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September 1 is the beginning of the Orthodox ecclesiastical year. According to Tradition, it was on September 1 that our Lord and Saviour entered the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth and was given to read a scroll from the prophet Isiah. It was customary at that time for the Jewish male to read in the synagogue once he had reached his thirtieth year. It was not a coincidence that Christ read prophetic words which referred to Him personally. It was the will of God for Him to be revealed in this manner. When He stood to read these were the words He uttered:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isiah 61:1-2).

St. Luke’s gospel tells us Christ then “closed the book, and gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth” (Luke 4:20-22).

The Church, in her wisdom, decided the appropriate day to begin the Church year was the very day on which Christ began His ministry, the day He began to “preach the acceptable year of the Lord”.

Interestingly, the ecclesiastical year begins and ends with the Theotokos. On September 8 we celebrate her nativity, just one week into the new Church year. We celebrate her dormition, or falling asleep, on August 15, two weeks before the end of the Church year.

I don’t think we can view this as a coincidence. Our salvation begins with her as she was the long-awaited one; without her Christ would not have been born. So her own nativity is a kind of “beginning of our salvation” (Troparion of the Nativity of Christ). Her falling asleep and being escorted by her Son to Paradise is the appropriate ending. Taking our cue from the Lady Theotokos an appropriate “new year’s resolution” should be to die with Christ so that we can live with Him, to endure so that we too will reign.

“For if we have died with him, we will also live with him; and if we endure we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:11).

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Excerpt from St. Gregory Palamas’ Homily on the Transfiguration of the Lord (you can read the homily in its entirety here).

“What does it mean to say: He was transfigured?” asks the Golden-Mouthed Theologian (Chrysostomos). He answers this by saying: “It revealed something of His Divinity to them, as much and insofar as they were able to apprehend it, and it showed the indwelling of God within Him.” The Evangelist Luke says: “And as He prayed, His countenance was altered” (Lk 9:29); and from the Evangelist Matthew we read: “And His face shone as the sun” (Mt 17:2). But the Evangelist said this, not in the context that this Light be thought of as subsistent for the senses (let us put aside the blindness of mind of those who can conceive of nothing higher than what is known through the senses). Rather, it is to show that Christ God, for those living and contemplating by the Spirit, is the same as the sun is for those living in the flesh and contemplating by the senses. Therefore, some other Light for the knowing the Divinity is not necessary for those who are enriched by Divine gifts.

That same Inscrutable Light shone and was mysteriously manifest to the Apostles and the foremost of the Prophets at that moment, when (the Lord) was praying. This shows that what brought forth this blessed sight was prayer, and that the radiance occurred and was manifest by uniting the mind with God, and that it is granted to all who, with constant exercise in efforts of virtue and prayer, strive with their mind towards God. True beauty, essentially, can be contemplated only with a purified mind. To gaze upon its luminance assumes a sort of participation in it, as though some bright ray etches itself upon the face.

Even the face of Moses was illumined by his association with God. Do you not know that Moses was transfigured when he went up the mountain, and there beheld the Glory of God? But he (Moses) did not effect this, but rather he underwent a transfiguration. However, our Lord Jesus Christ possessed that Light Himself. In this regard, actually, He did not need prayer for His flesh to radiate with the Divine Light; it was but to show from whence that Light descends upon the saints of God, and how to contemplate it. For it is written that even the saints “will shine forth like the sun” (Mt 13:43), which is to say, entirely permeated by Divine Light as they gaze upon Christ, divinely and inexpressibly shining forth His Radiance, issuing from His Divine Nature. On Mount Tabor it was manifest also in His Flesh, by reason of the Hypostatic Union (i.e., the union of the two perfect natures, divine and human, within the divine Person [Hypostasis] of Christ, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity). The Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon defined this Hypostatic union of Christ’s two natures, divine and human, as “without mingling, without change, without division, without separation.”

We believe that at the Transfiguration He manifested not some other sort of light, but only that which was concealed beneath His fleshly exterior. This Light was the Light of the Divine Nature, and as such, it was Uncreated and Divine. So also, in the teachings of the Fathers, Jesus Christ was transfigured on the Mount, not taking upon Himself something new nor being changed into something new, nor something which formerly He did not possess. Rather, it was to show His disciples that which He already was, opening their eyes and bringing them from blindness to sight. For do you not see that eyes that can perceive natural things would be blind to this Light?

mt tabor1

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(Source) Today the Holy Church piously remembers the sufferings of the Holy Glorious and All-Praised Apostles Peter and Paul.

