Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fr Georges Massouh: Christ and Him Crucified

Arabic original here.

Christ and Him Crucified

The Apostle Paul does not know Jesus Christ except crucified and hanging on the wood of the cross. For him there is an identity between Christ "and Him crucified." Thus we see him making a digression in order to state this unambiguous, unblemished truth. Even when he presents a hymn about Jesus' work in the world (Philippians 2:6-11), we notice that he breaks the meter in order to add the expression "the death of the cross," affirming that Christ died upon the cross and not in any other way.

Saint Paul expresses this identity in his First Epistle to the Corinthians where he says, "I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). It is also noteworthy here that Paul does not point to the power of Christ that lies in His divinity and His being the only-begotten Son of God. Rather, His power lies in the cross upon which He died out of love for the world: "But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).

In this context, St John Chrysostom says (d. 407) says, "The Greeks ask us for eloquence of speech and the precision of sophistry. But we proclaim to them the cross, which appears as weakness to the Jews and to the Greeks foolishness. We do not offer what they seek, but rather we offer the opposite of what they seek. The cross does not appear to be proof of power, but rather condemnation for weakness. It is not subject to wisdom, but rather evidence of foolishness." Indeed, the cross is proof of power, not of weakness. The courageous person is the one who accepts to bear his cross just as Christ bore His cross. The quivering coward is the one who refuses his cross. Oppressors are cowards. Martyrs, according to the Christian faith, are heroes.

There is no doubt that the entire tradition of the Church is unanimous in saying that Christianity cannot be reduced to practice of the law alone, just as it cannot be reduced to philosophical or intellectual theories alone. Christianity is either the putting into practice of the commandment of love or it does not exist. Therefore, the true Christian is the one who loves freely, just as Christ loved the world freely. Indeed, He paid with His blood upon the cross as the price for this love. This does not mean that Christianity despises the law or philosophy, but rather that it regards them as secondary next to the practice of love.

In what, then, should Christians boast? If they want to imitate the Apostle Paul who said, "Imitate me just as I also imitate Christ," then they have what the Apostle himself declares openly, "God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14). Paul did not boast of Christ's divinity or of the miracles that Jesus and His disciples worked... He boasted of the cross and the One placed upon it, and that alone.

Christians are called to imitate Paul as Paul imitated the Lord... so they must not boast of the cross-- made out of gold, silver, or even wood-- adorning their chest or lifted meters high upon mountains or on the domes of churches... To boast of the cross is to "bear in the body the marks of the Lord Jesus" according to the Apostle Paul (Galatians 6:17). To boast of the cross is to love the world as Christ loved it, He who gave Himself for the life of the world.

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