Tag Archives: Crucifixion

St. John the Wonderworker: Tradition about the Wise Thief

Icon Wise Thief[The Wise Thief’s] whole life had been one of theft and crime. But evidently his conscience had not died, and in the depths of his hearth something good remained. Tradition even hold that he was that very thief who, during Christ’s flight into Egypt, took pity on the beautiful Baby and forbade his accomplices to kill Him when they attacked the holy family. Did he perhaps recall the face of that Child when he looked upon the face of the One hanging next to him on the Cross?Book Man of God St John Maximovitch

+ St. John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, “Why the Wise Thief Was Pardoned,” Man of God: Saint John of Shanghai & San Francisco

Unseen Warfare: . . . it is inconceivable how the great Lord of hosts could grant such favours to our nothingness and worthlessness.

Jesus Good ShepherdIn order that you may move your will more easily to this one desire, in everything—to please (God and to work for His glory alone—remind yourself’ often, that He has granted you many favours in the past and has shown you His love. He has created you out of nothing in His own likeness and image, and has made all other creatures your servants; He has delivered you from your slavery to the devil, sending down not one of the angels but His Only-begotten Son to redeem you, not at the price of corruptible gold and silver, but by His priceless blood and His most painful and degrading death. Having done all this He protects you, every hour and every moment, from your enemies; He fights your battles by His divine grace; in His immaculate Mysteries He prepares the Body and Blood of His beloved Son for your food and protection. All this is a sign of God’s great favour and love for you; a favour so great that it is inconceivable how the great Lord of hosts could grant such favours to our nothingness and worthlessness.

+ From Unseen Warfare, St. Theophan the Recluse and St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain

 

St. Ephraim the Syrian: If he was not flesh . . . And if he was not God . . .

JesusThe facts themselves bear witness and his divine acts of power teach those who doubt that he is true God, and his sufferings show that he is true man. And if those who are feeble in understanding are not fully assured, they will pay the penalty on his dread day.

If he was not flesh, why was Mary introduced at all? And if he was not God, whom was Gabriel calling Lord?

If he was not flesh, who was lying in the manger? And if he was not God, whom did the Angels come down and glorify?

If he was not flesh, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes? And if he was not God, whom did the shepherds worship?

If he was not flesh, whom did Joseph circumcise? And if he was not God, in whose honour did the star speed through the heavens?

If he was not flesh, whom did Mary suckle? And if he was not God, to whom did the Magi offer gifts?

If he was not flesh, whom did Symeon carry in his arms? And if he was not God, to whom did he say, “Let me depart in peace”?

If he was not flesh, whom did Joseph take and flee into Egypt? And if he was not God, in whom were words “Out of Egypt I have called my Son” fulfilled?

If he was not flesh, whom did John baptise? And if he was not God, to whom did the Father from heaven say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased”?

If he was not flesh, who fasted and hungered in the desert? And if he was not God, whom did the Angels come down and serve?

If he was not flesh, who was invited to the wedding in Cana of Galilee? And if he was not God, who turned the water into wine?

If he was not flesh, in whose hands were the loaves? And if he was not God, who satisfied crowds and thousands in the desert, not counting women and children, from five loaves and two fishes?

If he was not flesh, who fell asleep in the boat? And if he was not God, who rebuked the winds and the sea?

If he was not flesh, with whom did Simon the Pharisee eat? And if he was not God, who pardoned the offences of the sinful woman?

If he was not flesh, who sat by the well, worn out by the journey? And if he was not God, who gave living water to the woman of Samaria and reprehended her because she had had five husbands?

If he was not flesh, who wore human garments? And if he was not God, who did acts of power and wonders?

If he was not flesh, who spat on the ground and made clay? And if he was not God, who through the clay compelled the eyes to see?

If he was not flesh, who wept at Lazarus’ grave? And if he was not God, who by his command brought out one four days dead?

If he was not flesh, who sat on the foal? And if he was not God, whom did the crowds go out to meet with glory?

If he was not flesh, whom did the Jews arrest? And if he was not God, who gave an order to the earth and threw them onto their faces.

