Archive for March, 2008

With A Secret Hand

March 31, 2008


One of the joys of the newly published, Orthodox Study Bible (OSB), containing all the canonical Orthodox books of the Bible, is the fact that the Old Testament was carefully brought into agreement with the text of the Septuagint, long a standard and important liturgical translation for Orthodox Christians.

The early Church generally used the Septuagint, a translation from the Hebrew made in Alexandria, Egypt, some 200 or more years before Christ. By the time of the birth of the Church it was a dominant form of the Old Testament, particularly within the Jewish Diaspora. New Testament writers regularly quote it and seem to prefer it over the Hebrew text (though not always).

But for modern American, Orthodox Christians, it affords probably the first practical glimpse at the Orthodox texts that have most influenced the Fathers of the Church. It rewards its readers with wonderful, hidden treasures. I have no argument with someone who finds fault with this or that about the Orthodox Study Bible, but I think it is a great achievement, long awaited, that, even with its short-comings (which are often in the eye of the beholder) is still a great leap forward for English-speaking Orthodoxy.

A case in point:

My wife, who is an avid reader of the Bible, Saint’s lives, British mysteries, and the editor of almost everything I write, was given an Orthodox Study Bible as soon as it arrived at our parish book store (I held out for a leather-bound copy and so received mine some weeks later). But she recently began a read through Exodus (partly spurred on by a few scenes from The Ten Commandments). It was a place to start reading.

She brought this verse to me the other night:

Exodus 17:16  Now Moses built an altar and called its name The-Lord-My-Refuge; for with a secret hand the Lord wars with Amalek from generation to generation.

She had never seen the verse before and brought it to me. The Hebrew Masoretic text reads differently:

And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-LORD-Is-My-Banner; for he said, “Because the LORD has sworn: the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

I looked at the Hebrew and the Greek (which I both read), and the Septuagint translation was absolutely accurate from the Greek, as was the other translation from the Hebrew. It’s just a place where the Masoretic text and the Septuagint text differ. Some Orthodox would note that the Septuagint represents a translation of manuscripts far older than the Masoretic texts (though I’m not sure how the Dead Sea Scrolls come down in this debate).

But all of that is a side question. More to the point is Amalek. In Orthodox hymnody, on many feast-days, reference is made to Amalek. This past weekend was one of those occasions when we celebrated the Sunday of the Life-Giving Cross.  Amalek is mentioned because in the original battle with Amalek, recorded in Exodus 17, Moses stretches forth his arms in the form of a cross. So long as his arms remain so outstretched, the battle against Amalek is won. When Moses weakens and his arms droop, Amalek begins to gain the upperhand. Finally Aaron and Hur supported Moses arms and Amalek is defeated. The Fathers of the Church saw in this a prefigurement of Christ on the Cross.

And the very verse my wife brought to my attention is the verse which underlines the true nature of the battle with Amalek. Early Christians rightly saw in this battle a foreshadowing and prophecy of God’s war against all the forces of evil. Thus we have the wonderfully mysterious verse in the Septuagint:

Now Moses built an altar and called its name The-Lord-My-Refuge; for with a secret hand the Lord wars with Amalek from generation to generation.

Indeed the battle against the forces of our adversary has never been quit by our God. He indeed battles against evil from generation to generation. But quite fascinating to me was the statement, “with a secret hand.” For surely that is a description our our own experience. God has defeated the forces of the enemy (Amalek) at the cross of Christ, and yet we still have to make that victory complete. I was struck with the phrase “with a secret hand” for I realized how little of the war we actually see. How many times have we been protected from evil but saw nothing of it? We complain about the problems in the world, but how many times do we stop and give thanks that the problems are not, in fact, worse than they are – and God knows they could be.

But by His “secret hand” God works for our salvation and the salvation of the whole world. Part of that secret hand is the prayers of His saints, and the prayers of the righteous who live silently and secretly among us all.

May God hurry the final victory when Amalek is no more and every secret battle is made manifest that we may sing: Glory to God for all things!

The Walking Wounded

March 30, 2008


The more years I serve as a priest, the more aware I become of the “walking wounded.” I do not mean a special category of person by this, but simply a description of who we are as we walk through whatever journey we take. I reflect on this particularly because I can remember not always knowing this about myself or others around me. As a young priest fresh out of seminary I think I believed that the broken parts of me were different from others and that there were some people out there who did not have wounds. As years have gone by, I have learned how terribly wrong I was – both that I might be different from others – or that others were different from me.

