May 3, 2021

Pascha Sunday - New Creation (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (Jn. 1:17)

The energy of the Church is divinely inspired, which determined on Pascha Sunday for this Gospel passage to be read, which is full of theological truths. It is the most appropriate passage to be heard today as we sensibly experience the "now all things have been filled with light, heaven and earth and the netherworld." Among the many theological truths that the passage has, we will focus on the phrase "Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" and we will make some remarks with great fear lest they cause the most-luminous atmosphere of the Resurrection of Christ to be tarnished.

Divine Grace

The Evangelist John the Theologian says that the Law was given through Moses, while Grace and truth were given through Jesus Christ. It reveals to us the importance of Grace for our salvation and deification. Grace was not given as the Law, but "came through Jesus Christ", which means that it is the uncreated (divine) energy of Christ, Christ Himself.

Of course it is difficult to give a "rational" definition of divine Grace, since Christ as God is impossible to be included in any definition, except that He is the God-man. So all we can say is that divine Grace is the "divine and supernatural" energy of God, through which the union of God and men takes place. It is the coming and sojourn of Christ in man. It is "the life in God", that is, the life of Christ in man and the life of man in Christ. Therefore the coming of Christ or the coming of divine Grace is the same. "Those who received Him were given the power to become children of God."

Divine Grace is transmitted to man through the Holy Mysteries and acts in three ways. With Holy Baptism the unnatural life is removed from him, that is, sin; with the Holy Myrrh nature is restored to its original beauty; and with the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist man is crowned through deification (St. Maximus the Confessor).

Divine Grace and Uncreated Light

The Light that rose from the life-bearing Tomb of the Lord is divine Grace. The Holy Fathers clearly tell us that divine Grace is the uncreated (divine) Light of the Lord, it is the Light of the Transfiguration, the glory of the Resurrection, the breath of Pentecost. The evangelist John said in today's Gospel: "He dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

It must be emphasized that the Orthodox Church is the Church of the Resurrection, not because it solemnly celebrates the Resurrection with beautiful services, but because within it there is always the uncreated Light, the uncreated glory of the Risen Christ. The uncreated Light during the Transfiguration and the Resurrection, was not something that "is done and undone", it was not a spectrum that flashed and then went out, like lightning, but the "unwaning and unchangeable" Light. It is the same Light, which to varying degrees, depending on one's purity, was seen by the righteous in the Old Testament and will be seen by the righteous in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Light that the Apostles saw on Tabor existed even before the Transfiguration of Christ, it was not a third hidden nature of Christ, but the natural brilliance of His Divinity. All the uncreated glory of Christ (Light of Transfiguration, Light of Resurrection) is constantly "protruding" from His incarnate Flesh and is "the seal of the age to come", "the prelude of the second Coming of Christ".

Thus in the Church we share in this glory, which the Apostles saw on Tabor, which the disciples experienced with the appearance of the Risen One, which they experienced in the upper room with the descent of the Holy Spirit, which will be the unceasing joy of the righteous in the Kingdom of God. Living in the Church we enjoy all this energy of divine glory (divine Grace - uncreated Light). We experience it like a fire that burns the passions and leads us to repentance. As a search for the true God. Like a Light that warms the heart and illuminates our nous. That is, we feel this warmth that assures the existence of Christ in the heart and causes unshakeable joy, as well as we feel the inherent Light, which illuminates the nous and captures all the mysteries of God hidden from carnal people.

In other words, the radiance of the All-Holy Spirit is not unsubstantial, like a transient flash of lightning, as is done with thoughts, but id a substantial Light, which really remains in those who are radiant. It is a permanent state in the heart and nous and man experiences the true presence of Christ.

We also feel the uncreated Light which exists in our Orthodoxy, with the warmth, consolation, and comfort that spreads in our hearts, that all opposing forces cannot drive away. Therefore the life of the Risen Christ exists within the Church and is constantly transmitted to those who live sacramentally and constitute His Body.

The New Creation

The Apostle Paul says "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17). Because Christ is the Head of the Body of the Church, that is why we can say "if anyone is in the Orthodox Church, he is a new creation". Man, through the God-man, takes off decay and death and puts on incorruptibility and immortality, becomes a "new creation". This new creation appears first in the Person of the God-man, since Christ is "the only thing new under the sun" and then in the whole Church, since the holiness of the Church is the holiness of the Head, of Christ.

We see the new creation in the person of our Panagia. In her the laws of pleasurable conception and painful pregnancy were abolished and she became the type of a man of the new age.

We also see it in the saints, who experience the Grace and Light of the risen Christ. Living in a society of hatred, the saints have love for the whole world. Living in disturbing times, they have deep and inalienable peace. They are distinguished for their miraculous power, which defeats all kingdoms and worldly authorities. They have empirical knowledge of God. The resurrected life is also seen in their bodies, which, as members of the resurrected Body of Christ, are fragrant, work miracles, are not subject to decay.

Many people today, especially young people, are thirsty to see a new world, free from hatred and enmity. But in offering despair and optimism we say that the new society was made through Christ. It is ecclesiastical life. It became a reality not through human energy, but through divine pleasure. Not through the revolution of man, but through the Resurrection of the God-man.

The Orthodox Church is called the Church of the Resurrection not only because it praises the Risen Christ, but because its members live the life of the Risen One. Therefore the greeting "Christ is Risen" makes sense, not only because it refers to a historical event, but because it is connected to the present and the future. When we say "Christ is Risen", we mean "the Church is risen", "we are risen".

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.