Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Crucifixion

Below are excerpts from a Sermon On Holy Thursday Night by Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver.

The purpose of this service is to bring us as close to "being there" on Calvary as possible. With the centurion and his soldiers we are amazed. With the Angels we are astounded. With Mary His Mother and His other relatives we are heartbroken. Perhaps with the leaders of the people we are skeptical and maybe even mock the Lord by our hardness of heart and our sinful ways.

The focus of the service is, obviously, on death — an unnatural condition for mankind, for God created man but did not create death. 

We read in the Old Testament Wisdom of Solomon:

"God did not make death, and He does not delight in the death of the living, for He created all things that they might exist ... But through the devil's envy death entered the world." (Wisdom 1:13-14, 2:24)
Old Testament Wisdom of Solomon:

"God created man for incorruption and made him in the image of His own eternity ... But ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death." (Wisdom 2:23, 1:16)
The truth is that death is unnatural, indeed it is an abomination of God's creation. It is a consequence of our alienation from God, it results from falling short of the Glory of God, it is the ultimate failure to choose God Who is Life.

Saint Paul states in his Epistle to the Romans:

"It was through one man (Adam) that sin entered the world and through sin death, and thus death pervaded the whole human race." (Romans 5:12)
By embracing death Jesus destroyed death. By embracing death Jesus joined death to Himself the Living One. By embracing death Jesus poured divine Life into death. Jesus destroyed death itself by His own death on the Cross.

Jesus Christ, the God-man, experienced the full horror of death. His cry,
"My God, My God, why have You forsaken me" clearly expresses that death is a bad thing; those who live in a culture of death and nihilism do not know what they are doing n or what abomination and horror they are heaping upon themselves.

Yet, Jesus "perfected" death. His last word was "Tetelestai," in Latin "Perficium est;" in English, "It is finished." In other words, Jesus fulfilled and perfected His redemptive mission, accepting the full consequences of human sin, death itself, though He Himself was sinless.

The death of a man is radical "unfulfillment." It is the end of earthly life, and the disintegration (or bodily decomposition) of the image and likeness of God in which we are all fashioned. Paradoxically, the death of Jesus Christ is radical "fulfillment." In Christ death was joined to life, and the possibility of recomposition and resurrection to the image of God became a real possibility.
In the Old Testament Job asked: "If a man dies, shall he live again?" (Job 14:14). The answer is a resounding Yes! Jesus stood by two dead bodies — the daughter of Jairus and the son of the widow in Nain — and restored them to life. Jesus also stood before the tomb of Lazarus who had been dead four days, recomposed his soul and body, and resurrected him. Jesus was crucified on the Cross, raised up from the earth, embraced death, and destroyed death by His rising on the third day.

"If a man dies, shall he live again?" In Christ Jesus: ABSOLUTELY!

What does this mean for the human race? Even if physical sickness, aging, and death still appear to reign on earth, they are no longer the final stage in a long disintegrating and destructive process. Death is not a passage from life in this world to eternal death or annihilation. After Christ death is merely the indispensable doorway, the sure sign of our "Pascha" — of our passing from this life to eternal life.

We celebrate tonight that fact Christ has joined Himself to death: We have heard it in the Gospels, we have seen it in the procession, we have embraced it in faith, and we cry out:

Today is hung upon the Tree, He Who suspended the earth in the midst of the waters. A crown of thorns crowns Him, Who is King of the angels. The purple of mockery is wrapped about Him, Who wrapped the heavens in clouds. Nails transfixed Him, Who is the Bridegroom of the Church. A spear pierced Him, Who is the Son of the Virgin. (Audio) 
Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver  Ref

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