Eight Encouragements I Wish Had Been Preached at My Ordination by Richard Deibert

2 Timothy 1.1–13

John 1.118

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Kimber-Lee Adams and family, Peace Presbyterian Church, First Presbyterian Church, Bloomington, Presbyteries of Peace River and of Ohio Valley, “This is the Day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”[1]

 

We have gathered on this Lord’s Day for our customary liturgy of Word and Sacrament.  But this Lord’s Day is all the richer because we will celebrate the ordination of Kim to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament – a rare honor for a local congregation on a Sunday morning.[2]

We will ask the Holy Spirit to descend upon Kim and anoint her with power to preach and celebrate the sacramental Love of Jesus Christ, our Lord and God.  From this day forward, Kim, you will be set apart by the Gift of the Holy Trinity for this priestly vocation.  This is no small moment.

 

 

 

Hear the Word of the Lord:

 

2 Timothy 1.1–13

 

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 I am grateful to God – whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did – when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. 6 For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7 for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. 8 Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, 12 and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the One in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that He is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to Him. 13 Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

 

John 1.1–8 (excerpts)

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being.  What has come into being 4 in Him was life, and the life was the Light of all people. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it … 9 The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world … 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth … 16 From His Fullness we have all received, Grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God.  It is God the only-begotten Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made God the Father known.

 

                                                            One:    The Word of the Lord.

                                                            All:       Thanks be to God!

 

This year marked the 25th anniversary of Elizabeth’s and my ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament: May 20, 1990, in the Nursing School Auditorium at Auburn University of Montgomery, Alabama, in the presence of another new church development, which would become “Immanuel Presbyterian Church” one year later.[3]  The change in the Presbyterian Church USA that we have witnessed in just 25 years is staggering.  The church culture into which we were ordained 25 years ago was a very different church culture than that into which we are ordaining you Kim.  I am worried.  And I am excited.[4]

 

I am worried that Protestantism recklessly continues to spin away from any coherent center.[5]  And I am excited that the Holy Spirit appears to be using this loss of coherence to bring about a convergence of the three divided streams of historic Christianity: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant.

 

So what I feel called to do today, as I look back over 25 years of our ministry and look forward over 25 years of your ministry, is to share with you eight encouragements I wish had been preached at our ordination 25 years ago.  Eight encouragements from a struggling Protestant friend.[6]

 

Encouragement Number 1.  I wish someone had encouraged us to guard the Eucharist as the center of the Church.

 

Call it what you will the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, the Divine Liturgy, the Mass, Communion but what happens at this Table every Sunday is the center, the heart, the purpose, and the first-mission of the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Christian Church.

 

Our own Presbyterian and Reformed tradition leaves no doubt that the Word and Sacrament belong together in weekly Christian worship. Let me just read from our own PCUSA Book of Common Worship:

 

From New Testament times the celebration of the Eucharist on each Lord’s Day has been the norm of Christian worship. The Eucharist was given by Christ himself.  Before church governments were devised, before creeds were formalized, even before the first word of the New Testament was written, the Lord's Supper was firmly fixed at the heart of Christian faith and life.[7]

                                                                                        

For 25 years, Elizabeth and I have remained committed to the unity of Word and Sacrament.  Only recently, however, have we discovered the centrality of the Sacrament.  The unique way in which our Lord Jesus Christ “becomes flesh and lives among us” at this Table, allowing us to “behold His Glory,” to taste of “His Fullness,” and to “receive Grace upon grace,” is the irreplaceable coherent Center of Christian faith.

 

When we dare to “take and eat” the Word “through Whom all things have come into being,” preaching can no longer stay in our heads; in the Eucharist, preaching literally moves into our bodies, transfiguring our very selves into “sacraments” of mercy “for the life of the world.”[8]

 

The centrality of the Eucharist.

 

Encouragement Number 2.  I wish someone had encouraged us to cherish the Communion of Saints.

 

The Communion of Saints is our real nuclear family – brothers and sisters who have given (and are giving) their lives for the glory of Jesus Christ.  These Saints are more intimate with us than our own flesh and blood.  They know us.  They care for us.  They pray for us without ceasing.  They are all present here with us around this Table, unbounded by space or matter or time, unlimited by sin and death.[9]

 

Kim, I pray that you will develop a relationship with the Saints.  Learn about them as your first family.  Collect their stories.  Treasure their images.  Kiss them as you kiss your own.  Marvel over their self-denial of earthly comforts.  Adore their example of holiness.  Share concerns with them.  Pray for them.  Ask them to intercede for you before the Face of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Listen for their words.  Let them know of your yearning for our bodily reunion in the resurrection.