If he was not flesh, who was struck with a blow? And if he was not God, who cured the ear that had been cut off by Peter and restored it to its place?

If he was not flesh, who received spittings on his face? And if he was not God, who breathed the Holy Spirit into the faces of his Apostles?

If he was not flesh, who stood before Pilate at the judgement seat? And if he was not God, who made Pilate’s wife afraid by a dream?

If he was not flesh, whose garments did the soldiers strip off and divide? And if he was not God, how was the sun darkened at the cross?

If he was not flesh, who was hung on the cross? And if he was not God, who shook the earth from its foundations?

If he was not flesh, whose hands and feet were transfixed by nails? And if he was not God, how was the veil of the temple rent, the rocks broken and the graves opened?

If he was not flesh, who cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me”? And if he was not God, who said “Father, forgive them”?

If he was not flesh, who was hung on a cross with the thieves? And if he was not God, how did he say to the thief, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”?

If he was not flesh, to whom did they offer vinegar and gall? And if he was not God, on hearing whose voice did Hades tremble?

If he was not flesh, whose side did the lance pierce, and blood and water came out?And if he was not God, who smashed to gates of Hades and tear apart it bonds? And at whose command did the imprisoned dead come out?

If he was not flesh, whom did the Apostles see in the upper room? And if he was not God, how did he enter when the doors were shut?

If he was not flesh, the marks of the nails and the lance in whose hands and side did Thomas handle? And if he was not God, to whom did he cry out, “My Lord and my God”?

If he was not flesh, who ate by the sea of Tiberias? And if he was not God, at whose command was the net filled?

If he was not flesh, whom did the Apostles and Angels see being taken up into heaven? And if he was not God, to whom was heaven opened, whom did the Powers worship in fear and whom did the Father invite to “Sit at my right hand”. As David said, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, etc.”

If he was not God and man, our salvation is a lie, and the words of the Prophets are lies.  But the Prophets spoke the truth, and their testimonies were not lies. The Holy Spirit spoke through them what they had been commanded.

+ St. Ephrem the Syrian, Excerpt from the Sermon on Transfiguration

St. John the Wonderworker: . . . Receiving the Body of Christ, while turning away from Him in spirit, is like . . .

CommunionFor a man’s complete sanctification, the body of the servant of the Lord must be united with the Body of Christ, and this is accomplished in the Mystery of Holy Communion. The true Body and the true Blood of Christ which we receive become part of the great Body of Christ.

Of course, for union with Christ, the mere conjoining of our body with the Body of Christ does not suffice. The consumption of the Body of Christ becomes beneficial when in spirit we strive towards Him and unite ourselves with Him. Receiving the Body of Christ, while turning away from Him in spirit, is like the contact with Christ which they had who struck Him and mocked and crucified Him. Their contact with Him served not for their salvation and healing, but for their condemnation.

But those who partake with piety, love and readiness to serve Him, closely unite themselves with Him and become instruments of His Divine will.

+ St. John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, “The Church as the Body of Christ,” Man of God: Saint John of Shanghai & San Francisco

St. Isaac the Syrian: Do not fall into despair because of stumbling. . . .

Icon of St. Isaac the Syrian“Do not fall into despair because of stumbling. I do not mean that you should not feel contrition for them, but that you should not think them incurable. For it is more expedient to be bruised than dead. There is, indeed, a Healer for the man who has stumbled, even He Who on the Cross asked that mercy be shown to His crucifiers, He Who pardoned His murders while He hung on the Cross. ‘All manner of sin,’ He said, ‘and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men,’ that is, through repentance.”

+ St. Isaac the Syrian, The Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian, Homily 64, “On Prayer, Prostrations, Tears, Reading, Silence, and Hymnody”

St. Maximus the Confessor: As I man I deliberately transgressed the divine commandment . . .

