That day is called the birthday of the Lord on which the Wisdom of God manifested Himself as a speechless Child and the Word of God wordlessly uttered the sound of a human voice. His divinity, although hidden, was revealed by heavenly witness to the Magi and was announced to the shepherds by angelic voices. With yearly ceremony, therefore, we celebrate this day which saw the fulfillment of the prophecy…(St. Augustine sermon clxxxv)
Tonight, we come to the cradle, the cratch, the manger, and the cave in Bethlehem to worship God’s own Word made flesh beginning with a meditation upon the Incarnation by St. Augustine of Hippo. From the human side of this reality we can hear only silence. First, there is the silent wonder born out of silent humility, and then more silent contemplation that urges us onward to the silent fixation that we shall find in this child’s earthly Mother. Second, there is the wonder and awe borne out of the integrity, decency, and honor of the one who shall become the child’s Foster-Father. Third, there is the silence of the child himself. From the child, the only sounds that emerge are the inarticulate cries of a new-born babe. The sound of this human voice must be heard. But first it is not to be understood. Why should it? God doesn’t force Himself upon anyone. The gift of God in Jesus Christ must make its way into the unruly, antagonistic, unfriendly, and hostile world of men and their false gods. The gift of God’s redemption for us that will be found in this child shall not be received truly and sincerely until it is heard by the ears of the human heart. The child’s message cannot be heard until we cherish the Word that will be heard. So first, in faith, we must welcome God in Christ who comes to us in an unthinkable, unusual, unpredictable, and unlikely way.
Jesus Christ is God’s eternally begotten Wisdom and Truth. St. Augustine tells us that,
Truth is sprung out of the earth: and righteousness hath looked
down from heaven. Truth, eternally existing in the bosom of the
Father, has sprung from the earth so that He might exist also in
the bosom of a mother. Truth, holding the world in place, has
sprung from the earth so that He might be carried in the hands
of a woman. Truth, incorruptibly nourishing the happiness of
the angels, has sprung from the earth in order to be fed by human
milk. Truth, whom the heavens cannot contain, has sprung from
the earth so that He might be placed in a manger. (Idem)
For the truth of God’s Word to be made flesh it must express itself as human from the beginning of life until the end. Truth must be embraced from conception until death. The truth that rules and governs the universe must be welcomed as a precious child. It must be cherished, treasured, loved, and cared for with attentive devotion. We must discover its future potency with hope in every moment of human existence. It longs to be seen and loved in earliest moments of conception when a mother who cares for herself because she lives for her baby joyously anticipates the extreme joy of new life that birth brings. It yearns to be seen and loved in childbirth and nursing. It will insist that it can and must be found in poverty and need, and thus over and against the presence of all earthly comforts. But its presence can be found truly and its love felt keenly only with the bare minimum of earthly distractions and worldly temptations. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. (St. John i. 14)
Jesus Christ is God’s Word, Wisdom, and Truth made flesh. God did not send His Son into the world for His own advantage. He is God. He needs nothing. He sends His Son because He wants us, desires us, yearns for us, and longs for our reconciliation with Himself. God wants to share His own great goodness with us so that we might enjoy it with Him forever. Silently and quietly we must go to the Manger. With all humility and meekness, we must contemplate the manner in which our God comes to us. Selflessly and generously we must bring our hearts and souls to Him in order to see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. (St. Luke ii. 15) St. Augustine rouses us to stir, to awaken, to leap up and to follow the message of the angels:
Arouse yourself, O man; for you God has become man.
Awake thou that sleepest, and rise up from the dead, and Christ
Shall give thee light! For you…God
has become man. If He had not thus been born in time,
you would have been dead for all eternity. Never would
you have been freed from sinful flesh, if He had not taken
upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh. Everlasting misery
would have engulfed you, if He had not taken this merciful
form. You would not have been restored to life, had He not
submitted to your death; you would have fallen, had He not
succored you; you would have perished, had He not come. (Idem)
Imagine if Christ had not been conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. Think about where we would be if Jesus Christ had not been born in time, in poverty, welcomed by His own people with doubt, suspicion, rejection, and hatred. Imagine if He had not suffered and died for us. Think about how we would still be living under the curse of the Law and faced with the certainty of an eternal death. Think about how Heaven would be still the distant dream of prophets who wait and philosophers who wonder. Think about how the Law of Sin and Death would have become harder and colder. Think about how human freedom would not yet have been found to be the wellspring of man’s pursuit of excellence in all arts and sciences.
On Christmas Night, Christ is born in Bethlehem of Judaea. On Christmas Night, Christ enters time and space for just long enough to call us into another kind of death, His Death on Calvary, for just long enough to call us back into the short span of Resurrected life that leads back to God the Father, for just long enough to offer to us pattern for our own short stay and journey through creation.
Let us joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and
redemption. Let us celebrate the festal day on which the great
and timeless One came from the great and timeless day to this
brief span of our day. He has become for us ... righteousness, and
sanctification, and redemption… (Ps. lxxxv 11) (Idem)
Will truth spring out of our earth, the earth of our fleshly selves, for us tonight as righteousness comes down from Heaven once again? Is the Word really going to be born in our hearts and souls? Will the Word be Made Flesh in us tonight? Or are we people of the Law of Sin and Death? Will we keep God on the outside of ourselves, at a safe distance, not too dangerously close so that He might bring us into a death that must precede tonight’s New Birth? If He does come into us, He expects to be born. And if He is to be born, He must be born as Wisdom and Power that issues forth into the world as Love. He cannot born in us if we behold His truth but do not embrace it in our hearts. He cannot be born in us if we have time for the lofty ideals and notions of the Christian religion but no time for intending to please God with all of their lives. Will Christ be born in our hearts and souls tonight? As we speak this night, many Christians will depart this life never having shown that world that Christ is being born again and again in human hearts. Will we be determined to show the world that we Christ is born into the world? Will we show that,
Truth is sprung out of the earth because Christ who said: ‘I am the truth’ was born of a virgin; and righteousness hath looked down from heaven because, by believing in Him who was so born, man has been justified not by his own efforts but by God. Truth is sprung out of the earth' because 'the Word was made flesh/ and 'righteousness hath looked down from heaven' because 'every good and perfect gift is from above.’ (Idem)
We can give out the gift only if our faith in Jesus Christ is alive and well and growing. We can show that God’s Word [has been] made flesh only if and when His Grace is so alive in our hearts that we cannot help but share Him with all others. The Babe of Bethlehem longs to be born in us tonight. The Word of God longs to be made flesh in us so that we go tell it on the Mountain that Jesus Christ is born, so that we not only go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Chrsit is born, but that He is alive and well and working to bring us and our neighbors to salvation! Will we let Jesus Christ so run His course in our lives that His birth is the beginning of our reconciliation with God our Heavenly Father?
