Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Emmanuel, God Is With Us. Christmas Day Sermon

Christmas is not just a holyday like any other. It is the foundational mystery of our Christian faith because it marks the beginning of the redeeming work of God. It reminds us of what had been announced by the prophet of the Old Testament: how God decided to come into our humanity so that we can again have access to Him.

God Became Human
John 1: 14 "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

To get the full understanding of that verse you have to go back up to verse 1 of the first chapter of the gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The Word was God and the Word became flesh. Here is the logical assertion of this verse: If the Word was God and the Word became flesh, then God became flesh. God became human. Jesus Christ was human and Jesus Christ was God.

The Prophet had announced his coming
1. Micah prophesied of the pre-existence of the Messiah to come - Mic 5:2:
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."

2. Isaiah spoke of the King to come as "Everlasting Father" – Isa 9:6-7:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

3. Zechariah recorded the Messiah’s own promise to come - Zech 2:10-11: 
"Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming and I will live among you," declares the Lord. "Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord almighty has sent me to you."

God is now with us
"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
The word for "dwelt" is the word for "set up a tent" in Greek. I used to think that this implied mainly that he was here only temporarily. But when I looked up all the places this word appears in the New Testament, I found that it doesn't imply temporary status. For example, in Revelation 21:3 where the eternal new heavens and new earth are described, it says, "Behold the dwelling [tent!] of God is with men. He will dwell [pitch his tent!] with them, and they shall be his people."

I think what pitching a tent with us implies is that God wants to be on familiar terms with us. He wants to be close. He wants a lot of interaction. If you come into a community and build a huge palace with a wall around it, it says one thing about your desires to be with the people: you don’t want to be bothered by the “noise” and “smell” around you; you just want to separate yourself from the rest of the community. But if you pitch a tent in my backyard, you will probably use my bathroom and eat often at my table. This is why God became human. He came to pitch a tent in our human backyard so that we would have a lot of dealings with him. He will eat with us; he will interact with us.

The implications of “the Word was made flesh”?
What is the connection between all this revelation and you? Verse 16 of the first chapter of the gospel of John gives the answer: "And from his fullness have we all received grace upon grace." This means that God came not just to show us grace but to be gracious to us.

God doesn't just want to load your head with knowledge about his truth and grace, he wants you to receive it and experience it. This Christmas he wants to give you personally a foundation of truth and reality to stand on so you won't collapse under stress. This Christmas he wants to treat you with grace—to forgive all your sins—all of them!—to take away all your guilt, to make your conscience clean, to help you with your problems, to give you strength for each day, and to fill you with hope and joy and peace. And that is the Good News of Christmas!

Let’s pray and thank God for sending His Son, Jesus! Dear God, Thank you that you love us. Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to be here with us. Thank you for Christmas. We love you. Amen.

Peace and blessings!

Fr. Thierry

"For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas is the reason for our Eucharist

At the celebration of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, million upon million of Christians around the world will attend the Eucharistic services. I think we must pause and ask ourselves why celebrating the Eucharist (the 'Mass' in Christ-Mas) at Christmas? Can we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ without the Eucharist?

To answer this question, we must first understand what we call “Eucharist”.

According to Dom Gregory Dix, Eucharist is an action –‘do this’ –with a particular meaning given to it by our Lord Himself—‘for the anamnesis of Me’ (Dom G. Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy, p.238). This means that the Eucharist is an act of remembrance. We do what Jesus did and asked us to do. It is a command that originates in the love the Father has for us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…”(John 3:16).

Christmas and Eucharist are facts

Christmas, first of all, is a fact of history. In a point of time and at a definable place the God of heaven and earth was born of a woman, and came to live among us as man. It is a fact that the infinite God became, unexplainably, a finite creature. It is a fact to which historians attest but which we know is no mere statistic of history; it is, rather, a fact planned by God from all eternity. This is the fact of Christmas: the Word actually became Flesh.

The Eucharist is Christmas prolonged, because faith tells us that once God became man, He decided to remain man.

The Eucharist is a two-ways love: God loves us by ‘giving’ us Jesus. We respond to that love by an act of thanksgiving. At Christmas, we receive the love of God in celebrating the word that became flesh and dwelt among us; and we “give thanks” to God for His great love for us.

That’s the meaning of these word that we say in the Eucharistic prayer:
And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee; humbly beseeching thee, that we, and all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him.”

