Thursday, October 13, 2016

Immenent and transcendent

I gaze in rapt attention at the dome with Christ's Icon towering above me set within a circle of the Holy Apostles calling to mind the testimony of our faith as the Choir chants: 
"Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." (Psalm 141:2)

This was one of my first Vespers in the Orthodox church and, though I am not Orthodox, the Icons and the hymn from the Psalm gave a profound sense of presence. It was, as if, the transcendent- God- has met the infinite- humanity- in a Divine symphony of which each of us has our own part. And though I write months after this first vesper I am struck by this concept. For so long, before coming to the Liturgical churches, I had been indoctrinated to view God as immanent and transcendent but primarily in a symbolic, or otherwise emotional, conceptual way; always there but never ready to be fully grasped, experienced.

That is to say; God is near in a bodiless manner that he is a loving father who, as stated in John 14 and 16, lives in and among us through the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. It was in reaching the Liturgical churches- Orthodox, Catholic, Luther, and Anglican- that I saw that it need not be that God is either present in a vague cognitive or emotional sense or He is a two-dimensional image which would obviously be Idolatry. The distinction set up and against the Liturgical, and sacramental theology is one that either God is spiritually in our midst though not in a manner that can be fully grasped without emotional sensations or cognitive acknowledgment. Otherwise, we worship "the created." This is simply and demonstratively not the case rather, Sacred Scripture teaches:

"6But as it is, Christb has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second."  (Hebrews)

These verses remind us that we have a new and better covenant. This new and better covenant connects the believer with God in unfathomable ways, as he quickens us to repent, love God and our neighbor. He gives us a new heart, and we commune with the Trinity in Christ, and with the Church in the Sacrament of the Altar (the Lord's supper). On top of all this God was pleased to use the waters of baptism  as the Sacred Scriptures say:   

"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." Romans 6:3-6
"As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

This passage shows us the Trinity's connection with the Baptismal waters which, by itself holds no power, but it is in the example of Jesus' own baptism that the waters of baptism were made significant (see 1 Peter 3:20-21). So, when we were, or are as the case may be, baptized we are reminded of the Trinity "In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." which should bring our mind first to the great commission and then to Jesus' own Baptism. 
And it is in this unfathomable imminence with God. Through the Liturgy, we are reminded that we are on family in Christ and we praise him with the Angel as stated in the Eucharistic prayer of the Book of Common Prayer (Anglican church):

"Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and  Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who forever  sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:"
In the Beauty of the Liturgy, we encounter God and are reminded that God is the God of the living not the dead and we encounter his all powerful imminence along with the church triumphant and the angels. Each part of the Liturgical worship is filled with Scriptures and balanced reminders of God and our relationship with him. 

Because our God is not the distant God of the Deists rather, we have a faith where the Physical and Heavenly meet as a divine Orchestra taking place within the worship of the Christians. The Christians "rites" exist in such a way that we encounter the Trinity profoundly as we read the word and live out the faith together.
In fact, Jesus told Nicodemus; "If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" We are brought back to this passage because it is a reminder that the Physical points to the Spiritual and the incarnation; which reverberates through the new covenant. This truth manifests in our worship reminding us that because God loves us he does, in fact, work within and among the finite for he is "good and a lover of mankind."


May the peace of Christ be with you.

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