Let us sing out tonight, Come into my heart and soul Lord Jesus! He has come so that we might be enlarged and defined solely by His indwelling Spirit. He is God’s Word and can be made flesh only if our hearts and souls are enlarged to receive Him. Will our hearts be enlarged while time remains? Let us ask with the poet,
Aren’t we enlarged
by the scale of what we’re able
to desire? Everything,
the choir insists,
inside these wrappings
burns another, brighter life,
by song: hear how
it cascades, in overlapping,
lapidary waves of praise? Still time.
Still time to change.
Still time to change, still time to be born again, born from above, dying to live by the Saviour’s love, dying to speak with the truth from above, still dying to die so that we might live, still dying to live so that we might give, still dying to give for one more day, still dying to give our Lord Jesus away.
Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness remain in the fruitful field.
(Isaiah xxxii. 16)
You can say what you will about the old Book of Common Prayer, which we use exclusively in this church, but what you cannot say it that it is not honest and forthright about the struggles which any human being finds in his journey towards salvation. Indeed, perhaps its most brilliant contribution to the history of Christianity lies in its full appreciation of the spiritual warfare that accompanies every honest pilgrim’s desire to embrace the Grace of Almighty God and eschew evil. The Church Year is defined and informed by the persistent recognition of the difficulty that lies in the effort to die to oneself and to come alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. And the Advent season is no exception to this rule. It commenced with the spiritual desire to cast away the works of darkness and put upon us the armour of Light now in the time of this mortal life. (Advent I, Collect) And it concludes with: O Lord, raise, up, we pray thee, thy power, and come among us, and with great might succor us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us; thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us…(Advent IV, Collect)
Now, a Prayer Book Advent is, by no means, a mere repetition of a single theme. I hope that our Advent has been preparing us logically for the Christ’s coming at Christmas time. As Father Crouse reminds us, on the First Sunday in Advent we prayed that our souls would be awakened and cleansed to prepare for the coming of Christ. On the Second Sunday we were called to forsake the passing and impermanent world that we might prepare for God’s enduring Word. Last Sunday we were called to witness to the Word in hope, as the impending suffering and death of John Baptist were consecrated to the mission and meaning of Christ’s coming. And today we are called to see and perceive this coming Word of God and rejoice in His coming. (Advent I-IV Summary Sermon, RDC)
But to see and perceive the coming Word…and rejoice in it, we must realize that all of our preparation must end in spiritual death: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord…[for] 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. (St. John i. 23, 27 John’s words are spoken just prior to his literal death at the hands of King Herod. Getting out of the way, receceding, decreasing, and dying are all part of the example John provides for us. In Advent, with John Baptist, our preparation concludes with a call into our own spiritual death, to everyone and everything that stands in the way of the coming Christ’s birth in our souls on Christmas day.
Our spiritual death is something for which ancient Israel had been preparing long before the coming of John Baptist. Along with John, Isaiah the Prophet helps us to see and understand both spiritual death and the new life that God prepares to bring. He proclaims, Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness…(Is. xxxii. 1) And then he goes on to say that, a man shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. (Ibid, 2) When this king comes to reign, His power and might, His love and compassion, and His wisdom and truth shall rule and govern the human heart. The nature of Christ’s reign will be inward and spiritual. The Christ who is coming shall not be perceived by most men, for they will be too busy basking in the light of their own abilities, accomplishments, and achievements. But for those whose faith yearns, longs, and hungers for Christ’s coming – because they have long since begun to decay, deteriorate, and die in their own eyes – a new cosmic rule and governance is about to be seen and understood, heard and comprehended spiritually. The eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly. (Ibid, 3,4) This will mean that what men thought was true, beautiful, and good will be seen now in God’s Light as what could, at best, promote and enhance a kind of life that leads only to death. And for those who cannot see and hear spiritually, because they have not yet died to themselves, their own darkness will become darker, more nefarious, treacherous, malignant, and contrary. In the words of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, The fool will no more be called noble, nor the knave said to be honorable. For the fool speaks folly, and his mind plots iniquity to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the Lord, to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink. (Ibid, 5,6) God’s truth, goodness, and beauty are about to be expressed through the coming of Christ, and will forever relegate man’s good intentions and noble works to the dustbin of a fallen and dead creation. Good works, the Prophet insists, can never save a man because they only ever satisfy earthly and worldly needs, and, so, leave the soul empty and destitute of lasting, spiritual life and salvation. Tremble, ye women that are at ease; be troubled, ye careless ones: strip you, and make you bare, and gird sackcloth upon your loins. Beat upon your breasts, for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine. (Ibid, 11, 12) The Prophet refines his message. True new birth and new life will come from God alone, and then only through the Mother who has died to herself, who will be then full of Grace, who will be highly favored because her singular passion and heartfelt desire is for God’s will to be done through her: Be it unto me, according to thy Word. (St. Luke i. 28…) Christ the coming Word of God can only and ever been conceived and born in the soul which has died to itself in order to come alive to God’s will and way. The coming Christ came alive to John Baptist in hope; the coming Christ came alive to the Blessed Virgin Mary first in faith and then in deed and in truth.
So today we need to ask ourselves if we have indeed been preparing for the coming of Christ by dying to ourselves. John Baptist in another place says that, He must increase and I must decrease. (St. John iii. 30) Of course we can comply with his sentiments only when we come to the point of realizing that, for the most part, we have been engaged in a living death. And living death is just another way of saying that we have lived in, for, and to ourselves. The man who is immersed in a living death is moved and defined by the world, the flesh, and the devil. And he need not be an uncompromised pagan; he might even be a compromised Christian. Such a man is self-consciously moved and possessed by himself. He would be surprised to learn that he is immersed in a living death. Why? Because he has casually and carelessly justified or dismissed the sins of his past life. In other words, he has never measured his every thought, word, and deed in the pure light of Christ’s coming. Unlike Isaiah the Prophet, John Baptist, or the Blessed Virgin Mary, he has never seen that the future in store for those who indulge a living death is neatly summarized in the words of the Prophet: Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briars; yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city: because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be deserted; the forts and towers shall be dens forever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks; until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high. (Ibid, 14, 15) There will be only living death for those who do not die to themselves and come alive to the Lord.
