To Whom Was the Blood of Christ Offered according to St. Gregory the Theologian

By St. Gregory the Theologian

More on Atonement – an Excerpt from “On Holy Pascha”, Homily 45

Now we are to examine another fact and dogma, neglected by most people, but in my judgment well worth inquiring into. To whom was that Blood offered that was shed for us, and why was it shed?

I mean the precious and renowned Blood of our God and High Priest 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 was this 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 also, 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 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 Him, but neither asked for Him nor demanded Him?

Rather it was on account of the Incarnation, and because humanity must be sanctified by the humanity of God, that He might deliver us Himself, and overcome the tyrant, and draw us to Himself by the mediation of His Son, Who also arranged this to the honor of the Father, Whom it is manifest that He obeys in all things. This is as much we will say of Christ; the greater part we shall reverence with silence.

But that brazen serpent was hung up as a remedy for the biting serpents, not as a type of Him that suffered for us, but as a contrast; and it saved those that looked upon it, not because they believed it to live, but because it was killed, and killed with it the powers that were subject to it, being destroyed as it deserved. And what is the fitting epitaph for it from us?

“O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?”

You are overthrown by the Cross; you are slain by Him who is the Giver of life; you are without breath, dead, without motion, even though you keep the form of a serpent lifted up on high on a pole.


Are John 3 and 6 About Baptism and Eucharist?


by Seraphim Hamilton

There is a convergence of language in John 3 and 6. Both chapters contain the rare (for John) phrase “Son of Man” a reference to the ascending High Priest in Daniel 7. Both contrast flesh and Spirit. Both refer to the promise of the new exodus. Both allude strongly to Ezekiel 36-37. Jesus is talking about the shape of the new exodus led by the New Moses. These texts are important for several reasons:

1. Jesus emphasizes throughout John that He will ascend to the throne of God, where no man has ever ascended before. This is His function as Son of Man. Likewise, He will take mankind to be with Him, to be in the throne-room of God. That “Son of Man” is used in the Bread of Life discourse and the rebirth discourse means that these have special significance to being joined with Christ in the heavenly throne-room.

2. Both of these texts have relevance for the new exodus. John 3 is a commentary on when the Lord leads His people out of Babylon. He sprinkles them with water, just as Israel passed through the Red Sea and was rained with holy rain. John 6 is about the New Manna that comes from Heaven, which Jesus identifies as His Body and Blood.

3. John 5-6 begins with a note that this series of events occurred at the time of the Passover. This is highly significant for a proper understanding of both chapters. As is widely recognized, the story of the Feeding in all Four Gospels shares resonances with the institution of the Eucharist, which was a Passover Meal. The fulfillment of this miraculous bread is presented by the Lord in John 6 as His Body and Blood. That the Bread of Life discourse is associated with the Passover links it to the words that Jesus declares at the Passover over the Eucharist:

“This is my body” and “This is my blood.”

This makes it very difficult to argue that consuming Jesus’ body and blood in John 6 is just a metaphor for believing.

4. Immediately after Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus about being “born again” through water and the Spirit, we are told that Jesus took His Apostles and began a ministry of baptism. Attempts, then, to divide Jesus’ teaching on rebirth from Baptism cannot be sustained. It is clear that St. John is intentionally linking these two stories.

5. What, then, about “believing” in John 3 and John 6? Doesn’t that go against the baptismal and Eucharistic interpretation of these texts?

Not at all.

It is important, as always, to recognize how these words and phrases are used in the Old Testament. When Israel comes out of Egypt in Exodus 14, the division of the Red Sea is linked with their

“believing in the Lord and His servant Moses.”

When the first generation fails to inherit the land, it is because they did not “believe.” To “believe” in the Pentateuch means to trust that the Lord through Moses will lead them to their inheritance, and this means following them: following Moses between two walls of water. Following the Lord’s instructions to not gather manna on the Sabbath Day. Far from contradicting a sacramental interpretation of John 3 and 6, the language of “believing” reinforces the connection.

7. When St. Paul alludes to these same events in the exodus in 1 Corinthians 10, he refers to Israel being “baptized” into the cloud. He then says that they

“ate spiritual food and drank spiritual drink”

immediately followed by a discussion of the Eucharist. As Jesus links the Manna with His Body and Blood, so does Paul. As Jesus links the baptism of the new exodus with baptism, so does Paul.

8. The Gospel of John is about Jesus as High Priest of a New Temple. The whole book is structured according to the furniture of the tabernacle. We begin at the Courtyard Altar, with Jesus identified as the “Lamb of God” and we end at the Holy of Holies, with Jesus emerging out of a Tomb with two angels on either side of His burial place, just as the two cherubim in the Holy of Holies. The “Son of Man” is linked with the high priest and thus the Temple, and this rare phrase for John is used in both John 3 and 6. Baptism and the Eucharist are thus presented as liturgical actions in the New Temple.