St. Peter, the fervent follower of Jesus Christ, for the profound confession of His Divinity: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” was deemed worthy by the Savior to hear in answer, “Blessed art thou, Simon … I tell thee, that thou art Peter [Petrus], and on this stone [petra] I build My Church” (Mt.16:16-18). On “this stone” [petra], is on that which thou sayest: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God” it is on this thy confession I build My Church. Wherefore the “thou art Peter”: it is from the “stone” [petra] that Peter [Petrus] is, and not from Peter [Petrus] that the “stone” [petra] is, just as the Christian is from Christ, and not Christ from the Christian. Do you want to know, from what sort of “rock” [petra] the Apostle Peter [Petrus] was named? Hear the Apostle Paul: “Brethren, I do not want ye to be ignorant,” says the Apostle of Christ, “how all our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor.10: 1-4). Here is the from whence the “Rock” is Peter.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the final days of His earthly life, in the days of His mission to the race of man, chose from among the disciples His twelve Apostles to preach the Word of God. Among them, the Apostle Peter for his fiery ardor was vouchsafed to occupy the first place (Mt.10:2) and to be as it were the representative person for all the Church. Therefore it is said to him, preferentially, after the confession: “I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in the heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth: shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt.16: 19). Therefore it was not one man, but rather the One Universal Church, that received these “keys” and the right “to bind and loosen.” And that it was actually the Church that received this right, and not exclusively a single person, turn your attention to another place of the Scriptures, where the same Lord says to all His Apostles, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit” and further after this, “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them: and whose soever sins ye retain, are retained” (John 20: 22-23); or: “whatsoever ye bind upon the earth, shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosened in heaven” (Mt.18:18). Thus, it is the Church that binds, the Church that loosens; the Church, built upon the foundational cornerstone, Jesus Christ Himself (Eph 2:20), doth bind and loosen. Let both the binding and the loosening be feared: the loosening, in order not to fall under this again; the binding, in order not to remain forever in this condition. Therefore “Iniquities ensnare a man, and everyone is bound in the chains of his own sins,” says Wisdom (Prov 5:22); and except for Holy Church nowhere is it possible to receive the loosening.

After His Resurrection the Lord entrusted the Apostle Peter to shepherd His spiritual flock not because, that among the disciples only Peter alone was pre-deserved to shepherd the flock of Christ, but Christ addresses Himself chiefly to Peter because, that Peter was first among the Apostles and as such the representative of the Church; besides which, having turned in this instance to Peter alone, as to the top Apostle, Christ by this confirms the unity of the Church. “Simon of John” — says the Lord to Peter — “lovest thou Me?” — and the Apostle answered: “Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee”; and a second time it was thus asked, and a second time he thus answered; being asked a third time, seeing that as it were not believed, he was saddened. But how is it possible for him not to believe That One, Who knew his heart? And wherefore then Peter answered: “Lord, Thou knowest all; Thou knowest that I love Thee.” “And sayeth Jesus to him” all three times “Feed My sheep” (John 20:15-17).

Besides this, the triple appealing of the Savior to Peter and the triple confession of Peter before the Lord had a particular beneficial purpose for the Apostle. That one, to whom was given “the keys of the kingdom” and the right “to bind and to loose,” bound himself thrice by fear and cowardice (Mt.26:69-75), and the Lord thrice loosens him by His appeal and in turn by his confession of strong love. And to shepherd literally the flock of Christ was acquired by all the Apostles and their successors. “Take heed, therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock,” the Apostle Paul urges church presbyters, “over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of the God, which He hath purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28); and the Apostle Peter to the elders: “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof not by constraint, but willingly: not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind: neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when is appeared the Prince of pastors, ye will receive unfading crowns of glory” (1 Pet. 5:2-4).

It is remarkable that Christ, having said to Peter: “Feed My sheep,” did not say: “Feed thy sheep,” but rather to feed, good servant, the sheep of the Lord. “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor.1:13). “Feed My sheep”. Wherefore “wolfish robbers, wolfish oppressors, deceitful teachers and mercenaries, not being concerned about the flock” (Mt.7:15; Acts 20:29; 2 Pet 2:1; John 10:12), having plundered a strange flock and making of the spoils as though it be of their own particular gain, they think that they feed their flock. Such are not good pastors, as pastors of the Lord. “The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11), entrusted to Him by the chief Shepherd Himself (1 Pet 5:4). And the Apostle Peter, true to his calling, gave his soul for the very flock of Christ, having sealed his apostleship by a martyr’s death, is now glorified throughout all the world.

