Man’s Place in God’s Story
During Eastertide God is drawing us into the blessed light of Christ’s resurrection. In this light, a light of revelation and joy, we are being given an overview of God’s work in creating us, and of drawing us through the death and resurrection of his incarnate Son into our final destiny as his adopted children. Gaining this overview of God’s loving-kindness towards us is of prime importance, since it reveals to us the purpose of our existence and the meaning of the often-perplexing experiences of life.
When God sent his Son into this world he put the whole of human history, including each one of us, into Jesus’ hands to reconcile us and restore us to God. Nothing of your personal existence or mine was left out of this saving dispensation of Christ. He has taken the primary responsibility for us all; and now he asks us to co-operate with him, by keeping our attention fixed on him and on what he has done in going to prepare a place for us in the Father’s house.
In our Easter overview we are being shown also the wonderful way in which the Holy Spirit has directed our forefathers in the Faith to form the liturgical cycle of the Church/s year. We need to take part in this by following it through faithfully and attentively. By the power of the Holy Spirit we were baptized into the creative and saving work of Christ. His story, in which all can participate through the unfolding of the liturgical year, has become also the personal story of each one of us; for it alone can give the final meaning to all that I experience, until I pass through death into life eternal. If, say, we had only the Bible to tell us about God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son, his story might appear to be locked away 2,000 years in the past. But the liturgy reminds us that ‘Today Christ is born’, and ‘Today Christ is risen from the dead’; and that is the truth of the matter as far as each believer is concerned. For Jesus Christ is eternal God, forever coming into time with the grace of salvation for whoever calls upon his Name. And this is supremely true of the Eucharist, of which the Lord commands us, ‘Do this in remembrance of me’. All that he accomplished ‘once and for all’ upon the Cross and by his resurrection is opened up to those who obey this commandment with faith in his Name.
St Paul puts it neatly where he says: ‘Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6.1–2). Moreover, it is the Holy Spirit whom Christ has given to us, the same Holy Spirit as abides eternally in him, who shows us how our own personal life story has been united with that of Christ. ‘When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth’, says Jesus. ‘He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.’ (John 16.13–14).
And here we come literally to the heart of our Christian life: what repentance and faith is about, and how faith grows through hope into the perfection of love for God and neighbour; for without love, truly I am nothing! This is the on-going work of the Holy Spirit, enlightening the mind and revealing the saving presence of Christ with us, here and now. It is the Holy Spirit who gives strength to the heart to do what is pleasing to God. All that the fathers and mothers of the Church have to say about the disciplines of the spiritual life aim at emptying out unfaithful self-will and self-concern from heart and mind, so that the Holy Spirit can dwell there and direct our personal surrender to the Father through Christ. Again, as St Paul puts it, ‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ (Galatians 2.20).
Christ in me
The end of the matter takes us back (or forward!) into Genesis, and the account of our creation and fall. This too, I am shown in my Easter overview, is the true interpretation of my own story. Truly, my life is now with Christ in God; but I must never lose contact with the basic fact of my creaturely existence. It is God the Father who in Christ holds me in being, along with every relationship of life. In order to retain a humble dependence upon the Holy Spirit of truth, I need to realise, evermore profoundly, that apart from the love of God who gives me existence I am nothing; and yet he makes me in Christ a sharer in his own divine nature. Thanks be to God for his inestimable gift!
Fr Gregory, Superior of the Community of the Servants of the Will of God.