Glorious Illumination or (Glory Revealed)

O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know thee now by faith, to thy presence, where we may behold thy glory face to face; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today marks the beginning of the liturgical season of Epiphany or if you are of the Eastern churches, Theophany.

Epiphany can incorporate a lot of different meanings according to which denomination is celebrating it, but the celebration usually marks the manifestation of Christ to the Gentile through the Magi. It is also a celebration of Christ’s Baptism into the Jordan River revealing to all that He is the Son of God. Theophany basically means “appearance of God”. This is also a remembering of the Marriage Celebration of Cana where our Lord revealed Himself by His first miracle.

Either way you look at it this liturgical season celebrates the Divinity of Christ and His being revealed as the Son of God.

I want to start with this verse taken from Zechariah 2:13, “Be silent, all people, before the Lord; for He has roused Himself from His holy dwelling.”

Now, that verse is not in context at this moment, nor do I plan to use it in context of Zechariah.

I want to paint a picture with this verse in light of Epiphany.

In the revealing of Christ as the Son of God it is in that moment that Christ’s Divinity came to be known to us and quite possibly to Him also. But God had been roused from His holy dwelling with the angels and archangels.

The Gospel accounts of Christ’s Baptism are quite amazing. Matthew 3:13-17 reads, ” Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’”

I like Saint Luke’s accounts reads, “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

These verses in both accounts are climatic! They are HUGE! The story is EPIC!

These accounts show us two things: 1) The revealing of Jesus Christ our Lord as the Son of God and 2) The mystery of the Trinitarian Faith, which we profess.

We see here the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all at one moment.

Glory has been revealed!

Isaiah writes: “
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘
Prepare the way of the Lord; m
ake His paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled.
And every mountain and hill brought low; t
he crooked places shall be made straight a
nd the rough ways smooth; a
nd all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”

John the Baptizer had prepared the way for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ before He came seeking to be baptized.

In the moment of His baptism and rising from the Blessed Waters of the Jordan the glory of Christ was revealed and all people were shown the salvation of God.

The Orthodox have a troparion that they sing to capture this phenomenon that I think is incredibly beautiful:

When You, O Lord were baptized in the Jordan
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest,
For the voice of the Father bore witness to You
And called You His beloved Son,
While the Spirit, in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ, our God, You have revealed Yourself
And have enlightened the world, glory to You!

By the act of His Baptism the Lord illuminated with Great Light what was dark!

Glorious Illumination!

And perhaps, there is a connection between our Lord’s Baptism and our very own. He did not institute the sacrament of Baptism for no reason nor did He experience that sacrament for no reason (those who argue Baptism is not essential think about that, if our Lord Himself was baptized then we ought to follow Him)!

For me this Epiphany season is about a time of remembering not only the illumination of darkness, but a time of healing.

For it is by Christ’s Baptism that healing was brought forth. It was in His revelation as the Son of God that darkness was turned into Light and that what was broken was made right.

Maybe there is more to Baptism then we often comprehend. It surely is more then just a symbolic act. There is power in this sacrament.

Remember that a sacrament is the outward and visible sign of a inward and and spiritual grace.

In that moment we go under we were lost, blind, deaf, and broken.

But we rise to newness of life, to healing, to grace, to Light!

Jesus said, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”

There is healing behind the season of Epiphany as we celebrate the manifestation of God’s glory in His Son Jesus Christ revealed to us during His Baptism.

The Orthodox have this beautifully written prayer:

“Incline your ear and hear us, Lord, who accepted to be baptized in Jordan and to sanctify the waters, and bless us all, who signify our calling as servants by the bending of our necks. And count us worthy to be filled with your sanctification through the partaking and sprinkling of this water. And let it be for us, Lord, for healing of soul and body.

For you are the sanctification of our souls and bodies, and to you we give glory, thanksgiving and worship, with your Father who is without beginning, and your All-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and forever, and to the ages of ages.”

It is through the obedience of being baptized that we arise to new life in the Spirit! We arise to start what our Orthodox brothers and sisters call Deification or Theosis.

Θέωσις (meaning divinization, deification, or making divine, deificatio or divinizatio in Latin) is the process of transformation of a believer who is putting into practice the spiritual teachings of Jesus Christ and His gospel. I believe this to be the absolute crux of the Christian Faith.

I believe that if we aren’t being conformed to the Image of Christ then why are doing this?

Lancelot Andrews said, “Whereby, as before He of ours, so now we of His are made partakers. He clothed with our flesh, and we invested with His Spirit. The great promise of the Old Testament accomplished, that He should partake our human nature; and the great and precious promise of the New, that we should be ‘consortes divinae naturae’, ‘partake his divine nature,’ both are this day accomplished.”

Saint Peter sums it up eloquently:

“His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants in the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.”