9. It is often stated that these words cannot be baptismal and Eucharistic because these two sacraments had not yet been instituted. This argument is clearly false. First, John and Jesus were baptizing. When Jesus describes a new exodus faciliated by a rebirth through water and the Spirit, all would have known that He referred to passing through the Red Sea led by the Glory-Cloud. The baptism of John and Jesus was a sign of the coming new exodus. Second, concerning John 6, while the Eucharist had not been instituted, the Jews knew exactly what Manna was. They were expecting a New Moses and a New Exodus, and therefore, New Manna. Jesus is saying that the Manna He will give is His Flesh and Blood. They don’t yet know how that will happen, but that Jesus is claiming this is enough to drive them away.

The Apostles finally realize how this will happen at the Last Supper, when Jesus uses the same words to institute the Eucharist.



Source: Apologia Pro Ortho Doxa



Are John 3 and 6 About Baptism and Eucharist?

An Uncomplicated Truth


by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

It is reasonable, I suppose—or at least natural—for modern students of religion to wonder how the earliest Christians, all of them Jews, were able to reconcile their belief in the divinity of Christ with the monotheism enshrined in Israel’s Sh’ma’. Indeed, historians of Christian thought have devoted many studies to that inquiry.

Looking at the apostolic writings through the lens of this inquiry, I gain an interesting impression of the earliest Christians: Their confession of the divinity of Jesus, while it was difficult, seems not to have been complicated.

First, the recorded difficulty of the apostles was not an impasse of reason (“How can this Jesus be both God and man?”) but a failure of perception (“They did not understand about the loaves, because their hearts were hardened”—Mark 6:52; Cf. 8:13-21).

Second, when they did arrive at this profession, in due course, the journey was not complicated. Their arrival did not result from a subtle mental process (“Well, let’s see, perhaps He is one person in two natures.”) but from an immediate experience involving both Jesus’ identity and their own destiny:

“You have the words of eternal life, and we have come to believe and to know that You are the Holy One of God (ho Hagios tou Theou)” (John 6:68-69).

It is most significant that the two verbs introducing Peter’s confession—“to believe and to know”—are expressed in the Greek perfect tense: pepistevkamen kai egnokamen. The nuance of the expression is subtle; the apostles, when they reflect on what they now confess, perceive that they already know the identity of Jesus. Even though they have not figured it out, they discover it is already an established conviction—a prior, implicit knowledge of Jesus’ identity. Peter, faced abruptly with the question of leaving Jesus (“Will you also depart?”), immediately discerns why he and the others cannot do it: They know who He is! Abandoning Him, they would forfeit eternal life.

We should go further in this reflection, I think. Why else would Jesus ask the apostles, “Will you also depart”? Jesus needs information on this score? Hardly. He poses the question, rather, and thus puts the apostles on the spot, precisely in order to bring their minds to the realization of what, in fact, they have already come to know. His question to them raises to the conscious surface of the apostles’ minds a conviction to which they already adhere. It is not proper to speak, in this case, of “doctrinal development.” The apostles are not trying to find the right words to confess a complex and knotty idea.

The apostles are making, rather, a basic creedal statement. In its full form it runs like this: “I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ.” He is one Lord, because—as all Jews know (and would lovingly die for)—

“the Lord is one,” ‘Adonai ‘ehad (Deuteronomy 6:4; Ephesians 4:5).

Jesus is identified in the terms of the Sh’ma’. In the Bible, monotheism is about identity.

The apostles make this step in response to Jesus’ assertion,

“I came forth from the Father,” (exselthon para tou Patros) (16:28).

They affirm this claim, not because of a religious theory that warrants it, but because, as they watch and listen to Jesus, they discern in Him the One who sent Him:

“”He who sees Me sees Him who sent Me” (John 12:45).

“He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (4:49).

Modern students of religion, regarding the matter as an intellectual dilemma, try to imagine how the apostles, when they affirmed Jesus’ divinity, were able—as a point of logic—to reconcile that affirmation with their monotheism. In the apostolic corpus, however, there is not the slightest indication that the apostles experienced Jesus’ divinity as an intellectual dilemma. What, then, did the apostles suppose that modern students of religion do not suppose?

It is this: For modern students of religion—generally speaking—monotheism involves a fundamentally mathematical thesis There is one God, as distinct from “more or fewer” than one God; start counting gods, and when you get to one, stop. Consequently, all those who believe in one God must logically believe in the same God.

This approach to monotheism is what allows our contemporaries to speak of “the monotheistic religions.” Their thesis is simple: ‘Since there is only one God, all those who believe in one God believe in the same God. Their differences are those of development and/or expression.’

This thesis is not only simple; it is simply absurd. Biblical monotheism is not about mathematics; it is about God’s identity: Who is this one God? Who He is, is the essential question. I cite a noted authority on the point,

’im Adonai (IHWH) ’Elohim l-ku ’aharaiv; v-’im ha-Ba‘al l-ku ’aharaiv—

“If the Lord is God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).

Elijah knew, of course, that Baal belonged to a pantheon, but this consideration was not the point. Baal was not a false god because he had relatives. He was a false god because he was not

“the Lord, our God.”

