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15 February 2013

Against the Crypto-Arians (or, Today's Gospel)


The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
“Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.”


Matthew 9:14-15


There is something, I would call it the bland trpological homily (moral preaching), that usually follows a Gospel such as this.  All of the controversies between Jesus and the Pharisees are portrayed as a binary of sorts, pitting freedom from legalism or the "Spirit of the Law" (Jesus) against legalism and "The Letter of the Law" (Pharisees).  You see how easy this is: it speaks to our all too common desire to have Jesus on our side, to find a Jesus who understands us: Jesus contra Rules, the Post-Modern Jesus!

Yet, I think all of the controversies between Jesus and the Pharisees are more Christological than tropological.  What I mean is this: the real scandal is not Jesus' followers not following fasting rules; no, the scandal is Jesus' response.  Jesus claims for himself the title of bridegroom, the awaited one.  This is the truly extraordinary and dangerous point of the Gospel.  The fasting rules function here in a more accidental, ancillary manner.  

Jesus' response to the  Pharisees is truly bold and original precisely because he is claiming for himself here (and in many other places) a new role, a role in which the Kingdom of God resides in Him.

Yesterday, one of my professors commented that if Saint Paul was presented with the Chalcedonian Christological doctrines, he may not have completely understood the philosophical terms, but he would have assented to the meaning of the doctrines themselves.  Paul possesses a Trinitarian grounding.

Today, I'd make a similar claim: the writer of Matthew's Gospel, I imagine, would have sniffed out the Arian heresy immediately. He knew that Jesus was the bridegroom, crypto-Arians be damned.

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