What is the only sign that God gives to a corrupt generation? With warning after warning unheeded?
13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to weary men, that ye will weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
From the Ikos on the Holy and Great Friday in the Byzantine Rite we read
THE VIRGIN MOTHER, seeing Her own Lamb led to the slaughter, followed Him with the other women and cried: where are You going, O my Child? Why do You travel along so fast? Is there another wedding in Cana, and are You speeding in order to turn for them the water into wine? Can I accompany You or rather wait for You? Give me a word. O You who are the Word. Pass me not by in silence, O You who did keep me holy, for You are my son and my God.
Imagine for a moment if you will, that your whole life was dependent on what would happen near the end of your life. That some event in your future would define your life from its beginning and in fact define your very existence. Jesus’s mother needed the Crucifixion of the Redeemer, as does all of mankind. But how much more this creature, the mother of Christ, needed the event of cross, not only for her and our salvation, but also for guiding her life on earth to that end. Without the cross there is no redemption, and without the redeemed life of Mary, there is no cross.
Imagine now the anguish of the love of a mother whose very life depends on giving up her beloved. The very love she would need to carry her life to its intended purpose would depend on giving up her beloved near her end. A sort of retroactive grace from an event in her future. If she would not need the redemption of the cross for her own salvation, how much greater the sacrifice she made still would be for mankind? How could she have withstood the prospect of such a destiny if not God had her from the very beginning? Her anxious plea in the Ikos reminds one of her question at the Annunciation: “How shall this be done…?” The answer then would be the same on Holy Friday: “The Holy Spirit will come on you…”
Maybe this is too much for us mortals here on earth to fathom. But how can we avoid trying? Can there be a grace unavailable for us from her? Even graces not available from the God-Son of Man Himself, except with and through her? Such as the motherhood for our redemption. the grace of perseverance, preservation, and an assurance of Christian destiny to our end? A living definition of our final home, available now. Can we love God any more and any more faithfully and endlessly than with her heart?
“In Mary, the fullness of all grace is poured out as it is in Christ, only in a different manner.”
Have you heard of the fire within? The fire within first started outside. It was in the command on the Israelites to sacrifice animals as burnt offerings to the Living God. In reparation for sins. This practice is similar to the innate practices of other cultures especially before Christianity. For example in the pagan Roman empire or, since humans are animals, in the Mayan culture of central America. The sacrifice of animals is ongoing in the religious practices of Islam today.
Have you heard that in trying to fulfill this command, man is compromised by insincerity and an imperfect nature? So that the offerings were never enough to appease the living God. But God foretold the final way that this will be offered, a way that would perfect those that present and consume the offering as well:
Genesis 22:8. Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
Have you thought about the zeal the young Jesus felt when He visited the temple of the sacrifice with His parents? He recognized His eternal home, His eternal function, to replace the offerings forever.
[from nourstat.com‘s rosary series on the 5th joyful mystery. Caption in Arabic: Luke 2: 41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.]
Have you contemplated that so drawn to the fire of the sacrifice, He disappeared into the temple to try to perfect the elders in the temple with His teachings?
[from nourstat.com‘s rosary series on the 5th joyful mystery. Caption in Arabic: Luke 2: 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. ]
But the plan was to internalize and immortalize this fire and action, in both spirit and flesh, and the guidance of His life and death was with His mother. Have you heard that the fire offering has to be in spirit and flesh for consumption by people (Exodus 12:1-11) and so He had to sacrifice His Body and Soul for that consumption?
O You Who graciously gave Your Flesh to me as food, who are a fire consuming the unworthy: consume me not, O my Creator, but rather pass through all the parts of my body, into all my joints, my heart, my soul; burn, O good Lord, the thorns of my transgressions…
From the Byzantine Third Prayer of Thanksgiving after Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy
Given all this can we understand how evil can only grow when the general consumption of this offering is limited or denied? A spiritual connection to the Divine Liturgy is fine but that is what protestants have . With the physical presence of Mercy so denied, can we understand that without this consumption peoples can only resort to animal sacrifices or even worse, the sacrifice of humans? Can we now know why the Virgin of Guadalupe felt so compelled to personally visit the Mayan race to end their human sacrifices?
