Thursday, April 20, 2017: Bright Thursday; Theodore the Trichinas, Zacchaeus the Apostle of Caesaria, Gregory & Anastasios, Patriarchs of Antioch, Athanasios, Founder of the Monastery of Meteora
Christ is Risen!
Nicodemos commends Jesus for the signs He performs and affirms that God is with Jesus. We might expect Jesus to say to Nicodemus something like what He will later say to Peter when the apostle makes his profession of faith. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17, NKJV).
Jesus seems to respond oddly. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Until he is born from above, Nikodemos will be unable to receive Jesus’ testimony about Who He is. And that rebirth awaits the Cross; “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Far from being an afterthought, the Cross completes the earthly ministry of Jesus. “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30, NKJV).
What we hear in the Gospel is repeated by the Apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost. We must repent and be baptized not only for the forgiveness of our sins but so that we can “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It is the Spirit, teaches us “all things.” The Holy Spirit also reminds us all the things that Jesus has said to us (see, John 14:26).
When as Orthodox Christians we talk about the importance of Holy Tradition we are simply affirming what Jesus says and what the first Christians on that Pentecost did. It isn’t history or a plain reading of Scripture that is the standard of the Gospel but the continual, living presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church.
Just as there is a parallel between the earthly ministry of Jesus and the ministry of the Church in the New Testament, so too there is a parallel between the history of the Church and the history of our own, personal, relationship with Jesus Christ.
The same Spirit that leads the Church has come to dwell in our hearts. What the Holy Spirit said, publically to the whole Church in Holy Tradition, He says quietly in our hearts. The same God Who inspired the apostles and disciples, the martyrs and confessors, the saints and prophets in every age of the Church, comes and dwells in our hearts at our baptism and chrismation.
To be born from above, to be made new, means to become a part of this great work of the Holy Spirit across generations. What He said to those who have gone before us, the Spirit says to us. Anything that deviates or denies what the Holy Spirit has said before, is simply not from God but from the flesh.
As we make the journey from Pascha to Pentecost, we need to keep in mind that what we believe as Orthodox Christians, we received as a gift from above. Our faith–both shared and personal–is one and the same because it has One and the same Source: the Holy Spirit Who comes to dwell in us and reveal Christ to us.