By Archimandrite Cyril Kostopoulos
"You were crucified for us, to be the source of our forgiveness."
(Hymn from the Service of the Holy Passion)
The Cross of the Son and Word of God the Father is the culmination of the "mad love" of God for humanity, who, by our sinful life, stand in hostility against God our Creator.
The Cross is, we could say, the path God chose to come and redeem humanity and by which humanity can encounter God.
In the theological teaching of the West there appeared from the early centuries and gradually gained dominance a great perversion of ecclesiastical truth concerning the abolition of death and the redemption of humanity by the Cross of Christ. This perversion was finally proclaimed an official teaching in the West at the Council of Trent (1545-1563). This teaching, unfortunately, impacted the theology of the Orthodox East, among some groups of theologians and pious Christians.
What was taught was a "legalistic" interpretation of the mystery of the crucifixion sacrifice of the God-man Christ. This theory was as follows: after the fall of humanity there needed to be an act of atonement made to God. It was not possible, however, for finite humanity to offer such an infinite offering. Therefore God the Father sacrificed His Son, in order to satisfy the wrath of divine justice. Hence, the Son and Word of God the Father was punished by His death on the Christ, in place of sinful humanity, according to Luther and Calvin.
This unacceptable theory brings tragic alteration in the Orthodox faith of our Church. It subordinates the freedom of His love to His egocentric beastly justice, requiring a sadistic satisfaction. This erroneous belief brought successive waves of atheism and revolutionary revolts to be free from the "sadistic" God of a Roman juridical tradition, altering the ecclesiastical beliefs concerning God's love for His creatures.
The Cross is the loving response of God to the madness of humanity, who in disobedience to the most-holy will of the Creator chose corruption and death.
The divine Chrysostom says: "The Cross of Christ saved and changed the ecumene, expelling delusion, restoring truth, making the earth into heaven and humanity into angels... Because of this everything that was against our salvation has collapsed and been trampled. If somebody asks you, 'Do you worship the One who was crucified?,' respond with a joyful voice and a smiling face: 'I worship Him and I will never cease to worship Him.'"
Saint John of Damascus teaches that "every act and every miracle of Christ was divine and wonderful, but the most wonderful of all was His honorable Cross. Nothing could tame death...nothing brought resurrection...nothing opened the gates of paradise, nothing placed our nature at the right hand of God and made us His children, as the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ did" (PG 94, 1129).
For this reason the faithful baptized Orthodox Christian reflects on his body the sign of the Cross, stating that he is offering in Christ his will to the Father.
The Cross is not a sign of remembrance and emotionalism or a moral religious reference, but a symbol of our mutual journey and conformation to the way of existence of the Crucified Christ. Besides, this symbol is set at the tombs of the dead, to confirm the entry of those who have departed this transient life to the "land of the living".
For this reason the Cross of Christ is a daily miracle in human society after the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the God-man Christ.
Source: From the newspaper Πελοπόννησος 4/5/2015. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.