 The selection of the Books of the Bible, which are used to defend Bible-alone Christian philosophies, was based on the collection of documents used in the Divine Liturgy at the time of the Church Fathers.
This post is not about whether the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart has been sufficiently done as instructed by the Virgin Mother of God in the early 20th Century. I believe the declarations and suggestions of the Latin Church leadership that it has. I could be wrong. I would think that there would be nothing wrong with a repeated or more formalized consecration now. Maybe to be more sure? It can’t hurt.
Instead this post is about a more encompassing historical perspective for the consecration, its meaning for the reign of Christ the King and with perhaps an unexpected conclusion. Asking for the reader’s patience through what could be perceived as a disjointed and even superficial discourse, we will suggest at the end that a solution of our times may be a practical agreed upon footnote from the Council of Nicaea, in the 4th Century.
Certainly we know that the evils of communism began with and were spread by the Soviet Union. Our Lady of Fatima spoke of this danger for the whole world. However there is a meaning that has its roots in ancient times and echoes throughout history. It has all to do with the tug of war between secular man’s power, represented by an expanding government, even to take captive the soul, and God’s Kingdom of Love.
The Request for an Earthly King
A beginning point is when the ancient Israelites complained to God for a worldly kingdom. The passages speak for themselves:
1 Samuel 8: 7 And the Lord told him [Samuel]: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king. …9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”…11 He [Samuel] said, “…17 … and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
The Kingdom of Heaven Established
Now fast forward to after the Resurrection of Christ, the Acts of the Apostles and the early centuries that followed. Christianity was rapidly expanding east and west. A peculiar event however recorded in the Acts of the Apostles gives one pause:
Acts 16: 6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
With repeated emphasis and with outward geographical meaning [look up the locations of those regions], God directly intervenes in shifting the emphasis of the evangelization from east to west, directing Paul’s zeal. Although ultimately a mystery, a logical reason for this is the destined location for Primacy of Peter in Rome, the capital of the Roman empire. Also, within the organizational backdrop of the Roman Empire, a council can convene to create statements of doctrinal orthodoxy for the whole of Christendom, for all the churches in the orbit of the empire. Here we see the benevolence of God who does not put His Kingdom at odds with government. Rather He proposes a marriage with government through conversion of the hearts of peoples who understand His Kingship present among them.
The First Ecumenical Council
The first such ecumenical council occurred in Nicaea in AD 325. The primary focus of this council was the defense against Arianism, which denied the full Divinity and full humanity of Christ. God’s Kingship has been established and in harmony with cultures, nationhood, and sovereignty. This dual nature of Christ, is also directly stated with the title of Mother of God, since God, taking the nature of man, must have a mother. In fact this title would have to be defended a few years later at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD).
The Parable of the Weeds
Our next point has to do with workers of deception that latch on the blessings that God gives man in constructing a just civilization, trying to replace it with a purely worldly governance that dominates rather than frees. Everyone benefits from the presence of Christianity, but there are those, among whom are Christians, who with time forget the grace of God. And there are those outside Christianity that build empires on the backs of the workers of God’s Kingdom. The betrayal of the doctrine of the dual nature of Christ defined at the Council of Nicaea has been presented here in a prior post. Although our Lord may have been referring to a different specific point in time, His parable of the weeds, reminds one of this kind of betrayal:
Matthew 13:24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
Readers can familiarize themselves with history between the time of the First Ecumenical Council with Emperor Constantine, who was at the Council, and the rise and fall of his nephew Emperor Julian the Apostate. Julian represented the return to paganism for the empire as the Arian heresy spread and became the dominant theology amongst the bishops. From the fall of Julian, the fragmentation of the empire began, bloated from corruption, top heavy, heterodox, and mired by foreign entanglements. The fall of the empire is a type of a “time of harvest” from Jesus’ parable. The building of a worldly government always entails moral decay on a personal level, breakdown of families, loss of sovereignty, and foreign wars. This should remind us of our present time.