 

The Communion of Saints.

 

Encouragement Number 3.  I wish someone had encouraged us to recover the beauty of the Mother of God, the Holy Virgin Mary. 

 

Now let us throw off all blindness to the obvious!  There would be no Incarnation – no salvation from sin and death, no rescue of creation – had this teenage girl not freely spoken these words, “Here I am … let it be with me according to Your Word.”[10]

 

Because she willingly spoke this simple surrender, the Church calls Mary “the model Christian disciple” and “the First Evangelist.”[11]  Mary reveals who we are and likewise calls us to carry and bear and hold forth the Son of God to the world.  At the Third Ecumenical Council in 431 in Ephesus, the Church taught us that it is right and important to use the title “Theotokos” for Mary – “God-bearer,” the “one who gives birth to God.”  The Church understands that the way we treat Mary is intimately related to the way we treat the Person of her Son.

 

Because the Church takes the human body of the Son of God with absolute seriousness, the Church sings of Mary’s physicality without reservation, calling her “the Womb of Divine Incarnation,” and proclaiming to her in song:

 

            Within your womb, you carried the One Who carries all things!

            You fed with milk the One Who feeds the whole world!

            You carried in your arms the Creator of heaven and earth,

                        Who made your body into a throne,

                        and your womb more spacious than the heavens![12]

 

I dare to encourage you, Kim, to memorize the “Hail Mary” of the Western Church and the “It is Truly Right” of the Eastern Church.

 

            Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you!

            Blessed are you among women,

                        and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!

            Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,

                        now and at the hour of our death.

 

            It is truly right to call you blessed, O Theotokos,

                        the ever-blessed and all-immaculate and Mother of our God.

            More honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare

                        more glorious than the seraphim,

            You who without corruption gave birth to God the Word

                        – truly Theotokos –

                                    we magnify you!

 

The beauty of the Mother of God.

 

Encouragement Number 4.  I wish someone had encouraged us to treasure the first 1,000 years of Christian history, liturgy, and theology, before the Church split into West and East.[13]

God began shining in the hearts of the Apostles with the Face of Jesus Christ on Easter morning, not in the 15th century.[14]  Through the Holy Spirit, the Apostles “handed down” their Living Faith to disciples; and those disciples handed down to us what was handed to them, in unbroken succession.  The Apostles’ special friendship with Jesus is what we call “Holy Tradition” and it has been faithfully preserved by the worshiping Church.[15]

 

Please read the Holy Fathers and Mothers of the first 1,000 years of Christian history.  Please learn about the “Seven Ecumenical Councils” from 325 to 787, when the content of the Gospel – the Apostolic faith – was defined by the unified Church.[16]

 

Learn how the Church defined the Holy Trinity, the Divinity of the Holy Spirit, the two natures and two wills of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Learn why the Church said it was right to venerate Mary as the “Mother of God.”  Study the Church’s passionate defense of Jesus Christ’s real human body.  Discover why the Church said that because the Son of God became incarnate in a real body, it is now right and healthy and sanctifying to make images of the divine – and of those saints who are becoming divine – and to kiss and venerate them as holy friends and living companions. [17]

 

The treasury of Living Tradition from the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.”[18]

Encouragement Number 5.  I wish someone had encouraged us to confess the Nicene Creed as the unique and trustworthy “Symbol” of Christian faith.[19]

 

The Nicene Creed is the only confession shared by all Christians.  Here we have the Church’s first corporate act of translating the experience of Jesus Christ in Scripture and worship into a measureable symbol of Christian truth – well before there was a canonical New Testament![20]

 

In the Nicene Creed we have an accurate Christian painting of God.  Or better, we have a gorgeous Christian hymn: singing of the Perfect Communion of God’s Three Persons; singing of the Son of God’s loving gift of Self for us and for our salvation; singing of the Holy Spirit’s organic indwelling of creation and of our bodies as the Giver of Life; singing of our certain hope for eternal life in a new earth totally liberated from death.

 

The trustworthy symbol of the Nicene Creed.

