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The Hidden Mystery is Now Revealed

from Fr. Ted's Blog Meditations of an Orthodox Priest

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith – to the only wise God be glory for evermore through Jesus Christ!  Amen” [Romans 16.25-27].

“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.  This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in him” [Ephesians 3.8-12].

In the Pauline corpus of writings, there are numerous references to Christ being God’s mystery hidden from all eternity and which God now reveals in Jesus.  The mystery is a revelation about the nature of God – God is Trinity.   The mystery is a revelation about God’s own abilities to limit himself and to enter into his creation in the Incarnation.    The mystery is about what a human is – capable of being united to divinity, capable of sharing the divine life.  All of this we celebrate in the Feast of the Annunciation.  One of  the hymns from the prefeast of the Annunciation proclaims:

“The mystery hidden from all eternity, 

unknown even by angels,

 is now entrusted to the Archangel Gabriel.  

He will come to you, Precious Vessel; 

he will salute you, crying in joy:

Rejoice, Pure Dove!   

Rejoice, Holy One!  

Make ready by your word to conceive the Word of God!”

The time comes for God to reveal the mystery: his plan for humankind is theosis.   It was always God’s plan to share the divine life with humanity.  It was given to the Archangel Gabriel to announce this plan of salvation of God entering into his own creation: God becomes that which is “not God”!  The Archangel comes from the throne of heaven to a backwater village, to an impoverished, young maiden.  The Archangel must have been amazed himself at the surroundings he could see when talking to the Virgin.   The Incarnation defied belief, but then the very life God the Son embraced was in poverty in the boondocks of Palestine.   Yet, this is the very place where God begins the salvation of the world. 

“…I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints.   To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.   Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ.  For this I toil, striving with all the energy which he mightily inspires within me. For I want you to know how greatly I strive for you, and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged as they are knit together in love, to have all the riches of assured understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” [Colossians 1.25-2-3].

Evil is Converted By a Woman

from the same blog

As we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, we can reflect on the role of the Virgin Mary in the salvation of the world by considering the words of Orthodox Theologian Paul Evdokimov: “Evil is not destroyed by man but is converted by a woman” [In the World, of the Church, p 165].

In Mary, the sinful flesh of fallen humans is transformed by Christ into a humanity once again capable of theosis.   The flesh is not destroyed but converted!   The Incarnation of the Word of God means the flesh, this world, all of history is capable of being redeemed by God.   The fasting of Great Lent is not meant to destroy the flesh but to convert it to being receptive to and capable of bearing the Word of God and the deification that comes to those who united themselves to Christ.

Evdokimov continues: 

“Sharing organically in the descent from Adam, participating in the common destiny of all mankind, Mary, however, was kept from all personal impurity.  Every evil was rendered inoperative in her.    It is this dynamism, this human reaction so royally free, that Nicholas Cabasilas stressed in synthesizing the Patristic tradition.   A human being cannot be saved without the free agreement of his own will.   ‘The Incarnation was not only the work of the Father, and of his power and of the Holy Spirit, but it was also the work of the will and the faith of the Virgin.   Without the consent of the most Pure One, without the agreement of her faith, this plan would not have been realizable except through the intervention of the Three Divine Persons themselves.   It was not until after having instructed and persuading her that God took Mary to be his Mother, and took from her the flesh that she was willing to give him. Just as he wished to become incarnate, so too did he wish that his Mother would give birth to him of her own free will"  [In the World, of the Church, p 169].