February 1st, 2006

HTOC

(no subject)

I do not believe there is such a thing as a completely darkened soul. Each human retains the image of God – no matter how distorted it may be. That image is found in our free will, our glorious minds, our impulse to create and to organize. Most heartening, that image is found in love. I have been loved and accepted and sacrificed for by many people who do not confess Christ. God is too large to be completely blotted out. His love pours fourth even through those who fail to attribute it to Him. But a warm heart is not salvation. A gentle word is not union with God.

Not everyone struggles to be kind. Some seem to naturally possess a good-hearted disposition, of course. But that only means that there will be another, very-well hidden area of that person's life that is full of failure and wretchedness. The altruistic soul is secretly a glutton. The courageous leader hides his burning lust. The gentle and merciful mother bitterly hates her stepfather. Just as we are all unique paintings in the image of God, we are also unique failures distorted by sin.

And thus there is struggle. Perhaps what sets a Christian apart is the fact that he acknowledges evil, acknowledges his own part in the problem, and then tries to change: the Christian repents. But this battle, this tension that comes between our thoughts and feelings and how they work themselves out through our actions is wrought with casualties. Repentance is nothing short of exhausting. It is humanly impossible to always act humanely. And if experience has taught us anything, it is that we fail. It is so easy to become tired. It is so easy to begin to forget why one is fighting at all. Our lives are failures.

But true religion begins in failure. The cross is an instrument of failure. The cross is a mark of man’s greatest defeat. The cross was the apex that merely summed up the foundations of our faith: humility, mockery, disbelief, betrayal and death. These characteristics, this foundation was built in the life of one person. Our foundation is the life and death of Christ.

God suffered. GOD SUFFERED. God cried and hungered and grew angry. God was mocked and spit upon and abandoned by His friends. God was an outcast: poverty-stricken and forsaken. God was scourged; God was crucified. And in the most mysterious and haunting words ever spoken and ever-to-be spoken, He shouted the unfathomable question, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” And then He died.

But what do we learn? Everything. We are taught by our Divine Teacher that failure and suffering have been and eternally shall be transformed into glory and victory. For Christ’s humility showed man the path to glory; Christ’s mockery showed man the path to respect; Christ’s rejected doctrine taught us that rejection cannot overcome the truth; Christ’s betrayal taught us that true love forgives; And Christ’s death brought us life eternal, immortal and incorruptible, for death could not keep hold of Him.

So we must now rejoice in our failures. We must sing praises in our sufferings. Our entire lives WILL be a cross. These crosses will annoy us and then even make us weep. They will scourge our souls and may even take our final breath from us. But each daily death can bring us daily life. And our ultimate death – the death the world most fears and flees from and despises – will bring us to glory.

Read the words of St. Gregory:

“He assumed the worse that He might give us the better. He became poor that by His poverty we might become rich. He accepted the form of a servant that we might win back our freedom.

He came down that we might be lifted up. He was tempted that through Him we might conquer. He was dishonored that He might glorify us. He died that He might save us. He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were thrown down through the fall of sin.

Let us give all, offer all, to Him who gave Himself a Ransom and Reconciliation for us.

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.

A few drops of Blood recreate the whole of creation!”

St. Gregory the Theologian, Easter Orations
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