Those Who Hear Will Live

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.  Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. 

For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.  Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.    (John 5:24-30)

St Methodius (d. ca 311AD) was a bishop of the Church who was writing at a time when Christians and Jews were still actively debating the interpretation of Scriptures as well as whether Jesus is the Messiah.  His critique of Jewish beliefs includes his thoughts that because the Jews tend to see and understand current events as pointing back in time to the Torah, they have misread the Scriptures.  He argues that the Jewish Scriptures aren’t meant to focus our attention on the past but rather they foreshadowed things which were to happen in the future – in the time of Christ and also in present age of the Church.  He sees Jews as taking some current event and then looking back in time through the Scriptures saying, “As it says in the ancient books….”  The present is thus nothing more than a type of things in the past.   He argues that the Jewish Scriptures are future oriented and point to the future: the coming of the Messiah and the time of the Church.  Thus the Scriptures give us hope about the future and what God is now doing and will do in the time to come rather than helping us understand the past.

“Let this then stand as an instance to prove that the Jews, by misinterpreting things present as types of things that are past have foundered their hopes of the good things to come, unwilling as they are that their types should foreshadow images, and that these images should represent the truth.  For the Law is a shadow and type of the image, that is to say, of the Gospel; and the image, the Gospel, represents the truth which will be fulfilled at the Second Coming of Christ.  Thus the ancients and the Law foretold and prophesied to us the features of the Church, and the Church foretells those of the new order.  And we, who have accepted the Christ who said I am the Truth, are aware that the shadows and types have come to an end, and we press on towards the truth, proclaiming it in vivid images.  For as yet we know in part, and, as it were, through a glass, for that which is perfect is not yet come to us, the kingdom of heaven and the resurrection, when that which is in part shall be done away.

 

Looking Through a glass darkly

Then will all our tabernacles be established, when our bodies rise again, their bones once more fixed and compacted with flesh.  Then shall we celebrate to the Lord the day of joy in a pure manner, receiving now eternal tabernacles, never more to die or to be dissolved into the earth of the grave.

[One thing worth noting in Methodius is that he clearly believes in a physical resurrection – we will have bones and flesh and will live bodily forever in the coming Kingdom.   Some Fathers hedge on this point as they believed Adam was not created with a physical body as we know it, but that only came with the Fall.  They prefer an idea found in St Paul that the resurrected body is a spiritual body and not exactly like the physical body we have on earth.  This also partly explains the ascetical emphases in their writings as they see our goal is to overcome the limits of the physical body in order to be spiritual beings – angels in the flesh.]

For our tabernacle of old had been firmly made; but it tottered and fell by the Fall.  And God put an end to sin by man’s death, lest man become a sinner for all eternity, and, since sin would be living in him, be under eternal condemnation.  And this is the reason why man, though he was not made mortal and corruptible, dies and his soul is separated from his body, in order that his transgression might be destroyed by death, being unable to live after he was dead.  Thus with sin dead and destroyed, I can rise again in immortality and sing a hymn of praise to God who saves His children from death by means of death; and in accordance with the Law I celebrate the Feast in his honor, adorning the tabernacle of my flesh with good works, just as the prudent virgins there with their five-flamed lamps.”   (THE SYMPOSIUM: A TREATISE ON CHASTITY, pp 134-135)

Christ is risen!

Indeed He is risen!

Darkness at Noon and the Light of Evening

For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.  (John 5:21)

For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:20)

“… the sanctification of time is related to the principal moments of the Passion and Easter.  It thereby gives a new meaning to cosmic praise.  The cross and the resurrection have inaugurated the last ‘last times’, marked by the reversal of the symbolism usually ascribed to day and night.  The day, despite its proud self-sufficient brightness, is connected henceforward with Christ’s suffering and death – midday becomes darkness [see Luke 23:44].

The evening sees the dawn of the spirit appear with the sacramental water and blood that flow from the side of the Crucified.  The night is filled with paschal light, ‘the poles are reversed’, and the dawn, coming with cock-crow, looks forward to the breaking of the day with no sunset, the day of the kingdom.”  (Olivier Clement, THE ROOTS OF CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM, pp 191-192)

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light shall the nations walk; and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it, and its gates shall never be shut by day—and there shall be no night there…  (Revelation 21:23-25)

Christ is risen!

Indeed He is risen!

