“The Idea of Salvation”
By Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
Homily for the Epiphany 2008
Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7
“The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all and training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions and to live in the present age lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly.
When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”
The feast of today is called “The feast of the Theophany of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. Theophany (from Greek, Theos = God, Phaino = appear) is the appearance and manifestation of God. God appeared to us as he is: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That is what we proclaim in the troparion: “At your Baptism in the Jordan River, O Christ, the worship due to the Holy Trinity was made manifest, for the voice of the Father bore you witness by calling you ‘beloved Son’, and the Holy Spirit, in the form of a Dove, confirmed the immutability of this word.” The feast of today is about our salvation. We are saved by the manifestation of the Holy Trinity and by our rebirth through our union with the Holy Trinity.
I want to stress today on 4 words which explain this idea of salvation: Consecration, Conscious Knowledge, Contemplation and Consolation.
- Consecration: This word means to be make “sacred” “with” (from the Latin “cum”). When we are saved we become sacred, holy with God, holy by the holiness of God. That is Grace. That is what St. Paul says: “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation”, and “God our Savior saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy.” We are made holy through the water of rebirth. Bu Baptism we become a new being, we become children of God.
God loves each and every one of us, because he sees in each and every one of us a bit of himself. After our Baptism he said to every one of us, “This is my beloved Son.”
- Conscious Knowledge. To know is good. But any knowledge, any science does not give salvation, because it is limited and finite, and we are created for the infinite. Only the knowledge with God (cum, science) gives us the perfect knowledge. In his priestly prayer Jesus said: “The eternal life is to know you, Father, and the one you sent, Jesus Christ.” When we know God, and we know our identity with God, we are saved, we are in the light, and we are in the truth: we know where we came from and where we are going. We know our origin: we came from the love of God; and we know our destiny: we are going to live eternally with God. And this knowledge of the truth gives us happiness.
- Contemplation. (From the Latin also: cum and tempus = time). We are saved by spending our time with God and according to God’s will. That’s what St. Paul says: “to renounce impiety and worldly passions and to live in the present age lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly.” There are in
Greek two words for ‘time’, chronos and kairos. The chronos is the chronological time, which spans the surface of life, with its events, good and bad, sometimes meaningful some other times meaningless. The kairos is the contemplative time which goes down into the depths of wisdom and true knowledge, and gives our life its true meaning. It is the time of God, the time of the Kingdom of God . As saved Christians we believe that time is a time with God, because it is the time of God with us. When Jesus came, he was called “Emmanuel”, that means “God with us”. With the coming of Jesus, “God with us”, the chronos became kairos, the time became filled with the presence of God. From all eternity we were with God. Before the foundation of the world we were in the mind and the love of God. Then in the time he decided to create us. Before the foundation of the world God had decided to send his Word to save us. Then in the fullness of time he sent him to us.
- Consolation. Consolation means that we are no more alone. In our solitude God is with us (cum, solo). Jesus is Emmanuel, that means God with us, and the Holy Spirit Jesus called him the consoler, because, after the departure of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is with us, so that we do not remain alone. Woe to the one who is alone, living in solitude, without any consoler.
These four words explain our salvation and our identity as saved Christians.
- We are consecrated, that means we are made holy by the grace of God, and we commit ourselves to live in holiness with God and accordance to God’s will.
- We are conscious of our identity; we know who we are through the knowledge of Christ who is the truth and the light.
- We spend our time in company with God, through contemplation, prayer and reading of the Holy Scripture. And in our secular life we live the time according to the time of the kingdom of God , in holiness and according to God’s will.
- And in our whole life even in the most difficult times, in illness or in presence of the death of our loved ones, we believe that we are never alone. The Spirit of God is with us. And Jesus is with us until the end of the world.
This is the meaning of the feast of today, “The feast of the Theophany of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”