Frank Tracy Griswold III

The 25th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Rejoice: we are God's vehicles

November 19, 2002
Frank T. Griswold

Jesus’ birth is God’s declaration that embodiment is the way of divine dealing with our disordered and darkened world. Through this divine act of incarnation, Jesus became an actor in the particular time and place in which he was born. And, his personhood became a sign to us about the meaning of our own personhood in our own day and time.

Our forebears in the faith saw this clearly. Against the background of the sacking of Rome, Augustine the Bishop of Hippo challenged his flock ‘you are the body of Christ; that is to say in you and through you the method and work of the incarnation must go forward. You are to be taken, you are to be consecrated, broken and distributed that you may become the means of grace and vehicles of the eternal charity.’

By his choice of verbs it is clear that Augustine had in mind not only that we are made one in Christ through our baptism, but also each time we take the bread of life and the cup of salvation in the eucharist. By so doing we, along with the bread and wine, are caught up into Jesus’ act of taking, blessing, breaking and giving.

Another ancestor in the faith, Maximus the Confessor, reinforces our identification with Christ when he declares ‘I diminish and cripple [Christ] by not growing in spirit with him, since I am ‘the body of Christ and one of its members.”(1 Cor 12:27)

As we once again celebrate the mystery of God’s embodiment in the birth of Jesus, in a fractured and fearful world, rather than being a diminishment of Christ, may we be made part of the going forward of Christ’s incarnation by becoming more fully vehicles of God’s ‘eternal charity’ which is realized among us as mercy and truth, righteousness and peace.

A blessed Christmas to you all.

Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold III