C.S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory, writes: It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, to some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
“You have never talked to a mere mortal.”
Frankly, this is too big for me. It both cowers me and excites me. It is the stuff that shakes me out of my lethargy and sometimes drives me to hide from the Bright Light of such glory. I find when I am able to embrace this glory, I am in a place where my fears and self-centeredness have receded and I am open to God’s grace. When I run from this Bright Light, I am running because the Light is revealing that which I most fear in my own heart.
In both instances and in all the degrees of response in between, the Light does not change or diminish. It is my own heart that, to one extent or the other, is able or unable to behold Him.
Look at our lesson today in 2 Corinthians 5:15-21:
BRETHREN, Christ died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
You should have seen the faces in my parish when I once preached about this. I told the folks that God wasn’t interested in making you a moral person or a pious person; those results are byproducts of what He really desires to make you – A New Person. The behaviors and pious acts will follow a new person and strengthen and foster deeper “newness” in that person. But first comes that forever new moment of conversion that I am invited to experience daily, perhaps even moment by moment. The “A HA” moment of refusing to regard anyone “from a human point of view” AND the revelation that, as Christ’s Ambassador, I am also given the “ministry of reconciliation.” To foster others becoming new persons as well.
The truly perspective-changing reality that you and I come in contact every day with Immortals is meant to change us. And even finally waking up to the immortality that I have been given by Christ shakes me to deal with learning how to live forever. This awesome confrontation can’t be embraced without the formative liturgy and rhythm of worship and prayer perfectly designed in the Church to shape me and train me to enjoy eternity. When I realize that’s what is at the heart of the weekly worship of the Church, as the Eternity Training Session, then and only then will I realize WHY I have to be faithful in attending Church. It’s God’s gift to me to show me how to be like Him – Everlasting!
The holy martyr Agathonikos lived in the 3rd century and was of noble birth. He was a man dedicated to knowing the scriptures and was so effective in preaching that he saw many of the people around him convert to Christ. One of the converts was even the head of the local Senate. Needless to say, this upset the pagan leaders of Rome and the emperor Maximian. When Agathonikos arrived before the Emperor, he refused to deny Christ and was beheaded. The holy relics of this hero of the Faith were enshrined in a church built in memory of this saint in Constantinople. St. Agathonikos was no mere mortal because he refused to think of himself as anything less than a child of God in Christ!
Today, embrace the Bright Light of Glory meant to transform you (are you being transformed?). Pray for grace and strength to escape the shadow of death and enter into the newness of life, His Life, the Life given to you, purchased for you, and for all. Rise up today and see beyond “mereness!” It is this embrace of an eternal reality that sets us free to be Normal Orthodox Christians!
P.S. O man of godly mind, as the namesake of goodness, you utterly did hate that which wicked men worshipped; and no pains could frighten you, O divine Agathonikos. Wherefore, you became a good heir of all good things, worthily receiving with your brave fellow athletes the crown incorruptible. Pray for us!