Christ is Risen!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
As Blessed Augustine reminds us, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O Lord.” Here we are ever reminded that at our core as humans is an innate desire to rest in something, or more appropriately Someone, that is bigger than ourselves. Someone that is the source of our very life and Someone who alone satisfies all by all, because He Himself is All, the All beyond which we could desire nothing else. In the Indian Proverb shared by Father Andoni last weekend, we were ultimately told that we have forces within us that are at odds. One force, love, seeks the good of others and is not proud, but rather kind, merciful. It is the force that gives us rest, as it harkens our souls to an age before the Fall when our hearts spontaneously sought God. It is the indelible mark of God on our soul that has not been lost, but must be very deliberately nurtured with boldness and discipline if it is to grow and transform us. The other force we are told seeks itself and is easily angered. It is a force that is unwilling to forgive and unwilling to sacrifice for the good of others. It cannot see God, because it sees itself first. At the end of the day, which of these “animals”, as they are conveyed in the proverb, “wins” is the one we choose to feed.
Today is fittingly the Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women. These women chose to feed, through faith, the mark of God within them. Scripture and Tradition tell us that these women, many leaving their homelands, followed Christ for over a year as He preached and performed miracles. They ministered unto Him out of their own possessions. Never losing faith in Him, at the darkest hours of His crucifixion and entombment, they did not despair, but rather continued to follow and serve their Lord. Without fear of their own persecution, they brought myrrh-oils to anoint his body. To these faithful women, the Angel did cry, “Myrrh oils are for the dead, but Christ hath proved to be a stranger to corruption. But cry out: The Lord is Risen, granting mercy to the world.” To these women was granted the message and meaning of salvation because they fed without waiver the image of God within them.
It is precisely for this reason that God became man and established His Church. We must recall, that just as the Scripture narratives culminate in these salvific accounts, they begin quite differently. I should like to remind each of us that the first eleven chapters of Genesis set the stage for the whole of God’s revelation to us. In these chapters, we are consistently reminded of humanity’s “ungrateful attitude toward God’s grateful attention to them.” In this way we are also cautioned that ALL men are in need of salvation…recall the words we will pray soon, “The Son of the Living-God who didst come into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first!” Since the time of the Fall, all are inclined to feed the spirit within them that serves self rather than God.
It was at the Fall that this corrupt nature ensued and was later inherited by all. In his homily on The Transgression of Adam, St. Symeon the New Theologian recalls that the first created man, Adam, fell into pride when he chose to listen to serpent rather than to God. In so doing, he relinquished Paradise and the Divine grace that had rested on him. He thus subjected himself and those after him to great chastisements – to corruption and death. The eternal nature of this chastisement necessitated that it be passed to all men. It was thus through his unbelief in the instruction of God that Adam brought this state upon humanity. St. Symeon also notes that Adam had no need for any additional knowledge. Rather, in envying against God, Adam chose not to trust that God had given him all he needed to grow into God’s likeness. Adam ultimately demonstrated a lack of faith in the instruction of God and placed trust in himself. In merely tasting of the fruit God commanded him not to eat, Adam died as God had previously declared he would. And as man is both soul and body, he first died an instantaneous spiritual death, which is nothing less than the separation of the soul from the Holy Spirit, with which Adam was overshadowed at his creation so that he could live as the angels…immovable toward evil! (Elaborate…the magnitude…what wealth or power or even the whole world could bring any meaning after what was lost?) And the death of Adam’s soul was followed by a physical death, which is the separation of the soul from the body, some nine hundred and thirty years later. We must realize that after the fall, man as God created him no longer existed in the world. Though as Symeon declares, it was necessary that such a man should exist…and indeed did in the Person of Jesus Christ, who was perfect God and perfect man.
Christ, as the new Adam, hung on a cross in place of the tree of knowledge. His innocent hands and feet were pierced. The Incarnate God offered himself as a sacrifice that the first transgression of Adam might be forgiven. So is it then that those who simply believe are saved from hell and saved unto heaven? Is that it? Recall the Paschal hymn…(sing)…life, the fullness thereof. We miss the point if we solely believe that Christ was crucified that we may not go to “heaven”. While this is certainly true, it is incomplete. Just as the Fall of Adam, when understood completely, was the most grievous of acts, so too are the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection, when understood completely, the most benevolent acts of mercy man could ever hope for. Indeed, this perfect sacrifice resulted in the forgiveness of Adam’s first transgression, but also in it is the power by which a new birth and recreation of man in Holy Baptism may ensue! In this regard, it is no longer possible that sin should reign over and tyrannize man. The souls of those who rightly call upon the Lord Jesus Christ and His great and fearful sacrifice are resurrected in the present life! This resurrection is possible by the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is given to each of us as if receiving a new soul at Holy Baptism and nurtured through a life in the Church.
The Cross thus becomes the tool of our deification. The tool by which we can realize the words of the Church Fathers, “God became man that we might become god.” Though the beginning of scripture reminds us of the Fall and the lineage of men who would consistently chose there own way over that of God, the story does not end there. Rather, it culminates in the ultimate example of faithfulness, with God not only forgiving the wayward nature of man, but restoring the possibility of what man was created to be…as the angels, immovable toward evil! May God grant that we, like the Myrrh-Bearing Woman be steadfast and deliberate in nurturing the Spirit of God within us, that we too may declare not just in word, but in our daily living, “The Lord is Risen, granting mercy to the whole world!”
Christ is Risen!