July Message from Fr. Justin

Posted on Jun 29, 2019

From the Rector

Fr. Justin Lanier

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Over the course of my time here at St. Peter’s I have made regular use of the doctrine of the triple-birth of Christ, to teach different aspects of the Person of Christ Jesus. Let me however talk a bit about the third of the triple-births as I mentioned in the last few Keystones.

In case you missed my previous attempts at a concise description of the triple-birth of Christ celebrated at Christmas:

Our Christmas celebration traditionally has three related and distinct liturgies; one in the middle of the night, one at daybreak, and one at high noon on Christmas day.  The first celebration at midnight is of the Word begotten of God the Father in the depths of Divine darkness before time and all worlds. The second celebration of this triple-birth is perhaps the most familiar: that of the historic birth of Jesus to the blessed Virgin Mary his mother, in the little town of Bethlehem. The third birth celebrated in Christmas is that ceaseless begetting of Christ in the ground of every heart rendered by God’s loving Spirit.

The Episcopal Church’s lectionary has the virtually identical gospel for two major celebrations, Christmas Day the high-noon liturgy and the 1st Sunday after Christmas; John 1: 1-14 and John 1: 1-18. This is the gospel passage that begins, “In the beginning was the Word…” This repeat is a rare occasion in our Lectionary and speaks to importance of this Gospel. Keep in mind that there was a time in which much of the Western Church concluded each Eucharist with John 1:1-14, where it was called, “the last Gospel.”

One of the sections particularly important in these two liturgies runs as follows: “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” v 9

This points to that which enlightens every person, from which all things come into being, and though the entire world/cosmos comes into being through Christ, the world/cosmos does not recognize or comprehend it. (see John 1: 3,4,5,9,10) Christ, that light and life, is the very ground of all knowing, all awareness if you will. If you are aware, you are partaking of Christ. Whether you recognize that awareness as it is, well that is another story.

Understanding that this life, light, awareness, is actually being refracted and obscured is part of the effect of The Fall aka the Original Sin or Ontological Sin. Keeping in mind that all of us who have come into the world/cosmos are continuously lit up by this uncreated true Light that is Christ, yet our awareness collapses on objects of perception as well as identifying as a localized subject who is alienated from God and from our human family and even ourselves.

Be that as it may, every single person is actually overflowing with this Light of Christ, this recognition is but one important aspect of our sanctification along this Christian journey. This recognition is not a conceptual one, but a recognition at a level deeper than thought, or feeling. This recognition of Christ’s Light is called the birth of the Word in the Soul, and in many ways it can be said to be Christ’s recognition of reality as it is, in us. Here again we are participating in the life of Christ on God’s own terms, in God’s own house.

The psalmist puts it this way:

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room (ps 84:9)

I have found this sense of the uncreated light as one of the important aspects of Christ especially when we consider other traditions of contemplation. The Indo-Himalayan Buddhism, found for instance in Bhutan, has a very elaborate system of practices to recognize and to live from what is sometimes called the “Clear Light”. The teachings on the “Clear Light” seem to most often be transmitted orally, much like in our own tradition years ago of the post-baptismal training and education called Mystagogia.

Keeping in mind that in Baptism especially in the context of the Easter Vigil there is a kind of introduction to Christ and a grafting of a catechumen into the very body of Christ, which we chant in a darkness lit only by the Paschal candle:

Then we light each candle in the Church from that Paschal light. In more ancient times the ministry of Mystegogia seemed to be connected to the office of the Bishop and was of personal oral instruction.

There are some very profound commonalities found in the contemplative traditions around the world. As far as I can tell God, the “all inclusive isness” (aka God) is in fact continuously pouring forth God’s own life and light and that non-Christian contemplative traditions are recognizing this light and life and doing all they can to remove the obstacles of this recognition, this seeing with eyes of faith, the mind of Christ if you will. I cannot say I understand what God is doing in other religions, or in Buddhism, except what God seems to be doing everywhere and always, revealing God’s own everything. Why is the historical Jesus, celebrated in the second of the triple-birth, revealed to some and not others? I don’t know.

Why was the first of the triple-birth so central in former times, and now hardly heard about? I’m not quite sure. What I am sure of is that these realizations are given not to the learned or the well connected, they are given to the simple, faithful people of God who let themselves be held in God’s hand.

There are many little pitfalls along our journey in God. I am so very glad to have traveled part of this journey here with the people of St. Peter’s and all the people of God through the many generations as we all continue in thatuniversal mission to restoration in God whose name is beyond name.

peace, justin+