The Day of Rejoicing

This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!  (Psalm 118:24)

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and the  dis-ease we are all feeling, we could use a Day of Rejoicing – today is that day, at least on the church’s calendar.  On this day (The Tuesday after Thomas Sunday) Orthodox in some parts of the world went to their cemeteries and blessed the graves of their family members who have already departed this life.  But it was not a day of mourning for the dead, but a chance to rejoice in the resurrection and hope of the coming Kingdom of God.  Neither does the day ignore suffering and death, or pretend it doesn’t exist – rather in the midst of cemeteries – in the midst of death which haunts us all – we stand and proclaim the Good News of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the end of death itself.  It is a bold statement of faith and hope.  “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

So, today, let us Orthodox join our spiritual ancestors and rejoice in the Lord.  We are living in a time when we are hearing daily of rising death tolls worldwide due to the pandemic.  Some of us have lost people to the virus, others in the midst of the pandemic have had loved ones die, not from the coronavirus but of other causes.  We offer them all up to God who is Lord of the living and the dead (Romans 14:9).

In the Bible, the word “Rejoice” occurs 3 times as often as does the word “repent.” Here are some scripture verses to call to mind on this Day of Rejoicing:

So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.  (John 16:22)


Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  (Romans 12:12)

So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.  (Acts 5:40-42)

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  (John 3:17)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  (Philippians 4:4)

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

“For many words are not needed, nor a long round of arguments, but if we only consider his expression, we shall find the way that leads to it. He does not simply say, ‘Rejoice always’, but he adds the cause of the continual pleasure saying, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always.’ He who rejoices ‘in the Lord’ cannot be deprived of pleasure by anything that may happen. For all other things in which we rejoice are mutable, changeable and subject to variation. While they remain they do not afford us a pleasure sufficient to repel and veil the sadness that comes upon us from other quarters.

But the fear of God contains both these requisites. It is steadfast and immovable, and sheds so much gladness that we admit no sense of other evils. For the man who fears God as he ought and trusts in Him gathers from the very root of pleasure, and has possession of the whole fountain of cheerfulness. And as a spark falling upon a wide ocean quickly disappears, so whatever events happen to the man who fears God, these, falling as it were upon an immense ocean of joy, are quenched and destroyed!” (St. John Chrysostom – d. 407AD, Rejoice in the Lord Always, pg. 5)

Christ is risen!

Indeed He is risen!

Restoration of All Things

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.   (Acts 3:19-21; emphases not in original text)

According to St Luke, all the holy prophets of the Bible spoke to us about God’s plan to  restore all things in creation: all that had fallen, all that became corrupt, sinful, dead.  All things will be restored by God – this is what God intends for His creation, even though until that event happens, the world remains a fallen world in which sickness, sighing, sorrow and suffering are our everyday and commonplace experience.  “Then all flesh shall know that I am the LORD your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:26).  We pray in the Divine Liturgy: “On behalf of all and for all!” 

As  So St Makarios the Egyptian teaches us:

The Lord died for the sake of all, and now He calls all to life.  And this life is a heavenly, spiritual rebirth, without which no soul can live, as the Lord Himself said: Unless a man is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God (Jn 3:3).”  (Homily 30:3)  [Quoted in THE WAY OF THE SPIRIT, p 233 (emphases not in original text]

Unless we are born again, says our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we cannot enter the Kingdom of God.  This new birth is the restoration of all things promised by all His holy prophets since the world began.  Our task is to enter into this salvation and accept the grace and love of our God.  “For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe”  (1 Timothy 4:10).

Christ is risen!

Truly He is risen!

Touching God Who is the Consuming Fire

 “Know therefore this day that he who goes over before you as a devouring fire is the LORD your God...” (Deuteronomy 9:3)

“...for our God is a consuming fire.”  (Hebrews 12:29)

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Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian; and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.”  (Exodus 3:1-3)

Though the Epistle to the Hebrews declares that “our God is a consuming fire“, one of the great miracles and mysteries of God’s fire is that it in fact does not consume (destroy) things.  “The bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.”   St Romanos the Melodist, links the narrative of Moses and the Burning Bush with the Apostle Thomas’ need to touch Christ in order to believe He is alive.  Thomasis not satisfied with the witness of his brother disciples, but declares he will only believe if he himself sees Jesus alive.   Romanos says it is Thomas’ action which helped him believe the Exodus story of the Burning Bush which was not consumed by the fire.  For Romanos, Thomas touches God when he is confronted by his Risen Lord.  Yet, Thomas is not destroyed by being so bold as to reach out and touch God’s wounds.

