Incarnation – Resurrection – Inspiration
In living and moving through the Christian Year, a temptation to be avoided is to treat each celebration as a separate, and each doctrine celebrated as a fragment of the whole in itself, whereas what is actually being celebrated is all one in its organic wholeness. In the preaching of doctrine this can lead to treating the great doctrines of the Creed individually and in isolation from each other when each liturgical celebration comes round, rather than preaching the wholeness of the Christian mystery.
In the preaching of Lancelot Andrewes this temptation is avoided because he is always concerned to expound in his sermons the wholeness of the Christian mystery whatever the season of the Church ’s year. In no way can Easter be separated from Christmas (Works , Vol. 1, p122), nor Resurrection from Incarnation, nor from the consequences of this Christian mystery, any disjunction between the union of human and divine. Christmas needs Easter, ‘…the still greater mystery of death and resurrection, where we see the divine-human interchange in a new and still more striking perspective ’in a new birth from the dead. Here a quotation compares and contrasts these two births in which Easter is described as a second Christmas. Christmas unites Christ with humankind, not in its sin but in its infirmities, mortality and death and in a brotherhood which death dissolves. Easter heralds a second birth from the grave. Christmas unites him to our side by his mother, Easter unites us to his side by the Father. ‘But half-brothers before, never the whole blood till now … this is the better day by far ’.
This saving life that we see in Resurrection is to be ours by inspiratio, inspiration, the breathing into us of this very life of God. God clothed in flesh is so that man can be invested with divinity, which is the supreme goal of salvation. This is the work of the Spirit. So Incarnation, Resurrection and Inspiration are organically connected with that one end in view, the deifying of human nature that is the supreme goal of salvation. Here we can see what Irenaeus meant by his use of the image of the Son and the Spirit being ‘the two hands ’of the Father. It is an image that expresses the complementarity, the reciprocity, the unity and distinction of the two Persons in the divine economy demonstrating that every action of God is the action of the three Persons of the Trinity.
Andrewes ’vision is Trinitarian. He is a pastoral theologian with a theology to be preached, and therefore with a practical purpose, nothing less than to participate in the divine life Christ lives with the Father in the Holy Spirit. This is a life within the Church, a sacramental life in worship and in prayer, a life of continual movement and growth in the very life of God himself. This is saving life , salvation . In this work Christ and the Spirit are inseparable. Recognition of Christ ’s divinity is from above not from below, and is the work of the Holy Spirit. The man who becomes a ‘partaker of the divine nature ’(2 Peter 1. 4)participates in that communion of life that exists ‘in the common nature of the Three in so far as it is manifested from the Father through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. By the uncreated grace of the Holy Spirit, God, that is to say the Trinity, comes to dwell in him, and man comes, one could say, ‘in the Holy Spirit through the Son, to the Father ’(Lancelot Andrewes the Preacher , Lossky, p335).
Arthur Middleton is Rector of Boldon, Hon Canon of Durham and a Tutor at St Chad ’s College.