24 February 2014

Fox or King?

St. Irenaeus wrote once: "Their [the gnostics'] manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skilful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skilful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king’s form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king." (Against Heresies 1.8.1)

I love that quote, for it invites to a reflection that Christians should always make: does the beauty of the King shine forth through our exposition of the Scriptures, or do we depict Someone less beautiful and wonderful than He who is the Lord of heaven and earth, assuming flesh in the Virgin's womb, that He might bear the sin of the world, even of us who hated Him and despised Him and rejected Him, to death on Golgotha, pouring out His blood to blot out the handwriting that was against us, rising from the dead as Death's Destruction, and coming again in glory to raise the dead and bring His believers into the joys of the Feast He has prepared?

It is worthwhile for us always to examine what IS the picture of Christ that the preaching, teaching, liturgy and hymnody of our Church holds forth?

The Lutheran Symbols basically borrow from St. Irenaeus when they note that the litmus test of the true doctrine received in the Church is this: "does it give all glory to Christ and all comfort to poor sinners?"

We know that the King is truly seen in His glory when we see His glory where He saw it: "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies... And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." Lord, help us in all our preaching, teaching, praying and singing to follow the path of Your Apostle that we may know nothing but Christ and Him crucified, publicly portraying before the eyes of all Christ Jesus as crucified.

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