My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE SPIRITUAL FRUITS OF THE CROSS
On the holy Feast-Day of the Exaltation of the Cross, September 14th, we call to mind as Orthodox Christians Christ's Life-Giving death on the Cross, which He underwent for the salvation of each one of us.
The Orthodox dogma of our salvation--which includes the doctrine concerning Christ's Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection--is the most significant dogma of our Faith, together with the dogma of the Holy Trinity.
Our salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ began with His Incarnation. When He took flesh, He became like us in everything except sin (cf. Hebrews 4:15). In assuming human nature, He deified (theosis) it. Since human nature is one, this gave us the potential of being deified (theosis) as well: not deified by nature and Sonship, as Christ was, but deified (theosis) by grace and adoption.
"But with Christ's Incarnation, man was still not able to actualize for deification (theosis). Because of his spiritual corruption, man was an impure vessel. Because of the barrier of sin, man could not receive and keep the grace of the Holy Spirit within himself. So Christ, having overcome the barrier of nature at His Incarnation, now had to break down the barrier of sin. He would do this through His death. As Saint Nicholas Cavasilas says, Christ broke down the three barriers that separated man from God: the barrier of nature by His Incarnation, the barrier of sin by His death, and the barrier of death by His Resurrection.
Through his single spiritual death (at the Fall), Adam brought a twofold death into the world--spiritual death and bodily death. Saint Gregory Palamas goes on to say, "The Good Lord healed this twofold death of ours through His single bodily death, and through the one Resurrection of His body, He gave us a twofold resurrection. By means of His bodily death, He destroyed him who had the power over our souls and bodies in death, and rescued us from his tyranny over both."
Our Savior Jesus Christ paid the debt of sin that man himself could never pay. The holy Apostle John writes in his First Epistle (Letter): [Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for our only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). And the holy Apostle Paul says, "You are bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23) being totally without sin, He bore the penalty of sin on our behalf so that we would be forgiven and purified of sin and freed from its curse. Saint Gregory Palamas wrote, "since Christ gave his blood, which was sinless and therefore guiltless, as a ransom for us who were liable to punishment because of our sins, He redeemed us from our guilt. He forgave our sins, tore up the record of them on the Cross and delivered us from the devil's tyranny."
Out of his infinite love for us, Christ died "in place" of us that we could be given life. Saint Paul writes "...That He [Christ] by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Hebrews 2:9); and elsewhere he says, God "commendeth His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Saint Athanasius the Great explains this as follows: "taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to corruption and death, He surrendered His body to death, "in place" of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished."
The devil thought he could destroy Christ by inciting people to put Him to death. But Christ's death proved to be the devil's undoing because, unlike every other person who had ever lived, Christ did not deserve death. Saint John Chrysostom offers us a clear image to highlight this teaching: "it is as if, at a session of a court of justice, the devil should be addressed as follows: 'Granted that you destroyed all men because you found them guilty of sin; but why did you destroy Christ? Is it not very evident that you did so unjustly? Well then, through Him the whole world will be vindicated".
"Man's salvation consists in the acquirement of eternal life in God, in the Kingdom of Heaven. "But nothing unclean can enter the Kingdom of God" (c.f., Ephesians 5:5, Rev. 21:27). God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him, and those who enter the Kingdom of God must themselves be sons of the Light. Therefore, entrance into it necessarily requires purity of soul, a garment of "holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).
The Son of God came into the world in order (a) to open the path" to mankind in its entirety for the personal salvation of each of us; and in order by this means (b) to direct the hearts of men to the search, to the thirst for the Kingdom of God, and "to give help, to give power on this path of salvation for the acquirement of personal spiritual purity and sanctity." The first for these has been accomplished by Christ entirely. The second depends upon ourselves, although it is accomplished by the "activity of the grace of Christ" in the Holy Spirit." (Orthodox Dogmatic Theology)
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God