In his “must read” book “On The Incarnation” St. Athanasius said ““Even on the cross He did not hide Himself from sight; rather, He made all creation witness to the presence of its Maker.” Think of that, The Creator insisted in making visible the Invisible, and to make accessible The Uncreated.
But that was God’s intention all along, to make Himself Visible and Accessible to His Creation. He even made His suffering public, so that our suffering would have both meaning and purpose.
That’s why Orthodoxy preserves the visableness of worship and devotion, and, conversely, why merely a scholastic religion falls short of the cosmic beauty of Timeless Christianity. Our Faith isn’t meant to locked away in our cranium, but seen and witnessed by our actions and our choices and our collective “churching” of the whole of creation. It’s why we are called to be good stewards of creation, including our physical bodies and to serve persons. We Christians, the Church, are meant to continue Jesus’ work in making the Kingdom a visible reality!
Look at our lesson today in Luke 3:19-22:
At that time, Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by John for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he shut up John in prison. Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Our lesson is set at the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry and the setting is in the time of Rome’s puppet king Herod and his immoral life. Of course, Herod is confronted by the Blessed Forerunner, John, and the king had him arrested for John’s truth-telling.
Then the scene jumps to the Lord’s baptism by John in the Jordan River, and the descent of the Holy Spirit in the visible form as a dove.
We’ve seen pictures of this moment, and I remember one of the best movie scenes ever of this moment in a film done by Johnny Cash, called “The Gospel Road: A Story of Jesus.” I remember watching it as a teenager and being amazed at the scene of the Lord’s baptism and the dove coming to rest on His head. Of course, the dove has powerful meaning to the Jewish people. It was a dove that came back to Noah on the ark with a sprig from an olive tree, proving dry land had once again appeared and the flood was receding. The dove descending on Jesus at His baptism once again showed God visiting His people with the cure for the “flood” of sin, using the waters of baptism to undo what the waters of judgement had destroyed.
But please note that there is always a physical appearance to God’s eternal work.The dove became the symbol for the Holy Spirit in Christian iconography and story. So, the Holy Spirit was not left to be some imagination or some ephemeral specter. No, the work of God to redeem the world is meant to be public, visible, witnessable, and shareable. It is meant to be touchable, and this Good News is meant to be embodied in your life for all to see!
It isn’t enough, nor should it be enough, to simply say you are a believer. This salvation, won for us by our Visible Savior, has always been seeable! So, it is a backward notion to think I can hide my Faith from the world around me. If the Creator, the Uncreated didn’t hide, we can’t either.
The visableness of this Faith extends to how we pray, how we worship, how we serve, and how we love. Today’s world is filled with those who embody the selfishness of our darkened age. They make it quite clear and visible how angry they are, how opposed they are. They don’t hide their disdain or their desire to destroy and take. The evil one knows the power of a visible faith, and he uses his influence to delusion us into thinking we need power or possessions or envy or fear to “take” what we want.
But the Lord and His Visible Church stands in stark contrast to such darkness with His Timeless and Visible Kingdom!
So, today, is your faith visible? Or are you a hidden follower of Jesus? We don’t have to wonder how to pray, how to worship, and how to serve, the continuity gifted to us in the Lord’s Timeless Church invites us to be Orthodox on Purpose!