 

Encouragement Number 6.  I wish someone had encouraged us to understand salvation first as healing.[21]

 

As a physician and a pastor, I especially wish someone had instructed me to hold together more carefully the invisible and the visible, the immaterial and the material, the spiritual and the physical, the souls and bodies of human persons.[22]

 

The Apostle Paul could not have given Timothy a stronger encouragement for ministry than his reminder that Jesus Christ “has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light.”  Think about those words.  Taken up mysteriously into the third heaven,[23] Paul saw first-hand that Realm of salvation in which there is complete liberty from tears, from sadness, from pain.[24]  Paul had glimpsed creation entirely healed, set free from its bondage to decay, sharing the freedom of the glory of the children of God.[25] 

 

The Word became flesh and lived among us, in order to heal us from the decay of sin and death: bodies, souls, and spirits.[26]  A Christian understanding of salvation never neglects the dignity of the human body, taken into the Holy Trinity and forever glorified by Jesus Christ.[27]  Christians who treat salvation as healing will consistently use their bodies to defend the poor, resist evil, fight disease, struggle for justice, protect human dignity, and hope for peace, even if it costs them the death of their bodies.

 

The ethical significance of Christian salvation as healing.

 

Encouragement Number 7.  I wish someone had encouraged us to use the Sign of the Cross.[28]

 

Saint Paul tells us that the Cross is offensive[29] and foolish to non-Christians, but that the Cross is “the Power of God to us who are being saved.” [30]  Saint Paul weeps tears of grief before the Philippians because so many are living “as enemies of the cross of Christ.”[31]

 

As if clinging to a life raft, Saint Paul cries to the Corinthians, “I decided to know nothing … except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,”[32] and to the Galatians, “Far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”[33]

 

And Jesus Himself warns, “Whoever does not carry his or her own cross and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.”[34]

 

Taking the Cross seriously simply means that we take the physical Body of our Lord Jesus Christ seriously – and that we take seriously the connection between His Body and all other human bodies.  The Sign of the Cross[35] is a tangible, sacramental proclamation of the Gospel.

 

When we make the Sign, we are physically rehearsing Christ’s victory over the death of human bodies.  We are sacramentally inscribing[36] Christ’s Bodily resurrection into our dying body and into the dying body of anyone we sign.[37]

 

The power of the Sign of the Cross.

 

Encouragement Number 8: Last but not least, I wish someone had encouraged us to pray in order to believe.[38]

 

Christians are called “believers” because we are the ones, out of all the world’s citizens, who actually believe Jesus Christ, our friend and our God, has risen from the dead.  We shout this to one another on Easter Morning: “Christ is Risen!”  “Truly, He is risen!”  We believe this.

 

Now many will ask you, incredulously, “Kim, how do you believe this?”

 

And I hope you answer very simply.  I hope you say, “I believe because I pray.”

 

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi goes the old Latin Christian saying, acknowledging a principle as old as life.  Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi: The rule of praying determines the rule of believing.  Or simply: Believing follows praying.

 

As you know, there is nothing I more enjoy than studying and discussing New Testament and Christian theology.  Nothing.  But I wish someone had warned me at the beginning of my ministry that no amount of New Testament knowledge or theological learning would create belief.  And what your parishioners need from you more than anything else is your personal faith.  They do not need you to know all about the Bible or to be learned in all manner of theology or to have expertise in being a church professional.  They need you to believe.[39]

 

So do whatever you must do to ground yourself, your ministry, and every day in prayer.  Use an alarm clock, use coffee, use a rope, use beads, use a rosary, use a rug, use your knees, use the East, use icons and candles, use whispers and music and chanting and silence.  Just do not let yourself be deceived into thinking that anything good for Christian life or ministry can come from a life without prayer.

 

I have one practical suggestion.  Memorize the ancient “Jesus Prayer,” which comes from the New Testament and goes like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”[40]  Memorize this prayer and learn to pray it 12 times every waking hour, either all at once or spread across the hour.

 

Pray in order to believe.

 

And so, Reverend Kim Adams, these are my eight encouragements: guard the Eucharist; cherish the Communion of Saints; beautify the Mother of God; learn the Church’s Holy Tradition; defend the Nicene Creed; treat salvation as healing from death; use the Sign of the Cross in your ministry; and pray in order to believe.

 

I am sure that our Lord Jesus Christ is able to guard until that Day what you are entrusting to Him this day. 