Elijah’s monotheism was not a matter of counting but of identifying.

The question was not, How many gods? but who is God?

And this is the reason the confession of Jesus never became, in the eyes of the Church, a challenge to biblical monotheism. In the Orthodox faith Jesus is divine because He pertains to—is included in—the identity of God. Gradually this truth became perfectly clear to a certain fishermen, an improbable tax collector, and some women of their company. Their conviction on the point was a big and difficult step, but it wasn’t complicated.



An Uncomplicated Truth


Mystery or Memorial? Sacrament or Symbol?

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What is the Lord’s Supper? What is the Eucharist? Was it always understood as a Sacrament? Throughout the history of Christianity, the overwhelming majority of Christians have consistently believed that Jesus Christ, in a mystery, imparts His Body and Blood to His people though the vehicle of the Lord’s Supper. Bypassing all the Biblical references, here is a small, non-exhaustive sampling of what they’ve had to say in every generation. If you’re going to read any of them, please read them all.

Ignatius of Antioch AD 35-107

“Mark ye those who hold strange doctrines touch the grace of Jesus which came to us, how they are contrary to the mind of God… They abstain from Eucharist and prayer, because they allow not that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, which flesh suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up.”

“Assemble yourselves together in common… breaking the bread, which the medicine of immortality and the antidote that we should not die but live forever in Jesus Christ.”

Ignatius to the Smyrnaens, 6.2; Ignatius to the Ephesians 20.2

Justin Martyr  AD 100-165

“We do not receive these as common bread or common drink. But juest as our Savior Jesus Christ was made flesh through the Word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food which has been Eucharized by the word of prayer from Him is the flesh and blood of the Incarnate Jesus.”

First Apology 66.2

Irenaeus of Lyons   AD 130-200

“For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist are no longer corruptible, having the hope of resurrection to eternity.:

“When, therefore, the mixed cup and baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life – flesh is nourished by the Body and Blood of the Lord, and  is in fact, a member of Him?”

Against Heresies 4.18; 5.2,3

 Cyprian of Carthage   AD 200-258

“We may not arouse and exhort those to battle unarmed and naked, but may fortify them with the protection of Christ’s Body and Blood. The Eucharist is designate for this very purpose, that it may be a safeguard to those who receive it.”

Epistle 54

Athanasius of Alexandria  AD 296-373

“You will see the Levites (deacons) bringing loaves and a cup of win, and placing them on the Table. So long as the prayers and invocations have not yet been made, it is mere bread and a mere cup. But when the great and wondrous prayers have been recited, then the bread becomes the Body, and the cup becomes the Blood of Jesus Christ… When the great prayers and holy supplications are sent up, the Word descends on the bread and cup, and it becomes His Body.”

Sermon to the Baptized, quoted in Early Christian Doctrine by J.N.D. Kelley

 Hilary of Poitiers  AD 315-367

“He Himself declares: ‘For My Flesh is real food, and My Blood is real drink. He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in Me and I in him.’  It is no longer permitted us to raise doubts about the nature of the Body and the Blood, for, according to the statement of the Lord Himself, as well as our faith, this is indeed Flesh and Blood. And these things that we receive bring it about that we are in Christ and Christ in us… How deeply we are in Him through the sacrament fo the Flesh and Blood.”

The Trinity 8.14

 Cyril of Jerusalem AD 315-386

“Since then He Himself declared and said of the Bread, ‘this is my Body’, who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He Himself affirmed and said, ‘this is My Blood’, who shall ever hesitate, saying that it is not His Blood? He once, in Cana of Galilee turned water into wine, akin to blood, and is it incredible that He should have turned wine into Blood?

“Consider therefore the bread and wine not as bare elements, for they are, according to the Lord’s declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ; for even though sense suggest this to you, yetlet faith establish you. Judge not the matter from the taste, but from faith be fully assured without misgiving, that the Body and Blood of Christ have been granted to you.”

Catechetical Lectures XXII 1.2; XXII 6

 Basil the Great  AD 330-379

“It is beneficial and good to communicate every day, to partake of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ, for He distinctly says, ‘He that eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood h as eternal life.”

Epistle 93 ad Caesariam

 Gregory of Nyssa    AD 335-395

“Rightly then do we believe that now also the bread which is consecrated by the Word of God is changed into the Body of God the Word… by dispensation of His grace, He disseminates Himself in every believer through that Flesh, whose substance comes from bread and wine, blending Himself with the bodies of the believers, to secure that, by this union with the immortal, man, too, may be a sharer in incorruption. He gives these gifts by virtue of the benediction through which is trans-elements the natural quality of these visibile signs to that immortal thing.”

The Great Catechism XXXVII

Ambrose of Milan   AD 339-397

“We, as often as we receive the Sacramental Elements, which by the mysterious efficacy of holy prayer are transformed into the Flesh and Blood, ‘do show the Lord’s death’.”

The Faith, 4.124

John Chrysostom    AD 345-407

“This which is in the cup is that which flowed from His side, and of that we do we partake… What is the bread? The Body of Christ.”

