: “And my word and my preaching were not persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power.” To this power Simon and Cleophas bear witness when they say: “Was not our heart burning within us by the way, as he opened to us the Scriptures?” And the Apostles, since the quantity of the power is great which God supplies to the speakers, had great power, according to the word of David: “The Lord will give the word to the preachers with great power.” Isaiah too says: “How beautiful are the feet of them that proclaim good tidings;” he sees how beautiful and how opportune was the announcement of the Apostles who walked in Him who said, “I am the way,” and praises the feet of those who walk in the intellectual way of Christ Jesus, and through that door go in to God. They announce good tidings, those whose feet are beautiful, namely, Jesus.
Let no one wonder if we have understood Jesus to be announced in the Gospel under a plurality of names of good things. If we look at the things by the names of which the Son of God is called, we shall understand how many good things Jesus is, whom those preach whose feet are beautiful. One good thing is life; but Jesus is the life. Another good thing is the light of the world, when it is true light, and the light of men; and all these things the Son of God is said to be. And another good thing which one may conceive to be in addition to life or light is the truth. And a fourth in addition to time is the way which leads to the truth. And all these things our Saviour teaches that He is, when He says: “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Ah, is not that good, to shake off earth and mortality, and to rise again, obtaining this boon from the Lord, since He is the resurrection, as He says: “I am the resurrection.” But the door also is a good, through which one enters into the highest blessedness. Now Christ says: “I am the door.” And what need is there to speak of wisdom, which “the Lord created the first principle of His ways, for His works,” in whom the father of her rejoiced. delighting in her manifold intellectual beauty, seen by the eyes of the mind alone, and provoking him to love who discerns her divine and heavenly charm? A good indeed is the wisdom of God, proclaimed along with the other good foresaid by those whose feet are beautiful. And the power of God is the eighth good we enumerate, which is Christ. Nor must we omit to mention the Word, who is God after the Father of all. For this also is a good, less than no other. Happy, then, are those who accept these goods and receive them from those who announce the good tidings of them, those whose feet are beautiful. Indeed even one of the Corinthians to whom Paul declared that he knew nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, should he learn Him who for our sakes became man, and so receive Him, he would become identified with the beginning of the good things we have spoken of; by the man Jesus he would be made a man of God, and by His death he would die to sin. For “Christ, in that He died, died unto sin once.” But from His life, since “in that He liveth, He liveth unto God,” every one who is conformed to His resurrection receives that living to God.
But who will deny that righteousness, essential righteousness, is a good, and essential sanctification, and essential redemption? And these things those preach who preach Jesus, saying that He is made to be of God righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Hence we shall have writings about Him without number, showing that Jesus is a multitude of goods; for from the things which can scarcely be numbered and which have been written we may make some conjecture of those things which actually exist in Him in whom “it pleased God that the whole fulness of the Godhead should dwell bodily.” and which are not contained in writings. Why should I say, “are not contained in writings”? For John speaks of the whole world in this connection, and says: “I suppose that not even the world itself would contain the books which would be written.” Now to say that the Apostles preach the Saviour is to say that they preach these good things. For this is He who received from the good Father that He Himself should be these good things, so that each man receiving from Jesus the thing or things he is capable of receiving may enjoy good things. But the Apostles, whose feet were beautiful, and those imitators of them who sought to preach the good tidings, could not have done so had not Jesus Himself first preached the good tidings to them, as Isaiah says: “I myself that speak am here, as the opportunity on the mountains, as the feet of one preaching tidings of peace, as one preaching good things; for I will make My salvation to be heard, saying, God shall reign over thee, O Zion!” For what are the mountains on which the speaker declares that He Himself is present, but those who are less than none of the highest and the greatest of the earth?
And these must be sought by the able ministers of the New Covenant, in order that they may observe the injunction which says: Go up into a high mountain, thou that preachest good tidings to Zion; thou that preachest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength!” Now it is not wonderful if to those who are to preach good tidings Jesus Himself preaches good tidings of good things, which are no other than Himself; for the Son of God preaches the good tidings of Himself to those who cannot come to know Him through others. And He who goes up into the mountains and preaches good things to them, being Himself instructed by His good Father, who “makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” He does not despise those who are poor in soul. To them He preaches good tidings, as He Himself bears witness to us when He takes Isaiah and reads: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor, He hath sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and sight to the blind. For closing the book He handed it to the minister and sat down. And when the eyes of all were fastened upon Him, He said, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
It ought not to be forgotten that in such a Gospel as this there is embraced every good deed which was done to Jesus; as, for example, the story of the woman who had been a stalker and had repented, and who, having experienced a genuine recovery from her evil state, had grace to pour her ointment over Jesus so that every one in the house smelt the sweet savour. Hence, too, the words, “Wherever this Gospel shall be preached among all the nations, there also this that she has done shall be spoken of, for a memorial of her.” And it is clear that whatever is done to the disciples of Jesus is done to Him. Pointing to those of them who met with kind treatment, He says to those who were kind to them? “What ye did to these, ye did to Me.” So that every good deed we do to our neighbours is entered ill the Gospel, that Gospel which is written on the heavenly tablets and read by all who are worthy of the knowledge of the whole of things. But on the other side, too, there is a part of the Gospel which is for the condemnation of the doers of the ill deeds which have been done to Jesus. The treachery of Judas and the shouts of the wicked crowd when it said, “Away with such a one from the earth,” and “Crucify Him, crucify Him,” the mockings of those who crowned Him with thorns, and everything of that kind, is included ill the Gospels. And as a consequence of this we see that every one who betrays the disciples of Jesus is reckoned as betraying Jesus Himself. To Saul, when still a persecutor it is said, “Saul Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” and, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” There are those who still have thorns with which they crown and dishonour Jesus, those, namely, who are choked by the cares, and riches, and pleasures of life, and though they have received the word of God, do not bring it to perfection. We must beware, therefore, lest we also, as crowning Jesus with thorns of our own, should be entered in the Gospel and read of in this character by those who learn the Jesus, who is in all and is present in all rational and holy lives, learn how He is anointed with ointment, is entertained, is glorified, or how, on the other side, He is dishonoured, and mocked, and beaten. All this had to be said; it is part of our demonstration that our good actions, and also the sins of those who stumble, are embodied in the Gospel, either to everlasting life or to reproach and everlasting shame.
Now if there are those among men who are honoured with the ministry of evangelists, and if Jesus Himself brings tidings of good things, and preaches the Gospel to the poor, surely those messengers who were made spirits by God, those who are a flame of fire, ministers of the Father of all, cannot have been excluded from being evangelists also. Hence an angel standing over the shepherds made a bright light to shine round about them, and said: “Fear not; behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all tile people; for there is born to you, this day, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.” And at a time when there was no knowledge among men of the mystery of the Gospel, those who were greater than men and inhabitants of heaven, the army of God, praised God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men.” And having said this, the angels go away from the shepherds into heaven, leaving us to gather how the joy preached to us through the birth of Jesus Christ is glory in the highest to God; they humbled themselves even to the ground, and then returned to their place of rest, to glorify God in the highest through Jesus Christ. But the angels also wonder at the peace which is to be brought about on account of Jesus on the earth, that seat of war, on which Lucifer, star of the morning, fell from heaven, to be warred against and destroyed by Jesus.
In addition to what we have said, there is also this to be considered about the Gospel, that in the first instance it is that of Christ Jesus, the head of the whole body of the saved; as Mark says, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Then also it is the Gospel of the Apostles; whence Paul says, “According to my Gospel.” But the beginning of the Gospel–for in respect of its extent it has a beginning, a continuation, a middle, and an end–is nothing but the whole Old Testament. John is, in this respect, a type of the Old Testament, or, if we regard the connection of the New Testament with the Old, John represents the termination of the Old. For the same Mark says: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet, Behold I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way. The voice of one crying m the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.” And here I must wonder how the dissentients can connect the two Testaments with two different Gods. These words, were there no others, are enough to convict them of their error. For how can John be the beginning of the Gospel if they suppose he belongs to a different God, if he belongs to the demiurge, and, as they hold, is not acquainted with the new deity? And the angels are not entrusted with but one evangelical ministry, and that a short one, not only with that addressed to the shepherds. For at the end an exalted and flying angel, having the Gospel, will preach it to every nation, for the good Father has not entirely deserted those who have fallen away from Him. John, son of Zebedee, says in his Apocalypse: “And I saw an angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the Eternal Gospel, to preach it to those who dwell upon the earth, and to every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and people, saying, with a loud voice, Fear God and give Him glory, for the hour of His judgment hath come, and worship Him that made the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”
As, then, we have shown that the beginning of the Gospel, according to one interpretation, is the whole Old Testament, and is signified by the person of John, we shall add, lest this should be called a mere unsupported assertion, what is said in the Acts about the eunuch of the queen of the Ethiopians and Philip. Philip, it is said, began at the passage of Isaiah: “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a lamb before his shearer is dumb,” and so preached to him the Lord Jesus. How can he begin with the prophet and preach Jesus, if Isaiah was not a part of the beginning of the Gospel? From this we may derive a proof of the assertion made at the outset, that every divine Scripture is Gospel. If he who preaches the Gospel preaches good things, and all those who spoke before the sojourn of Jesus in the flesh preach Christ, who is as we saw good things, then the words spoken by all of them alike are in a sense a part of the Gospel. And when the Gospel is said to be declared throughout the whole world, we infer that it is actually preached in the whole world, not, that is to say, in this earthly district only, but in the whole system of heaven and earth, or from heaven and earth. And why should we discuss any further what the Gospel is? What we have said is enough. Besides the passages we have adduced,passages by no means inept or unsuited for our purpose,–much to the same effect might be collected from the Scriptures, so that it is clearly seen what is the glory of the good things in Jesus Christ shed forth by the Gospel, the Gospel ministered by men and angels, and, I believe, also by authorities and powers, and thrones and dominions, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in the world to come, and indeed even by Christ Himself. Here, then, let us bring to a close what has to be said before proceeding to read the work itself. And now let us ask God to assist us through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, so that we may be able to unfold the mystical sense which is treasured up in the words before us.
