Church of St Anne, Berlin, NH
Transcription of Homily
Translation of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews.
Brethren, Christ, being come an high priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hand, that is, not of this creation: Neither by the blood of goats, or of calves, but by his own blood, entered once into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and of oxen, and the ashes of an heifer being sprinkled, sanctify such as are defiled, to the cleansing of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who by the Holy Ghost offered himself unspotted unto God, cleanse our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God? And therefore he is the mediator of the new testament: that by means of his death, for the redemption of those transgressions, which were under the former testament, they that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance, in Christ Jesus, our Lord
Continuation of the Holy Gospel, according to St. John.
At that time, Jesus said to the multitudes of the Jews, Which of you shall convince me of sin? If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me? He that is of God, heareth the words of God. Therefore you hear them not, because you are not of God. The Jews therefore answered, and said to him: Do not we say well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered: I have not a devil: but I honour my Father, and you have dishonoured me. But I seek not my own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. Amen, amen I say to you: If any man keep my word, he shall not see death for ever. The Jews therefore said: Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest: If any man keep my word, he shall not taste death for ever. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? and the prophets are dead. Whom dost thou make thyself? Jesus answered: If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father that glorifieth me, of whom you say that he is your God. And you have not known him, but I know him. And if I shall say that I know him not, I shall be like to you, a liar. But I do know him, and do keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day: he saw it, and was glad. The Jews therefore said to him: Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am. They took up stones therefore to cast at him. But Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.
The saving words of the Gospel.
Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Ever since Septuagesima Sunday, we’ve been hiding things in the liturgy. Little by little, the Church has been taking things away from us, such as the Gloria, the Hallelujah, a number of other things that liturgically we’re used to throughout the year. And today, that hidden collection is also added to; we have the images that are hidden; the Psalm 42 at the foot of the altar is hidden from us. And all of this because this is Passion Sunday when our Lord makes this definitive breach apparent between the Jews and the New Testament and He hides Himself. The Church Fathers, primarily Augustine and Chrysostom, say that He didn’t hide Himself behind a pillar or in some corner of the Temple waiting for them to disperse. Rather, He hid Himself from their physical eyes and was able to walk through them unharmed, because He didn’t want to die by stoning in that moment. Rather, He wanted to die in the humiliation of the Cross later, at the right time.
And so, because of this revelation of Deus absconditus, of the hidden God, just as Isaiah says in 43, You are truly a God who hides Himself, we have these reminders of the hiddenness of not only Christ, divinity, but even there’s a certain hiddenness of His humanity in the Passion. Isaiah 53 says in the passion, it was so horrific, we hide our faces from Him. It’s too horrible to look at, what happened to Him in the Passion. There’s a mutual hiding. This hiding began in Eden when Adam and Eve hid amongst the bushes, when our Lord said, Where are you? We hide from Him when we choose our own will over His. But when our Lord hides Himself, He hides His divinity from us, there is a pedagogical motive behind it.
What does it mean, for something to be hidden? Well, on one hand, our intellect can’t grasp it. So it’s hidden from us because of the mystery, or our mental shortness. There’s also another hiddenness when there’s a veil; something that comes between us and the object and therefore it’s hidden from us. And in the Hypostatic Union, in the Incarnation, we see both of those things. There’s no way our mind is going to grasp what the Incarnation is. We’ll never be able to explain it or understand it adequately. And at the same time, there is a veil, and the veil, oddly enough, is the most perfect creation of the Holy Spirit; it’s called the sacred humanity of Christ.
So the Eternal Logos takes upon Himself human flesh to reveal the Father. That’s what Paul says, in Colossians, that He is the revelation, He is the icon of the Father, and nonetheless, God is hidden in Christ. Thomas says, it’s like fish in a stream. We know the fish is there, all we see is the water. We know, through our faith, that God is there, but we only see His humanity. So, we’ve got this union of the infinite and the finite, of temporal and the eternal, mortal and immortal, in Christ; the Word made flesh. And these two natures are not at odds with each other. It’s not a defect of divinity that He takes upon Himself human nature. Much to the contrary, when God, the Eternal One, takes upon Himself our finite nature, this is a new form of Revelation. And this reveals something, not just about us, reveals something about Him that was previously hidden to us.
