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Homily for 3/21/10 - L5 - the Blood of Christ

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  • Fr David Moser
    Hebrews 9:11-14 Throughout human history, mankind has sought in various ways to appease or even control the forces that move the world around him. In ancient
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 21, 2010
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      Hebrews 9:11-14

      Throughout human history, mankind has sought in various ways to appease
      or even control the forces that move the world around him. In ancient
      times, there was the idea that the natural world was controlled by some
      kind divinity or rather a group of divinities. If the people could
      somehow gain favor with one or the other of these gods, they thought,
      then the natural forces controlled by that god, whether it be rain or
      the oceans or fire or the earth, could also be directed to their own
      favor (or at least to the disadvantage of their enemies). A whole series
      of rituals, usually with some kind of sacrifice, was often devised to
      appease these gods. The more powerful the god, or the more important the
      favor desired, the higher the value of the sacrifice. Sometimes a
      sacrifice of wealth, of gold or silver, was sufficient; sometimes food,
      the support of life, was demanded; all kinds of animals from birds to
      goats and sheep to cattle were necessary depending on the greatness of
      the desire. The highest value sacrifice, reserved for the most cruel and
      demanding of the gods, and for the most important requests was that of a
      human being. All of these sacrifices were given to the gods in order to
      curry favor and somehow get the gods to act as the one bringing the
      sacrifice wanted and it was the priest who performed the rituals of the
      sacrifices who controlled the access between men and the gods.

      Today, of course, we are enlightened and we know that the forces of
      nature are not controlled by whimsical, quasi-human spirits that need to
      be appeased, but by laws of physics and natural processes. But this does
      not stop the sacrifices. Now we sacrifice different things, we give our
      money and dedicate our lives to the understanding of the physical laws
      so that using that by understanding them we can bend the natural world
      to our own desires and our own control. The access to these laws is no
      longer controlled by priests, but by the scientists and researchers who
      have delved into the theory of the natural forces and gained an
      understanding of how they work and by the engineers who have learned how
      to harness these forces and put them to work to fulfill our wishes. The
      greatest sacrifice that we have offered these natural forces to gain
      their understanding is our belief in God. We have sacrificed our belief
      in an all powerful God, who created the universe and the laws by which
      it operates, and who is greater than everything in it (including
      ourselves) and in exchange we have obtained a measure of mastery over
      the forces of nature to make them do our bidding. No longer do we have
      to appease some petty “gods” which control some limited phenomena to get
      what we want – by our understanding and knowledge, we have become the
      gods of this world and it must now appease us. But even in our
      enlightenment and mastery of the world, we have been deceived and gone
      astray. Our minds and hearts have been chained to this world by our
      mastery of it and we have lost the awareness of our true calling to rise
      above the world and to live in communion with God who created the world
      and who created us that we might love Him.

      In the epistle that we heard today, the Apostle spoke of a different
      kind of sacrifice – one that is offered to the one true God; Who created
      the world and all that is in it, including mankind and Who cares for His
      creatures and desires that we live in union and communion with Him.
      Throughout the history of mankind, there has always been the concept
      that something in ourselves stands between us and God. Whatever the
      actions or attitudes that create and maintain this separation we
      consider to be sins. In order to get close to God, either to be regarded
      by Him in a favorable way or because, in our love for Him, we desire
      that union; the sin must be dealt with. Erasing the sin, clearing the
      path between God and man, has always required sacrifice.

      The Hebrew people in the ancient world had the clearest knowledge of the
      true God, for they were chosen by Him and He revealed Himself to them in
      the Law given to Moses and by the words of the Prophets. They knew that
      their sins – both individual and corporate – separated them from God and
      so they offered sacrifices in order to erase that sin and remove the
      obstacles between themselves and God. Their sacrifices for sin consisted
      of the blood of bulls and goats. St Basil the Great notes that the
      scripture says in Leviticus (17:11) that “the life of every creature is
      in the blood” and expounds on this to demonstrate the close connection
      between the blood of the body and the life of the mortal soul. The life
      of the soul is, in some mystical way, connected with the blood of the
      creature. Thus the essential characteristics of the creature, those
      things which define its nature, are identified with the blood. This we
      see in the Hebrew sacrifices, for those dealing with sin always required
      the blood of animals. Sin, i.e. those actions and attitudes within us
      which separate us from God, is understood as the symptom of our own
      descent from nearness to God to become more like the animals. Thus when
      we sin, we act like animals. Spilling the blood of animals as a
      sacrifice for sin, therefore, demonstrates our own willingness to give
      up, even to die to, the animal nature within us in order that we might
      have a share of the divine nature which we lost because of our sin.

      But the blood of bulls and goats can only act as a symbol of our
      repentance – it may indeed be the instrument by which we set aside our
      sins, but it does not have the power to give us that which it does not
      possess, that is the divine grace in which we once shared and which we
      lost. To obtain this divine gift, a sacrifice of a different order is
      required, and it is nothing that we ourselves can offer but something
      which only God can offer to us. For this purpose, out of His great love
      for us, God became man and dwelt among us and revealed Himself to us.
      Having, through His life, revealed to us the fullness of the divine
      truth and the path to live in union and communion with Himself, He then
      made the sacrifice that was necessary in order for that divine grace,
      which makes it possible for us to walk that path, to be poured out upon
      us. He sacrificed not animals, but Himself. He ascended the cross for
      us, He shed His blood (which is mystically united to his living essence
      and by which the divine energies are bestowed upon us) for us, and in
      order that we might be set free from our captivity to sin death and the
      devil, He gave up His life defeating death, abolishing sin, and binding
      the devil. The self-sacrifice of the God/man Jesus Christ is the
      ultimate sacrifice which accomplishes all that the sacrifices of man
      sought to attain but could not. It is not limited to this world and thus
      subject to time and space (therefore needing to be repeated) but it
      transcends time and is rooted outside of all creation (thus it is unique
      and never needs to be, nor will it be, repeated). As man, His sacrifice
      removes our sin and as God, His sacrifice gives to us that grace by
      which we are saved that only God can give. Let us then remember again
      the words of the Apostle which we heard today, “Not with the blood of
      goats and calves, but with His own Blood, He …obtained (for us) eternal
      redemption.”

      Today, as is true every time we approach the Holy Mysteries to commune
      from the most holy Body and most precious Blood of Jesus Christ, we have
      the opportunity to be present at this ultimate sacrifice. We are offered
      the chance to partake not of the blood of animals (from which we receive
      the passions and characteristics of animals) but the blood of the
      God/man our Lord Jesus Christ which was offered for us on the Cross. By
      partaking of His most precious Blood we partake of His life and we
      receive from Him the divine energies of His grace. Through His most
      precious Blood, offered to us on the cross, He gives us that which only
      He can give: His divine Life.

      --
      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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