The Daughter of a Murderer and Adulterer

St. Symeon the New Theologian has some brilliant insights into the nature of the Church. In On the Mystical Life: The Ethical Discourses, he says:

For the prophet says concerning Him: “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers” [Isa. 40:22]. The same says a little later, “The Lord is the everlasting God, creator of the ends of the earth” [Isa. 40:28] and established their pillars over the abyss. And David says, “Who looks on the earth and it trembles” [Psalm 104:32]. Now given a king so important and so great, where might he look for someone whose daughter could be offered a bride for his Son? Would you like to know whose daughter it is? But my thoughts scatter before the magnitude of his condescencion! While I want to say it, I am still terrified by it! However, taking courage from His goodness, I will declare it here: it is the daughter of one who rebelled against Him, who commited murder and adultery. That is to say, He procures for Himself as a bride the daughter of an adulterer and murderer.

Have you ever heard of such incomparable and inexpressible goodness and condescension? Have you ever heard of such an excess of love for mankind? Have you ever seen such magnificence of love and goodness? All of you who think highly of yourselves, learn here from me to humble yourselves and moderate your self-opinion, and never to exalt yourselves, be you the mightiest king of kings, or the most noble of nobles, or wealthier than all the other rich men put together. Here you see the Master, the Lord of all, the Holy of hollies, the blessed God and unique Sovereign, the one who dwells in unapproachable light, so condescending as to take from a rebel the Bride of his only-begotten Son- Who Himself is invisible, unknowable, unsearchable, the Creator and Maker of all- and all of this for your sake and for you salvation.

It is a humbling thing when you realize your place before God, the one who is eternal, above all, incomprehensible and all powerful. All too often, I follow in the footsteps of my father, the adulturer and murder. I commit adultury through lustful thoughts, through attempting to usurp the Head, Christ. I become a murder when I fail to practice empathy with my brother or sister. May the Lord have mercy on all of us, that we may ignore the “great torrent of human custom” and our old father, and instead strive to be like the perfect man, the divine Jesus Christ, who condescended to become man, so that we could become like him.

Lord have mercy!

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Some more thoughts from Bonhoeffer

This quote on confession is from Life Together: The Classic exploration of Faith in Community

In confession occurs the breakthrough to the cross. The root of all sin is pride, supurbia. I want to be my own law, I have a right to myself, my hatred and my desires, my life, and my death. The mind and flesh of man are set on fire by pride; for it is in his wickedness that man wants to become God. Confession in the presence of a brother is the profoundest kind of humiliation. It hurts, it cuts a man down, it is a dreadful blow to pride. To stand there before a brother as a sinner is an ignominy that is almost unbearable. In the confession of concrete sins, the old man dies a painful, shameful death before the eyes of a brother. Because this humiliation is so hard, we often scheme to avoid confessing to a brother. Our eyes are so blinded that they no longer see the promise and the glory in such abasement.

[…] The cross of Jesus destroys all pride. We cannot find the Cross of Jesus if we shrink to go to the place where it is found, namely the public death of a sinner. And we refuse to bear the cross when we are ashamed to take onto ourselves the shameful death of a sinner in confession. In confession we break through to true fellowship of the Cross of Jesus Christ, in confession we affirm and accept our cross. In the deep mental and physical pain of humiliation before a brother- which means before God- we experience the cross of Jesus as our rescue and our salvation. The old man dies, but it is God who has conquered him. Now we share in the resurrection of Christ and eternal life.

One of the most profound points of Christianity is confession. In the earliest Christian communities, confession was practiced publicly. When someone committed a sin, he would stand up in from of the whole congregation and confess it. With the influx of inquirers and new Christians, the present practice prevailed, where a priest would stand in the place of the community, hear and forgive, through God that sin.

When we sin, especially the most private sin- like that of alcoholism, sexual addiction, pornography- it does not only affect our “relationship with Jesus” as some have taught. It affects the whole body. When one member of the Body the Church is sick, the whole body is sick. For this reason, the sacrament of confession is so important. It restores the sinner to the community, by causing the old self of that person to be humiliated before the Cross of Christ, and raises that sinner back up as when he/she was raised back up to life in his/her baptism for the forgiveness of sins.