St Anthony of the Desert

Orthodox Christian Mission

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Fr Gabriel

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Bypassing Our Destination

My friend the poet Wally Swist writes, “We’re in such a hurry that we miss our real destinations.” In the aftermath of many holidays we may miss our real destinations. We hurry by because our real destination is rigorous and demanding before it becomes enlightening and comfortable. We hurry on by, lost in our hurrying. Like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland we are always late for a date we have forgotten.

“Faith comes by hearing,” says St. Paul in his letter to the Romans. That is true. We begin with the community proclamation of the message. However, faith leads to a new vision of the world. Christian faith alters our perception of the world through the vigorous message of the resurrection.

This vigor is robust and deep and thoughtful. Justin the Martyr, a second century church father, wrote about his exploration of the philosophies of his time. Justin says that a flame was kindled in his mind when he recognized that all the philosophies were best understood in the light of the Gospel of Christ. What a memorable phrase: a flame in the mind. What a powerful image. The gospel illuminates our understanding and possesses glory weightier than fleeting emotions, and more stable than decaying relationships. The Gospel also burns up the dross of our minds, the collective thoughts that accumulate that, in the end, don’t add up to a hill of beans.

Swist goes on to say, “We need to remember to return to the source whose center can be referenced anywhere.” For Christians the source is the Easter Mystery. Not a once-a-year thing, mind you, but weekly, daily, minute-by-minute. Weekdays are transformed when we live out the power of our meeting with God the Risen Lord that we experience on Sundays. The message of resurrection constantly ignites people’s minds and transforms their hearts.

The transformed heart is born when we know this extraordinary love shown to us: “God became human in order that humanity might partake of Godliness.’’ That saying fueled the Christian movement from earliest times and it burns at the heart of our message still today.

Justin’s illumination of the mind may come in flashes or in a blinding light. The fire is kindled at Easter in the blaze of glory that is the Resurrection of Christ, who come “trampling down death by death and on those in the tombs bestowing life.” The holy fire comes from the sepulcher and spreads to the entire world. Easter is the night of baptism, when neophytes are illumined with the light of Christ, who enlightens the whole world. On this night the whole church shines with light, and it is the time when we remember our real destination. This night we rest at the center of our faith. We look out from this center onto a world transformed by God’s love and grace. As the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins put it, “all creation is like shook foil” and it shines with the brightness of God’s holy and compassionate presence. This is the night when the mind may be ignited.

Our world is so often bleak and desperate and terrifying. Wars continue. Children die. Murders are committed. Faithfulness departs. There is not much light this and there is much darkness. Christian faith is not Pollyanna but it is promise: there is light at the end of the tunnel, the light of the cross and the resurrection, in and through which God proposes to “make all things new.” The message of the resurrection drives us more deeply into the world with a vision for its healing and a heart willing to work toward that end.

April 2011 issue