A dying life is precisely what is in needful for Christians who will welcome the birth of the coming Christ once again at Christmas time. Our Prayer Book does not underestimate its importance. Today the Psalmist shows us that we ought always to be preparing for the coming Christ. O be joyful in the LORD, all ye lands: * serve the LORD with gladness, and come before his presence with a song. Be ye sure that the LORD he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; * we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Ps. c. 1,2) he sings today. O go your way into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; * be thankful unto him, and speak good of his Name. For the LORD is gracious, his mercy is everlasting; * and his truth endureth from generation to generation. (Ibid, 3,4) Over and against our living death stands a loving God whose everlasting mercy will perfect a dying life. St. Paul exhorts us to the same posture. Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice. (Phil. iv. 4) The Lord is at hand, he insists, and so we must be careful for nothing. (Phil. iv. 6) We must not be anxious about living in the temporal world, since it stands only to disrupt and frustrate our dying life. But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving [we are to make our] requests be made known unto God…[that] the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil. iv. 6,7) God’s peace and good will is about to come to us in the Nativity of our Saviour when our dying life can be redeemed and perfected by his coming Birth. Let us now prepare for His coming birth. Amen.
Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?
(St. Matthew xi. 2)
We have said that Advent season is all about our preparing for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ at Christmas time. Our preparation is rooted in history and hope. Historically speaking Jesus Christ, the Desire of God, was made flesh some two-thousand years ago in ancient Palestine. The historical Jesus began to summon and carry followers to God’s Kingdom long ago, beginning in time and space through His Incarnation or enfleshment. As the Holy Spirit began to touch and move people through Him, He initiated the pilgrimage of man’s reconciliation to God the Father. And He desires to do the same today. History has been in the process of being swallowed up into eternity ever since God the Father called Abraham out from Ur of the Chaldees. Having overcome all potential obstacles to communion with our Heavenly Father in His Son, the Father continues to send His love down from Heaven into a people whose hope is their ultimate reconciliation to Him. And the Ascended Christ wants to keep making history as He comes into time and space to be made flesh through the indwelling of His Spirit.
We have a future, and our destiny is to be with God the Father. In today’s Gospel we are directed and charged to prepare for that future in a very specific way by John the Baptist. John’s mission is one of preparation for the coming of the active meaning and presence of Jesus Christ, and so his life is a perfect paradigm and pattern for our Advent preparation. That life might be summarized in his own words: He must increase, and I must decrease. (St. John iii. 30) John the Precursor, John the Preparer, is on a mission to lead us into that spiritual state that makes room for the coming of Jesus Christ. Yet, he knows that there can be no room for Him in us until we have been emptied of our sins. Our sin takes up too much space! Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (St. Matthew iii. 2) His voice is one of many calling us to make room in our hearts for Jesus Christ. John lives in the wilderness, and in this wilderness John discovers himself. He sees himself clearly in a place far removed from relations to other people and things. Here he discovers his sins and his need to repent of them. The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice even with joy and singing. (Isaiah 35, 1,2) John Baptist is the Herald who invites us to confess the cold, hard, stark truth about ourselves. As Romano Guardini writes, The herald proclaims his message with authority, and what he says is framed in terms of a command. There is always a sense of urgency in what he announces. Though it may conflict with what is in men’s thoughts and interrupts them in their business, he cares less to conciliate them than secure their attention. Our confrontation with ourselves is essential. Without it, there can be no room in us for Jesus Christ.
Repentance is the acknowledgment of our self-willed alienation from God. Repentance involves the naming and claiming of whatever thoughts, words and deeds crowd out God’s will in our souls. Repentance is an emptying that creates a necessary void within us, a barren wilderness, in and through which the coming Lord can begin to create and make new life. Thus, we must be emptied, voided, and erased of ourselves in order that Jesus may begin to generate His new life, light, and love in our hearts. We must be un-selfed or emptied so that in a purely potential state Christ might begin to redeem the raw materials of our being.
And yet how can we do this? It sounds so much easier than it is. Repentance is difficult. What we are speaking about is not being sorry to others for sins committed against others. What we are talking about is being convicted by the Holy Spirit of our sin against God. Oswald Chambers tells us that, when the Holy Spirit rouses a man’s conscience and brings him into the presence of God, it is not his relationship with other men that bothers him, but his relationship with God –‘against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight.’(Ps. li, 4; My Utmost, p.342) We cannot really become the space that is prepared to welcome the meaning and purpose of Christ’s coming to us until our carefully contrived worlds of respectable goodness come crashing down. (Idem) What we have made and what we protect jealously are in the way. Our good works, our law-abiding and moral habits are in the way. Being satisfied by what we do for others is in the way. Natural goodness and pious habits are not going to save us. If we rely upon a self-conscious satisfaction for what we do, our arrogance and pride are taking up too much space in our hearts. There can be no room from the coming Jesus in our souls. Rather, with John the Baptist, we must say, [There is one] who coming after me is preferred before me, the latchet of whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose…Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world…(John i. 27, 29) He must increase and I must decrease. It is not ‘I’. I am not the Messiah. I am not Elijah. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord. (St. John i. 23) With John the Baptist we must desire our own undoing completely before enough space can be freed up so that Jesus Christ can begin to form and mold His new life in us. With John Baptist we remain in sin if we cease to understand the value of repentance. With him we must examine ourselves and see if we have forgotten how to be truly repentant. (Ibid)
And this means that we must be found faithful to Christ in following the way of reflection and repentance in good times and bad. We find the extreme of bad times in today’s Gospel. John Baptist is in prison awaiting execution and probably has been tortured severely. John is near death and his role as Herald and Forerunner is coming to an end. He is more likely than not confused about what he has been doing to prepare for Messiah’s coming. He sends his disciples to ask Jesus, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? (St. Matthew 11. 3) Jesus’ response is not what natural man might expect. They are sent back with no promise of John’s liberation from prison or of Herod’s demise. Rather He sends them back with news of a reality that he can only participate in vicariously or by way of rejoicing in others’ healing. Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. (Ibid, 4,5) John the Baptist will not saved from impending execution. And even against it all, he must rejoice in what Jesus has come to do for John’s neighbors. It seems cold comfort indeed. But Jesus knows that John is sufficiently emptied of himself to receive the good tidings of great joy that shall be to all people that are already pouring forth from the His heavenly heart into the suffering of John.