Let us in this time of feasting and celebration of the Epiphany and the Glorious Illumination not forget the cleansing of our past sins made possible by our obedience to Baptism REVEALED to us through Christ’s ordaining the Sacramental act of Baptism through His own Baptism.

The writers of Hebrew wrote, “Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

We have been washed clean.

Glorious illumination has brightened our darkness.

Healing has been brought to us through Christ.

Grace has been bestowed.

Let us not forget the day of our own Baptism as we celebrate the day our Lord was baptized.

Let us not forget that God’s countenance was shown upon us that day in the Jordan.

Let us not forget that He came, was baptized, and revealed Himself.

Let us not forget that He showed us Light through His baptism and called us to be Baptized in the +++ Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Let us not forget that our Baptism sparked new life in us, giving us the Spirit.

Let us not forget that we are to be made clean daily. We are to become more like Christ everyday. Our baptism started the process that the Holy Spirit now continues.

I am aiming to say that by Christ’s Baptism Heaven opened up and the Spirit descended upon Him and His Father was pleased. We see Christ’s divinity revealed. So perhaps in our own Baptism we see our divinity revealed because the Spirit comes and allows us to take on the nature of the Divine, Jesus Christ. Saint Peter did not say what he did for no reason. In Christ’s Baptism He took on His divine nature, and in ours we did the same thing. Becoming united with Christ through the Spirit.

Remember this season to always set aside the flesh and continue to walk in the Divine as we remember the Baptism of our Lord.

Always remember!

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan didst proclaim him thy beloved Son and anoint him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with thee and the same Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting.

Amen.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

The Authenticity of Christianity Versus Other Religions


A few nights ago in conversation with my good friend in the Faith, Matthew Jones, I sent him this link seeking to see what his opinion is on it:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/januaryweb-only/muslimsevangelical.html

Now, if you are not wanting to read that article, basically what it is about is Churches letting people of other religions use their buildings to worship in. One church allowed the local Islamic community to use their church to worship in.

He responded saying:

“Hmmm, interesting article. I’m a little torn on how I should feel about it. On the one hand I remember the example of JPII reaching out to other faiths (he himself kissing a Qur’an inside a mosque). On the other hand he made clear, as does the Catechism, that other faiths bare some universal truths but are errant and lack the fullness of faith as we believe was deposited by Christ to the Apostles and into the Church.

It’s tricky, the RCC has a complex understanding of the discussion this type of article raises. To lifelong Muslims who have never known any better, it’s basically looked at in the same way Native Americans are viewed pre-Columbus (meaning they had know way to be exposed to the Gospels). Where it’s still believed Christ died for him as did he you or I, it’s completely up to the mercy of God to determine their salvation either in their ignorance or rejection of his son.”

I can’t speak for those ministers allowing Muslims to worship in their church, but for Matthew and me our churches are consecrated to the Lord. Matthew is Catholic and I am an Anglican. We are both under the authority of bishops and archbishops and for Matt, the Pope. Our churches are ordained and consecrated to the SERVICE of the Lord Jesus Christ and no other deity! I would not, as a future priest one day Lord willing, be opening the doors to our church and the alter of the Lord Christ to pagan sacrifices. That is just unacceptable.

I am all for reaching out and not being rude and not being jerks to other religions, but how many of those religions would open doors to Christianity? And I wouldn’t expect them to do so. But I for one would not be willing to let the consecrated church be used for worship of another deity that we know is a false god.

But it is important that I do not condemn those ministers. I admire they had the strength to do that. But I would not accept their actions for to me all is Sacramental in the church, but there are some who are not Sacramental Christians.

My good friend and fellow Anglican Isaac Rehberg commented on this note before I came back to add this about the non-Sacramental/Sacramental part. Isaac’s explanation of this part is very thorough:

“I think one thing that may make a big difference on how a particular Christian tradition approaches this issue is whether its religious worldview is sacramental or not. For some (especially Catholics, Anglicans, and Orthodox), the sacramental mindset means that there are some items, places, etc. that literally become holy when they are consecrated. The altar is not just a table, it has been set apart for a particular religious purpose. The chalice is not just a cup, it has been set apart for a particular religious purpose. The church and its grounds is not just real estate, it is holy ground set aside for Christian worship. To misuse those consecrated things for other purposes would be sacrilege in the mind of the sacramental Christian.

To other Christian traditions, places, items, etc. cannot be intrinsically holy (with the possible exception of the Bible). A Church is only holy ground when it is used for holy purposes. The bread and wine used in the Lord’s Supper are only holy when being used in the Lord’s Supper. The same loaf of or same bottle of wine may theoretically be used for other things.

