Glory to God for All Things

The Death of Christ on the Cross – the Life of Man

twelve_gospelsSeveral years ago, someone wrote and asked, “Why did Christ have to die on the Cross?” It is the question that prompted this article. On September 14th (New Calendar), the Church marks the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross. It is a fitting time to ask, “Why did Christ have to die?” His death and resurrection are the utter foundation of the Christian faith. Either we can answer this question, or we have nothing to say.

Preliminary Thoughts

Part of the information accompanying the question was the experience (of Mary K) with teaching on the atonement that centered largely on the wrath and anger of God. (I paraphrase and summarize) We sinned  (both ourselves and Adam and Eve) – God punished us. God sent Christ whom He punished in our place. Now through faith in Christ we can escape the punishment we deserve. Along with this were a number of questions about the blood of Christ. How does it cleanse us from sin?

Of course such a question could be the occasion for a book. As is, it is the occasion for an answer of readable length (barely). Readers who feel that more should have been said about one thing or another are asked for patience. The heart of things, it seems to me, has to do with the primary images used to understand both what is wrong with humanity and creation (sin) and what it is about Christ that saves us and heals us (His death and resurrection). If there were only one way of speaking about this or thinking about this, then the question would not have been asked.

The truth is that Scripture, including within the work of a single writer, uses many images to describe the reality of what Christ has done. Some of those images are simply useful analogies or metaphors, others seem to have a more “literal” character about them – though nowhere do we find a definitive account that sets all others aside.

I want to also add a preliminary word (for our questioning reader) about the language of Scripture. Though many Christians would agree that the words of Scripture are “God-breathed” (inspired), this does not mean that every statement in Scripture is to be read literally. There are many things that are read figuratively, metaphorically, and otherwise. That is to say, the Scriptures cannot be read without help and a guide. This has always been true. For this reason the Scriptures, when read in a traditional Christian manner, must be read with Christians who themselves have been taught to read them in a traditional manner.

In this matter, you will find great diversity among Christians, for the interpretation of Scripture has been a major point of division between Christians for almost 500 years. Much of what was described in the background to the question that was posed are examples of modern, fundamentalist Christian interpretations (of which there are a variety). What I offer here is the general understanding of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

The Problem

What is wrong with humanity, and creation, such that we are in need of anything from God? What is sin?

At its most fundamental level – sin is death. For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The fact that we die is not a punishment sent to us from God but the result of our having broken fellowship (communion) with God. God is Life and the only source of life. Created things (humanity included) do not have life in themselves, it is not something we have as our possession and power. Rather, life is the gift of God. It is not just our life that is the gift of God – but our very existence and the existence of all that is. God is our Creator. The Scriptures say, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Genesis offers us the story of Adam and Eve in which we hear described their disobedience from God. He had warned them: “Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Many early commentators on Scripture were careful to note that God did not say, “In the day you eat of it I will kill you,” but “in the day you eat of it you shall die.” Rather we are told: “God did not create death, nor does he delight in the death of the living” (Wisdom 1:13).

St. Athanasius explains that when humanity chose to break its relationship with God (through disobedience) we cut ourselves off from the source of life. However God did not take life from us (He does not take back the gifts He gives) but we removed ourselves from it. And so we die. We not only die physically, but we have a process of death at work in us. St. Paul speaks of this process as “corruption.” This movement away from and towards death and destruction reveals itself in the many broken things in our lives. We hurt and kill each other. We hurt and destroy creation. We are weak and easily enslaved to powerful things such as drugs and alcohol. We are dominated by greed, envy, lust, anger, etc. We cannot help ourselves in this matter because we do not have life within ourselves. Only God can give us the true life that alone can make us well.

The Answer

Above all else we should remember that “God is a good God and He loves mankind” (from the Orthodox dismissal). This we hear clearly in Scripture: “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

We hear this echoed in the words of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom:

You [God] brought us into being out of nothing, and when we fell, You raised us up again. You did not cease doing everything until You led us to heaven and granted us Your kingdom to come.