“In the beginning was the Word.” It is not only the Greeks who consider the word “beginning” to have many meanings. Let any one collect the Scripture passages in which the word occurs, and with a view to an accurate interpretation of it note what it stands for in each passage, and he will find that the word has many meanings in sacred discourse also. We speak of a beginning in reference to a transition. Here it has to do with a road and with length. This appears in the saying: “The beginning of a good way is to do justice.” For since the good way is long, there have first to be considered in reference to it the question connected with action, and this side is presented in the words “to do justice;” the contemplative side comes up for consideration afterwards. In the latter the end of it comes to rest at last in the so-called restoration of all things, since no enemy is left them to fight against, if that be true which is said: “For He must reign until He have placed His enemies under His feet. But the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” For then but one activity will be left for those who have come to God on account of His word which is with Him, that, namely, of knowing God, so that, being found by the knowledge of the Father, they may all be His Son, as now no one but the Son knows the Father. For should any one enquire carefully at what time those are to know the Father to whom He who knows the Father reveals Him, and should he consider how a man now sees only through a glass and in a riddle, never having learned to know as he ought to know, he would be justified in saying that no one, no apostle even, and no prophet had known the Father, but when he became one with Him as a son and a father are one. And if any one says that it is a digression which has led us to this point, our consideration of that one meaning of the word beginning, we must show that the digression is necessary and useful for the end we have in view. For if we speak of a beginning in the case of a transition, and of a way and its length, and if we are told that the beginning of a good way is to do justice, then it concerns us to know in what manner every good way has for its beginning to do justice, and how after such beginning it arrives at contemplation, and in what manner it thus arrives at contemplation.
Again, there is a beginning in a matter of origin, as might appear in the saying: “In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth.” This meaning, however, appears more plainly in the Book of Job in the passage: “This is the beginning of God’s creation, made for His angels to mock at.” One would suppose that the heavens and the earth were made first, of all that was made at the creation of the world. But the second passage suggests a better view, namely, that as many beings were framed with a body, the first made of these was the creature called dragon, but called in another passage the great whale (leviathan) which the Lord tamed. We must ask about this; whether, when the saints were living a blessed life apart from matter and from any body, the dragon, falling from the pure life, became fit to be bound in matter and in a body, so that the Lord could say, speaking through storm and clouds, “This is the beginning of the creation of God, made for His angels to mock at.” It is possible, however, that the dragon is not positively the beginning of the creation of the Lord, but that there were many creatures made with a body for the angels to mock at, and that the dragon was the first of these, while others could subsist in a body without such reproach. But it is not so. For the soul of the sun is placed in a body, and the whole creation, of which the Apostle says: “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now,” and perhaps the following is about the same: “The creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but on account of Him who subjected it for hope;” so that bodies might be in vanity, and doing the things of the body, as he who is in the body must . . . . One who is in the body does the things of the body, though unwillingly. Wherefore the creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but he who does unwillingly the things of the body does what he does for the sake of hope, as if we should say that Paul desired to remain in the flesh, not willingly, but on account of hope. For though he thought it better to be dissolved and to be with Christ, it was not unreasonable that he should wish to remain in the flesh for the sake of the benefit to others and of advancement in the things hoped for, not only by him, but also by those benefited by him. This meaning of the term” beginning,” as of origin, will serve us also in the passage in which Wisdom speaks in the Proverbs. “God,” we read, “created me the beginning of His ways, for His works.” Here the term could be interpreted as in the first application we spoke of, that of a way: “The Lord,” it says, “created me the beginning of His ways.” One might assert, and with reason, that God Himself is the beginning of all things, and might go on to say, as is plain, that the Father is the beginning of the Son; and the demiurge the beginning of the works of the demiurge, and that God in a word is the beginning of all that exists. This view is supported by our: “In the beginning was the Word.” In the Word one may see the Son, and because He is in the Father He may be said to be in the beginning.
In the third place a beginning may be that out of which a thing comes, the underlying matter from which things are formed. This, however, is the view of those who hold matter itself to be uncreated, a view which we believers cannot share, since we believe God to have made the things that are out of the things which are not, as the mother of the seven martyrs in the Maccabees teaches, and as the angel of repentance in the Shepherd inculcated.
In addition to these meanings there is that in which we speak of an arche, according to form; thus if the first-born of every creature is the image of the invisible God, then the Father is his arche. In the same way Christ is the arche of those who are made according to the image of God. For if men are according to the image, but the image according to the Father; in the first case the Father is the arche of Christ, and in the other Christ is the arche of men, and men are made, not according to that of which he is the image, but according to the image. With this example our passage will agree: “In the arche was the Word.”
There is also an arche in a matter of learning, as when we say that the letters are the arche of grammar. The Apostle accordingly says: “When by reason of the time you ought to be teachers, you have need again that some one teach you what are the elements of the arche of the oracles of God.” Now the arche spoken of in connection with learning is twofold; first in respect of its nature, secondly in its relation to us; as we might say of Christ, that by nature His arche is deity, but that in relation to us who cannot, for its very greatness, command the whole truth about Him, His arche is His manhood, as He is preached to babes, “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” In this view, then, Christ is the arche of learning in His own nature, because He is the wisdom and power of God; but for us, the Word was made flesh, that He might tabernacle among us who could only thus at first receive Him. And perhaps this is the reason why He is not only the firstborn of all creation, but is also designated the man, Adam. For Paul says He is Adam: “The last Adam was made a life-giving spirit.”
Again we speak of the arche of an action, in which there is a design which appears after the beginning. It may be considered whether wisdom is to be regarded as the arche of the works of God because it is in this way the principle of them.
So many meanings occur to us at once of the word arche. We have now to ask which of them we should adopt for our text, “In the beginning was the Word.” It is plain that we may at once dismiss the meaning which connects it with transition or with a road and its length. Nor, it is pretty plain, will the meaning connected with an origin serve our purpose. One might, however, think of the sense in which it points to the author, to that which brings about the effect, if, as we read, “God commanded and they were created.” For Christ is, in a manner, the demiurge, to whom the Father says, “Let there be light,” and “Let there be a firmament.” But Christ is demiurge as a beginning (arche), inasmuch as He is wisdom. It is in virtue of His being wisdom that He is called arche. For Wisdom says in Solomon: “God created me the beginning of His ways, for His works,” so that the Word might be in an arche, namely, in wisdom. Considered in relation to the structure of contemplation and thoughts about the whole of things, it is regarded as wisdom; but in relation to that side of the objects of thought, in which reasonable beings apprehend them, it is considered as the Word. And there is no wonder, since, as we have said before, the Saviour is many good things, if He comprises in Himself thoughts of the first order, and of the second, and of the third. This is what John suggested when he said about the Word: “That which was made was life in Him.” Life then came in the Word. And on the one side the Word is no other than the Christ, the Word, He who was with the Father, by whom all things were made; while, on the other side, the Life is no other than the Son of God, who says: “I am the way and the truth and the life.” As, then, life came into being in the Word, so the Word in the arche. Consider, however, if we are at liberty to take this meaning of arche for our text: “In the beginning was the Word,” so as to obtain the meaning that all things came into being according to wisdom and according to the models of the system which are present in his thoughts. For I consider that as a house or a ship is built and fashioned in accordance with the sketches of the builder or designer, the house or the ship having their beginning (arche) in the sketches and reckonings in his mind, so all things came into being in accordance with the designs of what was to be, clearly laid down by God in wisdom. And we should add that having created, so to speak, ensouled wisdom, He left her to hand over, from the types which were in her, to things existing and to matter, the actual emergence of them, their moulding and their forms. But I consider, if it be permitted to say this, that the beginning (arche) of real existence was the Son of God, saying: “I am the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last.” We must, however, remember that He is not the arche in respect of every name which is applied to Him. For how can He be the beginning in respect of His being life, when life came in the Word, and the Word is manifestly the arche of life? It is also tolerably evident that He cannot be the arche in respect of His being the first-born from the dead. And if we go through all His titles carefully we find that He is the arche only in respect of His being wisdom. Not even as the Word is He the arche, for the Word was in the arche. And so one might venture to say that wisdom is anterior to all the thoughts that are expressed in the titles of the first-born of every creature. Now God is altogether one and simple; but our Saviour, for many reasons, since God set Him forth a propitiation and a first fruits of the whole creation, is made many things, or perhaps all these things; the whole creation, so far as capable of redemption, stands in need of Him. And, hence, He is made the light of men, because men, being darkened by wickedness, need the light that shines in darkness, and is not overtaken by the darkness; had not men been in darkness, He would not have become the light of men. The same thing may be observed in respect of His being the first-born of the dead. For supposing the woman had not been deceived, and Adam had not fallen, and man created for incorruption had obtained it, then He would not have descended into the grave, nor would He have died, there being no sin, nor would His love of men have required that He should die, and if He had not died, He could not have been the first-born of the dead. We may also ask whether He would ever have become a shepherd, had man not been thrown together with the beasts which are devoid of reason, and made like to them. For if God saves man and beasts, He saves those beasts which He does save, by giving them a shepherd, since they cannot have a king. Thus if we collect the titles of Jesus, the question arises which of them were conferred on Him later, and would never have assumed such importance if the saints had begun and had also persevered in blessedness. Perhaps Wisdom would be the only remaining one, or perhaps the Word would remain too, or perhaps the Life, or perhaps the Truth, not the others, which He took for our sake. And happy indeed are those who in their need for the Son of God have yet become such persons as not to need Him in His character as a physician healing the sick, nor in that of a shepherd, nor in that of redemption, but only in His characters as wisdom, as the word and righteousness, or if there be any other title suitable for those who are so perfect as to receive Him in His fairest characters. So much for the phrase “In the beginning.”
