Posts tagged ‘cross’

January 18, 2016

honor all matter

I honor all matter, and venerate it. Through it, filled, as it were, with a divine power and grace, my salvation has come to me. Was the three-times happy and blessed wood of the Cross not matter? Was the sacred and holy mountain of Calvary not matter? What of the life-giving rock, the Holy Tomb, the source of our resurrection — was it not matter? Is the holy book of the Gospels not matter? Is the blessed table which gives us the Bread of Life not matter? Are the gold and silver, out of which crosses and altar-plate and chalices are made not matter? And before all these things, is not the body and blood of our Lord matter? Either stop venerating all these things, or submit to the tradition of the Church in the venerating of images, honoring God and his friends, and following in this the grace of the Holy Spirit. Do not despise matter, for it is not despicable. Nothing that God has made is. Only that which does not come from God is despicable — our own invention, the spontaneous decision to disregard the law of human nature, i.e., sin.

From St. John of Damascus (7th century, source unknown)

November 4, 2015

the people who ultimately overcome the contagion of victimization

The Gospels dramatize the human impossibility by insisting on the disciples’ inability to resist the crowd during the Passion (especially Peter, who denies Jesus three times in the High Priest’s courtyard). And yet, after the Crucifixion—which should have made matters worse than ever—this pathetic handful of weaklings suddenly succeeds in doing what they had been unable to do when Jesus was still there to help them: boldly proclaim the innocence of the victim in open defiance of the victimizers, become the fearless apostles and missionaries of the early Church.

The Resurrection is responsible for this change, of course, but even this most amazing miracle would not have sufficed to transform these men so completely if it had been an isolated wonder rather than the first manifestation of the redemptive power of the Cross. An anthropological analysis enables us to say that, just as the revelation of the Christian victim differs from mythical revelations because it is not rooted in the illusion of the guilty scapegoat, so the Christian Resurrection differs from mythical ones because its witnesses are the people who ultimately overcome the contagion of victimization (such as Peter and Paul), and not the people who surrender to it (such as Herod and Pilate). The Christian Resurrection is indispensable to the purely anthropological revelation of unanimous victimization and to the demythologizing of mythical resurrections.

Jesus’ death is a source of grace not because the Father is “avenged” by it, but because Jesus lived and died in the manner that, if adopted by all, would do away with scandals and the victimization that follows from scandals. Jesus lived as all men should live in order to be united with a God whose true nature he reveals.

From “Are The Gospels Myth?” by Rene Girard in First Things (April 1996).

October 27, 2014

the cross of the thief who was crucified next to Him

No one can live without sin, few know how to repent in such a way that their sins are washed as white as fleece, but there is one thing which we all can do; when we can neither avoid sin, nor repent truly, we can then bear the burden of sin, bear it patiently, bear it with pain, bear it without doing anything to avoid the pain and the agony of it, bear it as one would bear a cross; not Christ’s cross, not the cross of true discipleship, but the cross of the thief who was crucified next to Him. Didn’t the thief say to his companion who was blaspheming the Lord: We are enduring because we have committed crimes; He endures sinlessly… And it is to him, because he had accepted the punishment, the pain, the agony, the consequences indeed of evil he had committed, of being the man he was, that Christ said, ‘Thou shalt be with Me today in Paradise…’

Words from a Russian staretz, one of the last elders of Optina (shared on a blog by Fr. Stephen Freeman).

November 17, 2013

stopped talking now

The priest, who seemed to be a wise man, had stopped talking now, and only held the cross for the wretched fellow to kiss.