The Apostle Paul, formerly Saul, was changed from a robbing wolf into a meek lamb. Formerly he was an enemy of the Church, then is manifest as an Apostle. Formerly he stalked it, then preached it. Having received from the high priests the authority at large to throw all Christians in chains for execution, he was already on the way, he breathed out “threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1), he thirsted for blood, but “He that dwells in the Heavens shall laugh him to scorn” (Ps 2:4). When he, “having persecuted and vexed” in such manner “the Church of God” (1Cor.15:9; Acts 8:5), he came near Damascus, and the Lord from Heaven called to him: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” and I am here, and I am there, I am everywhere: here is My head; there is My body. There becomes nothing of a surprise in this; we ourselves are members of the Body of Christ. “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me; it is hard for thee to kick against the goad” (Acts 9:4-5). Saul, however, “trembling and frightened”, cried out: “Who art Thou, Lord?” The Lord answered him, “I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest.”

And Saul suddenly undergoes a change: “What wantest Thou me to do?” — he cries out. And suddenly for him there is the Voice: “Arise, and go to the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (Acts 9:6). Here the Lord sends Ananias: “Arise and go into the street” to a man, “by the name of Saul,” and baptize him, “for this one is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9: 11, 15, 18). This vessel must be filled with My Grace. “Ananias, however, answered: Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he hath done to Thy saints in Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Thy Name” (Acts 9:13-14). But the Lord urgently commands Ananias: “Search for and fetch him, for this vessel is chosen by Me: for I shall show him what great things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:11, 15-16).

And actually the Lord did show the Apostle Paul what things he had to suffer for His Name. He instructed him the deeds; He did not stop at the chains, the fetters, the prisons and shipwrecks; He Himself felt for him in his sufferings, He Himself guided him towards this day. On a single day the memory of the sufferings of both these Apostles is celebrated, though they suffered on separate days, but by the spirit and the closeness of their suffering they constitute one. Peter went first, and Paul followed soon after him. Formerly called Saul, and then Paul, having transformed his pride into humility. His very name (Paulus), meaning “small, little, less,” demonstrates this. What is the Apostle Paul after this? Ask him, and he himself gives answer to this: “I am,” says he, “the least of the Apostles… but I have labored more abundantly than all of them: yet not I, but the grace of God, which was with me” (1 Cor.15:9-10).

And so, brethren, celebrating now the memory of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, remembering their venerable sufferings, we esteem their true faith and holy life, we esteem the innocence of their sufferings and pure confession. Loving in them the sublime quality and imitating them by great exploits, “in which to be likened to them” (2 Thess 3: 5-9), and we shall attain to that eternal bliss which is prepared for all the saints. The path of our life before was more grievous, thornier, harder, but “we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12: 1), having passed by along it, made now for us easier, and lighter, and more readily passable. First there passed along it “the author and finisher of our faith,” our Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Heb 12: 2); His daring Apostles followed after Him; then the martyrs, children, women, virgins and a great multitude of witnesses. Who acted in them and helped them on this path? He Who said, “Without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15: 5).

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This is a small excerpt from the article “Meta-Patristic Theology: Are the Fathers Relevant Today?” written by Monk Moses the Hagiorite, translated by Fr. George Dragas. You can read the full article here.

(Source)

The trend for a return to the Fathers that has prevailed in recent years through the work of the great theologian Fr. George Florovsky has rendered much fruit, which we enjoy to this day. Distanced from the western forensic and pietistic theology, Orthodox theology stressed man’s regeneration and transformation in Christ through seeing and participating in God within the body of the Church by means of watchfulness, ascesis, prayer, sacramental life, purification, illumination and sanctification. Western scholasticism became boring and tedious. The liberational, modern, innovative, novel ideas of certain eastern theologians are problematic. Protestantism insisted on faith alone and not on the Dogmas and the Theology of the Church. Saint Diadochos of Photike calls Theology the seeking of God and being in communion with Him, through study and prayer. Theognostos considers pure life and a clear mind to be preconditions for Theology and pure theoria. Theology is the experience of being involved with God. The vision of God (θεοπτία) is superior to Theology and a seer of God (θεόπτης) is superior to a Theologian.

