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Lindemann on the Epiphany of Our Lord

by revalkorn ~ January 3rd, 2011

THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD

January 6

This Festival is known also as the Theophany, the Manifestation of God; the Feast of the Three Kings; and Twelfth Day. In a large section of the Church it is still observed as the Christmas Festival. To some extent it must be associated with Christmas, but there is a distinct advance in its teaching. The Babe of Bethlehem is revealed as God, the splendor of the divine glory bursting through the humanity. The Feast is the complete fulfillment of Advent, the highest point of the Christmas Cycle.

The Introit. “Behold, the Lord, the Ruler, hath come; and the kingdom and the power and the glory are in His hand. Give the King Thy judgments, O God, and Thy righteousness unto the King’s Son.”

The Antiphon is said to be based on Mal. 3:1. The Psalm is the seventy-second, whose first verse is translated in the RSV: “Give the King Thy justice, O God, and Thy righteousness to the to royal Son.” It seems more probable, however, that the Antiphon is either apocryphal or a liturgical composition imitating the doxology of the Lord’s Prayer. The coming and adoration of the Magi is the great thought for the day, and the Introit announces that when they found the Child, they found the Lord, the Ruler, the royal Son, the just and righteous King. No new truth will be presented but rather the whole truth. The Babe belongs not to a single race or nation, but it is the whole world’s Babe, the King and Savior of all mankind.

The Collect. “O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we, who know Thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of Thy glorious Godhead; through the same,” etc.

This is a fine example of the Collect form and of a natural and beautiful harmony with the Lessons. Unfortunately the translation fails to bring out the fine antithesis between faith and sight which the original contains. Also lost in the English rendering is the thought of the original: The Magi were led, “grant that we may be led on till we come to gaze upon the beauty of Thy majesty.” Note that, as all festival Collects, this prayer recites the event commemorated. It makes the ground of our petition a recitation of the historic event. The believer now knows God, not through the manifestation of the Son to which he was led by a star, but through the revelation of the love that gave its all on the Cross.

The Epistle (Is. 60:1-6). A lesson from the Old Testament is rare. To the Antiphon of the Introit the Epistle replies: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” It points to the approaching caravan of the Magi drawing near to Jerusalem. The Prophet gives us a vision of the Messianic Kingdom. While all the world is in darkness, the city of God is bathed in light, for the King has come. The Gentiles stream to the Light, henceforth to walk in its brightness. This Epistle offers opportunity to preach a sermon on missions without disrupting the progressive scheme of the Church Year, as would a special day for missions at some other time.

The Gradual. “All they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord. Arise, shine, O Jeru-salem, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Alleluia! Alleluia! We have seen His star in the East, and we have come with gifts to worship the Lord. Alleluia!”

This Gradual deserves special attention, for it is an almost perfect example of what a Gradual is intended to be and do. It forms the connecting link be-tween the reading of the Epistle and the reading of the Holy Gospel. The first verse connects with the Epistle and concludes it. The second contains both elements, the glory of the Lord has risen upon Jerusalem, and Jerusalem is to arise and shine. The third verse leads directly into the Holy Gospel, which is about to be read: “We have seen His star, we have come with gifts.”

The Proper Sentence. “Alleluia! Oh, praise the Lord, all ye nations, and laud Him, all ye people. For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endureth forever. Alleluia! ”

The Gospel (St. Matt. 2:1-12). The Lord, the Ruler, has come. He is here! The Magi search for Him, and though they find only the young Child, they fall down and worship Him. Mark the contrast. His own people received Him not. The expectant Israel knew who was meant when the Magi inquired. They knew where He was to be found. But they did not go to Bethlehem. There was no Epiphany, no manifestation to them. But Gentiles came to the Light, and kings to the brightness of His rising.

The Proper Preface. “And now do we praise Thee that Thou didst send unto us Thine only-begotten Son and that in Him, being found in fashion as a man, Thou didst reveal the fullness of Thy glory.”

SERMON ON THE EPISTLE

When Isaiah wrote, conditions in the world and in the Church were sad and depressing. Wicked king Ahaz was on the throne of Judah. It was the time of which Isaiah lamented (1:8): “The daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.”