 

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Rev Dr Richard I. Deibert, MD, PhD, MDiv

Peace Presbyterian Church

Lakewood Ranch, Florida

22 November 2015

 

For Kim Adams

 

[1] Psalm 118.24

[2] In the 2013–15 Book of Order, part II of the PCUSA Constitution, “Ministers of the Word and Sacrament” have been redesignated as “Teaching Elders.”  Section G-2.05 is titled: “Teaching Elders: The Ministry of the Word and Sacrament.”  Apparently, the title “Minister of Word and Sacrament” no longer adequately reflects the utilitarian hypertrophy of ordained pastoral ministry in the Reformed Tradition.

[3] The Reverend J. Will Ormond (1919–2004), of blessed memory, preached for the ordination service of Elizabeth & Richard Deibert, “There or Here?,” a hopeful word of optimistic caution for new church development, based on the ebullient young church of Acts 2.41–47 and the tired, lukewarm church of Revelation 3.14–22. 

[4] 1990 membership was 2,856,713; in 2014 it had dropped to 1,667,767, a loss of 1,188,946 members or 42%.  Total congregational receipts from 2004–2014 declined 12.4%; the share of these receipts given to Basic Mission Support declined 48.7%.  Of every dollar coming into PCUSA congregations, only 0.40% – roughly 1/3 of one cent! – funded the Presbyterian Mission Agency through Basic Mission Support.  In 2015, the PCUSA will be forced to bring home roughly 25% of its 160 missionaries due to lack of funding.  These trends are not isolated to the PCUSA, but reflect larger, seismic global secularizing shifts in the contemporary relationship between church and culture, especially in industrialized western cultures of the northern hemisphere.

[5] The 2001 edition of David B. Barrett’s World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World reads: “Of all Christians, 1,888 million are church members affiliated to 6 major ecclesiastico-cultural megablocs, also to some 300 different ecclesiastical traditions, and also to 33,820 distinct Christian denominations across the world.”  In 2011, the PEW-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project produced “Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population,” employing data from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s “Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC),” and noting: “CSGC has obtained denominational membership information from about 41,000 organizations worldwide … This is the global sum of the total number of denominations in each country.  There is overlap between countries because many denominations are present in more than one country.”  Very roughly, of the 2.5 billion world Christians, 1.2 billion (48%) are Roman Catholic, 900 million are Protestant (36%), and 400 million are Eastern Orthodox (16%).  Protestantism is by far the most turbulent, growing and globally redistributing itself at a rate that may equal half of the world Christian population in 2050, possibly exceeding Roman Catholic adherents.  “African, Asian, and Latin American countries had 5% of all Protestants in 1900, but in 2000 this figure had grown to 59% and it may reach 81% by 2050” (CSGC).  I believe a missing coherent center is both the cause and effect of such tumultuous change.

[6] When this sermon was preached, 22 November 2015, it was titled “Seven Encouragements I Wish Had Been Preached at My Ordination.”  Encouragement number eight was such a glaring omission that I have taken the liberty to add it to the manuscript.

[7] Book of Common Worship, The Theology and Worship Ministry Unit for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993), italics added.  This quote is taken from page 35 of the digital edition (1995); it occurs within the section entitled “The Service for the Lord’s Day: A Description of Its Movement and Elements.”  The section continues: “It is appropriate, therefore, that the Eucharist be celebrated as often as on each Lord’s Day. It shall be celebrated regularly and frequently enough so that it is clear to all that the Lord’s Supper is integral to worship on the Lord’s Day, and not an addition to it.”  Many Presbyterians also will be surprised to read the Book of Common Worship’s reminder, “The Nicene Creed is traditionally said whenever the Lord’s Supper is celebrated” (32).

[8] The Book of Common Worship speaks to this “digestive” Eucharistic epistemology: “In this sacrament, the bread and wine, the words and actions, make the promises of God visible and concrete. The Word proclaimed in scripture and sermon is confirmed, for all that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ means is focused in the Sacrament” (italics added).  In the Anaphora of the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Church, the phrase “for the life of the world” occurs immediately before the Words of Institution: “Who when He had come and had fulfilled all the dispensation for us in the night in which He was given up – or rather gave Himself up for the life of the world – He took bread in His holy, pure, and blameless hands; and when He had given thanks and blessed it, and hallowed it and broken it, He gave it to His holy disciples and apostles saying: ‘Take! Eat! This is My Body which is broken for you for the remission of sins. Amen.’”  For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy is also the title of a notable book by liturgical theologian Alexander Schmemann, in which he writes: “The Eucharist is the entrance of the Church into the joy of its Lord.  And to enter into that joy, so as to be a witness to it in the world, is indeed the very calling of the Church, its essential leitourgia, the sacrament by which it ‘becomes what it is,’” (Crestwood, New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1963/1973), 26.

