Sunday, July 6, 2014

Byzantine: 4th Sunday after Pentecost (7/6/14)


Apostol: Romans 6:18-23

Gospel: Matthew 8:5-13


One of the first things that came to my mind when I read this passage was the word synergy.* In short, synergy is the working of God and man together, which produces man's salvation. St. Paul is urging us here to that cooperation, to that yielding of ourselves to God, which results in salvation. For God does not drag us, kicking and screaming, into a heaven we did not want to enter. This little cartoon is cute and kind of funny, but it's also heresy.

God does not save us without our consent. To make it even more explicit, I'll let Archbishop Joseph (Raya) take over for a second: "God does not 'rape.' Any compulsion rapes the human conscience. God does not enter where he is not invited and accepted. Herod chased him away from his land when he decided to kill the babies of Bethlehem. ... God never forces the evil doer to be good." So, what is our choice? Will we cooperate?


What's not to love about this story? Think about how it must have looked: a Roman centurion—an important official in the most powerful army on earth, with power over 100 soldiers—comes up to this Jewish Preacher and calls Him "Lord!" Nor does he only call Christ "Lord" once, but twice! Imagine what his friends must have thought! Imagine if his commander found out! This is ridiculous, if not treason: to go up to one of the people you conquered and call Him "Lord!"

And yet the centurion did it anyway. He swallowed his pride and went up to this Jewish Preacher from Galilee, and begged Him to heal his servant, placing great faith in His power. It is altogether fitting that the Roman Mass preserved this confession of faith as a pre-Communion prayer. While we do not use it as a prayer in the Divine Liturgy, it expresses the same attitude as our own longer prayer. Regardless of which church we attend on Sunday, let us always express the humility of the centurion's prayer.

I've decided to use the citation method employed by Doubleday, where in lieu of footnotes I'll bold the first few words and then cite. The sequence will be: general sources, sources of quotes, then notes. Sources that are only given as abbreviations can be found on our "Resources" page.

Coniaris, Anthony. Philokalia: The Bible of Orthodox Spirituality. 2nd printing. Minneapolis: Light and Life Publishing Company, 1998. See note below.

God does not: Archbishop Joseph Raya, The Eyes of the Gospel, 2nd ed (Comberemere: Madonna House Publications, 2006), 21.

an important official: "Centurion," CBD, 143.

*For what I think is a good discussion of synergy (though I'm hardly qualified to say so), see Fr. Coniaris' book. Note, however, that the section against Latin Rite merit theology seems to be directed by (1) reference to an historical abuse, (2) a misunderstanding of the Latins' view of merit, or (3) a language barrier between the Byzantine and Roman theological languages. Other than that section, though, I don't remember a problem with Fr. Coniaris' discussion. See also CCC 2006-2011 and 2025-2027.

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