Friday, April 28, 2006

The Resurrection of the Dead

(Excerpted from the book "Life After Death")

Closely connected with the Second Coming of Christ is the resurrection of the dead, which is a very firm belief of the Church, and that is why in the Creed we confess: "I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come".

When we speak of the resurrection of the dead, we mean the resurrection of their bodies, that indeed their souls will again enter the dead bodies and they will be made alive and so the whole man will come together again. This is very natural and justified because souls never die ontologically, because the immortality of the soul is a gift given by God from the beginning. The bodies die, and so when we say resurrection of the dead we always mean the resurrection of the body.

At this point too we can see the difference in the approaches of philosophy and orthodoxy to the resurrection of the body. Classical philosophy can never accept the view that the bodies will be raised, simply because it believes in the naturally immortal soul and naturally mortal body. According to the ancient philosophical view, the naturally immortal soul, which was previously in the world of ideas, was enclosed in the body as in a prison, and therefore the salvation and redemption of the soul means its liberaton from the body. In this sense the body is bad and the imprisonment of the soul in it constitutes and expresses its fall.

This explains the fact that the Athenians reacted when the Apostle Paul spoke about the resurrection of the dead on Mars Hill. The Apostle Paul was speaking about Christ who would come to judge the world. Among other things he said: "He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all, by raising him from the dead". At this point the Athenians interrupted him, as the Acts of the Apostles point out: "And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, `We will hear you again on this matter'” (Acts 17, 31-32). This reaction was not unrelated to the conception, incomprehensible to them, of the resurrection of dead bodies.

However, in the whole biblico-patristic tradition it appears clearly nevertheless that there will be bodily resurrection in order for the whole man to be put together. For not even the separation of his soul from his body caused man to lose his hypostasis, his personhood.

In what follows we shall attempt to look very briefly at what Holy Scripture and the patristic tradition say about the resurrection of our bodies, but also about what the bodies will be like in the life after the Second Coming of Christ. It will be seen that this constitutes a firm faith and a basic mark of the Orthodox Tradition. Besides, the assumption of human nature by Christ, and its deification, the fact that the flesh which Christ assumed from His All-holy Mother is identically God, as well as the fact that in Christ the divine is always united with human nature, shows the value of the body. The body was not evil from the beginning, it is not the prison of the soul, it is a positive creation of God.

First we must refer to some passages from Holy Scripture which speak of the resurrection of the body.

The prophet Isaiah acknowledges: "The dead shall rise, and those in the tomb shall be raised, and those in the earth shall rejoice” (Is. 27, 19). The book of the prophet Ezekiel presents an astonishing event of resurrection of bodies, where it appears that at the word of God the dry bones acquired nerves, flesh, and skin, and then the spirit, that is, the soul, was given (Ez. 37, 1-14). This supreme miraculous event shows how the resurrection of bodies will be at the Second Coming of Christ, and therefore the Church reads this passage at the burial service, even when we go back into the church after the procession. The resurrection of Christ is the prelude to our own resurrection, because Christ, by His death and Resurrection, conquered the power of death and gave to all men the gift of the resurrection to come.

The Jews had an unshakeable faith in the future resurrection of the dead. It is characteristic that at Christ's meeting with Lazarus' sister Martha after Lazarus' death, Christ assured her that her brother whould rise again. Martha then answered: "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (Jn. 11, 22-23).

The three resurrections which Christ performed, that of the daughter of Jairus, that of the son of the widow of Nain, and that of Lazarus, as well as His own resurrection which came about through His divinity, are assurances and prefaces to the resurrection of all men at the Second Coming of Christ.

In Christ's teaching we find many passages which refer to the resurrection of the dead. In one of His talks Christ said: "the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice” (Jn. 5, 28). At another time He said: "I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn. 11, 25).

The holy Apostles accepted this teaching, and it was spread widely in their letters. Especially the Apostle Paul many times spoke of the resurrection of the body in the letters that he sent to the Churches which he created. Because they were in idolatrous surroundings, where the concept was widespread that the body is evil, the Church had felt that influence. We shall cite some characteristic passages.

To the Romans he refers to the redemption of the body, clearly touching on the theme of the resurrection of the body: "even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8, 23). To the Thessalonians he says that the resurrection will come about by the power of Christ, at His Second Coming. "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess. 4, 16).

In the texts of Holy Scripture we see not only the faith of the Church in the resurrection of the dead at the Second Coming of Christ, but also how these bodies will be. We know from the whole Orthodox Tradition that the bodies will be spiritual.

