The Meeting of Our Lord

Given at All Saints Episcopal Church, Ashmont, Massachusetts

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The bright and joyous feast we are celebrating today is rooted in the Old Covenant. In the Book of Exodus the Lord commands Moses to “consecrate to me… all the first-born: whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.” (13:2) The commandment to offer the first-born is associated with Israel’s Passover from Egyptian slavery to freedom. “Remember this day, in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage, for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place…” (13:3)

Paschal Letter of Father Robert M. Arida

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“For God is one and he has revealed himself through Jesus Christ his Son who is his Word
proceeding out of silence.”

These words of Saint Ignatius of Antioch (+ 98-117 A.D.) have the Gospel according to Saint John as their source and inspiration. From the realm of silence the pre-eternal Word of the Father takes upon himself our flesh – our humanity - and dwells among us. (Jn. 1:14) By his word, the Word is recognized as the Savior of the world. (Jn.4:42) Out of silence the Word comes to us as the one Great High Priest who, though sinless, is tempted in every way like us. (Heb.4:14ff) Being our High Priest, the Word is also the most pure offering. Indeed, the Word proceeding from silence shows himself as the lamb of God who takes upon himself our sin and our mortality. (Jn.1:29ff) As the one who offers and is offered, the Word ascends the altar of Golgotha where he dies so that we may live beyond the grave. Upon Golgotha the Word active, vibrant, authoritative, healing and transfiguring returns to silence; “It is finished.” (Jn.19:30) But in this silence the Word destroys hell. Indeed, in silence death is swallowed up by life. 

Paschal Letter of Father Robert M. Arida

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection in the world and for the world challenge the Church and therefore all the faithful to make, what Father Georges Florovsky called, a theological decision relative to our place and response to the world. The formation of our faith built upon the cross and empty tomb draws us into the world and places us within its challenges, surprises, tragedies and joys. Our faith draws us into the arena of life – the life of the world now confronted by the life of God’s Kingdom – where we stand with Christ and the communio sanctorum, the communion of the holy ones and holy things.

Paschal Letter of Father Robert M. Arida

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

Christ’s death, burial and resurrection form the foundation of Christianity and our faith. These saving events are a turning point in human history. While sin and death continue to affect and haunt us, it is the cross, tomb and resurrection of Christ that have the final word. That word is new and eternal life. That word is the establishment of the New Jerusalem in which the one new priest, Jesus Christ, presides as” the one who offers and is offered.” That word calls all to rejoice for indeed “ the Lord is at hand.” (Phil. 4: 5) 

Paschal Letter of Father Robert M. Arida

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless and you are still
in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

These words of Saint Paul, written towards the end of his first letter to the Church in Corinth, compel us to examine the quality of our faith which stands on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:3ff) These words beckon us to assess whether our faith in the crucified and risen Lord is dead or alive. 

"Jesus Christ is the Same Yesterday and Today and For Ever" (Hebrews 13:8)

In the fragments of the pre-socratic philosopher Heraclitus  (d. cir. 484 B.C.) we read, “All things change and nothing remains.” These words bear an innate sadness and dread that spring from the impermanence of all existence. Yet, for the Christian, the insight of Heraclitus is only half-true. Indeed, all things change, but it is change which ensures the permanence and security of all things. 

Sunday of the Prodigal Son

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

To the Lord faithful love and judgment are one; mercy and justice are one. The Psalmist declares: “I will sing of faithful love and judgment, to you O Lord, I will make music.” (Ps. 101: 1)

To us faithful love and judgment, mercy and justice, are at odds. They are like estranged brothers. 

But if we are to bear the image and likeness of God, if we are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect then we must learn to be merciful as he is merciful. 

A Meditation on Time

September 1 marks the beginning of the Church’s new year.  More often than not it is a day that usually goes unnoticed.

That a new year begins points not only to a means by which time is measured but also to the importance of time as the context in which we live and die.  We are in time, we are of time, we are surrounded by and bear the effects of time.  From a chronological perspective we have a beginning and an end.  Usually we recognize the importance of time when recalling events or persons either of the present or the past.  We celebrate events of the past and present as we contemplate and often hope and dream about the future.  Time provides the context in which we acquire our identity as persons through the struggles and sufferings we endure in forging relationships with those around us and with God. Time is part of creation.  It is created by God and therefore it is good.

