I am taking a little vacation from blogging, but it was suggested that I post the daily New Testament Challenge. During the Feast of the Theophany, we are reading St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. I hope that my readers will respond to the reading and to the reflection questions and begin a dialogue about what St. Paul is conveying to the Philippians and to us. We begin here somewhat “in medias res” but it is probably the most important passage in the whole epistle!
The Humbled and Exalted Christ
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.
1) Verses 5-11 is an incredible hymn to the meaning of the Incarnation. The love that God has for us cost him everything, the total pouring out of himself to death itself. Our Lord did not cease being God when he took on our human nature; rather he showed us what is means to be divine—the life of total sacrificial love. How much does our love for God cost us? Do we, in turn, empty ourselves to the point of death (perhaps not physical death, but death to ourselves, to our greed and lusts and hunger for power), or is there an upper limit to the love we are willing to spend?
2) What do you think Paul means by the image of the cosmic worship of Jesus Christ? Are we willing to join our own voice to that chorus which is celebrating the victory of Christ, or do we add our voices to the anti-chorus which still tries to oppose his universal kingship? What would our world look like if in fact every creature would confess this universal kingship? What would our politics and governments look like? Even though we may not be able to influence the world at that level, we can always influence the part of the world that is in our control. Do we do that, or do we go along with the easier way?
3) This passage lays a heavy stress on the importance of the “name” of Jesus; the name itself has power and calls for worship. We can join in the cosmic chorus of worship through praying the Jesus Prayer—Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. The prayerful repetition of the name of Jesus will become rooted in our spiritual center and begin to fill our entire life. Let us resolve to pray the Jesus Prayer at least when we get up in the morning and when we go to sleep at night—33 repetitions takes only a few minutes. Gradually the prayer will spread throughout the day.