Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FR. SERAPHIM ROSE AND THE DOGMA OF REDEMPTION:

A Study in Neo-Nestorianism

With articles by St Philaret of New York, Archbishop Lazar (Puhalo) of New Ostrog, Archbishop Vitaly (Ustinov) of Montreal, Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) of Manhattan,

Bishop Varlaam (Novakshonoff) of Vancouver,

Rt. Rev. Dr. Michael Azkoul, and George Gabriel, D.Th.

SYNAXIS PRESS

The Canadian Orthodox Publishing House

37323 Hawkins Road, Dewdney, B.C., V0M-1H0

CANADA 

CONTENTS

ARCHBISHOP LAZAR PUHALO:

Preface 1

RT. REV. DR. MICHAEL AZKOUL:

Critical Comments on Fr. Seraphim Rose’s “Report:

On the New Interpretation of the Dogma of Redemption” 4

DR. GEORGE GABRIEL:

A Note on the Nestorianism Of Father Seraphim Rose 13

BISHOP VARLAAM NOVAKSHONOFF:

ASSESSMENT OF THE TEXTS: A comparison

of Fr. Seraphim Rose’s rendition of texts in his

Report with the actual texts, to demonstrate his

unconscionable deceit 15

ARCHBISHOP VITALY USTINOV:

The Monophysitism of the Critics of Metropolitan

Antony Khrapovitsky’s “Moral Idea of the Dogma

of Redemption” 22

BISHOP GREGORY GRABBE:

From An Introduction to An English Translation of the

Moral Idea of the Dogma of Redemption 26

SAINT PHILARET OF NEW YORK:

A Sermon of Metropolitan Philaret 32

±±±

Preface

For some years now, we have published sound, patristic and historical information regarding the mythology of the “aerial toll-houses.” This has been done in response to the great spiritual harm that the late Fr Seraphim Rose’s book The Soul After Death has done among the faithful. We have received literally hundreds of letters and E-Mails which amply testify to the spiritual catastrophe created by Fr. Seraphim’s introduction of this Gnostic tale into the English speaking world. Moreover, a book with a theosophically oriented text titled Eternal Mysteries Beyond the Grave was published at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, which has compounded the spiritual mischief left behind by the theosophical movements of 19th century Russia and of Fr. Seraphim Rose’s book.

For whatever reason, there is a feeling in some quarters that one should not expose these things, or mention the fact that Fr Seraphim had a strong stream of Gnosticism and theosophical thought in his writings and teachings. His theological thought and philosophy were never particularly Orthodox, but were far more in the Latin scholastic tradition. This may have appealed to those who were and are educated in an atmosphere clouded by scholasticism and with a shadow of 19th century theosophical thought in their spirituality, but it is dangerous to the theology and spiritual welfare of the faithful.

Another quite serious aspect of Fr Seraphim Rose’s writing and translating is the fact that, in it, he is often intentionally dishonest and lacking in integrity. A prime example is his criticism of St Antony Khrapovitsky’s work, The Moral Idea of the Dogma of Redemption. The intent of that work was to refute the assertion of Immanuel Kant that Christian dogma had no bearing on the moral life of man, and that it was often a hindrance to that moral life. Kant presumed that there was no moral ideal or idea in the dogmas of the faith that could impact on the life of mankind. Metropolitan Antony responded with a series of treatises demonstrating the moral idea of the main dogmas of the faith. His treatise on the Dogma of Redemption especially excited the confusion and anger of the radical scholastic elements in Russia, but this element was receding before the Russian Revolution.

The primary antagonist to the Saint’s writing was Archbishop Theophan of Poltava, who had introduced Rasputin to the Imperial Family, and passed this demonic charlatan off as a great healer and man of God. Metropolitan Antony opposed Rasputin and was sent into exile by Tsar Nicholas for this opposition. Theophan of Poltava never forgave Vladika Antony for his opposition to Rasputin, although he appears to have suffered from a sense of guilt later, after Rasputin helped destroy the Tsar and the Russian Empire, and facilitate the Communist victory.

Theophan of Poltava was an ecstatic mystic whose biography reveals a pattern of psychotic hallucinations. Theophan was also a radical scholastic who argued against Metropolitan Antony’s efforts to deliver Russian theology from its 300 year “Latin Captivity.” He spent his last days in a cave in France surrounded by Dobermann watchdogs, convinced that his “enemies” were trying to assassinate him. The late Bishop Gregory Grabbe related to a group of us that Theophan refused to go to a Synod meeting in Sremsky Karlovtsy in Serbia because, as he insisted to two hierarchs who visited him, an angel had revealed to him that Metropolitan Antony intended to poison all the bishops at the next synod meeting. He was Metropolitan Antony’s main critic and Fr Seraphim Rose was an avowed disciple of Theophan of Poltava, which is likely why Fr Seraphim insisted to me personally that Rasputin was a “holy martyr.” The enmity which began between St Antony Khrapovitsky and Theophan of Poltava began when St Antony warned the Tsar against Rasputin. Archbishop Theophan was furious with St Antony’s opposition to Rasputin. At the same time, and to a degree for the same reason, the Kontsevich family developed a dislike of St Antony. Archbishop Theophan and his disciples in the Kontsevich family were among the most scholastically inclined thinkers in Russia, and somewhat affected by the then current heavy influence of theosophy. Seraphim Rose stands in a direct line of descent from this negative environment. He considered himself a disciple of both Archbishop Theophan and the Kontsevich family. He asserted among other arguments, that Rasputin must have been a holy man because the God-anointed Tsar could not have made an error in judgment in such a matter. It seems that there was even a theosophical idea about the monarchs.

Archbishop Vitaly (Ustinov) correctly refers to the critics of Metropolitan Antony’s work as “Neomonophysites,” and Dr. George Gabriel is quite right in stating that Fr Seraphim Rose has crossed over the boundary into Nestorianism. Fr Seraphim’s perfidity and lack of intellectual integrity are clearly demonstated by Bishop Varlaam (Novakshonoff) in his side by side comparison of original texts with Fr Rose’s wilfully distorted versions.

In the following texts, we are going to demonstrate both the woeful lack of Orthodox thought and of Orthodox Christian theology in Fr Seraphim Rose’s critique of Saint Antony Khrapovitsky’s writing on the Dogma of Redemption, and also his wilful deceptiveness and lack of integrity in citing texts and quoting from the holy fathers.

Above all, we will not remain silent while Seraphim Rose’s unwise and ill advised condemnation of Saint Antony Khrapovitsky circulates and creates mischief among the faithful, reinforcing scholasticism against sound Orthodox Christian theology. We join St Philaret of New York in referring to Metropolitan Antony Khrapovitsky as “our great father of the Church Abroad and renowned theologian.”

PART I

RT.REV. DR MICHAEL AZKOUL:

Lebanese-American Theologian

 (Orthodox Word Nrs. 175-176 (1994). pp.159-171.