Christ declares that in the future life men will not have the elements of carnality. It is known that after the fall man was clothed in corruptibility and mortality, and consequently the way of his conception, pregnancy, suckling, belongs to the fallen life which, to be sure, God blessed for the increase of mankind. But after the resurrection all these states will be abolished and men will live as angels. Christ says: "But those who are counted worthy to attain that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die any more, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20, 35-36).

While the bodies of the saints are now having a foretaste of the glory of God, since they have the uncreated grace of Christ, at that time they will be transformed and become bodies of glory. The Apostle Paul says that Christ "will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body...” (Philip. 3, 21). As the body of Christ shines with divinity, so will also the bodies of the righteous shine in heaven. There will of course be a great difference between the body of Christ and the bodies of the saints. For the divine-human body was a source of the uncreated grace of God, while the bodies of the saints are made holy by the grace of God. Besides, we know very well from our tradition that man receives theosis, while Christ makes theosis.

The place where the Apostle Paul develops the teaching about the resurrection of the dead is his first letter to the Corinthians. It seems that some of the Corinthians were influenced by philosophical ideas about the human body. The Apostle Paul writes that if there is no resurrection of bodies, then Christ is not risen (1 Cor. 12-16).

Then He answers a question, probably put by the Corinthians, about how the dead will rise and what bodies they will have (1 Cor. 15, 35-41). In answering this question He takes an example from the world of the senses. Man sows a small grain and God gives to this grain a different body. The argument is that man does not plant wheat, but a seed, and out of the seed itself there comes a different body according to the origin. This happens also at the resurrection of the dead. There will be the resurrection of the body, by the power of Christ, and naturally the bodies, while they will be themselves, will have a different way of functioning. The dead will rise incorruptible, because, as he says characteristically, "this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15, 53).

It is very significant that the Apostle Paul presents in greatest detail the state of the body at the resurrection of the dead, He writes to the Corinthians: "It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15, 43-44). Here we see the difference between a person's body before and after death and his body after the resurrection, at the Second Coming of Christ.

In this apostolic passage we see the four characteristic features which the body will have after the resurrection. One, that it will be incorruptible, as opposed to the corruptible body of the biological life. The second feature, that it will be glorified in contrast to dishonour. The third, that it will be strong, in contrast to weakness, and the fourth feature, that it will be spiritual, as opposed to the former state, which was natural. This means that while the body of the biological life is corruptible, in dishonour, weak and natural, that is to say, governed by the natural functions, the body of the resurrection will be incorruptible, glorified, powerful and spiritual.

If we interpret the teaching of the Apostle Paul on the basis of the patristic teaching, we can say that people's bodies after their resurrection will be incorruptible, they will not need nourishment and sleep, they will not be subject to change. The Fathers say that they will be like the body of Christ, which came out of the tomb without anyone perceiving it, went in and out of the upper storey when the doors were closed, had no need, of food, covered great distances, and so forth. True, Christ ate after His resurrection, but not because of need, but to make the disciples understand that He was not a ghost. That food was burnt up by His divinity, since there was no digestive system, nor other workings which are features of corruptibility and mortality.

Also the bodies of sinners will cast off corruptibility and mortality, but they will not be spiritual and glorified, as the saints will. And naturally, the bodies of the saints will have glory corresponding to the condition of their souls. The Apostle Paul would say: "One star differs from another star in glory” (1 Cor. 15, 41). Just as the light of the sun is different from the light of the moon and different from that of the stars, the same will be true of the glory of the saints. According to the purity, illumination and deification which the person has acquired in this life, so his radiance will be in the eternal life. It is not a question of any partiality on the part of God, but a person will receive grace according to his capacity. God will send His grace to all, and each will shine and be radiant according to his spiritual condition.

It is within this framework that we must also see that all men will then acquire the age of a mature person. Even the baby which died at an early age, but also the person who died at a great age will have the same age which, as is said, will be that of Christ. In any case it is natural that they should attain the age of a mature person, which is about thirty years.

In one of his poems St. Symeon the New Theologian writes that people's souls which will be reunited with their bodies, "each according to its merit, will find its dwelling full of light or of darkness". Those who have lit their lamps in this life will be in light that never sets, and all those who were impure and the eyes of whose hearts were blind will not see the divine light. And the bodies of the saints will be holy shadows of the Holy Spirit. Just as they were very pure here, so also they will rise glorified "shining, flashing like the divine light"8.

I would like to present the teaching of many saints both as to their assurance of the resurrection of the body and as to eternal life, as well as how the resurrection will take place. However, I shall content myself with setting out the teaching of St. Gregory of Nyssa about the resurrection of our bodies. We shall look at some aspects of his teaching. I believe that it is sufficiently enlightening and characteristic.

