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332Homily for 1/4/09 - 1b4nat - perfection

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  • Fr David Moser
    Jan 4, 2009
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      Matt 1:1-25

      As we approach the celebration of the feast of our Lord’s birth, we are
      reminded that the incarnation was not something that was suddenly or
      casually approached by God, but something that had been in preparation
      since before the foundations of the world were laid. We see this
      preparation clearly in the remembrance last Sunday of the Holy Ancestors
      of Christ and this Sunday of the Holy Fathers who came before Christ. In
      these two Sundays we recall the physical and spiritual preparation of
      mankind and of the world for the coming of God in the flesh. God guided
      the course of the existence of the whole world so that it would come to
      a particular point of perfection. That peak of perfection is the Most
      Holy Virgin Mary. She is the product of generations of growth and
      refinement embodying the best possible effort of fallen mankind to
      fulfill our destiny to be like God. She is the perfect vessel put forth
      by the efforts of all of creation to receive the Son of God into the world.

      When God created mankind, even then at the dawn of our existence, He
      already knew that He would become man and so draw all of mankind and the
      whole world into union and communion with Himself. With Adam and then
      Eve our first parents, He began this preparation, placing them in the
      worldly paradise of the Garden of Eden and communing with them daily so
      that they might more rapidly come to the place where they – and through
      them the whole world – were ready to receive Him in the flesh. But Adam
      and Eve sinned and departed from the plan of God, however, God did not
      give up His plan or abandon His creation. Even the fall of Adam and Eve
      into sin was used by God as an occasion to make His coming incarnation
      into an event of even greater glory by making it the means by which sin
      and death, brought into the world through the sin of our first parents,
      would be defeated and destroyed.

      Throughout the whole of the history of the Old Testament we see how God
      gradually guided the course of the world gradually molding and shaping
      fallen man towards the pinnacle of perfection through which He Himself
      would come into the world. From the very beginning we see God choosing
      righteousness over sin, teaching, by long and thorough lessons, what is
      good and what is evil. When the time was right, God chose a particular
      people, the patriarch Abraham and then Isaac and then Jacob as the line
      from which He would draw this perfect vessel. The children of Israel,
      were then given the law to guide them and the prophets to ever push them
      into the application of the law. With each generation, the chosen people
      became more and more adept at living within the law and becoming as
      perfect as man was able to become on his own. Finally this progression
      towards perfection found its ultimate peak and its ultimate expression
      in the birth of the Virgin Mary who was the chosen vessel, the ultimate
      perfect human being produced by the efforts not only of one family or of
      one generation, but by the whole of the human race from Adam and Eve on
      through the Patriarchs and chosen people; again through the kings and
      priests and finally through the ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna. The
      Holy Virgin Mary was brought by her parents to the temple as an offering
      to God and the High Priest and Prophet Zacharias received her and by the
      grace of God saw her to be the perfect vessel, the pinnacle of
      perfection which the world had produced to offer to God. Thus the High
      Priest Zacharias led her not only into the temple, but placed her in the
      Holy of Holies where the Ark of the covenant had once stood for she
      would become the new Ark of the Covenant, the throne of God who would
      come into the world through her womb, be carried in her arms as though
      born by the Holy Angels and sit upon her lap as upon a throne.

      The Holy Virgin Mary is the peak of the perfection of the created world.
      She is the best that creation could ever offer to the creator. But even
      the perfection of the world, brought about throughout the whole span of
      history and with the guiding hand of God upon mankind was not sufficient
      to enter into union and communion with God. She could not, of her own
      essence bring forth into the world the God/man. As perfect and holy as
      she was, she reveals to us how far short the perfection of the world is
      when compared to the perfection of God. She shows us the great
      unbridgeable distance between the creature and the Creator. She is the
      pinnacle of perfection of the whole human race and of the whole world –
      but she was insignificant before God. In herself, she was as empty as
      the Holy of Holies in which she sat and prayed. That emptiness would
      have to be filled not by her, nor by another human being, but by God
      Himself. Only God could bridge the gap between Himself and His creation.
      Only God could perfect the imperfection of the human race by His
      presence. Only God could offer His own essence to the world. And so out
      of His love and His compassion He did all of this. God, seeing the
      perfection of the world offered to Him as a vessel for His coming into
      the world, accepted this offering as insufficient as she was, and filled
      the Holy Virgin with Himself through the Holy Spirit. In this moment, as
      the Virgin was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, the life of God began to
      grow in her, uniting God with her own flesh and through her to the whole
      world. Accepting her as the ultimate expression of perfection of which
      the created world was capable, God made up that which was lacking by
      uniting Himself to the world through her. Through the Virgin Mary, He
      took flesh, became man, came into the world and dwelt among us. He
      Himself became the most perfect man that ever lived for only by uniting
      God and man could man ever be truly perfect. Even the most Holy Virgin
      Mary produced by the world after ages of refinement and labor as the
      highest expression of worldly perfection could not come close to the
      perfection which was brought about by the union of God and man. Nor can
      such perfection ever be overtaken by any effort of the world. Only by
      the union of God and man can men ever become perfect.

      This then is our salvation, our perfection – that is the union of God
      and man, the perfect communion of the creature and the Creator. Having
      come into the world through the Holy Virgin our Lord showed that His
      perfection is available not only to the one who was perfect by worldly
      standards but to all men. He chose as His own disciples and apostles men
      who were not perfect, but who had their own flaws and deficiencies. By
      His grace and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, He united Himself with
      them and those imperfections were overcome by the perfection of God and
      they were united with Him. Neither did He reject she who was the vessel
      of His coming into the world, but she also embraced His grace and the
      union and communion with Himself that He now offered to the whole world.
      This grace, because of her union with God as the instrument of the
      incarnation, found in her fertile ground and took root and grew to
      produce the most beautiful flower of paradise, the fragrant bloom of the
      Mother of God and Ever Virgin Mary – glowing now not with the perfection
      of the world, but shining with the grace and perfection of Heaven. As
      this new perfection, she shines as a beacon for us of the grace and love
      of God, marking for us the path to the perfection of union and communion
      with God.

      From the dawn of time and the first instant of the existence of the
      world, God began preparing a place for Himself in the world. Our first
      parents Adam and Eve were made by God as the crown and pinnacle of all
      creation and through them He began to prepare the means by which He
      Himself would be united to His creation. Even though they fell into sin,
      still God did not give up His plan to come into the world, but worked
      throughout all of our history to make His incarnation even more glorious
      and more triumphant. He guided mankind throughout all of history,
      choosing those who were righteous out from those who had given
      themselves up to evil. Choosing for himself a people, the seed of
      Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Choosing from among those people the line of
      priests and kings as those who would serve Him. He guided His chosen
      people by the law and the prophets leading them finally to the moment in
      all of history when the perfect human being would be produced by them –
      the Virgin Mary. And through her, He Himself entered into the world,
      spanning in His incarnation the chasm between creation and Creator that
      even the perfection of the world could not begin to bridge. The God/man
      Jesus Christ brought true perfection into the world – the perfection
      brought about by the union of God and man. He brought this same
      perfection, this same union and communion with God to all of us by
      sending down upon us the Holy Spirit. Freeing us from the enslavement to
      sin and death, by His own death and resurrection, He then offers to all
      of mankind union and communion with God through the indwelling of the
      Holy Spirit. In this union of God and man, we too are able to
      participate and through the grace of the Holy Spirit the path is opened
      to us to rise to the heights of perfection brought about by the union of
      God with us surpassing the perfection of the world and entering into the
      Kingdom of Heaven.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org