Homily 24 on First Corinthians; 1,2

Augustine of Hippo    AD 354-430

“That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the Word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the Word of God, is the Blood of Christ. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend His Body and Blood, which He poured out for us unto the forgiveness of sins.”

“What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what  your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ, and the chalice is the Blood of Christ… How is the bread His Body? And the chalice, or what is in the chalice, how is it His Blood? Those elements, brethren, are called Sacraments, because in them one thing is seen, but anoterh is understood. What is seen is the corporeal species; but what is understood is the spiritual fruit.”

Sermon 227; Sermon 272

Cyril of Alexandria    AD 375-444

“He states demonstratively: ‘This is My Body’ and ‘This is my Blood,’ lest you might suppose the things that are seen are a figure. Rather, by some secret of the all-powerful God thethings seen are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, truly offered ina sacrifice in whic we, as particpants, receive the life-giving and sanctifying power of Christ.”

Commentary on Matthew 26,27

Leo  the Great    AD 400-461

“When the Lord says: ‘Unless you shall have eaten the Flesh of the Son of Man and shall have drunk His Blood, you shall not have life in you,’ you ought to so communicate at the Sacred Table that  you have no doubt whatsoever of the truth of the Body and Blood of Christ. For that which is taken in the mouth si what is believed in faith; and in vain do those respond, ‘Amen’ who argue against that which is received.”

Sermon 91:3

Gelasius I of Rome    d. AD 496

“The substance or nature of the bread and wine does not cease to exist, although the elements, the Holy Spirit, perfecting them, pass over into a divine substance, as was the case with Christ Himself. And certainly the image and likeness are honored in the observance of the Mysteries.”

Concerning the Two Natures of Christ, Thiel. Ep. Pontiff, p. 541 f.

 John of Damascus      AD 675-749

 “…not that the Body which was taken up comes back down from heaven, but that the bread itself and the wine are made over into the Body and Blood of God. If you inquire into the way in which this happens, let it suffice for you to hear that it is through the Holy Spirit…  Mmore than this we do not know, except that the Word of God is true and effective and all-powerful; but the manner is inscrutable… the Bread and the Wine are not a type of the Body and Blood of Christ – perish the thought! – but the deified Body itself of the Lord.”

The Source of Knowledge, 3,4,13

Paschasius Radbertus      AD 790-865

“Let no man be moved from this Body and Blood of Christ which in a mystery are true Flesh and Blood since the Creator so willed it… Because the sacrament is mystical, we cannot deny that it is a figure, but if it is a figure, we must inquire how it can be truth. For every figure is a figure of another thing and is always referred to that other thing as being the real thing of which it is a figure.”

The Body and Blood of the Lord I.2; IV.1

Ratramnus of Corbie    d, AD 868

“If, indeed, it is bread in appearance, in the sacrament it is the true Body of Christ, even as the Lord Jesus proclaims, ‘This is my Body,’… they are figures according to he visible form; but according to the invisible substances, i.d. the power of the Divine Word, the true Body and Blood of Christ truly exist.”

Letters to Charles the Bald, 57;49

Thomas Aquinas      AD 1225-1274

“Two things may be considered in the sacrament of the Eucharist. One is the fact that it is a sacrament, and in this respect it is like the other effects of sanctifying grace. The other is that Christ’s Body is miraculously contained therein, and thus, it is included under God’s ominpotence, like all other miracles which are ascribed to God’s almighty power.”

Summa Theologica, Section XV, Question 1, article 9, reply to objection 6

John Wycliffe       AD 1330-1384

“That change does not destroy the nature of bread, nor alter the nature of the Body… but it effects the presence of the Body of Christ and destroys thte preeminence of the bread, so that the whole attention of the worshipper is concentrated upon the Body of Christ… Not that the bread has been destroyed, but that it signifies the Body of the Lord there present in the Sacrament.”

The Eucharist, p. 100,101

John Huss      AD  1375-1415

“The humble priest does not… say that he is the creator of Christ, but that the Lord Christ by His power and Word, through him, causes that which is bread to be His Body; not that at that time it began to be His, but that there on the altar begins to be sacramentally in the form of bread what was previously was not there and therein.”

John Huss, by David Schaff, 1915

Martin Luther     AD 1483-1543

“What is the Sacrament of the Altar? It is the true Body and Blood of Christ, under the bread and wine, given unto us Chrisitans to eat and to drink, as it was instituted by Christ Himself… What is the benefit of such eating and drinking? It is pointed out in these words: Given and shed for you for the remission of sins.”

Small Catechism Section VI

John Calvin     AD 1509-1564

“It is a spiritual mystery which cannot be seen by the eye, nor be comprehended by human understanding. Therefore,  it is represented for us by means of visible signs, according to the need of our weaknesses. Nevertheless, it is not a naked figure, but one joined to its truth and substance. With good reason, then, the bread is called Body, because it not only represents it, but also presents it.”

