My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
ON THE PRECIOUS AND LIFE-GIVING CROSS
By Saint Gregory Palamas
THE CROSS OF CHRIST was mysteriously proclaimed in advance and foreshadowed from the generation of old and no one was ever reconciled with God EXCEPT BY THE POWER OF THE CROSS. After our First Parents transgressed against God through the tree in Paradise, SIN CAME TO LIFE, but we died, submitting even before physical death, TO THE DEATH OF THE SOUL, ITS SEPARATION FROM GOD. After the transgression we lived in sin and according to the flesh. Sin "IS NOT SUBJECT TO THE LAW OF GOD, NEITHER INDEED CAN BE. SO THEY THAT ARE IN THE FLESH CANNOT PLEASE GOD" (Romans 8:7-8).
As the Apostle Paul says, "The flesh hasteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh" (Galatians 5:17). God, however, is Spirit, ABSOLUTE GOODNESS AND VIRTUE, and our own spirit is after His IMAGE and LIKENESS, although sin has made it good for nothing. So how could anyone at all be spiritually renewed and reconciled with God, UNLESS SIN AND LIFE ACCORDING TO THE FLESH HAD BEEN ABOLISHED? The Cross of Christ IS THIS ABOLITION OF SIN. One of our God-bearing Fathers was asked by an unbeliever if he really believed in Christ CRUCIFIED. "Yes", he replied, "I BELIEVE IN HIM WHO CRUCIFIED SIN." God, Himself has borne witness that there were many who were His friends before and after the law when the Cross had not yet been revealed. David, the king, and Prophet says, as if there were definitely friends of God in his day, "How precious also are thy friends unto me, O God" (Psalm139:17). I shall now show you, if you listen attentively for the love of God, how it was that people were called FRIENDS OF GOD before the Cross.
Although THE MAN OF SIN, the son of lawlessness (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3), by which I mean Antichrist, has not yet come, the theologian whom Christ loved says, "Even now, Beloved, there is antichrist" (cf. 1 John 2:18). In the same way, the Cross existed in the time of our ancestors, even before it was accomplished. The great Paul teaches us absolutely clearly that Antichrist IS AMONG US, EVEN THOUGH HE HAS NOT YET COME, SAYING, "His mystery doth already work in you" (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:7). In exactly the same way Christ’s Cross was among our forefathers before it came into being because its mystery was working in them.
Leaving aside Abel, Seth, Enos, Enoch, Noah, and all those up until Noah who were pleasing to God, and their contemporaries, I shall begin with Abraham, who was called the father of many nations, the Jews’ father after the flesh and OURS BY FAITH. As I am to start with this spiritual father of ours, his good beginning, and God’s initial call to him, what were the first words God spoke to him? "Get thee out of thy country, and from they kindred, unto a lang that I will show thee" (Genesis 12:1). This utterance certainly bears within it the mystery of the Cross, for it is exactly what Saint Paul says when he glories in the Cross: "THE WOLD IS CRUCIFIED UNTO ME" (Galatians 6:14). When someone has fled his home country or the world without turning back, for him his country according to the flesh and the world have been put to death and ceased to exist, AND THIS IS THE CROSS.
God said to Abraham, before he had fled from his life with ungodly men, "Get thee out of thy country unto a land", not, that I will give thee, but "THAT I WILL SHOW THEE" (Genesis 12:1), so that through this land another, spiritual land might be shown. What were God’s first words to Moses once he had fled from Egypt and ascended the mountain? "PUT OFF THY SHOES FROM OFF THY FEET" (Exodos 3:5). This is another mystery of the Cross which follows appropriately upon the first. "You have come out of Egypt", says God, "you have left the service of Pharaoh, and have despised the fact that you were called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. That world of evil servitude has been dissolved and ceased to exist, as far as you are concerned. Nevertheless, you still need something more." What can that be? "To take your shoes from off your feet, to lay aside the coats of skins (cf. Genesis 3:21) with which sin clothed you and in which it is at work, SEPARATING YOU FROM THE HOLY GROUND. Take these shoes from your feet", which is to say, "DO NOT LIVE ANY LONGER ACCORDING TO THE FLESH AND IN SIN, BUT LET THAT LIFE WHICH IS OPPOSED TO GOD BE ABOLISHED AND PUT TO DEATH. And let the way of thinking based on the flesh (cf. Romans 8:6-7), and the law in your members warring against the law of your mind and bringing you into captivity to the law of sin (Romans 7:23-8:2), no longer hold sway, nor be active, for it has been put to death by the power of this vision of God. Surely this is the Cross. In the divine Paul’s words, the Cross IS TO HAVE CRUCIFIED "THE FLESH WITH THE AFFECTIONS AND LUSTS" (Galatians 5:24).
"Put off", He says, "thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground" (Exodos 3:5). These words to Moses revealed that the earth was TO BE HALLOWED THROUGH THE CROSS AFTER THE MANIFESTATION OF OUR LORD AND GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. At that time, as he looked at the great spectacle OF THE BURNING BUSH WHICH SEEMED COOL AS THE DEW, MOSES FORESAW THE COMING OF CHRIST, WHICH WAS THEN IN THE FUTURE. THE VISION IN GOD OF THE CROSS IS A MYSTERY GREATER THAN THAT EARLIER MYSTERY. The great Paul and our holy Fathers hint that THERE ARE TWO MYSTERIES. For Saint Paul not only says, "The world is crucified unto me," but adds, "and IT TO THE WORLD" (Galatians 6:14). The holy Fathers, for their part, command us not to hasten to ascend the cross before the Cross, as though there were definitely two words of the Cross and two mysteries.
The first mystery of the Cross IS FLIGHT FROM THE WORLD, and PARTING ROM OUR RELATIVES ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, if they were a hindrance to piety and a devout life, and training our body, which Saint Paul tells us is of some value (1 Timothy 4:8). In these ways, the world and sin are crucified to us, once we have fled from them. According to the second mystery of the Cross, however, WE ARE CRUCIFIED TO THE WORLD AND THE PASSIONS, ONCE THEY HAVE FLED FROM US. IT IS NOT OF COURSE POSSIBLE FOR THEM TO LEAVE US COMPLETELY AND NOT BE AT WORK IN OUR THOUGHTS UNLESS WE ATTAIN TO CONTEMPLATION OF GOD. When, through action, we approach contemplation and cultivate and cleanse our inner man, searching for the Divine treasure which we ourselves have hidden, and considering the Kingdom of God within us, then it is that we CRUCIFY OURSELVES TO THE WORLD AND THE PASSIONS. (Source: Saint Gregory Palamas, The HOMILIES)
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George