Archive for February 20th, 2007

All Things Were Created For Him

February 20, 2007


St. Paul makes the remarkable statement in Colossians: “For all things were created through Him and for Him.” This remarkable statement gives rise to a later even more remarkable statement by St. Maximus the Confessor: “The incarnation is the cause of everything.”

This statement takes the “all things were created for Him and sees it applying to the incarnation itself, rather than to Christ as some eschatological point. In truth, the incarnation itself is eschatological. It certainly occurred in History, but because of Who Christ is, everything He does is done by the Alpha and the Omega. Christ Himself is the eschaton regardless of the setting. Indeed, His presence in any setting changes that setting into an eschatological confrontation.

Christ doesn’t just appear at a wedding in Cana and the wedding not take on overtones of the Messianic Banquet, the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. And though He was not choosing that moment to reveal the eschatological nature of Himself, He nevertheless did so at the urging of His Mother.

This, of course, brings us to the other conclusion of the statement, “The incarnation is the cause of all things.” The incarnation, of course, is not simply God putting on humanity, as if there were a spare human suit laying around that He could slip on and zip up (I mean no disrespect). But the incarnation always implies the only other one who is directly involved, i.e., His mother.

Thus it is that in some Eastern Church hymns we hear wild statements and epithets such as, “Co-cause,” attributed to Mary. This is not attributed to her because of some uniqueness of her identity alone, but because she stood at a moment in time, utterly united, bone to bone, flesh to flesh, with the One who is the Cause of all things.

Such thoughts are lofty, I readily admit, and I take no credit for them. These are the thoughts and teachings of the Fathers and among the most mystical of them all.

And yet as we take on this labor of Lent, we must look at the Biblical model (the incarnation is a Biblical model par excellence).  Mary is there at the incarnation of the Word, and herself becomes a part of that incarnation: “incarnate of the Virgin Mary and Holy Spirit….”

So, too, must we walk in such a union as we struggle through Lent, because there is nothing within us that by itself would please God. Just as when we say “Son of God” we imply another (“the Father”), so, too, when we say “created in His image,” our existence has no meaning apart from the One in whose image we were created, and predestined to be conformed to. There therefore can be no laboring towards Christ that is not Christ’s labor as well.

So what labor do we perform?

We fast – He fasted.

We repent – He submitted to Baptism

We pray – He prayed.

We give alms – He showed mercy to all.

And more than this, we do all these things not merely of ourselves, but by Christ, through Christ and in Christ. So that He can say to us, “Inasmuch as you did it unto the least of these my brethren you did it unto Me.”

In His Church, Christ carries us back on the journey to Golgotha, for it is there that all things will be accomplished. It is only by sharing in His death (as in Baptism) that we find a means of sharing in His life. Thus Lent becomes an extended Baptism of sorts. Indeed, the Fathers referred to repentance itself as a “second Baptism.”

We journey to the only place where we can have the mind of Christ:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

With every day’s step, let that mind become ours! ‘Til at last we reach the One who is the Cause of all things.

St. John Chrysostom on Fasting

February 20, 2007

The following text comes from’s Great Lent 2003 (a CD I purchased), though the text is from the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. 9. As we begin the fast I can think of no better passage in the Fathers for our consideration.


By St John Chrysostom

From Concerning the Statues, Excerpts from Homily III

I speak not, indeed, of such a fast as most persons keep, but of real fasting; not merely an abstinence from meats; but from sins too.

For the nature of a fast is such, that it does not suffice to deliver those who practice it, unless it be done according to a suitable law. “For the wrestler,” it is said, “is not crowned unless he strive lawfully.”

To the end then, that when we have gone through the labor of fasting, we forfeit not the crown of fasting, we should understand how, and after what manner, it is necessary to conduct this business; since that Pharisee also fasted, but afterwards went down empty, and destitute of the fruit of fasting.

The Publican fasted not; and yet he was accepted in preference to him who had fasted; in order that thou mayest learn that fasting is unprofitable, except all other duties follow with it.

The Ninevites fasted, and won the favor of God.

The Jews fasted too, and profited nothing, nay they departed with blame.

Since then the danger in fasting is so great to those who do not know how they ought to fast, we should learn the laws of this exercise, in order that we may not “run uncertainly,” nor “beat the air,” nor while we are fighting contend with a shadow.

Fasting is a medicine; but a medicine, though it be never so profitable, becomes frequently useless owing to the unskillfulness of him who employs it. For it is necessary to know, moreover, the time when it should be applied, and the requisite quantity of it; and the temperament of body that admits it; and the nature of the country, and the season of the year; and the corresponding diet; as well as various other particulars; any of which, if one overlooks, he will mar all the rest that have been named.

Now if, when the body needs healing, such exactness is required on our part, much more ought we, when our care is about the soul, and we seek to heal the distempers of the mind, to look, and to search into every particular with the utmost accuracy.

I have said these things, not that we may disparage fasting, but that we may honor fasting; for the honor of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it.

Dost thou fast? Give me proof of it by thy works!

Is it said by what kind of works?

If thou seest a poor man, take pity on him!

If thou seest an enemy, be reconciled to him!

If thou seest a friend gaining honor, envy him not!

If thou seest a handsome woman, pass her by!

For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.

Let the hands fast, by being pure from rapine and avarice.

Let the feet fast, by ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles.

Let the eyes fast, being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances, or to busy themselves with strange beauties.

For looking is the food of the eyes, but if this be such as is unlawful or forbidden, it mars the fast; and upsets the whole safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting.

For it would be among things the most absurd to abstain from lawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to touch even what is forbidden. Dost thou not eat flesh? Feed not upon lasciviousness by means of the eyes.

Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to receive evil speakings and calumnies. “Thou shalt not receive a false report,” it says.

From The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. 9.