“Consider your origins: you were not made to live as brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge.” Dante, poet and author of the Divine Comedy. Origins consumes much of the scientific inquiry of our day. Where did we come from? How did the universe begin? Where did humanity come from? Explore as we might, it seems to always be beyond us to push the boundaries back far enough to satisfy us. Because every discover leads to “Well, where did that come from then?”
And yet, if I forget where I come from, I am handicapped to truly know myself. No wonder there are so many obsessed with Ancestral records and national history. But, even those stories and familial pride can be perverted into unfounded racism or nationalism that distorts our true selves. And that is because our origins go back further than our family tree or our national beginnings. And, unless we push back far enough, we will stop our inquiry too soon and never discover who we really are.
Look at our lesson today in Hebrews 3:1-4:
HOLY BRETHREN, who share in a heavenly call, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession. He was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in God’s house. Yet Jesus has been counted worthy of as much more glory than Moses as the builder of a house has more honor than the house. (For every house is built by some one, but the builder of all things is God.)
The Epistle of Hebrews is a scriptural masterpiece! In this treasure of wisdom and faith, the Apostle Paul addresses a group of Hebrew Christians who are under severe persecution because they have embrace the new Christian faith and their Jewish friends and family now see them as traitors to their original religion. The persecution is driving many of these Christians to consider returning to Judaism and abandoning their Christian faith. St. Paul preaches they have, in fact, not abandoned their origins, but are witnesses of the fulfillment of all their Jewish scriptures, prophecies, and hopes in this coming of Jesus Christ and His resurrection for our sake! In another place, St. Paul insists that “…he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Romans 2:28-29
St. Paul goes on to tell these Hebrew Christians that what they have in Christ is “better” than what they had. To be sure, what they had prepared them to receive what they have. And that is the key to understanding the power and the dangers of origins. If I don’t know the Original Builder, I’ll never truly appreciate or even understand the “house.”
So, how do we get to know “The Builder of the House?”
First, we must embrace the hard spiritual disciple of humility. When I’m tempted to be “proud” of my heritage, I always have to temper that pride with the reality that my heritage also has some pretty dark history. This is true for my immediate family heritage, my cultural heritage, and my national heritage. It’s even true of my spiritual heritage. No one who has ever honestly studied Church History without “rose colored” glasses can not help but wince at some of the events that occurred in the History of the Church. So, a sense of humility is necessary unless we are willing to be enslaved by our insecurities and unfounded arrogance. This humility allows me to never place my trust in “the arm of flesh” but seek out to know “The Builder” Himself.
Next, we must embrace the challenge of repentance. We have talked about this word so much, but it always bears repeating. Repentance is the very heart of knowing God and you cannot know God without this spiritual labor. Period. But repentance is so misunderstood and it takes great effort to undo the various misconceptions we readily embrace all in an effort to avoid the true hard work of repentance. You see, repentance is never just about being sorry you did wrong or made a mistake. It is true that “godly sorrow works repentance” but that is just the beginning. True repentance is a life long push to allow the grace of God to so transform the way I think that my life is truly wasted if I don’t do this all my life. Repentance is the gift of God that opens up my heart to go back to my ultimate origin: The Builder – God Himself.
Today, do you know your ultimate origin? To be sure, there is much joy and goodness in your family history, in your cultural beginnings, and in your national origins. But all of those are incomplete without an intimacy with your true beginning in God. Know Him and you’ll be Orthodox on Purpose!