After reading once more Metropolitan Antony Khrapovitsky’s The Dogma of Redemption, I came to appreciate more fully his intentions in writing it, given its theme – the moral dimension of the Redemption – which he initially defined in his 1924 Catechism. Fr Seraphim points to the latter as another important source of the Metropolitan’s “new dogma,” the first sign of his ostensible drift towards “theological modernism” (p.159), towards what Rose labels “expressionism,” a word with which I am not familiar in this context and which no dictionary defined for me.

Here was only the beginning of my criticisms of his Report, a paper that should never have been written or published. Fr Seraphim’s errors are not only simple but conspicuous. For instance, sometimes his bibliography is incomplete (e.g., fn.4, p. 167); sometimes the page cited does not correspond to the quote (e.g., fn. 1, p. 168); and sometimes the quote is incomplete, out of context, or Rose merely name-drops, that is to say, listing names without their words, which, on some occasions, has the designed effect of associating his argument with the authority of his putative sources, for example, one of the holy fathers (e.g.,Report, p. 167).

I cannot say what is worse: the above infraction of fairness and objectivity, or Rose’s appeal to Orthodox hierarchs (and academicians), trained in the Protestant Scholasticism of late 19th century Russian seminaries. There is a certain irony in Fr Seraphim’s trust in such “theologians” who possessed the very mentality which Metropolitan Antony hoped to combat. These are writers who refer to “theology” as a “science” instead of a vision and experience (theoria) of the holy; or, in their criticism of the Metropolitan, employing a language and method which betrays their education –”The reason for redemption (causa efficiens) consists in the spiritual acceptance by the Lord Jesus Christ in Gethsemane and His salvific prayer for all human life” (Archbishop Nikon, A Biography of Metropolitan Antony vol. 5  p. 175). One is free to wonder seriously about the perspective with which his critics examined his works. Can we be certain that they came to them without prejudice? I may be puzzled about Fr Rose’s motivation, but not about his lack of intellectual honesty.

He placed evocative words and phrases (without context) from (perhaps, indirectly) the writings of Archbishop Theophan of Poltava, Archbishop Seraphim Sobolev of Boguchar, Archbishop Vitaly Maximenko of Jordanville, Archbishop Leonty of Chile, etc. with incomplete quotes and paraphrases. If this testimony is not naked hearsay, it is surely argumentum ad verecundiam, that is, invoking the names of venerable persons to produce the illusion of proof; assertions so phrased that any criticism of those persons risks a breach of propriety.

1.

Let us look at the Report in greater detail. The charge against Metropolitan Antony’s “dogma of the redemption” is that he replaced the Lord’s sufferings on the Cross with the sufferings of His soul in Gethsemane as the cause of our salvation. Fr Seraphim also asserts that “in the thought of Metropolitan Antony the suffering of Christ’s soul are separated from those of His body and are not only given central place, but in fact are identified [Rose’s italics] with our redemption” (p. 168). Let us agree that the Metropolitan gave serious attention to the moral rudiments of the Lord’s suffering in the Garden in Gethsemane (the anti-type of Adam’s experience in the Garden of Eden), but far more evidence is required to justify the charge against the Metropolitan than is provided by the aforementioned remarks of Fr Seraphim or anywhere else in his Report.

No one with a knowledge of the Fathers can deny that Christ’s redemptive work is not limited to the Cross. “Jesus Christ did not redeem us so much by His sufferings as much as by His very Incarnation,” wrote Metropolitan Antony in his The Dogma of Redemption (trans. by Holy Transfiguration Monastery. Montreal, 1979, p.2). Fr Justin Popovich agrees, insisting “that the work of redemption cannot be reduced to any one period of time: the sufferings of the Saviour began at His very birth into this world and continued until His crucifixion on the Cross between two thieves” (Dogmatic Theology of the Orthodox Church [vol.2]. Belgrade, 1935, p.377). Fr Justin and, I suspect, Metropolitan Antony, knew that the holy fathers equated God’s Plan of salvation – the “divine economy” or “dispensation” – with the Incarnation (see St John of Damascus, De Fid. Orth. III, 1).

Also, the word “salvation” is nowhere limited, as Fr Rose suggested, to the soul by the Metropolitan. The fact that he often mentions “the suffering of Christ’s soul” (dushevniya – soul without the body) only means that he was concerned with demonstrating the “inner power of the spiritual shepherd and by the action of which he works the regeneration of the faithful or, rather, mediates, since it is wrought by Christ and the Holy Spirit” (Dogma of Redemption, p.18). In other words, it is chiefly through the soul that God works our salvation: save the soul and the body is saved: the soul is the primary value. For example, during the divine Liturgy, the Church prays “For the peace of the whole world, for the salvation of our souls…;” for “Things good and profitable for our souls…;” or “0 Heavenly King…come and cleanse our souls from every stain…;” or”…to enter the house of my soul which is leprous and sinful.”

If the critics of Metropolitan Antony had read more carefully The Dogma of Redemption and his other books and articles (and the Service Books of the Church), they might not have made such mistakes. Nor would they misquote him. “During that night in Gethsemane the thought and feeling of the God-man embraced fallen humanity numbering many, many millions and He wept with loving sorrow over each individual separately, as only the omniscient heart of God could do. In this consists (this was) our redemption” (Report, p. 169). The italics belong to Fr Seraphim, as does the deliberate omission of the context, which is made clear by Metropolitan Antony: “For since the night in Gethsemane and that day on Golgotha, every believer, even he who is just beginning to believe, recognizes his inner bond with Christ and turns to Him in his prayers as to the inexhaustible source of moral regenerating force” (Dogma Of Redemption, p.26).

Fr Seraphim is as careless with his accusations as he is with quotations. In The Dogma of Redemption (p.52), the Metropolitan purportedly said, “The crucifixion of our Lord and His death are not without meaning for our salvation, since, by touching people they reveal to them at least some part of the redemptive sacrifice” (Report, p. 169). Fr Seraphim would want us to believe that this means that the Metropolitan views the Sacrifice on the Cross as “metaphorical” (ib., p.170). The Metropolitan’s actual words (and meaning) read somewhat differently: “Christ’s cleansing Blood, saving Cross, life-giving tomb, and healing wounds are all expressions and images which are substituted (in the epistles of the Apostles and Fathers, and in the Church prayers), for the general concept of Christ’s redeeming Passion; those aspects of His exploits, of His saving grief and Passion, which made the greatest impression on us, are taken up here, especially the Holy Cross, but also the nails, the sponge and the reed [in the Octoechos].”

“We are, of course, far from insisting that the only meaning of our Lord’s bodily suffering and, in particular, of His crucifixion and death was to provide the faithful with a way of conceiving His spiritual grief. It is probably that because of this connection between the soul and body [my italics], there is a deeper mystical sense here; but, in any case, from the viewpoint of moral monism, the Lord’s crucifixion and death are not without meaning for our salvation for, by bringing men to compunction, they reveal to them some portion of the redemptive sacrifice and, by leading them to love for Christ, they prove saving for them and for all of us” (Dogma Of Redemption, pp.51-52).

