Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

St. Thomas

17 April 1977
Theme: Gospel parables, Faith   Place: London Parish   Period: 1976-1980   Genre: Sermon

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

Twice in the Gospels we read the solemn declaration of a man who has recognised in Christ his Lord and his God. The first time was at the beginning of the Lord’s ministry: after His Baptism, when He was entering upon the way of the cross, He met Nathaniel and testified to the others that here was a man pure and without guile. Nathaniel asked how He knew this, and the Saviour answered with the mysterious words, “Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.” And Nathaniel reverencing Him said, “My Lord my God.” In a life of the holy Apostle Nathaniel we read that at the time of his call he was standing before God in prayer, and that Christ’s words about seeing him under the fig tree suddenly lifted a veil from his eyes and he realised that he was standing be­fore the very God to whom he had been praying.

Later this testimony is somehow obscured; the apostles were blinded, as we all are, by the visible, and only very slowly did they begin to perceive the invisible. During a period of just over three years Christ gradually revealed His true nature to them: the fact that He is indeed a true, genuine man, but that at the same time He is God who has taken flesh and come to save the world. This gradually dawning understanding found its expression only on the way to Jerusalem, just before Christ’s death, when the apostle Peter testi­fied, “Thou are the Christ, the Son of God.”

Before His crucifixion Christ gradually revealed Himself to disciples as God; after it He repeatedly and persistently, in a series of appearances, revealed Himself to them as man risen in the flesh. Everything we hear of Christ’s Resurrection brings us face to face with this fact; this is not a ghost, this is not a vision; the disciples not only hear His voice, they touch His body, they see Him eating food with them. Later, St. John speaking of their witness rightly says that they spoke of what their eyes had seen, their ears had heard, their hands had felt: Christ had truly risen in the body, the body sanctified, the body transfigured, the body which had become entirely spirit without ceasing to be flesh. Together with the Apostle Thomas we too worship the risen Christ and believing in Him, knowing Him as our God but also as Jesus of Nazareth risen from the dead, we hail Him, “My Lord and my God!”

On this fact the whole life of the Church depends, the whole Christian outlook, the greatness of man, the boundless humility of God. In Christ the one and the other is revealed to us, and we rejoice not only because God is the God of love and our Saviour, but because in Him we are shown how great Man is. He is so great that God can be contained in him; He is so great that He can pass through the gates of death into eternal life carrying us with Him as a torrent; that having united Himself with us in our humanity in every way except sin, He unites us completely with His Divinity if only we lay ourselves open to His influence. How wonderful that is!

So, during the next forty days Christ constantly appeared to His disciples and revealed to them the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; He showed them the name of God as Love, He unfolded to them the comprehension of the Church as a society of people who are bound by love; He explained to them that this temporal life will inevitably pass away, but that they have been granted eternal life, which is that life of God already planted in them, already working in them and conquering all.

And in the ensuing weeks each Gospel reading will tell us of this triumph of life, of the victory of life, of the victory of love over everything else. Let us be glad and rejoice that the risen Christ has not only conquered death for Himself and in Himself, but that in us and for us He has conquered death, sin, fear — everything, and that we have now become close and intimate with the living God. Amen.

Published:  Newsletter N. 153, St. Thomas, May 1983. (17 April 1977)

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