Who is this Child?
In keeping the feast of the Meeting of the Lord this past week we were, once again, treated to the beautiful and spiritual riches of the Church’s hymnography. More than simply thoughtful reflections on the feast, the hymns of the Menaion prove, again and again, to be profound spiritual interpretations of Scripture, dogma, and the experience of the saints in encountering Christ, the Lord of Glory. Here are two examples from the feast of the Meeting of the Lord:
One of the things that quickly becomes apparent as we hear this is how poorly this interpretation fits into non-Orthodox approaches to Christ in the Old Testament. Typically, western Christian interpretation views Old Testament theophanies, such as Moses encounter with God on Mount Sinai or in Isaiah’s vision found in Isaiah chapter 6, as experiences of God the Father. Meanwhile, it sees Christ prefigured or prophesied in events, prophecies, or types.
But while it is certainly true that Christ is prefigured and prophesied in the Old Testament, the Orthodox understanding of the theophanies sees these as manifestations or appearances of the Son prior to His incarnation. Hence the hymns cited above: “On this day Symeon receiveth into his arms the Lord of Glory, Whom Moses of old beheld in darkness….”; “He that rideth on the Cherubim and is hymned by the Seraphim, hath today been brought into the divine Temple….”
This understanding, we must point out, is not simply different from the non-Orthodox interpretation, it is the older and more biblical of the two. To cite but a couple of examples:
We could add to these two examples many others, including numerous references from the fathers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, all to the same effect: that the Father is unseen and is only revealed - in the Old and New Testaments and always - in Christ the Son. And it is this understanding - that Jesus Christ is the one and the same Son who is seen in the theophanies of Sinai, in Isaiah’s vision, on the mount of Transfiguration, and in every true vision of God in glory - that forms the basis for the Church’s hymns.
This tradition comes to its highest hymnographic expression, we will not be surprised to learn, in the hymns of Holy Week and Pascha. For there, before the Mystery of the suffering and crucifixion and death of the Man of Sorrows, we are led to ask, “Who is this Man?” The answer, as wondrous as it is unfathomable, is that He is the Lord of Glory.
With love in Christ, Fr John
“Give me a word!”
Whoever says that it is impossible to be saved with a wife and children is a deceiver. Abraham had a wife and children and three hundred and eighteen servants, and also much gold and silver, and he was called the friend of God! Many servants of the Church have been saved, and many lovers of the desert; many aristocrats, and many soldiers; many craftsmen, and many farm laborers. Be devout towards God and loving towards men, and you will be saved.
If you say in your heart, "Even though I am only a piece of dirt, still the Lord cares for me. Let the will of God be accomplished in me" you rely upon the Lord with the firm intention to submit without complaint to the will of God, whatever it might be--the clouds will part before you, the sun will emerge and shine upon you and warm you and you will know the true joy of the Lord.
+St Anatoly of Optina
We find ourselves on the sea of life – sometimes it’s a storm, other times it’s a mill-pond. God’s Grace doesn’t desert us. If things were otherwise, we’d never realize how Grace sustains us.
~Elder Amphilochios of Patmos