Fr  Rose, then, concludes that the Metropolitan holds that “there are two kinds of Christians: those who know the real teaching (by going to the academy) and those who must have something to move them (peasant piety). This is,” asserts Seraphim Rose, “a condescending attitude toward the Holy Cross which contradicts the texts of the Divine Services. Blasphemy” (Report, p. 169). Aside from the fact that Fr Seraphim’s falsehood contradicts the Metropolitan’s ecclesiology (Dogma Of Redemption, p. 35), Rose’s wild leap in logic, from one sentence to the next, climaxing in a gratuitous insult, makes it clear that it is surely the priggish Fr Seraphim who is not only “condescending” but insolent towards a bishop who commanded universal respect as pastor and theologian (see S. Bolshakov, “Le Metropolite Antoine de Kiev, President du Synod des Eveque Russes L’Etranger,” Irenikon 5, 1935-1936, pp.558-577). Fr Seraphim parades numerous witnesses to condemn the Metropolitan’s opinions on the suffering of Christ’s soul as a “new teaching” (Report, p. 169). They all agree that this “novelty” cannot be found in the Fathers “point by point” [my italics]. But St Matthew (26:36-38) records that Christ took into the Garden of Gethsemane with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and “began to be sorrowful and very heavy…and He said to them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; remain, and watch with me.” St John Chrysostom asserts that the Incarnate Lord was not “acting the agony. There was sweat, like drops of blood, and an angel came and strengthened Him, and a thousand sure signs of fear, lest anyone should think He was pretending…. He showed His humanity…His virtue and self-command, teaching us that even when nature pulls us back, to follow God” (Commentary On Matthew, homily. 83, 1).

The frivolous inference that Metropolitan Antony “seemed actually to posit suffering in Christ’s Divine Nature” (Report, p. 170) has now been put to rest, if ever such proof were in fact required. Now, the furore in this debate has surrounded the suffering of Christ’s soul, and nowhere does the Metropolitan attribute a soul to God. Fr Rose hoped to strengthen the charge of “patripassianism” or “God-suffering” by a (mis-) quote from St John of Damascus, “God does not suffer in His Divinity” (ib.). There is misdirection here, because St John writes, “We say that God suffered in the flesh, but never that His Divinity suffered in the flesh; or that God suffered through the flesh” (De Fid. Orth. III, 26). To this confusion, Fr Seraphim resorts to another distortion of the Metropolitan’s theology, linking his beliefs with the teachings of “Western Protestant writers,” such as Ellen White, the foundress of Seventh-Day Adventism, and others (Report, p. 170).

But Fr Seraphim is not finished. He attacks the idea of Christ’s Gethsemane “co-suffering love.” Without bibliographical reference, he quotes the revered Fr Michael Pomazansky of Jordanville who wonders how, according to Metropolitan Antony, one may “co-suffer with that part of humanity which lives criminally and rejects repentance? One may suffer over it, one may suffer for it, for its blindness and wickedness, but not together with it when it doesn’t even think to suffer” (ib., 168). Discarding the notion that the Saviour’s “co-suffering” is “metaphorical,” we may answer Fr Michael (?) in a basic Christian doctrine.

Not only does God “desire that all men might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth,” but to that end Christ died for all: “that in the economy of the fullness of times, He might gather together in one all things (anakephlaiosaitha = collect under one head) in Christ, both which are in heaven and on the earth” (Eph.1:10). Metropolitan Antony follows St Paul; in fact, he follows the exposition of the Apostle’s words given by St Basil the Great in his Ascetic Statutes. He taught that central to “the Saviour’s Incarnation” was “to gather human nature to itself and to Himself and, having abolished the evil cleavage, to restore the original unity” (Dogma Of Redemption p.36).

So, whether one believes in Christ or not, whether we are  “criminal” or not (the Lord died for every sinner), or whether one “even thinks to suffer” with Him or not, Christ is the Saviour and “co-sufferer” of all. Some Protestant sects profess that Christ died only for the elect or true believers; but the Scriptures and the Fathers teach that He suffered for all. He was “the Suffering Servant” Who suffered all His Life, in Gethsemane, “the humiliation, the spitting, the scourge, the nails,” as well as the Cross where Christ becomes “the Warrior,” cleansing our sins, vanquishing the devil and “destroying death by His Death” for mankind. Indeed, Fr Michael is right to confirm that “it was finished on the Cross (as the Saviour said), not in the Garden,” where, the Metropolitan insisted, the Lord endured moral anguish for all – a step in the whole process of salvation. In a word, there is no reason to believe that St Antony (as some call him) would disagree with him.

2.

“Metropolitan Antony claimed that he did not insist that everyone follow his teaching,” writes Fr Seraphim (Report, p.162). He is implying that the Metropolitan was not confident in the Orthodoxy of his teaching about Christ in Gethsemane. In The Dogma of Redemption, he shows no such diffidence. “I am convinced that the explanation of the truth of the doctrine of redemption which I have expounded is in accord with the teaching of the Church; but I am even more firmly convinced in the Church’s infallibility, so that if it were proved to me that my explanation does not coincide with her teaching, I would consciously renounce my view on our dogma. But inasmuch as no one has proven this to me (and I hope no one will), I remain persuaded that the explanation I have proposed is in complete agreement with Holy Scripture and the Church’s Tradition, while its apparent novelty results only from the fact that it unfolds the Church’s teaching in the language of exact concepts and harmonizes the meaning of the dogma under consideration with the rest of the most important truths of the Faith” (p. 53).

Thus, looking at the Redemption from a moral point of view, he declared, “Salvation is our conscious process of perfection and communion with God; therefore, the truths of revelation,” unity with it, should be bound to our inner experience and not remain completely a misunderstood mystery (ib.). He took this stance not only to make explicit what is everywhere taught by the Church, but, also, as a response to the legalism of the medieval theory of Redemption, and, also, to its ethical perversion by Tolstoy and Kant. Fr Rose understood neither the religious nor historical motivation for Metropolitan Antony’s doctrine; and if we can trust Fr Rose to have accurately cited his sources – sources which appear so critical of the Metropolitan – then, we must think of them likewise, for one reason or another, as misunderstanding the point he tried so vigorously to make.

It is altogether lamentable that Fr Seraphim dismissed out of hand the disciples of the Metropolitan, including Bishop Gregory (Grabbe), Archbishop Vitaly (now Metropolitan of ROCOR), and his predecessor, the late St Philaret who, in his sermon for Holy Friday, 14/27 April, 1973, appeals to Metropolitan Antony directly and precisely to the “dogma of the Redemption” which Fr Rose calumniates with his cut and paste polemic. Strange, too, he does not answer the questions raised by Metropolitan Antony about the moral aspect of the Redemption; and that, from any point of view, Fr Seraphim fails to recite for us, in opposition to Metropolitan Antony, the “real” “dogma of the redemption.”