Most of what I know has come by way of experience. Stories I have been told, confessions I have heard, watching lives explode with an impotence that itself felt like another wound. In these later years, particularly as an Orthodox priest, nurtured by relationships with older and wiser priests, formed in the Tradition – I have slowly been learning that this is simply the human condition, and that my path in life is mostly to pray for those whose care falls to my priestly ministry, never to forget them before God – and to be only as wise as I am rather than trying to be more than I am.

I look to the Cross of Christ, for only there do I find hope and an answer that goes beyond the frailty of our wounded souls, a love that enters into Hell itself for no better purpose than to bring us out again. Our human efforts of love fall short. We betray one another, desert one another, and fail even while we try to succeed. It has been that way for all of human history as told to us by God. But human history will not always be this way – because God has told us this also.

Christ never betrayed a man. Christ never deserted a friend. Christ never lied – He never cheated. He always kept His Word and loved even those who hated and reviled Him. Christ was properly a stranger to death – One in whom “non-being” had no place. How can “non-being” have a place in “He Who Is?”

And yet, He Who Is, entered the very depths of non-being – through the gates of death and brought us forth with Him. And thus I have learned to pray. I think of two prayers in Scripture that strike me to my very core. Both are prayers offered up from the depths of the human wound. One is the high-priestly prayer of Christ in the 17th chapter of John’s gospel:

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.

The other is Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the whale (in Christian terms, Christ’s prayer from Hades):

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and thou didst hear my voice. For thou didst cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood was round about me; all thy waves and thy billows passed over me. Then I said, `I am cast out from thy presence; how shall I again look upon thy holy temple?’ The waters closed in over me, the deep was round about me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me for ever; yet thou didst bring up my life from the Pit, O LORD my God. When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer came to thee, into thy holy temple. Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their true loyalty. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to thee; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the LORD!” And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

All of us are the walking wounded – but as we keep walking – by God’s good grace – we will leave the wounds behind – come that good morning.

The Holy Cross of Christ

March 29, 2008


In writing about our union with Christ I offered the following as the response some time ago to a question. It seemed to me, worth a posting of its own, though it be short. I have, however, added a few thoughts to it. This Sunday marks the Sunday of the Cross in the Orthodox journey of Lent.

There are many ways of which to speak of Christ’s work on the Cross, all of them, of course, seeing it as central. In some ways, it is the whole of the Old Testament in a single moment. Which image of sacrifice is not fulfilled in that Great Sacrifice, and yet there are many images? Christ is also the Paschal Lamb, which itself is not part of the normal sacrificial system and yet it is in the Cross as well.

Nor does the sacrificial system make much sense except by some aspect of union with that which is offered. But on the Cross, Christ completes His union with us, if I may be so bold, by assuming even our death that by death He might trample down death.

The mistake too easily made is to think of the Cross as only one thing. The Cross is everything. All things are summed up and completed by Christ on the Cross, just so, everything is summed up and healed in His resurrection from the Dead. On the Cross He is the serpent lifted in the wilderness. On the Cross He is the Lamb of the Passover. On the Cross He is the Offering of Atonement. On the Cross He is Moses’ staff stretched over the waters of the Red Sea. On the Cross He is the arms of Moses stretched out at the destruction of Amalek. On the Cross He is the ram in the thicket that God gave in place of Isaac. On the Cross He is Blood poured out on the Mercy Seat. On the Cross He is the love of God made manifest in its utter self-emptying. On the Cross He is the Bridegroom now come for His bride to bring her back from the dead. On the Cross He is man in His alienation from God and God in His union with man.

All of these are part of the fullness of what it means to be forgiven, and I have only barely touched the edge of it. God has reconciled us to Himself through the Cross of Christ. This is not to say one thing – it is to say everything.

We’ll have read my writings wrong if it is seen that I have offered “the” explanation of the Cross. The Cross is the explanation of everything else, while no one other thing can explain the Cross.

The Truth About the End Times

March 28, 2008


I live in the South – which means plenty of bumper stickers warning, “In case of rapture this car will be unmanned.” I grew up surrounded by preaching on the last days in a context that was decidedly Dispensationalist, Pre-Tribulation, etc. If you are a reader who does not know what all that means then you’ve missed a huge part of our American Culture. It means one believes that time is divided into different “dispensations” and that the end of the world will have seven years of the worst possible calamities, complete with the Great Beast, the Anti-Christ, (all known as the Great Tribulation), but with the Church being “caught-up” into the air to meet Christ and go to heaven just before the beginning of the Great Tribulation (hence, “pre-tribulation”). This is the larger story behind the popular “Left-Behind” series of novels which are selling like hotcakes in the Evangelical culture. Of course, the books are more interesting to read if you happen to be a Pre-Tribulation Dispensationalist.