[9] In the Eastern Church, the Sunday of “the Feast of All Saints” immediately follows the Sunday of Pentecost (the Feast of the Holy Trinity), because the Saints are “the harvest of the coming of the Holy Spirit into the world; this Feast Day is the ‘much fruit’ brought forth by that ‘Grain of wheat that fell into the earth and died’ (John 12.24); it is the glorification of the Saints as ‘the foundation of the Church, the perfection of the Gospel, they who fulfilled in deed the sayings of the Saviour,’” The Great Horologion (or Book of Hours), translated from the Greek (Boston, Massachusetts: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1997), 634–37.  The Horologion clarifies the breadth of this communion: “In this celebration, then, we reverently honour and call blessed all the Righteous, the Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Shepherds, Teachers, and Holy Monastics, both men and women alike, known and unknown, who have been added to the choirs of the Saints and shall be added, from the time of Adam until the end of the world, who have been perfected in piety and have glorified God by their holy lives.”  The thematic hymn (kontakion) sings: “As first-fruits of our nature to the Planter of created things, the world presents the God-bearing martyred Saints in off’ring to You, O Lord.  Through their earnest pleadings, keep Your Church in deep peace and divine tranquility, through the pure Theotokos, O You Who are greatly merciful.”

[10] Luke 1.38.  St John of Damascus (AD 676–749) is credited with a Vespers hymn on the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March) that highlights the power of Mary’s simple affirmation: “From heaven was sent the archangel Gabriel, to announce to the Virgin her conceiving.  He came to Nazareth and, considering the wonder in his mind, was amazed: ‘How can He, Who dwells on high beyond understanding, be born of a Virgin?  How can He, Whose throne is heaven and whose footstool earth, be embraced in a woman’s womb?  He on Whom the six-winged seraphs and cherubim with many eyes cannot intently look, has consented at a single word to become Flesh through her!  He Who is present is the Word of God.  So why do I stand still and not say to the maiden: “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.  Greetings, pure Virgin!  Greetings, unmarried Bride!  Greetings, Life’s mother!  Blessed is the fruit of your womb!”’”  The Archangel Gabriel’s rhetorical question about his own muteness before even the idea of the Incarnation might be asked of Protestantism en masse: So why have we stood still and not spoken to the maiden?  This translation is adapted from Hugh Wybrew’s helpful little book, Orthodox Feasts of Jesus Christ and The Virgin Mary: Liturgical Texts with Commentary (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2000), 97–98 (italics added).

[11] Mary is the model Christian disciple, of course, because she exemplifies the complete reception of the divine Son of God into her whole human self, making such reception henceforth possible for all humankind.  She is “The First Evangelist” because she evangelizes about Jesus Christ for the first time in history, when she greets her cousin: “In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!’” (Luke 1.39–42)

[12] A simple medley of hymn verses from the Orthodox liturgy to the Theotokos, in obvious awe of the Incarnation.