The great Fathers of the Church are her great theologians. They are the God-bearers, the God-inspired, the God-moved, the Enlightened, those who rightly administer the word of truth in their life, their teaching and their works. The strain of their theological ascent is what it is, not only because of their constant study of Holy Scripture, but also because of their experiences, since the Word of Scripture became the earnest acceptance of their heart. All the Fathers of the Church are characterized by the holiness of their lives and orthodox doctrine.

There is a great need today to return again to the sacred patristic sources, which are always inexhaustible and life-giving. Great Fathers are not only the ancient ones but also the newer ones, who continue on the path of those who have greater experience from the useful past of the Church. Contemporary theologians need to study faithfully the works of our holy Fathers…

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Below is a homily on the awesome theme of eternity by Metropolitan Augoustinos (Kantiotes) of Florina. I have added a photo of Fr. John reading the Gospel in our Mission during Agape’s Vespers on Pascha, a day in which we rejoice that a joyful eternity awaits us on account of Christ’s glorious resurrection! Christ is risen!

pascha 2015 (2)Eternity[1]

             “For here have we no enduring city, but we seek one to come.”[2] In other words, the here-and-now offers Christians no permanent residence, but rather we are left to long for the day when we will enter into our future abode. Commenting on this very passage, Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite says, we must leave behind this passing, vain world, together with its mindset and passions, and run towards our heavenly, eternal homeland. This is a most beautiful line; a shining star. Here I will attempt to draw out its practical implications for you.

Eternity! My brothers and sisters, the first thing one requires if he wants to take hold of eternity is faith. Do you know what today’s people are like? Until the year 1500 AD, everyone believed that the whole earth was the area in and around the Middle East; that Gibraltar was the world’s end. For thousands of years they were completely ignorant of the existence of America. Thus, when Christopher Columbus appeared on the scene and began talking about the existence of another, new world, they were convinced that he had lost his mind. It was therefore no easy task to persuade the king to give him a ship to make his journey. Imagine how long it took to traverse the Atlantic in a tall ship! Seeing nothing before them but endless sky and water, even own crew began to murmur and complain. Columbus heard them and began to pray, and finally they spotted the coast of the new world! We find something similar going on in our own day: they didn’t believe Columbus and we don’t believe Christ, who assures us that there indeed exists a world beyond our own. If we don’t believe Christ, if we don’t take him at his word, we will lose eternity – God have mercy!

The other thing we need is concern and cultivation: Christ tells us that we must turn ourselves toward eternity and make it our concern. And we must cultivate faith in eternal life, asking God to ever increase this faith in us. We must fix our gaze upwards, toward Heaven: “Let us lift up our hearts!” This is what the line, “For here have we no enduring city, but we seek one to come,” means practically. If each of us were to show just a fraction of the concern for eternal life that we show for material things, this world would look entirely different. Sadly, our only desires are material; we lack spiritual aspirations. Materialism and Epicureanism prevail: “…let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.”[3] Let us cultivate faith in eternity, then. Its beauty is indescribable; there are no words to convey it.

But faith and concern alone are not enough; sacrifices are also required if we are to acquire eternity. If we have to make sacrifices for the sake our earthly homeland, how much more ought we to make sacrifices for our heavenly homeland?   Our life will eventually set on this earth, but just like the sun, we rise elsewhere – in eternal life. Thus, eternity is worth every sacrifice.

If we cast the desire for eternity out of Christianity, what is left? A colourless, scentless flower; it will lack the beautiful fragrance of eternity. Thus we find this desire established amongst the twelve fundamental tenets of the faith: the Creed ends with the words, “I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen,” does it not?

So as a German philosopher has said, man has many noteworthy characteristics, but chiefly he is a metaphysical being rooted in God, and as the ancient philosopher Plato has said, man is like a tree whose roots are not below him in the ground, but in the eternal realm, where he desires to be translated.

Also of great important is the hour of our departure for eternity, the hour of death. Then the devil fiercely wars against us, but God will send his grace to those faithful who are found worthy of it. Then brilliant, great things often happen. As the ever-memorable Androutsos has said,[4] “Do not lose faith concerning anyone. We do not know what occurs between the soul and God even in the last moment. This is known to God alone.”

