St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

The Secret and Humble God A Holy Week Reflection

By Fr. Antony Hughes

Holy Week - April, 2003

Our God comes in secret…
Olivier Clement

The Christian God reveals himself in secret, in humility. His birth was in the quiet anonymity of a cave for animals. Few came to worship him. Only the humble who had been seeking and who would be able to recognize the Humble One found their way with divine assistance to the manger. He was born far from places of power for his kingdom is “not of this world.” He did not speak from his earthly crib. He did not rise in fearful magnificence and perform miracles with his tiny, infant hand. The Great Star in the East faded. The choir of angels and their song melted into the Judaean hills. And he is left with his Mother and Foster-father to be nourished and to grow in anonymity.

The writers of the Gnostic Gospels imagined him performing fantastic feasts as a child who did not really know his own strength. But like Jesus Himself who rejected such temptations from the “father of lies” the Church saw these tales and knew them to be contrary to the Divine Nature. The Lord who did many of his greatest miracles secretly and who commanded that they remain unheralded would not make such a mockery of Truth, that is, of His Father and himself. Instead he used the simple power of parables, with common language metaphor, without fanfare, with miracles of grace and healing, yes, but not with magical and ostentatious demonstrations.

Jesus the Incarnate God reveals the greatest scandal of all to the human mind – that God is not Who we imagine him to be. We would never dream up such a “weak” deity. No, we are not dazzled by the Lord and his Crucifixion in the same way we are with Mephistopheles and his side-show wonders! But we must remind ourselves constantly that Mephistopheles is the neither fearful nor magnificent, but a tawdry magician, while Jesus is in Truth “God from God.” Contrary to our imaginings the Cross is the ultimate revelation of the God Who is love.

Even the resurrection was accomplished in secret. The guards who could have witnessed it had fallen asleep. In the garden the Risen Lord did not reveal himself to Mary Magdalene. In faith and humility she recognized him! On the road to Emmaus he never told the disciples his name. Because they had known him they recognized his humility in the “breaking of the Bread.” In the Upper Room he did not burst through the doors with the announcement of shouts and trumpets; he entered their midst. He did not call to the disciples in their boat on the sea saying, “Look, I am the Risen Lord!” He called out to them, “Children, have you any fish?” And then they recognized him! “In thy light shall we see light!”

If we are seeking for the True God, we will find this humble One as did the shepherds and the Three Kings who were not honored because they were powerful, but because they were Wise! Only humility recognizes Humility. Only the wise recognize Wisdom. The Cross is foolishness to the proud, but the Invincible Tool of Salvation to those who have recognized the Lord and are acquainted with His ways.

It is not for nothing that this narrow, scandalous path was known in the early days of the Church as “the Way.”

Grant us, dear Lord, to walk the straight and narrow way