This good God who loves mankind is not an angry God. He is not a vengeful God. He does not will us harm or punish us for our destruction. Though the Scriptures use these images, the Fathers of the Church have been consistent in understanding that this language is figurative and should not be understood literally. For instance, St. Anthony says:

God is good and is not controlled by passions. He does not change. Now someone who thinks it reasonable and true to affirm that God does not change, may well ask how, in that case, it is possible to speak of God as rejoicing over those who are good and showing mercy to those who honor Him, and as turning away from the wicked and being angry with sinners. To this it must be answered that God neither rejoices nor grows angry, for to rejoice and to be offended are passions; nor is He won over by the gifts of those who honor Him, for that would mean He is swayed by pleasure. It is not right that the Divinity feel pleasure or displeasure from human conditions. He is good, and He only bestows blessings and never does harm, remaining always the same. We men, on the other hand, if we remain good through resembling God, are united to Him, but if we become evil through not resembling God, we are separated from Him. By living in holiness we cleave to God; but by becoming wicked we make Him our enemy. It is not that He grows angry with us in an arbitrary way, but it is our own sins that prevent God from shining within us and expose us to demons who torture us. And if through prayer and acts of compassion we gain release from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him to change, but that through our actions and our turning to the Divinity, we have cured our wickedness and so once more have enjoyment of God’s goodness. Thus to say that God turns away from the wicked is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind.

There are many Christians who would handle Scriptures in a different manner – but I think they do not listen to the fathers of the Church and interpret Scripture according to their own opinions. In this, I think they are in error and should not be listened to.

This good God, the only Lord and giver of Life, had compassion on us when we fell away and became subject to death and corruption. In His compassion He sent His only Son who became one of us – taking our human nature upon Himself. Uniting us to Himself, He lived a life without sin (for He is Life), and taught us by word and deed the goodness and kindness of God and to become like God by loving even our enemies.

His love was so great, that He extended that love beyond the grave. He accepted death on the Cross, suffering the hatred and evil doings of those around Him.

And here, as we approach Christ’s death on the Cross, it is appropriate to ask, “Why death?”

There are many meditations on the death of Christ. Meditations that see Him as the Paschal Lamb sacrificed for us, as the “Serpent lifted in the wilderness,” and others. Here, temptation sets in and Christians seek to explain Christ’s death by comparing it to their own faulty understandings of lesser things. For it is not the shadow of things to come (Old Testament) that interprets the things to come – but rather the reality (New Testament) that interprets the shadow. It is Christ’s death that gives meaning to every type and foreshadowing and image of that death to be found in the Old Testament.

Thus it is more accurate to say that the Paschal Lamb in the time of Moses is like Christ’s sacrifice, rather than to say His sacrifice is like that which came before. As Christ said of Moses and the Prophets, “These are they which testify of me” (John 5:30).

One of the most common and helpful images in Scripture and the fathers of the Church is the image of Christ’s union with humanity. Christ became incarnate, taking to Himself our human nature. He became what we were, yet without sin. This union should be understood in more than a metaphorical manner. For Christ literally and truly became man. His humanity was not a new creation, but he took flesh “of the Virgin Mary.” He became a partaker of our humanity.

In becoming a partaker of our humanity, Christ opened the way for us to become partakers in His divinity. “For as He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). St. Paul uses this language as well in his explanation of Baptism:

Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall also be raised together in the likeness of His resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that we should no longer be the slaves of sin (Romans 6:3-6).

This imagery is common in St. Paul:

I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

If you are risen with Christ, seek those things that are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then you shall also appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4).

These things only make sense because Christ has united Himself to us, and us to Him. We are united to His death and resurrection in our faith and in our Baptism. We become one flesh with Christ. We truly become a part of the Body of Christ.

And this goes to the heart of the answer to the question posed: why did Christ die? Christ died because we were dead. We were trapped in the lifeless death of sin (which yields corruption and physical death as well). Christ is God who has come to rescue us from our prison of sin and death. He became what we are that we might have a share in what He is. We were created in the image and likeness of God – but our sin had marred us.

We did not inherit guilt and a legal penalty from Adam and Eve. We inherited a world dominated by death. In such a world we behaved as the slaves of sin and sought to live our lives apart from God Who alone is Life. God alone could rescue us from the place where we had confined ourselves. Christ enters death. Christ enters Hades and makes a way for us to follow Him into true life.

