Sunday, February 4, 2018

'The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us'

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

'The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us'

Those words are from our Gospel reading today, that part of St John the Divine's Gospel that is often called the Prologue. Christians have deeply pondered those words and their meaning down through the ages. As well they should, for by them the Beloved Disciple tries to convey to us what took place at the Incarnation - that when the Blessed Virgin Mary said 'yes' to God's will and the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she conceived within her womb, the Divine Word that was God, at that moment became also a human being.

These words are reflected in the Nicene Creed, in which we declare that: 'We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.' The Creed is a summary statement of of our Faith, outlining in a very short form that which is to be believed by all Christians.

Indeed, 'believe' may be a word insufficiently strong in this modern age. 'Know to be true' may be better, for this is a time when all too many make themselves large in their own imagination by pouring scorn on religion; to such to 'believe' means having a blind faith in something for which there is no firm proof or evidence. And this is simply not the case. There may be no scientific evidence for much of what we know by faith; but there is no requirement that there should be, for there is much that we know that is not amenable to scientific investigation … and neither, it should be noted, is there any scientific basis for insisting that all things must be provable by science!

There is no scientific way, for example, to prove that love exists; and yet we all know that it does. Nor can someone by science prove that it is wrong for one person to deliberately take the life of another human being who is innocent of any wrong-doing; and yet this is something that we all know to be true. We know these things in our hearts. Theologians of the Orthodox Church refer to this as Noetic knowledge; and the things that we know from the evidence of our hearts is just as valid as anything else we know. It is not scientific evidence; but it is evidence nonetheless and it is as valid to the spheres of life to which it applies as scientific evidence is valid when it concerns investigating the affairs of the material world.

Our knowledge of God is just such a truth, a noetic truth, something we know to be true because our heart tells us so. It is our heart that speaks to us of the awesomeness of God, that he is Almighty and without beginning or end. And so when he speaks to us directly in the Divine Revelation that is Sacred Scripture and tells us that he himself became man we should be humbled beyond imagining at the great love that God has shown for us in doing this. Before this it was already known to man that he was created in God's image; and because of this it was not only a crime against man's law but a sin against God's to take an innocent human life. But now, because God has become man, we understand that each human life is something sacred, because in the face of each man and woman, or each boy or girl, no matter how young, we are to see the face of Christ himself.

And we should be humbled also at why he came into the world – something that St John tells us clearly later in his Gospel; it was that all might be saved and that we might have life and have it abundantly. The Word became flesh, God became man and walked upon the earth in order that we might have our sins forgiven, that we might be holy as God is holy, and one day be with God in heaven.

This knowledge of the heart should have an even greater meaning for us and how we lead our lives than the knowledge we gain through science. Science, for example, helps us to understand gravity. And we know that if we ignore that knowledge and step over a cliff we will plunge to our deaths as a result. But that death is only the loss of the few years that remains to us of this life. If we ignore the knowledge we have by God's grace in our hearts we risk far more – the eternal life that God offers us in the next.

It was for the sake of this eternal life that the Word was made Flesh. This we not only believe, this we know in our hearts. I pray that all here will live with that knowledge in their hearts always and in the end achieve the eternal life offered as a result. Amen.

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