Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mystagogy on Life in Christ - Thursday of Easter Week IV - St. Dunstan

Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year “A") - May 22, 2011 -  LIVING STONES, A SPIRITUAL HOUSE, MANY DWELLING PLACES [Texts: Acts 6.1-7 [Psalm 33]; 1 Peter 2.4-9; John 14.1-12]

The term mystagogy refers to a period of special instruction on the sacramental life given to new Christians after their catechumenal formation and initiation into the Christian community. It serves to explain to Christians how to live the life in Christ that they began at the Easter Vigil.

In the ancient church, the mystagogia (a Greek word meaning “to instruct in the mysteries”) lasted a considerable length of time. In the renewed Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, this process begins at Easter and lasts for “a suitable period,” generally until Pentecost or a bit later.

Sometimes, the First Epistle of Peter has been interpreted as an early baptismal homily, anticipating the church's mystagogical teachings. The letter tells the recently-baptized converts of their new dignity in Christ. It details how their new life must be holy, befitting their conversion. Finally, it notes that a Christian's life must reflect the pattern of Jesus' sufferings and resurrection.

In the Christian exhortation of First Peter, conversion can best be understood as a “new birth”. However, other, corporate images help to express the social dimensions involved when several or many new converts come into the church.

Paul's favourite collective image depicts the church as the Body of Christ.

By contrast, Peter's preferred image plays with several biblical texts that speak of Christ as the rejected stone given a place of honour by God. “Come to the Lord, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight”.

Disciples, then, are to see themselves in the reflected light of the risen Christ: “Like living stones, let yourselves be built [by God] into a spiritual house”. Other images reflect the election of Israel in Exodus 19.6: “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people”.

The relation of the Christian converted to Christ after Jesus' Ascension was described earlier in First Peter. “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice” (1.8). This period—once Christ has left his disciples to dwell with the Father—is the subject taken up in Jesus' farewell discourse (John 14.1-16.33).

Jesus' final message to his disciples begins with a series of imperatives: “do not let your hearts be troubled; believe... believe....” Prior to this, the term “to be troubled” had been used three times to refer to Jesus' inner turmoil in the face of the mystery of death, Lazarus' death and his own (cf. 11.33; 12.27; 13.21).

Jesus challenged his followers to stand firm in the face of his departure, when it looked like evil and death would have the upper hand.

Christ's double invitation, to “believe in God, believe also in me”, grounds Christian faith in the unity of the Father with Jesus. His hour (=his death) was to be the culminating act of God that would draw all people to Jesus (12.32).

In moving from challenge to promise, Jesus began to tell his followers about “my Father's house”. While we can discern in this a reference to heaven, it is likely that the revelation by the Johannine Jesus should be understood not spatially but relationally. Earlier, John had informed his readers that Jesus was always “in the bosom of his Father” (1.18), even when he was on earth and the Father in heaven.

And so, the many rooms or “dwelling places”, which have been prepared for and await Jesus' disciples, refer to that intimate relationship they would one day enjoy with “my Father and your Father, my God and your God” (20.7). Effectively, Jesus promised his followers that his return to the Father would allow them to enter into the same kind of intimacy as he enjoys with the Father (“I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also”).

Typically, Thomas misunderstood Jesus' sayings, which allowed for clarifications. Namely, that Jesus is the way that leads to God, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me”.

In a summary of the Fourth Gospel, Jesus revealed that he not only offers access to the Father, but that he also is the embodiment of life with God.

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The Patron of the Charlottetown Diocese

Dunstan (909 – May 19, 988) was an Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, a Bishop of Worcester, a Bishop of London, and an Archbishop of Canterbury, later canonized as a saint.

His work restored monastic life in England and reformed the English Church. His 11th-century biographer, Osbern, himself an artist and scribe, states that Dunstan was skilled in "making a picture and forming letters", as were other clergy of his age who reached senior rank.
Dunstan served as an important minister of state to several English kings. He was the most popular saint in England for nearly two centuries, having gained fame for the many stories of his greatness, not least among which were those concerning his famed cunning in defeating the Devil. (

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Collect for Thursday of Easter Week IV

O God, who restore human nature to yet greater dignity than at its beginnings, look upon the amazing mystery of your loving kindness, and in those you have chosen to make new through the wonder of rebirth may you preserve the gifts of your enduring grace and blessing. Through our Lord.

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