Aug 26 2018

Part38: The Third Stage: Christ Our Passover P.5, 5- The Triumph of the Lamb

Published by at 6:50 pm under Orthodox Spirituality Book Print This Post Print This Post

ORTHODOX SPIRITUALITY

Dr. Nos’hi Abdel-Shaheed

Part Thirty-Eight

CHAPTER 6

The third stage: Christ Our Passover.

(Part 5)

5- The Triumph of the Lamb

 

The slain Christ is also the risen Christ, Christ, who conquered death with His own death and resurrection. Here it is worthy to note the outstanding Orthodox position of the empty tomb of Christ, and to elaborate on this position.

The tomb of our Savior is a means of salvation for Orthodox Christians without diminishing the importance of the cross for salvation. The Orthodox Christians give the empty tomb, as a symbol of salvation, an importance that may surpass the importance of the cross. We can observe this situation from what we see in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, which includes in it the old traditional places of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, we find out that the center of Church and worship is “the place of Resurrection” and not Golgotha __”the place of Crucifixion.” The empty tomb is located in the center of this church. Nothing can give us a clear idea of __the position of the Orthodox toward Resurrection better than to see the Orthodox believers kneeling in front of the tomb of Christ, and stooping to enter the tomb, and kissing with tears the stones of the Holy Sepulcher.

Some Orthodox liturgical prayers speak of the tomb of the Savior as the “fountain of life.” St. John Chrysostom says in his famous sermon on the night of the Resurrection Feast: “from the tomb forgiveness has shone.” There are certain words in this sermon like “Rejoice today together you who fasted and you who have not” this shows clearly that it does not agree with the Western conception, according to which the joy of the Resurrection can be approached only through the sacrifice of Calvary. But we must not forget that the Apostles themselves were graciously admitted to the joy of the Resurrection without having participated in the sacrifice of Christ and His sufferings. They have indeed fled from it. But they knew the meaning of the cross later through their own martyrdom. We can say that they were able to sacrifice their lives for Christ’s sake because the power of the Resurrection has been given to them first from Christ. In the same way the Orthodox Church tends to think that a sinful person cannot take part in Christ’s passion and crucifixion, unless first he or she gets the splendor and light of the resurrection of Christ and obtain the power of the risen and victorious Christ. [St. Paul puts the knowledge of “the power of His resurrection” before the “fellowship of His sufferings” in Phil. 3:10] “Death with Christ” remains the necessary prerequisite for “resurrection with Christ,” but “dying with Him” and “resurrecting with him” will always remain beyond our reach, if the Presence of the risen Christ and the victorious grace of His Sepulcher were not given freely to us, and are there in front of us, prior to any sacrificial decision on our part. Hence this condescension given by St. John Chrysostom at Easter to all sinners, and this gratuitous offer of the Paschal gift even to those who were not ready for it. If they only open their hearts to the joy of the Resurrection, we can say that the right preparation instills in them immediately through an internal abundance of grace, and so they become able to participate in the cross of Christ, as well as in the experience of the glorified tomb of Christ, that is to participate in His sufferings and Resurrection.

For the Orthodox Church the joy of the Resurrection is not limited to the celebration of the night and day of Easter; but we find that the Church celebrates the Resurrection each Sunday of the year. Every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ, and the church chants, “This is the day the Lord has made to rejoice and be glad in it.” And the Church also chants for the Resurrection, saying: “We look at the Resurrection of Christ and we worship the holy Jesus Christ our Lord, … We bow down to Your Cross O Christ, and we praise and glorify Your Resurrection … Come all you believers let us bow down to the Resurrection of Christ. For behold through His Cross, joy has entered into the whole world. Let us bless the Lord continually, and glorify His Resurrection. For He was crucified and destroyed death by His Death.” This is part of the hymn of the Resurrection, which is chanted by the Church from Easter till the end of the Holy fifty days on Sundays and all other days. And after the end of the fifty days, she sings it only on Sundays till the end of the month of Hatur. I.e. for nine months of the year. This hymn illustrates the vision of the Orthodox Church of the relationship between the Cross and the Resurrection, and clearly shows the close connection between the two.

