Faith in Christ pertains to the inner content of the life of Christ. It is not just a collection of religious ideologies and moralisms which ignore Christ and His message in order to return to bondage to the law, as if we were without Grace.
It is said by the Saviour that "not one jot or tittle of the law shall pass away until all things be fulfilled." How is it that anyone (even Orthodox clergy) turn to this saying, yet never, ever pay heed to the prayer we say at the Proskomedia, just after the prayer before the Amvon, and before the final blessing? It begins with the theological statement, "Thou who art Thyself the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets ..."
If Christ Jesus did not "fulfill all things," what did He accomplish?
Of course, if you believe in the 'Atonement' heresy--that Christ was tortured to death to satisfy the bloodlust of a cruel and unforgiving deity, and died to save us from God--then you might not realize that Christ did indeed, fulfill all things so that every jot and tittle of the law may pass away, so that the "manuscript that was against us is torn up," as Paul says, and the "middle wall" (Eph. 2:14) is broken down.
Editor’s note: While many believers celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas day, millions of others extend the celebration of the Incarnation through what they call ‘The Feast of the Nativity’ well into January. In so doing, they think of the Incarnation as encompassing, not only the birth of Christ, but his whole life as God-made-human.
These are the days of the Nativity of our Lord God and Savior, the Incarnation of the living God, the Incarnation of co-suffering Love. The Sunday after the feast, the Gospel story of Herod and the Magi always holds a great revelation for us.
I was asked recently asked online, “Does evidence disprove religion?” Perhaps it doesn't disprove it so much as it exposes it. Remember, we always try to caution that religion and faith are not the same things.
Herod, you know, was a genuine believer. He was very strict about keeping the kosher laws and the other laws of his religion. Even Caesar makes note of the fact that when Herod would come to Rome—as he had to periodically to promise his fealty to the Emperor—he always refused to eat any kind of pork. And he was very careful about the kosher laws. So we could say he was a religious person.
Of course, he also had several wives and he even killed a few of them. He had numerous children both in and out of wedlock. Yet he was very religious! But this doesn't mean he had any faith.
So when the Magi came and told Herod, “Look, the prophecies of your religion are being fulfilled and we have come to venerate the one who has been born according to the word of the holy prophets,” Herod believed. He knew the word of the holy prophets. Yes, he was very religious. He knew and he could consult exactly where the Messiah was to be born. But he understood that the Messiah was to be a military ruler, a military king who would take over the land of Israel and rule it and make it great again.
Editor's note: This article is a follow-up to Bearers of Co-Suffering Love
Some have asked me to explain "moral grief," looking at the Holy Fathers.
The best example of Moral Grief is Christ's prayer in Gethsemane just before his betrayal. As the fathers tell us, Christ had no fear of death. He certainly knew who He is. What then, was the "chalice" that He suffered from so greatly and wished to have it removed?
He was referring to His grief over the conditions and bondage of humanity. As the great Russian father, Antony Khrapovitsky says, "Christ suffered more greatly from His moral grief for humanity than He suffered physically on the cross."
Christ expressed no outrage over mankind's sins, which He had come to bear away. Even when critiquing the self-righteous, He was sharp and stern, but without outrage. With the woman taken in adultery, we do not see any moral outraged in Christ, rather, being concerned for her healing and salvation, He demonstrates a moral grief toward her accusers who were, despite of their own moral outrage, were immoral and full of sin themselves.
Moral grief never seeks the punishment or degradation of another, but feels grief over their bondage and inner human suffering. Moral outrage wallows in the desire for punishment, and rages against the other rather than feeling a deep sense of humble grief over their condition. I hope this will explain to some degree.
St Antony Khrapovitsky once wrote:
“In the garden of Gethsemane the Lord demonstrated the ultimate degree of co-suffering with the sins of every person, when He began to be oppressed by them to such a degree that He asked the heavenly Father to deliver Him from the agony. 'And was heard because of His reverence" as the apostle says (Heb.5:7), as an angel appeared and strengthened Him.'
"... How can I benefit from the Saviour's grief over people's sins, in the way that a corrupted person's soul is filled by a friend's co-suffering love? Only if I am convinced of the certainty that I too, I personally, as an individual, was and am encompassed in the heart of Christ Who grieves over my sins. Only when I am aware that He beholds me, stretches out His supporting hand toward me and encompasses me with His co-suffering love: only then is He my Saviour, pouring new moral strength into me, He "Who teaches my hands for war" (Ps. 17:34) against evil.
