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 (Part II)
By Saint Gregory Palamas
It is not of course for the passions to leave us completely and not be at work in our thoughts (logismoi), unless we attain to contemplation of God. When, through action, we approach contemplation and cultivate and cleanse our inner man, searching for 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. Through meditation of this, a certain warmth is born in our heart, which chases away evil thoughts like flies, instills spiritual peace and consolation in our soul, and bestows sanctification on our body. As the psalmist says, "My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned" (Psalm 39:3), One of our God-bearing Fathers taught us about this saying, "STRIVE AS HARD AS YOU CAN TO ENSURE THAT YOUR INNER LABOR IS ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL, AND YOU WILL CONQUER THE OUTWARD PASSIONS." The great Paul, urging us on in the same direction, says, "WALK IN THE SPIRIT, AND YE SHALL NOT FULFIL THE LUSTS OF THE FLESH" (Galatians 5:16). Elsewhere he exhorts, "STAND THEREFORE, HAVING YOUR LOINS GIRT ABOUT WITH TRUTH" (Ephesians 6:14). For the contemplative part of the soul strengthens and supports the part concerned with desires, and chases away fleshly lusts. The great Peter tells us with absolute clarity what the references to the loins and the truth mean. "WHEREFORE," he says, "GIRD UP THE LOINS OF YOUR MIND, BE SOBER, AND HOPE TO THE END FOR THE GRACE THAT IS TO BE BROUGHT UNTO YOU AT THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST" (1 Peter 1:13).
Since it is not possible for the evil passions and the world to leave us completely and not be at work in our thoughts unless we attain to contemplation of God, inasmuch as such contemplation is also the Mystery of the Cross, which CRUCIFIES THOSE WHO ARE WORTHY OF IT TO THE WORLD. That vision which Moses had of the burning bush NOT CONSUMED BY THE FIRE, was also a mystery of the Cross, greater and more perfect than the mystery in the time of Abraham. Is it then the case that Moses was initiated into the more perfect mystery of the Cross, whereas Abraham was not? That would be unreasonable. In fact, Abraham was not initiated at the time when he was called, but afterward, he was, once, twice, and in fact many times, though we do not have enough time to relate everything now.
I shall remind you of Abraham’s most wonderful vision of God when he clearly saw THE ONE GOD IN THREE PERSONS before He had been proclaimed to be such (Genesis 18:1-16). "The Lord appeared unto him by the oak of Mamre; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and lo, three men stood by him: and he ran to meet them." He actually saw the one God Who appeared to him as three. "God appeared unto him", it says, "and, lo, three men." Having run to meet the three men, however, he addressed them AS ONE, SAYING, "MY LORD, IF NOW I HAVE FOUND FAVOUR IN THY SIGHT, PASS NOT AWAY FROM THY SERVANT" (‘THE PHILANTHROPIA OF ABRAHAM’). The three then discourse with him as though they were one. "And He said to Abraham, Where is Sarah thy wife? I will certainly return unto thee about this same time of year: and Sarah thy wife shall have a son." As the aged Sarah laughed on hearing this, "the Lord said, Wherefore did Sarah laugh? Notice that the One God IS THREE HYPOSTASES, AND THE THREE HYPOSTASES ARE ONE LORD, FOR IT SAYS, "THE LORD SAID".
