728x90 AdSpace

Latest Posts

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

THE MYSTERY OF THE CROSS by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos

The Mystery of the Cross as a mystery of the Eternal Love of God for mankind, was expressed on Golgotha by Christ's death. But we must not remain only in this outer and historical aspect of the subject. We must also go on to partake of the mystery of the Cross through the Sacramental and ascetic life. Through Baptism, as the Apostle Paul says, we are baptized into Christ's death, so that we also come out of the Font to be raised, to participate in the Resurrection of Christ. This is why the early Christian fonts were constructed in the shape of a Cross. In all the Sacraments grace is given by blessing in the form of a Cross, but the Sacraments presuppose and take place in the atmosphere of the ascetic life.

Saint Maximos the Confessor says that all phenomena should be crucified, that is to say we should abstain from sin in practice and action, as the Hebrews fled from Egypt and crossed to the other side through the Red Sea. But the perception too should be buried, that is to say, we should pay attention also to the passionate movements of our thoughts and passions. This is accomplished through the neptic and hesychastic life. Only then is the Logos (Word) of God Resurrected in us.

Saint Maximos the Confessor, taking an example from Joseph of Arimatheia and Nicodemos, who buried the Body of Christ, says that the Lord's monument is either the world or the heart of each of the faithful. All who bury the Lord with honor must wrap Him with lines, which are the words and ways of the virtues, but they must also put in place the hand cloths, which are the simple and unvarying knowledge of theology. Only those who live by practice and vision of God, as shown by the virtues and the knowledge of theology, can see the Risen Christ, while Christ is invisible to all the others who do not live by practice and the vision (theoria) of God.

This is why we said before that the reconciliation which took place through the historical event of the Crucifixion is not the same thing as participation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which takes place within the sacramental and ascetic life of the Church.

Christ's Passion and Cross are not offered only for anthropocentric sentimental thoughts, but for a journey of rebirth, renewal, glorification and deification (theosis). There is need for a personal existential approach to these great events of the Lord. Saint Maximos the Confessor says that we have two possibilities: one to crucify Christ again, sinning with our bodies, which by Holy Baptism are members of the Body of Christ, or being crucified with Christ. Essentially it is a question of the two possibilities which the two thieves had who were crucified with Christ on Golgotha. One turned out to be a great theologian, the other a blasphemer. Nobody succeeds in being a neighbor of the crucified Christ, but a person can be crucified with Him, put off "the old man with his deeds" and put on "the new man renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him Who created him" (Col. 3:9-10).

"Almost every Patristic hymn and writing celebrates the Cross as the Lord's 'trophy'; and approaches His sufferings through the lens of His Glory. It does not exegete the Resurrection through the lens of the Cross, but the Cross through the gateway of the Glory: the Glory that was his from Eternity as Only Begotten, and the Glory that he won bodily, as the Church's Hero and Liberator, in His Incarnate ministry as Beloved Servant. The theme of Victory does not underestimate the impact of the Lord's suffering (we do not wish to hurry over the Cross in order to arrive painlessly at the joy of the Resurrection) but equally the Church does not become lost in the sufferings, or overcast by the gloom of a religion of suffering and satisfaction of an angry God. The Lord's wounds are His Glory in the struggle not with His Father, but with the forces of evil. The Passion of Christ (and so it calls out to all His believers) is undertaken for us to be our encouragement: for the Lord was glorified; His suffering and rejection was the warrior's blow that reduced Him to His knees, but He stood up again and won the fight.

He won it decisively, on behalf of His people: and resurrectional joy shared in the Church is, not least, a light that floods into every aspect of believers' lives, that they will never, ever, have to walk in the darkness in which He walked, that darkness of complete lovelessness and triumphant evil, for He has broken the victory of loveless evil, and brought love even into the depths of hell. 

Even if the Lord sends a share of His sufferings to each of His friends during the course of their lives (large or small it may be according to the challenge he has set for each one), no disciple ever walks again in hopeless darkness, for His presence is always as the Giver of Light, the Warrior who won triumph; and the Cross is His sign of victory that casts away hate-filled gloom, and sends the forces of evil flying in panic...The Cross is our victory, and our hope, and often has been our consolation in the long dark night of suffering. The marking of the self with the sign of the Cross is one of the most distinctive things any observer will see if they ever look at the Orthodox Christian at prayer." (The Orthodox Church by Father John Anthony McGuckin).

  • Blogger Comments
  • Facebook Comments


Post a Comment

Item Reviewed: THE MYSTERY OF THE CROSS by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Tom Manakis
Scroll to Top