What happened on the Cross?
July 30/ Aug 12 2009 10th Wednesday after Pentecost
Thou didst endure suffering, O Master, that Thou mightest bestow dispassion upon all who worship Thy sufferings and voluntary sacrifice – the spear, nails and reed, which Thou didst endure with long-suffering of Thine own will – that for the sake of Thy sufferings, O Lord, Thou mightest win dispassion for me. (Tue Vespers, Tone 8, Lord I have Cried, Sticheron 1)
We are singing about the cross again – it must be Wednesday or Friday, when we meditate in our hymns about the cross every week of the year.
This hymn, from Tuesday Vespers (remember, the Vesper service points to the next calendar day, since it is the beginning of the liturgical day for us) points out with particular clarity our Orthodox doctrine of the cross.
We consider our Lord’s death on the cross to be a part of His entire ministry, which was accomplished from His incarnation till His ascension and subsequent sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. He did not become man to take on a punishment for us so that we would not be punished, as most Protestants think. What an idea! - That God would punish His son to avoid punishing us.
What good is forgiveness if we do not change? Sin is painful – is hurts the soul. A forgiven sinner is still a sinner, and is sick. Jesus Christ came to enable us to stop sinning and become perfected.
When we look at the cross, we should see redemption, and not only forgiveness. The redeemed man changes, so that the sources of his pain are obliterated, and he obtains perfect peace. Our hymns bring this point home many times. We also speak of our Lord’s exploits on the cross in order to emulate Him. Just as He voluntarily gave Himself over to His Father’s will, so must we voluntarily give ourselves over to His will.
Dispassion is a difficult and technical theological term. The ascetic fathers have written many things about this term. This short article cannot hope to explain it, and only those who have become completely dispassionate can understand it, so I can only understand is as “through a glass darkly”.
Here are a few quotes from the Fathers about dispassion. This will need to be enough for now.
"Love, dispassion, and adoption are distinguished by name, and name only. Light, fire, and flame join to fashion one activity. So too with love, dispassion and adoption." St. John Climacus.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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