This is how the mystery of the Cross worked in Abraham. As for Isaac, he himself prefigured Him Who was nailed to the Cross for, like Christ, he was obedient to his father unto death. The ram offered instead of him (Genesis 22:13) CLEARLY FORESHADOWED THE Lamb of God Who was led to the slaughter for our sake. Even the thicket in which THE RAM WAS CAUGHT CONTAINED THE MYSTERY OF THE SIGN OF THE Cross, for it was called the thicket of "Sabek", MEANING THE THICKET OF FORGIVENESS (Genesis 22:13), just as the Cross was called THE WOOD OF SALVATION. In Isaac’s son, Jacob, the mystery and sign of the Cross were also at work, for he increased his flocks BY MEANS OF WOOD AND WATER (Genesis 30:37-43). THE WOOD PREFIGURED THE WOOD OF THE CROSS, AND THE WATER, HOLY BAPTISM, WHICH HOLDS WITHIN IT THE MYSTERY OF THE CROSS, "WE WERE BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST’S DEATH", says the Apostle (Romans 6:3). Christ, too, increased into His HUMAN FLOCKS BY MEANS OF WOOD AND WATER, THE Cross, and Baptism…
"Thy mystery of the Cross was working in Abraham, whereas his son Isaac himself PREFIGURED THE ONE WHO WAS AFTERWARD CRUCIFIED. In the same way, the mystery of the Cross was at work throughout Jacob’s life, while Jacob’s son Joseph was himself a type and mystery of the divine and human Logos/Word Who was later crucified. Joseph was led to the slaughter through jealousy by his kinsmen according to the flesh, for whose sake his father sent him, just as was later the case with Christ. We should not be surprised, however, that Joseph was not murdered but SOLD. Isaac was not killed either. These men PREFIGURED THE TRUTH THAT WAS TO COME BUT WERE NOT THEMSELVES THIS TRUTH. We can, however, discern in them THE TWOFOLD MYSTERY OF CHRIST’S TWOFOLD NATURE. Their being led to the slaughter foreshadowed THE PASSION ACCORDING TO THE FLESH OF Him Who was the God-man, whereas the fact that they did not suffer foretold THE IMPASSIBLE NATURE OF HIS DIVINITY. It was the same with regard to Jacob and Abraham. Although they were tempted, they were victorious, which is what the Scriptures clearly tell us about Christ. Of these four men who were renowned for their virtue and devoutness in the time before the law, two, Abraham and Jacob, had the mystery of the Cross at work in their lives, whereas the other two, Isaac and Joseph, themselves proclaimed the mystery of the Cross beforehand in a marvelous way…
"Surely WE SHOULD HONOR AND USE THIS DIVINE TROPHY (THE CROSS) OF THE FREEDOM OF THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE. Its appearance alone puts the serpent, THE ORIGINATOR OF EVIL, to flight, TRIUMPHS OVER HIM AND DISGRACES HIM, PROCLAIMING HIM DEFEATED AND CRUSHED. It GLORIFIES AND MAGNIFIES CHRIST, AND DISPLAYS HIS VICTORY TO THE WORLD. If it were really necessary to disregard the Cross because Christ suffered death on it, then His death too would be neither honorable nor salutary. So how can we have been baptized into His death, as the Apostle tells us (Romans 6:3)? And how can we share in His Resurrection, if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death (Romans 6:5)? On the other hand, if someone were to reverence the Sign of the Cross without the Lord’s name written upon it, he could justly be accused of doing something incorrectly. Since "AT THE NAME OF JESUS EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, OF THINGS IN HEAVEN, AND THINGS IN THE EARTH, AND THINGS UNDER THE EARTH" (Philippians 2:10), and the Cross bears this Venerable Name. How very foolish not to bow the knee at Christ’s Cross!
Inclining our hearts as well as bending our knees, come, "LET US WORSHIP", with David the psalmist and Prophet, "AT THE PLACE WHERE HIS FEET STOOD" (Psalm 132:7), where His All-embracing hands were outspread and His Life-Giving body was stretched out for our sake. As we reverence and greet the Cross WITH FAITH, let us draw and keep the abundant SANCTIFICATION FLOWING FROM IT. Then, at the sublimely glorious future advent of oru Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, as we see Him come in glory, we shall rejoice and skip for joy unceasingly having attained to a place on His right hand and heard the promised joyful words and blessing, to the glory of the Son of God CRUCIFIED IN THE FLESH FOR US.
For to Him belongs ALL GLORY, TOGETHER WITH HIS FATHER WITHOUT BEGINNING AND THE ALL-HOLY, GOOD, AND LIFE-GIVING SPIRIT, NOW AND FOREVER AND UNTO THE AGES OF AGES. AMEN.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George