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And Sits At the Right Hand of the Father

October 20, 2013

411px-Istanbul.Hagia_Sophia072.JesusThe Nicene Creed is not a mere set of beliefs that we confess with our mouths, but the Way that we follow in thought, word, and deed leading to eternal life in communion with our triune God. The Creed is meant to open up to us new worlds of holiness, new experiences of the divine, and above all newness of life found only in Christ. This is evident in the creedal formula “and sits at the right hand of the Father,” for with our minds fixed on the rule of God where Christ reigns forever, with our hearts comforted in the knowledge that Christ has indeed ascended to the Father where He continues to intercede on our behalf, everything in life—thoughts, feelings, and actions—are transfigured by this holy truth. For the Christian who accepts this truth, the temporal is forevermore guided by the eternal.

Saint Gregory Palamas writes, “Given that we desire long life, should we not take eternal life into account? If we long for a kingdom which, however enduring, has an end, and glory and joy which, great as they are, will fade, and wealth that will perish with this present life, and we labor for the sake of such things; ought we not to seek the kingdom, glory, joy, and riches which, as well as being all-surpassing, are unfading and endless, and ought we not to endure a little constraint in order to inherit it? Besides, we are presupposing a kingdom free from war, which is impossible on earth, and a life without sorrow, which you can only find in heaven. So let anyone who desires these things run towards heaven and, whether the way there be easy or difficult, let him journey along it, ‘rejoicing in hope’ and ‘patient in tribulation’ (Romans 12:12).”

The fact that Christ is enthroned sitting at the right hand of the Father continuously interceding for us reminds us of His great love for each of us. According to Saint John Chrysostom, His session and intercession at the right hand of God reveal that the very same solicitude that Christ showed for His disciples while on earth—praying for them, comforting them, supporting them, teaching them, and illumining them, He continues to show to each and everyone of us. For this reason, we should take care not to allow ourselves to be distracted or lose our bearings on account of the fleeting allurements of this world, for our true home is with Christ in the celestial realm.

Blessed Augustine notes, “And hence we may learn how essential it is that nothing should detain us on the way, when not even our Lord Himself, so far as He has condescended to be our way, is willing to detain us, but wishes us rather to press on. And instead of weakly clinging to temporal things, even though these have been put on and worn by Him for our salvation, He desires that we pass over them quickly, and struggle to attain unto Himself, who has freed our nature from the bondage of temporal things, and has set it down at the right hand of His Father” (On Christian Doctrine, book 1, chapter 34).

Christ sits at the right hand of the Father and we are free. Christ sits at the right hand of the Father and we are loved. Christ sits at the right hand of the Father and we have a goal and direction in life that no one can take away from us. These are indeed glad tidings that can transform us if we let them by believing them with all our heart. Through the power and through the gift of the Christ’s suffering, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension into heaven, and session at the right hand of the Father, we have a perfect model and trustworthy map for our own lives.

Blessed Augustine comments further, “Christ’s crucifixion, His burial, His resurrection on the third day, His ascension into heaven, and His sitting down at the right hand of the Father were so ordered that the Christian might model his own life on them, not merely in a mystical sense, but in reality. For with respect to His crucifixion, it is said: ‘They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.’ And in reference to His burial, it is written: ‘We are buried with Him by baptism into death.’  Regarding His resurrection, we read: ‘That, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.’ And with respect to His ascension into heaven and sitting down at the right hand of the Father, it is said: ‘If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God’” (Enchiridion, chapter 53). From this passage, it is as clear that the Creed is not something to simply be said, but to be lived. Every article of the Creed defines the Christian life, points the Way to salvation, and declares us glad tidings of salvation, sanctification, and even deification in Christ Jesus our Lord.

No earthly sorrow and no difficulty of the moment can erase or mitigate Christ’s love for us as demonstrated by His continual intercession on our behalf at the right hand of the Father. This also means that like the first martyr Stephen, no threatening menace, not even an angry crowd with stones in hand, will be able to distract us from that heavenly vision of Christ seated at the right hand of the Father. And if like Saint Stephen, we can say “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God,” we will also like him be able to say, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” We will, in other words, become genuine Christians with the sacred truths of the creed gently and graciously guiding us all along our heavenward journey. Then, each passing day of our short earthly lives will be colored by the words of Saint Paul, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8: 37-39).

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