Christmas and Eucharist are mysteries

But Christmas and the Eucharist are not only facts, they are also mysteries. What is the mystery of Christmas? The mystery is the humanly incredible reality of why God became man. He did not have to. God did not even have to make the world, and within the world, He did not have to make us. Except for the love of God, we are all empty unoccupied spaces on earth. But, having decided to make the world and to make us, God also decided that once man had sinned, He would redeem man. God might have redeemed man by an act of His divine Will; He chose not to do so. He chose, rather, to become man, so that as man He might not only, by some fiat of His human freedom redeem us, but might have a mortal flesh and a soul capable of suffering. In a word, the mystery of Christmas is the mystery of God's love that chose to take on our human form in order to show His love for us by suffering.

I will be with you alway.
Darwell Stone rightly views the Eucharist as a mystery in which the Church remembers Christ, His Incarnation, His Passion, and His Resurrection, and, in remembering Him, makes the memorial of Him to the Father (Darwell Stone, Holy Communion, p.42). The first mystery of the love of God here is undeniably the Incarnation in which the word of God became flesh. That’s the reason of our Eucharist.

In the Eucharist, we confess the Real Presence. Jesus is the Real Presence to the whole world. Eucharist is therefore Christmas. Believing in His Real Presence, we have the responsibility to cooperate with His grace not only for ourselves, but for the whole world, so that His coming into the world will not, for any soul, have been in vain. 

Peace and blessings!

Fr. Thierry

"For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay”(Habakkuk 2:3).

Thursday, December 17, 2015

ADVENT IV: Recognition of the Word and Rejoicing in His Coming.

This week is the fourth and final week in Advent and we offer some quotes of Robert Crouse and and P.M. Scott for your meditation.

"The Advent season is multi-dimensional. It looks backward in time to the coming of the Son of God as the Infant of Bethlehem two thousand years ago; it looks forward to the end of time, to the consummation of history in the coming of the Son of God as Judge. But there is yet another dimension of the most vital importance for our spiritual life: Advent is about God’s coming now, and our Advent lessons encourage our hope and expectation of his presence in our life here and now. St. Thomas Aquinas, in the Prologue of his commentary on Isaiah, speaks of these three dimensions of Advent: the coming of the Son of God in carne: in the flesh, historically; his coming in mente: in our souls, now by grace; and ad judicium: at the judgement, at the end and as the end of history. Paramount in our Advent lessons is that second dimension: Christ’s Advent in mente, the present coming of the Word of God in our souls by grace. If you were to look at the lessons from that standpoint, you would notice how in each case the Epistle lesson underlines the present reference of the Gospel lesson.~ Dr. R. Crouse

S. John 1. 19
THIS is the record of John, when the Jews sent Priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that Prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that Prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not: he it is who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

"That Christ alone can prepare us for His Advent is strikingly illustrated by the testimony of the great herald of the first Advent. S. John Baptist confesses his own inferiority, and seeks to lead his hearers to Christ.

A. His Inferiority in Dignity.

In three humble negatives S. John Baptist disclaims all distinction. With the greatest emphasis he repudiates the very thought that he himself was the Messiah for whose Advent he was sent to make preparation. No words can be stronger—"He confessed and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.”

Though in very truth the Elias which was for to come (Mal. iv. 5), he dare not advance for himself so high a claim. Though named by our Lord “a prophet and more than a prophet,” he can see in himself no resemblance whatever to the prophet foretold (Deut. xviii. 15), and often interpreted as a forerunner of the Christ. Such humility is a true mark of those best fitted to prepare others for Christ; they stand by and let Him pass. If He alone can do this work, they must of necessity be humble.

B. His Inferiority in Office.

He does not think of himself as a speaker, but as a voice; not as a messenger, but as a message. He regards his baptism of water as merely preparatory, a confession of the need of more perfect cleansing. He looks upon himself as unworthy to perform the office of a slave to the coming Master. His work was the humble duty of preparation, and the need for even that had passed away, for the Christ was standing among them though they knew it not, and his own final message was about to be delivered— “Behold the Lamb of God.”

"Christ standeth among us"—this is the last message of the Church before the great day of His coming. By His unseen Presence alone can we be prepared to celebrate His first Advent or to welcome the second Advent. All personal effort, all use of the means of grace provided in the Church, are only effectual in so far as we cling to the personal Saviour. P. M. Scott

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