The Glory of Calvary
Thirty-Third Sunday of the Year. Fr John Farrell preaches on the strangely ordered drama of salvation.
The end of the world has happened. The news is good. It is Good News.
Christians are accustomed to understanding the history of salvation as a drama in four parts. Act One is from Creation to Jesus; Act Two is the life of Jesus; Act Three is the time of the Church and Act Four is the Glory of Christ and the Victory of God.
Christians are less inclined to appreciate that Act Four comes before Act Three and, in every way, takes precedence over it.
The historical sacrifice of Calvary is the ending not just of an age but of all the ages. The Exaltation of Christ and God’s self-giving of God’s own Spirit marks the gathering in, the recapitulation of all times and all space. The weight of Glory hangs over our age like the Seal over the sealing wax and we look for the signs of the in-stressing of the kingdom ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.
The Holy Spirit flows over the threshold of the Age as a beginning of what is already and is yet still to be. We are to be attentive to the flowering of grace and to the cultivation of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. ‘We are already sons and daughters of God but what we are to be has not yet been revealed, except that we shall be like him’ (1 John 3.2).
But ‘being like him’ we enter into his glory as he did — through his sacrifice. The references in today’s Gospel to the woes of the end-time might be taken as referring both to Christ’s passion and to the sufferings of this present age. God rested on the seventh day but acted again on the eight day ‘as the sun was rising’ in the Easter garden. In the long eighth day of creation, where the ages of suffering and glory co-exist on earth, creation is still un-finished, groaning for its fulfilment as ‘a new heaven and a new earth’.
This is the world in which we live, where the wheat and tares of grace and wrongness grow together. In this garden, in this yet-to-be finished creation, it is the cross which stands as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and is the tree of life.
We are well aware of what is wrong with our world and our humanity. We are overcome by human suffering at the individual, personal, unique level. We are overwhelmed by the vastness of the numbers of those caught up in warfare, famine, disease and human evil. The disciples of Christ are called to live with hope and courage in this world as it is. As bearers of the Good News we are called to be co-operators, collaborators, stewards and gardeners in God’s work of a new, fulfilled creation.
It is Christ’s glory which is our strength and his glory is his Cross. The sacrifice of Calvary cannot be repeated because it is not terminated. It throbs through every molecule of the cosmos and stands at the heart of the Trinity. We, at Christ’s Eucharist, and in our Christian lives, are to form colonies of heaven.
Individually, together, and with men and women of good will, we are to share in the Holy Spirit’s mission of reconciling, forgiving and renewing the face of the earth. This involves responding to a constant call to conversion and a daily summons to take up the cross. As we pray not to be led into temptation, we are led not to conform but to be transformed.