In our present life, this true life is made present within us in many ways. First, it is made present in our knowledge of God. “This is eternal life, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). We know God and have a true relationship and communion with Him. We also have within us the power to overcome sin. This is sometimes manifest as obedience to Christ’s commandments, and, as God pleases, it is sometimes manifest as physical healing in our bodies (and miracles in creation – Romans 8:21).

If the same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead dwell in you, He will make alive your mortal bodies (Romans 8:11).

The true life of humanity is a common life. It is common in the modern world to think of ourselves only in terms of discreet individuals. But the Scriptures and teaching of the Church bear witness to a common life in which we all partake. Thus, what happens to one of us effects all of us. This commonality is also an important part of our spiritual life and our salvation. The Church in particular is the place where Christians live their common life.

This common life is also the place where we come to understand the references to “Christ’s blood” (since this was part of the question posed). His blood carries a number of meanings. It is His death, His “life poured out for us.” It is also His life given to us in the sacrament of His Body and Blood. His blood cleanses us – just as Baptism cleanses us – for His death destroys death and makes the whole creation new. There are many links between the image of blood in the Old Testament and Christ’s blood in the New. However, it is easy to become overly detailed about his connection and miss the larger point of Christ’s death – by which He destroyed death and gave us eternal life.

There are many voices across the Christian world. Taken together – they are a madhouse of confusion. Confusion and contradiction is the only result of those who listen first to one teacher and then to another. No one will arrive at the truth by such a route.

Instead, I counsel anyone to take up the life of the Church. Be Baptized (or otherwise received into the Church) and stay put. Listen to a godly pastor who lives the Scriptures and respects the fathers of the Church. Those who have built private empires and practice ministries that are in submission to “no one except God” are frauds and live in delusion. They are scandals waiting to happen.

No Church, including the Orthodox Church, ever exists without scandal. But that scandal can be disciplined. True teaching can be found and life in union with the resurrected Lord can be lived.

A Short Word About Wrath and Anger

These are words, I believe, that are so charged and dangerous, that they must be used seldom and only with caution and careful nuance. Hate and anger and wrath are generally only experienced in a sinful manner by human beings and most people are deeply wounded already by such abuse. Those who preach such terms are often engaging in spiritual abuse and should stop. If someone who teaches or preaches the Christian gospel but cannot do so without reference to these words, then I think they need to stop and pray and see if there is not something fundamentally wrong with their understanding. I’m not trying to edit these things out of Scripture – simply to say that they are abused by most who read them. Imagine you are explaining the gospel to a 4 year old. Will the child misunderstand the concept of God’s wrath? I am rather sure of it. I have not found adults to be that much more emotionally mature. My challenge of these images (on the blog and in my writings) is, I hope, an occasion for other Christians, particularly Orthodox, to think carefully about these very powerful words. If we do that – then I’ll have done a little good.

[Of course, Scripture and the Fathers use the image of anger and wrath, generally with the understanding that such anger or wrath is an expression of an aspect of God's love and not an effect created in God by our actions. A common example is the double aspect of fire - in which it is both heat and light, purification and illumination. Of course, the words "wrath" and "anger" are seldom used with such subtlety by many who preach or teach them and in so doing may be saying something that the Gospels do not teach.]

It is quite possible to give a very good account of the Christian gospel without the use of “wrath” and “anger.” St. John only uses the word wrath once in His entire Gospel. It is not an integral and necessary part of the theology of the Cross. To say that it is – is to make of an illustration and metaphor a matter of dogma. If you disagree, argue with St. John.

Conclusion

I pray that this answer is of help to the reader who posed the question. I also ask pardon of those readers who have been patient with me for the posting of this answer. It comes at the end of a busy week. May God give us all grace to hear the Holy Gospel.

36 Responses to “The Death of Christ on the Cross – the Life of Man”

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  1. Aaron says:

    Excellent post, Father Stephen.

