By the ministry of angels we may recover our strength: Fr Lucius Cary SSJE on Lent

The Mystery of the Temptation

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Dwell on those forty days in the wilderness when the evil powers were ranged against Christ as never before, mindful of the Father’s proclamation, This is my beloved Son. Before he begins his redemptive work he must first stand among the ranks of sinners, and the powers of evil are ranged not only against him, but against all who are on his side. If you are prepared to share with him in his work, dwell on the cost to Jesus in his humanity even before he enters on the work of redemption.

This is the royal road, the way of salvation. He lets himself be reduced to the lowest point of bodily weakness, and in that weakness, humanly disarmed, he sets himself to the conflict. Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. If we are to know the experience of Jesus in our own hearts and to lay hold on Christ, this mystery of the temptation must become part of the fabric of our lives, or else there will be something lacking.

Think how the Son of God is revealed to us as one who has humbled himself to take the form of a servant. But when in his humanity he has passed through the temptation, it is the form of a righteous servant, set to vindicate his Father’s honour, that he displays. It is his desire as well as his chosen method to vindicate that righteousness of God not only in the strength but in the weakness of the nature he has assumed. And so this scene allows us to ponder the meaning of humility carried to its utmost extent. For us, humility should be a coming down to bedrock, to the truth of what we are in God’s sight. That is what matters and it is to that point that Jesus descends in his human nature. When there is no strength left in him, no human power, then comes succour—not from men but from angels.

So, if we are true to ourselves, when temptations come as they needs must—in weariness, the undoing of the natural life, the exhaustion of the spiritual conflict—then by the ministry of angels we may recover our strength and be ready for further temptations. Note that the devil departed from him for a season; this was only the first round. It is the experience of Jesus in ourselves, of the tempted Christ who in the hour of our temptation holds our soul in life, that enables us to receive succour from on high and strength to go forward in the great work to which he has called us.

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