Conditions in the world at large were no better. Darkness covered the earth, and thick darkness the people. Outside of Israel, all the inhabitants of the earth, with very few exceptions, were blind heathen, steeped in the most abominable sins and vices. Mighty nations swept over the prostrate body of Judah in a bloody struggle for world supremacy.

But Isaiah’s lament is not only for his time and age. He looks forward to the time when the Christ was to appear. That, too, was to be an age without light, in which darkness and night covered the people.

His vision was true. When Christ came, there was devout Zacharias and his pious wife Elizabeth, the blessed Virgin, Godfearing Joseph, godly Simeon, and the prophetess Anna. A few shepherds accepted the newborn Christ Child in faith. A few Magi came seeking the King of the Jews. But aside from them no one was concerned about the Savior, who had come. In Bethlehem there was cool indifference. Judea and Galilee saw nothing of the Light that had risen. Beyond the Jewish land lay a blind world, kept by Satan in sin’s darkness. Also to the time of Christ’s appearance Isaiah’s words apply: “Darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples.”

These words are true also of our own time. The Light has shined for 1900 years, and the Gospel has penetrated to all parts of the world. Yet Asia and Africa still are dark continents with hundreds of millions of heathen besides millions of Mohammedans and Jews. Lands that are called Christian are inhabited by countless unbaptized heathen, bold despisers of God and His Christ.

Even the Church offers no pleasant prospect. Christendom is divided into almost countless sects and parties. An army of false prophets proclaims untruths under the name of truth. Error and falsehood have darkened the light. Men are groping for a way out of misery and death. If Isaiah lived today, he would say also of our times: “Darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness the peoples.” But with divine enthusiasm and in unquenchable power he would call to us:

Arise, Shine, for Your Light Has Come!

We shall first determine what the Prophet wishes to tell us. To do so we must answer two questions: (1) What does he mean with “light”? (2) What does he mean with “shine”?

What Isaiah means with “light” is readily seen when once we establish the fact that he is not speaking of a light that shone at the time he wrote. The entire text is a vision of the future. The light of which he speaks had not appeared but was to arise in the future. It was to illuminate the world. So he cannot mean an earthly light.

St. John explains this prophecy when he writes of Jesus Christ: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.” Our Lord Himself explains: “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Aged Simeon understood this prophecy when he took the Christ Child in his arms and exclaimed: “Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Thy people Israel.”

So it is Christ whom the Prophet means when he cries to his people: “Your Light has come!” Since, however, Christ comes to men in His Word, and since the world is to be illumined by the preaching of the Gospel, the Prophet means also the preaching of Christ and of the salvation He brought. St. Paul speaks of “the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ.” St. Peter writes: “We have the prophetic Word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place.”

Through the preaching of Christ men are to be brought to a knowledge of salvation. Your light has come. The day shall dawn, and the Day Star shall arise in your hearts. Men were to become children of light. God was to call them out of darkness into His marvelous light. The Prophet points forward to the time of the New Covenant, when the salvation that had appeared in Christ Jesus was to be preached in every language and the light of the Gospel was to dispel the night of heathenism and shine in Christendom. There was to be a people who walked in this light. Christ Himself said of those who believe in Him: “You are the light of the world.”

We proceed to our second question: What does the Prophet mean when he says, “Arise, shine”? No doubt he thought first of the Jewish Church. Israel was to accept the Savior when He appeared in the flesh, was to be alert and watchful lest it permit the time of gracious visitation to slip by in sleepy indifference, was to appropriate the offered salvation in repentance and faith. The Prophet also calls to his people that, having accepted this salvation, they should not hide their light under a bushel, but place it on a candlestick, that it might give light and shine in many lands. Israel was to be a city set on a hill, visible to all, and so attract many nations by its shining light.

The Apostolic Church heeded this call of the Prophet. From Israel, from Jerusalem, the light of salvation came to the heathen. The Apostles filled the earth with the preaching of the Gospel. By their blessed efforts the light shone also into the wilds of Europe and finally into this our land and upon us. That we today are not walking in darkness but have the light of life is due to the fact that the early Church faithfully followed the admonition of Isaiah and that our ances-tors in turn sent out the light when they had come to it.

This call of the Prophet is also directed to men of our day. It is as if he were saying to men sitting and walking in darkness: You poor, unconverted heart, permit yourself to be illumined. You pitiful man still walking in natural darkness and in the shadow of death, be alarmed at your miserable condition. Avoid and evade the Light no longer. Stop closing your heart against its beams. The Light is come. It shines also for you. Yet you see it not, for you are blind by nature. You sleep in broad daylight. Awake, arise, you who sleep, and Christ shall give you light.

