Thursday, August 21, 2008

Homily 3

Hebrews 1:6 - 2:4

But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says:

"Let all the angels of God worship Him."

And of the angels He says:

"Who makes His angels spirits
And His ministers a flame of fire."

But to the Son He says:

"Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness, more than Your companions."


"You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth,
And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
They will perish, but You remain;
And they will all grow old like a garment;
Like a cloak You will fold them up,
And they will be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will not fail."

But to which of the angels has He ever said:

"Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool"?

Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things have heard, lest we drift away.

For if the word spoken through the angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,

how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,

God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?


Having established his claim as to the two natures of Christ, Paul goes on to reference Trinitarian prophecies in the Jewish Scripture. He emphasizes the Son's elevation above the angels, and quotes a Psalm in which God (the Father) anoints God (the Son). This may be a reference to Christ's baptism, when he was anointed by the Holy Spirit. And in a sense it was at this moment of baptism that he was elevated above his companions. Of course as God, Christ had always been greater in honor, but for thirty years this was hidden, to be made manifest at the Baptism. The next quote emphasizes Christ's eternal nature-- he created the heavens and will someday fold them up. And the final quote is again Trinitarian: God sits God at God's right hand.

And so with this claim that Christ is God, Paul emphasizes the importance of such a doctrine-- if the word brought by the angels has had such consequence, how much more necessary to heed the salvation brought to us by the Word Himself!


Chrysostom makes much of Paul's reference to the Father bringing the firstborn into the world (whereas the Incarnation is elsewhere described as a sending Christ out to the world). By bringing His only-begotten into the world, Chrysostom says, God puts the world in the palm of his hand.

He views these quotations as a balancing of Christ's God-hood with his humanity-- Christ's being anointed above his companions is not a "gift afterwards superadded to Him" because in the beginning Christ "laid the foundation of the earth."

Chrysostom takes the phrase "so great a salvation" as a superlative over the lesser salvations of the Hebrew covenant. "For not from wars (he saith) will He now rescue us, nor bestow on us the earth and the good things that are in the earth, but it will be the dissolution of death, the destruction of the devil, the kingdom of Heaven, everlasting life."

This great salvation is evidenced in part by miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the remainder of Chrysostom's homily is dedicated to advocating the greatest gift-- greater than tongues, or teaching, or healing, or raising the dead, he says, is love. If we love our enemies we have a gift equal to that of the Apostles.

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