Sunday, November 17, 2013

Meditations on The Winter Pascha - Come and See

In this second chapter of The Winter Pascha Father Hopko points out that the Advent season begins with the feast day of the Apostle Philip. Philip is one of the first called apostles and it is he who runs to his friend Nathaniel to invite him to "come and see" Jesus.

Philip has encountered the Messiah, the Son of God. He then runs to his friend Nathaniel to invite him to come, see and know for himself, not through words but through experience, what a great treasure he has found. He invites Nathaniel to come and see who Jesus really is. Nathaniel comes, full of doubt and not sure if he should believe what Philip is telling him. He then encounters Christ for himself and he too begins to understand.

Come and see. It is good to know about things with the mind, but it is not always the same as knowing things from the heart. There is a kind of knowledge that is based on experience and action that sometimes goes deeper than that knowledge that comes from being told, or reading. Words can sometimes be a beginning, but they are not always the whole story, so to speak. Dr. James Taylor, author of the book Poetic Knowledge, has this to say:

Poetic experience indicates an encounter with reality that is non analytical, something that is perceived as beautiful, awful (aweful), spontaneous, mysterious..... a spontaneous act of the external and internal senses with the intellect, integrated and whole, rather than an act associated with the powers of analytic reasoning.

He uses words like encounter and act, and combines words like internal and external. Again, I am amazed at how the Church has provided for us. We are given the opportunity to experience worship with our whole selves - body as well as mind and heart. When we come to church we are invited to be involved completely; we see the icons, candles, gold; we touch by venerating icons, the cross, making the sign of the cross; we smell sweet incense; we hear beautiful music; we taste the body and blood of Christ. We physically gather to become Christ's body - if no one comes, the Church is not there. We have to get up and come together. We have the opportunity to be involved with all of our senses and to experience and encounter Christ in the liturgy.

O taste and see, that the Lord is good. 

Taste. See. Touch. Smell. Hear. We can do all of these things when we come. But like Nathaniel we have to get up and act. Nathaniel had to act upon the information which Philip had given him. Likewise we also, when we learn about something with our minds, must act upon it in order to bring the knowledge to our hearts. We must come and see ourselves what centuries of Christians have proclaimed: Christ has come to us and now it is up to us to go and meet Him.

Come and see. For, as Fr. Hopko puts it,

... if we do not come, we will never see.

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