Also to the believer the Prophet calls: Arise, shine! In you, too, there still is darkness, unbelief, doubt, timidity, fear, sin. Therefore permit the Savior, the heavenly Light, to lighten your heart constantly through the Gospel, so that the reflection of the Light may break forth in godliness and in love for your fellow men. Be a light in your surroundings, in your home, in your church, for others.

The Prophet calls to the entire Church: Arise, in old apostolic power and youthfulness. Shine, become a light, you people of the Lord. Behold, the day is far spent, and it is toward evening. The twilight of this world has set in. The night is coming. Still the harvest is great, and much remains to be done. Yet the laborers are few. Whosoever can, let him pray, pray the Lord of the harvest that He send laborers into the harvest. Yes, go to work yourself. Work feverishly while it is day, that the light may reach all who are in darkness and that the earth may be filled with the knowledge and glory of God.

What should encourage us to heed Isaiah’s call? He does not merely admonish. To make us willing and eager to heed his call, he adds a most glorious promise: “Your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. And nations shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes round about, and see. They all gather together, they come to you. Your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried in the arms. Then you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and rejoice, be-cause the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.”

This promise, this gracious, sweet Christmas greeting is for every child of God. It has little meaning unless applied personally. “Your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” This is also for you. The Savior will also fill your heart with the light of His grace and will dispel the night of sin. The light shines also for you, and God desires that you, too, see the glory of the Lord, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

This coming of the Light to us individually and personally is likely to disturb and disquiet us. It may cause us no little uneasiness, especially when we come to meet our Lord at His Table. He gives Himself to us as we eat and drink. We make Him our very own. Yet, in His holy presence, face to face with the perfect love with which He loved us when He gave His body and shed His blood for us, we feel, as perhaps at no other time, that our conduct, and even our love for Him, leaves much to be desired. As we step into the presence of the Light, we discover much darkness in ourselves. This is nothing new. We felt that way the last time we communed and the time before. Therefore we may be inclined to become discouraged over the slow progress in our spiritual development and life.

It is well that we attune our ears to the Lord’s assurance: “Your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” The divine Light is to shine also into our night of discouragement and disappointment. As He who is the Light gives Himself to us in the Holy Sacrament, may we hear echoing in our hearts the words of our God: “Light dawns, or is sown, for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.” “Then you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and rejoice,” when you experience that the Lord is your Light and your Sal-vation. So we shall go back to our daily tasks, back into the world in which we must live, with renewed confidence and hope that our battle against personal sins and faults will not be in vain.

As we go back into our daily environment and the relationships of every-day life, there is much to disturb and sadden us. Walking in the light, we see and notice that very many still walk in darkness. The Light has come, but they continue in night. Perhaps there is husband or wife, son or daughter, father or mother, friend, relative, or associate walking blindly in the way of unbelief toward certain destruction. We have admonished and pleaded, wept and prayed, but all seems to be in vain. We are haunted by the terrible thought of how it must end, and that thought fills us with horror.

Into this darkness comes the call: “Arise, shine!” The light of faith and hope must not fail. You must not despair and give up. Yours, too, is the promise: “Your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” The hour of triumph shall come also for you. All your wrestling with God for this or that soul shall not have been in vain. With this promise ringing in our ears, we leave this holy place with new hope and strength and with the firm resolution to continue our prayers and efforts for the souls of men.

The text reminds us, however, that our interest and concern is not to be restricted to the circle of our immediate relatives and acquaintances. It speaks of nations and kings, of sons and daughters from afar, of the abundance of the sea, the wealth of the Gentiles, of Midian and Ephah and Sheba. All these shall come to our Light. Christ is the Light, not of a few but of the world. Our Light must shine into far countries.

We need to be reminded of our world mission, for we are inclined to forget and to neglect the work of the Lord beyond our horizon. There is so much to be done at home, so much to engage our attention and efforts. It seems that we can do little in the face of hundreds of millions and whole continents in darkness. What is our little candle and feeble light in this vast night? To discourage still more, we have before us the spectacle of supposedly Christian nations bending every effort to kill and destroy. After shining for 1,900 years, the Light seems not even to have penetrated the darkness of this world.

