In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
In the name of our congregation here I wish to greet the members of the
Christian Council of Kensington and of Westminster. Year after year, in
brotherly love, in a search of a oneness deeper than all visible unity
we meet here. And we meet here in the light of our salvation in Christ.
The salvation of mankind, the salvation of the world created by the Word
is not a one-sided act of God. The Incarnation would have been as
impossible without the humble assent of the Virgin Mother as it would
have been without the positive will of the Father. But also, in the
Incarnation only a beginning is made to our salvation. Saint John
Chrysostom in one of his Homilies says that Christmas is like a dawn,
but Epiphany which for us means the baptism of Christ is like a full
light of day. Why? Because in the Incarnation, in the birth of Christ,
the Son of God become the Son of Man in Bethlehem. God seizes upon the
humanity which is offered Him by the faith of the Virgin Mother, which
is the culminating point of all the faith of those who ever longed for
the coming of their Saviour and believed in it, those whose names are
written in Christ's genealogy, and the many, many, the millions whose
names are unknown to us, but who are all known to their Lord and their
But in the Incarnation, in the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem, God
takes hold of a frailty of a child, and, as a parable, gives Him to us.
Love is always given; love is always defenseless, love is always
ultimately vulnerable, and the more perfect the love, the more
fulfilled, the more defenseless, the more given and vulnerable it is.
Divine Love is incarnate in Bethlehem; and the humanity of Christ there
receives passively the gift of this union with God as the result of the
perfect faith of the Mother, the Virgin Mother Who has offered Herself
and Her Son to be God's own Son.
On the day of the Baptism Christ has reached the fullness of His human
maturity, and now, it is the humanity of the Word Incarnate that takes
upon itself, in an act of perfect freedom, of entire faith, of
unreserved obedience, of heroic surrender the task which Love Divine has
laid upon Him. He comes to Jordan free of sin, and He is baptized. Why?
A Western Presbyterian minister of France told me once that he sees it
in the following way: the people came to John the Baptist soiled,
polluted by sin in an act of repentance and of faith, of a return to
God, washed their sins in the waters of Jordan; and these waters became
heavy with human sin, became what the legend of so many nations call,
the dead, the killing waters of sin. And Christ comes; and He, pure of
stain, immerses Himself in these waters of death as one would immerse
white wool into a dye, and comes out; comes out of these waters carrying
upon Himself all the sin that has been washed in these waters.
Ancient thought, ancient intuition had already perceived something of
this mystery in the story of Hercules which is mentioned by one or
another of the spiritual writers of old. Hercules stands for the hero
who saves; he kills with an arrow the Centaur, the creature which is
both beast and man вЂ” an image of what sin makes of us: beasts and men at
the same time, because the image of God cannot be washed but it can be
profaned; it cannot be destroyed but it can become monstrous as in the
legend of Centaur. And on his dying moment the Centaur sends to Hercules
his tunic asking him to wear it in memory of his victory, traitorously.
And when Hercules puts it on it clings to his body and burns him like
fire. And he tears it away together with his flesh and his life.
Isn't this an adequate image, an intuition of genius of what happened in
Christ? Yes, He merges Himself, He immerses Himself in these waters of
death; He comes out of them wearing on His body, in His humanity all the
consequences of human sin, as Hercules put on the tunic soaked with the
blood of the beast-man. And Christ will die of it because it is the only
way He could free, not Himself but mankind of its sin. We are Christ's
own people; our vocation on earth is to be in history, in the course of
our short-lived existence, what Christ has been: love divine incarnate;
vulnerable unto death and unto torment; helpless because it is totally
and freely given. And our vocation is to struggle within us against
everything which is sin, everything which is evil, to free ourselves by
faith and obedience, by love and ascetical endeavor of everything which
is not worthy of God, of everything to which God cannot unite Himself.
And then, give ourselves unto life and unto death for the salvation of
every person, of every nation and of the world.
This is what this feast of Epiphany tells us. Let us follow into
footsteps of our Master, from centaurs become truly human beings, and
human, unite ourselves with God in Christ by the power of the Spirit,
and lay down our lives, and offer if necessary our death for the
salvation of all who need it. Amen.