But the Metropolitan offers a “complete” picture of Christ’s Redemption; indeed, at the same time that he described the moral or subjective aspects of the dogma (the focus of the controversy), he was expounding its “objective” elements (about which Fr Rose says nothing in the Report). If only he had read the last three chapters of The Dogma of Redemption. The Metropolitan clarifies terms (“sacrifice,” “justification,” “original sin,” etc.), which enabled him to properly compare the Orthodox or patristic doctrine of the Redemption with the legalistic theories of the post-Orthodox West.

Examine in this book his teachings about the Fall of Adam, the devil, Calvary as a battleground, the crucified Lord offering Himself as a “ransom” to the grave and “a devout gift to God” (ib., p. 43). I see none of this in the Report. None of Fr Seraphim’s witnesses (at least, not as they testify for him) mention the “objective side” of the Metropolitan’s teachings on the Passion. We are not informed (an interesting oversight) that he cites the Triodion which declares that Christ “descended into Hades to preach to the dead and again returned to earth when He rose from the dead.” The Saviour “mourned in His prayer” for them, thus identifying with all who are “perishing morally” (ib., p. 50).

Therefore, it would seem that Fr Seraphim contrived and failed to find contradiction in the soteriology of the Metropolitan; and if he failed to show in his works any opposition between the subjective or moral aspects of the Redemption (which he raised to prominence) to its objective or historical side, it is because there was none.

Fr Michael Azkoul

                   

DR. GEORGE GABRIEL, Ph.D.

Greek Theologian

Fr  Seraphim Rose actually falls into Nestorianism in his criticism of Metropolitan Antony s teaching on the agony of the Saviour s human soul. Fr  Seraphim says that the human nature and the divine nature of Jesus are not mixed and therefore the sufferings of His human soul are not able to save. For Fr  Seraphim the God-Man s energies and operations proceed out of Him independently from their own corresponding natures, human and divine. Thus, for Rose, each nature had its own active, co-essential person, one Divine and one human, through whom these energizations were realized. Fr  Seraphim appears to have no understanding that the operations of the Saviour belong to the composite, single hypostasis of the Incarnate Logos. Jesus Christ is One. The Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils established the term “synthetos hypostasis of the enfleshed Logos” to show that all actions and operations of Jesus are not of one nature or the other acting independently, but of His own Person, the composite hypostasis of the Incarnate Logos and Son of God. This term protects the true Christology from schizoid allusions such as those of Fr  Seraphim Rose. Such are the allusions (and delusions) that Fr  Seraphim makes in his criticism of “The Dogma of Redemption.” He divides the Incarnate operations of the Saviour into distinctly human (and thus, not efficacious) actions, and distinctly divine and efficacious actions. In contrast to Fr Rose’s dismissal of the salvific and sanctifying suffering of the Saviour’s human soul, what comes to mind immediately is St Gregory the Theologian’s dictum regarding the saving role of the entire human nature of the Saviour: “What has not been assumed is not sanctified.”

                   

PART 2

RT. REV. VARLAAM (NOVAKSHONOFF)

Bishop of Vancouver

FR SERAPHIM ROSE’S

VERSION:

1. “The significance of this [Gethsemane] exploit (lit. podvig) is fully expressed in theological science for the first time.”[Rose’s italics].

2. “Metropolitan Antony approaches this matter from another aspect, from which the holy fathers did not approach it…that is, from the aspect of the sufferings of Christ s soul; and therefore he comes to such conclusions which are not to be found directly in the holy fathers.”[all italics are Rose’s].

3. “Metropolitan Antony un- derlines only that which is in his investigation new theology.” [Rose’s italics].

4. “Metropolitan Antony s view of the Old Testament sacrifice is new in (theological) science.” (In the writings of the Holy fathers there exists a clear teaching on Old Testament sacrifice, which leaves no room for a new understanding.) [Rose’s italics. His own personal commentary in parentheses is interjected without admitting to it in order to deceive the reader into believing that it appeared in the original].

5. “Metropolitan Antony approaches the matter and the teaching of Christ s sacrifice from another new aspect which the Fathers did not notice.” (When this was mentioned in the Synodal session in 1974, Archbishop Nikon said that the Holy fathers had been “unable to arrive” at this: “ne nadumalis.”) [Rose’s italics].

6. “Metropolitan Antony emphasizes an almost previously undiscovered inward meaning of the Gethsemane supernatural prayer of the God-man.” [Italics and intentional mistranslation are Seraphim Rose’s]. Is one really to suppose that the Holy fathers didn’t comprehend the inner meaning of the Gethsemane prayer, but only Metropolitan Antony has? [Sarcastic com- ment added by Seraphim Rose, but made to appear to the unwary reader as if it occurred in the original].

7. Archbishop Nikon adds, “This mistake (the Gethsemane fear of death) entered into human theological thought and remained unnoticed by anyone throughout the course of the centuries until Metropolitan Antony.”[Rose’s italics].

[See special note on this paragraph by Bishop Varlaam, below.]

8. “The reason for redemption (causa efficiens) consists in the spiritual acceptance by the Lord Jesus Christ in Gethsemane and His salvific prayer for all human life.”

THE ACTUAL TEXT:

1. The significance of this struggle is fully elucidated for the first time in theological science, in connection with the whole system of dogmatics and ethics.

2. Metropolitan Antony approaches the matter from a different perspective, with which the holy fathers did not approach [it] – from the perspective of Christ’s soulful [du{evn h] sufferings, and thus he presents [or, has] such conclusions which the holy fathers do not present directly (although allusions [hints] to these thoughts of Metropol- itan Antony are also to be found in the literature of the holy fathers). How can it follow from this that the thoughts of Metropolitan Antony contradict those of the holy fathers?

3. Metropolitan Antony em- phasizes only that which, in his research, is new to theology and leaves that which is [already] well know to all.

4. The connection of the Golgotha sacrifice with the Old Testament sacrifices is only a connection. Stated in a different way: the Old Testament sacrifices fore-imaged Christ’s willing sacrifice. Again we have a matter of a metaphor, an analogy, which is deduced logically; it is impossible to attach demonstrative significance (as Archbishop Theophan expresses himself) [to it]. The perspective of Metro-olitan Antony of the Old Testament sacrifice is new in [Russian theological] science. [emphases in original].

5. Metropolitan Antony also approaches the matter of the teaching about Christ’s sacri- fice from another perspec- tive, not given attention by the Fathers. Thus, this perspective does not diverge from [or, with] theology, but actually [or, even] elucidates it, for example, “O Lord Who has suffered and co-suffered as man, glory to Thee.”

