13 January 2008

Christ, the Sin Offering

The following is an excerpt from the sermon preached today at Holy Incarnation Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church. Using the propers for Gregorian Use parishes in the Western Rite Vicariate, the sermon is based on the Gospel reading for the Octave of the Epiphany, which is also the Commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord.

When Our Blessed Lord assumed our flesh, He adhered Himself to our mortality. The unchangeable God was now capable of aging; the impassible was now capable of suffering; the divine was now capable of bleeding; and the eternal God was now capable of dying. Yet the flesh He carefully selected to knit to His divine nature was the pure and holy flesh of the Blessed Virgin Mary. With that flesh He bound Himself to our vulnerability, but He did not bind Himself to our sin. With that flesh, He became mortal but not sinful.

It was not until Our Lord was advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men that He chose to subject His flesh to temptation. It was not until He was ready to accomplish His mission for our sake that Our Lord determined to take up and bear the sin of the world. It was not until He was fully prepared that Our Blessed Lord, who knew no sin, freely determined to be made sin for us, that we might be made the [righteousness] of God in him. And by being “made sin,” we are not saying that Christ became the sinner, but rather that He, the Righteous One in whom all Righteousness abides—He was made by the Father the victim for the sins of the world. (St Cyril of Alexandria; cf. Ambrosiaster; ACC NT VII.252)

Christ Jesus, then, enters the Jordan River to declare that He is determined, He is willing, He is capable and He is ready to be the Lamb of God who is sacrificed so that all men, and all creation, might be freed from the death-curse that sin has brought.

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