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Archive for March, 2016

Bright Week!

“Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in tombs bestowing life.”-Orthodox Paschal Hymn

 

Introduction: The Eastern Orthodox Churches have a great custom by calling the first week of the Paschal (Easter) Season “Bright Week”.  A great way to begin the 50 Days of Pascha leading to Pentecost, as we look at what our risen Lord taught His Church for her life and mission into the world.   Easter, like Christmas, is not only a day each, but  a season each.

Further, as Lent is time of preparation for seekers to be Baptized, then the Paschal Season is a time for the newly baptized, and the ‘oldly’ baptized as well, to be instructed in the Way of the Lord more fully.  St. Basil the Great wrote it well regarding Baptism in Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection:

“This is what it means to be born again of water and Spirit: the water accomplishes our death, while the Spirit raises us to life. This great sign of baptism is fulfilled in three immersions, with three invocations, so that the image of death might be completely formed, and the newly baptized might have their souls enlightened with divine knowledge. If there is any grace in the water, it does not come from the nature of the water, but from the Spirit’s Presence, since baptism is not a removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a clear conscience (1 Peter 3: 21)  The Lord describes in the Gospel the pattern of life we must be trained to follow after the (baptismal) resurrection: gentleness, endurance, freedom for the defiling love of pleasure, and from covetousness. We must be determined to, acquire in this life all the qualities of the life to come. To define the Gospel as a description of what resurrectional life should be like seems to be correct and appropriate, as far as I am concerned.”  (On the Holy Spirit by St. Basil the Great; emphasis my own)

COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God,by the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ,  You destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light.Grant that we who have been raised with Him may abide in His presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory;through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,one God, now and forever.

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21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

(Jesus) sent (the apostles) forth to preach the Gospel. For that is the summary and content of the Gospel, peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And having named them thus as His messengers, as His ambassadors, the Lord formally inducts them into this office. He breathed on them, thus symbolizing the transmission of, and actually conveying to them, the Spirit who lived in Him, and whom He had the authority to bestow. The power of the Spirit was to be with them in the Word: If you remit the sins of any, they are remitted to them; if you retain those of any, they are retained. Thus they received the power to pronounce forgiveness of sins; thus was the Office of the Keys instituted. The forgiveness of sins which Jesus earned by His suffering and death should be imparted and given to men through the announcement of the Gospel, publicly and privately, to single persons and to large congregations. This is the absolution of sins. That is Christ’s will and commission: His disciples should pronounce forgiveness, should take away sins, and then everyone should know and believe that by such absolution his sins are actually forgiven and taken away. The Gospel is not only a report of the salvation earned by Jesus, but it is the application of this message, the imparting of the forgiveness of sins. Only he that will not accept this forgiveness, this mercy, this salvation, thereby excludes himself from the grace of God. If such a one is told this fact, his sins are thereby retained. This power and authority was not the sole prerogative of the apostles, nor is it now in the hands of any hierarchy, but it accompanies the Gospel, it is contained in the commission of Christ to all His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations. To the believers in general, to the Christian congregation that proclaims the message of the Gospel, the keys are given. The pastors that exercise this authority do so in the name of the congregation.

Comment on the Commentary:  The emphasis above is my own.  In the 1960s one of the clichés used against the Vietnam War was the protesters encouraging to “wage peace”.  This works only in Christ Jesus. Three times in the Gospel Reading for the Second Sunday of Easter our Lord says, “Peace be with you”.  He sends them out, not only with “a report of the salvation earned by Jesus” but with the very means of grace, in repentance and forgiveness giving the fruit of His Cross in the preaching and teaching of the Word. This runs contrary with much Christian religion that does not use the Office of the Keys, of forgiveness to those hungering and thirsting for righteousness. His forgiveness is our peace.  Further, the Lord sends the Church out not to wield the sword of government to kill people, but the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, for our salvation in His forgiveness (cf. Ephesians 4: 17;  Hebrews 4: 12).

