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Lindemann on Quasimodogeniti–Easter 2 (First Sunday After)

by revalkorn ~ April 26th, 2011

QUASI MODO GENITI, THE FIRST SUNDAY
AFTER EASTER

For a fuller understanding of the Propers for the Octave of Easter we must again recall the practices of the Church in the earlier centuries. The celebration of the Easter mystery was prolonged for an entire week, during which time the interest of all was focused on the white-robed newly baptized. In them the early Christians relived the happy experience of their own Baptism. On the Saturday after Easter the newly made Christians laid aside the white garments and replaced them with ordinary clothes. A final admonition was: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). These words should inspire us all with a lifelong appreciation of our nobility as Christians.

On the following day, White Sunday, the newly baptized appeared for the first time in ordinary clothes and took their place as full-fledged Christians in the midst of the congregation. Now fully initiated, they had to assume personal responsibility for their spiritual welfare. They were pledged to the highest fidelity and perseverance in the new way of life. From this we derive a valuable lesson for ourselves. We, too, must gain an increase of fidelity and perseverance from our observance of the Easter mystery. The Collect points this out. “We who have celebrated the solemnities of the Lord’s resurrection … bring forth the fruits thereof in our life and conversation.” Easter is over, but its influence must be reflected in our life and conduct. The high feasts of the Church should be more than occasions for religious emotionalism. Their celebration should have a last-ing influence. Easter, above all, ought to effect in us a rebirth of Christian fervor and zeal.

In many churches today the infants being baptized are presented with a white garment and are addressed: “Receive this white garment, and carry it unsullied unto the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, that thou mayest have life everlasting.” The white garment is a symbol of the grace of Baptism. This must be faithfully preserved throughout life. The garment must not be soiled. The grace of the Easter mystery is the grace given in Baptism. If this is guarded and preserved throughout life as a precious jewel should be, we truly keep Easter in our hearts. The Epistle for Easter impressed upon us that we must permit Easter to have a lasting effect on our conduct and life. “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be fresh dough, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” In Christ’s death a perpetual Easter began for us. Through Baptism we have been made new creatures.

In order to rebuild our lives on the grace of Easter, we must first of all lay a solid foundation. This foundation is faith. The Epistle tells us that the victory which overcomes the world is our faith. In the Holy Gospel our Lord says to Thomas: “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” The same admonition was given to the newly baptized: Treasure your faith, yet not a faith that simply accepts as true whatever God has revealed, but a faith that governs all the actions of life. Next we must use the means that will confirm us in the virtue of perseverance. We know how fragile and inconsistent our human nature is. Who gives us the strength to hold fast to the Easter gift of grace when we become weary and faint? He who gave the Easter gift also sees to it that we can preserve it. The Epistle tells us that Christ comes to us not only in the water of Baptism but also in the blood of the Eucharist. If we grow weak in the faith that is meant to overcome the world, then let us seek and find strength by again and again becoming partakers of, and partners in, the blood of the wound in Christ’s side. That will strengthen us in holding fast to the mystery of Easter. In other words, the Lord’s Supper is the Sacrament that gives us perseverance.

The Introit. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word. Hear, O My people, and I will testify unto thee! O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto Me! Sing aloud unto God, our Strength; make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.”

The Church strives to help all “newborn babes,” all who have been born again on Easter, and all who have observed an anniversary of their Baptism. “Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” The Lord’s promise is: “I will testify unto thee.” The life that is to be a constant manifestation of the fruits of the Resurrection rests in, grows and bears fruit out of, God’s testimony. “O Israel, if you but listen to Me!” The divine testimony will strengthen God’s people. “Sing aloud to God, our Strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob!”

The Collect. “Grant, we beesech Thee, Almighty God, that we who have celebrated the solemnities of the Lord’s resurrection, may, by the help of Thy grace, bring forth the fruits thereof in our life and conversation; through the same,” etc.

The high feast of Easter should be more than an occasion for religious emotionalism. Its celebration should have a lasting influence. With Christ we have risen to a new life. The fruits of our baptismal rebirth must be evident in our life and conduct. The Collect connects closely with the Epistle.

The Epistle (1 John 5:4-12). The post-Easter Epistles continue the instruction of the newly baptized, the “newborn babes” in the spiritual realm. The Epistle for the Octave is most appropriate. The logic of loving faith is carried forward step by step. “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world,” “the victory … is our faith,” conqueror is only “he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” The crowning gift is “eternal life.”

The Gradual. “Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us. Alleluia! The angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door and sat upon it. Alleluia!”

The Common Service Book offers Matt. 28:2 and John 20:26. It would seem that the transition from the Epistle to the Holy Gospel is better served by the latter text: “After eight days, when the doors were shut, came Jesus and stood in the midst of His disciples and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.”

The Proper Sentence. “Alleluia! Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us. Alleluia!”

The Gospel (St. John 20:19-31). The choice of this Gospel is characteristic of the Church’s effort to repeat and emphasize the festival teaching on the Octave, also to relive the events in point of time.

The Proper Preface. “But chiefly are we bound to praise Thee for the glorious resurrection of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord; for He is the very Paschal Lamb which was offered for us and hath taken away the sins of the world; who by His death hath destroyed death and by His rising to life again hath restored to us everlasting life.”

