A banquet of light and immortality in the face of Jesus Christ

    FOR all of you who were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ (Gal 3:27).
Alleluia.

**

THE following prayers are from today’s liturgy, celebrating the coming feast of the Theophany.

They are based on a very theologically technical Ode from Great and Holy Thursday (in italics below), apparently to suggest that our spiritual vision of Christ in the Theophany is a kind of Eucharist, a banquet of the heart’s eye, in which we eat and drink the divine light of the Saviour’s countenance. St Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians:

FOR God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:6.

*

[Forefeast of the Theophany] FIRST we tasted with delight of the Master’s hospitality and his immortal table in the poor cave; now let us run to the Jordan to see a strange mystery, host of the splendour above.

[Great Thursday] Come ye faithful, let us taste with delight of the hospitality of the Master, and his immortal table in the upper room, with minds lifted up on high, learning a transcendent word from the Word, whom we magnify.

GO, ye who delight in wonders, leave Bethlehem for the country of the Jordan, there to see deeds mystically accomplished, and Christ coming forward to baptism: for he hath taken flesh, to refashion Adam.

Go, the Word said to his disciples, prepare ye in the upper room that Passover by which the nous is established, for those whom I have instructed in it with the unleavened word of truth; and magnify ye the firmness of grace.

Detail from an icon of Jesus Christ.

God hath shined in our hearts, in the face of Jesus Christ.

The Creator, begotten of the Father before the ages, hath in these last times been brought to birth, incarnate without change from a pure Maiden, child of God, both God and man, wishing to refashion Adam through Baptism.

The Father begat me, Wisdom, Creator, before the ages, the beginning of all his ways, he created me* for deeds which now are being mystically accomplished: for I the Word who in my nature am uncreated, have made my own the speech of that which I have assumed.

Thou art here as man in reality, not fantasy, as one man among many, seeking baptism, who alone art by nature guiltless; for thou didst come to bury the guilt of men, baptized in the waters.

As I exist as man in reality, not fantasy, so also the nature united to me by way of exchange is God; recognise me, then, to be one single Christ, who is saving the things from which and in which I have come to be.

At Compline for January 4 (source); and at Matins on Great Thursday (source). Hat-tip to Anastasis for help with the translation.

* This is a reference to Pr 8:22-25 LXX. This text was hotly debated in the 4th and 5th centuries, as the use of the word ‘created’ (ἔκτισε) seemed to suggest the Word of God was created at an instant in time (as opposed to eternally begotten). However, the text goes on to say that God ‘begets’ (γεννᾷ, a present tense) Wisdom herself even before time.

In keeping with the Church Fathers, the author of this prayer seems to take ‘he created me’ as a reference to the human body and speech which divine Wisdom assumed in order to bring salvation to mankind. “For when He had taken that which He had to offer on our behalf, namely His body of the Virgin Mary, then it is written of Him that He had been created, and formed, and made: for such phrases are applicable to men.” (St Athanasius, ‘De Sententia Dionysii’ 11.)

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