Let us consider, however, a little more carefully what is the Word which is in the beginning. I am often led to wonder when I consider the things that are said about Christ, even by those who are in earnest in their belief in Him. Though there is a countless number of names which can be applied to our Saviour, they omit the most of them, and if they should remember them, they declare that these titles are not to be understood in their proper sense, but tropically. But when they come to the title Logos (Word), and repeat that Christ alone is the Word of God, they are not consistent, and do not, as in the case of the other titles, search out what is behind the meaning of the term “Word.” I wonder at the stupidity of the general run of Christians in this matter. I do not mince matters; it is nothing but stupidity. The Son of God says in one passage, “I am the light of the world,” and in another, “I am the resurrection,” and again, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” It is also written, “I am the door,” and we have the saying, “I am the good shepherd,” and when the woman of Samaria says, “We know the Messiah is coming, who is called Christ; when He comes, He will tell us all things,” Jesus answers, “I that speak unto thee am He.” Again, when He washed the disciples’ feet, He declared Himself in these words to be their Master and Lord: “You call Me Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.” He also distinctly announces Himself as the Son of God, when He says, “He whom the Father sanctified and sent unto the world, to Him do you say, Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the Son of God?” and “Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son also may glorify Thee.” We also find Him declaring Himself to be a king, as when He answers Pilate’s question, “Art Thou the King of the Jews?” by saying, “My kingdom is not of this world; if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews, but now is My kingdom not from hence.” We have also read the words, “I am the true vine and My Father is the husbandman,” and again, “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” Add to these testimonies also the saying, “I am the bread of life, that came down from heaven and giveth life to the world.” These texts will suffice for the present, which we have picked up out of the storehouse of the Gospels, and in all of which He claims to be the Son of God. But in the Apocalypse of John, too, He says, “I am the first and the last, and the living One, and I was dead. Behold, I am alive for evermore.” And again, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, and the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” The careful student of the sacred books, moreover, may gather not a few similar passages from the prophets, as where He calls Himself a chosen shaft, and a servant of God, and a light of the Gentiles. Isaiah also says,” “From my mother’s womb hath He called me by my name, and He made my mouth as a sharp sword, and under the shadow of His hand did He hide me, and He said to me, Thou art My servant, O Israel, and in thee will I be glorified.” And a little farther on: “And my God shall be my strength, and He said to me, This is a great thing for thee to be called My servant, to set up the tribes of Jacob and to turn again the diaspora of Israel. Behold I have set thee for a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation to the end of the earth.” And in Jeremiah too He likens Himself to a lamb, as thus: “I was as a gentle lamb that is led to the slaughter.” These and other similar sayings He applies to Himself. In addition to these one might collect in the Gospels and the Apostles and in the prophets a countless number of titles which are applied to the Son of God, as the writers of the Gospels set forth their own views of what He is, or the Apostles extol Him out of what they had learned, or the prophets proclaim in advance His coining advent and announce the things concerning Him under various names. Thus John calls Him the Lamb of God, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world,” and in these words he declares Him as a man, “This is He about whom I said, that there cometh after me a man who is there before me; for He was before me.” And in his Catholic Epistle John says that He is a Paraclete for our souls with the Father, as thus: “And if any one sin, we have a Paraclete with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,” and he adds that He is a propitiation for our sins, and similarly Paul says He is a propitiation: “Whom God set forth as a propitiation through faith in His blood, on account of forgiveness of the forepast sins, in the forbearance of God.” According to Paul, too, He is declared to be the wisdom and the power of God, as in the Epistle to the Corinthians: “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” It is added that He is also sanctification and redemption: “He was made to us of God,” he says, “wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” But he also teaches us, writing to the Hebrews, that Christ is a High-Priest: “Having, therefore, a great High-Priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.” And the prophets have other names for Him besides these. Jacob in his blessing of his sons says, “Judah, thy brethren shall extol thee; thy hands are on the necks of thine enemies. A lion’s whelp is Judah, from a shoot, my son, art thou sprung up; thou hast lain down and slept as a lion; who shall awaken him?” We cannot now linger over these phrases, to show that what is said of Judah applies to Christ. What may be quoted against this view, viz., “A ruler shall not part from Judah nor a leader from his loins, until He come for whom it is reserved;” this can better be cleared up on another occa sion. But Isaiah knows Christ to be spoken of under the names of Jacob and Israel, when he says,’ “Jacob is my servant, I will help Him; Israel is my elect, my soul hath accepted Him. He shall declare judgment to the Gentiles.
He shall not strive nor cry, neither shall any one hear His voice on the streets. A bruised rod shall He not break. and smoking flax shall He not quench, till He bring forth judgment from victory, and in His name shall the nations hope.” That it is Christ about whom such prophecies are made, Matthew shows in his Gospel, where he quotes from memory and says: “That the saying might be fulfilled, He shall not strive nor cry,” etc. David also is called Christ, as where Ezekiel in his prophecy to the shepherds adds as from the mouth of God: “I will raise up David my servant, who shall be their shepherd.” For it is not the patriarch David who is to rise and be the shepherd of the saints, but Christ. Isaiah also called Christ the rod and the flower: “There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall spring out of tits root, and the spirit of God shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel slid of might, the spirit of knowledge and of godliness, and He shall be full of the spirit of the fear of the Lord.” And in the Psalms our Lord is called the stone, as follows: “The stone which the builders rejected is made the head of the comer. It is from the Lord, and it is wonderful in our eyes.” And the Gospel shows, as also does Luke in the Acts, that the stone is no other than Christ; the Gospel as follows: “Have ye never read, the stone which the builders rejected is made the head of the corner. Whosoever falls on this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will scatter him as dust.” And Luke writes in Acts: “This is the stone, which was set at naught of you the builders, which has become the head of the corner.” And one of the names applied to the Saviour is that which He Himself does not utter, but which John records;–the Word who was in the beginning with God, God the Word.
And it is worth our while to fix our attention for a moment on those scholars who omit consideration of most of the great names we have mentioned and regard this as the most important one. As to the former titles, they look for any account of them that any one may offer, but in the case of this one they proceed differently and ask, What is the Son of God when called the Word? The passage they employ most is that in the Psalms, “My heart hath produced a good Word;” and they imagine the Son of God to be the utterance of the Father deposited, as it were, in syllables, and accordingly they do not allow Him, if we examine them farther, any independent hypostasis, nor are they clear about His essence. I do not mean that they confuse its qualities, but the fact of His having an essence of His own. For no one can understand how that which is said to be “Word” can be a Son. And such an animated Word, not being a separate entity from the Father, and accordingly as it, having no subsistence. is not a Son, or if he is a Son, let them say that God the Word is a separate being and has an essence of His own. We insist, therefore, that as in the case of each of the titles spoken of above we turn from the title to the concept it suggests slid apply it and demonstrate how the Son of God is suitably described by it, the same course must be followed when we find Him called the Word. What caprice it is, in all these cases, not to stand upon the term employed, but to enquire in what sense Christ is to be understood to be the door, and in what way the vine, and why He is the way; but in the one case of His being called the Word, to follow a different course. To add to the authority, therefore, of what we have to say on the question, how the Son of God is the Word, we must begin with those names of which we spoke first as being applied to Him. This, we cannot deny, will seem to some to be superfluous and a digression, but the thoughtful reader will not think it useless to ask as to the concepts for which the titles are used; to observe these matters will clear the way for what is coming. And once we have entered upon the theology concerning the Saviour, as we seek with what diligence we can and find the various things that are taught about Him, we shall necessarily understand more about Him not only in His character as the Word, but in His other characters also.
