Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
Christ is in Our Midst! He was and is and ever shall be. Ο Χριστός έν τώ μέσω ημών. Και ήν και έστι και έσται.
FROM THE LITURGY OF THE PRESANCTIFIED GIFTS
Priest: (Standing before the holy icon of Christ) says:
Almighty Lord, You have created all things in wisdom. In Your inexpressible providence and great goodness, You have brought us to these saving days, for the cleansing of our souls and bodies, for control of our passions, in the hope of the Resurrection. After the forty days You delivered into the hands of Your servant Moses the tablets of the Law in characters divinely traced. Enable us also, O Benevolent One, to fight the good fight, to complete the course of the fast, to keep the faith inviolate, to crush underfoot the heads of unseen tempters, to emerge victors over sin and to come, without reproach, to the worship of Your Holy Resurrection. For Blessed and Glorified is Your Most Honorable and Majestic Name, of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
On April 5th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Martyrs Claudios and Diodoros and their companion holy Martyrs.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Old Testament: Isaiah 65: 8-16
Old Testament: Genesis 46:1-7
Old Testament: Proverbs 23:15-24:5
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Wealth is not evil, as nothing that God has created is evil itself, but men's bondage to riches, lands and possessions is evil; and the destructive passions that riches empower and invoke, such as adultery, gluttony, drunkenness, miserliness, boastfulness, self-praise, vanity, pride, scornfulness and denigration of the poor, forgetfulness of God and so on ad infinitum, are evil. Few are there who have the strength to resist the temptation of riches and to be in control of their wealth, not becoming its servants and slaves". [Saint Nikolai Velimirovich]
CHRIST'S PASSION AND CROSS
by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos
Christ's Fourth Saying on the Cross is the cry: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (St. Matthew 27:46). This saying must be interpreted in an Orthodox way, within the interpretive analyses of the Holy Fathers of the Church, because otherwise it can be considered heretical. This is said because there are some scholastics and rationalists who try to interpret these words of Christ by maintaining that, if only for a few seconds, the divine nature abandoned the human nature on the Cross in order for Christ to feel the pain, the suffering from this abandonment.
In the first place this saying is connected with a psalm of David which is purely Christological, since it refers to Christ's Incarnation and his saving Passion, and which begin as follows: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1). This psalm is prophetic, because it reveals Christ's suffering on the Cross. Christ was not repeating it mechanically, but by the repetition He was fulfilling the prophecy. Of course, the prophet's vision came first, and Christ said it in order for all the prophecies which had been spoken about Him to be fulfilled.
Saint Gregory the Theologian, interpreting this cry of Christ, says that Christ was not abandoned by His Father or by His own Divinity, as if fearing the Passion and shrinking from the suffering Christ. So what happened? By this cry Christ "stamps on Himself what is ours," in other words, at that moment Christ is speaking in our place. For we were those abandoned and overlooked and then assumed and saved by the Passion of the impassible One. And Saint Cyril of Alexandria, interpreting this, says that "He abandoned understandings and forgiveness of the Passion." Christ's kenosis, which began with His Incarnation, reached its highest point. And this is called abandonment.
We have emphasized in previous analysis that in Christ the Divine and human Natures were united unchangeably, inseparably and indivisibly, according to the definition of the Fourth Ecumenical Council. This means that they have not been separated, are not separated, nor ever will be separated. And this is why we can partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. So this cry of Christ to the Father expresses our own cry at having lost communion with God through sin. Moreover, Christ was suffering for us.
Christ's Fifth saying on the Cross refers to a tragic fact, that of thirst. He said, "I thirst" (St. John 19:28). Saint John the Evangelist says characteristically: "After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were not accomplished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said "I thirst."
This too was prophesied in the Old Testament, and indeed in the same psalm of David which we saw before, which is characterized as a psalm "of assistance". There, when the psalmist refers to the abandonment of Christ and to many other points in the Crucifixion relating to the bloodthirsty Jews and their wicked behavior, he then says, "My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue clings to my jaws, you have brought me to the dust of death" (Psalm 22:5).
The holy Evangelist says that Christ said, "I thirst", in order that this prophecy too should be fulfilled. It is a truth, but it must be understood that when the prophet King David was referring to Christ's thirst, he was seeing what was going to happen and not that Christ said it simply for the prophecy to be fulfilled.
