All Saints

All Saints June 9, 2017

Icon of the Nativity. The Word Became Flesh. Pschemp's property [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Word Became Flesh. Pschemp’s property [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/), via Wikimedia Commons
The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we knew him not. He preached the way, the truth, and the life, and we knew him not. The Word was taken captive, placed upon the cross, and was executed as an enemy of the state, as an enemy of the powers that be in the world. We still did not really know him. We knew not what we were doing. The Word let the rage of sin be taken out against him. He died, was buried, and experienced the full range of being in the state of death before his triumphant resurrection from the dead.

By death he conquered death and to those in the graves he granted life. And then he ascended into heavens, completing the journey. He revealed himself and slowly we came to know him, came to know who had been amongst us, and we were enchanted by him and came to love him for who he is.

He who descended all the way to the edge of being has navigated the whole range of being in himself. He who created the heavens came to earth — he had come forth into the world of his creation, and then he returned to where he came, not just to the heavens but to the transcendent kingdom of God which lay beyond time and space. In the process of his descent and ascent, he transformed both the heavens and the earth, allowing the kingdom of God to be found in them, for he became the unique mediator between the eternal God and creation.

Once he ascended, he sent unto the world the Holy Spirit. Creation has been given the gift of the Spirit of Life, the transcendent Lord who sanctifies creation. Those who open themselves to the Spirit, find themselves filled with grace, and from that grace, they become holy. They find the Logos has established in them, through the sending of the Spirit, another power, the other comforter, so that through that other power they could become perfect. In and of themselves, they might have known how weak they were, how far they have diverted from the path which God set up for all to follow; but thanks to the Holy Spirit, they find that other power works in and with them, so that if they empty themselves of all barriers between them and the Holy Spirit, they can cooperate with the Spirit of Truth, receive spiritual gifts, and attain the glory which is in store for those who are saved by the grace of the Word.

The Word vowed to save the world, and he did what he could to save the world. The merits of his vow are able to be dispersed to us thanks to that other Comforter, that other power of the Spirt which he sent to us. We can be enlightened by the Spirit of Truth as we receive within us the uncreated energy of God. The glory of God will shine in and through us once we have emptied ourselves of all the darkness of sin, for only once that sin has been cleared can its proper gleam merge with us and make us one with its brilliance.

All those we have emptied themselves of all sin, of all self-will which follows from sin, find the other power of the Spirit enters them, leads them through the full path of salvation, so upon reaching the end, they themselves among the saints of God. All those who have truly attained heavenly existence in Christ, all those who have opened themselves up in love to the Word of Love, reveal themselves to be the fruits of the Word’s labor and are rightfully remembered and praised by all those who are still following the path of righteousness and truth for their own salvation. In and through them, the power of the Word and Spirit is revealed. In and through them, we see that there is an end to the path of salvation, that its realization is possible. In and through the friends of God, the glory of God is revealed, and so in and through our praise of them we proclaim our awe, not just for them, but for the power of God which worked in and through them for their salvation.

The universe offers You the God-bearing martyrs, / As the first fruits of creation, O Lord and Creator. / Through the Theotokos, and their prayers establish Your Church in peace! (Kontakion All Saints)

All who are glorified in Christ are witnesses of the power and glory of the Word’s vow. He came to the world to save it, and they reveal to all what he offers to them, what salvation actually gives to those who receives it. Those who specifically follow as witnesses to Christ’s love all the way to their own death, those martyrs who aree executed for the sake of Christ, receive a special honor, for they hold up the church in the world and clothe it through their blood:

As with fine porphyry and royal purple, / Your church has been adorned with Your martyrs’ blood shed throughout all the world. / She cries to You, O Christ God: / Send down Your bounties on Your people, / Grant peace to Your habitation, and great mercy to our souls! (Troparion All Saints)

It is not because that they died which is to be remembered; seeking self-glory in death is gory, not glorious; it is because they have divested themselves entirely of themselves, let themselves be crucified with Christ, and died for the sake of love, that their blood can shine forth with the other power in them, allowing divine perfection to manifest itself through them. But this dying to the self is possible for all. One does not have to die a martyr’s death in order to attain it.  We are all called to die to the self, to let the other power of love shine through us as we die to our self. Only then can we truly experience our resurrection as glorious persons in Christ. All who let themselves be crucified by such self-denial find themselves being filled with that other power of the Spirit. They find themselves filled with the uncreated power of God.  In this manner, by dying to the self, they serve as true witnesses of God’s glory. They leave nothing of their self in themselves to hinder the revelation of God’s glory within themselves.  They have been taken up into the glory of the kingdom of God and continue to show us all what we too should seek. After they have died on earth, they continue to live in Christ; if we open our spiritual eyes, emptying them of the stye of sin which clouds our vision, we shall see the radiant cloud of God’s glory around us, with them in that cloud:

All Saints by Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
All Saints by Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12: 1-2 RSV).

All who truly acknowledge the Lord can receive the onrush of his power over them. Acknowledging him, they will find that he acknowledges them to the Father:  “So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven;  but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven”  (Matt. 10:32-33 RSV). Tus is not by mere words, but by deeds, by deeds of love. Through self-denial the other power can enter us, and we find ourselves through it doing his will and truly acknowledging him by our lives. We must deny our ordinary attachments to the world, all that will hold us back, so that we can then let God’s power come to us, transforming our whole experience in the world as a result. “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;  and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37-8 RSV). It is not that we are to deny our parents, indeed, the law affirms we are to honor them, but we must understand this in the relative sense that all earthly cares are to be discerned. Only when we see all things in the proper holistic order of the Word, thanks to the infusion of power in the Spirit, shall we truly be able to honor our families with open hearts filled with love.

On this Sunday of All Saints, the fruits of Christ’s accomplished vow have been revealed.[1] We are shown the friends of God. We are shown that salvation not only is possible, but it has been attained by many who have come to Christ, opened themselves to him, and let the other power flow into them and lead them to paradise.  The world might not have wanted them. The world might have persecuted them. But through the might of the Holy Spirit, by allowing the other, transcendent power of God shine forth in them, they reveal that they, and not the world, is truly victorious.


 

[1] In the Byzantine Calendar, All Saints is the Sunday after Pentecost.

 

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