Glory be to the Name of the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
As we draw to the close of the Easter Season, we will take a look at how God initiates and directs His mission. We are called to keep the words of and love not only Jesus, but the Father also and indeed the Holy Spirit as well. As we know also from St. John’s further testimony in His epistle that love and keeping his commandments is synonymous.
We truly love, and God is able to dwell in us, when we don’t allow our heart to give in to wicked delights and pleasures of sin. We remember in our book study that the evil fruits i.e. the passions always look more delightful. They are the fruits that are always appealing and are never satisfying. It is like the Turkish delight that Edmund eats. So, when we say no to pride, anger, envy etc., God is able to dwell in us.
He is also not too above us to come as St. Augustin testifies,
God is not too grand to come, he is not too fussy or shy, he is not too proud – on the contrary he is pleased to come if you do not displease him….To you who [the one] he had earlier called his friend, to you [the one] who obeys his precepts, the keeper of his commandment, the lover of God, the lover of his neighbour, he says, “We shall come to him and make our abode with him.”1
The commandments and the words are of both the Father and the Son. Now, we live after Pentecost and the Holy Spirit has come and explains the commandments and brings them to mind. In this way our faith is made more perfect and sure, for we are illumined with light from above. What Christ taught is now explained in our hearts. This reminds me of the Prophet Jeremiah’s words,
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
The New Covenant is written on our hearts instructing us just as the Holy Spirit is within us teaching us the words of Christ. For we take in the words of Christ i.e. we hear them, but we do not understand them unless the Holy Spirit is within us teaching us those words.
“The whole Trinity indeed both speaks and teaches, but unless each person worked separately as well, the whole would be too much for human infirmity to take in.”2
He not only teaches us but look at the title that is given to Him – “The Advocate”. He is the one who intercedes for us as St. Paul also testifies in his epistle to the Romans.
In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
However, this creates a problem because it is one who is of less importance who takes the function of pleading, but the Holy Spirit is equal to the other members of the Godhead, of the Trinity. What is happening then? St. Gregory the great explains,
The Spirit pleads, rousing those he fills to plead.3
It is in me. It is in you that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence and is causing us to plead for sinners. When we pray, and our hearts are broken for the lost, it is the Holy Spirit who causes this depth of compassion in us.
“Peace I leave with you”. The fathers see this as the inheritance that Christ has given to us. When I was studying, this idea of inheritance kind of leaped out at me. An inheritance is a treasure that is left to you. It is an honour to be received.
Looking back on my own life, I didn’t perceive peace to be a gift to be honoured and treasured. I have been more concerned with being right and letting others know that I am right than trying to be at peace with them. There is a place to stand and die so to speak for truth and convictions, but we must temper it with the peace of Christ. Saint Caesarius of Arles tells us,
Peace…teaches people to love because it does not know how to get angry, or to extol itself, or to become inflated with pride. It is meek and humble to everyone, possessing rest and tranquility within itself. When the peace of Christ is exercised by a Christian, it is brought to perfection by Christ.4
It is not that truth and the principles of the Christian faith don’t matter, but are we explaining these in love and a peaceful manner? Are we seeking reconciliation, or do we just want to be right? Our motives are key.
The Holy Spirit comes to us, instructs us, and dwells in us. In the passage from the Acts of the Apostles we read of an instance where St. Paul was instructed. He did not know where to go, but the Spirit instructed him in a dream to go to Macedonia.
We also see the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing Lydia to salvation. We see that God opened her heart, but she had to give heed to the words spoken. The fathers warn us that we must not make God responsible for those who are not saved. He will open hearts, but we must take heed to listen.
The presence of the Holy Spirit and the peace that Christ left with us is evident in the life of St. Paul here. For there was no pride in him that kept him from dwelling with a lowly manual labourer. Those who are indwelled with the Holy Spirit walk in humility.
