FAITH OF OUR FATHERS

EASTER A SECOND CHRISTMAS

Bishop Lancelot Andrewes speaks of Christmas, needing, "... the still greater mystery of death and resurrection, where we see the divine-human interchange in a new and still more striking perspective..."

In a new birth from the dead, Easter is a second Christmas. Christmas unites Christ with humanity, not in its sin but in its infirmities, mortality and death, and in a brotherhood that death dissolves. Easter heralds his second birth from the womb of the grave and gives birth to a new brotherhood, as the first begotten from the dead becomes the first begotten of many brethren.

Christmas makes him ours from his mother's side, Easter makes us his by his Father's side, so that the chief end of his being with us is to make us sons and daughters of God. The divinity that took human flesh in the womb of the Virgin he places in the font of Baptism, to make us one with God, in the grave and womb of the Church, where we die with Christ in order to be reborn as new creatures.

Andrewes continues, "...his being conceived and born the Son of Man doth conceive and bring forth our being born, our being sons of God, his participation of our human, our participation of his divine nature". He took our human nature that we might share his divine nature.

A Pentecost sermon speaks of the mystery of his incarnation and the mystery of our inspiration as "great mysteries of godliness". In both, God is revealed in the flesh. "In the former by the union of his Son; in the latter by the communion of his blessed spirit ... without either of them we are not complete, we have not our accomplishment, but by both of them we have, and that fully..."

In these "great mysteries of godliness", God is revealed in the flesh, first by the union of Christ with our humanity, which makes it possible for our union with his divinity through his Holy Spirit, fulfilling what the Old Testament promised, that he should partake of our human nature, and the New Testament promise that we should partake of his divine nature.

Andrewes, and Irenaeus the second century bishop of Lyons, agree that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the two hands of

God through whom he touches us. Christ and the Holy Spirit are always together with the Father, complementing each other and reciprocating with each other to touch our lives. The Fathers claimed that the Word of God became Son of Man that we might become God, which Athanasius summarizes as "God became Man that we might become gods", and Andrewes agrees.

This is not Pantheism because it is not a confusion with divinity but a participation in it in which we remain distinct as creatures. God became man so that we might participate in the divine life Christ lives with the Father in the Holy Spir enabling us to enter into communion wi# the common nature of the Three Persons as it manifests itself from the Father by the Son in the Holy Spirit.

By the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, comes to dwell in man, and man comes, in the Spirit by the Son, to the Father. As Jesus said, if we love him and keep his commandments, he and the Father would come and make their home in us transfiguring us into Christ-likeness by participation in the divine nature that is a rebirth into a new dimension not previously known.

The Church and the Sacraments make possible this participation in God's own life, by which as Hooker wrote, " ... the medicine that doth cure the world - God in Christ - is distributed to the world." Christ's presence in the Sacrament transforms God's causative presence in t world into his saving presence in t Church. " I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades..."

In Holy Communion the two hands of God touch us, in the sacramental Christ who is nothing less than the risen Christ, a presence as real as the historical Christ.

On this razor edge between time and eternity the fulfilment of history stands before us in the resurrection life that Christ calls the whole world to share.

Arthur Middleton, Rector of Boldon in the diocese of Durham

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