OUTLINE FOR SERMON ON THE EPISTLE

All who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. As Christ was raised from the dead b the glory of the Father, we, too, should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:2-9). The Sunday of the Resurrection leads on to the Sunday of the Risen Life.

The Risen Life in Christ

The power for the risen life comes from union with our risen Savior.

A. The Victory of Life. The Christian must wage constant warfare against the world, its temptations, evil example, and its indifference to spiritual realities. He can overcome only by a life and energy from a higher source. He must be “born from above.” It is not enough to accept Christ as a teacher come to reveal a higher and better mode of living, for then we should only possess a higher standard than others but not the power to rise to it. However, when we believe that our Teacher is the Son of God, we may look for the grace and the power to live according to His commandments. Believing that Jesus is the Son of God, we are born of God and receive power to overcome the world.

B. The Bringer of Life. Christ came by water and blood. (1) He came to cleanse us from our sins by the washing of water: by Baptism for the remission of sins we are relieved of guilt. Every remission of sins after Baptism is only the renewal of the grace then given. Baptism is also the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5), since by Baptism we are incorporated into the living body of Christ and are grafted to the living Vine. We are taken into covenant with God, being baptized into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This baptismal position is the consequence of our Lord’s death, for from His pierced side “there came out blood and water,” to signify the cleansing power of His blood. (2) Most emphatically St. John adds: “Not with the water only but with the water and the blood.” The blood is the life (Gen. 9:4), and the offering of blood was intended to symbolize the offering not of death but of life (Lev. 17:14). We need, therefore, not merely the new birth of water, the new life, but we need it more abundantly (John 10:10). This is expressed also when our Lord says (John 6:52-59) that to eat His flesh and drink His blood is to have eternal life. To drink the blood is the appropriation of life. The blood is the life, the life of the risen and ascended Lord, and partaking of the blood we abide in the living Christ and He in us. This is the closest communion with Christ, our Life, that is possible here on earth. We are not to be satisfied with the lower life of the water, but to desire both “the water and the blood.”

C. The Witnesses of Life. The connection of thought is plain. The life imparted by the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood is the perpetual witness to the Son of God. The Holy Spirit creates the risen life in Holy Baptism and nourishes and strengthens it by the eating and drinking of heavenly food in the Lord’s Supper. The frequent eating and drinking is essential to the risen life. By means of the Holy Communion the life in Christ is nourished and strengthened. The life of the Church is the evidence for the claims of her Lord. This testimony is not the witness of men, but the witness of God in men, and yet comes through men, for each believer has the witness in him. Life proceeds from life, and the risen Christian proves a risen Christ to be the source of his Christianity, and the growth of the Church is an ever-increasing witness to Christ, a perpetual miracle. Chrysostom wrote: “The Church consisteth of these two together, and those who are initiated know this, being regenerated by water and nourished by the Blood and Flesh. Hence the Sacraments take their beginning” (Hom. 85).

OUTLINE FOR SERMON ON THE HOLY GOSPEL

The Risen Life of the Church

A. The Life Manifested to the Church. Our Lord was already manifested to Mary Magdalene, to the women, to St. Peter, and to the two disciples of Emmaus. In this day’s Holy Gospel He is manifested to His Apostles as a group. He came with a message of reconciliation. They had sinned against Him, but He came to them not in anger but with pardon. He had dismissed their sin from His memory, let them do the same. “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week,” and also “eight days later,” He came with a message of peace for them. He brought the sure conviction of faith, proving not only that He was alive but that He was the same Jesus who had been crucified. He came bringing joy with Him. “Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” Faith, peace, and joy are the heritage of the Church, the very life by which she lives and by which she overcomes the world (Rom. 15:13).

B. The Life as Manifested by the Church. The Church has received life in order that she may be the channel of life to the world. That she may do this, she has received: (1) A Divine Commission. This commission is as divine as that of our Lord, for it is the extension. It was given not to individuals but to a society, a visible body of disciples. Christ said not “I send a book or a doctrine,” but “I send you.” The disciples made up the Church, but they did not make it. Christ made it. By belonging to this body men become Christians and are distinct and separate from the world as within closed doors. They go forth to represent Christ to the world as His body. (2) A Divine Life. Our Lord breathed His own Spirit of Life into the Church, that as there was one body, so there might be one Spirit; and that as there was a commission, so there might not be wanting the power to carry it out. The Spirit was given primarily to the Church, and to individuals as members of the Church and of the body of Christ, even as the Sacraments were given to the Church that the individual might find his life by losing it in a life greater than his own. The Church has received the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood for the life of the world. (3) A Divine Authority. The Church was not only sent and Commissioned but also invested with authority, and she has the sanction of Christ to represent Him among men as the giver and withholder of pardon and as His ambassador to declare His terms. This power, inherent in the Church, is exercised by the ministry and is connected with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

THE HOLY COMMUNION

The outline for a sermon on the Epistle for this day offers ample suggestions for references to the Communion. One thought seems appropriate and might be included. It is that in Section IV of the Small Catechism the question is asked: “Why do you wish to go to the Sacrament?” The answer is: “That I may learn to believe that Christ died for my sin out of great love…. We have communion with Christ and drink His Blood that we may learn to believe, that we may strengthen our faith, that we may possess the abundant life.

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