On Pascha (Easter), or the Hope of Things to Come


Icon of the Resurrection

Icon of the Resurrection

Once in the Garden of Eden, at the beginning of our sorrows, the pre-incarnate Christ walked within the Garden looking for Man and Woman. He knew what had occurred. He knew His creation had rebelled. He knew the pain and suffering that was to come.

We can almost hear the pain as we read the most overlooked, but painful words within the entire Bible, “And the LORD God said unto them, ‘Where are you?’” God knew where they were, He knew where they were hiding; His question was a rhetorical one. Man answered and admitted to his rebellion and Woman confessed what she had done. The march toward Calvary had begun.

In a small insignificant town in the Roman province of Judea, the Christ child was born. God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, Son of God who was present at creation and the Fall, had come to fix what was broken.

We cannot begin to fathom what the world looked like through the eyes of Christ. For Him to walk in human flesh amongst His creation, to see the effects of sin on His world, what did the incarnate God feel? “Where are you?” He must have uttered to creation as He walked through the various towns of Judea.

God asked Man and Woman where they were, but He did not wait on them to come find Him. He instead went into the world to find them.

God incarnate, who cursed Man for his rebellion, who sought after Man in the Garden, hung upon a cross. The crafty serpent of old thought he had defeated God, but Christ arose, solidifying His solution. The serpent had bruised His heal, but He had crushed the head of the serpent.

“Where are you?” His question echoes throughout human history up to the present age and all the way to when He returns. “Where are you?” As He watches humanity rip itself apart, as He watches humanity turn against Him on a daily basis, He must be asking, “Where are you?”

In the first garden man was cursed with death. In the resurrection the curse on man was lifted. In the first first garden man tore himself away from God. In the garden of the resurrection, God united Himself to man. In the first garden we were cursed because of the fruit from a tree. In the garden of the resurrection, we were saved because of Who died upon a tree. The first garden was a paradise after creation and cursed in the fall, the second garden was cursed but was made paradise because of God’s recreation. In the first garden Man was lost, but in the second garden Man was found.

Yet, in this rebellious world there are those who are covered by His Son. Just as Man and Woman needed a covering to hide their nakedness, their shame, we too have a covering to hide our wickedness, our shame. Our covering is Christ. There is a future hope, an end to our suffering, a time where we will not sin, where we will be done in our rebellion.

There will be a time when those who suffer from physical ailments, from these disease-ridden bodies, shall be given new bodies where such pain is gone. The blind will look into the eyes of Christ and see the wondrous acts of His love. The deaf shall hear with clarity the songs of the angels praising God almighty. The hungry will feast with the Lord at the great banquet table. The orphans shall feel the loving embrace of their Heavenly Father and no longer feel the sting of loneliness.

There will be a time when the oppressed shall experience freedom in the presence of the Spirit. Those who are bed-ridden, those who are diseased, those who suffer constant pain will walk amongst God’s beautiful creation, dancing and leaping across His land with Christ by their sides.

But all of this pales in comparison to the reconciliation we will have with Him. We will no longer offend Him. We will no longer contradict Him. We will be in perfect union with the Father as we fall down and worship Him eternally. We will no longer have to hear those painful and cursed words, “Where are you?” We shall instead hear His soothing words of grace; “I have found you.”

Random Musings/Prayers


IMG_0355As we (Orthodox Christians) enter the last week of Lent prior to Holy Week, I wanted to post a few random thoughts/prayers that I wrote out this morning pertaining to the essence of Lent and Pascha (Easter). Why do we fast? Why do we lament? Why do we recognize these things? I hope you find these short snippets of my thoughts/prayers to help provide a tiny answer to those questions.

On the Moral Nature of Man

What is man if nothing more than a tree? If we lose our roots, then we become nothing more than fuel for a fire. You, O Lord, are our roots. You are the fertile soil for our wooden souls. It is in You that we grow. But our sin, our passions, everything contrary to You is the wind that uproots us, that rips us from our soil, and it is then that we become deadwood, something to kindle the fire of the Enemy’s rebellion.

