Monthly Archives: January 2015

No One Knows the Father Except the Son

Jesus Christ is the Savior of all people, not only of some races or nationalities.
God spent many centuries preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ. God’s primary revelation was to the Jewish people. God sent them prophets who proclaimed the coming Messiah, the Savior. But God also prepared for the coming of his Son among the pagans. The Fathers say that God sowed seeds of the word, seeds of the truth in pagan religions. However, the primary revelation was to the Jewish people. For this reason when Christians read the Old Testament we see many foreshadowings of Jesus Christ.
In the pagan religions we see two extremes. One was a kind of crude sacramentalism; one slaughtered sheep, cows, birds to the gods and the gods gave something in return. However, the pagan religions often developed a sublime philosophy. One finds this, for example, in ancient Chinese, Greek and Indian philosophers. Sometimes the conception of God was quite abstract, seeing God as a kind of impersonal force. Other philosophies were close to Christian monotheism. But the problem was that no one knew for sure. But this changes with the coming of Jesus Christ.
In today’s Gospel (Matthew 11: 27-30) Jesus Christ says “….no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and one to whom the Son wills to reveal him.” In other words, Jesus tells us who God is, and he tells us that God is love. In other religions there was often the concept that God was merciful or that there is a divine providence overseeing the world.  But this teaching that God is love is revolutionary. But Jesus knows that this is true because as second Web Article January 10, 2015 person of the Holy Trinity Jesus existed from all eternity in loving communion with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. And in His earthly life Jesus experienced God as Abba, his dear father. And so this revelation of God as love, that he cares for each and every one of us, is the good news of the Gospel.

Fr John

Women as True Witnesses

jesus-healing-the-woman-with-a-disabling-spiritOn January 4 the Church gives equal honor to each of the Seventy Apostles, and the icon for the day shows them all together. This grouping of saints is called a “synaxis.” On this day we also commemorate apostles by name. Among these is the Apostle and Evangelist Luke, writer of the third Gospel and of the Book of Acts. In these days just before the Feast of Theophany, when a multitude will witness the Father’s proclamation of His Son’s lordship, the Gospel of Luke is especially interesting to read. This is because Luke records several instances in which women witness to the lordship of Christ, often while those around them doubt or scoff.

In a well-known event, a Pharisee invites Jesus to dinner, and while they are at the table a sinful woman comes and anoints His feet with oil (7: 36-50). She knows Him to be the true Prophet, the One who has compassion and power to forgive her sins. But the Pharisee considers Jesus’ acceptance of her gesture to be proof that He isn’t a real prophet, because a real prophet would have known “who and what kind of woman this is.”

Luke writes about a different kind of witness when he describes Jesus’ visit to the home of Mary and Martha (10:38-42). Martha accepts the usual role of women—to serve guests, and to do all the things that certainly are necessary to maintain a household. Jesus doesn’t rebuke her for this, but He lets Mary witness to a wonderful additional truth: women can also be His disciples, sitting at His feet to take in His teaching. In fact, He calls this “the better part.” It isn’t only open to Mary, of course, but to every person.

While teaching in a synagogue (13: 10-17), Jesus is approached by a woman who has suffered from a crippling spirit for eighteen years. She is a witness to His divine compassion; when He heals her she immediately stands straight and praises God.

The leader of the synagogue completely dismisses her witness, caring only that Jesus has violated the law by curing on the Sabbath day. But Jesus answers that anyone will “work” on the Sabbath day by giving an animal water. Should not much more a “daughter of Abraham” be set free from the bonds of Satan on that day? His loving—and practical—answer makes the crowd express joy at the wonderful things He is doing. Luke also tells us that the women at the tomb (24: 1-12) have no trouble believing the “men in dazzling clothes” they meet there, who remind them of Jesus’ words about His death and resurrection. It is the apostles, the men closest to Jesus, who dismiss the women’s witness as an “idle tale.”

These same apostles, after witnessing the Ascension, will devote themselves to prayer (Acts 1: 8-14). They will be joined by women, including the Theotokos, who have been witnessing all along

This and many other Christian Education resources are available at http://dce.oca.org

The Feast of Theophany (Baptism of the Lord)

(January 6)

We Christians are monotheists, that is, we believe in one God. This is something we share with Jews and Moslems and with some others. However, we also believe that God, while being one in essence, is also three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
God is one but three. This teaching of the Trinity is where we differ from Jews and Moslems.
Although the doctrine of the Trinity was only clearly revealed in the New Testament, when we as Christians read the Old Testament we see hints of the Trinity.
For example in Genesis1:26, God says “Let us make man in our image”.  Notice the plural pronouns. In Genesis 18 three angels appear to Abraham but Abraham addressed them with the singular “you” (This distinction is lost in modern English. Older Bible translations use “thou” here.) In Isaiah 6, when the prophet sees a vision of God in the temple in Jerusalem the angels sing “Holy, Holy, Holy”.  Notice the threefold repetition. There are other examples.
However, if the doctrine of the Trinity is foreshadowed in the Old Testament, we see it more clearly in the New Testament, beginning with the Baptism of Jesus Christ, which we celebrate on January 6th. This event is described in all four Gospels with slight variations. Basically, Jesus Christ goes down in the waters of the Jordan river, the Holy Spirit appears as a dove and the voice of God the Father is heard saying “This is my beloved Son”. This is the first clear mention of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
As we read through the Gospels and the Epistles we see many references to the Trinity but it actually took several centuries for the church to understand how God can be three and one. This doctrine is expressed in the Creed we sing at every Liturgy where we see that God is one in essence or substance but three “persons”.
The doctrine of the Trinity shows us that the Divine Persons have existed in love for one another for all eternity, before the creation of humanity. This shows us that just as God exists in loving relationship, we too, as made in the image and likeness of God, are made for relationships with the persons of the Holy Trinity, the Mother of God and the saints and other human beings. As the poet John Donne says “No man is an island.”

Troparion for Theophany (Tone 1)

Во Иордане крещающуся Тебе, Господи, Троическое явися поклонение: Родителев бо глас свидетельствоваше Тебе, возлюбленнаго Тя Сына именуя, и Дух в виде голубине, извествоваше словесе утверждение. Явлейся, Христе Боже и мир просвещей, слава Тебе.

When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan the worship of the Trinity was made manifest. For the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee, and called Thee His beloved Son. And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the truthfulness of His word. O Christ, our God, who hast revealed Thyself and hast enlightened the world, glory to Thee.