Jesus goes on to say: And, blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. (Idem) A closer translation would be whosoever shall not be scandalized by me, as Monsignor Knox suggests. The idea is that, as he says, blessed is the man who shall not be suddenly out of his stride, just when everything seemed to be going all right, by running up against an unforeseen snag or obstacle…or by falling into a trap. In other words, blessed is the man who is faithful come what may, despite all manner of unforeseen drawbacks. (Knox: The Epistles and Gospels, p. 16) Blessed is John Baptist into whose self-denial and self-abnegation Jesus can enter with the spiritual hope that will save all men through all times and in all conditions.
Christ goes on to show that His coming is most severely tested and tried by the condition that John Baptist is called to endure. What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. (Ibid, 7-10) What should we expect if we follow John the Baptist’s call to repentance? Unwavering faith. Utter unworldliness. Suffering. Death. To repent is to empty oneself. It means that every inch of my being must be sacrificed to God in death. Can this Jesus who is the one that should come really intend that I should suffer in this way? Can a loving and compassionate God demand such agony of soul as a condition for His coming? Jesus’ answer is a gentle but firm, merciful but unwavering Yes. Blessed is he who is not scandalized and outraged by the insistence of this severe mercy. Jesus says that those who follow Him must die. They may, like John Baptist, die at the hands of envious and wicked men, but at any rate they must die to anyone or anything that opposes Jesus’ coming love.
Jesus tells us this morning that John’s way is the right way. John invites us into the wilderness of repentance, and then from the world’s prison-house he directs us to Jesus. Both are spaces of stillness. As Romano Guardini puts it:
Stillness is the tranquility of the inner life, the quiet at the depths of its hidden
stream. It is a collected, total presence, a being all there, receptive, alert, ready.
There is nothing inert or oppressive about it. Attentiveness –that is the clue to the
stillness in question. The stillness before Christ.
We have a future, if we embrace John Baptist’s stillness. Only in stillness can we know ourselves and repent, that he may increase, and we may decrease. Only in stillness can the severe mercy of God begin to un-self us and bring us into death. Only then, with John, will we know that God’s coming Word made flesh suffers far more than we can imagine, so that we may be called the children of God, and hope for a future of eternal union with Him. Amen.
Thomas Aquinas, On the Creed, Part Seven
Then, again, if one were willing to believe only those things which one knows with certitude, one could not live in this world. How could one live unless one believed others? How could one know that this man is one’s own father? Therefore, it is necessary that one believe others in matters which one cannot know perfectly for oneself. But no one is so worthy of belief as is God, and hence they who do not believe the words of faith are not wise, but foolish and proud. As the Apostle says: “He is proud, knowing nothing” [1 Tim 6:4].And also: “I know whom I have believed; and I am certain” [2 Tim 1:12].And it is written: “You who fear the Lord, believe Him and your reward shall not be made void” [Sir 2:8].Finally, one can say also that God proves the truth of the things which faith teaches. Thus, if a king sends letters signed with his seal, no one would dare to say that those letters did not represent the will of the king. In like manner, everything that the Saints believed and handed down to us concerning the faith of Christ is signed with the seal of God. This seal consists of those works which no mere creature could accomplish; they are the miracles by which Christ confirmed the sayings of the apostles and of the Saints.
Contrary to the postmodern dogmatic assertion that faith is not part of the usual lives of even non-believers, St. Thomas makes his point. Faith or belief are part and parcel of any human being’s relatively successful non-religious existence. (Of course, all men are religious by reason of making moral choices all the time –but that is for another time.) Faith and belief for St. Thomas are necessary dispositions of intellectual posture without which man could not survive. We believe other people all the time. Jack just stepped out for a few minutes; he’ll return soon. Jill is at the hairdressers but knows that you will be here at 1:00. And so forth. We believe all sorts of things that enable us to continue on or order our lives in a successful fashion. I believe also that Peter is my father. To be sure, if I had to, I could prove it with a DNA test. But belief is as likely to come up with the same answer without bothering with all of that. Believing others is a necessary part of regular and normal human existence. And if we believe others, why shouldn’t we also believe in the One who knows with far more certainty and truth? Belief in God is not irrational and illogical. Rather, it is a rational extension of what is already at work in our belief of other men. It is a rational extension since we are merely reaching beyond others to the One whose knowledge not only informs theirs but makes them believable in the first place. We rest on belief in others because we are made to rest on belief in the cause of belief. God is the cause and reason for belief. Faith seeks understanding and in understanding it comes to certain knowledge of God. Faith seeks to find the source, origin, and cause of all. Faith finds God and comes to know God. Of course, the certainty is not something that can be proved by temporal and created means. It is a believed certainty and this means that it is a gift that is forever being discovered as God rewards relief with the power to overcome sin and infuse righteousness. God proves His own existence through the power that accompanies the faith of the righteous man. Christ is the only righteous man who has ever lived. Christ as Man proves or gives evidence of God’s power, not only in miracles but in His own received ability to conquer sin, death, and Satan on the Cross and to lift human nature into the new life of Resurrection and Ascension. We have faith in this reality because it was witnessed and passed on to us by the Apostles and their successors.
If, however, you would say that no one has witnessed these miracles, I would reply in this manner. It is a fact that the entire world worshipped idols and that the faith of Christ was persecuted, as the histories of the pagans also testify. But now all are turned to Christ—wise men and noble and rich—converted by the words of the poor and simple preachers of Christ. Now, this fact was either miracle or it was not. If it is miraculous, you have what you asked for, a visible fact; if it is not, then there could not be a greater miracle than that the whole world should have been converted without miracles. And we need go no further. We are more certain, therefore, in believing the things of faith than those things which can be seen, because God’s knowledge never deceives us, but the visible sense of man is often in error.