We have sought to create for ourselves our own reality. A false creation! A garbage heap! A simulacrum! You are Reality, it is You we seek, but like the wandering tribes in the exodus from Egypt we create golden idols and act like they are You. What folly there is in the desires of man.

On the Created Nature of Man

There are those who say we are evil in our nature. They say your first children tainted our very essence, that there is no good to be found in us. But You said we were very good and in us You found enough goodness to die for. And if we were evil by nature, then how could we say that we sin? All evil actions would be inevitable, it would be in keeping with who we are. There would be no sin if we were evil. Instead, we are as You created us. We are good, very good, in our nature. And this is why we call sin evil, because it is any action that goes against our created purpose. We are morally evil only because we are by nature good.

On God’s Resolution

Into the darkness, You spoke light. Into nothingness, You spoke everything. Into the void, You spoke fulfillment. Into the chaos, You spoke order. Into the violence, You spoke peace. What is sin if not the attempt to undo all you have spoken? Death is the only conclusion to such actions. And yet, into the death, You spoke Life.

On the Two Gardens of Humanity

In the Garden of Eden, man rebelled against You and was cast out. In the Garden of Gethsemane, man rebelled against You and was found. In the first Garden, man sought to be like You. In the second Garden, man sought to kill You. In the first Garden, man needed a covering for his nakedness. In the second Garden, the covering for man’s nakedness was given. In the first Garden, man sweat out of fear for Your judgement. In the second Garden, You sweat blood out of compassion and our redemption. In the first Garden, man sinned to be equal to You. In the second Garden, You died so we could be like You. In the first Garden, man lost his way. In the second Garden, You found man.

On Hope

The pursuit of Good, the pursuit of You, is nothing more than an attempt to get back to our nature, to who we are meant to be. But our wills are not aligned with Your will and so our actions are contrary to You. Yet You have supplied a way to transcend our very selves, to be like You. As Your servant St. Athanasius said, “God became man so that man might become God.” Your servant St. Maximus the Confessor has said, “Man becomes like God in all things except essence and being.” You created us for Yourself and in our redemption we become all for You and therefore become like You, not by nature, but by grace. Our desire for salvation should not be out of want of Heaven or fear of Hell, but out of a desire to be united to You.

The Fallacy of Religious Neutrality


Today I’d like to address what I call the fallacy of religious neutrality—the prevailing idea that a person or institution can be religiously neutral or unbiased.  To illustrate this maladroit form of thinking, I wish to direct your attention to a rather disturbing development in the UK.  In a recent court ruling, a Christian couples petition to foster orphaned children was denied simply because of their traditional orthodox Christian views on the family and human sexuality.  Throughout the trial the court maintained that it was religiously neutral; that the issue at hand was purely a question of ethics.  The judge defended his ruling thusly:  “there is no religious discrimination against the Johns [the couple applying to foster] because they were being excluded from fostering due to their moral views on sexual ethics and not their Christian beliefs.”

Let’s take the term ‘religion’ in its broadest and most basic sense:  to mean a particular worldview which governs the way we view and explain reality.  Given this broad definition, it is painfully evident that the court’s claim that its ruling does not constitute religious discrimination is simply a farce.  It’s quite obvious to everyone that the Johns’ religious beliefs do, in fact, govern their moral views on sexual ethics.  Afterall, their personal conviction regarding homosexuality did not develop in a vacuum–they didn’t just wake up one morning and randomly decide that homosexuality was a sin.  On the contrary, their belief stems directly from their faith in the Bible as God’s word.  The court’s embarrassing attempt to deny the obvious suggests one of two things: either they are completely incompetent or they are completely unfair.

Whatever the case, it is important to see that the High Court is not religiously neutral and that it did not make an objective ruling.  In fact, the courts decision is clearly a case of showing favour to one religion over and above another.  The High Court clearly and unashamedly favours Secular Humanism, the religion ardently worshiped and propagated by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, over and above orthodox Christianity.  In their statements, the judges betrayed their affections for Secular Humanistic ethics, over Christian ethics, by implying that Christianity is harmful to children.

