Daily Meditations

Renewal (Bright) Monday. Christos Anesti! Christ is Risen!

April 9th, 2018

The Father accepts the Son’s sacrifice “by economy”: “man had to be sanctified by God’s humanity” (St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 45, On the Holy Pascha). Kenosis culminates and ends with Christ’s death, to sanctify the entire human condition, including death. Cur Deus homo? Not only because of our sins but for our sanctification, to introduce the moments of our fallen life into that true life, which never knows death. By Christ’s resurrection, the fullness of life is inserted into the dry tree of humanity.  Christ’s work therefore presents a physical, even biological, reality. On the cross, death is swallowed up in life. In Christ, death enters into divinity and there exhausts itself, for “it does not find a place there.” Redemption thus signifies a struggle of life against death, and the triumph of life. Christ’s humanity constitutes the first fruits of a new creation. Through it a force for life is introduced into the cosmos to resurrect and transfigure it in the final destruction of death. Since the Incarnation and the Resurrection death is enervated, is no longer absolute.

Death on the cross is the Passover of the New Alliance, fulfilling in one reality all that is symbolized by the Hebrew Passover. For freedom from death and the introduction of human nature into God’s Kingdom realize the only true Exodus. This sacrifice, this surrender of will itself to which Adam could not consent, certainly represents an expiation. But above all, it represents a sacrament, sacrament par excellence, the free gift to God, by Christ in His humanity, of the first fruits of creation, the fulfillment of that immense sacramental action, devolving first upon Adam, which the new humanity must complete, the offering of the cosmos as receptacle of grace. The Resurrection operates a change in fallen nature, opens a prodigious possibility: the possibility of sanctifying death itself. Henceforth, death is no longer an impasse, but a door to the Kingdom. Grace is given back to us, and if we carry it as “clay vessels,” or receptacles still mortal, our fragility will now take on a power which vanquishes death.

Life springs from the tomb; it is manifested by death, in the very death of Christ. Human nature triumphs over an anti-natural condition. For it is, in its entirety, gathered up in Christ, “recapitulated” by Him, to adopt the expression of St. Irenaeus. Christ is the Head of the Church, that is to say, of the new humanity in whose heart no sin, no adverse power can henceforth finally separate man from grace. In Christ, a man’s life can always begin afresh, however burdened with sin. A man can always surrender his life to Christ, so that He may restore it to him, liberated and whole. And this work of Christ is valid for the entire assemblage of humanity, even beyond the visible limits of the Church. All faith in the triumph of life over death, every presentiment of the Resurrection, are implicit belief in Christ: for only the power of Christ raises, and will raise, the dead. Since the victory of Christ over death, the Resurrection has become universal law for creation; and not only for humanity, but for the beasts, the plants and the stones, for the whole cosmos in which each one of us is the head. We are baptized in the death of Christ, shrouded in water to rise again with Him. And for the soul lustrated in the baptismal waters of tears, and ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection is not only hope but present reality. The parousia begins in the souls of the saints, and St. Simeon the New Theologian can write: “For those who became children of the light and sons of the day to come, for those who always walk in the light, the Day of the Lord will never come, for they are already with God and in God.” An infinite ocean of light flows from the risen body of the Lord.

~Adapted from Vladimir Lossky:  Orthodox theology: An Introduction