Sunday after Ascension 2009

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

“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom we praise and dominion forever and ever.”

It is fitting that, in this Sunday after the Ascension, we should ponder what it means to be invited, indeed if not mandated, to speak as the oracles of God. As we know from ancient mythologies, the oracle is that which reveals what is otherwise hidden and unreachable; it is paradoxically the bridge to what is unbridgeable, the voice of what transcends any and all expression. By its nature, it is shrouded in a mystery and therefore tied to what is most mysterious in the affairs of a man – namely, his capacity for free will in the face of a fate, or even more so an eternal and preexisting divine will, that seems to override his freedom from the moment of his birth. Stated another way, the mythological hero invariably must ask himself at some point in his life: How am I a free man and a creature of God? Where is there glory in my achievements on the battlefield, or in my demonstrated wit in having undermined the many and sordid whiles of my enemies, if indeed I have been destined all along to be a hero among men? It is when the mythological hero asks such questions, that he encounters the oracle and divines to make sense of what is intrinsically insensible.

Notice furthermore that, in the ancient mythologies, it is only the hero in the account who encounters the oracle, never the common men, let alone the villains. That wisdom, which transcends space and time, indeed that revelation of God Himself in the affairs of all men, is not to be imparted upon the fool or the beast. It is a special gift, meant only for the man who is noble and in whose countenance therefore we may sense the handicraft of God. 

As we are called to speak as the oracles of God, in accordance with the ability which God giveth, we are called thus to participate with Him in how He reveals His wisdom and love into the world. In that sense, we are both the giver and the receiver of the divine Word, as if concurrently on both sides of that mysterious encounter between the mythological hero and the oracle. We are the Sons of God, by the eternal intercession of Christ Jesus, and as such we may know God as Our Father and play a role in revealing Him to those men who do not yet know the love of Christ in their lives. At the same time, we are men within this fallen world, unable for all times and in all places to be saved apart from Christ crucified, and as such we must seek out God in those mysteries, which we may know only dimly or partially. We are noble, in that as the Sons of God we may be givers of this divine Word; we are also beasts, petulant and unknowing in our own sins, in that as fallen men we may be at best inadequate receivers of this divine Word.

We live now and forever in this interplay between nobleman and beast; it is indeed what is most intrinsically human about our condition, since we are created in the image of God but also crafted from the dust of the earth. We are free; and yet we remain forever under a sovereign, divine will, which cannot be fashioned into our own measure of what it should be, no matter how much we may persist in trying to place God in the docks. Like Job, we are free to question God; but He is free to refuse to answer our queries or to render divine mercy and judgment along terms that we find to be satisfactory or even explainable.

This apparent paradox is not merely a theoretical conundrum; it is one with which we all must wrestle, in our personal lives and as a nation, as we endeavor to forge our paths in a redeemed but still hostile world. How are we free, when we fall asunder to the judgments of God, which in their eternal nature must preexist in time and in order our own conceits? Stated another way, how are we free, when we appear on the stage of our own lives as the creatures of a destiny over which we have no control? 

Abraham Lincoln faced the same quandary; and in this Memorial Day weekend, it is thus fitting that we should consider what he says in his Second Inaugural Address, as the Civil War indeed is coming to a resolution and as many Americans in reflection are wondering if they had ever had the freedom to avoid the bloodshed in the first place.

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether’.

As we see in the examples of Lincoln and of Job, ultimately we too must fall back upon a profession of faith: that God is good in how He renders His mercy and judgment and that He does not err in acknowledging, as we see in the creation account in Genesis, that all of creation furthermore is good. How we participate in that divine action, as both givers and receivers of the divine Word, transcends what we may know in this lifetime and therefore cautions us to be forever humble in any such undertakings, akin to the publican instead of the Pharisee. Still, the fact that we are so invited, if not mandated, reminds us at the same time of our intrinsic nobility. From which a lot is requested, a lot must be given. God will raise up fools and sinners, but He will first refashion them as men, before He sends them into the harvest as the bearers of His Word. Indeed, in paraphrasing Saint Athanasius, we may say that, in Christ Jesus, God ascends man into the divine life, precisely so that we may know finally our noble calling as oracles of God for our fellow men.

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

Published by Michael Sean Erickson

I write, act, and produce films in Los Angeles. Everything else is conjecture.

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