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“Truly, the bush bearing fire burned and was not burned up;
for, from Thomas’s hand, I believe in Moses’ story;
though it was perishable and thorny, it was not consumed
as it handled the side like a burning flame.
Of old the fire came upon the thorn,
But now the bramble ran towards the fire,
And God himself appeared, protecting both.
Thus I believe, thus I glorify
The same God, who is also man, as I say,
“You are our Lord and our God.”
(ON THE LIFE OF CHRIST: KONTAKIA, p 184)

Romanos uses vibrant imagery of Thomas as being ‘thorny’ and a ‘bramble’ – things which are readily engulfed in flames.  Nature would demand that combustible things be burned up in afire.  Yet, the God who is a consuming fire, allows Himself to be touched and handled by Thomas.  Not only that, but the Church proclaims in its hymns that the Virgin Mary not only touches God, but has God enter her womb in the incarnation.  Once again, the mystery and miracle of why Mary was not consumed by the divine fire is present.   The hymns of the Church readily portray the Burning Bush narrative as a prophecy of the Theotokos.  Frequent references in Orthodox hymns of the Virgin mention exactly the Exodus account of the bush burning yet not being consumed.

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You showed Moses, O Christ God,
An image of your most pure Mother
In the bush that burned yet was not consumed,
For she herself was not consumed,
When she received in her womb the fire of divinity!
She remained incorrupt after her pure childbearing!
By her prayers, O greatly merciful One,
Deliver us from the flame of passions,
And preserve your people from all harm!

The God who is fire is also the God who is love.  God created a world capable of being unite to divinity.  God created the world to be His temple.  God created humans to share in the divine life.  The created order is strangely related to the transcendent God who is a consuming fire.  Humanity was neither destroyed by the incarnation, nor subsumed into it.  For in fact God created humans capable of bearing or being united to divinity.

Jesus is both fully God and fully human.  God created the world so that divinity and humanity could interface and be fully united to one another without any loss of either.   The story of the Apostle Thomas helps us to realize how close God is to us.

 Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.  (John 20:29-31)

Christ is risen!

Truly He is risen!

The Holy Spirit Remaining On Humans

Then the LORD said, “My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is flesh, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.”  . . .  The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”  (Genesis 6:3-7)

In Genesis, God is confronted with how wicked His human creatures could be.  The humans needed no Satan to deceive them, tempt them or lead them into sin.  Humans showed themselves quite capable of wickedness – every imagination of the thoughts of their heart was only evil continually.  So much so that God came to regret the humans He had created.  [In the Gospels, Jesus confronts us with the painful truth:  “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man” (Mark 7:21-23).  Jesus does not blame Satan for our sins!  The fault, the sin, comes from our own hearts.  Satan is not needed to help us choose sin.]  And, consequently, God decided that humans would not live for ever, but rather they would be allowed to die.  Death, in this case, was seen by many early Christian theologians as a mercy – for God did not allow His human creatures to become ever more evil not to continue sinner forever, but stopped that cancer so that humans would not depart God’s presence completely.  Sin and Death may have separated people from God, but they did not place them somewhere beyond God’s love, reach and salvation.  Death could not completely alienate us from the God in whose image we are made.  God who is love would not allow this.  So according to Genesis 6, God in love withdrew His Spirit from us  to halt our journey to hell.

And then, Jesus Christ came into the world.  God became human and the fortunes of humanity were reversed, for God fully united humanity to Himself in the Lord Jesus.

The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness, “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  (John 1:29-36)

What St John the Forerunner saw was the undoing of the results of the ancestral sin.  The Holy Spirit came back on humanity in Christ and remained.  The Holy Spirit which also departed from the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 10:18-19, 11:22-23) descended upon Christ not only restoring Him as a full human but also making Him the Temple of God.  St John heard God’s prophecy that the one upon whom the Holy Spirit descend and remain is the Christ.  Then John witnessed the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus and remaining.   John the Forerunner became the first human to see a restored human – the one on whom the Spirit of God remains.

We all might note that though liturgically we all look forward to Pascha and the end of the Great Fast, Pascha is not the goal.  Pentecost is.  Through Pentecost, we all receive the Holy Spirit.  God takes away from us the curse of the law and death is overthrown so that God’s Spirit can abide in us forever.  We individually and collectively become the Temple of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Christ is risen!   Indeed He is risen!

All Creation Was Changed by the Crucifixion

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice. Let the whole world, visible and invisible, keep the feast. For Christ is risen, our eternal joy.

