Monthly Archives: April 2019

PASCHA 2019

Christ is Risen!   Хрїсто́съ воскре́се!     Χριστς νέστη!

In our increasingly secular times, we are told that death is natural and we should accept it as such. A human being, an animal, even a plant is born, matures, grows old and dies. This is called the cycle of life. But from a Christian perspective, death is not natural. God did not create death. Death is the most unnatural thing in the world. God created humanity for eternal life, for an embodied life with God. It is only with human sin that death entered the world. Adam and Eve sinned by partaking of the ‘forbidden fruit’ and were subjected to death. Even so, death is not simply a punishment. When Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they sinned against God. If they had eaten of the Tree of Life they would have become immortal. This may sound good, but it would mean that they would have lived forever with the stain of sin on their souls. To prevent this God subjected them to mortality in the knowledge that he would send his Son, Jesus Christ, to save humanity from sin and death.

Sometimes people think that the Christian belief that people’s bodies die, and their souls go to heaven to live with God. However, this is a pagan way of looking at things. For Christians, life is an embodied life, a life lived in union of soul and body. The separation of soul and body at death is unnatural. Therefore, when Christ comes at the end of time all the dead will rise to a new, embodied life, a life that will be eternal. This is what men and women are created for.

Christ’s resurrection is the origin of our salvation. The resurrection is not simply an event in the past. Rather, when we are baptized we become partakers of Christ’s death and resurrection. Just as Christ was in the tomb for three days, so we went down into the water of the baptismal font three times. And just as Christ was raised from the tomb, we were raised from the font to become partakers of a new resurrection life. We will not fully experience resurrection until Christ comes again, but we participate in this life here and now, especially when we received Holy Communion.

All of this means that Christ’s resurrection is not simply an event of the past. Every Easter we experience the joy of resurrection life. Easter lasts forty days but during those days we should never forget that Christ’s resurrection even though we are busy with daily life. 

Beyond this, every Sunday is a mini-Pascha in which we receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart of the Christian faith. It is, as St. Paul writes “…if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” But Christ is risen, and we share in this joy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paschal_greeting

The Orthodox Faith – Salvation History (5a)

We are continuing our look at how events and people in the Old Testament foreshadow events and people in the New Testament and the life of the church.

One if the most important events in the Judeo-Christian history and indeed in human history is the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. We remember that scene. After the Jewish people had escaped from slavery in Egypt, they wandered in the desert for forty years. In the third month of their wandering they came to Mt. Sinai and God called Moses, the Jewish leader to ascend the mountain. We see this in Exodus.

On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God; and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. And Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. (Ex 19:16-21)

At this point God gives the Ten Commandments as can be seen in Exodus 20:1-18.

And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work;  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates;  for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you. “You shall not kill. “You shall not commit adultery. “You shall not steal. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Now when all the people perceived the thunderings and the lightnings and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled; and they stood afar off. (Ex 20:1-18)

When we think of the Ten Commandments we think only of the ten brief moral laws. However Jewish tradition holds that most of the laws given in the first five books of the Bible were given to Moses then. So the fundamental laws given to humanity in Old Testament times were given to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

Important as the laws found in the Old Testament are, there is always the danger that these laws will be something external to us and the observance of these laws a mere formality. Therefore, many times in the Old Testament God promised through his prophets that there would come a new law, written on human hearts by the Holy Spirit. For example:

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, `Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar — the Lord of hosts is his name:  “If this fixed order departs from before me, says the Lord then shall the descendants of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” Thus says the Lord: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the descendants of Israel for all that they have done, says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:32-37)

Or

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

In other words, the law will not be something external, placed on us by a distant God, but will rather be a law written on our hearts. This new law which is the fulfillment of the Old Testament can only happen when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and the Theotokos on the day of Pentecost.

Fr. John