I turned 50 today but it only occurred to me last night while reading Tikhon that there’s something real that we can call Christianity. Don’t get me wrong, I trust Christ and have, year after year, felt my conviction of his goodness and reality increase, but I have doubted, at times, whether there remains in this world, especially the older I’ve gotten, anything like an authentic humanity that has been touched by the words and actions of Jesus.
I have to be honest and admit that this conviction began while reading Isaac of Syria (Ninevah), a seventh century monk, a few years ago. I began to hope that this new humanity might exist. Irenaeus and Athanasius help a lot, too, and so has blessed Dietrich. They and a few others, and the congregation at Holy Redeemer, have taught me to have confidence—in the face of so many false alternatives—that there remains a genuine community that experiences the resurrected presence of Jesus Christ and knows him.
By its experience of Jesus Christ this community believes that God is love and that love made all things good—including humanity; that in all the good creation humanity alone bears the image of God and even in the worst of us this image is indelible.
By its experience of Jesus Christ this community understands that things are no longer as they should be in God’s good world: that God never intended disease, decay, war, or death; that these evils are about the absence of God and not signs of his presence; that human and angelic evil are responsible for darkness, for all that has gone wrong. Our fingerprints can be found on all that is broken.
By its experience of Jesus this community trusts that God has not remained aloof from this crisis in his good world but has entered it, has become one flesh with the humanity he crafted from clay, has lived a faithful human life of suffering and joy for all humanity, and has died a sacrificial death as the highest revelation of God’s humility, slain at the cross by human and demonic evil, in order by divine patience to restore all persons and the whole cosmos by a resurrection that makes all things new.
By its experience of Jesus this community now lives in and for the world as the continuing presence of Christ, repenting for the sins of all, living so that all might see and hear God, dying so that all might live, demonstrating the presence of a kingdom here on God’s good earth that is united with the kingdom of heaven—not some other, better world, not some other, better place, but this world, this place, this cloudy blue marble; not some other, better humanity, but this love-starved, guilty humanity that Jesus has made holy.
By its experience of Jesus this community expects lovingkindness and mercy to triumph over every resistance to love. It expects a good end to history. It hopes, it prays, for the salvation of all. This community is prepared to die with Christ so that all might live and the Eucharist—in which she always and everywhere participates in the self-giving of God and of man in Jesus Christ—is the ritual center of her existence.
By its experience of Jesus this community knows that every human notion of power—of getting ahead, of gaining the upper hand, of outsmarting the competition, of privilege, of wealth, of strength, of dominance, of national or ethnic ego—has been judged empty and meaningless; that the only way to love, peace, and joy is on the path illuminated by the bright lantern of humility; a light that buckles our knees and bows our heads in reverence at the end of our journey, where the poverty-welcoming God lays swaddled against the cold night air in a feed trough in Bethlehem, angels announcing his improbable glory and the good news that God is—that Love is—with us, not against us.