The Mother of All Heresies and the Mother of All Councils
In denying the Divinity and humanity of Jesus, Arianism opens up the historical figure of Jesus to all sorts of interpretations, such as that of Islam who describes Him as only a human prophet. Heterodox (errant) teachings also explode. This is touched on in our prior post. One can think of the First Council then as where Christ’s Kingship was defined for all of history just as the heresy that it countered was one from which all errors emanated. Future councils can then be thought of addressing corollaries of orthodoxy just as the heresies they fought are variants of Arianism. This is the implicit or stated position of the present day Orthodox Churches not in communion with the Roman Church, who were, nonetheless present at the Council of Nicaea via Apostolic succession. These were the eastern Churches in the orbit of the empire at that time. The future councils that followed then were increasingly concerning the Roman Church, eventually to counter the more specific and western cultural errors of the second millennium, such as those from which emerged with protestantism, moral relativism, modernism, and the like. For the smaller and more regional Orthodox Churches, these councils seem unimportant. The Latin Church, or See of Peter, headed by the Pope, is in this interpretation the spearhead of Christianity. Where the devil concentrates his attacks in history. Without this perspective, we find ourselves arguing over the differences in titles like of the Immaculate Conception and the title All-Pure which pervades the eastern liturgy.
A Timeline Overview of a Slow Schism and Isolation Starting after the Council of Nicaea
Most scholars put the final break between the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches at the formal schism of 1054. Until that time, theological and political differences between Eastern and Western Christianity slowly accrued for centuries. Details of these differences include issues of the procession of the Holy Spirit, using leavened or unleavened bread in the liturgy, the role of other patriarchies. But these are better presented by scholars. Rather, we would like to point out a perspective by stepping back for an overview of this history, from the directing of the Apostle Paul’s zeal westward leading to the Council of Nicaea and to the present time. At Nicaea Christendom is defined for the faithful and for all time to follow. What follows is a slow isolation of the Apostolic Churches, Orthodox and Roman Catholic, while keeping the Sacraments available for those who chose to be faithful to them. At the latter part of the timeline, in the 9th Century, the Byzantine monks Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius translated the Gospel to the Slavonic language setting up the Christianization of the Slavs, including Russia, in the 10th Century. Suddenly, a very large chunk of the East became Christian, reaching the Pacific Ocean, and curiously just before the schism was formalized.
Becoming the last major Apostolic Church before the formal schism and one that did not exist in the orbit of the Roman Empire before its breakup, can we see perhaps why it was in Russia that the evils of communism began as a major political movement in the 20th Century? The western (Roman Catholic) church in the millennium after the schism and leading up to Communism, defended western attacks on the physical Kingship of Christ such as protestantism, moral relativism, modernism, secularism, etc. Being the Holder of the Keys of the Kingdom, the Latin Church was still able to effect vast eastern evangelizations in her fight against these errors and her internal corruptions. The evangelizations of Saint Francis Xavier comes to mind.
But if we are to take the warning of our Lady of Fatima seriously, the widest threat from a secular world government came from the country wherein is the last Apostolic Church before the schism, the Soviet Union. A Church that was not in the orbit of Christendom at the time of Council of Nicaea. We can see now more meaning behind the consecration of Russia.
Interestingly, the formation of the College of Cardinals, the body used to elect the Pope, was approximately coincident with the final Schism and isolation of the Churches, certainly by 1099.
There is much meaning to learn from timelines.
The Isolation of the Churches May Have Run its Course and a Footnote from the Council of Nicaea
Combining this timeline overview and the times we live in, particularly the compromise of the See of Rome with secular and shallow world government movements suggests that the isolation of the Apostolic Churches may have run its course. God exists independent of time however and promises that no trouble can befall His faithful without a way out, a grace for all trouble and temptation we undergo.
1 Corinthians 10:13…fidelis autem Deus qui non patietur vos temptari super id quod potestis sed faciet cum temptatione etiam proventum ut possitis sustinere.