He said, then, that He was the light of the world; and we have to examine, along with this title, those which are parallel to it; and, indeed, are thought by some to be not merely parallel, but identical with it. He is the true light, and the light of the Gentiles. In the opening of the Gospel now before us He is the light of men: “That which was made,” it says, “was life in Him, and the life was the light of men; and the light shines in darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.” A little further on, in the same passage, He is called the true light: “The true light, which lightens every man, was coming into the world.” In Isaiah, He is the light of the Gentiles, as we said before. “Behold, I have set Thee for a light of the Gentiles, that Thou shouldest be for salvation to the end of the earth.” Now the sensible light of the world is the sun, and after it comes very worthily the moon, and the same title may be applied to the stars; but those lights of the world are said in Moses to have come into existence on the fourth day, and as they shed light on the things on the earth, they are not the true light. But the Saviour shines on creatures which have intellect and sovereign reason, that their minds may behold their proper objects of vision, and so he is the light of the intellectual world, that is to say, of the reasonable souls which are in the sensible world, and if there be any beings beyond these in the world from which He declares Himself to be our Saviour. He is, indeed, the most determining and distinguished part of that world, and, as we may say, the sun who makes the great day of the Lord. In view of this day He says to those who partake of His light, “Work while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Then He says to His disciples, “Ye are the light of the world,” and “Let your light shine before men.” Thus we see the Church, the bride, to present an analogy to the moon and stars, and the disciples have a light, which is their own or borrowed from the true sun, so that they are able to illuminate those who have no command of any spring of light in themselves. We may say that Paul and Peter are the light of the world, and that those of their disciples who are enlightened themselves, but are not able to enlighten others, are the world of which the Apostles were the light. But the Saviour, being the light of the world, illuminates not bodies, but by His incorporeal power the incorporeal intellect, to the end that each of us, enlightened as by the sun, may be able to discern the rest of the things of the mind. And as when the sun is shining the moon and the stars lose their power of giving light, so those who are irradiated by Christ and receive His beams have no need of the ministering apostles and prophets–we must have courage to declare this truth–nor of the angels; I will add that they have no need even of the greater powers when they are disciples of that first-born light. To those who do not receive the solar beams of Christ. the ministering saints do afford an illumination much less than the former; this illumination is as much as those persons can receive, and it completely fills them. Christ, again, the light of the world, is the true light as distinguished from the light of sense; nothing that is sensible is true. Yet though the sensible is other than the true, it does not follow that the sensible is false, for the sensible may have an analogy with the intellectual, and not everything that is not true can correctly be called false. Now I ask whether the light of the world is the same thing with the light of men, and I conceive that a higher power of light is intended by the former phrase than by the latter, for the world in one sense is not only men. Paul shows that the world is something more than men when he writes to the Corinthians in his first Epistle: “We are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” In one sense, too, it may be considered, the world is the creation which is being delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God, whose earnest expectation is waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. We also draw attention to the comparison which may be drawn between the statement, “I am the light of the world,” and the words addressed to the disciples, “Ye are the light of the world.” Some suppose that the genuine disciples of Jesus are greater than other creatures, some seeking the reason of this ill the natural growth of these disciples, others inferring it from their harder struggle. For those beings which are in flesh and blood have greater labours and a life more full of dangers than those which are in an ethereal body, and the lights of heaven might not, if they had put on bodies of earth, have accomplished this life of ours free from danger and from error. Those who incline to this argument may appeal to those texts of Scripture which say the most exalted things about men, and to the fact that the Gospel is addressed directly to men; not so much is said about the creation, or, as we understand it, about the world. We read, “As I and Thou are one, that they also may be one in Us,” and “Where I am, there will also My servant be.” These sayings, plainly, are about men; while about the creation it is said that it is delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. It might be added that not even when it is delivered will it take part in the glory of the sons of God. Nor will those who hold this view forget that the first-born of every creature, honouring man above all else, became man, and that it was not any of the constellations existing in the sky, but one of another order, appointed for this purpose and in the service of the knowledge of Jesus, that was made to be the Star of the East, whether it was like the other stars or perchance better than they, to be the sign of Him who is the most excellent of all. And if the boasting of the saints is in their tribulations, since “tribulation worketh patience, and patience probation, and probation hope, and hope maketh not ashamed,” then the afflicted creation cannot have the like patience with man, nor the like probation, nor the like hope, but another degree of these, since “the creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but on account of Him who subjected it. for hope.” Now he who shrinks from conferring such great attributes on man will turn to another direction and say that the creature being subjected to vanity groans and suffers greater affliction than those who groan in this tabernacle, for has she not suffered for the utmost extent of time in her service of vanity–nay, many times as long as man? For why does she do this not willingly, but that it is against her nature to be subject to vanity, and not to have the best arrangement of her life, that which she shall receive when she is set free, when the world is destroyed and released even from the vanity of bodies. Here, however, we may appear to be stretching too far, and aiming at more than the question now before us requires. We may return, therefore, to the point from which we set out, and ask for what reason the Saviour is called the light of the world, the true light, and the light of men. Now we saw that He is called the true light with reference to the sensible light of the world, and that the light of the world is the same thing as the light of men, or that we may at least enquire whether they are the same. This discussion is not superfluous. Some students do not take anything at all out of the statement that the Saviour is the Word; and it is important for us to assure ourselves that we are not chargeable with caprice in fixing our attention on that notion. If it admits of being taken in a metaphorical sense we ought not to take it literally. When we apply the mystical and allegorical method to the expression “light of the world” and the many analogous terms mentioned above, we should surely do so with this expression also.
Now He is called the light of men and the true light and the light of the word, because He brightens and irradiates the higher parts of men, or, in a word, of all reasonable beings. And similarly it is from and because of the energy with which He causes the old deadness to be put aside and that which is par excellence life to be put on, so that those who have truly received Him rise again from the dead, that He is called the resurrection. And this He does not only at the moment at which a man says, “We are buried with Christ through baptism and have risen again with Him,” but much rather when a man, having laid off all about him that belongs to death, walks in the newness of life which belongs to Him, the Son, while here. We always “carry about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus,” and thus we reap the vast advantage, “that the life of the Lord Jesus might be made manifest in our bodies.”
But that progress too, which is in wisdom and which is found by those who seek their salvation in it to do for them what they require both in respect of exposition of truth in the divine word and in respect of conduct according to true righteousness, it lets us understand how Christ is the way. In this way we have to take nothing with us, neither wallet nor coat; we must travel without even a stick, nor must we have shoes on our feet. For this road is itself sufficient for all the supplies of our journey; and every one who walks on it wants nothing. He is clad with a garment which is fit for one who is setting out in response to an invitation to a wedding; and on this road he cannot meet anything that can annoy him. “No one,” Solomon says, “can find out the way of a serpent upon a rock.” I would add, or that of any other beast. Hence there is no need of a staff on this road, on which there is no trace of any hostile creature, and the hardness of which, whence also it is called rock (petra), makes it incapable of harbouring anything hurtful.
Further, the Only-begotten is the truth, because He embraces in Himself according to the Father’s will the whole reason of all things, and that with perfect clearness, and being the truth communicates to each creature in proportion to its worthiness. And should any one enquire whether all that the Father knows, according to the depth of His riches and His wisdom and His knowledge, is known to our Saviour also, and should he, imagining that he will thereby glorify the Father, show that some things known to the Father are unknown to the Son, although He might have had an equal share of the apprehensions of the unbegotten God, we must remind him that it is from His being the truth that He is Saviour, and add that if He is the truth complete, then there is nothing true which He does not know; truth must not limp for the want of the things which, according to those persons, are known to the Father only. Or else let it be shown that some things are known to which the name of truth does not apply, but which are above the truth.
It is clear also that the principle of that life which is pure and unmixed with any other element, resides in Him who is the first-born of all creation, taking from which those who have a share in Christ live the life which is true life, while all those who are thought to live apart from this, as they have not the true light, have not the true life either.
But as one cannot be in the Father or with the Father except by ascending from below upwards and coming first to the divinity of the Son, through which one may be led by the hand and brought to the blessedness of the Father Himself, so the Saviour has the inscription “The Door.” And as He is a lover of men, and approves the impulse of human souls to better things, even of those who do not hasten to reason (the Logos), but like sheep have a weakness and gentleness apart from all accuracy and reason, so He is the Shepherd. For the Lord saves men and beasts, and Israel and Juda are sowed with the seed not of men only but also of beasts.
In addition to these titles we must consider at the outset of our work that of Christ, and we must also consider that of King, and compare these two so as to find out the difference between them. Now it is said in the forty-fourth Psalm, “Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity, whence Thou art anointed (Christ) above Thy fellows.” His loving righteousness and hating iniquity were thus added claims in Him; His anointing was not contemporary with His being nor inherited by Him from the first. Anointing is a symbol of entering on the kingship, and sometimes also on the priesthood; and must we therefore conclude that the kingship of the Son of God is not inherited nor congenital to Him? But how is it conceivable that the First-born of all creation was not a king and became a king afterwards because He loved righteousness, when, moreover, He Himself was righteousness? We cannot fail to see that it is as a man that He is Christ, in respect of His soul, which was human and liable to be troubled and sore vexed, but that He is conceived as king in respect of the divine in Him. I find support for this in the seventy-first Psalm, which says, “Give the king Thy judgment, O God, and Thy righteousness to the king’s Son, to judge Thy people in righteousness and Thy poor in judgment.” This Psalm, though addressed to Solomon, is evidently a prophecy of Christ, and it is worth while to ask to what king the prophecy desires judgment to be given by God, and to what king’s Son, and what king’s righteousness is spoken of. I conceive, then, that what is called the King is the leading nature of the First-born of all creation, to which judgment is given on account of its eminence; and that the man whom He assumed, formed and moulded by that nature, according to righteousness, is the King’s Son. I am the more led to think that this is so, because the two beings are here brought together in one sentence, and are spoken of as if they were not two but one. For the Saviour made both one, that is, He made them according to the prototype of the two which had been made one in Himself before all things. The two I refer to human nature, since each man’s soul is mixed with the Holy Spirit, and each of those who are saved is thus made spiritual. Now as there are some to whom Christ is a shepherd, as we said before, because of their meek and composed nature, though they are less guided by reason; so there are those to whom He is a king, those, namely, who are led in their approach to religion rather by the reasonable part of their nature. And among those who are under a king there are differences; some experience his rule in a more mystic and hidden and more divine way, others in a less perfect fashion. I should say that those who, led by reason, apart from all agencies of sense, have beheld incorporeal things, the things which Paul speaks of as “invisible,” or “not seen,” that they are ruled by the leading nature of the Only-begotten, but that those who have only advanced as far as the reason which is conversant with sensible things, and on account of these glorify their Maker, that these also are governed by the Word, by Christ. No offence need be taken at our distinguishing these notions in the Saviour; we draw the same distinctions in His substance.