The picture of the text is to encourage us, so that we may not grow weary of sending our light into the world. It is as though God had waited just for such a time as this to call: “Lift up your eyes round about, and see. They all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried in the arms.” True, we shall never catch all the souls for which we cast out the net. But it is also true that we shall catch every soul which God, according to His wise and good will, intends for us as the fruit of our efforts.

Again, we dare not close our eyes to the fact that God is fulfilling His promise even now. We must not permit the evident godlessness and the display of power by the forces of evil to obscure and hide the steady forward march of God’s cause. Viewed in the light of our feeble, halfhearted efforts, God’s blessings are truly amazing. Even the cold figures prove that God is giving us one victory after the other and that He has given us multitudes who show forth the praises of the Lord.

Forward, then, cheerfully and confidently! Proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes! The time is approaching when we shall see and be radiant with joy, when our hearts will thrill and rejoice. The day is coming when the picture of the text will be unfolded before our eyes in all its fullness, when the abundance of the sea will be turned to us and the hosts of the Gentile nations will come to us. It is the day when our Lord and Light returns visibly to earth and fills the whole world with His light. Only then shall be revealed how gloriously God has kept His promise. Then we shall see that our labors have not been in vain. Only then shall we know who was brought to the Light by our service, when those we won enter with us into the eternal light. Therefore arise and shine; for your Light has come, and the Glory of the Lord has risen upon you!

SERMON ON THE HOLY GOSPEL

The Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord was originally what the Feast of the Holy Nativity is for us today. It was the starting point of the story of Redemption. The Eastern Church did not emphasize the birth and boyhood history of our Lord but considered His Baptism the beginning. Epiphany means revelation, manifestation. At His Baptism our Lord was first unveiled as the Redeemer. God the Father declared On this Occasion: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Holy Spirit descended on the Carpenter of Nazareth and anointed Him for His office as Prophet, Priest, and King. Assured by the Father that He was indeed the divine Son and equipped for the work of redemption by the power of the Holy Spirit, our Lord entered upon His public ministry.

When the Feast of the Epiphany found its way into the Western Church, the Christians of the West were already observing the Nativity as the beginning of Christ’s work. So they adapted the Epiphany to fit into the Western scheme. What they celebrated on December 25th happened in Israel. The people who received the Babe as the long-expected Messiah were Jews — Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna, and many others as time went on. The Western Church was composed largely of Gentiles. So the Epiphany was designated as the Christmas of the Gentiles, to celebrate and emphasize that Christ came not only for the Jews but for all people. The story of the kings from the East was chosen as the first manifestation of Christ as the Savior also of the non-Jews, and the coming of the Magi to their King was made the center of the day.

How thorough the Western Church was in its adaptation may be seen from the Propers of the day. The theme of the day, as always, is announced in the Introit. “Behold, the Lord, the Ruler hath come; and the kingdom and the power and the glory are in His hand.” These words announce that the Babe born in Bethlehem is now to be revealed as “God of God, Very God of Very God,” and manifested in all the divine glory. The Epistle is from the Old Testament, a rare occurrence. It brings a prophecy of the coming of the Gentiles that is now fulfilled. “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” It is an answer to the Introit and points to the approaching caravan of the Magi as they draw near to Jerusalem. The Gradual deserves special notice. “All they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord.” In this first verse from the prophet Isaiah they are still to come. We have here the connection with the prophecy of the Epistle. In the second verse the King has come. “Arise, and shine, O Jerusalem; for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” The third verse leads directly into the Holy Gospel now to be read: “We have seen His star in the East; and we have come with our gifts to worship the Lord.” In the Collect we have already prayed: “O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles. . . .” In the Holy Gospel the Gentiles come. “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying: ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him.”‘

In all likelihood this happened at least two months after the Nativity, for we are told that His parents took the Christ Child to Jerusalem for presentation in the temple forty days after His birth. It is not likely that Joseph would have taken Him there after the warning the Magi received by the angel. Besides, we read that Joseph rose and took the Child and His mother by night and departed to Egypt. How many Magi came from the East to worship the newborn King we are not told. They were from Babylon or Persia, where they occupied themselves extensively with astronomy.