In older times, when someone lay at home and the time for the departure of his soul drew nigh, everyone knelt down around him and prayed. We in our day have forgotten about this practice, even those of us who are in some sense ‘religious.’ We have erased the metaphysical world from our minds. “What agony has the soul when it is parted from the body!” sings the Church.[5] Moreover, Christ, when he came to the end of his earthly life, said, “Now is my soul troubled.”[6] The soul of every man is troubled. Saint Basil the Great, too, writing about all these things, says that some wrongly put off repentance until the final hours of their life. At that time, brothers and sisters, the soul will be troubled. Holy people, like the Blessed Augustine, often sent those who were close to them away as death approached for it was their desire to be alone with God: ‘Farewell world and those things associated with it! Farewell relatives and friends!’

Not one of us has experienced death. At that time the bodily senses give way and man sees and lives another reality. He passes through the toll-houses, he comes face-to-face with, “…dark visions of evil demons.”[7] While the minds of great thinkers, as well as the imagination of the laity, have given rise to works centered on the mystery of death and the next life, it must be remembered that whatever is useful for our salvation, God has shown us, God has revealed to us! These things we ought to hold on to, and not seek to penetrate the mysteries of God out of curiosity.

We should not be indifferent towards the world and its blessings, brothers and sisters; God created these things and they are indeed beautiful. However, it is wrong and un-Christian to think that the earth is our permanent residence and that here all the yearnings of the soul are fulfilled. “For here have we no enduring city, but we seek one to come.” This is the proper mindset!

This is why all of us – each one of us to ourselves, parents to their children, catechists to the catechetical schools, teachers to their students, spiritual fathers to their spiritual children – need to begin emphasizing the metaphysical world: remember the end times, remember the end of this life, prepare for the future life. Where were we a hundred years ago? In the mind of God. And where will we be in a hundred years? Close to God, in boundless eternity, “For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.”[8]

Thus we ought to live and chasten ourselves with the belief that, “I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” Amen.

May we contemplate the great mystery of eternity during these holy days of festal celebration: Christ is risen and death is destroyed!

May we contemplate the great mystery of eternity during these holy days of festal celebration: Christ is risen and death is destroyed!

[1]               From the book Εμπνευσμένα Κηρύγματα Ορθοδόξου Ομολογίας και Αγιοπατερικής Πνοής (Orthodoxos Kypseli: Thessaloniki, 2011), 418-422. Translated by Fr John Palmer.

[2]               Hebrews 13:14.

[3]               Isaiah 22:13, 1 Corinthians 15:32.

[4]               Christos Androutsos (1869-1937) was a well-known Greek theologian who taught dogmatics and Christian ethics.

[5]               Idiomelon (tone 2) from the Funeral Service.

[6]               John 12:27.

[7]               Prayer to the Theotokos at Small Compline.

[8]               Luke 20:38.

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christ the high priest

Christ the High Priest, for our home chapel.

From my Master’s thesis:

The basis of iconography is the divine Incarnation of God the Word.  When God the Word became Man He gave a visible image to the invisible God and thus facilitated the existence of icons of the God-Man: “in the icon of Christ the person of Christ is made visible according to His human nature, just as He became visible and historical in His incarnation of the flesh.”[1]

God the Word became circumscribed in His historical incarnation and thus the iconographer can now circumscribe Him in icons: “But if He assumed humanity in truth, as we confess, then the hypostasis of Christ is circumscribable: not according to its divinity, which no one has ever beheld, but according to the humanity which is contemplated in an individual manner in it (10)”.[2]  However, this does not mean that the iconographer merely depicts the human nature of Christ, rather he depicts Christ’s person (hypostasis). That is, he depicts His full humanity and His full divinity as they are contained in His divine person: “neither the divine nor the human nature alone is depicted, but the hypostasis of Christ with the particular characteristics which define His human nature, that which the icons of Christ present is the person of the God-Man, the person of the whole God and of the whole man and it is understood and exists with His two natures.”[3] Wherefore, the iconographer ought to take care when painting icons, for he is clothing – in line and colour – the invisible God according to His visible image, the God-Man Jesus Christ.

Iconography Trivia: The first part of painting an icon is to place gold on the board or paint it ochra (yellow). However, here I’m setting a bad example. St. Nektarios doesn’t have gold yet because my teacher doesn’t let us apply the gold until the end. He thinks the gold will be ruined while we paint. Obedience before custom, I guess.

