April 3, 2015

Meaningfully and Personally Sharing in the Passion, Cross and Resurrection of Christ

On the Fifth Sunday of the Fast, Sunday 29 March 2015, His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos delivered a sermon in the crowded Church of Saint Nicholas in Larissa, in which he analyzed our sharing in the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ according to Saint Maximus the Confessor. Below is a summary of this sermon:

Saint Maximus the Confessor is a great Father of the Church and Ecumenical Teacher who lived in the seventh century, producing ascetic theology, defending the doctrine of Chalcedon regarding the two natures of Christ, and fighting against Monoenergism and Monothelitism. He was a great hesychast and simultaneously a confessor of the faith.

The basic theory or theology of Saint Maximus deals with the journey of man towards God which takes place through three stages: a) practical philosophy, namely the purification of the heart, overcoming pleasure and suffering, b) natural theoria, namely the illumination of the nous, overcoming forgetfulness and ignorance, and the acquisition of love and prayer to God, c) secret theology, namely theosis, by which the imagination is overcome and the believer sees the uncreated Light.

This theory of Saint Maximus can be seen and applied through six points in relation to his teaching on the Cross and Resurrection of Christ and their direct relationship to our spiritual life.

The six points are as follows:

1. In the last Passover of Christ, as described in the Gospels, which Saint Maximus interpreted from the perspective of the salvation of the world and within the personal spiritual life of people.

2. With the second point the Saint interprets our sharing in the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ through the perspective of the relationship between Pilate, Herod and the mob, by which he shows how people are liberated from sin.

3. The third point is the trilingual inscription above the Cross of Christ, showing that the Crucified One is the King of practical philosophy, natural theoria and secret theology. And these three categories of people are associated with Christ and those crucified with Him.

4. The fourth example of interpretation is the Cross, Burial and Resurrection of Christ. Saint Maximus teaches: "All visible things (phenomena) need a cross, that is, a capacity which holds back the participation in what is active in them according to sense. All intelligible things (noumena) need a tomb, that is, the total immobilization of the activities of the mind in them. For when this natural activity and movement with respect to all things is taken away along with their participation, the Logos which alone exists by itself as if he had risen from the dead is manifested anew" ("100 Chapters on Knowledge", 66).

5. In the new tomb, the burial linens and the sudarium of Christ; that is, to meet the Risen Christ in our hearts we must go beyond sensible and human knowledge.

6. The sixth point deals with what Pascha means according to Saint Maximus the Confessor, namely that "a true Pascha (Passover) is when the Logos transitions towards the human nous."

Thus Saint Maximus gives a meaningful and personal interpretation of the events of the Passion, Cross and Resurrection of Christ, and as Christians we have two options: either be crucified and resurrected with Christ or crucify Christ with our passions.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ὁμιλία γιά τόν Σταυρό καί τήν Ἀνάσταση, κατά τόν ἅγιο Μάξιμο τόν Ὁμολογητή, στήν Λάρισα", March 2015. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.