They came to worship the Lord Jesus. These Gentiles knew He was King of the Jews, promised to and expected by the Jews, the Comforter and Helper of Israel. Yet they searched for Him and worshiped Him just as if He were also their King. They saw in Him their Lord and King, whose kingdom extended beyond the boundaries of Israel, in whom also the Gentiles were to believe and obtain salvation.

How did they come to appropriate to themselves the Savior of Israel? They said: “We have seen His star in the East.” Later we read that they were warned of God in a dream not to return to Herod. We must look for the hand of God in this story. God was with these people. God who had given the Jews the revelation concerning the Savior also gave the Gentiles such a revelation. To Nazareth and Bethlehem He sent a message by an angel; to the Gentiles in the East He sent a message by a star.

These Gentiles doubtless had previous knowledge of the promise and hope of Israel. Balaam, the prophet who spoke of the star that should rise out of Jacob and the scepter from Judah, had lived in the East. Daniel had spent most of his life there. The Jewish nation was captive in Babylon for seventy years. It requires no stretch of the imagination to believe that these Magi looked in faith for the promised star and the scepter from Judah and that the star God hung in the heavens was the messenger proclaiming to them that the Promised One was born.

In announcing the birth of the Savior in the East, God showed that Jesus Christ had come not only for the Jews but for all people. He declared that faith in Jesus Christ is the religion He has meant for the whole world. According to God’s will, no other religion is to exist. Yet after two thousand years there are almost countless religions in the world. As a result, much unhappiness and suffering has come upon men. Some of the bloodiest wars of history were fought on religious grounds. Religious fanatics caused men to persecute one another cruelly. Wise men and great minds have occupied themselves with the problem of doing away with this evil and having all men accept one and the same religion. Of late we again hear and read much of attempts to unite all men on common religious grounds. The essential teachings of the Christian, Jewish, Mohammedan, Hindu, and Chinese religions are to be combined into a world religion to which all men can subscribe. All nations are to be united as children of God. Even a president of the United States declared a few years ago that he had tried for years to have different churches unite on the common basis of the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, in order that a united Church may assist the State in combating Communism.

All pronouncements regarding a world religion sound very beautiful and hopeful. But for men to create a world religion is a foolish and vain undertaking. It is foolish because religion must be based on truth. Truth is the first essential, and the truth about God and His relation to man is hidden from the natural heart. All the philosophers of the world will never discover the truth. To be true, a religion must be revealed to men by God Himself. The undertaking to create a world religion is also vain, because it is unnecessary. It is unnecessary to discover a religion in order to help a world floundering in error and darkness. For the true world religion that is to unite all peoples and make all men happy is already here. We have it. It is the religion of faith in Jesus Christ. This fact God declared when He called the Magi from the East to worship the King of the Jews.

Nor was this the only time God declared faith in Jesus Christ the true religion. It was that from the beginning. There was a time when God had the whole human race before Him. On this occasion He taught this religion of faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man. In the garden of Eden He spoke to Adam and Eve of the Seed of the woman who should bruise the serpent’s head. Here God directed Adam and Eve and all their descendants to Christ. Faith in Him was to be their religion.

Through all the history of man, God never recognized any other religion. On the contrary, He always condemned every other religion. In His eyes the greatest offense always has been that men ignored and perverted whatever knowledge they had of God and did not accept the one religion. In His displeasure over the rejection of revealed truth He punished men by letting them suffer the consequences of their perversion. St. Paul declares that because, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, and be-cause they changed the truth of God into a lie, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do those things that are not fitting, and darkened their minds. The rejection of the true religion always has serious consequences.

Through His Prophets God again and again proclaimed that He would not permit the Gentiles to continue forever in the false, man-made religion. In the fullness of time a mighty call should go forth to all nations that they forsake their own ways and come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ and the God whom He revealed. When God came to earth to reveal Himself in Christ, this event was announced to the Gentiles by a star. Before withdrawing His visible presence, the God-man gave His followers the command to preach the glad news of salvation in Christ to every creature. He said of Himself: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.” His Apostles declared: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Referring to the time when the Gentiles did not know the truth as revealed in Christ, the apostle said: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed, and of this He has given assurance to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

That faith in Jesus Christ is the world religion has been borne out also by the history of this religion. At the time of Noah, after the Flood, there was no other religion in the world. But soon men forsook the true religion. To preserve the truth, God chose Abraham and his children as guardians of the truth. There were believers outside of Israel at all times, but the Jews had and kept the truth. Then came the time of the New Testament and of bringing the glad news to all the world. At once it became apparent that this true religion, preserved in Israel through the centuries, was adapted to all nations, for it applied itself to a condition common to all. All men were sinners, and this religion brought the cure for sin. Today there is not a nation on the globe among whom believers in Christ are not found. Faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of the world is today the true world religion. Then it is the religion also for you and me. We, too, are truly religious and in any relation to our Creator only when we believe and trust in Jesus Christ. We, too, are to acknowledge Christ as our King and Lord.