Icon of St. Maximos the ConfessorAs man I deliberately transgressed the divine commandment, when the devil, enticing me with the hope of divinity (cf. Gen. 3:5), dragged me down from my natural stability into the realm of sensual pleasure; and he was proud to have thus brought death into existence, for he delights in the corruption of human nature. Because of this, God became perfect man, taking on everything that belongs to human nature except sin (cf. Heb. 4:15); and indeed sin is not part of human nature, In this way, by enticing the insatiable serpent with the bait of the flesh. He provoked him to open his mouth and swallow it. This flesh proved poison to him, destroying him utterly by the power of the Divinity within it; but to human nature it proved a remedy restoring it to its original grace by that same power of the Divinity within it. For just as the devil poured out his venom of sin on the tree of knowledge and corrupted human nature once it had tasted it, so when he wished to devour the flesh of the Master he was himself destroyed by the power of the Divinity within it.

+ St. Maximos the Confessor, Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice 1.11, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: About Joseph of Arimathea

Icon Joseph of ArimatheaAt that time Joseph of Arimathea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the Kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. There was another great man who had come from Arimathea, or Ramathain, on Mount Ephrem: the Prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1 ). This Joseph is mentioned by all four Evangelists, specifically in connection with the dead Lord’s burial. John calls him a disciple of Jesus secretly (19:38); Luke – a good man and a just (23:50), Matthew – a rich man (27:57). (The Evangelist does not call Joseph rich from vanity, to show that the Lord had rich men among His disciples, “but in order to show how it was that he was able to get Jesus’ body from Pilate. To a poor and unknown man, it would not have been possible to penetrate to Pilate, the representative of Roman power.”- Jerome: “Commentary on Matthew“.) He was noble in soul: he feared God and waited for the Kingdom of God. In addition to his outstanding spiritual traits, Joseph was also a rich man of good standing. Mark and Luke call him a counsellor. He was, then, one of the elders of the people, like Nicodemus. Also, like Nicodemus, he was a secret admirer and disciple of the Lord Jesus. But, even though these two men were secret followers of Christ’s teaching, they were nevertheless ready to lay themselves open to danger by standing together with Christ. Nicodemus once asked the embittered Jewish leaders to their faces, when they were seeking an excuse to kill Christ: “Doth our law judge any man before it hear him?” (John 7:51). Joseph of Arimathea laid himself open to even greater danger by taking thought for the Lord’s body when His known disciples had fled and dispersed, and when the Jewish wolves, having killed the Shepherd, could at any moment fall on the sheep. That what Joseph was doing was dangerous is indicated by the Evangelist by the word “boldly”. He needed, then, more than courage; he needed daring to go to Caesar’s representative and ask for the body of a crucified felon. But Joseph, as Nicephorus says, “in his greatness of soul, threw off his fear and shook off all subservience, showing himself to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.”Book St Nikolai Homilies

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “22. The Second Sunday After Easter: The Gospel on the Myrhh-Bearing Women,” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: . . . A mother’s love cannot separate her dead children from those living . . .

Orthodox Graves JordanvilleDeath has one characteristic in common with love: it, like love, works a profound change in many that experience it and go on living. A mother after a funeral goes to the graves of her children. Who goes there? The children in the mother’s soul, with the mother, go to their graves. In a mother’s soul, the mother lives only in one little corner; all the rest is a palace for the souls of the children taken from her.

So it is with Christ, though to an immeasurably greater extent. He submitted to the confines of the grave so that men, His children, should know the spaciousness of the limitless palace of Paradise.

A mother goes to the graves of her children, as though to raise them to life in her soul, to redeem them by her tears, to have compassion on them by her thoughts. A mother’s love saves her children from disappearance and annihilation in this world, at least for a time.

The Lord, humiliated and spat upon, succeeded, through bowing to His Cross and Tomb, in truly raising the whole human race by His love, and saving it forever from vanishing away and being annihilated. Christ’s act is incomparably greater than the act of any lonely mother in the world, His love for the human race being immeasurably greater than the love of any mother in the world for her children.