Christ promises that He will return, not during trouble, but AFTER the Gospel is preached to all the earth (Matthew 14:14). So all available graces have to used first. All graces come from Christ’s supreme act of salvation on the cross and these graces became available for all time at Pentecost. The Council of Nicaea defined the true natures of Christ and addressed other matters as the empire’s first ecumenical council after Pentecost. It is the ecumenical council most proximal to Pentecost and is the last such council before the subsequent slow fractioning and isolation of Apostolic Churches.
So was there a grace defined at the Council of Nicaea as contingency for what was to follow? We point out an agreement somewhat obscure and certainly dwarfed by the definition of Christ’s dual nature:
Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop.
While this Canon has been debated over the centuries, it should be clear that it includes the appointment of bishops by each Apostolic jurisdiction (how these patriarchies are defined I would leave for those more qualified than me). That the granularity of the Church is preserved by the patriarchies appointing their own bishops is made explicit by the last sentence. It also states that the patriarchy’s authority is the same as that for the Bishop of Rome. By using here the term Bishop of Rome, the Canon is not stating that the Patriarchies have independence from the See of Peter as the Holder of the Keys of the Kingdom. That is a different jurisdiction, instituted by Christ Himself, and not by the Council.
Recall that it is Christ that appoints the Apostles, not the Apostle Peter. It is Christ who admonishes the seven bishops in Asia Minor. The Vicar of Christ can admonish an eastern bishop but he does not appoint him. A bishop appointed by Rome is no guarantee of orthodoxy, as is so clearly evident in our time. Rome cannot even guarantee her own orthodoxy especially with the present College of Cardinals, let alone the orthodoxy of an eastern bishop. Is the neglect of this canon a source of pride for both sides that amplifies schisms and breeds heresies and their innumerable flavors. Providence has defined this canon at the same time when Christ’s Nature was defined for all times to follow. Could the canon be a faint reminder of Christ’s advice in the parable of the weeds, a remedy for the ubiquity of evil? Preserve the granularity for the final harvest?
“There is, in fact, among the bishops only one Church, only one soul, only one heart… There is, through the institution of Christ, one and only one Church, spread out over the whole world, one and only one episcopacy represented by a multiplicity of bishops united among themselves… The Church forms a single whole, whose bond is the union of bishops” (St. Cyprian of Carthage, 3rd Century).
This heart is the Immaculate Heart or heart of the Theotokos, present at Pentecost.
There is a quote from the story of Saint Joan of Arch who’s martyrdom had everything to with the loss of her county’s sovereignty, a corrupt bishop, AND THE DENIAL OF ACCESS TO THE SACRAMENTS . “Act. And God will act.” So was Russia sufficiently consecrated to the Immaculate heart by the various Popes in the 20th Century? Maybe. Is a return to the norm of Canon 6 from the Council of Nicaea needed? With the present state of affairs, it sure can’t hurt. After all, all sides signed it.
 This is why I believe that we are not at the time of Christ’s second coming. But this is just my opinion.
The Eternal Truth of the Holy Trinity, the true nature of God has been explicitly declared by the Apostolic Churches and Holy Scripture. It has been reinforced by the Churches and is reinforced every time we make the sign of the cross. But when was it first declared?
It was declared in a person first. Her existence will always declare it without a word uttered about it. It will always be declared by her image, also without a word said. Because when the Angel declared the virginal conception of her Son in her, a creature of God the Father became the Mother of God the Son who had to have been conceived in her by God the Holy Spirit. Her image will always declare the Holy Trinity, without a word said.
In the town of Maghdouche overlooking Sidon in southern Lebanon, is where legend says the wife of Potiphar (circa 1500 BC) is buried, seductress of Joseph from the Bible, which does not name her. Jewish, Islamic, and Persian literature have her name Zulaikha. The story in the Bible is that after Joseph’s betrayal and sale into slavery by his kin (Genesis 39), he finds favor in the eyes of Potiphar, the captain of the Egyptian palace guard. In that household, Joseph rejects the advances and seduction of Zulaikha. In the event that led to his imprisonment, Zulaikha grabs the garment of Joseph but he escapes naked running out of the palace. She lies to Potiphar saying that he was the instigator and Joseph is sent to prison. There, Joseph finds new and greater favor and position with the Pharaoh, ultimately becoming a source of salvation and blessings for his kin, the very people who betrayed him.