What is even more upsetting is that Christians are increasingly being persecuted in the UK under the guise of religious neutrality; this case is only the latest in a serious of discriminatory actions the government has taken against orthodox Christians (see the article linked above).  The truth is, however, religious neutrality is impossible.  Everyone maintains basic presuppositions about the nature of reality which govern their thoughts on knowledge, ethics, science, politics, and a host of other disciplines.  Everyone, either consciously or unconsciously, subscribes to some sort of worldview.

Secular Humanism is a particular worldview; it makes certain authoritative claims about the nature of reality, about the nature of human beings, and the nature of ethics; it is a system of thought that one places their faith in, that governs one’s attitudes and guides their thinking.  In the broadest and most basic sense of the term, secular humanism is a religion; or, at least, it provides the same explanations about the ‘big questions‘ in life that all religions do.  Hence, when UK courts and lawmakers discriminate against orthodox Christians they are not being objective, fair, or religiously neutral; they are simply promoting secular humanism over and above Christianity.

If the real battle is between two competing religious systems, then there are several important questions that the people of Britain need to start asking themselves: (1) which religion holds correct beliefs about the nature of reality?  (2) which religion supports a coherent system of ethics?  (3) which religion coherently maintains the dignity and value of human life?  (4) which religion supports the claim that human beings are culpable for their actions and that there are objective moral values?  (5) which religion provides an accurate picture of justice?  (6) which religion allows for true religious toleration?  (7) which religion is more conducive to a tyrannical government?  There are, indeed, even more questions that one could ask; but these, I think, are some of the more important ones.

When all is said and done, the notion of religious neutrality is a farce; such a thing does not exist.  One worldview will inevitably reign supreme.  The question we should be asking ourselves is which one should reign supreme?

An excellent quote on Christ’s sacrifice


I am finishing up St. John of Damascus’ work An Exposition on the Orthodox Faith. I have slowly been working through his three main treatises (Fountain of Knowledge, On Heresies, and An Exposition) and will soon be done, so my posting about St. John will probably slow down. Until then though, I wanted to share this extremely powerful quote:

Since our Lord Jesus Christ was without sin…He was not subject to death, even though death had by sin entered into the world. And so for our sake He submits to death and dies and offers Himself to the Father as a sacrifice for us. For we had offended Him and it was necessary for Him to take upon Himself our redemption that we might thus be loosed from the condemnation – for God forbid that the Lord’s blood should have been offered to the tyrant! Wherefore, then, death approaches, gulps down the bait of the body, and is pierced by the hook of divinity. Then, having tasted of the sinless and life-giving body, it is destroyed and gives up all those whom it had swallowed down of old. For, just as darkness entirely disappears when light is let in, so is destruction driven away at the onset of life, and life comes to all, while destruction comes to the destroyer.

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Follow up on the cruelty of God


Paarsurrey was kind enough to reply to what I wrote. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, his comments aren’t showing up on my site. I have no idea as to why, but since they aren’t showing up, I’ll provide his comments here:

Hi friend Joel

I ask you a little question; I think you don’t mind. Are you married and have sons and ‎daughter?

I suppose you are married and have a beautiful little baby girl. If she says; papa I am ‎willing, just kill me. Will you kill her? If you kill her; won’t it be a cruel act? I think, it ‎will be a cruel act; so even your own Catholic church will declare it to be cruel.

You will need a very cruel heart to perform this act.

Sorry, it is as simple as that. I think even the Catholics/Protestants/JWs/Mormon viewers ‎of your blog will agree with me on this point.

I love Jesus and Mary

Thanks

I am an Ahmadi peaceful Muslim

I understand that from human terms and perspectives it can seem cruel. However, God is not to be judged in the same manner humans are to be judged. For instance, if God kills someone we can rest assured that He has done so justly. We understand that the person deserved it, because God is just. If I arbitrarily kill someone, no matter what, there will always be doubt as to why I killed the person. Why? Because I am not just. I can act justly, but being just is not part of my nature as it is with God.

So we come to the cross and we see the Father sacrificing the Son. Is this cruel? Is this evil? To understand, we must first look to why we were created, secondly to our fallen nature, and third to God’s solution.

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