The greatest miracle is the life of Christ. If it is a miracle that so many Christians through the centuries have believed, then we the facts that prove that Christ is the Son of God and our Mediator, Advocate, Redeemer, and Saviour. If it is not a miracle, then it would be miraculous that the whole world was converted without a miracle. So, the power of God in Christ has proved itself in history either way. And this unseen object of our faith provides us with greater certainty than the operation of our senses in relation to things seen and perceived. The senses deceive us. But the object of our faith does not deceive us. It does not deceive us because God is not a deceiver. We believe that it is far more likely that Christ has conquered sin, death, and Satan, that He has risen, is ascended, is glorified and is Pentecostally present because the God we know does not deceive and always assists His people in need according to the logic and rationality of created substances. Created substances come from God and imitate the laws of His Being. Thus, we believe that this same God brings man to His appointed end by the Law of His Love in Jesus Christ. Some say that God did intercede to correct it through Mohamed. But Mohamed is not to be trusted. His "visions" were not verified by eye-witnesses. He was his own verifier and interpreter. Such alone overcomes the fact that many have been and are to this day deceived by him.
Advent II 2017
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth
distress of nations, with perplexity…(St. Luke xxi. 25)
Advent is that season which is all about preparing for Christ’s coming. What is coming to us is what endures forever and never passes away. With eager expectation, we await the one permanent and eternal thing that is all-important and all-defining for the life of any Christian. In the cyclical life of the Church, once again we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas time. Christ Jesus is the permanent Word of God made flesh. He is the eternally-begotten Word of God –that abiding, immutable, and enduring articulation of God that was uttered and spoken into time and space long ago. And the same Word is spoken each year, in a new and fresh way, to the souls of the faithful that they might be born again of a wisdom and love that never pass away. Advent is about the coming of Christ the Word. Today we are called to hear the Word that comes to us, to measure our every desire by it, and to ensure that this Word is indeed our enduring hope.
In the Gospel appointed for today Jesus establishes Himself as the Word spoken and offered to those who will hear Him. He speaks to the Apostles in the present tense of past history, and He speaks to us in the same way today. He speaks though of a future coming, a final coming, when all things shall be measured and summed up in relation to man’s hearing or not hearing of His Word. The Word of God, His rule and governance, will be established finally and definitively in that day when He shall weigh the desire of men’s hearts definitively. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. (St. Luke 21. 27) Jesus who is the disclosed and revealed Word of God made flesh, who spoke to the Apostles long ago, who speaks to us today, will come at the end of all time, to judge the world, to determine whether every man’s words and works are consistent, commensurate, and compatible with His will. In the end times then, all things shall be summed up in relation to the Christ the everlasting Word of God, and all men shall find their everlasting abode in relation to Him.
So, it is in this life that we are blessed with the gift of preparing for God’s Judgment. This is the time of discovering what God intends for us all and habituating or acclimating ourselves to it. In the Gospel, Jesus fully expects that His hearers- the Apostles then and us now, will be in communion with Him already because they have long since begun to subject their desires to His Judgment and Will. Jesus says today that those who reject Him as God’s Word made flesh and articulated Will of the Father can expect only confusion, bewilderment, and unending terror. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. (St. Luke xxi. 25) Heaven will herald in the time of Judgment and the earth will respond in kind with a traumatic and paranormal seismic shift that anticipates heavenly salvation for the good and damnation for the evil.
The unfaithful earthly-minded man will see at last that his perishable riches are now worthless, his worldly comforts surprisingly incommodious, and his natural peace violently torturous. At the same time, the faithful heavenly-minded man will set his eyes and heart upon the coming Glory that is already harvesting and ingathering the fruits of his holiness. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh, Jesus says. (St. Luke 21. 28) Though the creation’s mostly idolatrous inhabitants will be taken by surprise, the faithful friends of Jesus shall be neither blindsided nor astonished. With joy and rapture they shall begin to be swept up in their unfolding destiny because they have long since been judged, corrected, disciplined, and redeemed by the permanent and unchanging Word of Christ’s love. Their spiritual state is illustrated neatly in the Parable of the Fig Tree. Jesus says, Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise, ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. (St. Luke 21: 30, 31) The faithful man shall see the world scorched in ruin, as unbelievers desperately and hopelessly scramble for cover, because they have refused to prepare for the triumphant victory of God’s enduring Word. He shall see that the worship of earthly mammon has led only to sterility and impotence cutting off idolaters from the undeterred triumph of God’s love. He shall discover that the words of this world only ever come and go and always pass away because they have no root in God’s Eternal Word. He shall see that man’s possession by lesser gods can never yield any lasting and enduring joy. He shall know that the Word of the Lord alone endureth forever. And so, in the high summer heat of the Word’s return, the bright and burning truth of God’s Word of love shall become definitively present as what alone judges man’s destiny at the end of all things. With His coming, Jesus says, rejoice and be exceeding glad, for the world will be destroyed, but the dynamically penetrating heat of God’s loving Word shall summon the fruits of His Spirit into final and unbreakable unity with Himself. The Word made flesh will come to establish man’s final redemption either in deliverance to His Kingdom or separation from it.
But how, you might ask, does this Word of God judge us now? How, you ask, do we apply this Word of God to our lives now so that at the Judgment we shall be found so faithful to it so that we shall not be judged unworthy of salvation? Our Collect for today helps us. It exhorts us to a faith that seeks understanding and then generates hope in God’s unchanging Word, that never passes away.
BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Word of God, His communicated Wisdom to us and for us, most fully discerned and perceived in the life of Jesus Christ, is found through a diligent and persistent hearing and reading of Holy Scripture. The same Word must be marked and annotated, learned and understood, and then inwardly and spiritually digested as what alone can enable us to die to sin and come alive to God’s enduring righteousness. We must find in the Word a record of God’s persistent, unalterable, and enduring love for us and our salvation. We must discover that Jesus Christ, God’s Word made Flesh, has, in these last days, become not only the forgiveness of our sins but our resurrection and life, neither of which ever pass away.
