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Why a Secret? Part One

January 18, 2013

100_8496

Ikon Ruth

L.Thiel Hewlings

When I first began attending a Greek Orthodox Cathedral, I was exposed to a phrase that eventually got me into a little trouble. The phrase is this:

Orthodoxy: the best-kept secret. 

I believe it was only my third Sunday experiencing a Divine Liturgy, and afterward, I attended a luncheon with a visiting Orthodox priest. His topic was Orthodoxy: the best-kept secret. I sat through this lecture with mixed emotions. When the lecture was over, a woman sitting next to me brought me over to meet the parish priest. It seemed he, knowing I was an outsider, was interested in my opinion. I was heavily caught up in reading Eastern Orthodox theology at that time, so my mind was ripe in a way that any new spiritual experiences might be ripe.  In this state, after having just listened to that secret phrase repeated about a dozen times, I found myself trying to understand how my own Orthodox Presbyterian upbringing paired with this Orthodoxy. Of course, no one in the cathedral had heard of Orthodox Presbyterianism.  These Orthodox were taught that anyone outside their ‘church’ were heterodox.

After a brief hello, the priest asked me what I thought. I looked at him with what I am sure was very much the face of a ninety-five-year-old child, and asked,

Why is it a secret? And I asked a second time … What’s the secret?

 

Recently, I received my revised and updated translation of the sacred gnostic texts: The Nag Hammadi Scriptures. I’d like to share on The Secret Book of James. Under The Head of Prophecy, we find Jesus saying:

“Be eager for the word. The first aspect of the word is faith, the second is love, the third is works, and from these comes life.

“The word is like a grain of wheat. When someone sowed it, he had faith in it, and when it sprouted, he loved it, because he saw many grains instead of just one. And after he worked, he saved because he prepared it as food and he still kept some out to sow.

“This is also how you can acquire heaven’s kingdom for yourselves. Unless you acquire it through knowledge, you will not be able to find it.”

First, I’d like to share on that Head of Prophecy, which Jesus says “Don’t you know that the head of prophecy was cut off with John?” 

I said, “Master, it is impossible to remove the head of prophecy, isn’t it?”

The master said to me, “When you realize what ‘head’ means, and that prophecy comes from the head, then understand the meaning of ‘its head was removed.’ “

The text continues, then Jesus says, “Come to hate hypocrisy and evil intention. Intention produces hypocrisy, and hypocrisy is far from truth.”

This is profound. I will be brief in this but we must keep in mind that the head of prophecy was cut off. Prophesy is ongoing. When John preached, he said;  for the kingdom is near at hand … for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand …  What Jesus is saying after having died and returned to these is that the kingdom is no longer near; the kingdom is now. This is it. You are in it. I’ve returned.

Going back to being eager for the word, and all that Jesus states in this, I cannot help but wonder about its secretiveness. Why a secret? What is Jesus saying in these words that requires James to be secretive? First of all, let’s work backwards. How is this done … that sowing of seeds? You till the soil, dig holes, plant seeds, cover the seeds with some soil, and water is needed soon after. So, what’s the message other than the mostly understood message of what Jesus says in the faith, love and works? He brings up the necessary knowledge in order to find the kingdom. Okay, but what form does this knowledge take, and how do we acquire it? We don’t all agree on what is knowledge, or what is valuable knowledge, and many are faced with a poverty in this, so what how can this be achieved?

Clemency.

To be continued.

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