    I was hoping, based on the title, that you were going to discuss something that I have long wondered about, namely: Why Christ have to die *on the Cross*? I understand why He had to die. But why, specifically, by way of scourging and crucifixion? Or do we believe that the method of death was secondary and somewhat culturally contingent?

    Put another way, could Christ have died in some other manner?

    I hope this makes sense. Thank you for your answer.

  2. John says:

    Thank you, Father! Glory to God for all things!

  3. davidp says:

    If you want a online book, this one is excellent from the Arthur Custance site: Two Men Called Adam. It may be rather long for some to read, but if you take one chapter a day you will get insights that may enlighten.

    http://custance.org/Library/2MEN/index.html#TableofContent

  4. Fr Keith Littlejohn says:

    Excellent.

  5. O Lord our God,
    at your coming
    you set men free
    from the worship of other gods:
    by your miracles
    you taught us to acknowledge you
    as the one creator and only maker
    of all things,
    and to place our hope in you:
    protect us by the power of your Name,
    sanctify us by your truth
    and pour out your mercy upon us
    and upon all your people.

    From Praying with the Orthodox Tradition: Afternoon

  6. Dino says:

    Aaron,
    It’s interesting you ask that, (again there are a few tangents someone could go off on here…) as I was thinking similarly on that question, and thought that Father’s answer (the short one), that Christ “died because we were dead”, also answers the method (Crucifixion) of His death. To be clearer, He was crucified because we were “crucified”, he tasted of everything (meaning of the whole possible gamut of Hell), no matter how rare and dark and desperate; in order to transform it and become the eternal solution to those (someone or many or all of us) who were there.
    He thus takes upon Himself all sin and anguish, He becomes the lowest of the low (let us ponder it: the Omnipotent and Omnipresent One Who is the Alpha and Omega, the only One that truly exists, zeal-fully, voluntarily becomes the most humiliated, anguished, “respecter” of man’s freedom to do anything he sinfully desires; even to the point of hanging his own incarnated Creator, the only meaning of his created existence, completely naked on the Cross in front of His Mother)- no one can ever go any lower – and as we go low now, as we are humbled, the lower we go now, the more we discover Him…
    There is therefore no desperation that can ever overcome us any more! All tribulations, with faith in His love, become just vehicles of our salvation.

  7. Dino says:

    Aaron,
    I am having troubles posting an answer to you. Let me try this short ‘test’ comment to see if it appears, and if it does I might re-post the long answer in tiny chunks.

  8. Dino says:

    As I though! ok:
    Aaron,
    It’s interesting you ask that, (again there are a few tangents someone could go off on here…) as I was thinking similarly on that question, and thought that Father’s answer (the short one), that Christ “died because we were dead”, also answers the method (Crucifixion) of His death.

  9. Dino says:

    Aaron,
    To be clearer, He was crucified because we were “crucified”, he tasted of everything (meaning of the whole possible gamut of Hell), no matter how rare and dark and desperate; in order to transform it and become the eternal solution to those (someone or many or all of us) who were there.

  10. Dino says:

    (cont)
    Aaron,
    He thus takes upon Himself all sin and anguish, He becomes the lowest of the low (let us ponder it: the Omnipotent and Omnipresent One Who is the Alpha and Omega, the only One that truly exists, zeal-fully, voluntarily becomes the most humiliated, anguished, “respecter” of man’s freedom to do anything he sinfully desires; even to the point of hanging his own incarnated Creator, the only meaning of his created existence, completely naked on the Cross in front of His Mother)- no one can ever go any lower – and as we go low now, as we are humbled, the lower we go now, the more we discover Him…
    There is therefore no desperation that can ever overcome us any more! All tribulations, with faith in His love, become just vehicles of our salvation.

  11. Dino says:

    (continuing)
    He thus takes upon Himself all sin and and all possible anguish, He becomes the lowest of the low (let us ponder: the Omnipotent Omnipresent One, the Alpha and Omega, the only One that truly exists; zeal-fully and voluntarily becomes the most humiliated, anguished, “respecter” of man’s freedom to do anything he sinfully desires; even to the point of hanging his own incarnated Creator, the very ‘meaning of his created existence’, completely naked on the Cross in front of His Mother)- no one can ever go lower – and the lower we go now, as we are humbled, the more we discover Him…

  12. Aaron says:

    Thank you Dino.