The Collect teaches us that if we are to be found faithful, by patience and comfort of God’s Holy Word, we must embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life in Jesus Christ. Hope in eternal life must be the object of our desire. Earthly-minded man hopes for things that perish and puts his faith and trust in earthly relationships that grow old and pass away. Earthly man grows old and when life grows short, his hope grows weary, as Joseph Pieper writes. But spiritual man grows young because he hopes in a life that is ‘not yet’ and shall be as long as eternity. (Faith, Hope, Love, II, 110-111) Spiritual man hopes in a life that is just now starting to be lived in and through God’s Word. Spiritual man hopes in the Word that even now begins to prepare him for perfect everlasting union and communion with God. He has the audacity and courage to hope supernaturally above and beyond this transitory world with its fleeting promises. The theological virtue of hope bestows upon the spiritual man a certain possession of an aspiration that is at once relaxed and disciplined, adaptable and ready with strong-hearted freshness and resilient joy, with a steady perseverance in trust that distinguishes the young and make them so lovable. (Idem) Spiritual man is forever young because he trusts, even recklessly, in a love that makes him forever new. He is forever being made new with ever-growing confidence that what he knows and how he lives can always be bettered by being perfectly possessed and moved by a love that never passes away. Spiritual man is forever young because he does not look backward but forward. His youthfulness lives from a root that penetrates into an area of human nature that the powers of natural hope are unable to reach. This is so because supernatural youthfulness emanates from participation in the life of God, who is closer and more intimate to us than we are to ourselves. (Idem) For spiritual man time is swallowed up into eternity because he hopes forever in the fountain of youth that flows from God’s loving heart into his own! (Faith, Hope, and Love: Chapter II, 110-111)
In this holy season of Advent, we are called to be transformed by the unchanging and enduring Word of God’s love in Jesus Christ that will reward our hope with a love that is forever new and never passes away. So then:
[So] chiefly [we] should lift your gaze
Above the world’s uncertain haze,
And look with calm unwavering eye
On the bright fields beyond the sky,
Ye, who your Lord’s commission bear,
His way of mercy to prepare:
Angels He calls ye: be your strife
To lead on earth an Angel’s life.
Think not of rest; though dreams be sweet,
Start up, and ply your heaven-ward feet.
Is not God’s oath upon your head,
Ne’er to sink back on slothful bed,
Never again your loins untie,
Nor let your torches waste and die,
Till, when the shadows thickest fall,
Ye hear your Master’s midnight call?
(J. Keble: Advent II)
Come, true light. Come, eternal life. Come, hidden mystery. Come, nameless treasure. Come, ineffable reality. Come, inconceivable person. Come, endless bliss. Come, non-setting sun. Come, infallible expectation of all those who must be saved. Come, awakening of those who are asleep.
(Mystical Prayer of St. Simeon)
It is hard to believe, but Advent has arrived once again. Advent means coming and for Christians, it means specifically the coming of Jesus Christ. Today we pray about Christ’s coming two thousand years ago in ancient Israel. Today we pray also about Christ’s coming in the end times to judge both the quick and the dead. Between the two there is Christ’s coming to us now, when we remember that Jesus Christ is always coming to us, constantly challenging and measuring our present lives. In Advent, we are called to prepare for Christ’s coming, His birth, the birth of Emmanuel, God with us and for us. St. Paul tells us this morning that now it is high time to wake out of sleep, and that now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed, (Rom. Xiii. 11). Today Christ is coming to us in Advent to prepare our souls to welcome His coming birth at Christmas time.
So, Christ is coming to prepare us in Advent-tide for His Christmas birth. Like all other births, His birth will be hard and painful to endure. We anticipate it with premature enthusiasm. What comes to birth in the body is difficult enough, but what comes to birth in the soul might be even harder. The dramatic and difficult nature of Christ’s coming birth in Christ’s prophecy of the new age. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (St. Luke xxi. 25-28) Most people tend to forget that Christ’s coming to us will be no easy business. This Gospel awakens our hearts and startles our souls out of an habitual and customary dormancy and sloth that tend to prepare for Christmas like we might make ready for the coming of a new-born babe whom we long to coddle and caress. Christ is coming to us but not as the one whom postmodern Christians treat as an inoffensive and harmless aider and abetter of their heathen ways. Christ is coming to us and if He will be born in our hearts and souls, Advent must involve a penetrating and conscientious examination of our hearts so that they might truly make ready for Him. The whole of our world must be disrupted, rattled, challenged, confronted, and questioned. The fear of the Lord must awaken us out of sinful sleep. The Lord of Glory means business. The Season of Advent calls all men to a change of heart which will be essential to their salvation.
In Advent Season, we shall be reminded that Christ is coming to us so that we might make ready for the four last things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. Our King is coming in order to discover where we are spiritually. His birth will call us into death, a death to everything that competes with His coming to us as the fresh start and beginning of our new and future life with Him. His birth will judge us, that we might awaken out of that sinful sleep that has made us the servants of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Should we awaken and embrace His light and be born again from above, we shall begin to make our way to the Heaven of His Heavenly Kingdom. Should we remain asleep and thus refuse to embrace His light, choosing rather to live in the darkness, then Hell and not Heaven shall be our reward.
In Advent, Christ is coming to help us onto the hard road of spiritual circumspection and repentance. Today we pray: Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life. (Collect, Advent Sunday) To cast away the works of darkness means that we must banish all ungodly vice and the desires that seek them out and establish them in our hearts. To put upon us the armour of light means to enkindle desire and passion for God’s heavenly will and way. The armour of light is the protection and defense that God gives to us in His coming Son. St. Paul writes, Now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed. (Romans xii. 11) Sleeping Christians are never alert and sensitive to the many dimensions of Christ’s coming. We are called to wake up, to smell the spiritual coffee, and to know that Christ’s coming to us involves the hard work of ongoing conversion and sanctification. Hard work means abandoning the spiritual darkness of a contemporary culture and world whose strange ways have saturated our souls with compromise, despair, and the denial of man’s call to excellence. Our urgent prayer should be to eliminate and expunge from our lives whatever does not reveal and manifest our desire for Christ’s purity and holiness, for Christ’s forgiveness and mercy, and for Christ’s wisdom and enlightenment. Our urgent prayer is that we might walk honestly as in the day of Christ’s coming and visitation. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (St. Matthew vi. 34), and thus, again, we pray that we might put on the armour of light.
