‘While you are still speaking, I will say, Here I am’

LAST Sunday was the Feast of the Theophany (Epiphany), the Baptism of Christ.

“He is come unto Jordan.”
At Vespers for January 12. Source.

YE faithful, with spiritual mind all cleansed let us sing a hymn of the after-feast to the Baptism of Christ: for already he is come unto Jordan in the flesh, who existeth in the nature of the Godhead together with the Father and the Spirit, crying out to John: Come, Baptist, baptize me; for I wish to wash the nature of men clean from its soils, because I love mankind.

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“The Invisible shines forth”
St Athanasius of Alexandria, Against the Arians I 63. Source.

WHEN then men in infirmity invoke Him, when in persecution they ask help, when under injuries they pray, then the Invisible, being a lover of man, shines forth upon them with His beneficence, which He exercises through and in His proper Word.

And forthwith the divine manifestation is made to every one according to his need, and is made to the weak health (Ps 6:2), and to the persecuted a ‘refuge’ (Ps 45[46]:1) and ‘house of defence;’ (Ps 30[31]:2) and to the injured He says, ‘While thou speakest I will say, Here I am.’ (Is 58:9-10)

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An icon of the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River.

An icon of the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River.

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“Here am I.”
Isaiah 58:4-11 (NIV).

YOUR fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

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“Blessed art thou who wast made visible”
At Vespers for January 12. Source.

NOW let us like prophets cry out unto the Lord: Thou hast shewn thyself unto us, our Saviour and Creator; while in the Jordan thou brakest the mouths of the dragons, as thou art compassionate, and didst lighten the blind with thy light. Blessed art thou who wast made visible, our God glory be to thee.

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Summary

IN the Baptism of Christ, we see God living by his own principles. When we reject him, he does not leave us to corrupt away, playing by the rule book. He makes us his own flesh and blood in the Incarnation, and the Invisible having become the visible, he says on Jordan’s bank, Here am I.

Then in tender compassion, he clothes our spiritual minds in his sunlight, and nourishes us with his own body, setting us free from the oppressive passions, breaking the heads of the ‘dragons’.

And all this he does not after we have done the same for our fellow men (as Isaiah suggests), but before, “while we were yet sinners” (Rom 5:6-9). And afterwards, the holy Spirit drives him into the wilderness to fast forty days truly acceptable to his Father.

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A Little Music

Johannes Brahms’s Intermezzo Op. 117 No. 1 in E Flat Major was inspired by an obscure song of Scottish origin. Brahms called his Intermezzo “a lullaby to my sorrows”, and added these lines from the song:

Sleep softly my child, sleep softly and well!
It hurts my heart to see you weeping.

Here, the Intermezzo is played by Vassily Primakov (see bio).

Johannes Brahms, Intermezzo Op. 117 No. 1 in E Flat.

St Nikitas: The soul renewed in the beauty of Christ’s image becomes a light to others

SEE, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

Revelation 3:8.

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WE must not allow ourselves to be frightened into silence. Yes, it’s hard to “keep on keeping on” when being pushed around – but like Ronald Reagan said: when we stiffen our spines, those around us can stiffen theirs, too! Press in, press on. Don’t retreat, friends!

Sarah Palin. Source.

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A monk of Mount Athos

“If it concerns itself with things divine, the soul becomes a light to others, it inspires them to glorify God.”

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IF it concerns itself with things divine and tills the ground of humility, tears fall on it like rain from heaven, and it cultivates love for God, faith and compassion for others.

And when in this way the soul is renewed in the beauty of Christ’s image, it becomes a light to others; attracting their attention with the rays of its virtue, it inspires them to glorify God.

St Nikitas Stithatos (c. 1005 – c. 1090). Source.

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REMOVE from me reproach and contempt; for I have sought out thy testimonies. For princes sat and spoke against me: but thy servant was meditating on thine ordinances. For thy testimonies are my meditation, and thine ordinances are my counsellors.

Psalm 118[119]:22-24.

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Franz Liszt, Transcription of ‘Ständchen’ (Serenade) by Franz Schubert.
Played by Vitaly Pisarenko.

St Gregory of Nyssa: The first faith, sweeter than honey

TODAY is the feast day of St Gregory, bishop of Nyssa. Gregory, whose brother was St Basil of Caesarea, stood up courageously for the doctrine of the Trinity, and the bodily resurrection of man.

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HOW sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Ps 118[119]:103

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WALK by the primitive rule of the Faith: and the God of peace shall be with you, and ye shall be strong in mind and body. May God keep you uncorrupted, is our prayer.

St Gregory of Nyssa, Letter XVII. To Eustathia, Ambrosia, and Basilissa.

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An icon of St Gregory of Nyssa. From Wikimedia Commons.

An icon of St Gregory of Nyssa. From Wikimedia Commons.

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HOLY father, most sacred Gregory — a flute filled with the breath of the Comforter (Jn 14:16-17), a most clear speaker* of true religion, a glorious lamp (cf. Mt 5:15) of the divine radiance, a herald of truth, a platform of theology, a fount of lofty doctrine, a winter flood of honeyed teachings, an inspired lyre of songs written by God, gladdening the minds of the faithful — intercede with Christ, importune him who refashioned the world in the running waters of the Jordan, O saint wise in all things, to save our souls.

