This is a spiritual song
not meant to be sung at liturgy. Rather, it’s something that people sing
outside of church. Therefore, it isn’t bound by the canons forbidding the
use of musical instruments. The words for this song are from a poem by the 20th
century confessor, St Nikolaj Velimirović. He suffered for Christ’s sake
in the Nazi concentration camp in Dachau, and lived the last ten years of his
life in St Tikhon Monastery in South Canaan PA, where he was an inspiration to
all the students at the seminary there. The music is played by the Serbian
folk band Stupovi and it is sung by various Serbian singers and celebrities.
People rejoice, all nations listen:
Christ is Risen!Let us rejoice!
Dance all ye stars and sing all ye
Christ is risen!Let us rejoice!
Whisper ye woods and blow all ye winds:
Christ is risen! Let us rejoice!
O seas proclaim and roar all ye beasts:
Christ is risen! Let us rejoice!
Buzz all ye bees and sing all ye birds:
Christ is risen! Let us rejoice!
O little lambs rejoice and be merry:
Christ is risen! Let us rejoice!
Nightingales joyous, lending your song:
Christ is risen! Let us rejoice!
Ring, O ye bells, let everyone hear:
Christ is risen! Let us rejoice!
All angels join us, singing this song:
Christ is risen! Let us rejoice!
Come down ye heavens, draw near the earth:
Christ is risen! Let us rejoice!
Glory to Thee, God Almighty!
Christ is risen! Let us rejoice!
Glory to Thee, God Almighty!
Christ is risen! Let us rejoice!
This may yet be one of the most unrecognized/unknown recurring Christian
miracles in the world.If you are not
familiar with the miracle of the Holy Fire which occurs every year in the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, learn about it here:
A talk delivered by Hieromonk Damascene (Christensen) at the
Annual Lenten Clergy Confession of the New Gracanica Metropolitanate and the
Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Jackson, California,
March 4/17, 2004.
The topic of today’s talk—what
Christ accomplished on the Cross—is of course a prime subject of contemplation
during the Lenten season, as we prepare to prayerfully commemorate Christ’s
passion, death, and the inevitable consequence of His death: His holy
Resurrection. As we call to mind and repent of our sins during the Holy Fast,
we also call to mind that which has saved us from the eternal consequences of
sin. We call to mind Christ’s life-creating death on the Cross, which He
underwent for the salvation of each one of us.
The Orthodox dogma of our
redemption—which includes the doctrines concerning Christ’s incarnation, death
and Resurrection—is the chief dogma of our Faith, together with the dogma of
the Holy Trinity. I have been especially contemplating and reading Patristic
writings on this subject for a few years now. It is a vast subject. In this
lecture I will try to outline its main points in a linear and chronological
fashion. I will speak about the state of man before the Fall and after the
Fall, and then speak about how Christ saved us from the consequences of the
Fall through His incarnation, death and Resurrection. Finally, I will summarize
all the present and future accomplishments of Christ’s redemptive work.
1. The Primordial State
Let us begin by discussing the
state of man and the world before the Fall. A right understanding of this
pre-Fall state is actually essential to a right understanding of the meaning of
Christ’s death on the Cross. We have to understand what Adam fell from in order to understand
what Christ restores us to.
According to the Patristic
interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, before the Fall man’s body was not
subject to death and corruption. He was made potentially immortal, that is, if
he had not sinned he could have lived forever in an incorrupt body, partaking
of the Tree of Life in the Garden. Before the Fall, man knew no pain, no
sickness. He was not subject to old age. He was not subject to the elements; he
could not be physically hurt. He knew no decay. His body, while still material
and sensual, was more spiritual than the body we inhabit now. It was not
grossly material, like the body we now have. 
At his creation from the dust of
the ground, man was created in Grace. The Holy Fathers (such as St. John
Damascene) say that Adam’s body and soul were created at the same time, and
that when God breathed a living soul into him, He breathed also into him the
Grace of the Holy Spirit.  Before the Fall, the first man and the first
woman had the Holy Spirit abiding within them.
The first man was not deified at
the time of his creation, but he was created for
deification, for union with God.  By drawing ever closer to God in love, by
seeking spiritual pleasure in God rather than physical pleasure through His
senses, man was to become ever more holy and spiritual, ever more in the
likeness of God, ever more transformed and deified by the Grace of God. Since
God is limitless and unfathomable, the path of union with God was never to end.
Man was created a little lower
than the angels (Ps. 8:5, Heb. 2:7), but he eventually was to
become higher than the angels, higher even than the highest ranks of the
angels: “more honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than
Moreover, as man became more
spiritual and divinized by drawing closer to God, he was to make all of
creation more spiritual and divinized as well, drawing everything closer to God.
Many Holy Fathers—such as St. Macarius the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St.
Gregory of Sinai and St. Maximos the Confessor—teach that the entire creation
was incorrupt before the Fall just as man was incorrupt: for the entire
creation had been made for man.  St. Symeon the New Theologian states
explicitly that not only Paradise was incorrupt before the Fall: everything,
the whole creation, was without death and corruption.  Because he possessed
both body and soul, man was the link between this incorrupt material world and
the noetic world of the angels. As such, he was to unite the material world
with the noetic world through his own ascent to God. 
2. The Consequences of the Fall
Such was the lofty original
state of man and the creation, and such was man’s lofty original calling. But
as we all know and experience every day, the first man, Adam, fell from this
state and brought himself and all of creation into a state of corruption and
The whole story of the Fall and
why it occurred lies outside the scope of this lecture. What concerns us here,
as we contemplate the theology of redemption, is the consequences of the Fall.