"This is possible only when He is not foreign to me, not a historical example of virtue, but a part of my being or, more correctly, when I am a part of His being, a participant of the Divine nature, as Apostle Peter says (Pt.1:4).T
PATRISTIC REFERENCES: CHRIST WAS NOT GRIEVED IN GETHSEMANE ABOUT HIS OWN SUFFERING AND CRUCIFIXION:
St Hilary of Poitlers devotes several paragraphs to refuting the idea that Christ felt fear in Gethsemane. He says that Christ's words, “My soul is sorrowful unto death” cannot mean that He was sorrowful because of His own impending death. He was sorrowful unto death in that He sorrowed so greatly over fallen humanity that He came unto death over it. “So far from His sadness being caused by death, it was removed by it.”
Concerning the words, “Let this cup pass from Me,” St Hilary says,
For this prayer is immediately followed by the words, ‘and He came to His disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter; could you not watch one hour with Me?...the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh Is weak....' Is the cause of this sadness and this prayer any longer in doubt?...it is not, therefore, for Himself that He is sorrowful and prays, but for those whom He exhorts.
The saint points out that Christ had no need to fear His passion and death, but that even those who were committed to Him would so fear it that at first, on account of it, they would flee and fear to confess Him, and that Christ was sorrowful over this. The whole passage is well worth reading. (See On the Trinity, Book 10:30—40).
Both St Cyril and St Ambrose directly confirm Metropolitan Antony's interpretation of the cause and significance of Christ's agony in Gethsemane, and the “cup” which He asked to have removed from Him.
I want to repeat some things that I have said before because of some current political circumstances both in secular politics and within the Church: True morality consists far more in how well we care for others than in the external behaviour we demand of others. This why moralism is truly immoral and, moreover, moralism is the last refuge of the pervert.
What is true cannot be a heresy and what is false cannot be sound doctrine. We must stop telling lies as if we were doing so to defend doctrine. We cannot demand of educated people that they must choose between God and truth, but that they cannot have both. Nevertheless, this is being done, and it is not only immoral, but it is feeding atheism far more than any militant atheist could ever hope to.
Fear cannot produce sincere repentance, but only trigger a survival instinct which produces a false formula of repentance. Such repentance is not about being sorry for sins, but about regretting that you cannot get away with them. Only love can produce a true, heartfelt repentance.
Moral outrage is a form of public confession; we hate most in others what we fear most in ourselves.
Orthodoxy of the mind is merely an intellectual exercise. Until one attains to Orthodoxy of the heart, one is still an alien to the faith. This is why the prayer of the heart directs us to bring the mind into the heart.
With some sort of power, you can brutalise and bully people into what you consider correct external behaviour according to one or another "moral code," but like the law of the Old Testament, this cannot save anyone, it cannot serve for the transformation of the inner person.
Hypocrisy is among the greatest acts of immorality and sin. It is 100 times worse when the hypocrite is a hierarch or priest. It not only destroys the soul of the hypocrite but forms a stumbling block to others who seeking to follow Christ.
If one were to carefully study the several ways in which Christ Himself turned much of the Old Testament on its head, one might end up being very surprised.
The woman taken in adultery was forgiven, not stoned. The Sabbath was not kept in order to demonstrate that the “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." He exalted and healed those who were not Jews, but "sinners" from among the nations. The Old Testament forbids the deformed, maimed and unclean to enter the temple; Christ fellowshipped with them and healed them. The Prophets rebuked the wealthy and Israel in general for ignoring the plight of the poor, the widow and the orphan; Christ made caring for them a prerequisite for entering the heavenly kingdom. Even the kosher food laws were overturned when the scroll was unrolled before Peter on the rooftop.
Perhaps, then, Christians should be wary of trying to reinstitute even elements of the Old Testament Law. Christ said that no point of the Law would pass away until all things were fulfilled (Matt. 5:17-18), although He had already overturned major elements of it.
But when He proclaimed "It is Finished," all things were fulfilled and, as our beloved father Paul tells us, the Law was abolished (Eph. 2:14-15). Moreover, "if there be established a new priesthood, there is of necessity a New Covenant" (Heb. 7:12). And if a new covenant, then what "Law"? For, “in that he says, `A new covenant,’ he has made the first old. Now that which decays and grows old is ready to vanish away” (Heb. 8:13).