Theotokos Softener Evil HeartsAlthough a mother, out of her great love and sorrow, always has tears to shed, she takes her remaining tears with her when she herself goes down into the grave. The Lord Jesus, though, shed all His tears for His children, to the last drop – and all His blood to the last drop. Never, O sinner, will more precious tears be shed for you, neither living nor dead. Never will a mother, or wife, or children, or homeland, pay more for you than Christ the Saviour paid.

O poor and lonely man – do not say: who will mourn for me when I die? Who will weep over my dead body? Lo, the Lord Christ has mourned for you and wept over you, both in life and in death, more whole-heartedly than your mother would for you.

It is not fitting to call those dead for whom Christ, in His love, suffered and died. They are alive in the living Lord. We shall all know this clearly when the Lord visits the graveyard of this world for the last time, and the trumpets sound.

A mother’s love cannot separate her dead children from those living. Still less can Christ’s love. The Lord is more discerning than the sun: He sees the approaching end of those still alive on earth, and sees the beginning of life for those who have entered into rest. For Him who created the earth from nothing, and man’s body from the earth, there is no difference between the earth’s, or his body’s, being a man’s grave. Grain lying in the field or stored in a granary – what difference does this make to the householder, who is thinking in both cases of the grain, and not of the straw or the granary? Whether men are in the body or in the earth – what difference does this make to the Householder of men’s souls?

Coming on earth, the Lord paid two visits to men: the first to those living in the grave of the body and the second to those in the grave of the earth. He died in order to visit His dead children. Ah, how very truly a mother dies when she goes to the graves of her children!Book St Nikolai Homilies

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “22. The Second Sunday After Easter: The Gospel on the Myrhh-Bearing Women,” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year

St. John Maximovitch: . . . The faith of the thief, born of his esteem for Christ’s moral greatness, proved stronger than the faith of the Apostles . . .

Crucifixion 3The Apostles wavered in their faith in Jesus as the Messiah, because they anticipated and desired to see in Him an earthly king, in whose kingdom they could sit at the right and the left hand of the Lord.

The thief understood that the Kingdom of Jesus of Nazareth, despised and given over to a shameful death, was not of this world. And it was precisely this Kingdom that the thief now sought: the gates of earthly life were closing after him; opening before him was eternity. He had settled his accounts with life on earth, and now he thought of life eternal. And here, at the threshold of eternity, he began to understand the vanity of earthly glory and earthly kingdoms. He recognized that greatness consists in righteousness, and in the righteous, blamelessly tortured Jesus he saw the King of Righteousness. The thief did not ask Him for glory in an earthly kingdom but for the salvation of his soul.

The faith of the thief, born of his esteem for Christ’s moral greatness, proved stronger than the faith of the Apostles, who although captivated by the loftiness of Christ’s teaching, based their faith to a still greater extent on the signs and wonders He wrought.

Now there was no miraculous deliverance of Christ from His enemies — and the Apostles’ faith was shaken.

But the patience He exhibited, His absolute forgiveness, and the faith that His Heavenly Father heard Him so clearly, indicated Jesus’ righteousness, His moral superiority, that one seeking spiritual and moral rebirth could not be shaken.

And this is precisely what the thief, aware of the depth of his fall, craved. He did not ask to sit at the right or the left hand of Christ in His Kingdom, but, conscious of his unworthiness, he asked in humility simply that he be remembered in His Kingdom, that he he be given even the lowest place.

+ St. John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Franscisco, From Man of God: Saint John of Shanghai & San Francisco, “Why the Wise Thief Was Pardoned”

Lenten Triodion: Let us venerate the Cross of the Lord . . .

Icon CrossLet us venerate the Cross of the Lord, offering our tender affection as the cypress, the sweet fragrance of our faith as the cedar, and our sincere love as the pine.; and let us glorify our Deliverer who was nailed upon it. Let us venerate the Cross of the Lord, offering our tender affection as the cypress, the sweet fragrance of our faith as the cedar, and our sincere love as the pine; and let us glorify our Deliverer who was nailed upon it.*

* A reference to the three kinds of wood from which the Cross was made; cf. Isa. 60:13 (Sept.).

— Wednesday Matins of the Fourth Week of Lent, Ode 7, Lenten Triodion