Just as we must understand what we fell from
in order to understand what Christ restores us to, so also we must understand what we fell into in order to understand
what Christ delivers us out of.
To put it another way: through
His death on the Cross and through His Resurrection, Christ gives us life. In
order to understand what it means to be given life, we must understand the
death into which we have been born.
As you will recall, in the book
of Genesis God told Adam: Of
the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat: for in the day
that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Gen. 2:17). Now, we
know that Adam did not die on the day he ate from the tree: according to the
Scriptures he lived to be 930 years old. But according to St. Gregory Palamas
and other Fathers, God’s words were true: Adam did die on the day he ate the fruit. He died spiritually. He lost the
Divine Grace in which he had been created.  He no longer had the Holy Spirit
abiding within him. Because his nature had become corrupted, deifying Grace was
now foreign to it. Before, God Himself abode within him through His Uncreated
Energy. Now man became empty, devoid of Grace. He was separated from God. And,
according to St. Gregory Palamas, this spiritual
death made Adam subject to physical
death, which in his case occurred after 930 years. 
At the Fall, man’s nature was
changed. He still had the image of God in him, but now he had become corrupted.
His spiritual corruption made his body more grossly material, subject to
physical corruption or decay after death. Also, his spiritual corruption made
his soul unable to partake of eternal union with God after death. Paradise had
been barred to Adam during his earthly life, and both Paradise and heaven
remained barred to him after death. After their death, Adam, Eve, and all their
posterity went down into hades: a place of waiting, of separation from God. 
Also, at the Fall, all of
creation fell into corruption along with man: decay and death were introduced
into the creation. In Romans 5:12 St. Paul says that By one man sin entered the world, and
death by sin, and a little later, in Romans 8:20-21, he says that
the creation entered into corruption because of man’s sin.
We are all the inheritors of the
death and corruption that entered into man’s nature at the Fall. St. Gregory
Palamas says that, through Adam’s one spiritual death, both spiritual and
physical death were passed onto all men.  This is because human nature is
one: we are all of the family of Adam.
Orthodoxy does not accept the
idea that we are guilty of Adam’s sin. No, Adam alone was guilty of his sin.
However, we do share the consequences
of his sin. We are born into corruption, and with an inherited tendency or
inclination toward sin. All of us sin, and so we deserve the consequences of
sin: spiritual and physical death, and eternal separation from God in hades.
Between the time of Adam’s fall
and the coming of Christ, there were many righteous men and women, whom we read
about in the Old Testament. But they, even through their godly lives, were
unable to reverse the consequences of the Fall. Grace could act on them from
the outside, as it did on the Prophet Moses, so much so that he had to cover his
radiant face as he descended from Mount Sinai. However, this was only a
temporary radiance, as the Holy Scriptures and Fathers say.  He and all the
Old Testament prophets did not have the Grace of the Holy Spirit abiding within
them, as their personal strength and power.  And after death, everyone,
even the most righteous, went down into hades, being cut off from Paradise and
During the Old Testament period,
God gave laws to the Hebrews to help them live righteous lives. He instituted animal
sacrifices, which the Hebrews were to make as offerings for sin. These
sacrifices were a prefiguration of Christ’s sacrifice, to prepare the people of
God to understand and accept the meaning of Christ’s death on the Cross. But
neither the sacrifices nor the laws were able to restore mankind to the state
he had lost at the Fall.
A perfect, blameless sacrifice
was needed—a man who was without sin—in order to destroy the consequences of
sin. That was why Christ came. The first Adam fell from his original
designation, bringing everything into ruin. Therefore Christ, Who is called the
Second Adam or the New Adam, came into the world to fulfill man’s original
designation and restore what was lost. But Christ did even more than that. He
not only restored man to what Adam was
before the Fall: He gave man the possibility to become that which Adam was supposed to become,
what Adam could
have become had he not fallen.
3. The Means of Redemption
Now, having looked at the
pre-Fall state and the consequences of the Fall, let us look more closely at how Christ restores man to
the pre-Fall state and in fact beyond and above this state.
The how of the redemption, like the nature of God
the Holy Trinity, is ultimately a mystery. And yet the Holy Scriptures and the
Holy Fathers help us to approach this mystery. They enable us to understand and
believe in our redemption by Jesus Christ in such a way that, believing, we can
receive the gift of salvation.
Our redemption by Jesus Christ
began with His incarnation. When He took flesh, He became like us in everything
except sin (cf. Heb. 4:15). In assuming human nature, He deified it. Since
human nature is one, this gave us the potential of being deified as well: not
deified by nature and Sonship, as Christ was, but deified by Grace and
But with Christ’s incarnation,
man was still not able to actualize
the potential for deification. Because of his spiritual corruption, man was an
impure vessel. Because of the barrier of sin, man could not receive and keep
the Grace of the Holy Spirit within himself. So Christ, having overcome the
barrier of nature at His incarnation, now had to break down the barrier of sin.
He would do this through his death. As St. Nicholas Cabasilas says, Christ
broke down the three barriers that separated man from God: the barrier of
nature by His incarnation, the barrier of sin by His death, and the barrier of
death by His Resurrection. 
As God, Christ knew He had come
to earth to die for man, and in dying to rise from the grave. On the day before
His crucifixion, He said: Now
is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour. But
for this cause came I unto this hour (John 12:27).
Remember the statement of St.