At first St. Gregory of Nyssa teaches that when we speak of resurrection or coming back to life or renewal of the world, and when we use many other names, we are speaking about the body which is subject to decay and not the soul, which, as being incorruptible, indestructible and immortal, is not going to be resurrected, because it does not die9.

The resurrection of the body includes also the resurrection of all the limbs which for various reasons have been destroyed. On the day of resurrection even the part of a human body which thousands of years ago was eaten by carnivorous birds will be found "with nothing missing". But even the limbs which the whales and sharks and all the sea creatures have eaten will be resurrected with the person. The bodies which have been burnt by fire and eaten by worms in the tombs, and in general all the bodies which decay has destroyed, "will be yielded up by the earth whole and complete"10. So all the missing limbs will be filled in and the person will be presented whole. This means that we shall have our own body, which, however, will not be subject to decay and death.

This will happen in any case because it is connected with the creation of man by God. God did not form man for him to die, but death is the result and fruit of sin. And if the shepherd wants his flock to be healthy and almost immortal, if the cowherd wants to use various cures to increase his oxen, if the goatherd prays that his she-goats may bring forth twins, and all are aiming at something beneficial, God too has the same desire. It is plain from these examples that God wishes to reform "the ruined creature"11.

In this homily of his which he delivered on Easter Day, referring to the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of bodies at the Second Coming of Christ, St. Gregory of Nyssa affirms that at any rate there will be resurrection of the dead, that it is not impossible for God, and in addition he analyses the way in which it will happen. The things which St. Gregory says are very important, and we shall set them out briefly.

The resurrection of the body is not an impossibility. For many reasons.

First. The God who will raise the bodies is the same One who created man out of earth. We regard the creation as given, says St. Gregory, but if we think better we will see that it is something marvellous. Really, how the fine dust was concentrated and became flesh, and from the same material bones, skin, fat and hair came into being, that is to say, how, while it is one flesh, there appeared different members. He describes the different structure of each member of the body, since the lung is soft, the liver coarse and red, the heart a compact organ, and so forth.

Yet it is very strange that Eve came from a small part of Adam's rib. How did the rib become a head, feet, hands, and so forth? The God who created man in this way has the power to re-create him and to repair the limb of a decayed body. Moreover God Himself is the creator of both the first creation and of the second reordering. So it is a mark of the grateful and wise to trust in the things that God says and not to examine the ways and causes which go beyond their powers12.

Second. The different examples which exist in nature show that God is all-powerful and that nothing is impossible and perplexing for Him. God's omnipotence appears in the variety and complexity of nature. The whole of nature loudly proclaims God's grandeur and His power. The resurrections which Christ performed, such as that of Lazarus after four days, the son of the widow of Nain and the daughter of Jairus, show that it is also possible for all men to rise in the same way when He so wills. The sculptor who constructs one statue can construct others as well. Thus Christ too, who raised three people, can also do it to many others. Therefore the question of how the dead are restored to life is answered interrogatively: "How was Lazarus raised after four days?"13.

Not only the first creation but also what followed, what takes place in nature, displays the power and omnipotence of God. We know that a person's birth is a fruit of God's action. By the grace of God a person is conceived, held in the womb, born and grows. St. Gregory of Nyssa says that the resurrection of the dead can be in the manner in which a person is born. It is strange enough, according to human logic, how the sperm, which is formless at first, then acquires form, and the members of the human body are gradually created. If a person comes into being from the formless sperm, it is not at all inconsistent for the matter which is in the tombs, and which had a form, to be at once renewed in the old form and for the earth to become a man again, as happened at the first creation14.

Some people consider it improbable that bodies should rise again and that a person should be reconstituted after death, and they consider very natural the formation of the embryo and the development of the person through natural birth. But if the second can happen, so can the first, since it is the Same God who created each of them.

He also takes the case of the potter who, when he has made beautiful objects out of clay, after a ceremony, someone enters his workshop and destroys it. But if the good potter wants to, he can correct what happened, making the same objects again, not inferior to what they were before. It is foolish for us to believe that the potter, who is such a small creature of God's power, can do such a thing and not to believe that God can restore the dead.

The Apostle Paul uses the image of the grain of wheat which falls to the earth and dies and from it sprouts a great wheat plant. St. Gregory adapts this image wonderfully. After thorougly analysing what comes of this little grain of wheat and how many mysteries are hidden in it, he says that it is wonderful how a dry grain of wheat, when it rots performs a miracle, because it falls to the ground alone and sprouts a great number. The renewal of man is easier than the renewal of the wheat. Through his resurrection man does not receive anything more than what he had15.