This is the foundation not only of icons of the God-Man, but of His saints as well: “The embodiment of God in Christ, the true humanity of Christ which can be seen and touched, is precisely the basis and fount of the icon. If there had been no Incarnation, no descent of God to earth, there could be no icons of God. Similarly, if there had been no Ascension of man into heaven in Christ, and if there had been no Pentecost, which is the descent of God into man, there could be no saints and therefore no icons of humans.”[4]

Since saints are dwelling places of the Holy Spirit, when they are painted in icons it is not merely their human nature that is depicted but their whole person which participates in the uncreated grace of God and thus once again, the iconographer puts into colour and line what is invisible, “I cherish… everything connected to God’s name, not on their own account but because they show forth the divine power…  I venerate and worship angels and men, and all matter participating in divine power and ministering to our salvation through it”.[5]


[1] Tselengidis, Iconological Works, 124.

[2] St. Theodore Studite, On the Holy Icons, 87, 24, Refutation 3.

[3]Tselengidis, Iconological Works, 124.

[4] Hart, “Transfiguring Matter”, 5.

[5] St. John Damascus, Apologia to those who decry Images, [109].

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thy cross1The History of the Cross[1]

by Metropolitan Augoustinos (Kantiotes) of Florina

Help us, O Cross of Christ!

Today, beloved brothers and sisters, we mark a great feast, a great celebration: it is the Exaltation of the Precious Cross. This feast carries us off to Golgotha on the day that the Son of Man and the Son of the Virgin was crucified. Today we will speak of the Cross, then. But who is able to sing the praises of the Lord’s Cross as is meet? We, who are but worms, let us dare to sputter out a few words.

The Cross is the flag of Christendom, it is an invincible weapon, it is, “…the beauty of the Church,”[2] it is the ethereal pulpit from which the greatest of words were heard. The Cross is the daystar, it is Noah’s ark, it is the rainbow, it is the sun which shines upon and warms the world. “Help us, O Cross of Christ!”

Much to the chagrin of the demons and the powers of darkness, the Cross has preformed, performs, and will perform miracles; miracles not only in the New Testament era, but even in the days of the Old Testament. The history of the Cross is divided into three periods: before the Crucifixion, the time of the Crucifixion itself, and after the Crucifixion – this is when the great miracle occurred.

When Christ was crucified at Golgotha amongst thieves the earth shook, the tombs opened and the dead were resurrected, the Sun was darkened from the sixth unto the ninth hour, and the curtain of the Temple of Solomon was torn in two. These are all small things. The great miracle is that at that precise hour the devil was defeated, for the blood of Christ became another Jordan in which every sinner is washed clean. Just a drop of the God-Man’s blood washes away the sins of the world: “…with his stripes we are healed,”[3] Isaiah tells us, and, “…the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin,”[4] according to John. This is the great miracle.

The enemies of the Cross – how can we not say this? – are those who blaspheme, those who open their filthy mouths and blaspheme the precious Cross. In Greece, where the Cross is our national symbol, there ought not to be even a single person who utters blasphemies.

But we too are enemies of the Cross, my beloved brothers and sisters. How can this be? It might be that we venerate the Cross; that we weep in front of it; that we fast on account of it today. Our works, however, are unworthy of the Cross. What does the Cross mean? Take some chalk and write this on the blackboard. The Cross is truth, justice, humility, forgiveness, respecting the other: it is whatever is beautiful and exalted. Above all the Cross is sacrifice and love; love even for enemies. We have been taught to, “…love one another,”[5] and to, “…love [our] enemies.”[6] We have these virtues? Then let us venerate the Cross. We don’t have them? Then we too are enemies of the Cross – not directly, but indirectly.

The Cross ought to be everywhere, then: in churches, in our homes, in schools, in the marketplace, in courthouses, on military bases, in prisons, on the chests of our children and young people. The Cross in the morning when we wake up; the Cross when we eat; the Cross in the evening – even in the middle of the night! “I fall down and make my cross, and an angel is at my side,” our unlettered ancestors used to say. The Cross ought to be everywhere. Above all, however, the Cross ought to be in our hearts. And when the end of our life comes (which is like a small version of the end of the world) and like the thief we say, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom,”[7] then on our grave a wooden cross will stand declaring that we are true children of he who was crucified. O ye Christians praise the Lord and supremely exalt him unto the ages!

[1]               From the book Εμπνευσμένα Κηρύγματα Ορθοδόξου Ομολογίας και Αγιοπατερικής Πνοής (Orthodoxos Kypseli: Thessaloniki, 2011), 260-262. Translated by Fr John Palmer.

[2]               From the exapostolarion for Wednesday and Friday.

[3]               Isaiah 53:5

[4]               1 John 1:7

[5]               John 13:34

[6]               Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27-35.

[7]               Luke 23:42

cross

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