Gregory Palamas which I mentioned earlier: Through his single spiritual death
(at the Fall), Adam brought a twofold death into the world—spiritual death and
bodily death. St. Gregory goes on to say, “The good Lord healed this twofold
death of ours through His single bodily death, and through the one Resurrection
of His body He gave us a twofold resurrection. By means of His bodily death He
destroyed him who had the power over our souls and bodies in death, and rescued
us from his tyranny over both.” 
This, again, is because human
nature is one. St. Paul writes: If
by one man’s offence death reigned by one [that is, Adam], much more they which receive abundance of
Grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign by one, Jesus Christ
Following the words of Christ
and St. Paul in the Scriptures, the Holy Fathers use a juridical or legal model
to explain how Christ broke down the barrier of sin separating man from God.
The juridical explanation can be
expressed in basic terms as follows: At the Fall, death was the sentence for
sin. When He died on the Cross, Christ took upon Himself that sentence, but
since He was without sin and thus undeserving of the sentence, the sentence was
abolished for all mankind, and mankind was freed from the consequences of the
The word “redemption,” of
course, comes from this juridical explanation. As Vladimir Lossky points out:
“The very idea of redemption assumes a plainly legal aspect: it is the
atonement of a slave, the debt paid for those who remained in prison because
they could not discharge it.  By His death Christ ransomed man out of servitude
to sin, and redeemed
man from the eternal consequences of sin which had been incurred at the Fall.
Christ Himself spoke of this. He said of Himself: The Son of Man came ... to give His life as a ransom for
many (Matt. 20:28). In the Epistle to the Hebrews we read: Christ is the mediator of the new testament,
that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were
under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of
eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15). And in the book of Apocalypse: Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to
God by Thy Blood (Apoc. 5:9).
Christ paid the debt of sin that
man himself could never pay. The Apostle John writes in his first Epistle: He [Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not
for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (I John
2:2). And the Apostle Paul tells us: Ye
are bought with a price (I Cor. 6:20, 7:23). St. Paul even says
that Christ was made to be sin
for us and made a
curse for us (II Cor. 5:21, Gal. 3:13). Being totally without sin,
He bore the penalty of sin on our behalf, so that we would be forgiven and
purified of sin and freed from its curse. St. Gregory Palamas says: “Since
Christ gave His Blood, which was sinless and therefore guiltless, as a ransom
for us who were liable to punishment because of our sins, He redeemed us from
our guilt. He forgave our sins, tore up the record of them on the Cross and
delivered us from the devil’s tyranny. 
Out of His infinite love for us,
Christ died in place
of us, so that we could be given life. St. Paul says: ... That He [Christ] by the Grace of God should taste death
for every man (Heb. 2:9); and elsewhere he says, God commendeth His own love toward us, in
that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). St.
Athanasius the Great explains this as follows: “Taking a body like our own,
because all our bodies were liable to corruption and death, He surrendered His
body to death in place
of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so
that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished.
Together with the juridical
model of explaining how we are redeemed by Christ’s death, the Holy Scriptures
and Holy Fathers use the model of sacrifice. As mentioned earlier, the Old
Testament sacrifices were a prefiguration, a “type” of the one true Sacrifice
that would be offered for the whole world: Christ, Who was sacrificed on the
Cross. In the first Epistle of St. Peter we hear Christ described as a spotless
sacrificial lamb: Ye were
redeemed with the precious Blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and
without spot, Who was foreordained before the foundation of the world
(I Peter 1:19-20). And in the Epistle to the Hebrews we read: Now once at the end of the world Christ
hath appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Heb.
Many of the Holy Fathers wrote
on this theme of Christ as sacrifice. Origen (who is not a Holy Father) and,
following him, St. Gregory of Nyssa, posited that the sacrifice was offered to
the devil. But St. Gregory the Theologian and all the Fathers after him
rejected this idea. They often spoke of the sacrifice as being offered to God
the Father, and sometimes they spoke of it as being offered to the Holy
Trinity, since the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are One God. St. Symeon the
New Theologian writes: “God, Who is incomparably higher than the visible and
invisible creation, accepted human nature, which is higher than the whole
visible creation, and offered it as a sacrifice to His God and Father....
Honoring the sacrifice, the Father could not leave it in the hands of death.
Therefore, He annihilated His sentence. 
Why did the Son have to offer
Himself in sacrifice to the Father? Why did God sacrifice Himself to God? Here
we get at the crux of the mystery of Redemption. St. Gregory the Theologian
urges us not to try to conform this mystery to human logic, not apply to it
human conceptions that are unworthy of God. He says: “The Father accepts the
sacrifice not because He
demanded it or felt any need of it, but on account of economy,”
 that is, to fulfill the Divine plan of our salvation in accordance with
the Divine ordering of creation.
St. Gregory Palamas sheds more
light on this question. He says that God could have found other ways of saving
man from sin, mortality and servitude to the devil. But He saved man in the way
He did—by coming to earth, dying and resurrecting—because this was according to
justice and righteousness.  As the Psalmist says: God is righteous and loveth righteousness
... and there is no unrighteousness in Him (Ps. 11:7, 92:15). Death
was the just penalty for sin, and Christ paid that penalty. But because He was
sinless, His death was unjust. Therefore, He justly destroyed death. This was
God’s economy, completely in accordance with His righteousness.
The devil thought He could
destroy Christ by inciting people to put Him to death. But Christ’s death
proved to be the devil’s undoing because, unlike every other person who had
ever lived, Christ did not deserve death. St. John Chrysostom offers us a vivid
image to highlight this teaching: “It is as if, at a session of a court of
justice, the devil should be addressed as follows: ‘Granted that you destroyed
all men because you found them guilty of sin; but why did you destroy Christ?
