Jesus Christ -- the Son of God Who became the Son of Man, and remained God -- is the Author and the Finisher of the Faith (Hebrews 12.2). He is the One upon Whom -- as He said to the terrified Nathaniel -- “the angels of God ascend and descend” (John 1.51).
There is no Orthodoxy outside of Christ. Orthodoxy is only alive, real and valid from Christ, in Christ and for Christ. Orthodoxy that is not only about Christ is “vain repetition.”
When we read that Jesus Christ is the “Author and Finisher of the faith,” we know that “faith” is not just confidence or certainty. It should be those things, yes, but it is a lot more. Faith is being in Christ, living in Christ. Faith is in your heart, flowing through your mind and into your body, all your thoughts, feelings and actions, in your consciousness and even in your unconsciousness.
When we say that Jesus is the “Author” of our faith, we mean more than His being the “founder” of our religion at either His Nativity in 1 AD (or, more likely, 4 BC), or at Pentecost in 33 AD. Jesus “authored” the faith even before the Creation of the seen and unseen universe, in His everlasting Being in the Holy Trinity “before all ages.”
And “Author” means more than just a “beginning.” He is always, constantly, “authoring” our faith, always being the the provider of the life that is faith. He doesn’t just start the faith like a watchmaker and then sets the faith on some cosmic shelf and we just keep on ticking like Timex.
Jesus is the “force of being” behind our Christianity. Always. You cannot ever, ever be a Christian on your own. Frankly, you can’t ever be a human, or even a creature, even just a rock, on your own. The universe is just like that. It is what it is.
And that “is-ness” is the Trinity’s beauty and peace.
That is why when we say that He is the “finisher” of the faith, we do not mean that He is just waiting for us at the close of the story. He is not just writing “The End” when it’s all said and done.
A “finisher” is the Artist Who is working to “perfect the image.” He is the One, asking for the Spirit from the Father and sending the Spirit upon His Work. He is finishing us in our Life in Christ. We are the Body of Christ -- He is never absent, because Christ will never be apart from His own self. He is not only our Lord, He is our Brother taking us back to the Father. He is our Shepherd, we are His sheep, and He is taking us to the Home Pasture.
We are His workmanship, as St Paul says in Ephesians (2.10). Or even better: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1.6).
Now there’s a verse to put on your refrigerator.
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Jesus is the Author and Finisher of the Orthodox faith. So of course Orthodoxy triumphed in the restoration of the icons, and at every Ecumenical Council. For that matter, Orthodoxy triumphs in every single act of virtue, love and forgiveness of every single human being who’s ever lived (even the non-Orthodox). After all, “He that is not against us is for us,” Jesus said in the Gospel of St Mark (9.40).
Triumph is in the air, beloved. Let us act that way. Sometimes I think we’re a little too mopey, as if we’ve cast ourselves in some modern tragedy, like “Death of a Salesman.” That is not God’s script. That is not our play.
Of course in this “introductory existence” we call life in the here-and-now, before the transfiguration of this world by the Light of Grace, things frequently don’t seem so triumphant. There is still pain and suffering. There are still martyrs. I’m still mourning the 21 new Coptic martyrs slain by ISIS. There may be as many as 300 Assyrian Christians held by Muslim extremists.
And we still have passion and sin, anger and harbored grudges, idolatrous enticements to greed, lust and pride. And the devil desires, with desperate hatred, to knuckle us down into his own prideful ego-centric hell of despair.
It is over passion -- more than heretics and terrorists -- that we must work to triumph most.
When the world seems dreary with unbelief and cynicism, Jesus Christ the Word of God shows us signs of the happy ending to our story. He installs icons in our lives as shining “windows of heaven.” We look upon them and we see things the way they really are,and the way they will become. Sometimes, Christ sends us obvious miracles that we call “signs and wonders” -- like the miraculous Icon of the Theotokos at St George’s in Taylor, Pennsylvania, that weeps so much with oil of heavenly fragrance.
This is a Sign that says, most of all, that if you doubt,
you haven’t got it all figured out.
But signs and miracles are never enough. You cannot live on special events, no matter how spectacular. They are only gentle prods to your conscience that you need to wake up and live in the day. Look around, open your eyes, and realize that you are surrounded by angels, saints, departed loved ones, and most of all, Jesus Christ Himself.
You. Are. Not. Alone.
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The Apostle Nathaniel, when he first met Jesus, got really shook up when he first dismissed Jesus as just another yokel from Nazareth, which was not anywhere to write home about. Truth be told, it was kind of a low class town with nothing going on. They probably had to roll up the sidewalks at night.
Jesus, however, told Nathaniel that He saw him sitting under a fig tree when he said these insulting things about Jesus’ hometown. Nathaniel was more than impressed. He knew that he was found out, and he was terrified at this obvious miracle. It was clairvoyance. It was ESP. It was scary.
Jesus said, pretty much “Don’t be all that impressed.”
“You will see greater things than these,” He told the frightened young man.
In Christ, in this life that we call Orthodoxy, we should regularly see heaven open up in the presence of Jesus Christ, in our eucharistic communion with Him --- especially as we grow in theosis. Through Christ, we should see not only icons, but the entire Created World as Windows of Heaven. All Creation -- seen and unseen, corporeal and incorporeal -- makes up the “cloud of witnesses.”
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“Heaven and Earth are full of Your glory,” the Prophet Isaiah tells us in our Divine Liturgy.
And it is especially the gift of Orthodoxy to all humanity that we know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the best meaning of this word “glory” is Beauty.
God is Love: His Word, Jesus Christ, proved that, and He Himself is the Peace on Earth, Good Will toward all humankind.
Believe it. Do not be afraid.
“Beauty will save the world,” Dostoevsky said.
We should have learned that by now.
Believe it. See the Beautiful Glory. See the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man.
Do not be afraid.
Triumph is in the air. Every occasion of brightness is Orthodoxy resplendent.
The full and complete restoration of the icons is when you and I see our world full of windows to heaven, with the shades lifted up …
… and the “light of Christ shining unto all.”