[Our] theology was, in general, little concerned [or, occupied] with dividing the redemption struggle into [specific] moments: Christ introduces his glorified Body and Blood on Great Thurs- day, when His suffering had not yet been accomplished, and in the liturgy, in the sec- tion which Archbishop Theo- phan cites [i.e., the prayer of the elevation in the Anaphora], the entire redemptive struggle of Christ is present- ed holistically [or, organically]: “Remembering, therefore, this saving commandment, and all that came to pass on our behalf, the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into heav- en, the Session at the right hand, the second and glorious Coming again.” 

6. It is evident to us that Metropolitan Antony gives the terrible Golgotha its [or, a] due place, but he emphasizes a previously almost unnoticed inherent meaning in the Gethsemane super natural prayer of the God-Man, and for this, theological science must be deeply grateful to him. [Emphasis in original].

7. The error of Western theologians in the interpretation of the essence of redemption, such as the satisfaction of God’s offended honour by the crucifixion of the only-begotten Son, unavoidably entailed the other error in the understanding of the Gethsemane prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ before His death. This error firmly entered into human theological thought and remained [there] without being noticed by anyone in the course of the centuries until Vladika Antony.

8. But it is evident that for an explanation of the teaching about redemption, two aspects of it must be strictly distinguished: one is the essence of our redemption, or its cause, which Vladika Antony refers to by a Latin term, `causa efficiens.’ It consists in a spiritual perception by the Lord Jesus Christ, in Gethsemane, of the redemptive prayer for all human life. The other understanding is the accomplishment of our redemption, [which] continued throughout the [entire] course of the earthly life of the Saviour and was concluded by His suffering on the cross, death and resurrection, [by] which the perception of the divine life of our Redeemer had become possible for us. [All emphases in original].

It will be sufficient to refer to item 7 above to demonstrate Fr Seraphim’s woeful ignorance of the holy fathers, and his lack of discretion in asserting that they teach something which, in fact, they do not. In item 7, Fr Seraphim asserts that Metropolitan Antony is insinuating into Orthodox theology a novelty “unknown by previous theologians” when he writes that the priestly prayers of Christ in Gethemane were not about His own fear. However, let us look at what our holy father St Hilary of Poitiers has to say about this.

St Hilary of Poitiers devotes several paragraphs to refuting the idea that Christ felt fear in Gethsemane. He says that Christ s words, “My soul is sorrowful unto death” cannot mean that He was sorrowful because of His own impending death. He was sorrowful unto death in that He sorrowed so greatly over fallen humanity that He came unto death over it. “So far from His sadness being caused by death, it was removed by it.” Concerning the words, “Let this cup pass from Me,” St Hilary says, “For this prayer is immediately followed by the words, ‘and He came to His disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, Could you not watch one hour with Me?…the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak….  Is the cause of this sadness and this prayer any longer in doubt?…It is not, therefore, for Himself that He is sorrowful and prays, but for those whom He exhorts….” The Saint points out that Christ had no need to fear His passion and death, but that even those who were committed to Him would so fear it that at first, on account of it, they would flee and fear to confess Him, and that Christ was sorrowful over this. The whole passage is well worth reading. See the Saint’s work On The Trinity, Book 10:30–40. Confirmation of Metropolitan Antony’s teaching (and, consequently, a refutation of Fr  Seraphim Rose) will be found also in St John Chrysostom, Against the Marcionites and Mani- chaeans, St Cyril of Alexandria, Commentaries on Luke, Sermons 146 and 147; and St Ambrose of Milan, On Luke, Book 10:56–62. Both St Cyril and St Ambrose directly confirm Metropolitan Antony s interpretation of the cause and significance of Christ s agony in Gethsemane, and the “cup” which He asked to have removed from Him. A number of other fathers also confirm this. We urge our present readers to research the works mentioned above and then compare the teachings of these holy fathers on the subject with that of Metropolitan Antony.

In addition, we would like to refer to Fr Seraphim Rose’s intentional distortion of the title of Metropolitan Antony’s edition of the older Russian catechism. The title of the edited catechism is Experience of an Orthodox Catechism. Rose, in an evident and clearly dishonest effort to be pejorative, uses a strained and obviously incorrect rendering of the word opyt”, rendering it as “attempt.” Rose renders the title of the Metropolitan’s editing of the catechism as An Attempt at an Orthodox Catechism and one must wonder if this was not an attempt to lead the reader to think that Metropolitan Antony was unsure of himself in the editing of the catechism.

PART 3

From Hierarchs of the

Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

I

1

HIS EMINENCE, VITALY (USTINOV)

Archbishop of Montreal and All-Canada,

Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.

INTRODUCTION

Metropolitan Antony, the founder of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, for the first time in the entire history of Orthodox academic theology, set forth the teaching of the dogma of redemption in a manner completely in agreement with the holy fathers, with Holy Orthodoxy. This does not mean, however, that this teaching was unknown to the Holy fathers of the Church. It lived in the bosom of the Church s grace-filled life, and by it all the Saints, all the Doctors and Fathers of the Church lived. Nevertheless, the Orthodox Church brings forth to the level of academic doctrine only that truth which is subject to attack, criticism or mockery by the enemies of the Church, by heretics and atheists. She contrives nothing, she does nothing which is artificial. Thus the time came when the Church was constrained by necessity to set Her academic theology on a truly Orthodox path. Now this was necessary because the Scholastic school of theology had placed the doctrine of redemption entirely within the confines of judicial principles, interpreting it as the Saviour s redeeming merits and the satisfaction of God s flouted justice through Christ s sufferings. The entire judicial principle found in Orthodox dogmatic theology was and is foreign to Orthodoxy (since it is foreign to the God of love), and it could not satisfy the awakening Russian Orthodox thought which had been incessantly knocking at the door of this mystery of dogmatic theology for a long time. In such instances the Church has need of a Council, but without the consent of civil authorities it was not possible at that time to summon a Council. Therefore the Lord singled out His servant, Metropolitan Antony, so that through him He might reveal the hidden, mystical aspect of the entire work of redemption. The Metropolitan s unbounded love for Christ and his perfect devotion to His Church led him to this sublime height of theology. The Scholastic teaching presented the spiritual side of redemption as very impoverished, abstract and even emotional. But for this very reason it concentrated nearly the entire force, sense and meaning of redemption on the Saviour s sufferings on the Cross, and consequently it unconsciously fell prey to a kind of one-sidedness like that of the ancient Monophysites. The difference between these Neomonophysites and those of old is only that our Neomonophysites have for the subject of their theological emphasis not the Saviour s Divine nature, but His human nature. Therefore, it is not surprising that certain obdurate devotees of Scholasticism, dismayed at the sudden appearance of a teaching totally unknown to academic theology, immediately accused Metropolitan Antony of diminishing the soteriological significance of the Saviour s suffering on the Cross. Metropolitan Antony, however, like a true Chalcedonian, simply restored the academic understanding of redemption to the theological balance of the dogmatical definition of the Council of Chalcedon concerning the two natures in Christ. Such is the great service of Metropolitan Antony, who applied a healing plaster to Russian academic theology by placing this foremost dogma concerning our redemption back into the mainstream of the great Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon. In church life we know how hard it is for all clergymen who rely on the Scholastic doctrine, on this Monophysite world-view, to preach before the holy Epitaphios. One famous Russian hierarch, feeling it awkward to speak on the Saviour s sufferings upon the Cross, the wounds, the spitting, the blows, on the entire human aspect of the sufferings of the Godman, managed to escape from the predicament by concluding his entire sermon with the words, “Brothers and sisters, let us weep!” But the Roman Catholics, having departed from the Church of Christ and no longer being under the shelter of the Holy Spirit, have by their tenacious meditation on the wounds of the nails reached the pathological state of the stigmata, that is to say, an extremely serious form of the spiritual disease of delusion (prelest).