These are not esoteric doctrines in this part of the world. You could have a fairly serious discussion with a pious farmer about various aspects of end-time Dispensationalist doctrine. Many local Churches will advertise “Prophecy Workshops” of one sort or another – explaining various details of the doctrine and, always, making comparison to present-day headlines (Not to mention the televangelists who major in End Times).

Is this simply an aspect of Christian teaching that is a hallmark of some Protestants, or is it a serious distortion of Christian teaching? And if it’s a distortion, does it matter?

Apart from all the various details involved in “end-time” teaching – the larger theological picture is overlooked. That picture is the radical change in eschatology from that of the Scriptures. Eschatology is the term for the study of things that have to do with “the last things” [eschatos]. For moderns following popular end-time teaching, there is an expectation of a coming event in history, but no sense that time itself is changed or given a different character by the Second Coming of Christ (much less His first coming). It is this loss of a proper understanding of time that, it seems to me, carries the largest error in popular end-time teaching.

It is possible to view time in a straightforward, chronological manner, as one event following another. Indeed, this seems the most natural way to view things – particularly to a modern mind. Of course, such a view of time is as devoid of God as is the naturalist view of creation in which it exists and operates independent of God. Both views are just variations on a secular theme. One can be religious in a secular setting, but the secularization of the faith is a radical departure from the faith “once and for all delivered to the saints.”

I have written about this secularization particularly in my articles on a One-Storey Universe versus a Two-Storey Universe. The point of that metaphorical distinction is to help us think about the consequences of modern secularized thought. As I have noted before, the primary religious effect of secularized thought (which is the mindset of a majority of modern Christians) is to exile God from what we think of as the “ordinary” world. Strictly chronological thought about time (including the end-times) is a secularization of time. God becomes an actor in history, but history remains somehow inert. Time is not effected by its encounter with God (in the modern secularized account).

The clear Biblical and Gospel teaching is that the Kingdom of God has as much effect on time as it has on everything else in our world. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. When He stands of the stage of history, the very End of history is standing in our midst. It is not merely 33 A.D., it is the fulfillment of all things. Thus, Christ does not say, “Before Abraham was I was or I existed,” but rather, “Before Abraham was I am.” There is a world of difference.

Christians themselves are not purely confined to chronological time. “We have been translated into the kingdom of His dear son” (Col. 1:13). This is not something we are waiting to see happen – it has already been accomplished. Of course there is also our experience of praying, “Thy Kingdom come,” and for a fulfillment that we await, and yet we already have a “foretaste” of that Kingdom, in the gift of the Holy Spirit. Indeed the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst takes us “out of time” or rather brings us into the “time of the Kingdom.” The Eucharistic meal that Christians eat, is not a chronological event in which we “remember” something that is past. It is the Messianic Banquet; Christ is truly present on the altar. The Body and Blood of Christ which we take into our mouths belongs not only to our time but also to the “time” of the Kingdom.

Of course there is a chronological time in which we live – and yet that time has been altered and revealed as a sacrament of the Kingdom in the coming of Christ. Every minute is a Spirit-bearing minute and not merely a tick on a clock.

We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:1-2).

These verses carry more meaning than simply “you should convert today.” The “accepted” time and the “day of salvation” are also eschatological events – our end has come upon us now.

The tragedy of living in two-storey chronological time (first storey is chronological, second storey is timeless), is that we fail to see the true character of every moment now. We waste our time reading newspapers and wondering about events in the mid-East, as though any of that would tell us something about the Kingdom of God. People live secularized lives, just “marking time” waiting to be raptured out of this wicked world so that God’s great plan for the end of the world can take place.

The truth about the end times is that Christ Himself is the End. “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

I am an Orthodox Christian. I believe in the Second Coming. “He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.” But the One who is coming is none other than the One in Whom I partake at every Eucharist. He is none other than the One Whom I am called to serve in the “least of these my brethren.” Such things are “eschatological” moments. Better to serve Christ in the least of these than to waste time thinking about Bible prophecy and the pattern of events at the end of the world. It will come as a thief in the night, anyway. And if we are not serving Him in the least of His brethren we will be found to have no oil in our lamps.

In case of the rapture, everything will be unmanned. For when Christ comes, He will come to judge the whole earth. Most importantly, we should learn to see time as it truly is – as it is being transformed by the Lord of time and is itself a vehicle, a sacrament of His presence. Now is indeed the Day of Salvation.

