Meeting with the Mystery of Christ ( 15.02.2008 )
Because of the union by Hypostasis, the Godman Christ did not have the need, as God—as a complex Divine Hypostasis that contains within it two natures united unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, and inseparably—Himself to fulfil any rule or custom of the Old Testament Law. Neither did He need circumcision on the eight day, nor to be presented before God in the temple on the fortieth day, nor sacrifices offered for purification, nor obedience to His parents, nor anything that according to the Law was to be fulfilled.
But, why are we talking about the Old Testament Law? Himself He did not have the need either of Baptism, or Transfiguration, or of the Mystical Supper, or of Crucifixion, or of death and Burial, or of Resurrection on the third day, or Ascension! Thus, the question logically imposes itself: why does then this whole Divine Economy (Dispensation) take place, this Divine intervention among people in the world and time? The answer is the same as we read in the Creed: “for us and for our salvation”…! Out of love we are created and out of love, after the fall, we are saved.
The consequences of the fall, in human nature, could not have been healed if it did not become the nature of the Son of God, too, and if in this manner it did not pass the entire human road of life—from birth, through suffering, up to death itself and resurrection. Christ the Godman adopted even death itself in order to destroy it with His Resurrection. Nonetheless, Christ assumed only the incorruptible passions of human nature, consequences of Adam’s sin and fall: hunger, thirst, fatigue, effort, suffering, tears, fear prior to death and death itself, and all the others that by nature appertain to every human being. The Godman took on Him all except for sin, that is, susceptibility to sin.
Fr John Meyendorff, in accordance with Saint Leontius of Jerusalem, says: “The pre-eternal Logos is the subject [of any suffering and] of the death of Christ, since there is no other personal subject in Christ apart from the Logos—only ‘someone’ can die, not ‘something’ or nature or flesh.” The Son and Logos of God is the subject of the sufferings, yet voluntarily, not due to human nature being susceptible to suffering. This personal aspect of Orthodox Christology must always be particularly emphasized.
Therefore, the Godman Christ is He Who saves us, first of all with His Person, as Godman, and as such, with all His divine-human and salvific works and events of His life: birth, baptism, transfiguration, crucifixion, death, resurrection, ascension, and sending and voluntary descent of the Lord Holy Spirit; also with the foundation of the New Testament Church as Body of Christ.
As the beacon of Orthodoxy, Saint Gregory Palamas says: “Jesus’ human nature in the hypostatic sense is one with the Logos; in it the divine energies, which have the Logos as their source, penetrate into the created nature and deify it.” And, as we have also learned from this Holy Father, this union by Hypostasis and such deification of Jesus Christ’s human nature becomes the spring of divine life and deification to all who are in Him, to all who are in the Church and live in its Holy Mysteries and with its holy virtues.
I have read a long time ago somewhere in Abba Justin Popović—if I remember rightly—that we, Orthodox Christians are Christ extended through all the centuries, that Christ lives our life and we live His life. Meeting the Mystery Christ all the time in our life and living this Mystery, we notice that Christ the Godman through His life guides us and shows us the three stages of spiritual development. Through them, it goes without saying, we should pass, it is not that He has passed through them.
From His Conception and Nativity and all up to His Baptism, the Lord shows us the stage of purification of the heart from passions. What else does He show us? Christ shows us very clearly and powerfully that if we want to pass through this stage and surpass it properly and without hindrances, the only way in which we could possibly do this is, mainly, through absolute obedience to our spiritual father. Take a look at Christ, Who, although God, is obedient to perfection to His Mother and the Righteous Joseph as well as to the Law rules, and this all up to His thirtieth year of age. What can I say about us in the present who come to a monastery and is it as if we do not have the slightest idea of what is happening to us, let alone to give in our mind voluntarily under submission i.e. under spiritual guidance to our spiritual father?! And we desire mind-and-heart prayer and high spiritual achievements? We should be so lucky, there’s no danger of that…! On top of it we are under the delusion that we know something and that have some illumination. Moreover, we spiritually self-guide ourselves all the time, and even desire to guide others… As for the train of delusions that sticks afterwards, I have neither time nor room to talk about it now. We see them all around us…
From His Baptism till His Burial, Christ shows us the stage of illumination of the mind. What else? He shows us rather clearly and powerfully that if we wish to pass through and surpass this stage properly and without obstacles, we can do it in no other way but, chiefly, through much-suffering love for our enemies and through several-hour burial of our mind in the depths of our heart daily.
From His Resurrection and all until His Ascension, Christ shows us the stage of deification of our person, both body and soul. What else does He show us? I do not know, we will see…
My children, it is up to us to show whether we desire to meet Christ and take Him in our arms by the end of our life; or we desire to meet Him and embrace Him in our heart as early as in our youth, as the fountain of undiluted joy, light and power; or we desire to cry out with ineffable joy just like the Apostle: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20)...
Metropolitan of Strumica Nahum
(as recorded by the Sisters)