This story reminds us two recurring themes of God’s grace and mercy:
1. In being wronged and betrayed, we can become a source of grace for people, many more people and much more grace than would have been available if the betrayal and evil had never been done. In receiving God’s grace and mercy we bring along other people too.
2. The continuum of grace always occurs through the fulcrum of chastity.
But this story is only an early chapter, with earlier, later, and other chapters to come.
The town of Magdouche is an ancient promontory and look-out post for Sidon. During Phoenician times (peak 1200-800 BC) the promontory had the shrine to Astarte, the pagan goddess of war and sexuality. The pagan legend has Astarte bearing two sons from her brother, Eros and Lust. Astarte is likely the same pagan goddess of Sidon, Ashtoreth, who captured the heart of Solomon, son of David (1 Kings 11:5).
The shrine was taken over by Christians after the Virgin Theotokos stayed in a cave there while waiting for her Son to return from preaching in Sidon. Jesus’ work in Sidon is referenced in many places in the new Testament (Matthew 11:21-22, Mark 3:8 and 7:31, and Luke 6:17) with even Matthew 15:21 referencing the city as a place of refuge for Jesus.
It took the convincing of St. Helena in the 4th Century by the devoted town folk for the empire to issue an icon of the Theotokos, reportedly painted by St. Luke, to the cave/Byzantine chapel: the Virgin of Mantara (the Waiting) or Virgin of Magdouche.
In the 8th Century, the cave was buried and hidden by locals to escape the detection of the local Moslem governors. Unlike the Caliph Omar who spared Jerusalem, they feared the cave would be destroyed by those leaders. Many of the region then dispersed into the higher mountains or converted to Islam. The Crusaders of the Latin Rite in Sidon of the 12th and 13th Centuries never suspected the chapel’s existence even with their own castle and chapel a stone’s throw from the hidden cave.
The cave’s legend lingered however.
Under the rule of the benevolent Druze Prince Fakhriddin II in the early 17th Century, peace and religious freedom was granted to the region. Byzantine Archbishop Euthymios Michael Saifi of Sidon (1682 – 1723) offered recognition of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Around that time, the grotto was rediscovered when a goat-herder boy went after a goat who had fallen into the cave. The boy, we can call him Indiana Jones Jr., noticed the icon as the goat ran back into his arms. He piled rocks to escape with his beloved goat, alerting the townsfolk of his accidental excavation. The pilgrimages restarted.
So the worship of Astarte was replaced with love and devotion, now restarted, to the chaste and virgin Mother of God, the Living Ark of the Covenant. Her chaste and virgin Son was also wronged and betrayed, becoming a source of grace offered for all people, infinitely more than would have been available if the betrayal and evil had never been done. Lest anyone think that this is not related to the Potiphar story or that God’s hand does not sign scripture, read the evangelist Mark’s stunning account of what happened immediately after Jesus was betrayed in the garden of Gethsemane:
Mark 14:51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
The winter now is past, the rains have gone away. Arise my love, my bride from Lebanon and come. How you are beautiful my love, how you are fair. Among all women as a lily in the thorns.
John 2:1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
Where exactly did this wedding occur? In Cana of course. But where was that? They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but maybe the words of a saint are worthy too.
“Cana, in the neighborhood of the tribe of Archer, near Great Sidon. This was the place where Jesus Christ our God transformed water into wine.”
Saint Eusebius of Caesaria, the first historian of the Church (264-349 A.D.)
Grotto of the Place of Waiting (Al Mantara), Magdouche, where Mary waited for her son to return from Sidon.
John 2:11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which He revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.
The winter now is past, the rains have gone away. Arise my love, my bride from Lebanon and come. How you are beautiful my love, how you are fair. Among all women as a lily in the thorns.
Come, bride of Christ, receive the crown which the Lord has prepared for you for all eternity; for whose love you have shed your blood. And you will enter into the Paradise among the angels. Come, O you my chosen one, and I will set my throne within you: so shall the King have pleasure in your beauty.