So, our first wake-up call exhorts us to take time each day to move into a quiet space, that the busy world might be hushed, into an inconspicuous and hidden space, removed from the commotion and commerce of an insane world bent on incessant talk, in order to ask the Lord to give us new desire and fresh longing for His coming light. To be successful, we must separate ourselves from other people, places, and situations. Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law, (Romans xiii. 8) St. Paul insists. Our souls can be opened to God’s coming light in Jesus Christ only when we cease to be busybodies, sowers of discord, gossips, tale-spinners, and tale-bearers. We cannot be healed inwardly and spiritually if we are stirred up and moved by the sins of other people. If we have problems with others, we ought to write down what is bothering us and lift those people up in prayer to the Lord. The Lord is much better able than we to solve our problems and to provide solutions. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (Romans xiii. 9).
In addition, we must be purged and cleansed of our own evil habits. This requires real honesty and candor. Again, it will be helpful for us to keep a spiritual journal about our own temptations to sin. This helps us to externalize our internal struggles. Once we have brought it out into the open, we have something to study and offer back to the Lord for His healing remedy. It seems simple and even childish. This is good. Christ likes simplicity and childlike natures! Let us remember that Christ is coming to us to bear our burdens and heal our wounds. He comes to take on the burden of our sins. If we slip and fall into any kind of sin, let us be swift to return to Christ and repent. Part of Christ’s coming to us is our familiarity and friendship with Him. Thus, on a daily basis, we need to make time for the Lord. We need to turn off the TV, computer, and cell phone and to tune into Jesus Christ. We can prepare for His multidimensional coming by reading Holy Scripture and learning to apply God’s Holy Word to our lives. Sunday morning service isn’t enough. God wants our time and an earnest willingness to take account of our dealings and doings. Our efforts should begin with simple honesty. Let us offer back to the Lord what we have thought, desired, or intended throughout the day. Let us offer back to Him also when and where we have failed to be merciful, charitable, and loving to others. Let us list our disappointments. Let us thank Him also for the spiritual strength and victory that His Grace has afforded to us. Whatever our temptations may be, in Advent we are called to identify and combat whatever threatens our relationship to Christ’s coming light and love. Our healing and purification will not happen instantaneously. Like anything in human life, bad habits take time to abandon and good habits take time to establish. We must practice the art of claiming and confessing our sins with patience that all vice might be killed and all virtue brought to life in us through the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Above all, let us remember that Advent is all about taking the coming Judgment of Jesus Christ seriously now so that we will not regret having ignored it later. What we shall be rewarded with then shall be a summary conclusion of what we have freely and voluntarily chosen and desired here and now. We shall get what we want. If we haven’t wanted God, He will not force Himself upon us. If we have lived in a Godless universe, that world will be rewarded to us forever in Hell. Hell is a Godless universe that stands forever within eyeshot of God’s Kingdom and the joy of His people.
The universe is never Godless in the end. God will not be mocked and His truth shall prevail. Man will feel the God whom He rejected and whose love he has lost…forever.
Dear Friends in Christ, Jesus Christ is coming to us once again in yet another Advent tide. Where are we in relation to Him? Let us awake out of sleep, cast away works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light now in the time of this mortal life, that the illuminating brilliance of Christ our love may come to us:
Come, true light. Come, eternal life. Come, hidden mystery. Come, nameless treasure. Come, ineffable reality. Come, inconceivable person. Come, endless bliss. Come, non-setting sun. Come, infallible expectation of all those who must be saved. Come, awakening of those who are asleep.
In stillness and silence Moses, the Lord’s Prophet, seeks and searches for God in Himself. What or who he searches for is what is not anything that he has experienced or encountered in the universe around him. In the universe are changing, moving, growing, and becoming beings. In himself he finds a changing, moving, becoming, being. Not only can he not step in the same river twice but he is not the same person who stepped in the river. Before he stepped into the river he was changing. While he was stepping in the moving and changing river, he was changing. After he had stepped in the moving and changing river, he was changing and still is never the same. Nothing that is always becoming is ever the same. Moses knows this. And yet on the other side of the equation, he is always changing, moving, growing, and so forth. Moses knows that he is the subject of the change and motion. So now he seeks for the source, origin, and cause of all changing, moving, growing, and becoming being. He seeking the cause of his becoming and seeks the source of his being. Being as changing, moving, growing, and becoming nevertheless exists. It partakes of or participates in being. What is being? Who is being?
Moses believes that God is Pure Being. Pure Being never changes. He is that substance that is complete, full, whole, entire, and absolute. His Being is simple, unadulterated, unconditional, and unlimited. He is I AM. He generates His own Being. God is Being in and through Himself. He depends upon no one and nothing for His being. (D. House) Before all beginnings, before partial and created beings begin to become, God alone exists, God alone is I AM. If he were caused, if there had been a cause of His Being, He would not be God. God is, God was not made. God’s being is God’s substance. God’s substance is God’s nature. God is, God thinks, God wills. These are three attributes that Moses discerns as relations within the Godhead or the Being of God. To say that there was a time when God was not is absurd and irrational. To say that there was a time when God did not think because He did not know how to think or had to learn to think is absurd and irrational. To say that there was a time when God did not will is absurd and irrational. God’s Being is such that He thinks and He wills always. Besides, before God created time, there was no time. So it is equally absurd and irrational to limit God to time since His Being is Eternal. There was a time relates only to history. History describes created time. God is I Am, I Know, I Will. These three relations describe the Eternal Being of God. There never was a time when God was not. I AM is not made or created. I AM is always.
What God thinks and wills is known to man only in and through time. Man has no access to God’s being beyond time other than that He always is Being and Knowing and Willing. Man has access to God in and through the time with which he was created. Thus, what man can know of God comes about through a reflection on the creation. What God has made is the only subject matter available to man for discerning and detecting God’s knowing and willing. Through what He has made, man can come to know something of God. Through what He has made man can come to know God’s attributes. Yet, in addition to coming to know who and what God is through creation, man also comes to see what God is not. Moses comes to see that God is not anything that has a beginning, is becoming, or has an end. What has a beginning, middle, and end exists in and with time. To have a beginning means that there was a time when someone or something was not. God is I AM. God has no beginning. God does not exist with and in and through time. God is I AM.