Is it not very evident that you did so unjustly? Well then, through Him the
whole world will be vindicated.” 
Christ saved us in the way He
did not only to manifest His justice and righteousness, but also to manifest
His love. St. Isaac the Syrian writes: “God the Lord surrendered His own Son to
death on the Cross for the fervent love of creation. For God so loved the world that He gave
His only begotten Son to death for our sake (cf. John 3:16). This
was not, however, because He could not have redeemed us in another way, but so
that His surpassing love, manifested hereby, might be a teacher unto us. And by
the death of His only begotten Son He made us near to Himself. Yea, if He had
had anything more precious, He would have given it to us, so that by it our
race might be His own.” 
4. The Consequences of Christ’s
Now, having looked at how Christ
redeemed us through His death on the Cross, let us turn to the saving fruits of
Christ’s death. What does it mean for mankind to be ransomed from guilt, to be
forgiven of sins? It means, in the words of St. John Damascene, that “the road
back to the former blessedness [i.e., before the Fall] has been made smooth,
and the gates of Paradise opened.”  Through Christ’s death, we can be
forgiven and cleansed of sin so as to receive what we would otherwise not be
worthy of receiving: the Grace of the Holy Spirit within ourselves, as Adam had
it before the Fall. Moreover, we can go where we would not otherwise be worthy
to go: Paradise and heaven. The first to receive this gift was one who was
clearly unworthy, but who nevertheless believed in Christ and thus was redeemed
through His death. This was the repentant thief on the Cross, to whom Christ
said, Today you will be with Me
in Paradise (Luke 23:43).
The saving fruits of Christ’s
death were made available not only to those who lived after Him, but also to
those who lived before Him; for during His three-day burial Jesus Christ
harrowed hell and brought to Paradise those righteous ones who had lain in
hades throughout the ages. “Christ’s death,” writes St. Symeon the New Theologian,
“was an indispensable sacrifice also for the pious ones who died before His
coming in the flesh.” 
At His death, Christ broke down
the barrier of sin. But there was one barrier left: death itself. This Christ
broke down at His Resurrection. As
in Adam all die, writes St. Paul, so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man
according to his order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are
Christ’s at His coming (I Cor. 15:22-23). Through Christ’s
Resurrection, all mankind has been made subject to future resurrection:
physical, bodily resurrection. Those who receive Christ’s gift of salvation are
resurrected unto eternal life, as He says; while those who reject it are
resurrected unto damnation (cf. John 5:29). Once again, this is because human
nature is one. St. Paul affirms: For
since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead
(I Cor. 15:21).
Christ’s death and burial can
never be separated from His Resurrection. His Resurrection was an inevitable
consequence of His death, since, as it is said in the Divine Liturgy of St.
Basil, “it was not possible for the Author of Life to be a victim of
corruption.”  With Christ’s death and His Resurrection, all the consequences of the
Fall are overcome: both spiritual death (the loss of the Grace of God) and
physical death. What we sing in the Paschal hymn we mean quite literally:
“Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death.”
In Christ alone there is true
life. He offers us eternal life: first of all true spiritual life by having His
life-giving Grace abiding within us; secondly, eternal spiritual life in His
Heavenly Kingdom; and thirdly, eternal physical life in our resurrected bodies.
Let us look at these three in
order. First of all, what does it mean to receive
the life-giving Grace of the Holy Spirit through Christ’s redeeming death? St.
Symeon answers this with a remarkable statement—that it is like receiving a new
soul. He writes: “The souls of those who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of
God, in His great and fearful Sacrifice [on the Cross] are resurrected by God
in this present life; and a sign of this resurrection is the Grace of the Holy
Spirit which He gives to the soul of every Christian, as if giving a new soul.”
In the Gospels, especially the
Gospel of St. John, Christ makes several statements which reveal how His
followers would be able to receive the Grace of the Holy Spirit by means of His
death. In the temple Christ preached: He
that believeth on Me ... out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
After quoting these words of Christ, the Apostle John explains: But this spake He of the Spirit, which
they who believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given,
because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:38-39).
St. John Chrysostom, in his
commentary on this Gospel, explains further. When the Apostle John said Jesus was not yet glorified,
he meant that Jesus had not yet been crucified. Christ was glorified in His
sacrifice on the Cross, and through this He made man open to receive the Holy
Spirit in his soul, in his inward being, so that the Grace would flow out of
him like rivers of living water.
Later, in His last talk to His
disciples before His passion and death, Christ tells them: I will pray the Father and He will give
you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of
Truth (John 14:16).
According to St. John
Chrysostom, “Christ said this to show the time of the coming of the Spirit. For
when He had purified them by His sacrifice, then the Holy Spirit would descend
upon them. Yet why did He not come upon them while Jesus was still with them?
Because the Sacrifice had not yet been offered up [that is, Christ had not yet
died on the Cross]. But, when at length sin had been destroyed, and they
themselves were being sent into danger and were preparing for the contests, it
was necessary for the Comforter to come.” 
A little later Christ says to
His disciples in order to comfort them before His crucifixion and burial: It is expedient for you that I go away:
for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I
will send Him unto you (John 16:7).
“But why did He not come before
Christ had departed?” St. John Chrysostom asks rhetorically. “Because He could
not come, since the curse had not yet been lifted, sin had not yet been
forgiven, but all men were still subject to the penalty for it. ‘Therefore,’ He
said, ‘that enmity must be destroyed and you must be reconciled to God, and
then you will receive the gift.’” 