[13] The “Great Schism” or “East-West Schism” of 1054 essentially finalized the first major division of the Church into Greek-speaking Eastern Orthodoxy and Latin-speaking Roman Catholicism. This complex division had been brewing for centuries and had roots in theology, politics, language, and historical circumstances. The story of this schism unfolds as follows: 1) A language barrier haunts the Roman Empire from the beginning, festering misunderstanding between the Latin-speaking, legally minded Western provinces and the Greek-speaking, philosophically minded Eastern provinces. Very few speak both Greek and Latin. 2) Five powerful Christian cities emerge in the Roman Empire, each with its own Bishop (Patriarch), and with a symbolic honor ranking: first Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch; then later, Constantinople and Jerusalem. All four patriarchates agree that the Bishop of Rome should be called “Pope” and should be honored as “first among equals” (primus inter pares). However, this honorary status gradually becomes privilege; and privilege quickly becomes power. 3) In 330, Emperor Constantine relocates the capital of the Roman Empire 1,000 miles from Rome to Constantinople (present day Istanbul). 4) In 395 at the death of Emperor Theodosius the Great, the united Roman Empire divides into Eastern and Western Empires, each with its own emperor. 5) In 476, the city of Rome falls to the Barbarians, leaving Constantinople and the Eastern Empire standing. 6) In 589 at the Third Toledo Council in Spain, Western Bishop Leander of Seville unilaterally oversees the insertion of the “Filioque” clause into the Nicene Creed, completed 207 years earlier in 381, thus violating canonical law (which forbid additions to the Nicene Creed). The Eastern Bishops see the “Filioque” as confusing the Triune Nature of God. 7) In 800, Western Pope Leo III unilaterally crowns Charlemagne as Holy Roman Empire, insulting the Eastern Emperor and his provinces. 8) The Western juridical Latin mind prefers realistic Christian art and an emphasis on Jesus’ concrete humanity; the Eastern philosophical Greek mind prefers idealistic Christian art and an emphasis on Jesus’ mysterious divinity. 9) The West prefers unleavened bread at the Eucharist, following the Jewish practice of Jesus; the East prefers the rising of leavened bread, a symbol of the Resurrection. 10) The Western Church enforces clerical celibacy; the Eastern Church insists on married clergy. 11) The Western Church reserves confirmation for the bishop; the Eastern Church retains confirmation as a sacrament for the priest at the time of baptism, as the gift of the Holy Spirit in baptism. 12) In 1054, the Bishop of Rome and the Bishop of Constantinople issue mutual excommunications of one another. 13) In 1204, using formal military aggression by the church against the church for the first time ever, Knights of the Western Church destroy Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, thereby sealing the division of the Church into East and West, a division that was formally renounced only in 1965 by mutual rescission of excommunications that had been in place for 911 years.

[14] “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4.6).

[15] The Greek verb paradidomi (paradi,dwmi), literally, “to give over,” has a broad semantic range, from “betray” to “gave up” to “handed on.”  What is common to the semantic range is that an agent of higher authority is the one who “gives over.”  In the New Testament, this verb has come to have the status of a technical term referring to the formal handing on of specific Christian teaching that already forms part of the received “holy” tradition.  The following New Testament verses reveal this usage for the formal handing on of Gospel tradition: Mark 7.13; Luke 1.1; Acts 6.14, 16.4; Romans 6.17; 1 Corinthians 11.2, 11.23, 15.3; 2 Peter 2.21; Jude 1.3.  The noun form, paradosis (para,dosij), literally, the “giving over,” refers to specific Jewish or Christian tradition meant to be passed from generation to generation.  See 1 Corinthians 11.2; Galatians 1.14; 2 Thessalonians 2.15, 3.6.  Unfortunately, the “spirit” of modern liberal Protestantism seems more captivated by novelty than by tradition; and modern conservative Protestantism, by scholastically weaponized 16th century tradition than by any sense that the Holy Spirit has breathed life-giving core content and practice continuously from the Twelve Apostles throughout the first 1,000 years of Christian history (and continues to breathe!).  Yale University Sterling Professor of History, Jaroslav Pelikan (1923–2006) of blessed memory, captures the spirit of Holy Tradition: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living,” The Vindication of Tradition.

[16] “Holy Fathers and Mothers” is not a term widely used in Protestantism, but actually refers to those particular living human instruments by which the Holy Spirit transmits Holy Tradition.  “The Holy Fathers and Mothers” is a shorthand reference to the reflective synthesis encapsulated in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (A.D. 325–381), the Chalcedonian Definition of Christ’s Person (A.D. 451), and the Seven Ecumenical Councils (Nicea 325; First Constantinople 381; Ephesus 431; Chalcedon 451; Second Constantinople 553; Third Constantinople 680–92; Second Nicea 787). Kallistos Ware describes this synthesis as a ‘Patristic Mind’ and argues that it is ongoing: “It is dangerous to look on ‘the Fathers’ as a closed cycle of writings belonging wholly to the past … To say that there can be no more Fathers is to suggest that the Holy Spirit has deserted the Church,” The Orthodox Church, New Edition (London, England: Penguin Books, 1997, 204.