It is plain to all how our Lord is a teacher and an interpreter for those who are striving towards godliness, and on the other hand a master of those servants who have the spirit of bondage to fear, who make progress and hasten towards wisdom, and are found worthy to possess it. For “the servant knoweth not what the master wills,” since he is no longer his master, but has become his friend. The Lord Himself teaches this, for He says to hearers who were still servants: “You call Me Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am,” but in another passage, “I call you no longer servants, for the servant knoweth not what is the will of his master, but I call you friends,” because “you have continued with Me in all My temptations.” They, then, who live according to fear, which God exacts from those who are not good servants, as we read in Malachi, “If I am a Master, where is My fear?” are servants of a master who is called their Saviour.
None of these testimonies, however, sets forth distinctly the Saviour’s exalted birth; but when the words are addressed to Him, “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee,” this is spoken to Him by God, with whom all time is to-day, for there is no evening with God, as I consider, and there is no morning, nothing but time that stretches out, along with His unbeginning and unseen life. The day is to-day with Him in which the Son was begotten, and thus the beginning of His birth is not found, as neither is the day of it.
To what we have said must be added how the Son is the true vine. Those will have no difficulty in apprehending this who understand, in a manner worthy of the prophetic grace, the saying: “Wine maketh glad the heart of man.” For if the heart be the intellectual part, and what rejoices it is the Word most pleasant of all to drink which takes us off human things, makes us feel ourselves inspired, and intoxicates us with an intoxication which is not irrational but divine, that, I conceive, with which Joseph made his brethren merry, then it is very clear how He who brings wine thus to rejoice the heart of man is the true vine. He is the true vine, because the grapes He bears are the truth, the disciples are His branches, and they, also, bring forth the truth as their fruit. It is somewhat difficult to show the difference between the vine and bread, for He says, not only that He is the vine, but that He is the bread of life. May it be that as bread nourishes and makes strong, and is said to strengthen the heart of man, but wine, on the contrary, pleases and rejoices and melts him, so ethical studies, bringing life to him who learns them and reduces them to practice, are the bread of life, but cannot properly be called the fruit of the vine, while secret and mystical speculations, rejoicing the heart and causing those to feel inspired who take them in, delighting in the Lord, and who desire not only to be nourished but to be made happy, are called the juice of the true vine, because they flow from it.
Further, we have to ask in what sense He is called in the Apocalypse the First and the Last, and how, in His character as the First, He is not the same as the Alpha and the beginning, while in His character as the Last He is not the same as the Omega and the end. It appears to me, then, that the reason able beings which exist are characterized by many forms, and that some of them are the first, some the second, some the third, and so on to the last. To pronounce exactly, however, which is the first, what kind of a being the second is, which may truly be designated third, and to carry this out to the end of the series, this is not a task for man, but transcends our nature. We shall yet venture, such as we are, to stand still a little at this point, and to make some observations on the matter. There are some gods of whom God is god, as we hear in prophecy, “Thank ye the God of gods,” and “The God of gods hath spoken, and called the earth.” Now God, according to the Gospel, “is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Those gods, then, are living of whom God is god. The Apostle, too, writing to the Corinthians, says: “As there are gods many and lords many,” and so we have spoken of these gods as really existing. Now there are, besides the gods of whom God is god, certain others, who are called thrones, and others called dominions, lordships, also, and powers in addition to these. The phrase, “above every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come,” leads us to believe that there are yet others besides these which are less familiar to us; one kind of these the Hebrews called Sabai, from which Sabaoth was formed, who is their ruler, and is none other than God. Add to all these the reasonable being who is mortal, man. Now the God of all things made first in honour some race of reasonable beings; this I consider to be those who are called gods, and the second order, let us say, for the present, are the thrones, and the third, undoubtedly, the dominions. And thus we come down in order to the last reasonable race, which, perhaps, cannot be any other than man. The Saviour accordingly became, in a diviner way than Paul, all things to all, that He might either gain all or perfect them; it is clear that to men He became a man, and to the angels an angel. As for His becoming man no believer has any doubt, but as to His becoming an angel, we shall find reason for believing it was so, if we observe carefully the appearances and the words of the angels, in some of which the powers of the angels seem to belong to Him. In several passages angels speak in such a way as to suggest this, as when “the angel of the Lord appeared in a flame of fire. And he said. I am the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.” But Isaiah also says: “His name is called Angel of Great Counsel.” The Saviour, then, is the first and the last, not that He is not what lies between, but the extremities are named to show that He became all things. Consider, however, whether the last is man, or the things said to be under the earth, of which are the demons, all of them or some. We must ask, too, about those things which the Saviour became which He speaks of through the prophet David, “And I became as a man without any to help him, free among the dead.” His birth from the Virgin and His life so admirably lived showed Him to be more than man, and it was the same among the dead. He was the only free person there, and His soul was not left in hell. Thus, then, He is the first and the last. Again, if there be letters of God, as such there are, by reading which the saints may say they have read what is written on the tablets of heaven, these letters, by which heavenly things are to be read, are the notions, divided into small parts, into Alpha and so on to Omega, the Son of God. Again, He is the beginning and the end, but He is this not in all His aspects equally. For He is the beginning, as the Proverbs teach us, inasmuch as He is wisdom; it is written: “The Lord rounded Me in the beginning of His ways. for His works.” In the respect of His being the Logos He is not the beginning. “The Word was in the beginning.” Thus in His aspects one comes first and is the beginning, and there is a second after the beginning, and a third, and so on to the end, as if He had said, I am the beginning. inasmuch as I am wisdom, and the second, perhaps, inasmuch as I am invisible, and the third in that I am life, for “what was made was life in Him.” One who was qualified to examine and to discern the sense of Scripture might, no doubt, find many members of the series; I cannot say if he could find them all. “The beginning and the end” is a phrase we usually apply to a thing that is a completed unity; the beginning of a house is its foundation and the end the parapet. We cannot but think of this figure. since Christ is the stone which is the head of the corner, to the great unity of the body of the saved. For Christ the only-begotten Son is all and in all, He is as the beginning in the man He assumed, He is present as the end in the last of the saints, and He is also in those between, or else He is present as the beginning in Adam, as the end in His life on earth, according to the saying: “The last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” This saying harmonizes well with the interpretation we have given of the first and the last.
In what has been said about the first and the last, and about the beginning and the end, we have referred these words at one point to the different forms of reasonable beings, at another to the different conceptions of the Son of God. Thus we have gained a distinction between the first and the beginning, and between the last and the end, and also the distinctive meaning of Alpha and Omega. It is not hard to see why he is called “the Living and the Dead,” and after being dead He that is alive for evermore. For since we were not helped by His original life, sunk as we were in sin, He came down into our deadness in order that, He having died to sin, we, bearing about in our body the dying of Jesus. might then receive that life of His which is for evermore. For those who always carry about in their body the dying of Jesus shall obtain the life of Jesus also, manifested in their bodies.
The texts of the New Testament, which we have discussed, are things said by Himself about Himself. Isaiah, however, He said that His mouth had been set by His Father as a sharp sword, and that He was hidden under the shadow of His hand, made like to a chosen shaft and kept close in the Father’s quiver, called His servant by the God of all things, and Israel, and Light of the Gentiles. The mouth of the Son of God is a sharp sword, for “The word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.” And indeed He came not to bring peace on the earth, that is, to corporeal and sensible things, but a sword, and to cut through, if I may say so, the disastrous friendship of soul and body, so that the soul, committing herself to the spirit which was against the flesh, may enter into friendship with God. Hence, according to the prophetic word, He made His mouth as a sword, as a sharp sword. Can any one behold so many wounded by the divine love, like her in the Song of Songs, who complained that she was wounded: “I am wounded with love,” and find the dart that wounded so many souls for the love of God, in any but Him who said, “He hath made Me as a chosen shaft.”