When Christ first appeared among
His Apostles after His death and Resurrection, His first act was to breathe
upon them and to say: Receive
ye the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). He could say and do this at that
point because He had purified them by His sacrifice on the Cross; He had loosed
them from sin. And then, after He had ascended to heaven and seated our human
nature on the right hand of the Father, Christ sent down the Holy Spirit on His
Apostles at Pentecost, as He had promised.
Since that time, those who have
been baptized in Christ’s Church have received the Grace of God within
themselves. We receive Christ’s gift of redemption and eternal life through His
Church, which is His Body. It is in the Church that Christ bestows on us the
saving fruits of His death and Resurrection. St. Symeon the New Theologian
explains this beautifully:
“One Person of the Holy Trinity,
namely the Son and Word of God, having become incarnate, offered Himself in the
flesh as a sacrifice to the Divinity of the Father, and of the Son Himself, and
of the Holy Spirit, in order that the first transgression of Adam might be
benevolently forgiven for the sake of this great and fearful work, that is, for
the sake of this sacrifice of Christ, and in order that by its power there
might be performed another new birth and re-creation of man in Holy Baptism, in
which we also are cleansed by water mingled with the Holy Spirit. From that
time people are baptized in water, are immersed in it and taken out from it
three times, in the image of the three-day burial of the Lord, and after they
die in it to this whole evil world, in the third bringing out from it they are
already alive, as if resurrected from the dead, that is, their souls are
brought to life and again receive the Grace of the Holy Spirit as Adam had it
before the transgression. Then they are anointed with Holy Myrrh, and by means
of it are anointed with Jesus Christ, and are fragrant in a way above nature.
Having become in this way worthy of being associates of God, they taste His
Flesh and drink His Blood, and by means of the sanctified bread and wine become
of one Body and Blood with God Who was incarnate and offered Himself as a
The aim of the Christian life,
says St. Seraphim of Sarov, is to acquire the Grace of the Holy Spirit.  We
receive the seed of that Grace within us at Baptism. And then, through our
sacramental life in the Church, through a life of prayer and virtue, practicing
the commandments of Christ, we are to cultivate and nurture this seed of inward
baptismal Grace so as to acquire a greater measure of Grace. In being ever more
filled with God’s Grace or Energy, we grow ever more in the likeness of Christ.
Then, after our death, Christ will recognize us as His own and will receive us
into His Kingdom.
At the beginning of this talk I
mentioned that Christians are given the potential of attaining to a state even
higher than Adam’s state before the Fall. Through Christ’s incarnation, death
and Resurrection, man can not only be restored to what Adam lost; now he can
attain to what Adam was meant to attain. Man can be filled with God’s Energy to
such an extent as to be deified
by Grace. Vladimir Lossky writes that “In breaking the tyranny of sin [through
His work of redemption], our Savior opens to us anew the way of deification,
which is the final end of man.” 
St. Symeon the New Theologian,
who experienced the Grace of deification, speaks of this as participation in
the life of God Himself. “He Himself is discovered within me,” writes St.
Symeon, “resplendent inside my wretched heart, enlightening me from all sides
with His immortal splendor, shining on all of my members with His rays.
Entirely intertwined with me, He embraces me entirely. He gives Himself totally
to me, the unworthy one, and I am filled with His love and beauty. I am sated
with pleasure and Divine tenderness. I share in the Light. I participate also
in the glory. My face shines like that of my Beloved and all my members become
bearers of the Light.” 
What St. Symeon describes, as
marvelous as it is, is only a foretaste of the future life in heaven that is
promised to Christ’s true followers. It is only the beginning of a progress
that will never end. “Indeed,” says St. Symeon, “over the ages the progress
will be endless, for a cessation of this growing toward the end without ending
would be nothing but a grasping at the ungraspable. The One on Whom no one can
be sated would then become an object of satiety. By contrast, to be filled with
Him and to be glorified in His Light will cause unfathomable progress.” 
Furthermore, the glory that now
exists among the saints and angels in heaven is only a foretaste of the glory
that will be revealed at the General Resurrection, when all the saving fruits of
Christ’s incarnation, death and Resurrection are to be fully revealed. Adam, it
will be remembered, was supposed to raise the first-created world closer to
God, to make it more spiritual through his own spiritual ascent to God. Adam
failed in his purpose, so the New Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, came to fulfill
it. His redemptive work was already accomplished with His death and
Resurrection. But the fruits of that work unfold over time. As Christians we
have already tasted some of those fruits, but we are to know them in their
fullness after the General Resurrection. For through Christ’s Resurrection, not
only will man be resurrected in a renewed, spiritual body: the entire creation
will be renewed and become spiritual. As the book of the Apocalypse says, there
will be a New Heaven and a New Earth (cf. Apoc. 21:1).
The Body of the resurrected
Christ was incomparably more spiritual than the incorrupt body of Adam before
the Fall. Christ’s resurrected, spiritual Body was like the spiritual body that
Adam was supposed
to attain by ascending to God in Paradise. Likewise, the New Heaven and the New
Earth will be incomparably more spiritual than the incorrupt creation before
the Fall. Through Christ the New Adam, the renewed creation will be what it would have been if the first
Adam had raised it to God.
In his Epistle to the Romans,
St. Paul writes of the future age of the renewed creation which will come into
being after the General Resurrection:
I reckon that the sufferings
of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be
revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waiteth for
the manifestation of the sons of God
[that is, us]. For the creation
was made subject to futility, not willingly, but because of him
[Adam] who subjected it
[to futility] in hope
[that is, in hope of the General Resurrection]. Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from
the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For
we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until
now. And not only the creation, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits
of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the
adoption, that is, the redemption of our body (Romans 8:18-23).
