Orthodox Mission – Hyde Park, Chicago

Isaiah 25:1-9, 4th Tuesday of Lent


O Lord my God, I will glorify you, I will praise your name, for you have done wondrous deeds, an ancient and true counsel. So be it. Because you have made cities a heap, cities strong so that foundations should not fall. Let the city of the ungodly not be built for ever. Therefore the poor people will bless you, and cities of those who have been wronged will bless you ; for you have become a helper to every humble city and a protection to those downhearted through want, you will deliver them from evil people, be a protection to the thirsty and a breath for people who have been wronged ; as down-hearted people, thirsting in Sion, because of ungodly people, to whom you handed us over. And the Lord Sabaoth will make <a banquet> for all the nations on this Mountain. They will drink joy, they will drink wine, they will anoint themselves with myrrh. On this mountain hand on all these things to the nations, for this Counsel is upon all the nations. Death has been strong and swallowed down, and again the Lord has taken away every tear from every face. The shame of the people he has taken away from all the earth; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken this. And they will say in that day: See, the Lord our God, in whom we hoped and rejoiced, and he will save us. This is the Lord, we waited from him and we shall be glad, and we shall rejoice in his

salvation.

God does “wondrous deeds,” he works miracles. He mysteriously sometimes saves people from dangers and sometimes works sign for people. But the prophet goes on to point to the true and eternal wonder we have to find, that he is “an ancient and true counsel.” In other words, that God is the one who knows the mysteries of all time and eternity. He expresses himself through plans that are incomprehensible, until we can lift up from our own time and context by being brought closer to his holiness and eternity. “Strong cities,” fortresses and the fortunes of great nations mean nothing to God, they are just dust before his eternity. Especially so for the “city of the ungodly:” a city that is founded apart from and against God—a sure recipe for ignorance of the power and counsel of eternity. The ones who peer through the fog of vanity in this world in order to seek God’s blessing are those who do not hope in it, the “poor people will bless you and cities of those who have been wronged will bless you.” If we want to lift up beyond this false glory, this confusion and fog, we need to gather as those whose vision is not tied to this world, but attached to the poverty, humility, and hope for God to meet us as “a helper to every humble city and a protection to those downhearted through want.” Our want, searching need, for a God who confronts evil can make us “downhearted;” but this should lead us to humble prayers, cries of entreaty for help. God is refreshment to the “thirsty and a breath” for those whose inspiration has been taken away by “ungodly people.” If we recognize ourselves in this position of need then the “Lord Sabaoth [of hosts],” Christ who commands the truly bright hosts of angels and the saints, “will make a banquet for all the nations on this Mountain.” We will be drawn to the Church as an ascent to the heavens, to commune  with the food that never perishes, ends or turns to waste: we “will drink joy,” the very joy of Christ’s resurrection that lifts us up to heaven by his blood which sustains the Church. We will be “anoint(ed) with myrrh:” we will be fragrant not with perfumes but the very Breath of Life, the Holy Spirit that rushes from the tomb of Christ and the mouth of the Risen Savior to the Pentecost and into every baptism and our own hearts. Christ, having gone to the depths with us, has taken us up the mountain of the Church, from all nations to see him as the “Counsel,” the eternal plan of God. “Death” tried to be “strong and swallow… down,” but the Lord, shattering its power, “has taken away every tear from every face.”

We are to “say in that day,” this day: “See, the Lord our God, in whom we hoped and rejoiced, and he will save us.” All that oppresses is gone, will be gone, because “we waited from him,” we knew faith not through flash and worldly power, but in patience; “and we shall be glad, and we shall rejoice in his salvation.”