“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh.”
Hebrews 10:19, 20
Father Matta El-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor)
IN THE EARLIEST ERA it was not allowed for any man or priest to enter the Holy of Holies except for the High Priest once a year, carrying the blood of the sacrificed bull for his own sin and the sins of the people. He then sprinkled with his finger the blood on the cover of the ark of the covenant, named the seat of mercy, asking for the forgiveness of his own sins and of his people. Instead, in our New Testament the sinner is allowed to enter the Holy of Holies if he bears the blood of Jesus through faith in the cross and the shed blood on it that is for the sake of all the world’s sins. Not only that but the book of Hebrews says that we enter the heavenly Holies with boldness derived from God’s consent, and Christ’s forgiveness of all our previous sins due to foolishness and ignorance.
The early Holies were earthly holies that were man made, as for the heavenly Holies they are the place of God’s presence, that is the house of the Only Son, and according to the words of the book of Hebrews, it is the highest city: “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”1 It is the same place Christ ascended to so as to be present before the face of the Father, and which He prepared to be the home of the chosen: “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare place for you I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”2 The Highest Holies is our new abode for which we become qualified if we are alien to the earth, with Christ’s resurrection treading upon sin and the first death.
The Highest Holies is alluded to as the New Jerusalem, the City of God’s Glory, which has foundations whose builder and maker is God, and which the Apostle Paul described as our abode not made by hands, and which we are eager to have. But we must first remove our earthly habitat that St Paul named as our earthly tent. God made us enter the special mystical way of His Son that Christ described as being He Himself and His flesh which He sanctified i.e. made holy. As Christ says: “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself.”3 For this is the only way leading to heaven which Christ anointed with His blood and walked in as a precedent for our sakes, to draw us towards Him from above for us to cross over, through the mystery of His resurrection and ascension, in accordance to the strength of His power and the drive of His Holy Spirit.
All these guarantees with which Christ insured our ascension with Him to heaven gave us the firm boldness that Christ is our God and true Savior. The ascending way to Him, which He sanctified, is our way which He inaugurated in a Mystery through His flesh for our sakes. We can practically say that we are the partakers in His flesh for whom He is responsible by our name and the hour of our departure. Accordingly we must have confident faith and a true heart, sure in our knowledge and hope in the promise of the Holy Spirit’s words that is on the lips of the book of Hebrews author.
This promise and precious invitation with its assurance to us, we hear it equally from Christ’s mouth, holy be His name: “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one. … Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”4 Christ utters here these last words before His disciples for them to realize the extent of the Father’s relationship with the Son and the extent of the relationship of the Father and Son with us, transporting all He has to us. So that not only is the cross our share but also Christ Himself and all He owns. The way He crossed over with His resurrected body that ended in heaven has become our way and the Holies our Heavenly station.
23 June, 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.
Excerpt from: Ascetical Homilies, 37 (Massachusetts, 1984, p 172).
1 Heb 11:10.
2 John 14:2, 3.
3 John 17:19.
4 John 17:22, 24-26.
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