From The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

October 2, 2013

the silent depth of the cross

The word of the cross is ultimately silent. When Jesus hangs on the cross, crucified, he’s already dead, and therefore he is totally quiet. …We’re not talking today about the words from the cross. We’re talking about the word of the cross itself. And the word of the cross itself is enacted and spoken when he gives up his spirit and he dies. And that according to the church tradition, certainly some of the homilies of the church fathers, is the most eloquent word ever spoken. The most eloquent word ever spoken is spoken in silence. You just look at him hanging there. Because you can’t say it. There is nothing that could be said. In fact, one western saint, Saint Hugo I think it was or Saint Victor, he said: “God wants to speak to us, to reveal himself to us, and he gives us the scriptures, he give us the book. But when Christ is coming, the incarnate book, the incarnate word, then you know longer have words, you have the living thing and the real thing present in life. And when he hangs on the cross, and his arms are open, the book is open. The book is totally open. …The word of God is fully and totally revealed for what it is.” And what we have to do is to stand before it also in silence in order to hear. And that’s a very important point. Because no one who cannot shut up is going to hear the word of the cross. No one who cannot be quiet is going to going to penetrate the deepest mystery. And that ultimate word, even Saint Maximums, Saint Isaac, he said, “The language of God is ultimately silence. And in the silent depth of the cross, the silence of God, which is more eloquent than any word, speaks to our silence, the silence within us, in order that we can then understand and grasp and live the deepest mysteries of God.” And that’s why talk about God is only some much blah blah. Even too much spiritual talk is nothing but vain babbling. …Saint Ambrose … in his first chapter on the book of the priesthood he said, “You must first teach the priests first how to be silence.” And then he quoted the Desert Tradition which said, “For who cannot be silent must never speak because they’ll have nothing to say.” …We’re so busy minding everybody else’s businesses, who should do what … that the whole thing just becomes crazy. It becomes just the opposite of the word of the cross. The word of the cross that ultimately says, “Just look. Look. Shut up. Look. And then maybe you’ll hear something.” …What is it that we should hear? The simple answer to that according to Christian theology would be “everything” because the cross says everything, …because Christ is all and in all and nothing goes beyond that.

…If the cross is the ultimate act and word of God, and we are made in God’s image and likeness, then the cross is the ultimate word about us too. It can’t be any other way. And that’s even a basic axiom of the Christian worldview. Whatever we say about God, we say about us. …In fact, the church fathers even defined human life in this way. What does it mean to be a human being? It means … to be by God’s grace, power, energy, good will, pleasure …everything that God is by nature. So we are really called to be divine. Now if we are called to be divine, we can skip over a whole bunch of stuff and end up by saying: “Therefore we are called to be crucified.” Because if God ultimately reveals Himself in this world on the cross, that’s where we reveal our self too.

From “The Word of the Cross” (a two disc lecture delivered in April 1989 by Fr. Thomas Hopko at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary). Transcription available here.

September 15, 2013

the life-bearing Wood of the cross was planted on the earth

Orthodox Axion for the Elevation of the Cross (Sept. 14):

Thou art a mystical paradise, oh Theotokos, in which Christ blossomed; through Him the life-bearing Wood of the cross was planted on the earth. Now at its Elevation, as we bow in worship before it, we magnify thee.

September 9, 2013

accomplished when you are in fact abandoned by God

Fr. Thomas Hopko speaking in a ten-part lecture series about the Lord’s Prayer. Here he speaks of praying “thy will be done” as a commitment to love like Christ loved:

Therefore the most terrifying part all this has to be accomplished when you are in fact abandoned by God himself. …The ultimate act of love is when you are really getting nothing from it, even from God. …The myrrh-bearing women are used as an example of this. Because they go out to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body when he is dead, thinking that it’s all over. …The point that we have to make today is, if we are going to pray “thy will be done,” then that means we love and obey when we feel in total darkness, when we feel that there is nothing in it for us, when we feel that even God is absent.

We like to think … that Jesus crushed death by His divine power (“…By the splendor of His Godhead hast thou crushed death”). But how did He crush death by the splendor of His Godhead? The answer is by perfect and complete and total unconditional love as a crucified slave. That’s the power of the Godhead. It’s not brute force. It’s love from the inside.