Again, let any one consider how Jesus was to His disciples, not as He who sits at meat, but as He who serves, and how though the Son of God He took on Him the form of a servant for the sake of the freedom of those who were enslaved in sin, and he will be at no loss to account for the Father’s saying to Him: “Thou art My servant,” and a little further on: “It is a great thing that thou shouldst be called My servant.” For we do not hesitate to say that the goodness of Christ appears in a greater and more divine light, and more according to the image of the Father, because “He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” than if He had judged it a thing to be grasped to be equal with God, and had shrunk from becoming a servant for the salvation of the world. Hence He says, desiring to teach us that in accepting this state of servitude He had received a great gift from His Father: “And My God shall be My strength. And He said to Me, It is a great thing for Thee to be called My servant.” For if He had not become a servant, He would not have raised up the tribes of Jacob, nor have turned the heart of the diaspora of Israel, and neither would He have become a light of the Gentiles to be for salvation to the ends of the earth. And it is no great thing for Him to become a servant, even if it is called a great thing by His Father, for this is in comparison with His being called with an innocent sheep and with a lamb. For the Lamb of God became like an innocent sheep being led to the slaughter, that He may take away the sin of the world. He who supplies reason (logos) to all is made like a lamb which is dumb before her shearer, that we might be purified by His death, which is given as a sort of medicine against the opposing power, and also against the sin of those who open their minds to the truth. For the death of Christ reduced to impotence those powers which war against the human race, and it set free from sin by a power beyond our words the life of each believer. Since, then, He takes away sin until every enemy shall be destroyed and death last of all, in order that the whole world may be free from sin, therefore John points to Him and says: “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” It is not said that He will take it away in the future, nor that He is at present taking it, nor that He has taken it, but is not taking it away now. His taking away sin is still going on, He is taking it away from every individual in the world, till sin be taken away from the whole world, and the Saviour deliver the kingdom prepared and completed to the Father, a kingdom in which no sin is left at all, and which, therefore, is ready to accept the Father as its king, and which on the other hand is waiting to receive all God has to bestow, fully, and in every part, at that time when the saying is fulfilled, “That God may be all in all.” Further, we hear of a man who is said to be coming after John, who was made before him and was before him. This is to teach us that the man also of the Son of God, the man who was mixed with His divinity, was older than His birth from Mary. John says he does not know this man, but must he not have known Him when he leapt for joy when yet a babe unborn in Elisabeth’s womb, as soon as the voice of Mary’s salutation sounded in the ears of the wife of Zacharias? Consider, therefore, if the words “I know Him not” may have reference to the period before the bodily existence. Though he did not know Him before He assumed His body, yet he knew Him when yet in his mother’s womb, and perhaps he is here learning something new about Him beyond what was known to him before, namely, that on whomsoever the Holy Spirit shall descend and abide on him, that is he who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He knew him from his mother’s womb, but not all about Him. He did not know perhaps that this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire, when he saw the Spirit descending and abiding on Him. Yet that He was indeed a man, and the first man, John did not know.
But none of the names we have mentioned expresses His representation of us with the Father, as He pleads for human nature, and makes atonement for it; the Paraclete, and the propitiation, and the atonement. He has the name Paraclete in the Epistle of John: “If any man sin, we have a Paraclete with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” And He is said in the same epistle to be the atonement for our sins. Similarly, in the Epistle to the Romans, He is called a propitiation: “Whom God set forth to be a propitiation through faith.” Of this proportion there was a type in the inmost part of the temple, the Holy of Holies, namely, the golden mercy-seat placed upon the two cherubim. But how could He ever be the Paraclete, and the atonement, and the propitiation without the power of God, which makes an end of our weakness, flows over the souls of believers, and is administered by Jesus, who indeed is prior to it and Himself the power of God, who enables a man to say: “I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengtheneth me.” Whence we know that Simon Magus, who gave himself the title of “The power of God, which is called great,” was consigned to perdition and destruction, he and his money with him. We, on the contrary, who confess Christ as the true power of God, believe that we share with Him, inasmuch as He is that power, all things in which any energy resides.
We must not, however, pass over in silence that He is of right the wisdom of God, and hence is called by that name. For the wisdom of the God and Father of all things does not apprehend His substance in mere visions, like the phantasms of human thoughts. Whoever is able to conceive a bodiless existence of manifold speculations which extend to the rationale of existing things, living and, as it were, ensouled, he will see how well the Wisdom of God which is above every creature speaks of herself, when she says: “God created me the beginning of His ways, for His works.” By this creating act the whole creation was enabled to exist, not being unreceptive of that divine wisdom according to which it was brought into being; for God, according to the prophet David, made all things in wisdom. But many things came into being by the help of wisdom, which do not lay hold of that by which they were created: and few things indeed there are which lay hold not only of that wisdom which con cerns themselves, but of that which has to do with many things besides, namely, of Christ who is the whole of wisdom. But each of the sages, in proportion as he embraces wisdom, partakes to that extent of Christ, in that He is wisdom; just as every one who is greatly gifted with power, in proportion as he has power, in that proportion also has a share in Christ, inasmuch as He is power. The same is to be thought about sanctification and redemption; for Jesus Himself is made sanctification to us and redemption. Each of us is sanctified with that sanctification, and redeemed with that redemption. Consider, moreover, if the words “to us,” added by the Apostle, have any special force. Christ, he says, “was made to us of God, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” In other passages, he speaks about Christ as being wisdom, without any such qualification, and of His being power, saying that Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, though we might have conceived that He was not the wisdom of God or the power of God, absolutely, but only for us. Now, in respect of wisdom and power, we have both forms of the statement, the relative and the absolute; but in respect of sanctification and redemption, this is not the case. Consider, therefore, since “He that sanctifies and they that are sanctified are all of one,” whether the Father is the sanctification of Him who is our sanctification, as, Christ being our head, God is His head. But Christ is our redemption because we had become prisoners and needed ransoming. I do not enquire as to His own redemption, for though He was tempted in all things as we are, He was without sin, and His enemies never reduced Him to captivity.
Having expiscated the “to us” and the “absolutely”–santification and redemption being “to us” and not absolute, wisdom and redemption both to us and absolute–we must not omit to enquire into the position of righteousness in the same passage. That Christ is righteousness relatively to us appears clearly from the words: “Who was made to us of God wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” And if we do not find Him to be righteousness absolutely as He is the wisdom and the power of God absolutely, then we must enquire whether to Christ Himself, as the Father is santification, so the Father is also righteousness. There is, we know, no unrighteousness with God; He is a righteous and holy Lord, and His judgments are in righteousness, and being righteous, He orders all things righteously.
The heretics drew a distinction for purposes of their own between the just and the good. They did not make the matter very clear, but they considered that the demiurge was just, while the Father of Christ was good. That distinction may, I think, if carefully examined, be applied to the Father and the Son; the Son being righteousness, and having received powers to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man and will judge the world in righteousness, but the Father doing good to those who have been disciplined by the righteousness of the Son. This is after the kingdom of the Son; then the Father will manifest in His works His name the Good, when God becomes all in all. And perhaps by His righteousness the Saviour prepares everything at the fit times, and by His word, by His ordering, by His chastisements, and, if I may use such an expression, by His spiritual healing aids, disposes all things to receive at the end the goodness of the Father. It was from His sense of that goodness that He answered him who addressed the Only-begotten with the words “Good Master,” and said, “Why callest thou Me good? None is good but one, God, the Father.” This we have treated of elsewhere, especially in dealing with the question of the greater than the demiurge; Christ we have taken to be the demiurge, and the Father the greater than He. Such great things, then, He is, the Paraclete, the atonement, the propitiation, the sympathizer with our weaknesses, who was tempted in all human things, as we are, without sin; and in consequence He is a great High-Priest, having offered Himself as the sacrifice which is offered once for all, and not for men only but for every rational creature. For without God He tasted death for every one. In some copies of the Epistle to the Hebrews the words are “by the grace of God.” Now, whether He tasted death for every one without God. He died not for men only but for all other intellectual beings too, or whether He tasted death for every one by the grace of God, He died for all without God, for by the grace of God He tasted death for every one. It would surely be absurd to say that He tasted death for human sins and not for any other being besides man which had fallen into sin, as for example for the stars. For not even the stars are clean in the eyes of God, as we read in Job, “The stars are not clean in His sight,” unless this is to be regarded as a hyperbole. Hence he is a great High-Priest, since He restores all things to His Father’s kingdom, and arranges that whatever defects exist in each part of creation shall be filled up so as to be full of the glory of the Father. This High-Priest is called, from some other notion of him than those we have noticed, Judas, that those who are Jews secretly may take the name of Jew not froth Judah, son of Jacob, but from Him, since they are His brethren, and praise Him for the freedom they have attained. For it is He who sets them free, saving them from their enemies on whose backs He lays His hand to subdue them. When He has put under His feet the opposing power, and is alone in presence of His Father, then He is Jacob and Israel; and thus as we are made light by Him, since He is the light of the world, so we are made Jacob since He is called Jacob, and Israel since He is called Israel.
Now He receives the kingdom from the king whom the children of Israel appointed, beginning the monarchy not at the divine command and without even consulting God. He therefore fights the battles of the Lord and so prepares peace for His Son, His people, and this perhaps is the reason why He is called David. Then He is called a rod; such He is to those who need a harder and severer discipline, and have not submitted to the love and gentleness of God. On this account, if He is a rod, He has to “go forth;” He does not remain in Himself, but appears to go beyond His earlier state. Going forth, then, and becoming a rod, He does not remain a rod, but after the rod He becomes a flower that rises up, and after being a rod He is made known as a flower to those who, by His being a rod, have met with visitation. For “God will visit their iniquities with a red,” that is, Christ. But “His mercy He will not take from him,” for He will have mercy on him, for on whom the Son has mercy the Father has mercy also. An interpretation may be given which makes Him a rod and a flower in respect of different persons, a rod to those who have need of chastisement, a flower to those who are being saved; but I prefer the account of the matter given above. We must add here, however, that, perhaps, looking to the end, if Christ is a rod to any man He is also a flower to him, while it is not the case that he who receives Him as a flower must also know Him as a rod. And yet as one flower is more perfect than another and plants are said to flower, even though they bring forth no perfect fruit, so the perfect receive that of Christ which transcends the flower. Those, on the other hand, who have known Him as a rod will partake along with it, not in His perfection, but in the flower which comes before the fruit. Last of all, before we come to the word Logos, Christ was a stone, set at naught by the builders but placed on the head of the corner, for the living stones are built up as on a foundation on the other stones of the Apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself our Lord being the chief corner-stone, because He is a part of the building made of living stones in the land of the living; therefore He is called a stone. All this we have said to show how capricious and baseless is the procedure of those who, when so many names are given to Christ, take the mere appellation “the Word,” without enquiring, as in the case of His other titles, in what sense it is used; surely they ought to ask what is meant when it is said of the Son of God that He was the Word, and God, and that He was in the beginning with the Father, and that all things were made by Him.
