The God Who Continuously Works

Christ is risen!

Indeed He is risen!

But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”  Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.  Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.  For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.  (John 5:17-20)

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The opponents of Jesus accuse Him on several occasions of “making Himself equal with God.”   They are actually expressing a theological truth about Jesus, though unaware of it or its implications.  Jesus taught that “I and the Father are one” – a statement that led his opponents to want to stone Him for blasphemy.

St Gregory of Nyssa in his commentary on the biblical book, The Song of Songs, addresses the issue of Christ being both God and human.  Gregory like several early Church Fathers interprets The Song to be a love (eros) poem about Christ and the Church, rather than being a sexually erotic poem. It is in the Bible because it reveals God, not because it reveals sexual relations (or to put it in others terms, it uses an erotic theme because of the intensity of such feelings, in order to describe what the believers relationship with God should be like).  In the quote below Gregory is talking about the woman lover (i.e., the Church) who is search of her beloved (Christ) at the beginning of the quote:

“Let us attend, then, to the one who has had her veil quite removed and looks toward Truth with the uncovered eye of the soul. How does she describe for them the One she seeks?  How does she portray in speech that which marks out the One she desires?  How does she bring the Unknown One within the sight of her virgins?

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For since Christ is in one respect creature and in another respect uncreated.  (We say that he is uncreated in that he is eternal and prior to the ages and the Maker of everything that is, but created in that he was conformed to our lowly body in the economy he carried out for our sakes.  But it would be better to set out our understanding of this matter by means of the divine words themselves:  ‘uncreated’ we call the Word who was in the beginning and is always with God and is God the Logos (John 1:1-4), the One through whom everything came to be and apart from whom none of the things that have come to be exists; but ‘created’ we call the One who became flesh and tabernacled among us (John 1:14), whose glory shining forth in his incarnate state reveals that God has been ‘manifested in flesh,’ the Only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father.  For John says, ‘We have seen his glory,’ and even though what was observable was a human being, nevertheless what was made known through him, says John, was ‘glory as of the Only Begotten of the father, full of grace and truth’ [John 1:14]).  Now that of him which is uncreated and before the ages and eternal is by nature completely incapable of being grasped and unutterable, while what is manifested for us through the flesh can to a degree come into our knowledge; and for this reason our teacher focuses on the latter and in that regard speaks as much as her hearers are capable of taking in.

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What I mean is ‘the great … mystery of our religion,’ in which God ‘was manifested in the flesh’ (1 Tim 3:16), in which he who ‘was in the form of God’ also, in the role of a slave, held converse with human beings through his flesh (Phil 2:6-7).  And since he once for all, through its firstfruits, drew to himself the mortal nature of flesh, which he took on by means of an uncorrupted virginity, he ever sanctifies the common dough of that nature through its firstfruits, nourishing his body, the church, in the persons of those who are united to him in the fellowship of the mystery; and those members that are grafted into him through faith he fits into the common body, and he fashions a comely whole by fitly and appropriately assigning believers to roles as eyes and mouth and hands and the other members.”  (HOMILIES ON THE SONG OF SONGS, pp 401-403)

Gregory is noting that the claim that Jesus is God should not surprise the Jews since in their own Scriptures, they have a book, The Song of Songs, which is an entire parable, poem and prophecy about the God-man Jesus Christ.  Christ heals/saves human flesh in the incarnation, and then that salvation becomes ours when we are united to Christ through faith and the sacramental life in the Church, which is Christ’s Body.  Salvation is not just God uniting Himself to humanity in Christ in the incarnation, but also is in our participation in this salvation – in our incorporation into Christ and into Christ’s Body.  God became human so that humans might become divine.  All the dividing walls between humanity and God have been removed so that now humanity can participate in the divine love and divine life.  This idea of salvation is what the entire Old Testament prophesied and foreshadowed.

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Jesus said: “I and the Father are one.” The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture cannot be broken), do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me …  (John 10:30-37)