Thirst is caused by the great dryness of the body, by dehydration, and just at that time the body needs to receive water to replace the loss. This also happened with Christ. The things that had happened, and especially His many hours on the Cross and the loss of the blood and water caused unbearable thirst This shows that Christ's body on the Cross was a real body and not imaginary, and also that Christ really suffered for man's salvation. Furthermore, we should look at this from the point of view that nothing happened to Christ by compulsion, for He Himself suffered and thirsted when He wanted to suffer and thirst, since when the Divine Nature wished, it allowed the human Nature to suffer what was its own.
The Sixth word, which followed the request for water is "it is finished" (St. John 19:30).
The meaning of "it is finished" is connected not only with the fulfillment of all the prophecies, but with the end of the redemptive work and the salvation of man. This is the peak of Christ's redemptive sacrifice. Here we are at the great height of the kenosis of the Son and Word of God, and we could even better say that we are confronted with the great depth of God's humility. He was not content with teaching, but He reached "the point of death, even the death of the Cross." (Phil. 2:8).
These words are spoken triumphantly. Saint Mark the Evangelist says: "And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last" (St. Mark 15:37). The fact that shortly before His soul left His body Christ said in a loud voice "it is finished" shows that He had great authority and power. Christ invited death, He Himself died when He wanted, He did not fade away, as usually happens with those ready to die. Usually a person has no strength before his death and he gradually passes away. However, this did not happen with Christ. On the Cross He acted as God man.
The seventh and last saying of Christ is related to the preceding one as Saint Luke records it: "And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, 'Father, into your hands I commend My Spirit,' and having said this, He breathed His last (St. Luke 23:46).
The way in which Christ died on the Cross shows that He died "with the authority of a master" and not an ordinary man. Christ Himself, as God, had authority over death, for He died when He wished, and not when death came. He surrendered His soul to His Father, which means that the devil had no authority over Him. Until then the devil, Hades, took men's souls. Through this masterly voice our own souls have for the first time attained freedom from the devil. Before Christ's death the devil had a right over men's souls, but from the moment when Christ surrendered His life to His Father and not to Hades, those in Hades also attained freedom. (St. Theophylactos). This is why the Cross is the glory of the Church, and it is certainly closely connected with Christ's Resurrection. The Cross cannot be understood with the Resurrection, nor the Resurrection without the Cross.
This outcry of Christ, which is His Seventh and last saying on the Cross, should be connected with what the Evangelist John says: "And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit." (St. John 19:30). We should attach importance to this concise phrase. In all men the things that happen are opposite to what happened in Christ, for first they die, that is to say, first the soul comes out of the body, and then the head loses its balances and falls.
But in Christ quite the opposite happened. He Himself bowed His head and then gave up His spirit. Saint John Chrysostom observes: "For it is not when He gave up His spirit that He bowed His head, which happens with us, but when He bowed His head, then He gave up His spirit." This again shows what we have emphasized before, that Christ had authority over death, and therefore "when He wanted, then He died" (Zygavinos).
The fact that He bowed His head and then "gave up His spirit", i.e., His soul, to His Father shows "that He was master of death, and did everything voluntarily" (St. Theophilaktos). He did everything of His own will and desire. Nothing in Christ was a compulsory. He wanted and assumed the passable and moral body, permitted his flesh to activate the so-called innocent passions, and He Himself, as Lord of life and death, ordered death to come. And Christ did this for economy, so that death could be abolished by death.
Saint John of Damaskos says that even if Christ died as a man and His soul was separated from His pure body, the divinity remained undivided in both soul and body, and the one hypostasis of the Logos (Word) remained, in spite of the soul's departure from the body. Moreover, Christ's soul and body never had their own hypostasis apart from the hypostasis of the Logos (Word). Thus even if the soul was separated from the body, they were hypostically united by the Logos (Word).
This means that His soul descended into Hades with the Divinity in order to release the righteous men of the Old Testament from the power of death, while the body remained in the tomb with the divinity, without suffering decay and disintegration, precisely because there was the unified Divinity. In this way the soul and body, united by the Divinity, "break the chains of both death and hell," as we sing in the Church. The soul with the Divinity broke the chains of hell, and the body with the Divinity tore asunder the power of death.
Saint Cosmas, the poet, bishop of Maiuma, formulated this great theological truth in a troparion which is in the Canon of Great Saturday: "Thou wast torn but not separated, O Word, from the flesh that Thou hadst taken. For though Thy temple was destroyed at the time of Thy Passion, yet the Person of Thy Godhead and of Thy flesh is but one; in both Thou art One Son, the Word of God, both God and man."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God