Philosophy fascinates me! I don’t get most of it, but it makes me feel smarter just reading about it! One particular (forgive the pun. You’ll get it later) fascination is the classic argument between Plato and Aristotle. These Greek philosophers differed in their formulation of their philosophies of being. And Raphael captured their disagreement perfectly in his masterpiece called Plato’s Academy.
So, why bring this up? Because our Lesson today uses language that points to a wisdom that draws from the philosophical world of the time and gives us a powerful insight into our own pathway to a firm and stable foundation that will allow us to stay consistent and faithful in our love for God. Wow, sounds significant! It is!
Look at Hebrews 7:7-17:
BRETHREN, it is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. Here tithes are received by mortal men; there, by one whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him. Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not according to a legal requirement concerning bodily descent but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, “Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”
St. Paul is trying to explain to the Jewish Christians that they shouldn’t abandon their faith in Christ just because it’s gotten hard to be a Christian! And he does this throughout the amazing book of Hebrews by showing these believers that what they have is “better” than what they had.
He does this by telling them that what they had was good and necessary but that it was meant to blossom into what they have now! He uses the story in the First Testament about the priest Melchizedek. If you want to read the whole story, look at Genesis 14. Suffice it to say Paul is telling these Hebrew Christians that what they had was all preparation for what they have received in Christ. It was like comparing the seed to the tree, or the plant to the flower. The flower wouldn’t be there without the seed and the plant, but the purpose of the seed and the plant was to finally produce the flower! And that’s what Paul is trying to tell these wavering believers. If they go back to what they had, they would be reverting to something smaller, something not yet at full bloom. They would be abandoning the fulfillment to go back to the ingredients that produced the fulfillment. Not smart!
And St. Paul insists that Christ, our final and perfect “high priest,” performs and fulfills all the sacrifices in Himself. The Lord’s Priesthood is what all the other priesthoods pointed towards, and now that the fulfillment has come, those former priesthoods are completed. Notice, he doesn’t say “worthless” or “unnecessary” but fulfilled. What a wonderful picture of our own spiritual journey, if we have eyes to see it!
We also can’t ignore what got us to where we are. We are the product of thousands of choices and decisions, not all our own, but, if we trust that God loves us, we see His Hand in everything, both good and bad, that has come before. And seeing His faithfulness, His care, and His love for us, we are strengthened in our faithfulness to Him and His path for us. We pass through the temptation to “go back” by knowing He is bringing us to the “flowering” of faith based on His Eternal Reality and not merely by the passing particulars of this temporary world. We are freed from the shallow dead end of a life focused only on the narrow vision of temporary things to the Eternal Purpose God has made us for: to be joined to His Eternal Priesthood and be made like Him!
Today, are you tempted to focus only on the temporary pain of the moment, or can you use the eyes of faith to see beyond the temporary particulars to the Eternal reality of the Universal Truth of God’s love for you? You can, if you wisely embrace the perfect training regiment of a Purposeful Orthodoxy!
P.S. A blessed Feast of the Presentation of the Lord into the Temple as Christ continues to blossom the real purpose of all of us!