    So, are you saying that since humanity descended so far into the ugliness of death, Christ’s manner of death had to be somewhat proportionally appropriate? I hope that doesn’t sound crude.

  13. Dino says:

    (continuing)
    Christ takes upon Himself all sin and and all possible anguish, He becomes the lowest of the low – no one can ever go lower – and the lower we go now, as we are humbled, the more we discover Him…

  14. Dino says:

    (cont)
    Let us ponder: the Omnipotent Omnipresent One, the Alpha and Omega, the only One that truly exists; zeal-fully and voluntarily becomes the most humiliated, anguished, “respecter” of man’s freedom to do anything he sinfully desires; even to the point of hanging his own incarnated Creator, the very ‘meaning of his created existence’, completely naked on the Cross in front of His Mother

  15. Dino says:

    (cont)
    Let’s ponder how: the Omnipotent One, the Alpha & Omega, the One that truly exists; He zeal-fully and voluntarily becomes the most humiliated, “respecter” of man’s freedom to do anything he sinfully desires; to the point of hanging his own incarnated Creator, the very ‘meaning of his created existence’, naked on the Cross…

  16. Aaron says:

    I see, that makes a lot of sense to me. Thank you, Dino.

  17. fatherstephen says:

    Aaron,
    The Scriptures describe Christ as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth,” which means, in some manner that He was always crucified – and the Cross fulfills that (just to turn history on its head for a moment). As Dino notes, the Cross is not only death, but was, in its time (which was the fullness of time), a shameful death. In Judaism, it was the manner of the most shameful death (“cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”). So in the fullness of time, Christ enters the very depths of suffering, alienation, shame, etc., in order to fill its emptiness with His fullness, and to bring us out (“He did not cease to do all things until He had brought us up to heaven” St. John Chrysostom says). That Cross from the foundation of the earth, is revealed throughout the OT, in every tree, in every piece of wood, in every motion crossing the hands, extending the hands, etc. Christ’s Pascha (which includes the Cross), shaped the universe. For the universe in which we were created is also the universe in which we fell, the universe in which God makes Himself manifest and re-creates us, the universe in which we are united together with Him, along with the whole universe. Thus, everything is shaped by Pascha and reveals Pascha.

    There are many times that the experience of our life is far more the Cross than the resurrection, but even that experience is being shaped by Pascha and is not for our destruction, but will, by the mercies of God, be for our salvation.

  18. Dino says:

    “That Cross from the foundation of the earth, is revealed throughout…..”

    Aaron,
    The scandalous, crucificial “respect” of His creature’s freedom is “ingrained” in the Creator from the beginning of time. It is the perhaps the most crucial aspect of that Love that passes all understanding… Being the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth,” his sacrificial slaying culminates in His inconceivable respect of our freedom to even sin against Him as we do on Calvary.
    He… eternally, only “gives”. ! (Having no needs)
    And this is the scandal of His Love that passes all understanding, we cannot comprehend – being dependant on “receiving” ourselves.
    He “offers”, He is the ultimate offering on the Cross. The omnipotent One, He who is the meaning of His creatures’ existence, voluntarily takes the lowest position so that we, in turn, can be lifted up from it, to the highest. The respect of God proves itself to the point of becoming crucified by those who’s freedom to sin he has respected -respected to the inconceivable point of zealously becoming the subject of their wrath, the subject that can and does forgive them when they crucify Him.
    Let us also remember (another point) that they Crucified Him because he did not fulfil the image of the sort of God they would have rather liked or expected…He did not fulfil it due to his extreme respect, humility and love. The Jews wanted worldly Power to serve their vested interests (against the Romans) but God -given the dilemma to ‘crucify’ another or be crucified Himself – ALWAYS chooses to be crucified Himself. And this is what Grace teaches His Saints. This is what St Silouan kept going on about with the centrality of love of enemies and Christ like humility.
    Think of the “crucified” merciful Father of the prodigal who wants him dead (well, in essence dead, so as to inherit his due, as if he had died before His time). Does He enforce? No.
    That is why we will start becoming closer to Him in truth by recognising more and more as true the words: “It is all only MY fault”

  19. Rhonda says:

    “God is a good God and He loves mankind”

    It was hearing those words that convinced me of the truth of Orthodoxy as an inquirer when I first visited our local mission. They resonated deeply with me then & they still do now more than a decade later.

