The Cross and the Resurrection Denote the Journey of the Faithful

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Once a monk asked a certain elder ascetic if the imitation of Christ is possible.  The elder’s answer was brief and clear. Whoever is dominated by the things of the  world,  is  unable  to  imitate  Christ.  Whoever,  however  abandons  everything  for  Christ, is granted to imitate Him and to keep His commandments.

Beloved, readers, the Christian life usually seems destructive to the world. And  this occurs, because the world is ignorant of its wealth and doesn’t try to come to  know it. The denial of the secular train of thought in our behavior and our choices  comprises  the  presupposition  for  the  imitation  of  Christ  and  the  sense  of  its  spiritual wealth.

No one  was  reconciled  with  God  without  the  power  of  the  cross.  For  one  to  carry  his cross means to  deny  himself and  to  be ready  for  death  for  the sake of  virtue  and  of  truth.  The  imitation  of  the  passion  of  Christ  begins  with  baptism,  which, as the Apostle Paul says, is a likening of the death of Christ. The imitation  of the passion of Christ comprises the firm indicator of Christian life.

The passion of Christ has a very deep meaning for the believer’s life. Without  our  own  participation  in  this,  the  entrance  into  the  resurrection  and  the  life  of  Christ  is  impossible.  The  imitation  of  the  passion  of  Christ  is  impossible.  The  imitation  of  the  passion  of  Christ  is  realized  by  copying  martyrdom.  Many  Christians during the period of the persecutions hastened joyfully to be martyred.  The imitation however of the passion of Christ is realized metaphorically. Thus we  have  the  martyrdom  of  conscience,  which  is  realized  in  peaceful  periods.  Athanasios  the  Great  writes  that  when  the  persecution  stopped  and  Anthony  the  Great  couldn’t  satisfy  his  longing  to  be  martyred  for  Christ,  he  returned  to  the  desert and daily underwent the martyrdom of conscience.

But also more generally the life of believers in Church is not independent of the  cross and the passion of Christ. Baptism is the indicator of new life. For this life  the  believer  is  armed  with  chrism  and  fed  with  the  Divine  Eucharist.  Thus  the  mysteries of the Church from the beginning offer the believer the grace of God and  introduce him to the communion and imitation of the divine life. The Apostle Paul  was shown to be a model of life as he lived the mystery of the kingdom of God. He  did not come to the faith of the Nazarene in order to gain benefits, but in order to  be crucified together with Christ. He undertook a martyrdom of life for the Church  subjecting his flesh, forbearing with dedication to Christ, preaching the Gospel to  the  world  of  idolatry,  bearing  the  name  of  Christ,  worthily  before  the  powerful,  being crucified daily as regards sin.

Love  for  Christ,  struggle  for  the  Gospel,  concern  for  the salvation  of people,  patience in trials, ascesis for the deadening of the  “old man”, are the framework  within  which  the  Apostle  lived.  He  calls  his  life  a  Cross.  Christ  acted  and  dominated in him. Saul had now died. A new person, had been created with the  grace  of  God.  “For  I  through the  law  have  died to the  law,  that  I  might  live  in  God”, he writes in his epistle to the Christians of Galatia.

The Cross of Christ became in Paul’s heart the border between the two worlds of the flesh and of the spirit.
If he was saved, he does not owe this to the justification of the Law, but to the  crucified life of Christ and to the grace which came from it. With baptism he was  crucified with Christ. He no longer has any relationship with the world. His whole  life changed, his character, his soul. The fanaticism was altered into love, legalism  into freedom, faith into the power of the word into obedience to the will of God,  the pharisaic self confidence into publican-like repentance. He filled with wisdom  which made him humble and obedient unto death. He lived the example of Christ  (1 Peter 2:21). Everything in himself became Christ’s, and Christ’s became his. He  lived in the flesh, like all people, but he lived “in faith of the Son of God” (Gal.  2:20). He had become a communicant of the crucifixional death of Christ and had  died  as  regards  sin.  For  this  reason  he  often  commands  all  of  us  to  crucify  our  members,  if  we  wish  to  live  in  God.  “Therefore  deaden  your  members  upon  the  earth, fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire and avarice… cast off everything,  wrath,  anger,  wickedness,  blasphemy,  foul  speech…Therefore  put  on,  as  chosen  Saints of God and beloved, innards of compassion, goodness, humble mindedness,  meekness, long-suffering…” (Col. 3:5 – 12.) Without deadening the passions and  the cutting off of every sinful condition, the grace of God does not come. After the  crucifixion of sin the experience of the resurrection comes.

As members of the mystical Body of Christ we have with baptism identified our  being with Christ. We became through baptism partakers of His crucifixional death  and “our old man” of sin was crucified like Christ also upon the Cross. “Whoever  of  us  was  baptized  in  Christ,  was  baptized  into  his  death”  (Rom.  6:3).  We  voluntarily came to our personal crucifixion. We handed over the body of our sin  to death so that it become inert and so that it does not force us to become slaves  and servants of this. Of course the deadening of the body does not mean biological  deadening,  but  the  transubstantiation,  sanctification,  transfiguration,  sanctifying.  The struggle for cutting off the passions is crucifixion. How much sweat and how  much forcefulness is needed for the body of sin to be abolished and for the believer  to enter into the road of the work of the commandments of God. If however we are  not crucified together with Christ we will not be resurrected. There does not exist  greater happiness than for Christ to be dwelling in our heart and for us to be able  with a sense of His presence to say like the heavenly Apostle: “while I no longer  live, for Christ lives in me”.

My brethren,  the  cross  of  Christ  is  not  simply  an  important  event  of  the  past  which cuts history like a landmark. It is an event constantly present in the world  which reveals the love of God. It is the majestic revelation of divine loving care  and the peak of the energies of God for mankind’s deliverance.

Before the cross of Christ every person is invited to take a position. Because no  one  can  remain  indifferent.  The  denial  of  the  delivering offering  of  Christ,  the  rejection of the “ransom”, which He offers for the expiation of captive humanity,  would  mean  unforgivable  ignorance  for  the  tragic  condition  of  corruption  –  in  which man exists. It would mean pharisaic haughtiness for the value of our works  and life. It would mean finally an ungrateful disposition before sacrificed love.

Life  by  imitation  of  Christ  is  perceived  as  complete  self  abandonment  to  the  will of God. In this case the will of God is identified with man’s will or the will of  man is identified with God’s will. And precisely here lies the difficulty but also the  majesty of Christian life. Man is freed not only from his passions and sins, but also  from his mechanical kindnesses and virtues. These often trap him in his ego and  keep him unfortunately far away from God.

The  work  of  the  Church  in  the  world  is  identical  to  the  work  of  Christ.  Like  Christ,  thus  also  the  Church  reveals  to  the  world  the  truth  of  God.  This  truth  is  power and life. And the Church as the bearer of power and light has a dynamic and  renewing mission. As members of the Church we ought to not be trapped in our  own self nor to turn away from the world, but to give the witness of God’s love  everywhere.  But  neither  is it  allowed  that  we identify  ourselves with  the world,  because then we lose our identity and abandon our mission.

My brethren, the journey of believers in the world is denoted by the cross and  the  resurrection  of  Christ.  But  also  the  deeper  meaning  of  history  is  not  found  otherwise, except only in the perspective of the cross and the resurrection.

by Katerina Tsakiri
Translated by Fr. Nicholas Palis from Πειραϊκή Ἑκκλησία