I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
Father Matta El-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor)
FOR THE FIRST TIME Christ declares to us here that he is preparing a place for us in heaven, just as Christ the Word from heaven in the embrace of the Father descended to prepare for God a place on earth. It was an event that inspires wonder, that the inhabitant of heaven would come to live on earth. It amazed all in heaven and earth. The Son the Word chose to seek a safe and holy place in which to descend, and so we know he chose the Holy Virgin Mary, to be born of her by the Holy Spirit. In line with the humility of the Son he was born in a cow’s manger, which was a brilliant reconciliation of animals that were cursed through Adam and subjected also to corruption. The birth of Christ in a cow’s manger provides a banner for our message: He is meek and humble. Yet, it was not an easy thing for Christ to find a place to be born.
Christ went to heaven after he completed the message of redemption, and he reconciled man to God.1 He completed the salvation for which he descended and became a stranger on earth. This is why Christ came, to do the work of salvation for human beings whom he chose, united to him and granted them a share and an inheritance with him in heaven. He went first to prepare a place for them until he comes and takes them to be with him.
Heaven is the homeland of the heavenly, and earth of the earthly. Yet, because Christ completed his salvation on earth, man who was redeemed by the blood of Christ won adoption, sanctification and election and was put on the level of the heavenly because he was united with the Son and became one with him. The strangest thing of all is that the heavenly Father blessed the work of the Son and extended his fatherly embrace to the creation of the new man. He accepted man who is made holy by the blood, and he welcomed him to make his favorite place that of standing in a chorus before the Holy Father. He enjoys the pleasure and love of the Father who has counted man who has believed in Christ as chosen by God before time and the world began. So it was reserved for redeemed man before time began to receive sonship from God, to stand blameless before him in love, in the joy of the will of the Father.2 It is an election and appointment before all time, ages past and the creation of the world. It is the pleasure of the Father that the location or place where man settles in heaven is the place prepared from eternity past and before the creation of the world.
The time has come for Christ the Son of God to inaugurate the first choruses before the Father. This is the place Christ went to prepare for them and which the Father receives and welcomes.
What brings joy and happiness to man’s heart is that we will not be alone before God, rather, as the redeemed of the Lord, “for we are members of his body.”3 We share the position, honor and glory of Christ, for he gave us his glory to be one in him in a chosen and justified eternal fellowship in which our glory is in the hope of the glory of Christ.4 Christ also glories in us as his flock whom he chose out of the world, justified and sanctified and gave them of his Spirit and so they became one in him.
The place where he chose for us to be with him is in the honor of the Father, for the Son does not exist by himself, but he and the Father are one. In the great humility of Christ, he presents us to his Father as the labor of his hands, the work of his redemption on the cross, so the Father receives us to be one in him.
July 27, 2005
St Isaac the Syrian
Fasting, a Weapon Forged by God
Fasting was the commandment that was given to our nature in the beginning to protect it with respect to the tasting of food, and in this point the progenitor of our substance fell. There, however, where the first defeat was suffered, the ascetic strugglers make their beginning in the fear of God as they start to keep His laws. And the Savior also, when He manifested Himself to the world in the Jordan, began at this point. For after His baptism the Spirit led Him into the wilderness and He fasted for forty days and forty nights. Likewise all who set out to follow in His footsteps make the beginning of their struggle upon this foundation. For this is a weapon forged by God, and who shall escape blame if he neglects it? And if the Lawgiver Himself fasts, who among those who keep the law has no need of fasting? ... When the devil, that foe and tyrant, sees a man bearing this weapon, he is straightway frightened and he recollects and considers that defeat which he suffered in the wilderness at the hands of the Savior; at once his strength is shattered and the very sight of this weapon, given us by our Commander-in-chief, burns him.
1 See Rom 5:10, 2 Cor 5:19.
2 See Eph 1:3-5.
3 Eph 5:30.
4 See Rom 5:2.
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