Trinity 12 (Reflection 1)
A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
The glory of the face Moses, when he returned from the mountain where he met with God, was too bright to look upon steadfastly; the children of Israel turned away, as our eyes must turn when we gaze too nearly at the brightness of the sun. Yet that was only a moment in time, says Paul, fleeting, and finally, it was to yield and give way to a new goodness, brighter and better than the elder law and the covenant of old. But who then could endure it? Who could stand even an iota more, in excess of that excellence which brought the chosen people at last to the promised land? Who can withstand the day of the Lord’s appearing?
Paul tells us that the answer is you and me, once we have patiently followed the teaching of our Trinity lessons up until now. Week by week they have guided and brought us to the simple truth that, “we are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God.”
The glory of Moses was impossible to perceive precisely because it was not his glory, it was the terrible reflection of the eternal brightness of God. Such an encounter with the divine goodness will only be a measure of our fallen distance, our sinful shortfall from heaven, and so at best it will be a cause for our hope, that God will show us how we ought to live, in spite of our failings. And that is the Old Testament. The Law of Moses frames life with justice, and a divine calling to be holy, but also thereby establishes an overwhelming burden. We are not able to bear the responsibility of all righteousness, not while at the same time we are lonely for God; and neither can we restore the cost of our failings. We are literally at His mercy. And even worse, we have no working faculty, either to receive, or to express, the goodness without which we are counted dead before Him. That is our inherited condition.
And to that condition, Jesus is our minister. “He took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.” Our glory is not to be a reflection of the Father’s; it is the accomplished goodness of the Son, working out the Father’s purposes of love, within us: ‘the kingdom of heaven,’ that is, the glory of your belovedness, ‘is within you.’ Therefore, He told them, ‘I came, not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.’ The way of the Father will not stand over against you, but in you and for you, even as you receive me and believe that I have come to restore you to life.
That is not a glory that will terrify us even as it fades from view. That is a new story, a new life and truth, at which we arrive only by way of this man ‘who has done all things well.’ It is the story of our place with Him in paradise, even as He makes His place with us in our condemnation. He makes Himself our righteousness, so that we find issuing from our own souls the glory that is also His, the ‘glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth’. “For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.”