We can experience the redemption
of our souls even now. But what exactly will the redemption of our body
mean—that redemption which was made possible through Christ’s Resurrection? We
can find no better description of this than in the words of St. Symeon, who
undoubtedly beheld something of this future age in prophetic Divine vision. St.
“You should know likewise what
is to be the glory and the brightly shining state of the creation in the future
age. For when it will be renewed, it will not again be the same as it was when
it was created in the beginning. But it will be such as, according to the word
of the divine Paul, our body will also be. Concerning our body the Apostle
says: It is sown in a natural
body, but is raised a spiritual body (I Cor. 15:44) and unchanging,
such as was the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, after the
Resurrection. In the same way also the whole creation, according to the
commandment of God, is to be, after the General Resurrection, not such as it was
created, material and sensuous, but it is to be re-created and to become a
certain immaterial and spiritual dwelling, surpassing every sense, as the
Apostle says of us, We shall
not sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye
(I Cor. 15:51). Thus also the whole creation, after it shall burn up in the
Divine fire, is to be changed.
“The heaven will become
incomparably more brilliant and bright than it appears now; it will become
completely new. The earth will receive a new, unutterable beauty, being clothed
in many-formed, unfading flowers, bright and spiritual. The whole world will
become more perfect than any word can describe. Having become spiritual and
divine, it will become united with the noetic world; it will become a certain
mental Paradise, a heavenly Jerusalem, the inalienable inheritance of the sons
of God. Such an earth has not been inherited as yet by a single man; we are all
strangers and foreigners. But when the earthly will be united with the
heavenly, then also the righteous will inherit that already renewed earth whose
inheritors are to be those meek ones who are blessed by the Lord.” 
All this, the glory of the
future age, has been made possible by Christ’s death and Resurrection. Christ,
being both God and man, already dwells in this glory, being in heaven in His
glorified, resurrected body. But we have another who already partakes of the
glory that is to come after the General Resurrection. This is the Most Holy
Mother of God. In her we see all
the fruits of Christ’s work of redemption, for not only has she been deified in
soul, she has been resurrected by Christ in a spiritual body like His own. She
has already been fully glorified by God, with the glory that the saints will
know only after the General Resurrection. Vladimir Lossky writes that the
Mother of God “is the perfection of the Church already realized in a human
person fully united to God, beyond the Resurrection and the Judgment. Like her
Son, she was raised from the dead and borne up to heaven—the first human
hypostasis in whom was fulfilled the final end for which the world was
created.”  She has already become that which the first-created man and
woman were supposed to become. She has been raised higher than the angels, and
become “more honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than
the Seraphim.” She is the crown of creation, the testament of the glory of the
future age which will come into being through Christ’s redemptive work. Again
Vladimir Lossky writes: “In the two perfect persons—the Divine person of Christ
and the human person of the Mother of God—is contained the mystery of the
This, then, is the whole of what
Christ accomplished through His incarnation, death and Resurrection. In the
words of St. Gregory the Theologian: “We needed an incarnate God, a God put to
death, that we might live. We were put to death together with Him, that we
might be cleansed; we rose again with Him, because we were put to death with
Him; we were glorified with Him, because we rose again with Him.” 
Through the totality of Christ’s
work of redemption, man is spiritually united with God and deified, and man’s
body and the entire creation are to be renewed as a spiritual and divine
dwelling place. Truly, as we see affirmed over and over again in the writings
of the Fathers: “God became man so that man might become god.” 
From The Orthodox Word (No. 235, March-April, 2004),
1 Cf. Fr. Seraphim Rose, Genesis, Creation and Early Man (Platina,
Calif.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2000), pp. 156-57, 443-45.
2 Cf. St. John Damascene, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox
Faith, in The
Fathers of the Church, vol. 37 (1958), pp. 232-35; Vladimir
Lossky, The Mystical
Theology of the Eastern Church (Crestwood, N.Y.: St.
Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997), p. 118; and Fr. Seraphim Rose, Genesis, Creation and Early Man, pp.
3 Cf. St. John Damascene, Exact Exposition, p.
235; and Lossky, Mystical
Theology, p. 126.
4 Cf. Fr. Seraphim Rose, Genesis, Creation and Early Man, pp.
157, 208-12, 351, 413-14, 421, 591-92.
5 Cf. St. Symeon the New
First-Created Man (Platina, Calif.: St, Herman of Alaska
Brotherhood, 1994), pp. 90, 102-103.
6 Cf. St. Maximus the Confessor,
Ambigua 41, in Andrew Louth, Maximus
the Confessor (London: Routledge, 1996), pp. 156-60; and
Lossky, pp. 109-111.
7 Cf. St. John Damascene, Exact Exposition, p.
267: “Man was stripped of Grace and deprived of that familiarity which he had
enjoyed with God.”
8 Cf. St. Gregory Palamas, “To
the Most Reverend Nun Xenia,” in The
Philokalia, vol. 4 (London: Faber and Faber, 1995), p. 296.
9 Cf. St. John Damascene, Exact Exposition, p.
10 Cf. The Homilies of St. Gregory Palamas, vol.
1 (South Canaan, Penn., 2002), pp. 180, 184, 196-97.
11 Cf. I Cor. 3:7-13; and The Philokalia, vol. 3
(London: Faber and Faber, 1984), pp. 347-48.
12 Cf. Lossky, Mystical Theology, p.
13 Cf. St. Nicholas
Cabasilas, The Life in
Christ (Crestwood, N. Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press,
1998), pp. 105-106.
