Third Sunday of Lent: The Veneration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross (Part II)


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


The first Adam failed to conquer the devil and died. Now the new Adam, Christ, conquers the devil and death, which was the consequence of sin. So if man so wishes and unites with Christ, he can conquer the devil and death. The devil with his cunning cannot conquer the mature man in Christ, as he succeeded then with the inexperienced Adam. The man who lives in the Church and is united with Christ is more mature and perfect.

In order to be able to suffer, be crucified and die, Christ assumed human nature, and passibility and mortality, without sin, of course. If He had not assumed passibility and mortality, He could not have undergone the saving Passion and the Life-Giving Cross...

"...Christ's Passion and Sacrifice on the Cross is a manifestation and demonstration of God's great love for the human race. Christ Himself said: "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 3:16). Thus the Incarnation and especially the Passion and Cross show God's love and not justice as we regard it. For human justice is retaliation in kind, while God, although He is sinless and not to blame for Adam's sin and fall, became man in order to save him. Therefore God's justice is identical with His philanthropy (Saint Isaac the Syrian and Saint Nicholas Cavasilas).

While Orthodox Christianity speaks of the love and philanthropy of God, Western (Roman Catholic and Protestant) theology, as it has developed from scholasticism, speaks of appeasing God. It says that Christ suffered, was crucified and died on the Cross to appease the divine justice, which was offended by Adam's disobedience and sin.

This view, which unfortunately has been taken over into the Orthodox Church by some theologians, cannot be supported theologically. What must chiefly be emphasized is that since God is impassible, He is not offended. We cannot ascribe to God the characteristics of the fallen and passionate man. Not God, but man, needs a cure. Man, not God, must be cured. Moreover, nowhere in Holy Scripture is it said that Christ reconciled God with man, but it is said that He reconciled man in himself to God, for man had separated himself from God and had to be brought back to communion with Him. This took place through Christ's Passion, Cross and Resurrection.

It is interesting what Saint Gregory the Theologian says about this. In his time people were discussing to whom Christ offered His Blood. Some said that since man was a slave of the devil, Christ offered His Blood to the devil as a ransom to liberate man. Others maintained that He offered His Sacrifice to the Father, as if God were angry at man's apostasy. Both these views are untenable from the Orthodox point of view.

Saint Gregory the Theologian maintains that He could not have offered His blood, nor even Himself to the devil in order to free the human race. He regards it as a blasphemy for anyone to support the notion that the devil would take such a great ransom and payment, since he was tyrannizing the human race. Likewise it is impossible to maintain that the Father needed the blood of His Only-begotten Son in order to save man. Indeed, as we see in the Old Testament, God did not accept the sacrifice of Isaac either. How is it possible "for the blood of the Only-begotten to please the Father?" ...

"...Saint Nicholas Cavasilas, who shares this view, maintains that Christ was offering His wounds and His Passion to man in order to buy his will. Since man had subjected himself to the devil, he would have to renew the struggle and conquer him. Christ did just this. Thus by His Sacrifice He gave power to the human nature and will to conquer the devil through Christ and to overcome death.

This view is not unconnected with the theology of Saint Gregory the Theologian, if we think that Christ, when He freed Adam from the devil and death, gave every person the possibility by His power to conquer them within the framework of his personal life. Unless our will and our whole nature is strengthened by the grace of the Risen Christ, we cannot fight and conquer the devil...

"...The crucifixion of Christ, as well as His whole incarnation, is called the kenosis, the self-humbling of the Son and Logos/Word of God. But in kenosis is identical with fulfillment, since the humbled Son and Logos/Word of God deified (theosis) man. And therefore the Cross is a sign of triumph and glory.

The crucified Christ also showed the way in which He freed the human race from servitude to the devil and death, but also the manner of His Kingdom over men. Therefore hagiography replaced the initials of the words Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews (I.N.B. I.) which Pilate had put on the Cross with the corresponding letters of the phrase "the King of Glory" (O BSTSDX). This phrase indicates that through the Cross Christ is really the King of Glory and Triumph. (Source: The Feasts of the Lord by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos HIEROTHEOS)

(To be continued)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George