If faith in Jesus Christ is the world religion, how is it that so many do not accept it? How is it that so many profess to be Christians yet give no evidence of faith in their lives? This is likely to disturb us. One would expect something far different from a religion with almighty God behind it. But the situation is as old as the religion itself. When the Magi came to Jerusalem to worship the King, nobody seemed glad or happy over the Savior. All the city was troubled; Herod was alarmed; nobody joined the Magi on the way to Bethlehem. But this did not deter them. They knew that men love darkness rather than light. The glad news had won their hearts. They put their trust in the Messiah of Israel and desired to be saved by Him. The unbelief of others could not shake their resolution to seek and find Him who alone brought hope to a perishing world.

The reason for so much unbelief has not changed since then. Herod feared for his throne. The people feared that the coming of the Messiah at this time would mean unrest and disruption of business. Comfort, tranquillity, the enjoyment of material advantages, was preferred to anything the Messiah could bring. It’s the same today. The love of the material is still the real cause of much unbelief. Lack of interest, the fear of a change and upset in life, is the natural attitude of blind, sinful men. If we no longer prefer the material, if we are no longer indifferent to Christ, if a change has been brought about, this means that God has performed a miracle in us. We have been born a second time, and a new nature has been given us. The love of God has been poured into our hearts. When that love came into our hearts, the love of self and of the material went out and died. Now Jesus Christ is All.

His love in our hearts embraces all men. This love thinks not of self but only of others. The love in our hearts is the Love that gave His life for all men. He loved all men, we love all men. We have in our possession the religion that alone will save. Not one for whom Christ died shall be lost if we can prevent it. All must hear the glad news from our lips. We have seen His star. We have found Him. We have come with the Magi to Bethlehem and have seen the true God. We must learn to know Him and worship Him only.

This is the divine solution for the problem of a world religion. As believers we shall set ourselves not to bring a world religion into being but to bring the existent world religion into the hearts and lives of all men.

THE HOLY COMMUNION

How and by whom is the world to be brought to the knowledge of the true religion? Having finished the work of redemption, our Lord withdrew His visible presence from the earth and ascended to the right hand of God. But before He withdrew His visible body, He created for Himself another body in which He was to continue the work of salvation on earth. This body, of which He is the Head, is His Church, the body of the faithful. St. Paul writes (Eph. 1:22): “He has put all things under His feet and has made Him the Head over all things for the Church, which is His body.” Again: “You are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). The Head over all things, under whose feet all things were put for the Church, which is His body, committed the evangelization of the world to His believers. “Go and make disciples of all nations” by baptizing and teaching. “And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” We who profess to love Him and for His sake to love our fellow men, are to function as members of the body in which He continues His presence on earth.

If we fail Him, He will have died in vain. The members of His body, united with Him by love, are not to carry out His will like slaves and servants. “You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:14,15). Making disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching is not a disagreeable task imposed by a master on unwilling servants. It is an arrangement between loving friends, a sharing in an undertaking that brought God to earth and cost Him His life, a partnership in the divine work of salvation.

Into this partnership with God and Christ we enter anew as we proclaim our Lord’s death by eating and drinking His Body and Blood in the Holy Sacrament. We enter into communion with Christ. A communion is a partnership, a fellowship. To this partnership the Head of the body contributes all He has done for our redemption, His perfect life, His willing death, His glorious resurrection and ascension. As partners we, too, must make our contribution. We are to assume the obligation of bringing the glad news of Christ’s salvation to the world.

As we then acknowledge our Lord as our Savior and King and enter anew into the partnership with Christ by believingly accepting the precious gifts our divine Partner has provided, we declare our eager willingness to function as members of Christ’s body and to assume the obligation of making disciples of all nations.

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