The Transfiguration:

The talk about resurrection leads us to another point related to it, namely “the Transfiguration.” When the Lord Jesus ascended to the mountain in the region of Caesarea Philippi, his appearance changed before his three disciples, and his face was shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as the light. (Matt. 17: 1-9, Mark 9:2-9 and Luke 9:28-36). The Lord said of the disciples who saw him transfigured in glory, that they saw His kingdom has come with power (Mark 9:1). Luke’s Gospel also states that Moses and Elijah “appeared in the glory of the time of transfiguration and spoke with Him” __(cf. Luke 9:31). This glory which appeared in the transfiguration is the glory of the resurrection. Therefore, the Lord commanded His disciples, while descending from the mountain, not to tell anyone what they saw until He rose from the dead, which shows that the glory they saw in the transfiguration is the state of the glory of the resurrection and it is not fitting to speak of this situation before His resurrection. The saintly fathers of the church tell us that the glory in which Jesus appeared in the transfiguration is the glory of the resurrection and it is the same glory in which He will appear in His second coming from Heaven. St. Basil the Great says: “The three disciples saw the divine beauty of Christ and were worthy to see with their eyes the beginning of glory in which He would appear in His second coming from Heaven.1  St. Gregory the Theologian says: [At the time of the Transfiguration, the divinity of Christ penetrated His body … and the Lord in His second coming will come in a body similar to what He showed His disciples on the mountain].2 St. John Chrysostom says: [The purpose of the Transfiguration is to show the disciples, as much as possible, the kind of glory that Christ will be in in His second coming].3

And because the glory of Christ, which appeared in the Transfiguration, is the glory of the resurrection, which is also the same glory He appeared in when He ascended to heaven, we find the Church in the day of the Transfiguration reads a chapter from the Acts of the Apostles on the martyrdom of Stephen, that says: “But he … gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:55,56), and also reads on the day of the Transfiguration what the Apostle Peter said concerning Christ: “but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. (Mount of Transfiguration)” (2 Peter 1:16-18).

This glory, which appeared in the Transfiguration, is also present in the Church because it is the body of Christ, and Christ is its glorified head, but this glory is present in the Church in a hidden way felt only by those whose eyes of their hearts become enlightened by the Holy Spirit so that they see Christ alive within them and manifested in them in His glory and the glory of His Father and Holy Spirit.

Transfiguration of Christ and the Spiritual Life:

The glory of Christ, which appeared in the Transfiguration, is received as a foretaste by the believers, who are still on earth, by the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in them. The Holy Spirit, whom we receive in Baptism and the Holy Chrismation, is “the guarantee of our inheritance” (cf. Eph 1:14) which gives us a share in the glory of Christ from now. But this glory that the believers now receive within them through the Holy Spirit creates in them a new life. This life is not of this world. This is because true Christians “are not of this world, and Christ Himself is not of this world” (cf. John 17:14).

Those who believe in Christ and obtain His Spirit within themselves await with passion the coming of the Redeemer from heaven, because the light of the transfigured Christ, the living and glorified Christ, has shone in their hearts, and with this light they see with the eyes of their hearts the beauty of the glory of Christ and yearn for the day of full union with the Lord. As if they are saying with the Apostle Paul “Having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”(Phil 1:23).                                                                                                                       (To be contd.)

To see all previous parts of this study of Orthodox Spirituality
Go to any of these website addresses (Free and Public)
http://smofarchives.org/toc3.html
http://smofonline.org/category/spiritual-books/orthodox-spirituality

Footnotes:

  1. His explanation of Psalm 44
  2. Epistle 101.
  3. Sermons on the Gospel According to Matthew.

No responses yet

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

*