Beloved brothers and sisters,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
A PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING TO THE BENEVOLENT GOD AND FATHER
[Saint Basil the Great]
I thank You, Lord, and I glorify You, for showing to me, the unworthy one, Your great and unbounded love for mankind. While I on my own account betray myself each day to the devil because of my much carelessness and negligence. You protect me and save me and snatch me away from his snares. I thank and glorify You, Lord, for giving me the will to repent for my sins and for granting me many opportunities and occasions to turn away from sin and return to You. I thank and glorify You, Lord, because, while I am weak in soul, You support me in my weakness and do not allow me to be drawn away into sin and to fail; rather, You extend Your helping hand immediately from above and secure me again beside You. Amen.
THE PERSON OF CHRIST THE SAVIOR
THE TWO NATURES IN CHRIST
CHRIST'S HUMAN NATURE
Our Lord is not simply perfect God, born of the essence of God the Father before all ages; He is also perfect man, similar to us men in every way, possessing a body and a rational soul, just as we do, "in all points as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). This human nature and His moving condescension for us men is described in the Fourth Article of our Creed:
"Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was Incarnate of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary; and became man".
And as we have previously stated, the Evangelist Saint John says the same thing when he states that "the Word [Logos] became flesh". Christ calls Himself the "son of man" in the sense that He is the perfect man, just as God has created the first man, filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit and sinless, the noblest representative of human nature. Others call Him, Son of David, and Jesus accepted this title, since as a man, He was of the lineage of David. We see Him speaking, and acting with all the "blameless passions" of human nature-those passions which no one can condemn as sinful-hungering, thirsting, tiring, sorrowing, crying, suffering, dying-things common to all men. In truth, He did indeed become man and not seemingly. He put on that weak and corruptible nature of those whom He came to save. For as the Apostle says: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage". "For it became Him, for Who are all things, and by Whom are all things...to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10, 14-15).
The Lord is perfect God but also perfect man, truly God-man (theanthropos). Saint Gregory the Theologian, in order to emphasize that if the Son of God had not become man it would have been impossible for man to be saved, says: "that which is not put on (by God) (i.e., human nature) remains unhealed, while that which is united to God is saved".
3a. Biblical Testimony.
The Lord is perfect man, truly God-man. And we have already seen that the New Testament in many places depicts our Lord as man; we have also seen many related passages in Saint Paul's epistles. But let us here examine several more which explain those previously stated. It is necessary that we examine these passages closely so as to construct within ourselves a perfect image of our Lord as man.
The Apostle Peter, preaching to the Jews, calls our Lord "a man approved of God" (Acts 2:22) and stresses that He "His own self bare our sins in His own body on a tree" so that "by His stripes we might be healed" (I Peter 2:24).
Saint Paul confirms that there is "One Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ". That God shall judge the world in righteousness "in a man" Whom He has Risen from the dead. And he adds: "for since by man (Adam) came death, by man (Jesus Christ) came also the resurrection of the dead" (I Cor. 15:21). Moreover, Saint Paul says that the Lord is the Son of God "made of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3). He who "when the fullness of time had come, was born of a woman" and who "took the form of a servant" became like us men "the first born among many brethren" (Romans 8:29).
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Lord calls us His "brethren" because He "likewise", "not by phantasy, or illusion but in truth" became man. Moreover, Saint Paul again says, "He partook of flesh and blood" (Hebrews 2:14) i.e., He became perfect man, "and in all things He was made like unto His brethren" for "He was born, nurtured, raised, suffered and died" and "endeavored to become our brother in all things". Since He was tried "in all points, like as we are, yet without sin" "He learned obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the Author of Eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him" (Hebrews 5:8) (P. Trembellas, Dogmatics, Vol. II. page 65).
The Testimony of the Fathers: The Evidence of Tradition
The Church Fathers likewise emphasize the Lord Jesus' human character. Saints Gregory Nazianzine, John Chrysostom and John Damascene state with one mouth: The Son of God "condescended to us in the form of a servant", "bearing in Him the totality of man", and "became what we are, save sin, that is with a body, soul, mind", "and uniting unto Himself (our) condemned (human nature)" "that He might sanctify man through Himself", and free all mankind from condemnation. "By nature, then, and in truth becoming man He assumed both human nature and all natural properties" "assuring none other than our suffering and sin-loving flesh"-as Saint Athanasius calls it.
And precisely because He assumed our flesh, He assumed all the natural and blameless passions: "hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain, tears, mortality, rejection of death, fear, agony, from hence sweet as drops of blood, the assistance of angels because of the weakness of nature, and all such similar things which naturally exist in all men."
Precisely, what do we mean by "without sin"? We must at this point give an explanation of the phrase "without sin". In other words our Lord assumed our sins and died for them on the Cross, in order to free us from our debt and grant forgiveness and salvation, to free us from the curse, the guilt and the condemnation of sin. And this He did, not as a sinner, but as the sinless Lord and God, not possessing ancestral (original) sin which all of us who descended from Adam inherit. We are by nature sinful; He is by nature sinless, for He was not born according to the laws of nature by which we are born: The Lord was born in a supra-natural, Divine and mysterious way: "Of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary", as we have already pointed out. Hence, He did not inherit the legacy of Adam, and was sinless. The Lord took His human nature "from a pure and undefiled Virgin having no knowledge of man". Conceived of the Holy Spirit it was absolutely sinless and holy from its conception. Moreover, the Archangel told this to the Virgin at the Annunciation when he said, "therefore, also, that Holy One Who is to born will be called the Son of God" (St. Luke 1:35). This, however, does not imply that our Lord ceased to be like us, a real man, our brother, possessing a nature precisely like our own.
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God