The difference between these Neomonophysites and those of old is only that our Neomonophysites have for the subject of their theological emphasis not the Saviour s Divine nature, but His human nature.

    This “emphasis box” does not appear in the original. It was added here by the editor of this present work.

Howbeit, the crown of all of Metropolitan Antony s writings and of his archpastoral activities in the realm of learning was his disclosure of the moral aspect of the dogma of redemption. As a true archpastor he looked with pain of heart upon the vacuum which was created between academic doctrine and his Christian flock. The precious golden link between doctrine and life had been lost over the recent centuries of Scholasticism s predominance. But it is better if we present here our author s complete thought in his own words:

One must suppose that, during that night in Gethsemane, the thought and feeling of the God-Man embraced fallen humanity numbering many, many millions, and He wept with loving sorrow over each individual separately, as only the omniscient heart of God could. In this did our redemption consist. This is why God, the God-Man, and only He, could be our Redeemer. Not an angel, nor a man. And not at all because the satisfaction of Divine wrath demanded the most costly sacrifice.

For the everyday Orthodox Christian, unskilled in theology, nurtured in Scholastic doctrine, or simply in worldly literature, this thought will seem commonplace, arid, devoid of any special content. But for those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” for those who are discerning and reflective, this thought is a true Divine revelation, capable of spiritually enrapturing a human soul, of moving a hardened heart to compunction and of causing a man to shed tears of repentance. One can say without exaggeration that the dogma of redemption as expounded by Metropolitan Antony, is–even without the calling of a Council– the conciliar voice of the entire Church of Christ. After many centuries of Scholasticism s reign, after the famous ‘Renaissance  and the submission before German philosophy, such a teaching should be called a miracle of theological thought, a pinnacle of godly deliberation, equal to the very dogmatical formulation of the Council of Chalcedon in its profundity. That which Chalcedon did for dogmatic theology, the same Metropolitan Antony has done for moral theology.

It remains for me to express the ardent desire that in a future Ecumenical Council–if it be God s will that one should ever again assemble, none of its members being Communists or Ecumenists disguised in Orthodox rassas – that the Scholastic doctrine, which has caused the Church of Christ so much grief, be definitively and conclusively anathematized. And one further desire: that some God-inspired ecclesiastical writer would compose a prayer in the spirit and sense of the dogma of redemption.

Slowly but surely, with much toil but steadily, this doctrine – so filled with love, joy and hope–of the great teacher of both the Russian and the Universal Church, Metropolitan Antony, breaks its way through the barrier of thorns and thistles, that is, of slander and ignominy. For “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed” (Luke 8:16).

Archbishop Vitaly

                   

II

RT. REV. GREGORY GRABBE

Bishop of Manhattan

In 1917, about a year after I had first begun to take an interest in theological literature, I had occasion to read in the Theological Herald–a journal published by the Theological Academy of Moscow–an article by Metropolitan (at that time Archbishop of Kharkov) Antony entitled “The Dogma of Redemption.” The article made a very strong impression on me. From that period I became accustomed to copy out in a notebook passages which especially pleased me from books I read; selections from the “Dogma of Redemption” covered many pages of my notebook.

But the time came when the Bolsheviks approached the Northern Caucasus where our family lived, at first in Kislovodsk, then in Esentuki. We had to prepare for evacuation. In such times a man must face the question, which of his possessions are the most dear and are to be taken, and which are to be abandoned, since baggage must be restricted. For a lover of books this is a very painful decision. And so, among those few books which I could take was Metropolitan Antony s article “The Dogma of Redemption,” which I tore out from that number of the Theological Herald.

Afterwards in Yugoslavia, at one of my first meetings with Metropolitan Antony, I heard him say that he wished to republish this article, but he was unable to locate the proper number of the Theological Herald, which was published during the Revolution but that number never reached abroad. Vladika was overjoyed when he learned that I had kept this article in which he placed so much love, trust, and faith. Naturally, I gave him the article and it was reprinted by him in 1922, apparently with the aid of Patriarch Gregory of Antioch, who had great esteem for Vladika Antony.

I should not be mistaken if I were to say that of all his compositions Metropolitan Antony especially cherished the “Dogma of Redemption,” which he pondered and nurtured over a period of many years. His Orthodox consciousness as well as the conscious understanding which evolved in him through the influence of a deeper study of the works of the Holy fathers and a series of Russian theologians, could not be reconciled with the Western, juridical interpretation of one of the fundamental dogmas of our Church. A. S. Khomiakoff initiated an impetus for our theology to return from Western scholasticism to the Holy fathers, and this became manifest in the works of various theologians, some of whom were students of Metropolitan Antony.

If it is so that Archimandrite Sergei (later known as Patriarch), Nesmyelov, Svetlov, and others prepared the ground for a correct understanding of the dogma of redemption through their criticism of the Western, juridical approach to this dogma, then to a considerable degree they will be found to have elaborated thoughts which Saint Gregory the Theologian in his homily on Pascha pointed out long ago as needing further investigation, stating:

It remains for us to examine an act and a dogma overlooked by most, but in my judgment well worth enquiring into. To whom was that Blood offered that was shed for us, and why was it shed? I mean the precious and famous Blood of our God and Highpriest and Sacrifice. We were detained in bondage by the evil one, sold under sin, and receiving pleasure in exchange for wickedness. Now, since a ransom belongs only to him who holds in bondage, I ask to whom this was offered, and for what cause? If to the evil one, fie upon the outrage! If the robber receives ransom, not only from God, but a ransom which consists of God Himself, and has such an illustrious payment for his tyranny, a payment for whose sake it would have been right for him to have left us alone altogether. But if to the Father, I ask first, how? For it was not by Him that we were being oppressed; and next, on what principle did the Blood of His Only-begotten Son delight the Father, Who would not receive even Isaac, when he was being offered up by his father, but changed the sacrifice, putting a ram in the place of the human victim? Is it not evident that the Father accepts the sacrifice, but neither asked for it, nor felt any need for it, but on account of the economy, and because man must be sanctified by the humanity of God, that He might deliver us Himself, and overcome the tyrant by violence, and draw us to Himself by the mediation of His Son, Who also providentially effected this to the honor of the Father, Whom it is manifest that He obeys in all things? Such are the things concerning Christ, but as for the greater part, let it be reverenced with silence. (§ 22)