Going Up the Ladder

March 27, 2008


From St. John Climacus’ The Ladder:

A silly person feels hurt when accused or shouted at. He tries to answer back or else at once apologizes to his accuser, not for reasons of humility but to put a stop to his reproaches. In fact you should be silent when ridiculted. Accept patiently these spiritual cauterizations, or rather, purifying flames. And when the doctor has done his work, ask him to forgive you, for he may not accept your apology when he is angry.

Those of us who live in community must fight by the hour against all the passions and especially against these two: a mania for gluttony and bad temper. There is plenty of food for these passions in a community.

For modern, non-monastics, the community we know best is our home. There is also the community of the school or workplace and the community of the Church. All of these provide as much food for the passions as any monastery, and sometimes far more. In my own experience, I get it wrong more often than I get it right. But, if one never forgets to “get is forgiven,” then we may escape much of the harm of the passions.

In none of these things does God forget us, nor is God surprised with the great difficulties we face and our frequent failures. In all of these things, even in our failures, God’s grace abounds and works for our salvation. Glory to God for all things!

It’s Not Just You

March 26, 2008


It’s not just you. St. Isaac the Syrian says: 

Whenever you wish to make a beginning in some good work, first prepare yourself for the temptations that will come upon you, and do not doubt the truth. For it is the enemy’s custom, whenever he sees a man beginning a good mode of life with fervent faith, to confront him with diverse and fearful temptations…. It is not that our adversary has such power – for then no one could ever do good – but that God concedes it to him, as we have learned with the righteous Job. Therefore prepare yourself manfully to encounter temptations.

Psalm 124:6-8 – Good News for the Day

March 26, 2008


Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

May God keep us all this day without sin – may we not be devoured – may we forgive everyone and everything by the resurrection!

What Are You Eating? Or, Whose Food Are You?

March 25, 2008


During the first week of Great Lent, in praying the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, I noticed the recurring phrase one night, that we not be possessed nor become the food of demons. That’s a very reasonable prayer, considering the fact that Scripture warns us that “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The image stayed with me – perhaps because during this season of Great Lent, so much attention is paid to what we ourselves eat.

There is a companion admonition from St. Paul (at least I think of it as a companion) in which he says: “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5:15). Of course, in this admonition it is not our concern for being consumed by demonic forces but the Apostles’ concern that we not devour one another.

Human beings are more than physical beings. In our physicality we are finite and frequently experience the physical limits of our existence. However, we are also spiritual beings, created with an infinite capacity – rightly a capacity for God. In our relationship with Him as Person, we constantly transcend limits and have communion in a manner that exceeds every limitation.

On the other hand, we do not always or even often, properly orient ourselves towards God, but, instead, turn our infinite attention towards things that are less than finite. With this turn comes a hunger that finite things cannot satisfy. As trivial as it may seem, when we had but three choices on a television set, the channel remained unchanged frequently for an entire evening. With hundreds of choices now available we cannot sit quietly by, but constantly chase through channels with a search that becomes a substitute for watching television.

I have a friend who is a recovering alcoholic. She told me once, “I quit drinking because there simply wasn’t enough alcohol in the world.” The finite cannot satisfy the infinite.

Our infinite capacity for God is also reflected in our capacity for love of the other – for other persons. Rightly lived, these relationships are deeply and properly satisfying and have an infinite character to them that goes beyond our ability to describe. Love is its own definition.

But again, it is possible for us to turn towards other people in something less than a true relationship as person, a relationship in which the other becomes but another object. As such no other human being will bring us a satisfying relationship. When we reduce them to finitude, they cannot feed the hunger of our infinite heart.

My son, when he was four, wrote a bedtime prayer. He had a devotion to St. Michael because someone gave him a small statue of the great angel, with his sword drawn and triumphantly holding the adversary beneath his foot. My son’s prayer was simple:

Dear St. Michael, guard my room. Don’t let anything eat me or kill me. Kill it with your sword. Kill it with your sword. Amen.

The family laughed when we first heard it – particularly his prayer not to be eaten. Now that I am much older, I see the wisdom of his childhood prayer. We should be concerned, as the Scripture teaches us, that we not be consumed by the infinite appetite of our adversary who has rendered us into the objects of his hatred. We should equally be concerned that we not devour one another, nor seek to be fed by that which cannot properly feed a spiritual being.

Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness (Isaiah 55:2).

At the Annunciation – The Cause of All Things

March 24, 2008


I treasure the small volume of George Gabriel,  Mary the Untrodden Portal of God. Gabriel occasionally strikes hard at the West and the book would perhaps be strengthened with a less combative approach to the differences of East and West in the faith (my own opinion), but I liked the book and found Gabriel addressing many things, well foot-noted, that are not found in many other places. I share an excerpt.

