A New Creation, Recapitulation, and Lazarus

November 5, 2017 marks the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost. This Sunday I have the blessing and joy to serve Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Spokane, Washington. This wonderful parish is pastored by Fr. Andrew Welzig, who was away to California to attend a wedding. The epistle reading comes from Galatians 6: 11 – 18. I emphasize two verses,

May it not be for me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the world was crucified to me and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor is uncircumsion, but only a new creation (Gal 6: 14 – 15).

St. Paul is dead to the world system, and the world system is dead to him. He knows of a new reality, a new existence, and he knows of a new creation. He knows of a new life of which is has life — life in Christ, and Christ alive in him. We read from Galatians 2: 20, “I was co-crucified with Christ: I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” St. Paul’s natural life is no more. He is a new man, a new creature, who now is alive to Christ who imparts his life to him, and exists within him.

Not only is St. Pail in Christ, and Christ is in St. Paul, but — by means of the Incarnation — all of creation now has its new existence in Christ. Thus, Christ contains all things within himself. St. Paul expresses this fact in his letter to the Ephesians:

For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to gather together all things in him — those things in heaven and things on earth (Eph 1: 9 – 10).

These verses speak of Recapitulation: As Adam capitulated and scattered abroad all creation into alienation, darkness, sin, and death, Christ, the Second Adam, redeems all of creation. He gathers the entirety of humanity and all things to himself. Now, we and all things exist in relationship, light, holiness, and life — in Christ!

This is our reality even this day. Our baptism joins us to Christ, to his death by crucifixion, and to his resurrection (Rom 6: 3 – 4). By our faithful participation in the Eucharist (consuming his Body and Blood) this relational union is sustained and strengthened (John 6: 55 -56). Recapitulation is enacted as we assemble into Church to worship God by the Divine Liturgy. The Orthodox Church understands that by the Divine Liturgy we ascend to the Kingdom of Heaven which one day will unfold itself to make this reality present — and the newness of all creation will be manifested as Christ is revealed in Glory.  However, we don’t spend too much time there in the Liturgy. We “depart in peace” and move back into the world, but not without a purpose.

I transition to this Sunday’s gospel reading, Luke 16: 19 – 31. We hear of our Lord’s account of “The Rich Man and Lazarus.”

There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores (Luke 16: 19 -20).

The rich man ignored the plight of Lazarus. The rich man, though he enjoyed the good life offered to him by the world system, in actuality he was lost. He was alienated, and lived in darkness, and in spiritual death. After his death he remained in his alienation in Hades, and here he existed in torment. To save himself he should have gathered Lazarus to himself while both lived in such close proximity. He should have fed, clothed, and tended to the poor man’s wounds. He did not and his loss was terrible and eternal.

The lesson of the reading from Luke is this: we are to see ourselves as the rich man. We can chose to ignore, deny, and step around the “Lazarus” in our lives, or we can see that our mission is to consent, engage, and gather to ourselves “Lazarus,” and all that remains apart from Christ as we move through this world — the cosmos. By doing so we bring Christ’s redeeming, saving act of Recapitulation to all and all things around us. By doing so we gain more of Christ. Our union in Christ is strengthened, and Christ lives more completely in us, and can be manifested before the world by our works in Christ. So, we are to gather in and care for “Lazarus” as we work out our own salvation with “fear and trembling” (Phil 2: 12).

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus

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