Friday, March 25, 2016

One Christ, Our Lord and God and His Suffering

Very often, the world immortalizes Jesus Christ focusing primarily at the Friday of the Passion on His suffering to bring the penitent to heights of emotional frenzy. However, this is not  the teaching of the Church which is so clearly identified in its Liturgical tradition that developed over the last 2000 years , but  has never deviated from the very basis that it was not in the human suffering our minds and thoughts  should be , but that it is the One Incarnated Lord and God that suffered , died and rose again. In a time when even within the Oriental Orthodox Christian traditions this is not taught so much that the laity had chosen to seek tainted faith from others. Praying that our Lord  transform each of us in this Friday and strengthen us to hold steadfast to this faith that was relevant to St. Dioscoros in 4th Century and yet important now even amidst fruitful discussions on reconciliation with the Chalcedonian Eastern Orthodox.

An old gem of a post by Thomas P. one of the early members of the ICON discussion group that has been very meaningful from the very first time I read in 2001.

There are "many christs" today. We also see many images of christs, some  depicting him as a blonde haired - blue eyed person, with highly  developed neck and shoulder muscles, resembling a wrestler. Such  imagery originates from our need for a physically powerful person to  protect us in our daily life or for prevailing in a highly competitive  world. So the world is creating christs to suite the physical needs.  The Bible also says that there will arise many christs after the  Christ.

Majority of followers of Christ of modern world does not believe in  the "One Christ". They tend to believe in Christ as an exceptional  human being or a "god-man" or "human-god" or one of many "avatArAs"  in history. We also see e-mails circulating in the Internet during  Passion Week explaining the painful experience (as a human experience) of crucifixion. If it was just a human being that  suffered on the Cross, then there are humans suffering even today.
There are those crucifying themselves every year during Holy Week as a  ritual. Even in other religions too, they inflict physical pain for a  religious experience.

In our Church, we do not divide Christ in to "human" and "divine" and  say that when Christ walked over water it was his divine nature  walking or when was hungry it was his human nature that experienced  the hunger. We maintain our faith in "One Christ". Just believing in  his human nature and his divine nature (in a separate manner) is not  enough for a Christian. Few years ago I asked a person who believes in  Chalcedon about his faith. He replied that Christ is "Perfect God and
Perfect Man", kind of "Human-God". This faith is not enough for a  Christian.

Christians must believe that God unified our corruptible humanity with His incorruptible divinity (out of his deep love and great compassion  for us), perfectly preserving the human nature. It is because of this  "Unity" of "His divine nature and our human nature" that we have  salvation through faith in the "One Christ". Thus we talk only about  "One Christ" and "One Church" which believes in Christ in this way.

The Church and the saints remembered in "Tubdeen" (Diptych), especially, St. Kurilose (Alexandria), St. Severios(Anthioc), St.  Diascoros (Alexandria), St. Anthimus (Constantinople), St. Philoxenos
(or Xenias, bishop of Mabug), St. Thimothios (Alexandria), St. Jacob  (Yakub Burdana, Anthioc) suffered a great deal for maintaining this  faith. There is no other way, but through the "One Christ", for the  salvation of human kind as explained by our Bishop Mar Barnabas  (America) through his Sermons and numerous works in English.

Our Passion week prayers (Promion, Sedra etc.) are rich with  explanation and confession of our faith in Christ. It is an  opportunity for us to concentrate on these prayers and meditate  on the content during the Holy Week.
Our Bishop Mar Osthathios (Niranam) encouraged the youth about the  writings of Pope Shenouda, some four years ago, in a youth meeting.  Following excerpts from the work "The One Nature and Suffering" will  help us understand our Holy Week prayers.

__________The One Nature and Suffering_____________

Surely, Divinity is not susceptible to suffering, but when the human nature underwent suffering, it was united with the divine nature.
Thus pain was inflicted upon this one Nature. This Explains why the  Creed set by the Holy Council of Nicea says, "The Only-Begotten Son of  God descended from heaven, was Incarnate and became man and was  crucified for our sake in the reign of Pilate, suffered and was buried  and rose from the dead".

There is a great difference between saying that the human nature  alone, apart from the Divine nature, suffered, and that the Incarnate  Only-Begotten Son was crucified, suffered, was buried and rose from
the dead. Thus, here we find the advantage of believing in the One  Nature which provides effective unlimited redemption.

If the first aim of the Incarnation is redemption, and redemption  cannot be fulfilled through the human nature alone, faith in the One  Nature of the Incarnate Logos is an essential and undeniable matter.  Redemption cannot be fulfilled if we say that the human nature alone  underwent suffering, crucifixion, blood-shedding and death.

Turn to the Holy Bible and read what it says about God the Father, "He  that spared not His Own Son but delivered Him up for us all. (Rom.  8:32) and also, "For God so loved the world that He gave His Only  Begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish..."  (Jn. 3:16), and "But that He loved us, and sent His One Son to be the  propitiation for our sins. ) (1 Jn. 4:10).

Thus, the One sacrificed by God is the Son, the Only Begotten Son,  that is, the Second Hypostasis (Person) of the Holy Trinity; the  Logos. The Bible did not say that He sacrificed His humanity or
anything of the kind although He died on the cross with His human  body, this is clear proof of the One Nature of God the Logos, and  herein is the importance of this unity for the act of redemption.

But, did the Divinity suffer?

We say that, essentially, the Divine nature is not susceptible to  suffering yet He suffered due to His humanity, and was physically  crucified. Hence we say in the prayer of the None (the sixth hour),
"You Who have tasted death physically in the sixth hour". He, the  man, united with the Godhead, physically died and His death provided  unlimited atonement.

The holy fathers explained this point through the aforementioned clear  example of the red-hot iron, it is the analogy equated for the Divine Nature which became united with the human nature. They explained that when  the blacksmith strikes the red-hot iron, the hammer is actually  striking both the iron and the fire united with it. The iron alone  bends (suffers) whilst the fire is untouched though it bends with the  iron.

As for the crucifixion of Christ, the Holy Bible presents us with a  very beautiful verse; St. Paul the Apostle speaks to the bishops of  Ephesus asking them: "... to feed the Church to God which He has
purchased with His Own Blood" (Acts 20:28); he ascribes, the Blood to  God, although God is Spirit, and the Blood is that of His human  nature. This expression is the most wonderful proof of the One Nature  of the Incarnate Logos; what is related to the human aspect can be  attributed to the Divine nature at the same time without distinction,  as there is no separation between the two natures
A resource by our Diocese to make each of us participate more meaningfully
A resource by St. Gregorios Church in Toronto under the guidance of Fr. Lazarus shared through ICON
March 25 , 2016
Calgary, Canada

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