“THE APOSTLE PREACHES THE MYSTERY”
1st Corinthians 4. 1-5
Advent Midweek Vespers III: 19 December Anno Domini 2013
Fr. Jay Watson SSP
Grace Mercy and Peace be unto you from God our Father and our Lord + Jesus Christ.
Paul writes to a very difficult congregation—the Christian parish at Corinth. These new Christians were surrounded by wealth, entertainment, sports, food & drink, cults, pagans, antagonistic Jews, and a Militaristic preoccupation with State. And what does Paul do? He doesn’t start a rival political party or movement (the Olive Party or Myrrh Movement); he doesn’t start his own talk-show (the Faith Forum with Rabbi Saul-bo); and he certainly doesn’t start, lead, put at the center, crux, and heart, a “list of do’s and don’ts.” Paul talks Incarnation. Paul talks flesh and blood. Paul talks—Gospels—Jesus. This is because Paul is THE Prophet of Christ’s Advent: Past, Present and Parousia.
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” Therein you find Paul’s mandate and “marching orders.” What the Christ did for His “12” on Easter Eve and Quasimodogeniti Eve, He did to Paul as well in Damascus, in the house of Judas on Straight Street. The Lord Christ breathed on Saul as He had breathed on denying Peter, wrath-filled James, jealous Philip, doubting Thomas and the rest. Jesus used another of His instruments, the truly “forgotten disciple” and anonymous pastor, St. Ananias “the brave.” In a vision Jesus told Ananias to go to the house of one named Judas and meet the Christian-killer Saul of Tarsus for “he is a chosen vessel unto Me to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the Children of Israel. For I will show him how great things he must suffer for My Name’s sake.” [Acts 9. 15-16] Ananias was a faithful minister and steward of The Word and did what he was elected, called, and graced to do—he went into the ‘lions-den’ and: “putting his hands [the Hands of Jesus] on him said [the Breath of Jesus], Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.” [vv. 17-18]
The killer became the pardoned. The adversary became the ally. The disbelieving Jew became the believing brother and vessel of the God/Man! “Let a man, (Jews, Gentiles, kings, all creatures,) account of us...(us now including Saint Paul,) as of the ministers of Christ…” Ministers: is the English of uperetes (hupayratus)…helper; one in service to another. Paul would usually refer to himself thereafter as diakonos—deacon. And when Paul said he was a servant of Christ Jesus, he meant slave. For now His Master, His Messiah was not his own twisted Pharisaical imaginations and self-works, but the Living and Resurrected God/Man in the Flesh and Blood! Now the mysteries were the same revealed Words of Hebrew Scriptures which Paul had thought he knew so well. Now, Paul is known by Jesus, loved by Jesus, and is appointed a “steward[s] of the mysteries of God.” Paul received meat and was strengthened. Soon he would receive more of what all the Lord’s Baptized need, the “Meat of the Word” which always follows the “Milk” of the Word. Soon he would receive and distribute the Very Word made Flesh in the Sacramental Body and Blood of His Incarnate Redeemer. Paul would be taken not only into the Arabian desert but also into the Third Heaven—the throne-room of the Ascended Christ sitting on the Right Hand of Majesty—to be filled with the Three-in-One, in the Person and Face of the Incarnate Man of Bethlehem and Galilee. Paul was called and ordained to be a “steward[s] of the mysteries of God”—a house servant/slave of the mysterions of God. Mysterion is also translated as Sacramentum, or Sacrament[s].
As Adventide draws to a close, as the great Feast of The Nativity is close—The Lord “stands at the door,” we celebrate the remembrance of the Bethlehem stable and manger—the Fruit of the Annunciation and Incarnation of God by the Holy Spirit of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As Adventide 2013 moves to the Eucharistic Feast of the Christ-Mass 2013, we celebrate the Advent King’s Imminent Return in Glory to take us home…but we also have our Home, temporarily HERE at His stable, manger, crèche, altar, Table of Communion! All of this December preparation is not about snow, presents for our loved ones, legends of Saint Nicholas, evergreens, lights, and eggnog. Our lives are in, with and under the Incarnated Jesus PRESENT: Immanuel!
Paul, like Mary of Bethany, knew the one thing needful: “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” [1 Cor. 1. 22-23]
But Christ is not a slogan, program, systematic text book, or distant memory. Jesus is not a way of life, He IS LIFE. Jesus is not a body of knowledge, He IS KNOWLEDGE. Jesus is not “out there,” He IS INCARNATE for you!
Baptism is a Sacrament. Absolution is a Sacrament. Marriage has Sacramental characteristics and the Symbols do not wish to quibble over semantics. The Eucharist is considered not only the pre-eminent Sacrament but the Very New Testament itself—Himself. But all of these are predicated upon; depend upon Christ Incarnated the TRUE AND ULTIMATE Sacrament, Sacramentum, and Mysterion. Paul the Advent Apostle of Hebrew and Greek, of Jew and Gentile, of Old Covenant and New Testament speaks into your ears: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations.” That mystery is, which Paul and all his successors over the centuries have stewarded and guarded so that they might give Him to you freely by Grace to your Faith, the Body and Blood; the Word, of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ obedience to the Decalogue which you break is your obedience. You joyfully can now fight the fight of love, duty and compliance because your Advent King fights for you and intercedes for your daily sins. Jesus’ Paschal Mystery atoning for your guilt and rightful punishment on Calvary is your liberation and complete verdict—not guilty—Alive in His Resurrection and Eternal reign—His physical, bodily, Incarnated reign.
“Moreover it is required in stewards, (and in disciples), that a man be found faithful.” You are faithful because Jesus is faithful. You have faith because Jesus is faith in Flesh. Happy Advent to Saint Paul. Happy Advent my fellow martyrs.
In the Name of The Father and of + The Son and of The Holy Ghost