Thursday, March 26, 2015

Death is no Longer Fearsome

17th Century Bulgarian Icon of St. Athanasius

That death has been dissolved, and the cross has become victory over it, and it is no longer strong but is itself truly dead, no mean proof but an evident surety is that it is despised by all Christ's disciples, and everyone tramples on it, and no longer fears it, but with the sign of the cross and faith in Christ tread it under foot as something dead. Of old, before the divine sojourn of the Savior, all used to weep for those dying as if they were perishing. But since the Savior's raising the body, no longer is death fearsome, but all believers in Christ tread on it as nothing, and would rather choose to die than deny their faith in Christ. For they really know that when they die they are not destroyed, but both live and become incorruptible through the resurrection. And that devil, who formerly exulted wickedly in death, "it pangs having been loosed" (Acts 2.24), only he remains truly dead. And the proof of this is that human beings, before believing in Christ, view death as fearsome and are terrified at it. But when they come to faith in him and to his teaching, they so despise death that they eagerly rush to it and become witnesses to the resurrection over it effected by the Savior. For even while they are still young in stature they hasted to die, and not only men but also women practice for it with exercises...For as when a tyrant has been defeated by a legitimate king and bound hand and foot, all those that then pass by mock him, hitting and reviling him, no longer fearing his fury and barbarity because of the victorious king; in this way death also having been conquered and placarded by the Savior on the cross, and bound hand and foot, all those in Christ who pass by trample on him [death], and witnessing to Christ they mock death, jeering at him, and saying what was written above, "O death, where is your victory? O hell, where is your sting?" (1 Cor 15.55).

Excerpt from On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius (p.108-109).       

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Lenten Reflection: Healing

The church is place where one seeks healing. The purpose of the Church is to heal us, to overcome the divide between God and humanity which is caused by sin leading to our very death. Healing is achieved when we are united to one another and to God in the Body of Christ, which is the Church.

How is this healing achieved? When we come to know Christ, when we become one with Him and with one another then the healing process takes shape within all of us. Everything the Church does, through it's liturgical and sacramental life, is directed at restoring our relationships between God and creation. Our restoration is made possible through our interaction with creation which unites all of creation including all of humanity. The real meaning of Christian healing involves the whole person. The healing is made possible through the salvific events of the church, the Eucharist, Baptism which initiated us into the body of Christ.

As members of the body of Christ we enter this "membership" through Baptism which takes of the old "man" and puts on the new "man". The Eucharist is the means by which this membership is realized and continues to be lived out. In fact, everything the Church sets out for us, prayers, sacraments, feasts, have the Eucharist as their goal. We are the Church when we gather together, to celebrate the mystery of the incarnation, death and resurrection on behalf of all. Not only do we remember these events of the past, but we become partakers of Christ in the present, sharing in His divine nature for the restoration (healing) of soul and body. It is in the Eucharist that the famous line spoke by St. Athanasius is realized: "God became man, so that man might become god". This is what it means to be united to God and become divinized in His body; the Church.

Humanity and all of creation is created to be in union with God and the Eucharist is the realization of this union. True healing is precisely the restoration of union with God, the restoration of the proper relationship between God and creation. Every time we partake of the Eucharist we receive this grace of healing. This healing not only affects humanity but enters all of creation through our restoration with the one in whom salvation was realized through his body; the body which we all called to unite with.