Sunday, October 6, 2013

Christ fulfills all

More and more I say again and again to myself and to others, ‘Just follow Jesus. Do what you see Him doing. He is still doing it, even in today's world, not as a historical figure that you can read about and study, but as living people, men and women called to be saints today, alive not with their own life but with the life of Christ who personally lives in them today, living lives of grace, of peace, of healing, of forgiveness, of reconciliation, yes, following Jesus.

These words by a recent Church Father come from his writing called, The Agony of the Church, and continue the theme that I presented in the post Inclusive. Christ is the New Testament that completes the Old Testaments, not of the Jews only, but of all nations and cultures, and Holy Church, following her Master closely, deals with the peoples as He does, not as Caesar does, loving them, not lording over them, yes, following Jesus.

By His birth [Christ] included and bound together the lowest and the highest, the natural and the supernatural: stable, manger, straw, sheep and shepherds on the one hand; stars, angels, magi and Davidic royal origin on the other.

By His life He included the austerity of the Indian monks, of John the Baptist and the Nazarenes on the one hand; and on the other the Confucian moderate feasting, in the houses of friends, at the marriage feast and on other solemn occasions.

His life-drama was interwoven into the lives of all classes of people: men, women and children, Judaists and heathen, King Herod and the proconsul Pilate, priests and soldiers, merchants and beggars, learned sophists and ignorant fools, the sick and the healthy, the righteous and the sinful, Jews and Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and all others who could be met in Palestine, the very market of races and creeds.

He was by no means a party man like the Pharisees and the doctors of law. He called both the Pharisees and their enemies to follow Him. He went to the temple to pray, but He also prayed alone in the desert. He kept the Sabbath and He broke the Sabbath by healing the sick and doing good on this sacred day. He came not to destroy the Law, but He brought something which was higher than the Law and even included the Law itself, i.e., love and mercy.

He rebuked people who used to pray and say, ‘Lord, Lord!’ And yet He prayed very often Himself. He rebuked those who were fasting, and yet He used to fast Himself. What He really looked for was neither prayer nor fasting, but the spirit in which one prayed or fasted.

He commanded the people to give to Caesar things which were Caesar’s, and to God that which was God’s. He did not criticise this or that form of government, nor did He accentuate Monarchism, Republicanism, or Socialism as one form preferable to another. Under His scheme all forms of government were included as equally good or evil according to what place they reserved for God, what gifts they duly gave to God, and by what spirit they were inspired.

He followed the customs of His nation, and did not break them or evade them purposely. He took food according to the Law, and washed hands according to the Law, and went to the Holy City and took part in worship in the temple (though He was ‘greater than the temple’), according to the Law. It seems that He excluded no form of worship or social life, though He despised the unclean and petty spirit with which the hypocrites filled these forms. And when it came to a dispute He, the Messenger of a new spirit, naturally tried to save rather the pure spirit even without a form than a form filled with an impure spirit. Therefore He felt bound to say, ‘Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man,’ or ‘to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man,’ or ‘thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet,’ etc.

Even so, too, He embraced all nationalities and races. Nothing was for Him unclean that God had created, nothing but unclean spirits. When the Roman centurion asked help from Him, He gave it. And when the people beyond the Israelitish boundaries, from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, cried after Him, He did not listen to the exclusivistic warnings of His disciples, but He distributed even there His divine mercy. He was mindful even of the people of Nineveh. And when He sent His disciples, He sent them to ‘all nations.’

Finally, He included the natural and the supernatural. He talked with spirits. He saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven. He stood amongst Peter, John and James on one side, and Moses and Elias on the other. All the people saw lilies in the field and sparrows upon the roof, but He saw more, He saw how His Father clothed the lilies and how He fed the sparrows. He united the natural and the supernatural in His teaching.

‘Love those who love thee’ was a natural teaching, but He added, ‘and those who hate and persecute thee,’ which was supernatural.

‘Give to them who give to thee’ was a natural teaching, but He added, ‘and to them who do not give to thee,’ which was supernatural.

‘Bless those who bless thee,’ but He added, ‘and those who curse thee,’ which was supernatural.

And He united the natural and supernatural in His death. He suffered and died in agony. He rose from the dead, descended to Hell and ascended to Heaven. For Him there was as little boundary between heaven and earth, between nature and supernature, as between Israel and Canaan, or as between man and man, or form and form.

His wisdom was inclusive from the beginning to the end. What did He ever exclude—save unclean spirits? His disciples were as exclusive as anybody could be, exclusive when judging and acting according to natural wisdom. But when they looked at Him, they were reconciled. He was the Holy Wisdom, in which everyone could find a mansion for himself, every disciple, every nation, every form of worship, everything—but the unclean spirit.

Nikolaj Velimirović, Bishop of Ohrid and Žiča

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