Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Collect For Easter II

Fr. Dale Matson

As I read our Collect for Easter II, I thought how wonderfully it was written. The Collect expresses so well the Season of Easter. There is a bit of a problem however. What do these well-crafted phrases mean? I thought they were intended by Thomas Cranmer to be in the vernacular. I must admit that even as a priest the phrases required me to reflect further.  I would like to unpack what is stated so compactly in the Collect.

The Collect For Easter II

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery hast established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

What does this mean? What is the “Paschal Mystery”? The Paschal Mystery is a central feature of the Christian faith.  The Paschal Mystery cannot be understood simply by looking up the two words Paschal and Mystery. Paschal has to do with Passover. In Egypt, the blood of sacrificial lambs was put on the door frames of the homes of the Israelites so that the Angel of Death would Passover that house. The Jews escaped death by the blood of the lambs.

Christ is our Paschal Lamb. He was slain for our sake. His blood is the blood of the new covenant and saves us from original sin, our sins we commit and eternal death. His death on the cross destroyed death forever for those who call upon His name.

The other word in Paschal Mystery is “Mystery”. What does this phrase mean? Think of the word Mystery as an eternal hidden plan of God. His plan from the beginning was to send His only Son Jesus the Christ to be born and live as one of us, to die and be buried, to arise from the dead, and to ascend to heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand to intercede for us. "As in Adam all die, so in Christ, shall all be made alive." (1st Corinthians 15:22)

Maybe you haven’t realized it but you state the mystery of faith every time we celebrate Holy Eucharist. In the great thanksgiving, the priest says, “Therefore we proclaim the Mystery of faith.”  And you respond with, “Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again.” That simply stated is the mystery of faith. The Paschal Mystery is the plan of salvation from the very beginning hidden from the world and centering on the Person, life and work of Jesus the Christ.

What about this phrase?  “God, who in the Paschal mystery hast established the new covenant of reconciliation…” Without faith in the person and work of Christ, there is no reconciliation between God and humans. Christ’s work is complete and finished. He has paid our debt to God and suffered our penalty. By faith in Him, we appropriate His righteousness and are made right with God. Repentance is a part of reconciliation. Let me state quite clearly that there can be no reconciliation without repentance. God does not forgive an unrepentant sinner. How many sins are you continually committing and just flat out don’t intend to stop. There is no will to stop. You have committed them so often that your conscience has been dulled to the behavior. You have committed your sin so often that as C.S. Lewis would say, “You are becoming your sin.” You say to me, “I know I am forgiven but I just can’t seem to stop.” You can’t stop because you don’t really want to stop. It’s not can’t stop; it’s won’t stop. An alcoholic friend of mine once said to me, “I have the will power but I don’t have the won’t power.” Reconciliation requires recognition of sin and being sorry for your sin. It requires change in how you do business.
“Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith.” What does this statement mean? Our baptism is our second birth. We were born into this world from our mothers. It was a physical birth. Through baptism, we are born spiritually into the body of Christ, the church. We physically grow outside our mother’s bodies after birth. We spiritually grow inside Christ’s body the church. In the first case, we are born out of our mothers and in the second case we are born into our spiritual mother the church, the body of Christ of which Christ is the head.

May we show forth in our life what we profess in our faith. This one is easy to translate. May we walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Jesus is more than just a slogan on your car bumper. As Savior and Lord, He is our way of life and life itself. This Easter Season, tell others of the hope you have within you. Your hope has a name and His name is above all other names, Jesus Christ.  

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