Boldly Approaching the Throne of Grace

You were bought at a price. Do not become slaves of men.

I Corinthians 7: 23

The high price that bought us was the blood of Christ, shed for us on the tree of the cross. That blood is shed for us again, as it were, mystically every time the clergy and people perform the Eucharist. It’s the “unbloody sacrifice”. When the priest emerges from the royal doors after the anaphora, and the deacon bids us draw nigh, they invite us to partake of that blood and body unto the nourishment of our souls.

But, too many of us blithely shun the invitation.

These days we hear tell on the news of the spread of the Delta Variant. So we nervously wait for the Covid-19 case numbers to fall to what we consider to be a tolerable level. Once we feel ready to return to church, we expect guarantees that all of the public health mandates will be observed in church while we are there. If we still feel hesitant, we tell ourselves that discretion is the better part of valor. We are not willing to act in a cavalier manner, so our cold common sense keeps us safe at home. We rationalize our absence from church by thinking that we can execute our Sunday obligation by watching the Liturgy livestreamed on the computer.

Fiddlesticks!

Those of us who use such uninspired logic forget that our Lord said that he who does not eat the flesh of the Son of Man, or drink his blood has no life in him. (John 6: 53) Let us be careful not to be like the people who would not receive this hard saying and drew back from following Christ. The sacraments are tactile. They are matter infused with the Grace of God for the healing of both soul and body. Except for the communion of the sick, they are offered only in the temple. You cannot partake of the Holy Gifts while sitting on your couch at home, drinking your morning coffee.

Not all of history’s believers had the courage to maintain an Orthodox life in times of distress. One thinks of the Church of the early fourth century. This was the time of the Diocletian persecution and the resulting Donatist controversy that split the Church between the traditors (traitors) on the one side and the rigorists on the other. Failure of spirit produced backsliding. But the noble saints of ages past who struggled under the yoke of persecution and yet, throwing all caution to the winds, gathered for the Eucharist knew one thing: The benefits to soul and body of communing in the Body and Blood of Christ far outweighed the risk they were taking to their safety.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4: 16

This moment in history is our society’s time of need. At the risk of overstating the matter, I would say that this pandemic is the greatest time of our mutual peril than any American younger than seventy-five has ever witnessed. Without going into detail, I would say that there are insidious forces of authority in our society that are taking this opportunity of our collective weakness in order to enslave us. There is an oft-used phrase in Japanese that goes ageashi wo toru. That means literally “to take the lifted leg” and flip one’s opponent on his back. A man on his back is in a weakened position, as though he were suddenly enslaved. Dark forces are conniving to take advantage of our current weakness. But we serve the Light of Light, who has overcome the darkness of this world. Let us take heart and encourage each other with that knowledge.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3: 20

Thanks be to God, we are no longer slaves of this world or of any worldly authority, for we have been bought with a price. Freed to live in the kingdom of God, we are now servants of God and citizens of heaven. The duties and privileges of that citizenship supersede the expectations of citizens of this temporal world.

Let’s act like it this Sunday morning.

Author: Lawrence B. Wheeler

B.A., M.Div. Former Anglican priest, convert to Orthodoxy.

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