Short Treatise on the Lord’s Supper

John Wesley     AD  1703-1791

“All who desire an increase of the grace of God are to wait for it in partaking of the Lord’s Supper: for this also is a direction He Himself has given… is not the eating of the bread, and the drinking of that cup, the outward, visible means, whereby God conveys into our souls all that spiritual grace, that righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost which were purchased by the Body of Christ, once broken and the Blood of Christ once shed for us? Let all, therefore, who truly desire the grace of God, eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”

Sermon 16, The Means of Grace, points 11,12

Andrew Murray  AD 1828-1917

“In the Supper, Christ would take possession of the whole man – body and soul – to renew and sanctify it by the power of His holy Body and Blood. even His Body is communicated by the Holy Spirit. Even our body is fed with His holy Body and renewed by the working of the Holy Spirit… ‘He that eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood, let him abide in Me, and I in him.”

The New Life, p. 205, 2-7

F.F. Bruce    20th Century

“In the Biblical sense, ‘remembrance’ is more than a mental exercise; it involves a realization of what is remembered. At the Passover feast the participants are one with their ancestors of the Exodus; at the Eucharist, Christians experience the Real Presence of their Lord.”

 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Oliphants, 1971; p. 111

R.C.H. Lenski     20th Century

“‘My Body means exactly what the words say: in truth and reality My Body… We refuse to answer the question regarding the how because the Lord withholds the answer. We ould probably not have understood the real answer if it had ben given because of the giving of His Body in the Sacrament is a Divine act of omnipotence and grace which is beyond mortal comprehension. The Lord declares the fact: ‘This is My Body,’ and we take Him at His word.”

The Interpretation of St. Paul’s 1st and 2nd Epistles to the Corinthians, Augsburg, 1963

G.M.A. Jansen    20th Century

“This is the mystery: The Body and blood of Christ are there and He offers them to us a food and drink, because He said so. If you believe in the Mystery of the Incarnation and in that of hte Redemption, you can also believe in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist, in the Real Presence.”

The Sacramental We, Bruce Publishing, co. 1968, p. 52


 And finally one who didn’t.

Influenced by the rationalistic spirit of the Renaissance and reacting to abuses in the Roman Church, a small segment of Reformation churchmen, centered around Ulrich Zwingli, began to view the Lord’s Supper as an empty symbol, a Real Absence of Christ, instead of a vehicle of grace.

Ulrich Zwingli  AD 1484-1531

“If He has gone away, if He has left this world, if He is no longer with us, then either the Creed is unfaithful to the words of Christ, which is impossible, or else the Body and Blood of Christ cannot be present in the Sacrament. The flesh may fume but the words of Christ stand firm. He sits at the right hand of the Father, He has left the world, He is no longer present with us. And if these words are true, it is impossible to maintain that His Flesh and Blood are present in the Sacrament.”

“The Fathers held exactly the same view as we do. And they use exactly the same speech as we do, for they call the bread and wine the Body and Blood of Christ, although what they really mean is that they are the representation and memorial of His Body and Blood…”

Zwingli and Bullinger, The Westminster Press, p. 214-234

“And just as I have no doubt that this God created heaven and earth, and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, so I know that it is not possible that the Body of Christ is in the Sacrament.”

Huldrych Zwingli, G.R. Potter, Edward Arnold Pub. 1978; p. 100

 Much of modern American Evangelicalism has taken its view of the Lord’s Supper from the Gnostic Zwinglian tradition, rather than from the mainstream of historic Incarnational Christianity. Althought a multitude of examples could be quoted, Zwingli has stated the case most succinctly, and substantially speaks for them all.

The Orthodox Church, as the historic Church of Christ, has maintained the Lord’s command, and the Apostolic teaching, often at great cost, for the last 2,000+ years.

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 Mystery or Memorial? Sacrament or Symbol?



Sentenced to Life

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Inner LifeOf the standard Greek nouns commonly translated as “life” in the New Testament, John’s Gospel uses only two: psyche and zoe. Psyche, often translated as “soul,” indicates the life or being of an individual. For example, in the sustained pastoral parable in John this is the term used when the

“Good Shepherd gives His psyche for the sake of the sheep” (John 10:11; cf. 10:15, 17).

This is also the word by Simon Peter when he rashly boasts,

“I will give my psyche for Your sake” (13:37-38).

A person’s psyche is what he is prepared to lay down for the love of his friends (15:13).

The second term, zoe, is used far more commonly in the Fourth Gospel, where it appears 36 times. Its cognate verb zo appears 17 times. This zoe is, first of all, proper to the Word:

“in Him was life” (John 1:4).

This is the “life in Himself” that the Son receives from the Father:

“For just as the Father has life in Himself, so he has given (edoken) the Son also to have life in Himself” (5:26).

This life, derived from the Father, the Son reveals to believers through the proclamation and communion of the Gospel:

“What was from the beginning (ap’ arches)—what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have gazed upon and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life (peri tou Logou tes zoes)— and the life (he zoe) was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and declare to you, the eternal life (ten zoen ten aionion) which was with the Father (pros ton Patera) and has been manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we declare also to you (1 John 1:1-3).