He Stands Among Us (Theophany, January 6)

"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him" (Matthew 3: 13) 

I am sure these words from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew are familiar to all of us. The Feast of our Lord's epiphany cannot be separated from his baptism by John in the Jordan. The words of the Gospel are complemented by the festal icon which all of us have venerated. Truly, we enter a feast that we recognize and associate with the blessing of water. Yet, it is precisely this familiarity - this recognition - of the feast that threatens to hinder and perhaps bar our entering into its bright and saving mystery. Thus, it is necessary to take another look at what is familiar. It is necessary for us to see that the familiar is charged with the uncreated energy that binds us to the saving and transforming activity of the Lord Jesus.

Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

Brothers and Sisters,

The Samaritan woman was in a bad way – wasn’t she?

First of all, she was a Samaritan.  As their contemporary Jews saw them, the Samaritans had stayed behind when the Jews were driven into exile to Babylon.  On the Jews’ return from exile, they found the Samaritans living on their land, having mixed with the pagans and adulterated Judaism with paganism.  Jews and Samaritans each claimed to be the true descendants of Abraham, and they despised each other; their mutual hatred persisted across centuries.  All this lies behind the Evangelist John’s remark that “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” Sharing drinking vessels, as Jesus does here, would be about the last thing they would do; to do so risked ritual defilement.

Pascal Letter of Father Robert M. Arida

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As a people baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, we are already participants in the mystery of new and eternal life. However, at the same time we are aware that this gift is often neglected and forgotten not because of ingratitude or indifference but because of a lack of belief in what is truly incomprehensible.  Not understanding what we are celebrating, not apprehending the reality that the God Man Jesus Christ has taken on our sin and mortality and by his dying and rising raises us into his Kingdom renders our feasting of no consequence.

On the Cross of Our Lord

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Last week, when we celebrated the memory of St. Gregory Palamas, I tried to speak about how belief is inextricably bound to the experience of the triune and tri-personal God. Life on this side of the grave is called to participate in the Divine life and that indeed fundamental to our faith is the reality of God becoming a human being so that the human being might become God. To take this a step further, we have the cross in our midst today and we have just heard the Gospel according to St. Mark.

Paschal Letter of Father Robert M. Arida

"...the Sun of righteousness descended into Hell, illumined it and made it Heaven. For where Christ is, there also is Heaven." - St. John Chrysostom

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The transfiguring and deifying mystery of Pascha cannot be separated from the power of the cross and therefore from the power of our Lord's saving humility and self-emptying. "And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross." (Phil. 2:8) It is the cross, the very antithesis to all that is associated with worldly power and triumph, which the Savior ascends and uses as his only weapon to release us from our captivity to sin and death. The cross is also the throne of the humiliated Christ and becomes the throne of the New Jerusalem from where the King of Glory summons all of humanity to himself. "Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out, and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." (Jn. 12:31-32)

Nativity of Our Lord

Pastoral message from Father Robert Arida

“Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Saint Paul’s words of support and encouragement to the Church in Corinth can be a great benefit to us as we prepare to enter the feast of Christ’s nativity. Indeed, we are to be watchful as we stand firm in our faith since what we are about to celebrate ultimately calls us to accept and nurture a creative tension generated by the Son of God entering the world as a human being. We are to be watchful and firm in our faith for the birth of Christ and all that is related to the Lord’s saving work is, on the one hand, perceived as an intrusion seeking to disturb the comfortable and smug bourgeois Christianity of our culture. On the other hand, it is often claimed as a political or ideological tool to promote the agendas that divide and alienate one human being from another for the sake of worldly power and notoriety. Celebrating the Lord’s nativity requires courage and strength to stand apart from and to correct all that opposes or distorts the proclamation and manifestation of God’s kingdom in our midst.

Paschal Letter of Father Robert Arida

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal
puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is
written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’” (1 Cor.15:54)

Christ’s death, burial and resurrection form the core of our Christian faith. They indeed provide the contours of the great and marvelous mystery we are called to enter.  The celebration of the Lord’s Pascha is nothing less than the acknowledgement of Life’s triumph over death.

Nativity of Our Lord

A pastoral message from Father Robert Arida

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Reading the first chapters of Saint Luke’s Gospel leads to one of the quiet crescendos of the Bible.  Gabriel’s unexpected visit, the incomprehensible virgin birth, the homage offered to the Christ child by the mysterious magi (Matthew 2:1 ff) and the greeting of the humble shepherds guided to the Savior by an angel culminate in leaving the young Mary in a state of joy, wonder, and perplexity.  All is kept in her heart.

Continually in the Temple

Brothers and sisters,

Let us begin with the final words of St. Luke’s Gospel.  The context is this: after Jesus’ Resurrection, and after He had appeared to His disciples, He led them out as far as Bethany, and there He was parted from them and ascended into heaven.  The disciples, obeying His command, returned to Jerusalem, where they awaited the descent of power from on high.  Luke closes his Gospel by telling us that there the disciples were “continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.”