Twice in the Gospel of John, Jesus addresses His own mother as “woman.”
John 2: 4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
John 19:26 “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,””
This is the same term of expression He uses for the Samaritan woman who had had five husbands (John 4:21) and the adulteress about to be stoned (John 8:10).
Why the apparent dishonoring of His mother? Particularly in the setting of the culture of the time in the middle east, still present to this day, of honoring motherhood. Jesus is reminding us of the role of His mother as the new Eve, who will produce the fruit of redemption from the new tree of the cross, to counter the disobedience of the first woman who offered the forbidden fruit.
But there is more.
Jesus is also reminding us that the notion of the Creator, God (Himself) would need a mother to do anything is ridiculous if she was not meant to be for us. Our mother. If she was not meant to be the mother of humanity. He submitted Himself to her for us.
Hail then to our Mother, whom the early Fathers called the glory of the new Israel.
1 Yahweh, my heart is not haughty, I do not set my sights too high. I have taken no part in great affairs, in wonders beyond my scope.
2 No, I hold myself in quiet and silence, like a little child in its mother’s arms, like a little child, so I keep myself.
3 Let Israel hope in Yahweh henceforth and for ever.
“Through Mary, the miserable obtain mercy, the graceless find grace, the sinners receive pardon. The weak gain strength, earthlings acquire heavenly things, mortals win life, and pilgrims find their country!”
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fulcrum as follows:
1. The support about which a lever turns
2. One that supplies capability for action
This post expands on a prior, The Evangelization of Celibacy, to expound on what has developed into dogma in the apostolic churches. On celibacy, chastity, and marriage. Even contraception. The word dogma has acquired bad connotations in our current age, causing some people, even clergy, to question dogma and think that it somehow needs to evolve, and keep up with the times. They think that dogma is somehow arbitrary and without any objective truth at its roots. But dogma is developed for our protections and for actualizing the work of God, as a manual or handbook is written for the operation of a tool or device. Some people can expand on their knowledge on how something is designed to work and develop a working knowledge of how to use a tool or device without the use of a manual. But this is generally not a good practice.
Jesus says in John 10: 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works…
More about works in Hebrews 4: 3…And yet His works have been finished since the creation of the world.
These passages remind that God’s purpose will be done. He simply asks for humans to witness to them. The emphasis is for humans, flesh and soul. The exquisite model of this is how God used the Virgin to transfer the throne of David:
Luke 1: 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of his father David, 33 and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.
God then is the force behind the works. The Virgin, flesh and soul, is the fulcrum, or vehicle “about which a lever turns” and the “one that supplies capability for action”.
There are of course other works of the flesh that constitute the fulcrum for God’s eternal Kingdom. The central acts of the Kingdom are the crucifixion and resurrection, but here we discuss our role as sexual beings, men and women with procreative potential.
God’s use of a Virgin as the fulcrum of the Kingdom is an act that captures runaway sexuality. God uses His original design to implement His Kingdom. There is no redesign. The sexual physiology of our bodies is for procreation, a scientific fact. The baptized then are changed to recognize their bodies as manifestations of the Kingdom through a number of ways that include chastity of the single, fidelity of the married, and celibacy for the religious. The chastity and celibacy for a couple using natural family planning combines all of these. Avoiding the morbidity of drugs. Sexual expression has been recaptured by our will, the means to beautify the soul. Our bodies become the fulcrum for the Kingdom.
God is not outdone in generosity. The religious that sacrifices their sexual propensity to procreate, are rewarded with the procreation of members for the Kingdom, becoming the vehicle “about which a lever turns” and the “one that supplies capability for action”. This is the explanation of the urgency in the Apostle Paul’s writing about not recommending marriage over celibacy. He was not a homosexual and did not hate women. Now we can see that Paul’s writings are a sample of how God taught the early Church to bestow the title of Father on a priest.
See also another example of how the Kingdom passes on through the celibate (eunuch): Acts 8:26-40.