14 Homilies of St. Gregory Palamas, p.
15 Cf. Vladimir Lossky, Orthodox Theology: An Introduction (Crestwood,
N. Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), p. 111.
16 Homilies of St. Gregory Palamas, pp.
17 St. Athanasius the
Great, On the Incarnation (Crestwood,
N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1993), p. 34 (emphasis added).
18 St. Symeon the New
Man, pp. 47-48.
19 St. Gregory the Theologian,
“The Second Oration on Holy Pascha” (Oration 45:22) (emphasis added). In
Migne, Patrologia Graeca, vol.
36 (Paris, 1865), p. 653. Quoted in Lossky, Mystical Theology, p. 153.
20 Cf. Homilies of St. Gregory Palamas, pp.
21 St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on St. John the Apostle and
Evangelist, Homilies 48-88, in The Fathers of the Church, vol.
41 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1959), p. 232.
22 The Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the
Syrian (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1984), pp.
23 St. John Damascene, Exact Exposition, p.
24 St. Symeon the New
Man, p. 73.
25 Priest’s prayer before the
words of institution during the Anaphora. Translation by St. Tikhon’s Seminary
Press, South Canaan, Penn., 1984.
26 St. Symeon the New
Man, p. 48.
27 Cf. St. John
Chrysostom, Commentary on
St. John, Homilies 48-88, p. 38.
28 Ibid., p. 302.
29 Ibid., p. 345.
30 St. Symeon the New
Man, pp. 46-47.
31 Cf. Little Russian Philokalia, vol. 1: St.
Seraphim of Sarov (Platina, Calif.: St. Herman of Alaska
Brotherhood, 1996), p. 79.
32 Lossky, Mystical Theology, p.
33 St. Symeon the New
Theologian, The Divine
Hymns (Hymn 16:23-33). Quoted in Archbishop Basil
Krivocheine, In the Light
of Christ (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press,
1986), p. 365.
34 Ibid. (Hymn 1:180-84). Quoted
in Krivocheine, p. 386.
35 St. Symeon the New
Man, pp. 103-105.
36 Lossky, Mystical Theology, pp.
37 Ibid., p. 195.
38 St. Gregory the Theologian,
“The Second Oration on Holy Pascha.” In Nicene
and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, vol. 7 (Grand Rapids,
Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1974), p. 433.
39 St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St.
Athanasius the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Gregory of Nyssa, etc.
Cf. Lossky, Mystical
Theology, p. 134.
“behind closed doors,” has become synonymous in English with things being done
in secret – generally of an unsavory or nefarious sort. Institutions speak of
an “open door policy,” and promise “transparency” to those from the outside.
Closed doors have always had a sense of secrecy about them. Sometimes the
secrecy hides the darkness of evil, other times it protects us from the wonder
of the holy.
The stories of
Christ’s resurrection are filled with closed doors. It is a common phrase in
the resurrection narratives: “the doors being shut for fear of the Jews.” The
disciples had lost their leader and teacher and they feared that they
themselves would become victims. That fear led them to flee. It led St. Peter
to deny that he even knew Christ. It led them all to hide behind closed doors.
Closed doors occur
even earlier. The first doors known in the stories of Scripture are the gates
of Paradise. Adam and Eve, having broken God’s only commandment to them, are
forced to leave Paradise. The gates of the garden are shut and an angel is set
at the gate to guard against their re-entry. More than the story of our first
parents – it is the story of man.
represent the brokenness of our communion with God. We exist – we have life –
but our life is somehow cut off, “shut out” of its right and proper communion:
we stand outside the Garden.
teaching about the use of doors during an Orthodox service echo this estrangement.
The priest praying before the closed doors at Vespers is sometimes said to
represent Adam weeping before the closed gates of Paradise.
Our own lives are
filled with closed doors – places from which we have been evicted – places into
which we may not enter – places that represent secrets and broken
relationships. Closed doors have gained an infamous character for good reason.
I can recall as a
child standing outside closed doors while adults carried on arguments (“away
from the ears of children”). I have stood outside closed doors as I understood
responsible adults to be lying. There have been closed doors of wealth, class,
education, ethnicity and dialect. Most people, in most places, have a profound
sense that there is somewhere they do not belong. I can think of few things as
painful as a door, slammed and locked in the midst of an argument.
From the point of
view of Christ’s resurrection – the doors are slammed and locked from the other
side. The gates of Hades are not closed by God, but by those who would keep God
out. The gates Christ smashes are the gates that would refuse entry to the
Light of Life.
Even the gates of
Paradise are closed only for our protection. It is not the joy of Paradise or
any pleasure that God would deny us – only our own efforts to approach to Tree
of Life in a manner that did not involve our repentance, and therefore our
salvation. To have become an immortal sinner would to have been to become like
But at Pascha,
Christ confronts the doors of fear. Interestingly, he does not smash these
doors. He simply appears within. He does not ask His disciples to first
overcome their fears so that He may come to them. He comes to them and their
fears are overcome. We cannot do what we must do unless He comes to us.
Thus the New
Testament image becomes: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone
hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and
he with Me” (Rev. 3:20).
It is not God who
has closed the doors – it is God who knocks and who appears inside, though they
We live in a world
of locked and closed doors. Only a loving and resurrected God could overcome
such obstacles. Glory to God who appears behind closed doors and sets the
So when Pilate saw that he
was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and
washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood;
see to it yourselves.”Matthew 27:24(From the Fifth Gospel of Holy Thursday
Evening) Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Pontius Pilate, depending on
one’s perspective, is almost a “tragic” figure in the Passion of Christ.