The Saint could stop at this because in his days there was no Western, juridical theory regarding redemption. This theory, which in its practical application gave birth to such monstrous apparitions as Roman indulgences, urgently required in our times an Orthodox rebuttal. By way of criticism Archimandrite Sergei, Svetlov, and others provided an adequate refutation, but Metropolitan Antony unfolded a positive teaching concerning that which Saint Gregory, for considerations which were at that time undoubtedly weighty, reverenced with silence. In the days, however, of Metropolitan Antony, the juridical error had so greatly increased, that he had to break this silence. For this the science of theology and all we faithful are obliged to render him eternal thanks.

Metropolitan Antony s thoughts received further development in complete agreement with him in Fr  Justin Popovich s Dogmatic Theology, though the latter s custom was never to cite modern theologians, but only to quote the words of the Holy fathers. In the Fathers, Fr  Justin found many thoughts akin to those of Metropolitan Antony, but not systematized as Vladika Antony had done, and Fr  Justin after him. In his presentation, grounded upon the words of the Fathers, he supplements much of what Metropolitan Antony said and totally abolishes the misunderstanding which arose among hostile critics, who reproached the Metropolitan for diminishing the significance of the Saviour s sufferings on the Cross.

This criticism is based for the most part on an inattentive reading of the Metropolitan s words, whose starting point was from the fact that the God-Man had human flesh and a human soul and hence suffered in both parts of His human nature. Because Western theology stopped at the sufferings of His Body, Metropolitan Antony, though in no wise disregarding these, centred his attention more upon the sufferings of the Saviour s soul. Therefore, it would be unjust to say that he dismissed Golgotha and transferred the focal point of the grievous weight of redemption from there to Gethsemane. By no means! In both events he strove to penetrate into the sufferings of the soul of the God-Man as a manifestation of His compassionate love, which in a spiritual manner unites us with Him and regenerates the children of the Holy Church. I shall cite the following words of Vladika Antony which have remained unnoticed by his critics: 

He was oppressed with the greatest sorrows on the night when the greatest crime in the history of mankind was committed, when the ministers of God, with the help of Christ s disciple, some because of envy, some because of avarice, decided to put the Son of God to death. And a second time [emphasis mine– Protopresbyter G. Grabbe] the same oppressing sorrow possessed His pure soul on the Cross, when the cruel masses, far from being moved with pity by His terrible physical sufferings, maliciously ridiculed the Sufferer; and as to His moral suffering, they were unable even to surmise it. 

Therefore, his words, “In this did our redemption consist,” must be referred not only to Gethsemane, but to Golgotha also, contrary to the claims of the Metropolitan s critics.

Developing the thoughts of Metropolitan Antony in his Dogmatic Theology, Archimandrite Justin sums them up, as it were, when he explains that the work of redemption cannot be reduced to any one period of time: the sufferings of the Saviour began at His very birth into this world and continued until His crucifixion on the Cross between two thieves. The God-Man was unable not to suffer and endure anguish unceasingly, having at every moment before His all-seeing eyes all the sins, all the vices and all the transgressions of His contemporaries, as well as those of all men of all times. Fr  Justin writes the following words in complete harmony with this article of Metropolitan Antony, whom he so esteemed:

Even before Gethsemane, but especially in Gethsemane, the man-befriending Lord experienced all the torments of human nature which had rushed upon it as a result of sin. He suffered all the sufferings which human nature had suffered from Adam until his last descendant; He endured the pain of all human pains as though they were His own; He underwent all human misfortunes as though they were His own. At that moment He had before His all-seeing eyes all the millions of human souls, which as a result of sin are tormented in the embrace of death, pain, and vice…. In Him, in the true God-Man, human nature wept and lamented, beholding all which she had done by falling into sin and death (Protosyngellus Dr. Justin Popovich. Dogmatic Theology of the Orthodox Church. Belgrad, 1935. Vol. II, p. 377).

We cannot but regret that Fr. Justin’s Dogmatic Theology was all but annihilated during the Second World War and has become a rarity. It was not translated into Russian, and is, for that reason also, unavailable to the majority of our theologians. Nevertheless, without mentioning Metropolitan Antony’s name, Fr  Justin gave an answer, well-grounded on the Holy fathers, to all the points raised by the Metropolitan s opponents.

When, in my youth, I read the “Dogma of Redemption,” that which captivated me, a fifteen-year-old youth just beginning to read theological books, was the freshness and depth of the author s thoughts, combined with the simplicity of his presentation. And it is with this same sensation that I experience his thoughts while reading his works now. In general, Metropolitan Antony did not perceive the dogmas as abstract, dry formulas, but as revelations given us for the direction of our life. He understood and explained that Divine truths are not revealed to us in order to satisfy our inquisitive thirst for knowledge, but in order that we apprehend them with our heart and soul. Metropolitan Antony lived them and for this very reason he was able to transmit them with such force to his flock, his students and admirers. Love for God and for men was his chief characteristic. This sentiment, united with a profound Orthodox erudition, disclosed to him all the great truths which he set forth for our education and salvation.

I think that many who are interested in Orthodox theology, but especially those who honour Metropolitan Antony s memory, will be grateful to the Holy Transfiguration Monastery for taking the effort to translate into the English language this remarkable work of our great theologian.

                   

III

SAINT PHILARET,

Metropolitan of New York

Holy and Great Friday

April 14/27, 1973

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son,

and of the Holy Spirit.

Yesterday, in the reading of the Ninth Gospel concerning the suffering of the Saviour, and this morning, when the Gospel of Saint John was read during the Ninth Hour, we heard the exclamation made from the Cross, the exclamation of the Conqueror of Hades, death and the devil, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

What is finished? That was finished which was known to the Lord Omnipotent at the time of the creation of the world. Finished was that which the whole world was awaiting; finished was that which was prophesied even in Paradise to the forefathers who had sinned; finished was that which was foretold to the Prophets, that to which the Old Testament prefigurations pointed; finished was the redemption of the human race, its salvation from sin, death and condemnation. Christ the Saviour made this exclamation, I repeat, already a Conqueror who had fulfilled the purpose for which He had been sent.

Before this there was heard from the Cross an exclamation of an entirely different nature: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). This exclamation was still that of a sufferer and not a conqueror. This exclamation tells of boundless torment and suffering, and indicates to us with what terrible sufferings the act of our redemption was accomplished. But, as the God-inspired holy fathers of the Church tell us, and as our great father of the Church Abroad and renowned theologian, His Beatitude Metropolitan Antony, express with particular precision, our redemption consisted of two parts, so to speak: first, the Lord Saviour accepted upon Himself all the weight of our sins, then He nailed them to the wood of the Cross on Golgotha.