[17] In the heat of the Iconoclastic Controversy in the 8th century, as the Church is battling spiritualizers who consider it heresy to paint the Divine, Saint John of Damascus characterizes artistic imaging of the Divine as an obvious and veritable Christian duty, in light of the Incarnation: “In former times God, Who is without form or body, could never be depicted. But now when God is seen in the flesh conversing with human persons, I make an image of the God Whom I see. I do not worship matter; I worship the Creator of matter Who became matter for my sake, Who willed to take His abode in matter; Who worked out my salvation through matter. Never will I cease honoring the matter which wrought my salvation! I honor matter, but not as God. How could God be born out of things which have no existence in themselves? God’s body is God because it is joined to His Person by a union which shall never pass away ... Because of this I salute all remaining matter with reverence, because God has filled it with His grace and power. Through matter my salvation has come to me. Was not the ... wood of the cross matter? Was not the ... mountain of Calvary matter? ... Is not the ink in the most holy Gospel-book matter? ... Over and above all these things, is not the Body and Blood of our Lord matter? Either do away with the honor and veneration othese things deserve, or accept the tradition of the Church and the veneration of images. Reverence God and His friends; follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit!  Do not despise matter, for it is not despicable. God has made nothing despicable!” “First Apology Against Those Who Attack the Divine Images” in On The Divine Images: Three Apologies Against Those Who Attack the Divine Images, translation by Thomas Baker in 1898, revised by David Anderson (Crestwood, New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1980), 23–24 (adapted).

[18] The characterization of the Christian Church in the Nicene Creed (325), using four highly significant descriptors: one, holy, catholic, apostolic.  Remarkably, this clause in the creed is actually the fourth of four “credo” (“We believe”) clauses, following three statements of trust in the distinct Persons of the Trinity: “We believe in one God … And in one Lord, Jesus Christ … And in the Holy Spirit … And in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.”

[19] The Definition of the union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ at the Fourth Ecumenical Councl in Chalcedon in AD 451 concludes with a reference back to the Nicene Creed as the “Symbol” that the Holy Fathers have handed down, in accord with what the Hebrew prophets spoke and the Lord Jesus taught about Himself: “… one and the same Son and Only-begotten, God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of Him, and our Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught us, and the Creed [“symbol” – su,mbolon] of the Holy Fathers has handed down to us.”

[20] The Nicene Creed is actually the “Niceno-Constantinopolitan” Creed, because it was begun at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea in AD 325 and completed 56 years later at the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in AD 381, where the clauses on the Holy Spirit and the Church were added.  The first written list containing a unified reference to all 27 writings that would eventually make up the canonical “New Testament” occurs in Saint Athanasius’ (c. 296–373) Easter Letter XXXIX of AD 367: “Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament.  These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles (called Catholic) seven, that is to say, of James, one; of Peter, two; of John, three; after these, one of Jude.  In addition, there are fourteen Epistles of Paul, written in this order.  The first, to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians; after these, two to the Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon.  And besides, the Revelation of John.”

[21] It is widely known, but appreciated with little theological depth, that the New Testament Greek verb for “to save” (sw,|zw) is also often translated as “to heal”; also, that the Apostle Paul employs the word group “to save / salvation” in all tenses to connote salvation as a preternatural phenomenon expanding beyond the limits of one’s time-bound being.  In contemporary English, “healing” more accurately captures the broad connotation of this word group than “saving.”

[22] Generally speaking, the Western Church approaches the salvation of the human person as a juridical process of divine pronouncement, whereas the Eastern Church understands salvation as a therapeutic process of divine participation.  Eastern Christianity is a mystical therapeutic science, not a rational legalistic judgment.  For Eastern Christianity, the human person is a patient (not a criminal), sin is a sickness (not a crime), church is a hospital (not a courtroom), Eucharist is medicine (not legal code), Holy Trinity is Physician (not Judge), and salvation is healing (not acquittal).

[23] 2 Corinthians 12.2: “I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows.”

[24] Revelation 21.3–4: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be His peoples, and God Himself will be with them; He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’”

[25] Romans 8.18–23: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.”