July 21, 2013

refusal of that great cross

“This is what I think about it. And you know that I would not tell you a lie. Listen: you are not ready, and such a cross is not for you. What’s more, you don’t need such a martyr’s cross when you are not ready for it. If you had murdered our father, it would grieve me that you should reject your punishment. But you are innocent, and such a cross is too much for you. You wanted to make yourself another man by suffering. I say, only remember that other man always, all your life and wherever you go; and that will be enough for you. Your refusal of that great cross will only serve to make you feel all your life even greater duty, and that constant feeling will do more to make you a new man, perhaps, than if you went there. For there you would not endure it and would repine, and perhaps at last would say: ‘I am quits.’ The lawyer was right about that. Such heavy burdens are not for all men. For some they are impossible. These are my thoughts about it, if you want them so much. If other men would have to answer for your escape, officers or soldiers, then I would not have ‘allowed’ you,” smiled Alyosha.

From The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Alyosha telling Dmitri what he thinks about the plans that Ivan has made for Dmitri to escape punishment).

October 28, 2012

the very food of our world became His body

In this world Christ was rejected. He was the perfect expression of life as God intended it. Th fragmentary life of the world was gathered into His life; He was the heart beat of the world and the world killed Him. But in that murder the world itself died. It lost its last chance to become the paradise God created it to be. We can go on developing new and better things. We can build a more humane society which may even keep us from annihilating each other. But when Christ, the true life of the world, was rejected, it was the beginning of the end. That rejection had a finality about it: He was crucified for good. As Pascal said: “Christ is in agony until the end of the world.”

Christianity often appears, however, to preach that if men will try hard enough to live Christian lives, the crucifixion can somehow be reversed. This is because Christianity has forgotten itself, forgotten that always it must first of all stand a the cross.

…In this world Christ is crucified, His body broken, and His blood shed. And we must go out of this world, we must ascend to heaven in Christ in order to become partakers of the world to come.

…He became man and lived in this world. He ate and drank, and this means that the world of which he partook, the very food of our world became His body, His life. But His life was totally, absolutely eucharistic–all of it was transformed into communion with God and all of it ascended into heaven. And now he shares this glorified life with us.

…The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity and the moment of truth: here we see the world in Christ, as it really is, and not from our particular and therefore limited and partial points of view. Intercession begins here, in the glory of the messianic banquet, and this is the only true beginning for the Church’s mission. It is when, “having put aside all earthly care,” we seem to have left this world, that we, in fact, recover it in all its reality.

…Adam is again introduced into Paradise, taken out of nothingness and crowned king of creation. Everything is free, nothing is due and yet all is given.

…And God has made us competent, as Paul Claudel has said, competent to be His witnesses, to fulfill what He has done and is ever doing.

From chapter two in For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann (23, 42-46).

May 2, 2012

ordered to make an ark

From Divine Craftsmanship by Jean Hani:

But every word of Scripture, beyond its obvious sense, conceals a deeper one, for, being the word of God, it necessarily has a universal bearing. …Besides, if even in the life of an ordinary person nothing happens by chance, then even more so must everything in the life of Christ have a profound reason for being manifested. [55-56]

…The formulation is necessarily accomplished in the Holy Scriptures by images and symbols. And these latter are not just any image or symbol; they are sacred symbols and images which can, and even, in a certain way, must be the same in Christianity and other religions. [57]

…In every tradition there exists a cosmic Tree, symbolizing the whole of Creation considered as a living organism and structured according to the two axes, the vertical and the horizontal, embodied in the trunk and the branches. The shape of the tree is not other than the Cross.  …The cross is the essential figure of all carpentry work and of all architecture, in that it expresses the co-ordinates of space. The wood of the cross is the cosmic tree from which the Divine Carpenter makes the world, and the tree of the cross as such is the spiritual blueprint according to which Jesus the Carpenter reconstructs the world, or builds the new world.

This new world is the Church, often compared to a ship the biblical ‘type’ of which is the Ark, the work of carpenter Noah. Now Noah is a figure of Christ, as the Ark is a figure of the Church. This is widely developed in Patristic literature. According to Origen, ‘Our Lord is our Noah, whom the Father at the end of time has ordered to make an ark.’ Moreover, he relates the three dimensions of the Ark—the length, the breadth, and the height—to those of the Cross suggested by the famous passage from the Epistle to the Ephesians (3:18). [58]

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17b-19)

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