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Homily for 4/5/09 - L5 - The Blood of Christ

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  • Fr David Moser
    Heb 9:11-14 During Great Lent there are particular saints assigned to be remembered on the various Sundays. This week, of course, is St Mary of Egypt, last
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 5, 2009
      Heb 9:11-14

      During Great Lent there are particular saints assigned to be remembered
      on the various Sundays. This week, of course, is St Mary of Egypt, last
      week was St John of the Ladder and earlier was St Gregory Palamas. The
      saints are all examples given to us by God of people who have realized
      the image and likeness of God within themselves and who have become like
      Christ. One of the very important things to recognize about the saints,
      and of course these in particular, is that although they have become
      like Christ, they are not at all identical to each other. Each one has
      retained his or her distinct personhood and characteristics. In becoming
      like Christ, those very characteristics have been adopted by the Holy
      Spirit and sanctified and they now shine in the saints with a new light
      – the light of Christ which illumines the world.

      This sanctification of our personhood is not something that we
      accomplish on our own, but rather it is accomplished for us by Christ.
      As the Apostle tells us, He accomplished this for us by the shedding of
      His own blood on our behalf. In former times, this shedding of blood was
      only an image or icon of the sacrifice of Christ for it was the blood of
      goats and calves shed as sacrifices for sin in the earthly temple. But
      that shedding of this blood was not able to transform us to be like
      Christ. Only the blood of the God/man Jesus Christ shed for us men and
      for our salvation can accomplish this.

      We can understand how this can happen a little more when we understand
      how it is that blood was understood by the ancients. In our modern times
      blood has become devalued and turned into a commodity. It is a bodily
      fluid whose function is to transfer nutrients to the various cells of
      the body and in turn carry away waste products from those cells. Blood
      is a commodity that is donated or sold in order that it might be given
      to victims of tragedies or accidents who have lost too much of their own
      blood. Blood (or an imitation of blood) is spilt freely and with great
      effect on various entertainment programs, television, film, video games
      and the like. Blood has become an expendable commodity, a thing to be
      used for a variety of purposes. But this is not how blood was viewed by
      the ancient world, and especially by the fathers of the Church. Blood is
      itself an organ of the body, and more importantly an organ which was
      linked directly to the soul and the essence of life. Blood was
      considered to contain not only the nutrients for physical life, but it
      also contained the spiritual and essential life which it spread
      throughout the body. By consuming the blood of animals, one was thought
      to take on the characteristics of that animal (such as the strength of
      bull). In the same way, by consuming the blood of a vanquished enemy in
      a ritual fashion, one took to himself the positive characteristics of
      his enemy (bravery, strength, skill, cunning, and so on). Blood was more
      than just a commodity, a transport of nutrition and waste and something
      to be used to enhance entertainment. In many ways blood contained the
      very life and soul of a living creature and was precious beyond measure.

      This concept of blood is certainly connected to our fasting discipline
      in that we abstain from meat (that is the flesh of warm blooded animals)
      and fish (the flesh of cold blooded animals) during the fast. In this
      manner we refrain from taking on the bestiality of those animals which
      is part of their life. When we fast, not only do we deny our own
      passions, but we also starve those passions by refraining from foods
      which contain the blood of animals (which in turn carries the passions
      of the soul of the animal in itself). This is the blood of goats and
      calves which does not bring us the salvation of Christ.

      While we do not consume the blood (and thus the soul) of animals during
      Lent, we do take more often the opportunity to receive the Holy
      Mysteries and to consume the Most Holy Body and Most Precious Blood of
      Christ. Whereas we do not take on the life of the animals, we go to
      extra efforts to take on the life of Christ by consuming His blood which
      He gives to us for the remission of sins and for eternal life. See here
      how important the issue of blood becomes, for by abstaining from the
      blood of animals, we separate ourselves from the animal like life of the
      natural world and by consuming the Most Precious Blood of Christ, we
      acquire for ourselves the divine life of the God/man Jesus Christ.

      The blood of Christ, however, is not magic. It does not change us simply
      by its presence. We take the life of the animals contained in their
      flesh and blood and these our body uses and breaks down and provides
      nutrients for the maintenance of our bodily life. But if we simply
      consume these nutrients and do not use them (that is if we eat the wrong
      kinds of food or too much food or by inactivity do not use the nutrients
      in the food) we become fat and unhealthy and prone to all kinds of
      illnesses. In the same way, when we receive the life of Christ through
      partaking of the Holy Mysteries, that life must be used and incorporated
      into our own lives. We must actively pursue righteousness and holiness
      in our lives, applying the life of Christ to ourselves and what we do so
      that it becomes an integral and useful part of our own lives. We must
      not only receive the life of Christ in the Holy Mysteries, but we must
      also use that life and make it our own.

      The Blood of Christ when we receive it into ourselves by partaking of
      the Holy Mysteries brings us the life of Christ. The life of Christ in
      us loosens the hold of sin on us and cleanses it from us. The life of
      Christ then works in us to develop the characteristics of righteousness,
      that is the virtues, which supplant the sins that were once a part of
      us. We are cleansed of sin and it is driven out of us by the blood of
      Christ in us. That blood also brings to us the life of Christ which
      transforms our own lives and makes us over, which renews us, into the
      likeness of Christ. Here we return to the lives of the saints and we can
      see the end result of the work of the blood of Christ in their lives.
      They were transformed into the likeness of Christ as His life was
      incorporated into theirs and renewed and sanctified their very
      personhood. We too are in the midst of this same process, for we are
      being renewed and sanctified by the blood of Christ and by the life of
      Christ in us so that our personhood is cleansed, renewed, sanctified and
      illumined by Christ as we are united with Him and His life becomes our
      life. In this way we will take our place in the choir of the saints,
      each one of us shining with the same light of Christ, but each one of us
      reflecting and refracting that light through our own unique person which
      has been cleansed, renewed and sanctified by the blood of Christ.

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