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen!

  20. Boyd Camak says:

    “Those who have built private empires and practice ministries that are in submission to ‘no one except God’ are frauds and live in delusion.” Is the Eastern Orthodox church the only legitimate form of submission and accountability? Is every non-Eastern Orthodox ministry a fraud and a delusion? Consider this from Richard Rhor: “Spiritual wisdom is passed on from person to person, which is the real and lasting meaning of ‘apostolic succession.’”

  21. reader john says:

    Boyd, Personally, I back towards the door when the ‘real’ meaning of apostolic transmission is divorced from the apostolic teachings of the fathers. Rohr, a liberal Roman Catholic should understand that danger as well as anyone. Outside the Church it is easier to fall prey to the “special” transmission of a Jim Jones or the shamanism of a Rasputin. Stray from the Fathers and one may find oneself in a church where the Eucharist is no longer offered (it happens a lot, you know). For a reading of what I think you are trying to say, get a copy of Elder Joseph the Hesychast and read therein a moving account of spiritual transmission between teacher and pupil in the Orthodox (i.e. traditional/apostolic/patristic) meaning of the term.

  22. fatherstephen says:

    Boyd, I was not speaking so exclusively. Rather, warning of the many, unaccountable ministries that today fill the world. Rohr is right only in that life begets life, but that is not individual to individual, but is resting in the community. Any other configuration denies the clear teaching of the Scripture and the Tradition.

  23. Steve Williams says:

    Father Bless .
    Excellent article Father , it was just what I needed .

  24. PJ says:

    I find that Hebrews 10:1-10 answers this question succinctly:

    “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

    Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

    “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
    in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
    Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

    When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

    That is, Christ leads the life of love and obedience — of total self-sacrifice — which man must render unto God in order to secure communion. He alone accomplished this great feat, but we can share in it through union with Him by baptism and the eucharist.

  25. PJ says:

    “Only God’s justice can save us! And God’s justice revealed itself on the Cross. The Cross is God’s judgment on all of us and on this world. But how does God judge us? By giving his life for us. Behold the supreme act of justice that defeated once and for all the Prince of this world. This supreme act of justice is also one of mercy. Jesus called us all to follow this path. “Be merciful,” he said, “just as [. . .] your Father is merciful” (Lk. 6:36).” –Pope Francis

  26. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this article, Father.

  27. Thomas Valentine says:

    Excellent, save a malapropism. Instead of ‘discreet’ you should have used ‘discrete’. :-)

  28. fatherstephen says:

    Thomas. I make this mistake commonly and can never remember which is which.

  29. Thomas Valentine says:

    Try this Father: think of the ‘r’ and ‘t’ and keeping the two es between them so as to be discreet and not exposing them to the other letting, whilst in ‘discrete’ the two es are separated. Silly, but it might help.

  30. mary benton says:

    Fr. Stephen,

    I finally made the time to read this lengthy article and I thank you for it.

    I particularly appreciate your remarks on “wrath”, etc. I suspect that part of the issue is that we humans are so very limited that we cannot understand love that is not bound by emotions. To think of it that way seems, to the human heart, no love at all, but rather something cold and indifferent.

    For example,if we consider something as horrible as the Holocaust, we wonder: could a loving Father not be enraged by this? Or at least deeply saddened by it?

    We do not know how to answer these questions. If we say that God is not enraged and saddened, we may lose faith – for such a God does not seem at all loving to us. If we say He is, then we have reduced God to our own passions.

    In fact, the former notion is so unacceptable to us that we humans kill each other, telling ourselves that we are doing God’s will – because surely He too much be enraged if He is loving and just.

    I realize that I am diverging some from your primary topic but I think this is tripping point for many. If we recognize that God’s nature and love so transcends anything that we can understand, we can allow Him to draw us into His life rather than trying to draw Him down to our limited views and passions.

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