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For Holy Pascha

FOR US AND FOR OUR SALVATION HE CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN CHRIST IS RISEN! | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

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The Prayer of the Day

O  Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son Jesus Christ by the message of the angel to the Virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

The Old Testament Reading for the Day: Isaiah 7:10-14   Psalm 45: 7-17   The Epistle Reading:  Hebrews 10: 4-10 The Gospel Reading for the DayLuke 1:26-38

The Annunciation of Our Lord:  The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and announces that God has shown her favor and will use her as the means for the Messiah’s birth. So Mary conceives Jesus when the angel says: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). This same Spirit who hovered over the waters and brought forth creation (Genesis 1:2) will now “hover over” the waters of Mary’s womb to conceive the creation’s Redeemer. As the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary, she conceives Jesus “through her ear” (as Martin Luther says). The one who is conceived is called Holy, the Son of God. This is the moment of the incarnation of our Lord. The date of the Annunciation falls on March 25, because the Ancient Church believed the crucifixion occurred on that date. In antiquity, people linked the day of a person’s conception with the day of his or her death. Thus, in the Annunciation, the Church joined together both the incarnation of Jesus and the atonement He accomplished. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

In exactly nine months from today, March 25th, will be Christmas.  On this day the Church rejoices that the angel Gabriel announced (and so, annunciation) that the Virgin Mary would conceive and bear a Child:  the Son of God.  When Gabriel announced this, Mary responded, Let it be according to your word.  So the Annunciation is the Incarnation. The Word became flesh.  The Feast of the Annunciation is always in Lent.  His birth is our death, our death to sin.  His resurrection is our life, our life in Him. There is more than one annunciation. We will hear the annunciation from the Cross, from the Lord’s mouth:  It is finished.   We will hear again the glad announcement, even more wondrous than the first to Mary:  He is risen! We will yet again the last Annunciation:  He comes again! In the midst of death, there is life (Luther).  

For Us
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COLLECT OF THE DAY: Merciful and everlasting God, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all to bear our sins on the cross. Grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in Him, that we fear not the power of sin, death, and the devil; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS:Isaiah 62:11-63:7 Psalm 70  Romans 5:6-11 St. Luke 22:1-23:56 or St. John 13:16-38

Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory is set in the 1920s Mexico when the Roman Catholic Church has been suppressed.  Priests are not allowed to say Mass.  The main character is an unnamed priest, given to whiskey, who goes about the country saying clandestine Masses.  In the scene quote below he is in a shed and mestizo is crawling in the shack and grabs the priest’s ankles.  He wants the priest to hear his confession about adultery and “boys”, as his confession comes forth between his yellowed teeth, the priest reflects:

“How often the priest had heard the same confession–Man was so limited: he hadn’t even the ingenuity to invent a new vice: the animals knew as much. It was for this world that Christ had died: the more evil you saw and heard about you, the greater the glory lay around the death; it was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or civilization–it needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt.” 

Greene is illustrating the Scripture text appointed for Holy Wednesday from Romans:

6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us

In the prayer of the day, we pray, ” Grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in Him, that we fear not the power of sin, death, and the devil”.    In Advent there is a collect with the petition that “our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found.”  Fix:  eyes on the prize or corrected/ healed.  Which is it?  I suppose the former but the former makes for the latter.  Faith is our eyes fixed upon Him, in the depths, height and breadth of His love stretching out from the Cross to us  and we are fixed.  We come to Him burdened to be released, hungry to be fed, thirsty to be quenched.  Sin, death and the devil dogs us when we are not  steadfast in faith.  Our true condition apart from Him is just as it is written in Romans 5:  weak, sinner, enemy.  His power and glory has been shown upon the Cross and on the third day and today.

He bows His head on the timber-trunk of the cross to kiss us in love. He stretches out His arms in order to embrace us in love. He prays for His crucifiers because He suffered out of love for them. His side is opened up with a spear so that the flame of heartfelt love might break forth from it, “so that we through the wound’s opening may behold the mystery of the heart.” In love He longs for us, and thus He said: I thirst [that is,] for your salvation.”By Your struggle-unto-death and Your bloody sweat, help us dear Lord God.” (Pr. and Prof. Johann Gerhard)

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