Wednesday, December 07, 2005

THROUGH, and through! Thank God for Prepositions.

A meditation from Peter Toon on the theme of ACCESS

We drive through the rain and fog, through a town, through a tunnel, through heavy traffic and through the day and night. We fly through the air; we swim through the water; and we walk through the fields. Our food passes through our bodies, the air we breathe through our lungs, even as our blood passes through our arteries and veins.

The word “through” indicates that someone or something is moving into something and then eventually out of it. What is passed through can be solid like a tunnel, geographically widespread like a state, or liquid like water.

We also from time to time use the word “through” in a non-physical sense. “I had to go through the secretary to see the boss;” and “I had to go through the nurse-practitioner before I could see the doctor.” Here we mean “through the appointed person as the means of access” to the desired goal. As it were, there is a fixed route to the boss or doctor and we must go on and through that route in order to reach the person in question.

Those who hear or use traditional forms of worship in the Orthodox Churches, the Roman Church or the Church of England, become familiar with the repeated use of “through” in a specifically theological or doctrine sense. In fact, its use is critical to the maintenance of doctrinal orthodoxy for it is used in a critically important position within the declaration and description of the gracious, covenantal relation of God to man and of man to God! And in this it is sometimes joined by such other words as “by” and “in” and “with”!

If we turn to The Book of Common Prayer (edition of 1662, for example) we find that in every Collect that is addressed to the Father, the ending is “through [the Lord] Jesus Christ” or a similar form of words. This is also so in the Latin originals in the old Sacramentaries. – per Dominum Christum

Of course, there is a solid biblical basis for this form of ending and it is the presentation in the New Testament of Jesus as the Christ, as the Incarnate Son of God, as the Saviour of the world, as the One Mediator between God and Man, as the Advocate for men before God the Father, and as the High Priest in heaven. The eternal Son of God became man because without his unique work on our behalf we are unable because of our sinfulness to achieve a right relation or friendship or communion with God the Father. It is because of the work and merits of Jesus on our behalf that the Father accepts us, forgives us, adopts us as his children and accounts us righteous in his right.

Therefore, in any movement from God the Father towards us, and in any movement on our part towards God the Father, one route only can be taken – through Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the One Mediator between God and man. He, as One Person with two natures (one divine and one human), brings together sinful, guilty man and the righteous, holy Father. So we are justified by faith because of and through Jesus Christ, and the Father accounts us righteous in his heavenly court only through the merits of Jesus Christ.

Contrary to a lot of popular religion today, there is no direct hotline to heaven from an individual being like you or me. From the weakest to the strongest of us we have only one means of access, one route, and this is through and together with a unique Person, even the Lord Jesus Christ, who lived for us, died for us, rose and again and was exalted for us, and will come again for us at the end of the age. By and through his human nature, which he took from the Blessed Virgin Mary and which he shares with us, we have access into him through that which we share with him; and thus we come to the Father through him and him alone.

Therefore, let us rejoice and be glad that we have been invited and enabled to approach the Father of glory through his incarnate Son, even Jesus the Christ. And let us remember this each time we hear the ending of the Collect.

Now it is appropriate to move on to the related word, ‘in.” We live in houses, in towns, in countries; and we drive in cars, ride in trains and fly in aircraft. We are in communities, societies, clubs, organizations and professions. Sometimes we are in debt and other times our bank account is in credit. And some of us say we are in love with a person or in fellowship with people of a similar mind.

Readers of St Paul are familiar with his often-used expression, en Christo, “in Christ.” To be “in Christ” is to be so profoundly united to him by the invisible but real presence and work of the Holy Spirit, that we are said to be “his body” of which he is the Head. Living and walking “in Christ” means participating through his Body in who he is and what he has available for us, who are sinners being saved by grace. Thus we are privileged to address his Father as “our Father”, and, being justified by faith through divine grace, we are clothed in his dazzlingly pure righteousness. Further, since we live in him, we are transported to the Father’s presence and glory with him in the fullness of the Eucharist Feast so that where he is there we are with him (in the Spirit).

Anglicans are familiar with the words in the Eucharistic Prayer, “that he may dwell in us and we in him.” Jesus Christ dwells by his Spirit in the hearts of those who are united to him in faith; and those who are truly his disciples dwell in him by the same Spirit. So the true fellowship of Christian believers is both the temple of the Holy Spirit and also the Body of Christ.

The Christian hope is that together with the whole of God’s elect, we shall truly know and have communion with God the Father through Jesus Christ, whose Body we are and shall be. So by grace alone we shall be with him (because through and in him) unto ages of ages for our complete redemption and deification and for his glory.

Thank God for those prepositions – through, in, with and by! December 7, 2005

1 comment:

Death Bredon said...

Well spoken, indeed!