Those who believe in God’s Son

“have the testimony (martyria) of God in their hearts (5:10).

Believers, because of their faith in this testimony of the Father, share in the zoe of the Son:

“And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (5:11-12).

The life given in Christ is the very life of God. Such is the sum message of John:

“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true (ton Alethinon) and we are in Him who is true (en toi Alethinoi), in his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life (Houtos estin ho alethinos Theos kai zoe aioanios)” (5:20-21).”

The Good Shepherd, even as He forfeits His individual human life (psyche) for the sheep (John 10:11, 15, 17), never loses the essential life (zoe) He receives from the Father: “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live (zo), you also will live (zesete)” (14:19). The life of which John speaks is Christ Himself. This truth is conveyed in a series of “I AM” declarations:

“I am the resurrection and the life (zoe) (11:25).

“I am the way, the truth, and the life (zoe)” (14:6).

“I am the bread of life (ho artos tes zoes)” (6:35, 48).

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life (to phos tes zoes)” (8:12).

As God’s revelation in the world, the Son gives

“the living water (hydor zon)” (4:10-11; 7:38)


“the living bread (artos zon)” (6:51).

His words are

“spirit and life” (pnevma kai zoe) (6:6);

they are

“words of eternal life” (6:68).

In short, He came to give zoe to the world (6:33; 10:10; 1 John 4:9).

Although, in his treatment of this new life, John does maintain the basic future/eschatological perspective common in the other New Testament sources (for instance, John 6:40, 44, 51, 54), he lays a greater emphasis on the promised zoe as a present reality. The faithful in Christ, by reason of their faith, already have eternal life. The life is not delayed; believers begin to live when they begin to believe.

John sounds this theme repeatedly.

“The hour is coming,” says the Lord, “and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live (zesousin)” (5:25).

We see this shift of emphasis when Martha professes her faith that Lazarus

“will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus answers that the future is now:

“I AM the resurrection and the zoe” (11:24-25).

The one who hears and believes has eternal life already (5:24). Even now

“we have passed from death to life” (1 John 3:14).




Loosing the Grave Clothes of Lazarus

00 grave clothes of lazarus

by Paul Smith

This was sent to me by my friend Paul Smith. He has preached before (before his days in Orthodoxy), and still has grand insight into homiletics and the Church. Thanks Paul for allowing me to republish it!

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. He didn’t take off the binding grave clothes he told those followers around to loose him and let him go.

When someone comes to the Church they are dead in trespasses and sins. Jesus raises them from the burial of baptism to walk in new life. Everyone comes to the Church bound in the grave clothes of their past dead life.

It therefore, stands to reason it is the people around them to gently loose them and set them free.

Run with that one.


Loosing the Grave Clothes of Lazarus

Resurrection Victory

00 graves

by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Do we not see that death continues to reap its harvest around us? Are there not graves beside Christian churches as well? How can we say that ‘there is none dead in the tomb’, that Christ has conquered death by death?

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Every Sunday throughout the year, century after century, the Orthodox Church proclaims the Resurrection of Christ. Each Sunday we relive once again our joy that Christ is risen. And that joy is so deep, so profound, that it bears witness of itself: we rejoice not only because the Lord is risen, but because his Resurrection is for us the beginning of new, renewed life. In the Sermon of John Chrysostom which is read on the night of Christ’s Resurrection each year, it is said that

‘Christ is risen, and there is none dead in the tomb…’

And we ourselves continue to pass on this message from one century to the next.

Yet is it true? Do we not see that death continues to reap its harvest around us? Are there not graves beside Christian churches as well? How can we say that ‘there is none dead in the tomb’, that Christ has conquered death by death?

We can say this because death has two completely different meanings, and the tombs are indeed empty. Until the coming of Christ, every human being, when he died — whether he was righteous or not — was deprived of the joy of meeting God. According to the Old Testament story of the primal sin of our ancestors, Adam and Eve, the whole human race was deprived of the radiance, the joy, the glory of God. Everyone who died thereafter entered into an abyss of horror, of separation from God and, as a result, of separation from those closest to him.

And his death was twofold: not just an earthly death when the soul, separated from the body, flies upward towards God and worships at the throne of the Lord, who consoles it for its earthly sorrows. There was another death as well, a second separation. While someone lived on this earth, he could, in one way or another, with just the tip of his soul, touch at least the border of the Lord’s garment. But after death, any separation became final, definitive, dreadful. And age after age people waited for the Saviour, for the one who would unite heaven and earth, God and creation. But until the Lord came, our Saviour Jesus Christ, that separation remained dark and terrible.

And then the Lord came and died on the Cross the death of every man, having first shared in the dreadful loneliness and torment that precedes death. Remember the garden of Gethsemene: ‘O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…’ He shared in the horror of that separation when he cried out to God from the Cross:

‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’

And he descended into hell… into hell!

