PASCHA

by Metropolitan George (Khodr) of Mount Lebanon

 

In the beginnings of the 2nd century, a Church debate emerged concerning the day of the feast. Was it fit to celebrate Pascha on Sunday — as Rome and Alexandria wanted — or was it to be celebrated on Great and Holy Friday as Asia Minor (who was devoted to the theology of St John) wished, because the glory of the Son of Man was fulfilled after He was hung on a Tree?

The debate was settled in favour of Rome. Still, the Divine inspiration teaches that the Master, in the fullness of His love, crossed directly to the Father from the Cross. With Him, all the tormented of the earth, cross this journey until "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." [Rev 7:17]

The major question remains — if Christianity is not "romantic" as, for long, accused by the Jews — what did the coming of Jesus of Nazareth really change? Did wars cease or did sinners repent? — And consequently, why don't we adhere to the Law of Moses: saying the truth and fulfilling the Torah as much as we could afford, until the coming of the awaited Messiah at the end of times to establish mercy and justice? For the Jews, Christ is postponed, because they don't see peace on earth.

No doubt, numberless books and countless articles were published and thousands of sermons were given in an attempt to describe the grandness of Christ and what He introduced to this world. It is not my intention to preach you an apology about the mission of the Nazarene, the beauty of what He preached and what He was. Certainly, I don't believe that righteousness is strictly limited to those who followed this faith only, but that God has His chosen ones everywhere. Also, I don't mean to raise a supposing question about the fate of humanity if Jesus did not appear. I guess that every truthful scholar has the necessary elements for an answer to such a question. Everyone knows the incredible power of martyrdom and the density of sainthood that Christianity brought and continues to give forth. Our debate with the Jews starts with the fact that this Man, having fulfilled all the old prophecies, and attaining the fullness of truth and purity — which were never combined in a human being before Him — He declared Himself the Christ. If we believe in Him, then we can understand what Paul said about Him: "when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman." [Gal 4:4] In my interpretation of this verse I read: When Jesus of Nazareth arrived, the fullness of time had come. Jesus attracted to Himself all the times [ages] and healed all the horrid actions that were committed in it — in an equivalent magnitude, to that of the humanity's response, to the message of the Gospel.

From this perspective, the Messiah is a power that we activate in our times, because he doesn't invade by force. A power or a hope, an assured hope in that the Master did conquer death and sin — in such a manner that if you are His own — then you too, are a conqueror of both death and sin in yourself. The misery of evil will remain, but you will overcome it if you tried to become a Christ after His image — to become a Christ through Him and a Christ in Him.

To become the witness of a specific period in the history of humanity where sin will vanish — is a longing, and longing is hardly possible without freedom.

The real question is: Will the Kingdom of God be manifested in the limits of this time, in a way that all humans will be purified and live, not only in a political peace, but in the peace of the hearts — or as "the kingdom of God is within you", according to St Luke, and that the Kingdom is strictly a movement that manifests itself, whereas some of us will be on-time for the meeting and others will not make it?

If we knew that heaven is not a location, for God cannot be contained. And if heaven is never a constant state of final purity but a moving state — then we can confirm that Christ did come only once and became your heaven — or that He established His heaven in you. Therefor, the Judgement did come to the world and is happening in you, according to the theology of St John. This is not a reflection about the temporality of the General Resurrection and Last Judgement. But this is a confirmation that, the most important and the completeness of what past to come, is in Christ and that the last-times were all fulfilled in Him. This also means that all what is about to come, in time and space, surpasses all imagination. The uppermost important beyond any imagination is that Christ — in His Second Coming — will not be any different from what He was, He will not give you more than what He already did. The greatest is that everything was revealed in Him and that salvation was fulfilled in Him. Talking about the Second Coming of the Master, and what will follow as to our resuscitation, for me is neither any further, nor deeper, and no better of what came to pass when "the Word became flesh and set up His adobe among us" (and dwelt among us) according to the current translations.

The Divine incarnation is the beginning of the salvation plan. In the past, God used to send His words through the prophets. The structure of the prophecy is similar to the structure of the incarnation, because the words of God are a part of Him and consequently, His words are Himself — but clothed in a human cultural-language. This time God is talking through His Son. In other words, God Himself comes to us without a process, without a tool, and without a mediator. What really changed is that God used to be "with" the people. But now He became "in" the people. "I will take you as My people, and I will be your God."[Exo 6:7] — such was the relationship: the association of God with the people was through recognition and visitation. The relationship was the unanimity — in a way that we believe that God is with the people. In Christianity the association "with", which pointed to the divine accompanying of the man is no longer sufficient. God now becomes "in" the man, without a "where", limitless in time and space, starting from His incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth.

Why is it this way? Simply God saw it fit to be so. As expressed in the epistle to the Hebrews: "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (2:14-15). The Word's incarnation in order to become a Christ — is a phenomenon of divine love that brings salvation in itself — and reveals that the nature of God is Love. Death was the result of love. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

There is no way left for a "theology of blood" as a necessity for the remission of sins or as a contentment for the divine justice. Of course, there are many expressions used in the New Testament, which were borrowed from the Old Testament and which compare the Christ to a sacrifice, but this has nothing to do with the animal sacrifices that the Jews and Gentiles use to offer. In the death of Christ there is no "sweet aroma" offered for a god. Christ volunteered His death as an offering of love, in order that His Divine Life may descend to the context of death and destroy it. His blood remits the sins — or His complete love eliminates the existence of evil in us and enables us to receive the life of God Himself within us. Death was essential for Christ to manifest and reveal His fullness of love.

What really happened is that Christ — in His death — trampled down death and consequently trampled down our fear of death, that same fear which made us sin. Life is poured in us and we live because we inherited the fullness of life in Christ; in Him we are able to cross to God, to His Father — or in other terms — we are able to celebrate the Passover.

All this was fulfilled on a hill in the countryside of Jerusalem once and forever.

He, who lovingly died, who is absolutely pure and free from any trace of sin, was impossible for Him to be held in corruption and He Resurrected. The Resurrection, which set Christ free from death, did reveal Him a redeemer — a liberator. The matter of redemption is, in no way, similar to the understanding according to the penal law. Love has no law. The newness in this matter is that we have received our freedom and entered in the son-hood of God. We entered in the heart of God after that God became our heart. The heart crosses to God and God to the heart.

This is what Christianity is about.

Published Saturday April 10, 1999in the © An-Nahar, Lebanese news paper (http://www.annahar.com.lb/htd/pdfed2.html) — Translated from Arabic

PUBLICATIONS BY ORI

Keep up with the latest news and stay in touch with ORI