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by Bishop David Horsman


We need to look more closely at the mystery of the water and blood. It is full of much meaning. First, the Water. "Know ye not" says Saint Paul, " that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?" Here it is that we put on Christ's atoning death as our own, "therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so also we should walk in newness of LIFE. So, in baptism we are plunged beneath the waters of the font. Thus, "our old man is crucified with him that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." Then we are raised up from the water of the font- the womb of the Church - to"walk in newness of LIFE. Thus identified with Christ's death and resurrection, we are Born again, born from above." But Our Lord coupled water and Spirit, and, indeed, the Holy Spirit is the agent of this New birth. Just as at the Creation of the world, "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," (Genesis 1:2) even so he moves upon the waters of baptism in this creation of new LIFE in Christ. By the same Holy Spirit, we are incorporated into the Bride of Christ, the Church. St Paul says, " As the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body being many are one body, so also is Christ, for by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." (I Corinthians 12:12-13)

There is moreover a second phase in the initiation of the believer into new life in the Church called Confirmation. In this sacrament, hands are laid upon Christians, already baptized and they are anointed with oil, "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance." That is, we are given the Holy Spirit, as a token of what is to come! We are beginning to see how the Sacraments, using matter such as water and olive oil, bread and wine etc. when sanctified by special prayers, become bridges between the material and the spiritual world. This is a beautiful gift of God's providence. Man, who is neither pure animal, nor angel, but something rather in-between, is given a medium of communion in which material means are used for spiritual effects.

Now, the blood. The major Holy festival among the Jews was called the Passover. It celebrated their deliverance, exodus, from Egyptian bondage. The name referred to the passage of the Death Angel through Egypt, taking the life of all the first born, except in the homes of the Israelites. Their homes were" passed over" by the Death Angel because they had killed a lamb and smeared their door posts with the blood. The Lord commanded Moses: "Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. . . . kill it in the evening, And they shall take of the blood and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door posts of the houses, wherein ye eat it. . . . For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night and will smite all the first born in the land of Egypt both man and beast. . . and the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you." (Exodus 12: 5-13) According to Saint John, Christ was crucified at the time of the killing of the Passover lambs, for this festival. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was introduced by John the Baptist with the words: "Behold the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)

Jan Van Eyck (detail Ghent altarpiece)Adoration of the Lamb

St. Paul exclaims: "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us!" (I Corinthians 5;7) St. Peter reminds us, " Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish (I Peter 1: 18-20). And, on the night in which he was betrayed to death, Jesus sat down to supper with his chosen Apostles. "And, as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it and gave it to the disciples and said: take eat, this is my body. And he took the cup and gave thanks and gave it to them, saying: drink ye all of it, for this is my blood of the new testament [ the new covenant between God and man ] which is shed for many for the remission of sins." ( Matthew 26:26-28) A very hard saying, but he had prepared them for this day. One day, after Jesus had fed a great crowd with five loaves of bread and a few fishes, he said: "I am bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh which I shall give for the LIFE of the world. . . . Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, ye have no LIFE in you. Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath ETERNAL LIFE and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6: 51-54 )

Marini's Mass

This new life, in Christ, begun in Baptism, perfected in Confirmation is nourished by the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Communion, the Holy Mass. And, again, simple materials, bread and wine are blessed and consecrated to spiritual use. They become indeed the vehicles whereby God himself comes to us, and renews the divine life within us so that we become that of which we partake.

The Church has other sacraments, that enable us to participate in the spiritual life through material means. Two hindrances to the fullness of this life are sin and sickness. The Sacrament of Unction was instituted when Christ "called unto him the Twelve and began to send them forth, by two and two and gave them power over unclean spirits. . . . . and they cast out many devils, and anointed many with oil that were sick and healed them. (Mark 6: 7-13 ) James says, in his Epistle: "Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord and the prayer of faith shall save the sick and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. ( 5: 14-15)

In a scene to which we have already referred, after his Resurrection, Christ said to his Apostles, " As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you, and when he had said this, he breathed on them and saith unto them receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (John20: 21-23 )

This power to forgive sins has been passed down through the centuries by Apostles to bishops to priests by the laying on of hands and is the institution of the Sacrament of Penance.

Two other sacraments are the means by which the Church as the Body of Christ propagates itself : Marriage is part of the natural law of man, raised to sacramental status as a type of the relation between Christ and the Church, as we discussed earlier ( Ephesians 5: 22 ff). Holy Orders were instituted in the context of the Last Supper when Christ said to his disciples " this do, in remembrance of me. " This tradition was affirmed by the Apostle Paul: "I have received of the Lord, that which I also delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread: and brake it and said this is my body which is broken for you: THIS DO, IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME. After the same manner also he took the cup, . . . for as oft as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death until he come." (I Corinthians 11:23-26)

This Command, or if you will, commission, to offer the Holy Sacrifice in perpetuity, "until he come," has ever been honored by the tradition of the Church as the institution of the sacred Priesthood and of the sacrament of Holy Orders.

Thus is the new life in Christ begun, nourished, maintained and propagated in the Bride, which is the Church of Christ. Just as HOPE, which "maketh not ashamed" is the virtue by which we follow Christ as the WAY, and FAITH is the virtue by which we pledge our troth to Christ as the TRUTH, just so is LOVE ( Charity ) the virtue by which we partake of the more abundant LIFE which we receive by abiding in Christ the LIFE. "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman ," declared our Lord, "abide in me and I in you , as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself." This is but another way of saying, there is no life for the Christian except by communion with his Lord. But how? "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love." Then, he follows with this: " This is my commandment that ye love one another as I have loved you." (John 15: 1-17) Of the three great virtues, love must become dominant in the Christian's life. St. Paul is clear : "Now abideth faith, hope and love, (charity ) but the greatest of these is love." (I Corinthians 13:13) But how can we poor sinners love? It must begin in God. As St. John says: "Herein is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love One another." (I John 4:10-11)

John adds a bit later, "We love him, because he first loved us." (V.19) The gift of love is given to us, in the sealing with the Holy Ghost, wherein " The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us." (Romans 5:5) It is a blessed life, for it is life in communion with the eternal. For such a life were we made! But, contrary to much popular preaching today, it is not a guarantee of "worldly success." Our Lord said: "If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you." (John 15:20) "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own, but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." (V.19) It is no accident that the great sign of God's love to us is the shed blood and the body broken; for this is how the bent world reacts to love.