If the Law is replaced by Grace (the law could neither sanctify nor perfect, nor could it transform the inner person, nor could it save anyone), and by a new law of Love, then why should any dog return to its own vomit when a banquet of love and grace has been set before it?
If we seek to reinstitute the law of the Old Covenant, then by that do we not renounce the New Covenant, and with it the High Priest by Whom it is established in His own precious blood? Should those who wish now to reinstitute even one jot or tittle of the Old Law, thus re-establishing the Covenant that has passed away, not rather tremble and repent for having renounced the blood of Christ which established a New Covenant and a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek, abolishing the priesthood after the order of Aaron? Can one embrace one jot or tittle of that Law without renouncing the Grace which replaced it?
This year, now drawing to an end, must surely remind of us of the horrors mankind can visit upon humanity. The disasters we create are worse than the natural disasters that we often fear more. As we carry the tragedies of this year forward into the new year with unresolved wars, incalculable suffering both of refugees and of those unable to flee from the strife and brutality of war zones, it might be well to consider how much of the horror arises from sectarianism and other forms of tribalism.
While some would like to deny the degree to which the suffering, genocides and savage slaughters are so often religion-based, this reality is ultimately undeniable. Religion which has lost its way and its bases degrades into a system of primitive tribalism and political ideologies. It is tragic that, with all the sectarian and religious-based horror in our world, so many concern themselves with questions of much less significance and with a form of unrealistic, narrow-minded and often brutal moralisms, the meaning of which vanish in the face of the greater tragedies of mankind. Yet, our tribalism leads us to focus on the less significant, the desire to force others to believe and act as our branch of our religion thinks proper, while offering no deeper consideration to the actual, profound tragedies that religious fundamentalism daily creates around the world.
Mark Bowden, in his endorsement of Cullen Murphy's God’s Jury, invites our attention to the fact that "we need to be constantly reminded that the most dangerous people in the world are the righteous, and when they wield real power" we see the real pathology of the "righteous."
It is not only the ISIL righteous destruction of some of the world’s greatest and most valuable cultural artifacts because they are pagan – the Puritans in Britain did the very same thing, only they destroyed Christian artifacts, not pagan ones. Barely a week ago, some righteous Orthodox Christians in Russia also decided to destroy some artifacts which they considered "incompatible with Christianity."
One is reminded of the reply of the Caliph to the entreaties of John Philoponus to spare the great library in Alexandria: "If the books substantiate the Koran, they are unnecessary and must be destroyed. If they do not substantiate the Koran they are worthless and must be destroyed." The torture chambers of the Inquisitions, which devised new ways to make burning at the stake infinitely more painful, and more long lasting, than had ever previously been known, was commanded and operated by the righteous. Oh, not that the priests or bishops did any of the "hands on" torturing, no that would have soiled their hands (in addition to their souls), and the twisted, pathological mind of these righteous-ones cleared its conscience by having lay people carry out the actual performance of the evil.
Like it or not, racism is voluminous, virulent and violent in America today. Not only that, but America is rapidly descending into a harsh police state in which police forces are equipped, not as normal policing agencies, but as full armed militias. Recalling that, in Communist Yugoslavia and Romania, the police were called "militsia," and armed as military rather than police, this should be chilling to Americans as they face another election.
I did not hear this matter raised at all in the Republican candidates debate, and likely one should not have expected in on FOX Broadcasting (it is a travesty to refer to them as "news"), because FOX is comfortable with the idea of a police state. They constantly "justify" the brutal racism in which the militsia/police gun down unarmed black boys and humiliate and degrade black people on a regular basis.
It was not so many years ago that white Christians in the South would hang an innocent black man just for sport or to "keep niggers in their place." Those of us old enough to remember this so well can, perhaps, see more clearly what is going on in America today. Right wing howling about the accusation will not save a single African-American life or protect a black university professor from being treated like a suspected criminal under the most mundane of circumstances.
Will any of the present candidates address the problem? Will anyone in the Orthodox Church address the problem? Not likely. Far too many of us are concerned with depriving others of rights, not defending those who rights have been trampled upon.
Add to these horrors, widespread gerrymandering, redistricting of election districts to break up large black American voting districts into separate smaller ones grafted onto larger white and more distant ones to make black districts smaller, more difficult to travel to for voting. Also some states, not only in the south but even in PA and the midwest, have done this and have closed polling stations on Sundays and greatly limited the hours they are open on work days. In the south, the black churches traditionally bus their people after services to the distant polling stations. Now this new tactic by white republican governors has made voting impossible for many elderly and poor blacks. Many of these states even require IDs of elderly rural blacks in order to vote now, these are old folks who have no form of ID, not even a birth certificate, photo credit cards, bank counts. etc.
