“The night sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.”-J.R.R. Tolkien in The Return of the King
“No one who came to the Jordan was as laden and as afflicted as He. No one was as needy. No one so utterly human, because so fellow-human. No one confessed his sins so sincerely, so truly as his own, without side-glances at others. He stands alone in this, He who was elected and ordained from all eternity to partake of the sin of all in His own person, to bear its shame and curse in the place of all, to be the man responsible for all, and as such, wholly theirs, to live and act and suffer. This is what Jesus began to do when He had Himself baptized by John with all the others. This was the opening of His history as the salvation history of all the others.”
-Karl Barth, CD IV.2.2
“Jesus of Nazareth—among the many who in Jordan received the baptism of John for the future forgiveness of sins—was the One in whom God was well pleased as His beloved Son, the One upon whom John saw the Spirit descend from heaven, Himself the One who, proclaimed by John, was to come as the bringer of forgiveness. In this way, in the free penitence of Jesus of Nazareth which began in Jordan when He entered on His way as Judge and was completed on the cross of Golgotha when He was judged—there took place the positive act concealed in His passion as the negative form of the divine action of reconciliation. In this penitence of His He “fulfilled all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15). It made His day—the day of the divine judgment—the great day of atonement, the day of the dawn of a new heaven and a new earth, the birthday of a new man.”
-Karl Barth, CD IV.1, 259
Today Roman Catholics and Anglicans mark the Feast of Leo the Great (Bishop of Rome, died 461). In a time of great cultural upheaval, he became known for uniting political and spiritual authorities. His writings provided the church with the language necessary to unite around common ideas about the nature of Christ at the Council of Chalcedon, and his role as a mediator in violent political conflicts helped to spare many lives. He is well known for his meeting with Attila the Hun, convincing him to hold off a few years before attacking Rome, then negotiating for less bloodshed when the Vandals later destroyed Rome.
Here is a brief passage from his Christmas Day sermon (In Nativitate Domini) titled, “Christian, Remember Your Dignity.”
“Let us then, dearly beloved, give thanks to God the Father, through His Son, in the Holy Spirit , Who
for His great mercy, wherewith He has loved us, has had pity on us: and
when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5), that we might be in Him a new creation and a new production.
Let us put off then the old man with his deeds: and having obtained a share in the birth of Christ let us renounce the works of the flesh. Christian, acknowledge your dignity, and becoming a partner in the Divine nature, refuse to return to the old baseness by degenerate conduct. Remember the Head and the Body of which you are a member. Recollect that you were rescued from the power of darkness and brought out into God’s light and kingdom. By the mystery of Baptism you were made the temple of the Holy Ghost: do not put such a denizen to flight from you by base acts, and subject yourself once more to the devil’s thraldom: because your purchase money is the blood of Christ, because He shall judge you in truth Who ransomed you in mercy, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever and ever. Amen.”
-Leo the Great
“The word mercy in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos. This word has the same ultimate root as the old Greek word for oil, or more precisely, olive oil; a substance which was used extensively as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds. The oil was poured onto the wound and gently massaged in, thus soothing, comforting and making whole the injured part. The Hebrew word which is also translated as eleos and mercy is hesed, and means steadfast love. The Greek words for ‘Lord, have mercy,’ are ‘Kyrie, eleison’ that is to say, ‘Lord, soothe me, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love.’ Thus mercy… refer[s]… to the infinite loving-kindness of God, and his compassion for his suffering children! It is in this sense that we pray ‘Lord, have mercy…'”
-from the book Orthodox Worship by Benjamin D. Williams and Harold B. Anstall
Painting “Kyrie Eleison” by Soichi Watanabe
The theme of union with God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is a common thread that runs throughout the history of great Christian devotional writing. Every stream within the Great Tradition has reflected on the meaning and means of union with God through Christ, as well as his call to, “…abide in me.”
Trinitytide worship is pointed towards the kind of life that reflects the love of the Trinity, the journey “…to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Growth in grace is a trek towards home, a return to the source and sustainer of life.
“The aim of man’s life is union (henosis) with God. This participation takes man within the life of the three Divine Persons themselves, in the incessant circulation and overflowing love which courses between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, and which expresses the very nature of God. Here is the true and eternal bliss of man. Union with God is the perfect fulfillment of the “kingdom” announced by the Gospel, and of that charity or love which sums up all the Law and the Prophets. Only in union with the life of the Three Persons is man enabled to love God with his whole heart, soul, and mind, and his neighbor as himself.”
-Fr Lev Gillet (1893-1980) in Orthodox Spirituality: An Outline of the Orthodox Ascetical and Mystical Tradition
“And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons: nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father: another of the Son: and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one: the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is: such is the Son: and such is the Holy Ghost.”
“There is no logical, chronological, or ontological separation of the three as they are always one. There is only distinction of the persons in the Godhead between the Father, Son, and Spirit. There’s the tension … but don’t be tempted to resolve it.”