This is the day of resurrection. Let us be illumined, O people. Pascha, the Pascha of the Lord. For from death to life and from earth to heaven has Christ our God led us, as we sing the song of victory.  (Paschal Canon Ode 1)

The hymns of Pascha give us a strong sense of the cosmic dimension of the Resurrection of Christ – heaven, earth, the world, people, visible and invisible things all celebrate the resurrection of their Creator.  Everything in the universe is changed by the death and resurrection of the incarnate God.  Not only are heaven and paradise opened to us, but also our eyes, hearts and minds are opened to God’s revelation.  This opening of heaven and our hearts to seeing God is contrasted to the limited experience of God which was available to God’s saints in the Old Testament.  For example in the book of Exodus, Moses is upheld as God’s friend to whom God speaks directly, yet even he had a limited experience of God.

Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then he would return to the camp; but his young assistant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the tent.  Moses said to the LORD, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”

The LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The LORD’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” And the LORD continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”  (Exodus 33:11-23)

Before the incarnation of God in Christ, one could not see the face of God and live.  But the hymns of Holy Week point out that all creation was changed by the incarnation, death and resurrection of the God the Word incarnate.  No longer are we as limited in seeing God as was Moses.  No longer is the ‘face of God’ an abstract theological concept – for now Christ has put a face on God!

All creation was changed by fear

when it saw You hanging upon the Cross, O Christ.

The sun was darkened,

and the foundations of the earth were shaken.

All things suffered with the Creator of all.

O Lord, Who willingly endured this for us, glory to You!

It is exactly in the crucifixion of Christ that we begin to see God as God is – naked, vulnerable, suffering with and for us, covered in our sins.  On the cross we see Love crucified.  For on the cross is our God dying for us in order to cancel the debt of our sin and to grant us eternal life.

We see a strange and fearful mystery accomplished today:

He Whom none may touch is seized.

He Who looses Adam from the curse is bound.

He Who tries the hearts of men is unjustly brought to trial.

He Who closed the abyss is shut in prison.

He before Whom the Hosts of Heaven stand with trembling stands before Pilate.

The Creator is struck by the hand of His creature.

He Who comes to judge the living and the dead is condemned to the Cross.

The Conqueror of Hell is enclosed in a tomb.

You Who have endured all these things in Your tender love,

have saved all mankind from the curse.

O long-suffering Lord, glory to You!

The one who Saint Moses could not look at His face and live, now fully reveals Himself on the cross.  All of creation is now able to look upon God – to look into His face and to see God’s love for His creation.  All created things, including we humans, now can see God in His glory.

Christ is risen!

Indeed He is risen!

Great Lent and Holy Week (PDFs)

All of the 2020 posts related to Great Lent and those related to Holy Week have been gathered into PDFs and can be viewed at Great Lent (2020) and Holy Week (2020)

You can find PDF links for all of the posts on my Blog for each of the past 13 years for Christmas, the Pre-Lenten Sundays, Great Lent, Holy Week, Pascha and Bright Week, and the Post Paschal Sundays at  Fr. Ted’s PDFs.

 

 

Calling on the Name of the Lord

Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen!

But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:   And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.  And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.  I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke.  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.  And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the Name of the LORD shall be saved.  (Acts 2:16-21)

The Evangelist Luke is the author of the Acts if the Apostles.  He proclaims to us these words:  “whoever calls on the Name of the LORD shall be saved.”  Jesus Christ came in the Name of the Lord and to reveal God’s Name to us.  Praying in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit has been the practice of the Church from the beginning.  It is worth our taking time to reflect on the Name of the Lord. Brother Christopher of New Skete Monastery comments on this:

“Jesus prays that the Father’s name be sanctified through the vast expanse of creation, reflected through every thought and deed of lives intent upon pleasing God.  The God whose essence, whose very being is holy in a way we can never fully fathom, elicits Jesus’ act of praise and glorification: May your name be held holy; Significantly, what this presumes is that everything that has proceeded from God’s creative activity is inherently holy as well, created as an expression of  love as well as an invitation to communion.  To live in the remembrance of this reality provokes a deepening of consciousness that has no limit.  It effectively means to pray as St Cyprian did, ‘May Your name be hallowed in us.’  May all our actions be words of reverence and awe, and may we walk through our lives softly, conscious that reverence and awe have the possibility of echoing from every step we take.  Only in the light of this foundation does the vulnerability owned in the remaining petitions take on deeper meaning.”   (FOSSIL OR LEAVEN: THE CHURCH WE HAND DOWN, p71)

Professor Roberta Bondi writes:

“…we draw near to God as we increasingly learn more and more about who God really is for us, for God’s people, and for the world.  In the tradition, prayer of this sort is called kataphatic prayer, but Gregory [of Nyssa] speaks of it also as ‘calling God by name’ or knowing God by means of created things.  . . .  What does it mean to ‘call God by name’ in this tradition of prayer?  To Gregory of Nyssa it meant two things: first, to reflect upon a biblical name or image of God until we understand deeply what that name or image means about God to us, and second, to reflect upon the way in which we, as images of God and children of God, make this name or image ours by taking on the characteristics of God. . . .  Learning the names for God and their consequences for us is a lifelong enterprise that may on occasion include some systematic analysis, but systematic analysis is not fundamentally at the heart of it.  Learning the names for God involves the uncovering of our own passions, of our distortions of God, the world, and ourselves, and of our self-deceptions in order to discover a God, a world, and a self we have never seen more than glimpses of before.  This process is sometimes painful and sometimes wonderful.”  (TO LOVE AS GOD LOVES, pp 92-93)

Jesus Presented Himself Living

To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God.   (Acts 1:3)

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“If you look at this verse closely, you’ll see that Luke does not simply say that Christ presented Himself ‘alive,’ as if to say that He was merely ‘seen to have been alive,’ or ‘appeared to be alive,’ like everyone else.  The sense is rather that He presented Himself ‘living‘ [Greek: Zwnta]. Of course, Christ is alive, and ‘there was never a time when he was not alive‘ (St Gregory the Theologian).  But here Christ’s assumption of life, His taking up of life, is an absolutely voluntary act, for no one takes My life from Me, He says, but I lay it down of My own accord.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again; this charge I received from My Father (Jn 10:18).    . . . He presented himself living.  Not simply ‘alive,’ but living.  Not simply active but Acting.  This was God moving about among them, before their very eyes (Acts 1:9).  Why?  To bear witness to them that the Father’s promise was now fulfilled, namely, that they would receive the whole of God in Christ, Who would remain in them and they in Him (Jn 6:56, 15:4-7; 1 Jn 3:24).

The Elder Aimilianos asserts the important point that Jesus after the crucifixion, in His post-resurrection appearances is not merely alive, but is understood to possess life, and to be the source of life.  Christ voluntarily dies – He gives up His life, which He has the power to do.  Satan and Death do not take life away from Christ.  They can’t as they have no power over God the Giver of Life.  Christ chooses to die and He chooses to overcome death and arise from Hades.  Christ does this to show to the Apostles and to all of us, His disciples, that he is God in their midst.  God’s promise to dwell with His people is fulfilled in Christ Jesus, not in the Jerusalem Temple.  Christ remains in us and we in Him for all eternity.  Nothing, not even death can bring an end to that.

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Thus after the passion the time had come for the apostles to take possession of God.  Until then, Christ existed, but He was unassailable, beyond their reach.  Now, however, He comes as One Who offers Himself, Who may be taken, received.  Now the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility (Eph 2:14), has been torn down; now chaos has been wiped away.  Now Christ is here as One Who is familiar, intimate, so that you can make Him your own any time you like. God, the Holy One, is now your God, your Lord, your friend and your Father.  

After the death of Christ, He makes Himself available to us in ways which were not possible before the resurrection.  Now we can receive Him in the Eucharist and through the proclamation of the Gospel.  Christ, the incarnated God, unites Himself to us:  God became human so that we humans might become God.  Every wall separating us from God has been torn down, including sin and death.

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Until this moment, He was the terrible God of the Old Testament: the God of powers (Is 42:13), the God of heaven (Ps 90:1; Dan 4:31-32), of darkness (Ps 17:11), and the earth (Ps 46:7).  He wasn’t yet the God you could hold in your hand and do whatever you wanted with.  He was God the unattainable, the inaccessible (cf. 1 Tim 6:16).  Now, however, He is the God Who is living for them, moving toward them; living for them precisely so that they can live for Him.  God moves toward them so that they might respond with a reciprocal movement, and thus win for themselves the whole God.   (Archimandrite Aimilianos, THE WAY OF THE SPIRIT,  pp 162-163, 166-167)

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No longer is God only transcendent, far away in the heavens, for now He makes Himself imminently present in our daily lives.  God shows us that He is not far away and distant, but incredibly close to us – so close as to be united to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.  In Christ, we are united to divinity.  In Christ God shows us not only the true nature of humanity – we were created to be united to divinity, to be vessels carrying God, Christophers in order to make God present to the entire creation.