We see salvation and victory coming to one person – Lydia, but in the Psalm today we understand that it has come to all nations. This promise of blessing, first came to our Father Abraham in the words, “In your seed all nations shall be blessed.” He was a Chaldean, but his seed became the mediator for all the world. In Him, that is, in Christ, is found the one way for the soul’s liberation, and this liberation is for all peoples.
The earth has yielded its harvest. How is a harvest yielded? It is grown through the death of a seed. Our salvation has been produced to all nations through the death of a grain of wheat that is through the death of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and the fruitful harvest that has come out of His resurrection.
This salvation, we see a picture of in Revelation 21:10. The Holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. The Fathers understand this city to be a picture of the church, the bride of Christ. This is Primasius’ explanation but they all said something similar,
Fittingly he says [that the city comes] down out of heaven from God, for [the church’s] beauty will then be seen more fully, when through the Spirit, by whom her bridegroom is believed to have been conceived and born, she has merited to bear the heavenly image. Therefore, it is this very bride that is the city.5
The passage uses the terms God and the Lamb multiple times. God means the Holy Trinity. This is who we understand to be speaking of when we use the term God. Lamb speaks of God the Son. Why is God the Son singled out, or awkwardly added to the end. St. John could have easily said just God or listed all three persons of the Holy Trinity. The reason is related to a statement that Jesus made in our Gospel reading, “the Father is greater than I”.
In that instance he was talking from His flesh and not from His divinity. Here one of the Fathers explains,
…when it mentions the holy Trinity and the Lamb, the passage indicates that one of the holy Trinity has become incarnate and that with his flesh the Son fills the holy Trinity and even now in heaven is not without is not without his flesh. For figuratively he signified the Son who became flesh through the name of God, who is the Son, while by “Lamb” he indicated the very same Christ incarnated, consubstantial with us and endowed with a rational soul, to which flesh the Word was united hypostatically.6
Our humanity is forever taken up into the godhead. We remember this in various symbols that we use. On the altar cover we have three panels reminding us of the three persons of the Trinity, but on the altar, we have two candles reminding us of the humanity and divinity of Christ.
When we make the sign of the cross, we touch the tip of our thumbs to that of our index and middle fingers. We keep our ring and little finger flat against our palm. The three fingers joined at the tip are symbols of the Trinity, and the two fingers descending to your palm represent the dual nature of Jesus as God and man.
As this Father has said and we see from these symbols, it is important to remember both the Holy Trinity and the two natures of Christ.
There is no temple in the city because in the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, God dwells in us and we in Him. There is no need for light because we are guided by Christ the eternal sun.
The kings of the nations will bring their treasure. This is just like what we saw in Psalms – salvation for all. God has redeemed all nations and made them into one church, one city. Every nation shall dwell together in unity.
In the beginning of chapter 22 we read,
And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
The Holy Trinity is seated upon the throne and the Lamb of God is before it. St. Jerome points out to us that unless the Lamb is before the throne the River of life will not flow out of it giving to us its graces. This tells us that unless we believe in the incarnation of Christ we do not receive those graces.
What is this river? The Fathers tell us these are the waters of baptism that flow from the Throne of God. We confess that we believe in baptism for the remission of sins. This is its source. This is why it has power to cleanse from sins, because it flows from the very throne of God.
Let us purpose to love and heed the words of Christ, the Father and the Holy Spirit. If we are without understanding, we must ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us. We ought also to ask him for the compassion to plead for and intercede for both one another and those who are outside his salvation. Let us be willing instruments like St. Paul who was the instrument so that Lydia could give heed and the Lord could open her heart. Finally let us be bold in proclaiming and confessing both the Holy Trinity and the two natures of Christ. We can do this through words. We can do this through making the sign of the cross. Let us proclaim and believe that Christ is Incarnate that we can receive the graces that flow from the Throne.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
~ Fr. Matthew
1 Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVb (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 147
2 Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVb (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 151
3 Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVb (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007),149
4 Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVb (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007),152
5 Thomas C. Oden and William C. Weinrich Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament XII (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 364
6 Thomas C. Oden and William C. Weinrich Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament XII (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 382