Piekhrestos aftonf | Khen oumethmi aftonf
Throughout His ministry, Christ reversed every concept created by man:
To grow and enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we must be as little children.
The sign of the Cross was no longer a sign of shame but that of victory.
To inherit life, we must first give all away.
To be the greatest, we must be humbled.
To live, we must die.
St Paul reiterates this paradox when he says, “…but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:23). We know that death, by nature, is the separation from life. Man was created to live forever, supported entirely by God, not needing anything besides Him. However, by sin, man willingly broke the bond with the source of Life. The only solution is that the union between God and man be re-established, but how? Our repentance and His forgiveness are not sufficient to restore the nature that is corrupt: that is, God can grant us forgiveness, but this does not mean that the bone that is broken is re-established. To reconnect, God took the nature of man and united with it in His incarnation. And so fittingly, St Athanasius says, “God became man, so that man could become a god”, not by nature but in unity through grace, always remembering that we “may be partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). Thus, in His incarnation, the creation that was made in the likeness and image of God can once again return to this former state.
Through death, in Christ, we attain life, for by death, Christ trampled death. By entering death, He both trampled and replaced it with Himself, who is life, and so now all who die, enter Christ.
Which is why He says, “Come forth those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:29). We all enter His life and love (since God is omnipresent), but how we each receive Him is what differentiates life from condemnation. Being in the presence of God and not being able to participate in His love is essentially condemnation.
How, then, do we attain the victory of the Cross? Often we think that to receive salvation we must give God the majority of our time. We tend to think that attending Church services and giving Him 51% of our time is enough. But it should be 100% of our time with God whether it be while we study or at work or during our services – whatever we do, we do with God. Also, it is important to remember that in our suffering and bearing of our cross, we literally follow in Christ steps. St Paul again reinforces this when he says, “In Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). Dying to the world and to the desires it presents daily is to live in Christ “for indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21).
And so, the beautiful paradox we started with presents itself again: in this season of great victory, we can now say with St Paul “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
SAYG ~ Matthew Nashid.