For the sacramental Christian, allowing other faiths to worship in their consecrated buildings would be a sacrilege. The nature of a consecrated church building eliminates the possibility of allowing its use for non-Christian worship. Shoot, for some sacramental Christians, other Christian denominations wouldn’t even be welcome to borrow the church for a service. For the non-sacramental Christian, the issue wouldn’t be so cut and dry. It would ultimately boil down to the pastors’ discretion.”

Isaac continued: “All that said, I don’t think my conscience would allow me to permit other faiths to use my church for worship services. I’m by no means hostile to other faiths or their adherents. But I do see the church building as being consecrated for worship of the Triune God. If one cannot confess ‘Jesus is Lord’ in the service, it ought not be held in a consecrated Christian church.”

I think Matthew and I would agree with what I had to say and Isaac’s thoughts on that. He wrote, ” I don’t think a Muslim would ever be able to celebrate in a Catholic holy site. There’s a difference between showing respect and goodwill towards another religion and actually endorsing it.”

Agreed.

So he went on to say this:

“Jon, you also reminded me of a topic that I’ve been theorizing on myself here recently, if you care to share your thoughts. Basically, it’s the question of how does a Christian articulate the certainty that Christianity is the truth faith vs. the other options: Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, etc. What makes it more authentic when some of those religions predate it? I have my own theories but I’m curious what you think.”

I went on to write a little bit about what I think we should do, but my reply is no where as thoughtful and expressive as Matt’s laid out thorough theory.

I did say this:

“What makes us more authentic? I think history very fully validates Christ’s existence, death, burial, and resurrection. No other religion has that. And history would also prove the Judaic side of our religion as well. It’s validated through history if you ask me. And continues to strive and grew.”

And here is Matt’s concise, but extremely thorough reply:

“1.) In my own opinion, Christianity is the least most exclusive religion. By that I mean, in the very Gospels Christ compelled his Apostles to make disciples of all nations make them very aware that his message wasn’t suppose to be reserved for 1 or 2 groups of people alone as some exclusive window to knowing the truth. So, from Christianity’s infancy it was intended to reach all corners of the earth. When you compare this to say, Judaism, well the very name first of all centers around a certain group of people. There is also the aspect of other world faiths being almost entirely concentrated to certain geographic regions. For example, apart from a few African nations Islam is almost entirely concentrated in the Middle East. Hinduism belongs almost completely to India. Shintoism belongs almost exclusively to Japan. Buddhism to India and some east-Asian countries. You see where I’m going with this? Christianity is just the opposite. Especially when looking at the greater picture. The RCC has literally a diocese for every scrap of land that maps this planet. The Eastern Orthodox Church spans a huge swath of the world’s landmass in Russia and all it’s satellite nations. The Protestant Churches are spread throughout Europe and the New World. However, the point is all the churches are intimately tied to a belief in Jesus as the Messiah and we literally wrap the globe (being the largest religion still as you yourself mentioned.) We’re made up of every race, social class, and ethnic background.

2.) Fr. Barron raised an interesting aspect about the faith to my attention in one of his videos too. Christ, like no other religious founder, compels a choice. All other religious/philosophical founders present a teaching their trying to promote: Muhammad, Confucius, the Buddha, etc. However, none make the claim that Christ did in that he was literally God manifested in the flesh. This begs the question: ‘If what he’s claiming is right, than we have to believe in him…because is he not God?’ No other religious founder puts forth this claim and presents us that choice. This also makes the case for Christianity that it is the most seemingly revealing religion, at least that being it’s intent, because God himself walked among us and spoke to the first members of his Church and how to guide it.

3.) If you examine what Christianity has achieved apart from all it’s evangelical aims, it’s accomplishments are incredibly significant. The Church, for one, helped Western Society hold together after the Roman Empire fell apart. The RCC was the first to introduce universities, developed the scientific method, and educates more children than any other institution in the world (private schools and universities all inclusive). That doesn’t even include all the other Christian churches with that, with untold thousands of orphanages, hospitals opened, food banks, schools, etc.

So the point is, one can make an interesting case to support the claim that Christ has a hand in literally ever facet of life. Based upon our size, our appeal, our charitable aims, all of it…He is revealed.

Again, these are just some of my thoughts but conclusions I drew based upon some independent research and observation. I’m aware people of other faiths could offer their own opinions on why ‘they got it right’ but nonetheless I think we have a strong case :)”

I believe Matt’s response to be a very intelligent, short case for the authenticity of our Faith over the other religions of the world. I enjoy talking with Matt on these things because he knows history quite well.

One thing for sure is Christ is Lord and we all, least some, claim to profess that! I agree with Matt that we have a pretty strong case for that and the Church.

There will always be those who seek to destroy the Church and to destroy Christ’s message. Christ told St. Peter that He would build His Holy Bride the Church and that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against Her. I think we can rest assured in that promise.

Christ our High Priest shall continue to lead and guide us, protect and guard us!

Gracious Father, we pray for they holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior.

Amen.