The Mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ

St. Aristoboulos the Apostle to Britain

St. Aristoboulos the Apostle to Britain

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

THE MYSTERY OF THE CROSS AND RESURRECTION OF CHRIST

By Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos (Source: Empirical Dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church According to the Spoken Teaching of Father John Romanides, Volume 2)

Christ's sacrifice on the Cross on Golgotha, which is closely linked with Christ's Resurrection, is the central point of the teaching and life of the Church. In fact we speak of the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, which refers to Christ's victory over sin, the devil and death.

A distinction is made between "the Crucifixion and Resurrection in the body of the incarnate Word of God" and "the mystery of the power of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, of which the Prophets and some Apostles were witnesses before Christ's sacrifice on Golgotha." However, in spite of this distinction, there is a close connection between the mystery of the Cross and the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross on Golgotha.

Saint Isaac the Syrian, speaking of the Cross of Christ, writes that "the activity of taking up the cross is twofold." One action of the Cross "is called praxis" and is experienced as patience in the tribulations of the flesh, which is expressed in the incensive part of the soul. The other action "is called theoria" and consists of the subtle work of the nous. It is to be found in divine converse and constancy in prayer, which are accomplished in the appetitive part of the soul. Thus the Cross is praxis and theoria.

Saint Gregory Palamas also interprets this twofold energy of the mystery of the Cross: that the Cross was active in the Old Testament , as experienced by Abraham, Moses and the righteous in the Old Testament. Thus "the Cross of Christ is the abolition of sin." Through the Cross the righteous were reconciled with God, so "God Himself has borne witness that there were many who were His friends before and after the law, when the Cross had not yet been revealed." So "the Cross existed in the time of our ancestors, even before it was accomplished." It is obvious that "the Cross of Christ was mysteriously proclaimed in advance and foreshadowing form generations of old and one was ever reconciled with God except by the power of the Cross."

The Cross of God in His love, which is His uncreated energy.

"The power of the Cross and Resurrection is God's love, which acts 'with God before the world was', in the creation and direction of the world, before the incarnation, during the incarnation, before the sacrifice on the Cross, during the sacrifice on the Cross and after it."

"It is the loving energy of God, which 'does not see its own' (1 Cor. 13:5) and transcends every created perceptible by the senses of the nous. It is also, however, a punitive power that destroys sin and the power of those opposed to God's will, and perfects, as far as this is possible, even the unrepentant enemies of God through their punishment."

Although the power of the Cross was also active in the Prophets and the righteous of the Old Testament through purification, illumination and glorification, it did not liberate them from death and the power of the devil, who acts through death. Christ's triumphant victory over the devil and death came about through His Incarnation and, above all, through His sacrifice on the Cross and His Resurrection. Christ "has made [us] alive together with Him, having forgiven [us] all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:13-15).

The Apostle Paul, referring to the hidden wisdom of God, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory and which we preach "in a mystery," writes that the rulers of this age did not know this wisdom, "for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Cor. 2:7-8). The Lord of Glory is the Angel of Great Counsel in the Old Testament, the Word of God seen by the Prophets. This un-incarnate Word took flesh and was crucified in the flesh. The crucified Christ is the Lord of Glory Himself, and is so called by virtue of the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures in the hypostasis of the Word and the mutual exchange of the properties of each nature.

The historical event of the Crucifixion of Christ on Golgotha discloses God's great love for mankind. This is clear from the fact that Christ Himself linked the incident in the Old Testament when Moses lifted up the serpent with His sacrifice on the Cross: "Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up"; but also with God's love: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (St. John 3:13-17).

The love of God, which was also expressed through the historical event of the Crucifixion, is man's reconciliation with God. This is the mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ.

"God is not reconciled with man, but man with God through the mystery of the Cross, and through this reconciliation man is transformed from an enemy of God into His friend, and participates in the Resurrection of Christ."

God also loves those who are opposed to Him, but they cannot understand His love.

"God never ceases to be a friend even to His enemies and to show them His love. He becomes an enemy and punitive energy only from the viewpoint of those opposed to His love, in accordance with their own will and perception."

Christ reconciled man with God by defeating the devil, sin and death. Thus man is saved through the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. The mystery of the Cross, although it is distinct from Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, is nevertheless expressed by the Cross on Golgotha. All the same, the mystery of the Cross was not simply prefigured in the Old Testament but was also active, except that it could not set man free from "him who had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb. 2:15). This was accomplished through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.

By the sharing in the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ the believer is transformed and sanctified, as God's grace changes selfish love into unselfish love. In this way man is glorified "and becomes God's friend and collaborator, Christ's brother and joint-king by grace, and an adoptive son of the Virgin.

"Without making one's own the mystery of Christ's Cross and Resurrection, by which, through purification, illumination and glorification, man overcomes the selfishness or self-love rooted in the fear of death, it is impossible to reach participation in the glorifying love of God, by which one becomes His friend."

Participation in the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ comes about through combining the Mysteries with asceticism.

"Every believer must be voluntarily crucified, as Christ was crucified. Only through this voluntary crucifixion can participation in the mystery of the Cross be achieved, which transforms a selfish human being into a friend of God and god by grace."

The fundamental aim of the Mysteries and asceticism is to liberate man from sin. This comes about to varying degrees and at different levels. By purification man avoids sin, by illumination sin avoids him, and by theoria the nous becomes the dwelling-place of Christ, and through Him of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Then man is unaffected by the rational faculty, the passions and his surroundings.

Thus the mystery of Christ's Cross-the "immaterial Cross"-and Resurrection is the pre-eternal love of God for man, through which he is reconciled with God, unincarnate in the Old Testament, incarnate in the New Testament. Christ's sacrifice on the Cross on Golgotha and His Resurrection expressed God's all-surpassing love. Through His Cross and Resurrection, Christ defeated the devil and death and gave man the possibility of defeating him, when he is united with Him in His Body, the Church. Participation in the Mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ is achieved by the one who participates in the Mysteries and asceticism. He then becomes a friend of Christ, rejects love of self and acquires unselfish love.

Through the Mysteries and the ascetic life the believer lives spiritually the mystery of Christ's becoming man, as the Holy Fathers teach. He experiences the incarnation of Christ through faith. By the pains of asceticism he lives through the pregnancy; by Baptism and Chrismation he experiences Christ's birth and Baptism; through the Divine Eucharist he experiences Christ's teaching and Holy Communion; through purification of the heart he is crucified together with Christ; through the various degrees of theoria he lives the Transfiguration, the Resurrection and the Ascension. This experience of the stages of the divine Economy takes place in "the inner man" (Eph. 3:16). It is linked with the Christian's spiritual rebirth and comes about to different degrees and in various combinations.

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,

The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George