And hell opened wide with joy in the hope that now the enemy whom it had found invincible on earth had been overcome and taken prisoner. Hell opened up, as John Chrysostom says, to take in flesh — and opened itself to God. Hell opened to imprison the incarnate Son of God become man — and before him stood, into him entered the Living God who fills all things, entering hell and destroying it for ever. Hell was no longer that former terrible hell of separation, because in it was the living God.

The Prophet David in his mysterious vision said:

‘Whither shall I go then from thy presence? If I go up into heaven, thou art there: If I go down to hell, thou art there also’.

For us this seems simple, because for us that eternal, hopeless hell of the absence of God no longer exists. But for the man of the Old Testament this was a puzzling statement: how can God be where God is not? How can he be in the place of separation from God? But David foresaw — and prophetically foretold — the coming of the Lord and the end of that final separation. Today death has become for us something else. Now it is a falling asleep. In the body we fall asleep to the anxieties of the earth, and peace descends upon our flesh. Our body now lies there like an icon of Christ lying in the grave on that mysterious, blessed Saturday when the Lord ceased from his works, from the work of saving mankind, from the labour of suffering, from the Cross, from crucifixion. Everyone who dies now, falls asleep in Christ, he falls asleep until the day his body rises at the last trumpet, on the day of the resurrection of the dead.

‘Blessed are they who die in the Lord’,

as John the Theologian says in the Apocalypse.

This is why for the Christian, death is not something terrible. This is why someone who meant a great deal to me was able to say to me: ‘Wait for your death as a young man waits for his bride’. With the same kind of trembling, with the same rejoicing of soul we can say to death: ‘Come, open for me the doors of eternal life, so that my rebellious flesh may find peace, and my soul may soar up to the eternal dwelling place of God’. This is why we can say truly and rightfully proclaim that ‘there is not one dead in the tomb’. For the grave has ceased to be a prison, a place of final and terrible captivity. It has become a place where the body awaits resurrection while the soul grows, to the extent it can, into eternal life.

Yet death, the separation of death, is none the less still present on earth to a certain extent. It has been defeated even in its own kingdom, yet man himself continues, by cutting off others from the mystery of love, to prolong that separation on earth. Just look at our human society. There is no need to look far: just look at your family, at those closest to you, at your friends, your parish, at the Church. Can we really say that we are so linked together by love that death, that separation, that separation from God, that separation from one another doesn’t exist on earth? Sadly, God has conquered death everywhere, but in the heart of man it must be conquered by man himself.

Death and love are inseparable from one another. And it is because of this that it is such a fearsome thing to love. To love just a little, to love irresponsibly, to love in such a way that a relationship is begun and then allowed to end when it becomes painful or difficult or dangerous — we can all do this. But to love as the Lord loved — this we seem unable to do. The Apostle Paul says to us: ‘Accept one another, love one another as the Lord loved you…’ But do we realize how the Lord loved us? He loved us so much that he did not want to be a stranger to us and became one of us, one among many others — and not just temporarily, but for eternity, for ever — with all the pain, with all the horror of that union.

The glory of God was extinguished when the Word became Flesh. No one knew him. His victory appeared to be defeat. He became the one whom the Holy Scriptures declared would be ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief ‘. He became one with us forever. Can we become one with each other in this way? Can we so love one another that we can say: ‘For ever? In sorrow and in joy, in horror and in exultation, whatever happens, I will stand by you for ever’? If this were the case, how marvellous our world would be, how marvellous our Church would be, what parishes we would have, what families, what friends! But our meetings are like two ships meeting on the sea: they meet and pass on.

We haven’t enough depth, not enough faithfulness, not enough readiness to do what Christ did: to descend into hell, into the hell of suffering of someone whom we love, into the hell of his temptations, into the hell of his pain, into the hell of his destruction. Instead, we stand on the shore and call out: ‘Save yourself, swim over here to me — I will reach out my hand to you!’ But we ourselves do not enter that hell, and so it is terrible for us to talk about love, it is so difficult to love — because we should love only as the Lord has loved us. Death and love are bound up together because to love means to forget oneself until one doesn’t exist, not to remember oneself. The other becomes so dear to one that to think about oneself gets in the way. We need to say to ourselves what Christ said to Peter when he stood in front of him on the way to Golgotha: ‘Get behind me, Satan; you are thinking about earthly things, and not about heaven’. Can we forget about ourselves to that extent, can we love like that, can we die like that?

At the same time, so long as we cannot do this, we are touching only the border of the Lord’s garment, we are joined only to the outer edge of the light, the radiant light and brilliance of the Resurrection of Christ. To live the Resurrection is possible only for someone who has passed through death and is on the other side of death, not the death of this world, not material, bodily death, but the death which is also called love, when a person forgets about himself and loves so much that he lays down his life for his friend. Moses is called a ‘friend of God’ in the Scriptures, and what does he say?

‘Lord, if you do not forgive your people their sins, then strike out my name from the book of life. I do not wish to live, if others go to their death’.

