46 - NOW THAT FAITH HAS COME, July 30, 2023

1 Corinthians 1.10-18

Matthew 14.14-22

In our epistle reading for St Panteleimon from Galatians this last week, we heard, “Now that Faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal 3:25-27). This morning’s Gospel of the LORD multiplying the loaves and fishes to feed the five thousand in the desert shows what it means that Faith has come. The mystery of God hidden from the ages, Christ in you, has come, and He gives us the Leaven of His Holy Spirit as our food and drink in Holy Eucharist.

The Israelites of old followed Moses into the wilderness on the Exodus from Egypt to Canaan. The New Israel this morning follows the LORD Jesus out of the city and into the desert. This morning’s Gospel proclaims that the New Exodus foretold in the prophets has come.

Led by Moses, the Israelites of old came to Mt Sinai in the wilderness. There, it says:

‘Moses went up, and Aaron, and Nadab and Abiud, and seventy of the elders of Israel. And they saw the place where the God of Israel stood; and under His feet was as it were a work of sapphire slabs, and as it were the appearance of the firmament of heaven in its purity (another OT image of the Holy Virgin through whom God would be incarnate). And of the chosen ones of Israel, there was not one missing, and they appeared in the place of God, and did eat and drink’ (Ex 24.9-12).

This morning’s Gospel is an icon of the Church, the Body of Christ conceived of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, in whose communion death has been destroyed by the death of the incarnate God, Jesus Christ. In this New Exodus of the Gospel, the Land of Promise is the Kingdom of Heaven; our Inheritance is Christ Himself. In your coming to Church this morning, you have come away from the city. You have drawn near the LORD. All of us are called to draw near in the fear of God, with faith and love (this is what we learn how to do in the catechumenate), to put on Christ in Holy Baptism that we may be given to eat and drink with the LORD God incarnate, with Moses and with the chosen ones of Israel because, in the Paschal glory of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has been poured out on all flesh.

At the heart of the Law of Moses was the worship of God. The sacrifices and washings and sacred rites of the Law, the construction of the Tabernacle and all its appointments, all this was an exact copy of the heavenly pattern the LORD showed Moses on the Holy Mountain (Ex 25.9&40). The purpose of the Law, centered on the worship of God, as St Paul says, was to keep the Israelites safe in the blessings of the LORD, to teach them the precepts and ordinances of the LORD, and to guide them in the ways of the LORD in order to get them ready for the fullness of time, for the New Exodus, when Faith would come to raise them from their graves and to lead them to the Land of their Inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Faith is the ‘heavenly pattern’ of which the Law of Moses was the ‘copy’ (Heb 8.5, 10.1). ‘Now that Faith has come;’ now that the Heavenly Pattern has come; now that the True Light in whom is the Life of men has come. Following the prophets, Israel’s Bridegroom, the LORD God Himself, has come.

Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the Lamb of God that was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13.8). And so, the Foundation of the world has come and with Him, the salvation of the world has come. Obviously, the LORD wasn’t crucified on the Cross until a certain moment in time. But the Cross of Christ is the supreme Theophany; it reveals in space and time the extreme humility and compassion of God that are the foundation, the root in which the world came to be, in which the world moves and has its being.

Faith has come, it says, in the fullness of time. Here is the biblical theology of time, a biblical historiography. Time in its inner essence is revealed to be God’s compassion and humility rising from the Seed. The Seed is the Son of God in the root of the Father’s compassion, until the Seed is sown in the earthly soil of the Virgin’s womb and comes forth in the fullness of time. The fullness of time is the flower, it is the ‘precious Rose’ of God the Son ‘blossoming’ from the Virgin ‘in the cave’ as the Son of Man. History is the movement in time that has fallen away from life in God. History is the ‘place’ of death and corruption, for everything in the world passes away into the past the instant it ‘comes to be.’ History, then, has no real existence. It is the nothingness of death and corruption.

But, we see in this morning’s Gospel that ‘Faith has come!’ He has come into history. In history, the Son of God is born of the Holy Virgin; the Timeless One clothes Himself in the garment of history, the garment of our death and corruption. And He is present to us, eating and drinking with us, here in history in the Church, His Body, filling the old wineskins of our body corrupted by death with Himself, the New Wine that makes glad the heart of man and bursts the old wineskins, bursting the bonds of death and raising us in the ‘Faith that has come’ from death to life, from corruption to incorruption.

In the mystery of His Holy Church, the mystery of His Body, He is filling the world He created with the Life of His Holy Spirit, the same Spirit by whom He has destroyed our death by His death, by whom He has overcome the world and transfigures the movement of history from a passing away into death into a never-ending ascent from glory to glory. His Holy Spirit is the leaven, the divine ‘active yeast,’ so that everything that is in and of the Church is leavened with the eternal life of Christ’s Holy Spirit in the uncreated Light of His divinity. The doctrine of the Church, the worship of the Church and the ascetical disciplines of the Church, are all of this Faith that has come, they are all leavened, they are made living, by the Holy Spirit, that raises from death to life those who embrace this Faith that has come, and who establish their life in it by denying themselves and taking up their cross in order to live in the Body of Christ, His Holy Church, leavened by the LORD’s Holy Spirit in this Faith that has come.

After the feeding of the four thousand sometime later, the LORD sternly warns His disciples: ‘Stay away from the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees’ (Mt 16.5); the disciples then understand that by ‘leaven’ the LORD does not mean the bread of the Pharisees and Sadducees but their doctrine.

What’s interesting here is that the Pharisees and Sadducees taught opposing doctrines: the Pharisees taught the resurrection, the other denied it, yet the LORD warns His disciples to stay away from the doctrines of both of them, even the Pharisees’ doctrine of the resurrection. Neither of their doctrines was leavened with the Holy Spirit. They both, even the Pharisees, denied the Faith that is the heart of the Law, the Faith that is the leaven of the Resurrection, the Faith that is the Life of God hidden in Christ, who is in you like leaven in a lump of dough.

For, the Law of Moses isn’t about precepts and ordinances. The precepts and ordinances of the Law of Moses are about the humility and compassion of God; they’re about Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. The LORD Jesus Christ is the Faith of Abraham, the Seed of Abraham filled with divine Life who has come. Nothing is living, no precept, no ritual, no doctrine, no worship if its life is not the LORD Jesus Christ who has come in the flesh. The Christian Faith is not about learning theological doctrines that make us ‘learned’ in the ways of the world. The Christian Faith is the mystery of God hidden from the ages, the mystery of Christ in you who, in the leaven of the Holy Spirit, destroys our death by His death and gives life to us in the tombs. Only the words of He Who Is Jesus Christ are words of life, filled with the Spirit that gives life (Jn 6.63), not the words of the philosophers and academics. Only the WORD of God, Jesus Christ, the Faith who has come, overcomes the world and transfigures history, time forever falling away into the dead past, into the Church’s liturgical time where history moves forever in the ever-present Today of the Church in the eternal Life of the Holy Spirit of the Church, the Spirit of the Body of Christ.

The Spirit of the risen Christ is the leaven of the Church’s Heavenly Bread. The Spirit is the Life of Christ, the Faith who has come, that we eat and drink in the Church’s most Holy Eucharist and that is multiplied in us in overflowing joy and hope and love that springs forth from Christ, the Fountain of Life who never runs dry, so that there wells up from the depths of our soul the joyful hymn of the Faith that has come: ‘We have seen the True Light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the True Faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity, who has saved us!’ Amen!