From eternity, God provided for a communion with His creation that would remain forever. In that communion mankind would attain to the eternal theosis for which it was made. The communion, of course, is the Incarnation through the Ever-Virgin. Mankind’s existence and, therefore, that of all creation is inexorably tied to Mary because she was always to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word. The fathers say that neither the course of human events nor necessity of any kind forced the Uncreated One to join to Himself a creaturely mode of existence. God did not become flesh because some actions of the devil or of man made it necessary, but because it was the divine plan and mystery from before the ages. Despite the works of Satan and the coming of sin into the world, the eternal will of God was undeterred, and it moved forward.

History and the course of human events were the occasion and not the cause of the Incarnation. The Incarnation did not take place for the Crucifixion; the Crucifixion took place so the Incarnation and the eternal communion of God and man could be fulfilled despite Satan, sin, and death. Explaining that there was no necessity in God the Father that required the death of His Son, St. Gregory the Theologian says of the Father “neither asked for Him nor demanded Him, but accepts [His death] on account of the economy [of the Incarnation] and because mankind must be sanctified by the humanity of God.” St. Gregory is telling us that, from before the ages, it was the divine will for mankind to be sanctified and made immortal by communion with the humanity of the Incarnate God, but corruptibility and death came and stood in the way.  By His Passion and Resurrection, Jesus Christ destroyed these obstacles and saved, that is, preserved, mankind for the Incarnation’s eternal communion of the God-Man and immortal men. St. John of Damascus repreats the same idea that the Incarnation is a prior and indeed ontological purpose in itself, and that redemption is the means to that end. Thus, he says the Holy Virgin “came to serve in the salvation of the world so that the ancient will of God for the Incarnation of the Word and our own theosis may be fulfilled through her.”

It seems worthwhile to me, for us to meditate on the fullness of our salvation which is to be accomplished in God’s great Pascha. Indeed, it seems to me that everything always was about Pascha – the “Lamb was slain before the foundation of the earth” (Rev. 13:8) We are approaching the end of all things – and, I should add, their beginning as well.

Reposted from a year ago.

He Burst the Yawning Gates of Hell

March 22, 2008


Whom have we, Lord, like you –

The Great One who became small, the Wakeful who slept,

The Pure One who was baptized, the Living One who died,

The King who abased himself to ensure honor for all.

Blessed is your honor!

St. Ephrem the Syrian

For the West, today is Holy Saturday. Thus I offer these words for that great and awesome day.

I cannot fathom the smallness of God. Things in my life loom so large and every instinct says to overcome the size of a threat by meeting it with a larger threat. But the weakness of God, stronger than death, meets our human life/death by becoming a child – the smallest of us all – man at his weakest – utterly dependent. The weakness of God meets our voracious appetite for life (which we wrongly pervert into an appetite for death) by His death on the Cross.

And His teaching will never turn away from that reality for a moment. Our greeting of His mission among us is marked by misunderstanding, betrayal, denial and murder. But He greets us with forgiveness, love, and the sacrifice of self.

This way of His is more than a rescue mission mounted to straighten out what we had made crooked. His coming among us is not only action  but also revelation. He does not become unlike Himself in order to make us like Him. The weakness, the smallness, the forgiveness – all that we see in His incarnation – is a revelation of the Truth of God. He became the image of Himself, that we might become the image we were created to be.

It seems strange to speak of God as humble, and yet this is what is revealed in Scripture. Cultural references to God are full of power and mankind’s own claim to wisdom that somehow the all-powerful God has not straightened things out yet. On this basis some will even come to reject the very existence of God. The power of God is nothing like our power. Though He created all that is, He did so out of nothing. This bears no resemblance to anything we think of when we “create.” And He who created is also He who sustains, and yet in His humility we cannot directly see His sustenance, unless He has given us eyes to see.

The all-powerful reveals Himself in His weakness, and not, I suspect, because it was a “backdoor” plan. Rather I believe the all-powerful revealed Himself most fully, most completely on the Cross because this is indeed what the power of God looks like. I do not know how to fathom the reality that the power that can only be seen in the Cross of Christ, is the same power that created the universe, but I believe it is so.

We never know fullness, until we empty ourselves into His emptiness. We never know love until we are drowned in the waters of His mercy that do not kill but make alive. We cannot see the great until we see Him very small. He who enters the womb of a Virgin will also enter the waters of Jordan, and will also enter infinitessimally small spaces of hades’ yawning gape. And there we shall see greatness indeed, He who is everywhere present and fillest all things.