When He walked with the apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, they who were accustomed to seeing Him immovably calm, the Master of all creation, the King and Conqueror of the elements and the Master of life and death, heard with horror words unheard from Him before: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” The Saviour then asks His disciples, His beloved spiritual children, during those unbearably difficult and decisive moments of the Passion, “Tarry ye here, and watch with Me” (Matt. 26:38).

Here the prayer in Gethsemane begins. In this prayer we see that the Lamb, which was ordained at the time of the creation of the world for the salvation of mankind, steps back as if terrified before what is approaching Him and what He has to accept and suffer. Is He so much afraid of the physical suffering? Is it that which makes Him step back? No!

From the narration of His suffering we see how calmly, how majestically and with what wonderful, and of a truth Divine, patience He endured the terrible physical, bodily torments. One has to keep in mind that He was pure and sinless. Suffering is characteristic of sinful nature. He did not have to suffer because there was no sin in Him. Therefore, suffering was for Him unnatural, and consequently, incomparably more sharp and difficult than for us. And yet, how did He endure the physical torments?

Let us consider one moment of those torments: He is laid on the Cross, His most pure hands and feet are pierced by terrible nails. What a dread moment! But He does not think of Himself. The Saviour of sinners, Who came into the world to save sinners, thinks of them even here and prays to His Father for His slayers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). At that moment, He does not think of Himself; He forgets His own suffering; He only prays that the Father would be merciful, would forgive the sin of His own crucifiers. This is the way in which He knew how to fulfill His act of serving and saving sinners. Later on, a few hours will pass and He will lead yet another soul to salvation: the soul of the wise thief.

But here we see that He is so struck with awe at the horror, that He prays to His Father, “Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me” (Luke 22:42), and even more sharply according to Saint Mark, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee” (Mark 14:36). All things are possible unto Thee; Thou mightest find yet another way. Let this cup pass from Me. So terrible was it, He prays that it will pass from Him.

The Church tells us that Christ the Saviour is the Lamb of God Who takes upon Himself the sins of the whole world. Yes, He took upon Himself, He accepted as His own, all our sins. And please remember that this is not simply a phrase written on paper, this is not a vibration of the air which we term a sound; this is very truth.

In the Garden of Gethsemane during this terrible struggle, He received into His soul the whole of humanity. As the All-knowing God for Whom there is no future and no past but only one act of the Divine omniscience and understanding, He knew each one of us, He saw each one of us, and every one of us did He receive into His soul, with all our sins, our cold unwillingness to repent, with all our weaknesses and moral defilement. And what does He see? In order to save us, whom He loved so much and whom He received into His soul, He has to take upon Himself all our sins as if He Himself had committed them. And in His holy, sinless and pure soul every sin burned worse than fire. It is we who have become so accustomed to sin that we sin without hesitation. As the prophet said, man drinks unrighteousness as a drink (Job 15:16), and does not count his sins. But in His holy soul every sin burned with the unbearable fire of Hades, and here He takes upon Himself the sins of the entire human race.

What a torment, what a searing torment it was for His all holy soul! But on the other hand, He sees that if He does not accomplish it, if He will not receive upon Himself this weight of human sins, then humanity will perish for all ages, forever, for endless eternity. Here His human nature, stricken with horror, steps back before this fathomless abyss of suffering, but His endless, His boundless, His inexpressibly compassionate love will not consent that humanity should perish; within Him there occurs a terrible struggle.

Finally, exhausted from this struggle, He goes to those from whom He was seeking compassion and whom He asked to tarry and watch with Him, but instead of commiseration, He finds them sleeping.

He addressed them–according to one of the Evangelists, he addressed Simon directly–Thou sleepest, thou who but a short while ago swore that thou wouldst follow Me everywhere, even unto death; thou sleepest, thou couldst not watch with Me even one hour? “Watch and pray,” He tells them, for “the spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). He steps away and again begins His lonely prayer. And at the last His boundless love prevails and He takes upon Himself the sins of all humanity.

But we see how much this struggle cost Him. The Heavenly Father sent an angel from Heaven to support Him because His human strength had reached its limit, and we see that He is exhausted and covered with a terrible bloody sweat which, as medicine states, occurs as a result of inner spiritual struggles which shake the whole being of a man.

Saint Dmitri of Rostov, meditating on the sufferings of the Saviour says, “Lord Saviour: why art Thou all in blood? There is yet no terrible Golgotha, no crown of thorns, no scourging, no Cross, nothing like unto this as yet, yet Thou art all stained with blood. Who dared to wound Thee?” And the saintly bishop himself answers his question: “Love has wounded Thee.” Love brought Him to torment and suffering; from this struggle He is covered with blood but comes forth as Conqueror. And in His redeeming, heroic deed, He took upon Himself our sins and carried them on the Cross to Golgotha, falling under its weight. And there began that other, central part of our redemption, when He suffered all those sins which He took upon Himself in Gethsemane, in the terrible torments on the Cross.

The Holy Gospel lifts up a little of the veil covering His suffering on the Cross by the exclamation concerning which I spoke before, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). For this was the principal terror for Him. Probably from this He stepped back terrified in the Garden of Gethsemane in that He realized what was awaiting Him: He knew that the Father would forsake Him, all covered with the stains of human sins. Through this exclamation uttered from His lips, the abyss of this measureless suffering is partly revealed to us. If we were able to look into this abyss, not one of us would remain alive, because from this measureless suprahuman suffering our soul would melt, perish.

But lo! at last through His suffering He achieved everything for which He came. As the new Adam, He becomes the forefather of the new, renewed, spirit-filled humanity, and then as Conqueror He exclaims, “It is finished.” The suffering is ended for Him now and He surrenders His spirit unto His Heavenly Father.

During the suffering on the Cross, He called unto Him as the least of sinners who is immersed in his sins, saying, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” and now He again calls Him Father: “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46).

As one of our great Russian preachers said, “The suffering is finished, let the wounds be healed, let the blood stop flowing; approach now ye Josephs of Arimathea and ye Nicodemoses, and also ye reverent Magdalenes, come to the Deceased in order to show Him the last honours.”

Let us remember well, beloved brethren, the subjects I lightly touched upon in my sermon.

Blessed is that man who knows how to read the Holy Gospel, who understands it and meditates upon what it tells us.

And now, while worshipping the Saviour entombed, let us remember that the Lord suffered for our sins, that all these wounds were inflicted by us; and reverently kissing the wounds of the Crucified with repentance and gratefulness, let us pray to Him that by His grace He will teach us to be faithful to Him in all the paths of our lives. Amen.

Posted with permission.

±±±

Truth