[26] Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (AD c. 130–202) said: “The glory of God is a human being fully alive” (Adversus Haereses, IV.20).  Saint Ignatius (AD c. 35–110) described the Eucharist as “the medicine of immorality, and the sovereign remedy by which we escape death and live in Jesus Christ forevermore” (Letter to the Ephesians, 20).  In general, the Eastern Christian approach to salvation is a threefold process of healing the threefold human person (body-soul-spirit): 1) “Purification,” the ascetic practice of bodily self-denial; 2) “Illumination,” the vision of the eternal nature of things; and 3) “Divinization,” total transformation through face-to-Face interpersonal knowing with the Trinity.  This ascetic method seeks to discipline the impulses of the body by fasting; to subject the energies of the soul to the nous (spiritual intellect) by spiritual watchfulness; and to sharpen the nous (spiritual intellect) by repentance and noetic prayer.  Importantly, this method is not easy or entirely possible alone, but is best guided by a spiritual father or mother, also known as an Abba or Amma, Elder or Eldress, “Geron” (Greek), “Starets” (Russia).  Note that all three “parts” of the human person – body, soul, spirit – are both the means and ends of the salvation process.

[27] It is vital to affirm the New Testament witness that the real human body with which the Son of God united with in Jesus of Nazareth is exactly the body – now glorified in resurrection – with which He ascends to the Holy Trinity.  See Luke 24.50–53; Acts 1.9–11.  See also the immensely significant details throughout the Gospel narrative accounts of Jesus’ glorified body, clues to our own future eternal embodiment: Matthew 28.1–20; Mark 16.5–8; Luke 24.1–53; John 20.1 – 21.25.

[28] That the use of the Sign of the Cross rapidly became a widespread Christian practice is attested to by the African Christian apologist, Tertullian (AD c. 155–c. 240), sometimes called the “Father of Latin Christianity.”  Tertullian testifies: “At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at the table, when we light the lamps, on the couch, on the seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign,” quoted by Andreas Andreopoulos, The Sign of the Cross: The Gesture, The Mystery, The History (Brewster, Massachussetts: Paraclete Press, 2006), 13.  Andreopoulos concludes: “In texts from Tertullian and Origen to Kosmas Aitolos [c. 1714–1779], [the Sign of the Cross] is a blessing, a prayer, a proclamation of the Christian identity, a living mystery, and an acceptance of the role that God has given us” (42).

[29] Galatians 5.11.

[30] 1 Corinthians 1.17–18.  In sharply distinguishing the different meanings of the cross to Christians, Jews, and Pagans, the Apostle Paul is asserting the identity-shaping power of the cross.  Andreopoulos agrees: “The sign of the cross is the symbol that, like a visible mark of baptism, extends this community-defined-by-the-unity-of-the-Eucharist beyond the walls of the church building” (64, adapted).

[31] Philippians 3.18–19.

[32] 1 Corinthians 2.1–2.

[33] Galatians 6.14.

[34] Luke 14.27, and parallels in Matthew 10.37; 16.24; Mark 8.34–35; Luke 9.23; John 12.25.

[35] Preacher crosses the congregation at this moment.

[36] Preacher crosses himself at this moment.

[37] Again, Andreopoulos: “By accepting and internalizing the cross of Christ through gesturing the sign of the cross, we acknowledge the immortality of our soul and our spiritual resurrection in Jesus Christ.  Now it is something turned inside out: The cross, an instrument of and symbol of physical death, has become the symbol of eternal life” (103).  “The Exaltation of the Cross” is one of the Twelve Great Feasts marking the Christian year in the Eastern Church, celebrated on 14 September.  The thematic hymn (Kontakion) for the day embraces Christ’s Cross as our “weapon of peace and trophy invincible.”

[38] Encouragement number 8 was added to this manuscript after the day of proclamation, with apolgy for the grievous omission.

[39] Evagrius Ponticus (AD c. 346–399), an Egyptian monastic, captured this vital relationship between prayer and wisdom: “If you are a theologian, you will pray truly.  And if you pray truly, you are a theologian.”  Maxim 61, “On Prayer: One Hundred and Fifty-Three Texts” in The Philokalia: The Complete Text, compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth, Volume One, translated, edited by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware (London: Faber and Faber, 1979/1983), 62.

[40] This elemental prayer contains a simple parallelism, personally aligning “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God” with “me, a sinner,” in a plea for mercy.  With Psalm 51 echoing in the Jewish background, it is an amalgam of 1) multitudinous cries for mercy to Jesus from blind begging, demon-possessed, seizing, selfishly wealthy, leprous humanity and the humiliated cry of the Tax Collector in Luke 18.13: “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’”  The “Jesus Prayer” has withstood the test of time and circumstances as the quintessential Christian prayer for daily repetition.