Moses knows that if he has any being, it is partial being. His being began to be at a certain point in time because God shared His Being with the creature that was beginning to be. To begin to be means that the creature begins to participate in and partake of God’s Being. I AM lends His Being to all that comes to be. For Moses, no creature comes to be unless Pure Being causes or brings it about. So, all creatures are becoming beings. This is to say that all creatures are striving to become some being in particular. God’s Being creates and makes all becoming beings. They are becoming in so far as they are striving to perfect a form of being that God established for them.
Man comes to be as he comes to know. Coming to know is part and parcel of becoming a true human being. Coming into knowledge therefore is in need of the same cause as coming into being. This salient feature of created human nature is ignored by most pseudo-scientists and pseudo-philosophers. They are pseudo because they will not admit of the need for God the First Cause in their acquisition of knowledge. Evidently, they believe that there exists no Being who Knows. But if there is no being who knows, then there is no knowledge for becoming beings who are becoming knowers! Being is participated in by beings who begin to be. Beings who begin to be eventually come to ponder, wonder, study, explore, and investigate because all men by nature desire to know. Their end is to know what can be known and is indeed known by the One Being who makes them. His making them involves His Eternal Knowing. When He makes them He knows what He is doing and what He is making. Man strives to understand what is already made as becoming being. Man strives to know things as God knows them. If God doesn’t exist, they cannot be known. Partial becoming knowing depends upon the Knower and the known. What is waiting to be known can be known only by discovering the knowledge of God the Knower who make, sustains, and thus defines them. So God is not just Being but Knowing. Another way of putting it is that God is Mind.
The author of Genesis is familiar with other ancient accounts of creation. He rejects them as not having solved his problem. His problem is that He wants to come to know the creation. He knows that it must be derivative. Becoming being, moving and changing being, being that is in time, for a time, and only for a time confronts him only with a kind of end and not a beginning. He is in search of beginnings. Of course, so were the other ancient cultures. But here there is a difference. A careful study of Enuma Elish, the ancient Babylonian creation account, might have been known to our author. If so, it is unsatisfactory. It seems to begin with divine division and multiplicity. It begins also with cosmic conflict and warfare. The author of Genesis is in search of a truly transcendent cause. God must be one and not many he thinks. God must be transcendent and not immanent. God must be beyond change, alteration, and becoming. Moses is in search of the Absolute Being and the Absolute Knowing. This is to say that he searches for what is unopposed, unalterable, unchangeable, and not moved or defined by anything or anyone else. He searches for one thing or one being that causes and informs all that is other than itself or himself. He seeks what is, what is I Am. This Being will be beyond all, above all, and responsible for all. Everything that comes to be, into being, must depend upon God. God is omnipotent. The power to begin to be and to begin to know come equally from God. God is omnipotent Being and Knowing and Willing. The willing is the necessary consequence of His free desire to make and create.
Some of you are disturbed by the assertion that the universe is created by the Uncreated God. Everything must have a cause, you assert with Bertrand Russell. Your assertion is faulty. Only what has a beginning must have a cause. What does not begin to be does not need a cause or reason for its being. He who is I Am needs not reason for being since He is Being Itself. Because it does not begin to be, it needs no catalyst from the movement from nonbeing to being. What does not begin to be is God. God by definition does not begin to be because God is Being. Everything else begins to be by entering into Being or by commencing to be when it had not been and thus must have a cause. What begins to be is moved out of non-being and into Being. It can begin to be only by beginning to participate in Being. What comes into Being, comes into what is and not what is not. Something is made or created that has or partakes in Being. What comes into being, once was not, now is, and will not be again. Being is. Becoming being is temporary and thus is imperfect and incomplete. It is partial being. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is a something that participates in Being while it exists. When it ceases to exist, it returns to nothingness. (I speak of course of those beings whose natures do not admit of a surviving faculty or element like the soul in men.) It was not, it is, and it will not be again. What is temporary participates in Being for a time or season. A time or season is a measurement of space that defines the endurance of a particular becoming being. Being for a time is not being forever. Being forever is one thing. Becoming being is temporary and thus is defined by duration. Becoming being and time are creatures. This means that both participate in eternal being but are neither eternal nor perfect. Being and Eternity are of God and thus belong to the Creator. Creatures come into being with time and are defined as being only with and in time.
What is interesting about the author of Genesis is that he is articulating a reality that not only participates in Being but has Meaning. Meaning is the definition or nature of a thing.The partial being of creatures can be known. It is known only in relation to the Mind or Intellect that causes it to be. Pure Being is Pure Mind. Pure Mind makes all things and gives meaning to them. They possess meaning in so far as they can be seen to be in the process of becoming some-thing. To say that they are some-thing means that they participate in Being beyond mere existing. It means that there is more to their reason or logos that defines their respective and particular natures. Or to maintain that they have any meaning at all means that they have natures or essences that define them as one-thing over and against another-thing. What they are –their natures, all partake in Being to a degree or extent. Thus, who or what they are can be related rationally back to God and the Meaning of His Being. Whatever God creates will reflect a degree of participation in Pure Being and Meaning. So, the reason or logos of particular created things is an articulation of the meaning of their being.
But before Moses describes what God makes, he must describe how He does it. Pure Being and Meaning create meaningful beings only by way of a method. Notice that we do not read that God simply makes in a kind of explosive bing-bang way. A big-bang is mere sound, fury, exploding energy, and chaotic motion. God’s Being and Meaning as they are discerned in the creation are articulated to rational creatures in an orderly and disciplined way. Uncivilized brutes cannot abide the gentlemanly manner of God. But uncivilized brutes also are never much interested in the Being and Meaning of God as the necessary cause and reason of all that exists. God does not act with an arbitrary will to power. For Moses, God thinks and communicates His intention through Logos and then establishes His desire through Spirit. God thinks and then speaks: Let there be….God speaks and then creates: and there was. Being, Thinking, and Willing reveal the ordered relations and operations of God’s eternal discipline. That discipline reveals the intention and purpose of the Creator that can be found in the creation. Moses is the inspired prophet who moves from the effects back to the First Cause.
We say that Moses moves from the effects back to the First Cause. By process of negation or apophatic theology he discovers the necessary Being of God. By way of what God cannot be, he finds what God is. From there he describes the movement as it proceeds from cause to effect. He begins with the purely spiritual, moves into the material and physical, and ends with the crowning communion of both in Man. He begins with the angelic and ends with the human.
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons