Orthodox America


Lord Jesus Christ


LORD

On Mount Sinai, at the burning bush, the Lord revealed Himself to Moses as the Saviour of Israel. He did not give Moses a lecture on the divine nature: He ordered him to pull the Israelites out of Egypt and bring them back to that same mountain. From then on, Israel has known the Lord as its Saviour because it had experienced that salvation.

Fifty days after Passover, the Lord brought them all to Sinai to give them the Law: this is commemorated in the Jewish Feast of Pentecost. The Law changed the descendants of Jacob from a group of immigrant settlers and slaves into a people. To this day, the people of Israel know the Lord as Saviour, and themselves as the people who are bound to the Lord by His commandments.

This also concerns us Christians: whenever we use the name "The Lord" for God, we refer to the first of the Ten Commandments: "I am the Lord thy God, Who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." Any thought, any reflection on God, must concentrate on these two aspects of the relationship: He is the Saviour, we keep the commandments.

Why did God have to reveal Himself in this way? Because Israel had no way of knowing the Lord unless He pulled them out of Egypt. At the last moment, before they were irretrievably assimilated into the pagan culture of Egypt, God pulled them out. And this remains the same not only for the Jews, but also for us Christians today. At the last minute, before we become assimilated by the pagan culture which surrounds us, the Lord has to pull us out, and make us into a people who no longer conform to the standards and the way of life of this society. He has to make us into a people shaped by His will. There is a simple alternative for all human beings: either we will be shaped by God's will, or we will be pagans.

JESUS

The name Jesus means "Salvation." When the Son of God became a human being, He completed what had been revealed on Mount Sinai. The same Lord, the same Saviour, came among us and dealt in a definitive way with sin and death. To such an extent that not only we, Christians, but the Jews themselves acknowledge that something happened to the Torah two thousand years ago" when the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed, the part of the Law which deals with the Levitical priesthood and the animal sacrifices in the Jerusalem Temple ceased to be relevant, except as imagery in the Bible to make us understand the ways of the Lord. Events clearly substantiated the claims of Saint Stephen during his trial before the Sanhedrin. Many Jews have acknowledged that the Lord had allowed the role of the Levitical priesthood to lapse "de facto" since the destruction of the Temple. Why should a substantial part of the Torah-the priesthood-turn out to have been a mere prefiguration of another, and higher, priesthood?

The reason is to be found in St. Paul's letter to the Hebrews: through His sacrifice on the Cross, Jesus entered through the veil into the Holy of Holies; He became our high priest after the order of Melchizedek. The salvation He brings is explained by the third part of His Name: Christ.

CHRIST

The Messiah is David's successor who has come to bring all nations to obey the Lord, the God of Israel. From the moment Jesus came into this world, the days of the false gods were numbered. Once the Messiah has come, there is no longer room in the world for the rule, and side by side, of the God of Israel and the demonic forces of paganism. The latter will collapse by the power of the grace of Jesus, by the victory of His Cross, Resurrection and outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

The collapse of pagan religions does not rely on the use of violence and persecution; Jesus does not win through inquisitions. The Righteous One does not use the weapons of the evil one. Neither does He tolerate relativism: there is no prayer we can share with the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Shintoist, because one cannot mix the worship of the Lord with the cult of their deities. Because of their Covenant with the Lord, both Jews and Christians have the duty to stay away from the "interfaith" syncretism which is becoming part of our culture.

LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY ON ME, A SINNER.

This simple but radical faith, this relationship with the Incarnate Lord, challenges us with personal questions:

1. What is my personal Egypt which I have to leave behind? Before I can receive the Lord's life-giving commandments, are there involvements from which I must break free? The most insidious ones are cultural ones: the values of a non-Christian society around us.

2. Egypt reveals itself for what it is once we have heard the Law of Sinai. As St. Paul pointed out, before the Law taught us, we did not discern sin, nor did we know what the requirements of holiness were. A Christian community which neither knows its Bible nor takes its distances from pagan culture cannot be truly Christian, let alone evan-gelize.

3. Jesus, the Risen Lord, empowers me by His Holy Spirit. If the power of the Holy Spirit is not obviously at work in my life, it is time I prayed in my heart: "Lord, Thou strengthenest me with Thy Body and Blood and Thy Holy Spirit in the Divine Liturgy. Grant me to come worthily to the communion of Thy pure Body and precious Blood and release the power of Thy Holy Spirit in my life."

(Reprinted, with minor editing, from the Newsletter of the Orthodox Community of St. John of Kronstadt, Bath, England; March 1991)

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