In World War 1 the two opposing armies would dig in and conduct what was then called “trench warfare.” The land between the two armies entrenched in the fight was called “no man’s land” because anybody who tried to attack would be shot by the other side!
Not a pleasant place to be. In fact, it’s a very dangerous place to be!
But recently I was teaching after our regular Wednesday night service about the unique place the priest occupies during the Divine Liturgy. He stands with the people as we all face the altar together AND he stands facing the people as he communicates God’s Good News to them. Sometimes it feels like a “no man’s land” being both participant and leader in the work of worship in the church.
And yet, we humans need this “both/and” ministry of the priesthood because all of us are part of the Royal Priesthood of believers and all of us are called to stand before God and to offer God to others in our lives by our faithful living out of a purposeful Orthodoxy.
Look at our lesson today in Hebrews 7:26-28; 8:1-2:
Brethren, it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself. Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect for ever. Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord.
St. Paul insists that Jesus is our High Priest, the priestly ministry that is the very source and cause of all other priestly ministries. As a reminder, Hebrews was written to try and convince some Hebrew Christians to stay connected to the Church. This became especially important to these Hebrews who had been trained and formed by the liturgical life of the Temple to know just how important the High Priest really is!
And His priesthood isn’t like the human priesthood of the Old Testament. He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices for His own sins daily, and then for the sins of the people. No, He offers Himself “once, for all” in His sacrifice on the Cross, and that sacrifice fulfills all sacrifices and now Jesus, in His resurrection and ascension, is “seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.”
OK, you know me by now, you know I insist that we answer the “so what” question when it comes to these deep and profound truths of our Faith.
And the “so what” is cosmically this: Jesus Christ, in His life, death, resurrection, ascension, sitting at the right hand of the Father, and glorious second coming, fulfills all we humans need to heal the relationship between the created and the uncreated. He bridges the divide between the Eternal and the Mortal by rendering mortality impotent! And He does this, not for Himself, but wholly for us. He is our High Priest that stands in “no man’s land” in between the Uncreated God and Created persons. He lives in both worlds and heals the divide between them. He makes a home for us creatures in the Uncreated land of the Father.
In other words, He brings all hostility, all division, to an end and He does this once and for all.
And now that is the message we offer everyone around us, by our faithfulness to this Faith; by our choices and priorities and actions. And yes, by our proclaiming as well. We are all called to participate, according to our callings, in this final and finished Priesthood. We are called to stand “in-between” our heavenly home and the world that seems intent on destroying itself with one hand extended in thanksgiving to the Lord Who loves us and the other extended to the world He loves and longs to save.
Today, as we remember the great hero of the Trinitarian Faith, St. Gregory the Theologian, are you willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus to your world and offer everyone around you a way to their true destiny? St. Gregory stood in that In-Between place as a bishop of the Church during a time of great struggle and controversy in the Church over the heresy of Arianism, and he, along with several other saints, defended the mystery of the Holy Trinity against false teachings. He died at the age of 62 in AD 391 after having given his whole life to serve the Faithful and Christ. As we continue our journey, let’s rejoice at such an example and embrace this Normal Orthodox life for ourselves!
P.S. The pastoral flute of your theology conquered the trumpets of orators. For it called upon the depths of the Spirit and you were enriched with the beauty of words. Intercede to Christ our God, O Father Gregory, that our souls may be saved.