So we humans become the fulcrum of the Kingdom if we accept the force at work. Hence we have a working definition of the True Faith. If we do not accept the Faith, God will simply find others about whom the lever may turn and who can supply the capability of action.
“It is for God to grant His grace, your task is to accept that grace and guard it.”
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem.
“Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better that what is admitted to be good.”
Jesus Christ is God and and Man, the staple teaching about God in His Church. This has been true since the birth of Christ, actually since the Annunciation, when Christ was conceived by God the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary. Perfectly God. Perfectly Man. Two natures. One Person. This dual nature (hypostasis) has been expressed in the Oral Apostolic tradition and in iconography, long before the printing press and the more widespread literacy that occurred in the second millennium. In ancient iconography, this is written in the extension of the second and third digit of the right hand of Christ as in the ancient icon of Christ Pantocrator from Mount Sinai monastery:
(The opposing two remaining fingers with the thumb represent the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one Divine Person, but that is not the subject of this essay.)
The dual nature is also written in the asymmetry of the eyes and facial expression. The asymmetric eyes indicate Christ’s (God’s) new (since the Incarnation) will to see with both Heavenly and human eyes.
A Heavenly and earthly perspective. This is for us, as He intercedes for us humans before God the Father. It is also representative of His life when He walked on earth, Perfectly God, and perfectly human. Two planes of existence. (Here are two examples of Christ being perfectly human in humility while being God: John 11:33-35, Matthew 24:35-37.)
Now what this means to us in the Vine of Christ is exactly the same. It is our life on two planes of existence, the human plane and Divine plane, where the Divine is through the Sacraments, the perspective of the eastern churches. How we live in the Divine plane is by living our ordinary human lives while partaking in the Sacraments. (Willful rejection of the Divine plane of existence is remedied through the Sacrament of Confession). We cannot fathom the full significance of our Divine plane of existence at this time (we can barely appreciate the significance of our human existence) but one way we can remind ourselves of this mystery is to think of ourselves as a chamber or temple where God and His angels, patriarchs, faithful, saints and the Queen of saints meet, confer, inspire, and act exactly in our moment in history, without us necessarily knowing of any plan or action, nor necessarily while receiving any inspiration, although He may let us, His vessels, know some things according to His Holy will or even give us a supernatural power to execute His will. Sometimes this occurs in the humiliations and sufferings of our human lives and these states may be when His power is most manifest (2 Corinthians 12:9). Here in the human plane, we work out God’s justice in penance. The Sacraments are the exquisite methods used by God whereby He imparts His Nature to us in doses while implementing His will on earth, even before we are fully converted. Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.
“For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the the hope of the resurrection to eternity.”
Saint Irenaios of Lyon, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 18, 2nd Century
How encouraging it should be to seek the Sacraments in this, God’s plan of salvation. How encouraging it should be to know that Christ’s dual nature becomes manifest in us this way. But how ineffable is our understanding a mystery so great. So let’s look at another icon for inspiration. This time of the Mother of God and from a different era and civilization, also without widespread literacy.
This link exposes the two sides of the Virgin’s face. We can extend this further, noting that the “brighter” or blissful side of the face is on the heavenly side, represented by the mantle of stars and the “sad”, or we can say more human/suffering side, with the tear drop in the eye, is on the side of the earth colored tapestry. The pattern on the earthly tapestry is a direct reminder of the Mayan calendar for the peoples of that culture and represents our human existence at any moment in history. This is the sojourning (or revealing/manifesting?) side with the knee bent forward. (Click on image for detail.)
The Virgin’s forearm lifts the heavenly garment out of the way to expose the earthly tapestry for us on that side of her face. The winged creature (or Saint Juan Diego) reinforces this point by having one hand on the heavenly and the other on the earthly vestment, bringing each forward to parallel the facial expressions. And if you look closely at his face, you can wonder of another creature with human and heavenly perspective.
How ineffable is our understanding a mystery so great, but how full of grace is the Theotokos, assumed into heaven body and soul, to give us insight into the mystery in such a beautiful way.
Holy Virgin in my heart
every day before I start.
And when the daily heartbeats stop,
catch me Virgin when I drop.