* γλῶσσα. Literally ‘tongue’, this word is sometimes used for a professional orator, which Gregory was. It could also be used for the reed of a wind instrument.

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The sound of flute and harp (lyre) in a traditional English song, arranged for orchestra.

Fantasia on Greensleeves (1934).
Ralph Vaughan Williams.

And, behold, the half was not told me

I BELIEVED not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me.

3[1] Kings 10:7.

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LORD, Thou art fulness, I am emptiness:
Yet hear my heart speak in its speechlessness
Extolling Thine unuttered loveliness.

Christina Rossetti.

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Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings.

Thou sparest all: for they are thine, O lover of souls

BUT thou hast mercy upon all; for thou canst do all things, and winkest at the sins of men, because they should amend. For thou lovest all the things that are, and abhorrest nothing which thou hast made: for never wouldest thou have made any thing, if thou hadst hated it. And how could any thing have endured, if it had not been thy will? or been preserved, if not called by thee? But thou sparest all: for they are thine, O Lord, thou lover of souls.

Wisdom 11:23-26.

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An icon of the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River.

An icon of the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River.

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O LORD, though as man thou didst stand beside John in the Jordan, thou didst not leave the throne where thou sittest together with the Father; and being baptized for our sake, thou hast delivered the world from the bondage of the enemy*, for thou art full of compassion, and lovest mankind.

* τοῦ ἀλλοτρίου, lit. ‘of what is alien or strange’. The term is often used to mean the devil, but in the context of these prayers about corruption it could have its more literal meaning, of that which is contrary to man’s nature as God intended it. Thus Rom 8:21, “the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God”.

O Lord, though as man thou didst clothe thyself in the streams of Jordan (cf. Gal 3:27), it was testified of thee from on high by the descent of the Spirit, and the voice of the Father testified, that thou art Son (Mk 1:9-11); nevertheless, be shewn, and grant incorruption to our souls.

O Lord, begotten unchanging from the Father before the ages, thou didst come in these latter times (Heb 1:1-2) and take the form of a servant (Phil 2:7), and as Creator renew thine image (1 Cor 15:49; 2 Cor 3:18; Col 3:9-11); for when thou wast baptized thou didst grant incorruption to our souls.

A light so that none should remain in darkness

THOU didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.

Psalm 73[74]:13.

THE sea saw and fled: Jordan was turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, and the hills like lambs. What ailed thee, O sea, that thou fleddest? and thou Jordan, that thou wast turned back? Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams, and ye hills, like lambs? The earth trembled at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob.

Psalm 113[114]:3-6.

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O MY Jesus, who art the illuminating light that is Light itself, and lightens men (Jn 1:9), widely didst thou shine light consubstantial with thy Father, when thou wast baptized in the running streams of the Jordan; in it all creation is filled with light, and unto thee, O Christ, doth she cry: Blessed art thou our God who appeareth, glory be to thee.

The River Severn in mist, near Worcester. © Philip Halling, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

The River Severn in mist, near Worcester. © Philip Halling, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

The sea saw and fled: Jordan was turned back.

SO that we may be filled with divine glory through the flesh, O come ye spiritually, let us cleanse the senses and, beholding Christ baptized in the flesh and break the head of the deceiver (Ps 73[74]:13; Is 27:1), let us as we sing praises cry out to him: Blessed art thou our God who appeareth, glory be to thee.

What ailed thee, O sea, that thou fleddest? and thou Jordan, that thou wast turned back?

In the Jordan river, O my Jesus, in thy tender pity thou gavest us, who burn with thirst for thee, living streams for drink, O thou that lovest mankind; therefore, O Christ, being given our drink from thy immortal, light-bearing* fount, we sing: Blessed art thou our God who appeareth, glory be to thee.

* The word used here, φώσφορος, was conventionally used of Venus, the morning star. See 2 Pt 1:19 and Rev 22:16.

At Vespers for January 8. Source.

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THEN Jesus cried out, When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

John 12:44-46.

She seemed to love you, and you loved her in return

Jane Austen (1775-1817), the 'Rice Portrait'.

Jane Austen (1775-1817), the ‘Rice Portrait’. Though disputed, the portrait closely matches her nephew’s description of her: “a clear brunette with a rich colour; she had full round cheeks, with mouth and nose small and well formed, bright hazel eyes, and brown hair forming natural curls close round her face”.

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AS a very little girl I was always creeping up to aunt Jane, and following her whenever I could, in the house and out of it. I might not have remembered this but for the recollection of my mother’s telling me privately, that I must not be troublesome to my aunt. Her first charm to children was great sweetness of manner. She seemed to love you, and you loved her in return.

Said of Jane Austen (1775-1817) by one of her nieces. Source.

See also Be Like Children by Fr Alexander Schmemann.

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HEREIN is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 John 4:10.

Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

Mark 10:15.

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Schumann, Kinderszenen (‘scenes from childhood’) No. 7
Played by Lang Lang.