As, then, from His activity in enlightening the world whose light He is, Christ is named the Light of the World, and as from His making those who sincerely attach themselves to Him put away their deadness and rise again and put on newness of life, He is called the Resurrection, so from an activity of another kind He is called Shepherd and Teacher, King and Chosen Shaft, and Servant, and in addition to these Paraclete and Atonement and Propitiation. And after the same fashion He is also called the Logos, because He takes away from us all that is irrational, and makes us truly reasonable, so that we do all things, even to eating and drinking, to the glory of God, and discharge by the Logos to the glory of God both the commoner functions of life and those which belong to a more advanced stage. For if, by having part in Him, we are raised up and enlightened, herded also it may be and ruled over, then it is clear that we become in a divine manner reasonable, when He drives away from us what in us is irrational and dead, since He is the Logos (reason) and the Resurrection.Consider, however, whether all men have in some way part in Him in His character as Logos. On this point tile Apostle teaches us that He is to be sought not outside the seeker, and that those find Him in themselves who set their heart on doing so; “Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? That is to bring Christ down; or, Who shall descend into the abyss? That is to bring Christ up from the dead. But what saith the Scripture? The Word is very nigh thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart,” as if Christ Himself were the same thing as the Word said to be sought after. But when the Lord Himself says “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin but now they have no cloak for their sin,” the only sense we can find in His words is that the Logos Himself says that those are not chargeable with sin to whom He (reason) has not fully come, but that those, if they sin, are guilty who, having had part in Him, act contrary to the ideas by which He declares His full presence in us. Only when thus read is the saying true: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin.” Should the words be applied, as many are of opinion that they should, to the visible Christ, then how is it true that those had no sin to whom He did not come? In that case all who lived before the advent of the Saviour will be free from sin, since Jesus, as seen in flesh, had not yet come. And more–all those to whom He has never been preached will have no sin, and if they have no sin, then it is clear they are not liable to judgment. But the Logos in man, in which we have said that our whole race had part, is spoken of in two senses; first, in that of the filling up of ideas which takes place, prodigies excepted, in every one who passes beyond the age of boyhood, but secondly, in that of the consummation, which takes place only in the perfect. The words, therefore, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have had sin, but now they have no cloak for their sin,” are to be understood in the former sense; but the words, “All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers, and the sheep did not hear them,” in the latter. For before the consummation of reason comes, there is nothing in man but what is blameworthy; all is imperfect and defective, and can by no means command the obedience of those irrational elements in us which are tropically spoken of as sheep. And perhaps the former meaning is to be recognized in the words “The Logos was made flesh,” but the second in “The Logos was God.” We must accordingly look at what there is to be seen in human affairs between the saying, “The Word (reason) was made flesh” and “The Word was God.” When the Word was made flesh can we say that it was to some extent broken up and thinned out, and can we say that it recovered from that point onward till it became again what it was at first, God the Word, the Word with the Father; the Word whose glory John saw, the verily only-begotten, as from the Father. But the Son may also be the Logos (Word), because He reports the secret things of His Father who is intellect in the same way as the Son who is called the Word. For as with us the word is a messenger of those things which tile mind perceives, so the Word of God, knowing the Father, since no created being can approach Him without a guide, reveals the Father whom He knows. For no one knows the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son reveals Him, and inasmuch as He is the Word He is the Messenger of Great Counsel, who has the government upon His shoulders; for He entered on His kingdom by enduring the cross. In the Apocalypse, moreover, the Faithful and True (the Word), is said to sit on a white horse, the epithets indicating, I consider, the clearness of the voice with which the Word of truth speaks to us when He sojourns among us. This is scarcely the place to show how the word “horse” is often used in passages spoken for our encouragement in sacred learning. I only cite two of these: “A horse is deceitful for safety,” and “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will rejoice in the name of the Lord our God.” Nor must we leave unnoticed a passage in the forty-fourth Psalm, frequently quoted by many writers as if they understood it: “My heart hath belched forth a good word, I speak my works to the King.” Suppose it is God the Father who speaks thus; what is His heart, that the good word should appear in accordance with His heart? If, as these writers suppose, the Word (Logos) needs no interpretation, then the heart is to be taken in the natural sense too. But it is quite absurd to suppose God’s heart to be a part of Him as ours is of our body. We must remind such writers that as when the hand of God is spoken of, and His arm and His finger, we do not read the words literally but enquire in what sound sense we may take them so as to be worthy of God, so His heart is to be understood of His rational power, by which He disposes all things, and His word of that which announces what is in this heart of His. But who is it that announces the counsel of the Father to those of His creatures who are worthy and who have risen above themselves, who but the Saviour? That “belched forth” is not, perhaps, without significance; a hundred other terms might have been employed; “My heart has produced a good word,” it might have been said, or “My heart has spoken a good word.” But in belching, some wind that was hidden makes its way out to the world, and so it may be that the Father gives out views of truth not continuously, but as it were after the fashion of belching, and the word has the character of the things thus produced, and is called, therefore, the image of the invisible God. We may enter our agreement, therefore, with the ordinary acceptation of these words, and take them to be spoken by the Father. It is not, however, a matter of course, that it is God Himself who announces these things. Why should it not be a prophet? Filled with the Spirit and unable to contain himself, he brings forth a word about his prophecy concerning Christ: “My heart hath belched forth a good word, I speak my works to the King, my pen is the tongue of a ready writer. Excellent in beauty is He beyond the sons of men.” Then to the Christ Himself: “Grace is poured out on Thy lips.” If the Father were the speaker, how could He go on after the words, “Grace is poured out on thy lips,” to say, “Therefore God hath blessed thee for ever,” and a little further on, “Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” Some of those who wish to make the Father the speaker may appeal to the words, “Hear, O daughter, and behold and incline thine ear, and forget thy people and thy father.” The prophet, it may be said, could not address the Church in the words, “Hear, O daughter.” It is not difficult, however, to show that changes of person occur frequently in the Psalms, so that these words, “Hear, O daughter,” might be from the Father, in this passage, though the Psalm as a whole is not. To our discussion of the Word we may here add the passage, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens rounded, and all the power of them by the breath of His mouth.” Some refer this to the Saviour and the Holy Spirit. The passage, however, does not necessarily imply any more than that the heavens were founded by the reason (logos) of God, as when we say that a house is built by the plan (logos) of the architect, or a ship by the plan (logos) of the shipbuilder. In the same way the heavens were founded (made solid) by the Word of God, for they are of a more divine substance, which on this account is called solid; it has little fluidity for the most part, nor is it easily melted like other parts of the world, and specially the lower parts. On account of this difference the heavens are said in a special manner to be constituted by the Word of God.
The saying then stands, first, “In the beginning was the Logos;” we are to place that full in our view; but the testimonies we cited from the Proverbs led us to place wisdom first, and to think of wisdom as preceding the Word which announces her. We must observe, then, that the Logos is in the beginning, that is, in wisdom, always. Its being in wisdom, which is called the beginning, does not prevent it from being with God and from being God, and it is not simply with God, but is in the beginning, in wisdom, with God. For he goes on: “He was in the beginning with God.” He might have said, “He was with God;” but as He was in the beginning, so He was with God in the beginning, and “All things were made by Him,” being in the beginning, for God made nil things, as David tells us, in wisdom. And to let us understand that the Word has His own definite place and sphere as one who has life in Himself (and is a distinct person), we must also speak about powers, not about power. “Thus saith the Lord of powers, (A.V. hosts)” we frequently read; there are certain creatures, rational and divine, which are called powers: anti of these Christ was the highest and best. and is called not only the wisdom of God but also His power. As, then, there are several powers of God, each of them in its own form, and the Saviour is different from these, so also Christ, even if that which is Logos in us is not in respect of form outside of us, will be understood from our discussion up to this point to be the Logos, who has His being in the beginning, in wisdom. This for the present may suffice, on the word: “In the beginning was the Logos.”
I wrote this first back in 2013
‘He spake the word, and they were made’ (Ps. 148.5). But to redeem that creation which sprang into being at His word, how much He spake, what wonders He wrought, what hardships He endured, what shames He suffered! Therefore what reward shall I give unto the Lord for all the benefits which He hath done unto me? In the first creation He gave me myself; but in His new creation He gave me Himself, and by that gift restored to me the self that I had lost. Created first and then restored, I owe Him myself twice over in return for myself. But what have I to offer Him for the gift of Himself? Could I multiply myself a thousand-fold and then give Him all, what would that be in comparison with God?
Clairvaux, St. Bernard of (2009-06-11). On Loving God – Enhanced Version (Kindle Locations 287-292). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition.
I walk early in the day mostly between 4 and 5. I am usually left to my own devices so I pray and while I pray I walk and while I pray and walk I listen to some book. To pray while listening to a book may seem contradictory but would you believe the text of the book often becomes the word of the Lord to my soul. It was so this past Tuesday; I walked a bit after five am and listened to On Loving God – by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Abbot Bernard wrote this little book at the request of a Cardinal Deacon of the Roman Church who sought his counsel as to living the Christian life. As is often the case, I gain insight from the teaching of a Christian from another time. Such instruction is often synchronistic for as I begin to explore, pertinent material seems to come to me as much as I seek it out. Such is the case with this work.