The Apostle Paul says that he would prefer, if possible, to be separated from Christ, rather than see the destruction of the people of Israel. These are nonsensical words — nonsensical in the sense that when a man experiences such love, he is already on the other side of death. But humanly speaking that is all we are able to say:

‘Yes, it is better that I should perish, than that I should be separated from anyone’.

This is the standard shown us by the Cross — and by the Resurrection, for one is inseparable from the other. And so, from Sunday to Sunday, when you hear the news that Christ has risen, remember that we are all called to be, on this earth, people risen from the dead in love. But for this to take place, we must so love each other as to pass through the gates of death, to descend through the Cross into hell, to share through Love in the suffering of the other, to forget ourselves — and then suddenly discover that I am alive, alive with the life of Christ! Amen.


“Lord, Why Can I Not Follow You Now?”: Why Peter Had To Wait


by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Saint John’s early affirmation,

“The Word became flesh,”

is both the thesis of his whole gospel and the interpretive principle for understanding its sundry parts. This one verse affirms that everything expressed in the divine Word took on a fleshly, human form. In the stories recounted by John, we ponder divine Wisdom translated into human discernment, the eternal purpose enacted as a historical drama, and infinite love assuming the shapes of personal friendship, affection, and familial endearment.

Everything in the Word becomes flesh. The infinite kindness of God is configured in the provision of wine at a wedding feast and the gift of bread for a crowd of thousands. Like the Word quietly taking flesh in the virgin’s womb, the mysterious wine and the enigmatic bread are inserted into—and alter—the experience of human beings. In each case the Word is made flesh and dwells among men.

Thus, the thesis, “God so loved the world,” assumes the form of an infant loved by His mother and learning, in turn, to love her. He learns it well. Later in His life another man was so aware of the friendship of Christ that he commonly referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

The Word’s loving devotion to His mother and His affection for His friend—both expressions of the Incarnation—came together when, hanging on the Cross, Jesus

“saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing by.”

The mother was on the point of losing her son, and the disciple his best friend. Loving them both—each in a distinctive way—Jesus gave this older woman and this younger man to one another as His parting gift:

“Ma’am, behold your son .  .  .  Behold you mother.” 

Jesus’ love for Mary and John, seizing the occasion of their common heartbreak, bound them to one another through the love each of them had for Him. Here on Calvary, that is to say—and with overwhelming emphasis—

“The Word was made flesh”;

God’s infinite  love assumed the human affections of a new family, when “the disciple took her to his own.

An explicit and heightened emphasis on the friendships of Jesus is one of the special features of John’s work. John the Baptist called himself Jesus’ “friend,” philos (3:29). Jesus spoke to the disciples of

“Lazarus, our friend”—ho philos hemon (11:11).

To the disciples themselves He said,

“No longer do I call you servants . . . but I have called you friends (philous) (15:15).

These friends He described as “His own,” declaring that the Good Shepherd

“calls His own (idia) sheep by name and leads them out. And when He brings out all His own (ta idia panta), He goes before them” (10:3-4).

And again,

“I know Mine, and Mine know Me” (10:14).


“having loved His own (tous idious) who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (13:1).

This “end” (telos) is achieved in Christ’s love for these friends:

“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sake of the sheep” (10:11).

In John, the love of Christians for one another is modeled on the love all of them come to know in Christ. Thus, whereas the mandate in the Synoptic Gospels is to love our neighbors as ourselves (cf. Mark 2:31 et al.), in John’s account we are to love one another more than ourselves. And the basis for this new mandate is not an ethical principle, but a personal example:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. As I loved you, that you also love one another” (13:34).

A common translation of this verse conveys the motive for this love in the perfect tense:

“As I have loved you.”

This translation, I believe, dilutes the sense of the expression. In fact, John uses the aorist tense here,

“As I loved (egapesa) you.”

That is to say, his choice of tense indicates a concrete and specific act of love. John is thinking of the Cross, on which the Good Shepherd gave His life for the sake of the sheep:

“Greater love than this has no one, that someone should give his life for the sake of his friends” (15:13). 

John speaks elsewhere of the love modeled on the Lord’s voluntary death:

“In this have we known love, because that Man (Ekeinos) gave His life for our sakes. And we ought to give our lives for the sake of the brethren” (1 John 3:16). 

This was the love to which the Apostle Peter aspired:

“Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will give my life for Your sake” (13:37).

Such love, nonetheless, surpasses human power. Of his mere volition, Peter was not able to do it. It wasn’t possible, because He did not have, as yet, the model of Christ. God’s own gift is prior:

“In this is love, not that we have loved God [perfect tense: egapekamen], but that He loved us [aorist tense: egapesen]” (1 John 4:10).

 Once Peter has received this love as Christ’s gift, however, he will be able to lay down his life for Christ’s sake:

“’When you have grown old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will tie you and bear you where you do not wish.’ He said this, signifying by what death he would glorify God. Saying this, He spoke to him, ‘Follow Me!’” (John 21:18-19).

Peter will be able to display this love only as an act of “following.”