Friday, August 22, 2008

Homily 4

Hebrews 2:5-15

For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels.

But one testified in a certain place, saying:

"What is man that You are mindful of him,
Or the son of man that you take care of him?
You have made him a little lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And set him over the works of Your hands.
You have put all things in subjection under his feet"

For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him.

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering.

For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,


"I will declare your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You."

And again:

"I will put My trust in Him."

And again:

"Here am I and the children whom God has given Me."

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,

and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.


Paul takes the Psalm to be another Incarnational prophecy: the Son of Man by taking on human flesh is made a little lower than the angels, in his Passion crowned with glory and honor, and in his Resurrection set over all things.

As Paul says Christ was "made perfect" through suffering it is important to remember the older meaning of "perfect" still in use-- that is to say, to be perfect is to have achieved one's goal. In this way perfection is different from sinlessness or blamelessness. Christ was always blameless but his Incarnation was not made perfect-- that is to say, was not accomplished-- before his suffering.

After assuring us that those who follow Christ are his brethren, Paul goes on to speak of the Eucharist. Christ shares in our flesh and blood, in our lives, inasmuch as we through Holy Communion partake of his flesh and blood. And when we partake of Christ's flesh and blood, his death destroys death's power over our own lives.

This phrase, but we see Jesus, is very important. Up until this point Paul has not named the Son. He's spoken of a Son of God, cited Scripture that prophecies the Second Person of the Trinity, but takes his time before introducing that Son in person. We do not yet see all things put under God's control, says Paul. But we see Jesus. And so we see God.


Chrysostom says that Paul's quotation of the Psalm applies generally to human nature but specifically to the Incarnate Christ.

He continues to speak of Paul's balancing act, "how he both brings us together and then separates us"-- using language sometimes to identify Christ with humanity and sometimes to identify Christ with God. And he makes certain to emphasize that Christ being "made perfect" is not "an accession of glory to Him: for that which is of nature He always had, and received nothing in addition."

A good half of the homily deals with a proper response to Christ's victory over death: no longer slaves to death we should not mourn overmuch at funerals. This is especially a poor witness to unbelievers: "For they will say at once, 'when will any of these [fellows] be able to despise death, when he is not able to see another dead?' "

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