Let thy Blood in mercy poured, let thy gracious Body broken, be to me O gracious Lord, of thy boundless love the token. Thou didst give thyself to me, now I give myself to thee.

Greek Hymn, translation by John Brownlie


Although we are united to Christ in the most intimate manner, dying with him in Baptism and risen in newness of life, born again to new life, hidden in Christ, yet, we are not promised "success," as this world counts success, in this life. Nor are we exempt from suffering of all and various sorts. Still, however much we suffer, we are promised final victory over sin, the world, the flesh and the devil. We are described by Saint Paul as, "Buried with him [Jesus] in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him."( Colossians 2:12) and admonished that,"if ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, set your affections on things above and not on things on the earth." And why? "For ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God." And what follows from that? "When Christ WHO IS YOUR LIFE, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory!" ( 3: 1-4) Baptized into Christ's life; his death and Resurrection, we have become sons of God by adoption. "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law , that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts crying Abba Father." ( Galations 4:4-6)

In the Sacrament of Confirmation, we, "were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, . . . . the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. . . and hath put all things under his feet and gave him to be the head over all things to his Church which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Ephesians 1: 13-23 )

Thus, Saint John exclaims: "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God : therefore the world knoweth us not because it knew him not. Beloved now are we the sons of God and it doth not yet appear what we shall be but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is!" (I John 3: 1-2 )

To sustain this divine life in us, God has given us the Holy Sacrament of his Body and blood. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" the skeptical throng asked of Christ. "Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath ETERNAL LIFE and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6: 52-54 )

Our Lord made a very mysterious comment at the Last Supper, as he gave the Cup to the Disciples , he said, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's Kingdom." (Matthew 26:29)

What does he mean? They must have asked themselves. But, pause; cut to a scene from the Revelation of St. John: And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him, for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her it was granted that she should be arrayed in white linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. . . .Blessed are they which are called unto the MARRIAGE SUPPER of the lamb. (Revelation 19:6-9)

Here we have the fulfillment of that reference to drinking the fruit of the vine, "with you in my Father's Kingdom." The Lamb is Jesus, "our passover," who "is sacrificed for us." The wife is, the Church. The Bride of Christ. The white linen in which they are arrayed is the righteousness of Christ, which alone permits us entre to that feast. Compare the story Christ told about the wedding guest who showed up for the Royal wedding, "not having a wedding garment." When questioned, by the King, the man was speechless. "Then said the King to the servants, Bind him hand and foot and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for many are called, but few are chosen." (Matthew 22: 8-14)

This wedding garment is symbolized by the white baptismal robe. In earlier times, the newly baptized wore their white robes until Pentecost. Whence, the other name for Pentecost is Whitsunday, i.e., white Sunday.

John tells us how he saw, " a new heaven and a new earth," (Revelation 21:1) and in that new heaven, "God will dwell with his people, and "God himself shall wipe away all tears from their eyes and there shall be no more death neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain." (v4 ) Christ then declares, "I am Alpha and Omega, ( The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet ) the beginning and the end, I will give unto him that is athrist" -- here my friends, at last, that thirst for the infinite, that longing for the eternal with which we are born, here, at last it is to be satisfied: " I will give to him that is athrist of the fountain of the WATER OF LIFE!" (v6)

In the next chapter of his Revelation, Blessed John tells us how he saw the River of the Water of Life. And "on either side of the river , was there the tree of life. . . and there shall be no more curse." (22:2)

You remember the curse: God said to Adam: "Because thou has harkened unto thy wife and hast eaten of the tree [ of the knowledge of good and evil, the forbidden tree ] of which I commanded thee, thou shalt not eat of it, cursed is the ground for thy sake. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee. . . . In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread til thou return unto the ground, for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return. . . . So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned everyway, to keep the way of the tree of life." (Genesis 3: 17-24)

But now, how changed is the matter! The sons of God are now permitted free access to that from which, as sons of Adam, they were expelled. " Blessed are they," exults the Evangelist, "that do his commandments that they may have right to the tree of life!"

Of course there is another tree, interposed between the Tree whence expelled and the tree wither welcomed: the tree of Calvary, whereon Our Lord hung for the sins of the whole world. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. For it is written: [in Deuteronomy 21:23] 'Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.'" (Galatians 3:10 )

So buried with him in baptism, raised to new life in Christ, and wearing the robes of Christ's righteousness, the sons of God are given free access to the tree of Life. And how are the Sons of God identified ? "His name shall be in their foreheads!" ( Revelation 22:4 ) The Holy Name of the Blessed Trinity placed on their forehead at their baptism, when the sign of the Cross, the Tree of Redemption, was traced on that forehead. "In hoc signo vinces!"

"And the Spirit and the Bride say come! And let him that heareth come. And let him that is athrist come, whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely!" ( 22:17)

O God who hast prepared for them that love thee such good things as eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, fill our hearts with such love toward thee, that we may love all things in thee and for thee and thee above all things, and so we may obtain that which thou hast promised, make us love that which thou dost command, through Jesus Christ, thy Son , our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, unto ages of ages. Amen

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The Human Condition (Part 1)

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