When the earliest Christians read their scriptures they were looking for Jesus and found him on every page. Of particular interest was typology where a type, a person or an event in the Old Testament is in some sense repeated in the New Testament (the antitype) only with greater clarity and completeness. For almost a year I have wandered in the sacred texts finding types & antitypes. In some cases the connection seems tenuous but even then provocative.
In the text above Bernard points out a fairly obvious example of type and antitype. Creation is the type. In Creation God gives us ourselves. This is a gift that we find onerous at times. Someone has said that humanity demands freedom only to promptly give it away almost as soon as they grasp it. The events of Genesis 3 displays how reckless our grandparents, Eve and Adam threw away the gift by turning it from gift to possession.
They stumbled and fell. (Joseph Campbell says, “Where you fall is where your treasure is buried.” I want to consider that more at a later time.) The “fall” some say was up which is a contradiction but as the truth lives in the country of paradox, the contradictions strain toward the way of grace. When we humans, all of us, lost the gift of ourselves God acted. And the type of Creation moves toward its consummation in its antitype of redemption.
Saint John elegantly lays it out for us in the prologue to his Gospel. Now, that we have blown it, walked in and dwelt in deep darkness so that up is down and down is up and just when we are totally disoriented suddenly a light shines. The eternal word became flesh. In creation God gave us ourselves now in the incarnation God gives us himself. Jesus came to tell us who God is. The important to know is that God is like Jesus. Jesus is the example of authentic humanity and he is the means by which we are redeemed and restored to full humanity. Type and Anitype produce joy!
At the heart of the Christian Faith stands the command of Jesus, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19
What does that mean?
Christians of all schools of thought believe that repentance and faith in Christ are necessary, but emotionalism, inferior hymnody, and the call for an immediate decision do not seem to many Christians appropriate means of evangelism.
“To evangelize is so to present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men shall come to put their trust in God through him, to accept him as their Savior, and serve him as their king in the fellowship of his Church (Archbishop’s Commission on Evangelism, Toward the Conversion of England, 1945, 1.)
Some see the task of evangelism as that of providing a reasonable faith – reasonable, the is, in terms of current philosophical and cultural ideas.
Others view evangelism as the reshaping of church organizations and programs so that Christianity has the power to draw more people into the circle of believers.
AT the same time, however, others have regarded the task of evangelism as that of developing better techniques of outreach and church organizations or more sophisticated means of communication.
To develop a theology of evangelism to try to form a bridge between the intellectual and the practical, or the theological and the institutional modes of understanding.
What brings good news to our contemporaries in relevant language? For most of the Church’s history evangelism was seen as the revival of a lagging, sleeping faith of people who were at least nominal Christians. So when the “evangelists” [everyone from St. Francis to John Wesley] assumed that their hearers knew and shared to some measure the faith and traditions of Christianity. …at the end of the 20th Century such assumptions can no longer be made. Secularity has washed away the common religious and moral convictions that characterized “cultural Christianity.” Evangelism today faces the task of addressing people who are now outside the church and its structures and no longer share the values and visions that have both guided western civilization and provided a common ground for preacher and for people for nearly two millennia.
In the New Testament a sermon was an attempt to adapt the Word of God to the concrete situation of the hearers, so that it may be readily understood. What is it people are being asked to do when they are asked to have faith in Jesus Christ?
FAITH is used to characterize a relationship to God. Faith implies loyalty and trust. Faith is characterized by openness and confidence in relationship to God’ conversely, it is a Christian affirmation that Jesus Christ God is committed to humankind. Jesus Christ is the disclosure of God’s faithfulness. Faith is relationship we can have in Christ.
BEIEF has a narrower focus than faith. To believe something is to accept its truth. Everyday life is shaped by a host of beliefs about the people, organizations, and things that surround us.
We need to be clear about what must come first? Do we first have beliefs that produce faith, or is faith that relationship to God out of which our convictions or beliefs as Christians arise? The modern theology of evangelism has reached a consensus on this point. Evangelism has to do with faith in God’s redemptive act in Jesus Christ.
…Yet the crucial thing for all theologies of evangelism is the way in which they affirm in faith the centrality of the grace of God offered in Jesu Christ rather than any specific system of beliefs.
p. 317 “In evangelism, Jesus Christ is presented as God’s call and promise to us, about which we are called to make a decision. Evangelism occurs when, through preaching or teaching, either as an individual witness or as a community act, we are confronted with the possibility of committing ourselves to what God is doing through Jesus Christ for the redemption of the world.”
The starting point for this is REPENTANCE. This is more than having a good cry and going on as before. “It is a desire for reorientation in life or an act in which we turn from a life that is less than it can be to something that is more authentic, namely, the grace of God.” …”The call of Christian evangelism is the call to new life in Christ, not new life through Christian ideas or ethics or even through the Christian church. The focus of evangelism is not on the presentation of a point of view on life, but on the transformation of life. Our focus is not on words about Jesus, even good and pious ones, but on the concrete power of Jesus himself. …Christianity is not an ideology to be instilled into a culture, but a power of new life to be shared.
“…As Jesus said, “And I when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men to myself” John 12:32 The question is, “Do we believe that is true or not?”
Alfred Krass – *
The church does not aim at solving all the world’s problems, it is not the community of those who are perfect. It does need to exist as a community of people who have found a key to a wholeness the world does not have. It lives as a community of people who are a unifying force in the world.
The Epistle to Diognetus is an apology for Christianity, written by an unknown writer to a pagan of high social or political rank. It probably dates from the 2nd or 3rd century. In chapters 5 & 6 Christians are described as the soul of the world.
“Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind by either country, speech, or customs; the fact is, they nowhere settle in cities of their own; they use no peculiar language; they cultivate no eccentric mode of life. certainly, this creed of theirs is no discovery due to some fancy or speculation of inquisitive men; nor do they, as some do, champion a doctrine of human origin. Yet while they dwell in both Greek and non-Greek cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and conform to the customs of the country in dress, food, and mode of life in general, the whole tenor of their way of living stamps it as worthy of admiration and admittedly extraordinary. They reside in their respective countries, but only as aliens. They take part in everything as citizens and put up with everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their home and every home a foreign land. The marry like all others and beget children; but they do not expose their offspring. Their board they spread for all, but not their bed. They find themselves in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their days on earth, but hold citizenship in heaven. they obey the established laws, but in their private lives they rise about the laws. They love all men, but are persecuted by all. They are unknown, yet are condemned; they are put to death, but it is live that they receive. They are poor, and enrich many; destitute of everything, they abound in everything. They are dishonored, and in their dishonor find their glory. The are calumniated, and are vindicated. They are reviled, and they bless; they are insulted and render honor. Doing good, they are penalized as evildoers; when penalized, they rejoice because they are quickened into life. they Jews make war on them as foreigners; the Greeks persecute them; and those who hate them are at a loss to explain their hatred.
In a word: what the soul is in the body, that the Christians are in the world. The soul is spread through all the members of the body, and the Christians throughout the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but is not part and parcel of the body; so Christians dwell in the world, but are not part and parcel of the world. Itself invisible, the soul is kept shut up in the visible body; so Christians are known as such in the world, but their religion remains invisible. The flesh, though suffering no wrong from the soul, yet hates and makes war on it, because it is hindered from indulging its passions; so, too, the world, though suffering no wrong from Christians, hates them because they oppose its members; so, too, Christians love those that hate them. The soul is locked up in the body, yet is the very thing that holds the body together; so, too, Christians are shut up in the world as in a prison, yet it is precisely they that hold the world together. Immortal, the soul is lodged in mortal tenement; so, too, Christians, though residing as strangers among corruptible things, look forward to the incorruptibility that awaits them in heaven. The soul, when stinting itself in food and drink, fares the better for it; so, too, Christians, when penalized, show a daily increase in numbers on that account. Such is the important post to which God has assigned, and they are not at liberty to desert it.”
Evangelism means communicating the gospel in act and also in word. The first task of all the baptized: lay, bishop, deacons and priests is to “represent Christ in the world.” Re-present Christ in the world.
The story is told of the man who wanted to witness by his actions rather than his words to his next-door neighbor. He did just that and one day some time later the man and his neighbor were talking. The neighbor said that he had observed that there was something in the man’s life that mad e him a happier and healthier than he was and would it be all right if he asked him a personal question? The man was thrilled and said that he could ask him anything he desired. “Well, here goes,” said the neighbor. “This is pretty personal but tell me are you a vegetarian?”
Evangelism is concretely related to the needs of those to whom it is addressed.
Evangelism is oriented not toward the past or toward some golden age of religion that once was. It is oriented toward the future. It is the encounter with the grace of God NOW that points us to the unfolding lordship of Christ over all of life. evangelism is good news, not of the soul retreating from the world, but of the transformation of this world.
*Look for Krass’s book, Evangelizing Neopagan North America. [p. 200] “The results of the neglect of the Holy Spirit by many sections of the Church have been utterly disastrous. Deprived of the sense of power and of the experience of God’s life, religion deteriorates into a dreary system of rules and ceremonies. It becomes content with a ‘diminished mode of consciousness’. So religion ceases to mediate the world of the Spirit, and becomes a second-hand account of what was once experienced by people long since dead. …”