Because he wanted to do the right thing, he knew what the right thing was and
he still couldn’t do it.
Pilate was the “prefect” of the
Roman Province of Judea from 26-36 AD, during the reign of the Emperor
Tiberius. Judea was not a glamorous assignment by any means. Far removed Rome,
Pilate lived among Jews and Gentiles who resented Roman rule. The Romans, even
though they had power, were outnumbered. Had the people gotten themselves
organized, perhaps they could have overthrown their Roman overlords. So,
Pilate’s grip on power was tenuous at best. He had to make alliances with the
Jewish Temple leadership in an effort to “keep the peace” so he could keep his
Even though Pilate was known to
have a ferocious temper, he also had a conscience and struggled with what to do
when presented with the “case” of Jesus of Nazareth. In all four Gospel
accounts, Pilate believes that Jesus is innocent. In the Gospel of Mark, Pilate
openly questions the crowd in the Praetorium, “What evil has He done?” (Mark 15:14). In the
Gospel of Luke, Pilate proclaims that Jesus is innocent not once but three
times: A third time he said to
them “Why, what evil has He done? I have found in him no crime deserving death;
I will therefore chastise Him and release Him. (Luke 23:22). In the
Gospel of John, Pilate says “See
I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in Him.” (John
19:4) And in the Gospel of Matthew, it was not only Pilate who had
reservations, but his wife Claudia, who went to Pilate and said “Have nothing to do with that righteous
man, for I have suffered much over Him today in a dream.” (Matthew
With this amount of staggering
sentiment recounted in ALL the Gospels about Pilate’s reservations about
condemning Jesus, how could such a powerful man have gone against his own
beliefs? Peer pressure, popularity and security are three compelling reasons,
reasons that we all still fall prey to at times. First it was the chief priests
claiming that Jesus forbid his followers to pay tribute to Caesar. (Luke 23:2).
Then it was the crowed crying out “If
you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend; everyone who makes himself a
king sets himself against Caesar.” (John 19:12) Pilate even tried
to pacify the crowd by offering to release to them Jesus, or a murderer named
Barabbas, hoping, and even believing, that the riotous crowd would most
certainly not want a murderer released into their midst. And ultimately, Pilate
“washed his hands” of the whole thing, as if to absolve himself of Jesus’
demise. Except that, had Pilate stood up and not allowed the crucifixion to
proceed, it most certainly could not have. The betrayal, the chief priests, and
the riotous crowd are all complicit in the death of Jesus. Pontius Pilate is
complicit as well. Ultimately, his wife Claudia Procles was made a saint for
her defense of Christ.
Pilate “washed his hands” and
“passed the buck” because he feared the crowd. Perhaps he feared reprisals from
the emperor. We don’t know if in the moment before he washed his hands, he “saw
his life pass before him” and wondered what kind of life he would have if he
were to be accused of betraying Caesar. So, he allowed the crucifixion to
happen. Ironically, not even ten years after the crucifixion, Pilate fell out
of favor with the emperor Caligula, was exiled to Gaul (France) and killed
Pontius Pilate offers two
lessons to us: First, his question “What is truth?” is an existential question
we should all seek answer to. Our life should be a pursuit of the “truth” of
Christ. Somewhere in his mind, Pilate wanted to know the truth. Somewhere in
his mind, he believed the words of his wife, that Jesus was a “righteous man.”
And even as he washed his hands, he knew that he was doing wrong.
The more important lesson we
learn from Pontius Pilate is that it is not only important to seek after and
know truth, but to stand up for truth. And this is where Pilate fell short. And
he fell short because of peer pressure, popularity and his desire for job
security. Our unwillingness to stand up for the truth today is still affected
by these things. In our lives, we have to have morals, truths and principles
that we stand up for. If you had a well-paying job and you were asked to do
something illegal to keep it, would you keep your morals or your money? If you
were asked to slander someone else or lose popularity, would you tell a lie to
keep your friends or tell the truth and risk losing them? These are hard
questions. And while the answers are easy, the life application of them is
The easy answer is that we do
not take money or friends with us to our grave. Money can’t buy us a favorable
judgment at the awesome judgment seat of Christ. And our friends won’t be there
to stand with us. We will take the “truth” of our lives with us. The lies will
be made known, the mistakes will be revealed. So, live in the truth, even if it
costs you popularity or security. Because the “truth will make you (us) free” (John 8:32) and
those who follow after Jesus as “the
way, the truth and the life,” (John 14:6) will follow that truth
into eternal life.
Come, O Christ-bearing
people; let us see what Judas the traitor has plotted with the lawless priests
against our Savior. Today, they condemned to death the Immortal Word. They
delivered Him to Pilate, and crucified Him on the Place of the Skull; and as
our Savior suffering these things, He cried out saying: “Father forgive them
this sin, that the Gentiles may know of my Resurrection from the dead.” (From
the 6th Hour on Good Friday, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
The Lord goes to a voluntary passion. We must
accompany Him. This is the duty of anyone who confesses that by the power of
Christ’s passion he has become who he is now, and of anyone who hopes to
receive something which is so great and glorious, that it could not even enter
one’s mind. How must one accompany Him? Through reflection and sympathy. Follow
the suffering Lord in thought; and in your reflection extract such impressions
as could strike your heart and bring it to feel the sufferings which were borne
by the Lord. In order to better accomplish this, you must make yourself suffer
through perceptible lessening of food and sleep, and an increase in the labour
of standing and kneeling. Fulfil all that the Holy Church does, and you will be
a good fellow-traveller of the Lord to His sufferings.