And so the eclipse of the Divinity then becomes the occasion for a new understanding of God’s mercy, a new understanding of His wisdom, of His goodness, of His bounty. He’s not pretending to be one of us, He truly becomes man without ceasing to be divine. Paul calls this the kenosis; the self-emptying. If you go to Rome and go to St. Mary Major, you’ll see this medallion above the altar, a mosaic medallion, and there’s an empty throne with a crown on it and a scepter, and below we’ve got the altar of sacrifice and below that is the feed box, the manger, where the Word made flesh became visible. So our Lord did not leave off His divinity, He took to Himself humanity, with all of its limitations. But in the Passion, and now that we begin what’s called Passiontide, there is a particular hiddenness of the Divine, His glory, His divinity, His claritas, right, which is the manifestation of the divine through His body, like we saw on the Second Sunday of Lent in the Transfiguration, all of this is hidden utterly. So His Passion becomes yet another veil without any diminishing of His divinity.
Both natures have all of the properties required for those natures in perfection without a conflict between them. The human nature assumed by the Logos is the Logos’ creation in its perfection, dependent on the Logos. The Logos, the Word of God, is the pattern for all of creation. He is the exemplar for the entire created order. Now, there’s a reason for this, for this hiddenness of God.
Thomas Aquinas says there are three, actually three motives, behind this hiddenness of God. The first of which is to ensure the Passion and Cross and death; that if our Lord’s divinity had been manifested, the Jews they wouldn’t have killed Him and we’d be left in our sins. Secondly, precisely because we don’t see His divinity, we can make an act of faith that’s meritorious. Faith comes from hearing that from seeing, says St. Paul. Even when Thomas, in the Resurrection, sees our Lord, our risen Lord, he doesn’t see His divinity, just sees His risen sacred humanity but he says, My Lord and my God. In other words, he’s making a meritorious act of faith. We can’t see divinity. Thomas says that there’s a third reason for the hiddenness of Christ’s divinity and that is if His divinity were not hidden we wouldn’t believe in His humanity. So all of this hiddenness, then, is actually a revelation.
It’s a revelation of God’s humility, revelation of His goodness, of His mercy, of His justice. And He changes everything through His Incarnation; even pain, even suffering, punishment. All of this in the Incarnation is raised to a good in the order of divine justice. The only thing, then, in the created order that is hostile to the divinity is malum culpae, right, in other words, the pain of fault, our sins, because that is when we hide from divine wisdom.
We think we got this covered. I don’t have to consult the Holy Spirit for what I’m supposed to do and I do what I want to do because I want to do it. I call what is evil good. For we see it today. We call what is good evil, telling God that He’s possessed. Okay, it doesn’t get much worse than that. But this is the fruit of sinning against the Holy Spirit when He is so apparent to us. And we resist. We resist. We resist. This perpetual hiding from God then basically leaves us with what we always wanted; to be away from Him, and therefore, we’ve become blind to Him. So that God will retract Himself from those who resist willfully the movements of the Holy Spirit.
There’s another type of hiddenness of God too that we see in the lives of those who are closest to Him. The saints who go through all sorts of dark nights and trials. Think of Edith Stein when she was arrested, and put on a train for Auschwitz. Her last words were, as she’s taken away from the sacraments, she’s taken away from her community, she’s taken away from all of the external trappings that made up her vocation, her life, and she says, Now I get to worship Him interiorly in my purity. And so this hiddenness from God did not diminish her holiness rather also, and this is what happens in the lives of the saints, it reveals their holiness and becomes the occasion for it. And may we follow their example.
In the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost. Amen.