The Voting Act of 1965 (by Pres. Lyndon Johnson) secured voting rights for blacks by federal law. Now the Law is trampled upon and virtually ignored by white so-called Christians.
I don't believe anyone in the Orthodox Church will address this problem, even though the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus is Greek Orthodox (of Greek and German descent).
Re: the Republican Debate on Fox -- it got worse when most of the candidates began confessing their Christian faith and devotion. To his credit, however, at least Trump refrained from this ultimate hypocrisy.
I have suggested before that we are in the midst of a second "great axial period".  Like the first "axial period,"  the processes and influences of the second axial period in which we find ourselves, can lead closer to, not further from, God. This will happen, however, only if we overcome fundamentalism and extreme right wing religion.
Ron Dart is, arguably, the most significant Red Tory thinker of our epoch. He is certainly the most prolific. Dart follows a path trodden by such notable Canadian political philosophers as Stephen Leacock and George Grant. Attached are two reviews on his work on George Grant, Lament for a Nation: Then and Now.
God is good, without passions and unchangeable. One who understands that it is sound and true to affirm that God does not change might very well ask: how, then, is it possible to speak of God as rejoicing over those who are good, becoming merciful to those who know Him and, on the other hand, shunning the wicked and being angry with sinners.
We must reply to this, that God neither rejoices nor grows angry, because to rejoice and to be angered are passions. Nor is God won over by gifts from those who know Him, for that would mean that He is moved by pleasure. It is not possible for the Godhead to have the sensation of pleasure or displeasure from the condition of humans, God is good, and He bestows only blessings, and never causes harm, but remains always the same.
If we humans, however, remain good by means of resembling Him, we are united to Him, but if we become evil by losing our resemblance to God, we are separated from Him. By living in a holy manner, we unite ourselves to God; by becoming evil, however, we become at enmity with Him. It is not that He arbitrarily becomes angry with us, but that our sins prevent God from shining within us, and expose us to the demons who make us suffer.
If through prayer and acts of compassionate love, we gain freedom from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him change, but rather that by means of our actions and turning to God, we have been healed of our wickedness, and returned to the enjoyment of God’s goodness. To say that God turns away from the sinful is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind (St Anthony the Great, Cap. 150).
Vladika, might I say it this way: Impassibility can be hard to grasp if we think it means God cannot feel and therefore cannot not love. Rather, God IS love. His immutability and impassibility ensures that he cannot be constrained by externals to be other than love.
The impassibility of God means precisely that He is love and, being God, does not change from love to any passion or emotion, but His only sense or feeling is love. It is tricky to avoid saying His only emotion is love, because emotion is a purely human concept and cannot apply to the Divine. He IS love and does not become what He is not nor experience feelings and emotions that are contrary to His Being.
I would express it this way: Christ is an expression of His co-suffering love, for which the Word became what He was not in that He became human, but at the same time He did not become something contrary to His being, because Christ is the express image of God's love for humanity.
In God's divine impassibility, I take it that he could only suffer 'in the flesh' through the Incarnation. That is, God seems to enter a state of passibility [only] by assuming a human nature and [only] in his human nature. But there I have taken a step from 'in the flesh' to 'in his human nature,' because even now, Christ continues to be the eternal God-man (fully human and fully divine) -- continues somehow to identify with a glorified, incorruptible, but nevertheless human body (yes? no?). So the question is whether an incorruptible, divinized human Christ is passible or impassible. That is, since Christ remains fully human even now, does he continue to be able to co-suffer with us, or has passibility been expunged even from his humanity?
If God is compassionate (lit. co-suffering), is there a sense in which it is Orthodox to affirm co-suffering (even prior to the Incarnation) in God's nature (I'm thinking of Psalm 102(103), etc. What are the bounds of a revelation of compassion alongside a doctrine of impassibility?
One really needs to understand ‘impassibility’ as being ‘unconstrained’ - we cannot force God to do something, he cannot be moved (from without), but he is certainly capable of moving (whatever that might mean for divinity): “he so loved his world that …”
And our guarantee that this is indeed so is in fact Christ, about whom Moses is already speaking.