The holy Fathers use many images from nature and present them to their flocks. We see this in many of their homilies, and in the homily of St. Gregory which we are examining at this point. In order to show that it is possible to rise from the dead, he analyses very beautifully, realistically and representatively, with vivid colours and literary talent, how throughout the winter the trees are dry and at the beginning of spring they bear flowers and become a place where the birds gather and people enjoy them. And the reptiles and the snakes too are hiding in the earth during the winter hibernation, and as soon as the suitable season comes and a stirring is heard echoing a sign of life, they leap up and start their activities. Just as the snakes wake up from their hibernation at the sound of this stirring of life, so also the dead bodies of men will receive their souls and be raised up when God's trumpet is heard.

He gives a wonderful description of man from birth to death. He observes that man's life is like that of the animals, it undergoes change and variation. A man, after his birth, successively grows, acquires various functions, and as he grows and reaches the end of his life he becomes a baby again who lisps, is silly and crawls on his hands and knees, as at the beginning of his life. All these things show that also before death man receives changes upon changes, fadings and renewals16. This will naturally take place also during the resurrection. Inasmuch as the perishable perishes by the law of decay, much more will it be renewed by the power and action of God.

But sleep too, which is necessary for our daily refreshing, and likewise our rising from sleep, point to the mystery of the resurrection of the dead. Moreover, sleep is an image of death and being awake is an image of resurrection. Many have characterised sleep as a brother of death, for in sleep man is like dead, unconscious. He does not recognise friends and enemies, he does not notice those who are around him, and that is why one can easily injure those who have been lulled to sleep. When a man wakes up, he gradually recovers his powers and it seems as if he has come to life. If there are changes and ecstases in man during day and night, it is very foolish and contentious of us not to believe in the God who promises "the final renewal"17.

It appears from all these examples that the resurrection of the body is a very natural event. Just as we regard as a natural fact the birth of a man, the alternations in nature, the growth of plants and, in general, just as we regard as natural all the things that happen in nature, we should regard as another just as natural thing the renewal and re-creation of man, the resurrection of bodies. For the God who did the former can do the latter.

Third. The body is not completely destroyed after the soul leaves it. It is dissolved into "the things of which it was composed", for it consists of four elements, water, air, fire and earth, but it does not vanish. In another chapter we saw the views of St. Gregory of Nyssa, that although the soul is separated from the body, it remembers the elements and limbs of its body, is in touch with them and at the suitable time, by the power of God, will bring them together and the spiritual body will be composed. This shows that in spite of the separation of the soul from the body, the person is not abolished.

In this homily which we are studying, St. Gregory of Nyssa says that the body does not disappear completely, but it is dissolved into the elements of which it was composed "and is in water and air and earth and fire". The fact that the original elements stay and join with those things which come from them, after the body dissolves, shows that the things which are partial also remain within the general. And when these four elements of which man is composed approach their prototypes, again too, while the prototypes remain, the particulars, the parts, also remain.

We know very well that the whole world was made from nothing, from non-existent matter. If it is easy for God to re-create something from nothing, it is easier to create from existing elements. Thus, since these prototypes exist, it is possible for God to form man again18.

Fourth. St. Gregory of Nyssa takes examples for the resurrection of bodies from the views of the men of his time. Many people considered and still consider it very natural for the features of bodies which have decomposed to go to their descendants and for features of bodies of those not related to be transmitted to other bodies, but they do not believe that it is possible for the same features to be renewed in those who once had them as their own. I shall quote what St. Gregory of Nyssa said, because it is worth noting. He says that it is inconceivable "...not to acknowledge that the same and exceptional things about those things once possessed are renewed and brought back to life"19.

Observing this passage, we can verify that at the resurrection of the body people will receive their own body with its special features, but nevertheless transformed. Since the body will be raised "in power and incorruption” it means that it will not have on it the marks of decay, mortality and illness. Naturally, we do not know more details about this subject, but I think that what has been cited is very expressive.

Fifth. St. Gregory of Nyssa, however, insists strongly that the resurrection of bodies is necessary also for men to live a good life. For if death is the end of life, then the murderer, the adulterer, the perjurer, the liar, will increase in their evil. If there is no resurrection there is no judgement. If there is no judgement, then even the fear of God is lost and naturally where fear does not chastise, "there the devil dances with the sinner"20.

Thus when the Church speaks of the coming life and the tribunal, it increases the fear of God in men. This fear has a humanising effect on life. So the teaching about the death and resurrection of bodies provides man with a socialising factor. Whoever banishes fear becomes subject to the demons, a prey to all the passions.

The conclusion is that there will be a resurrection of the dead. God's word bears witness to this, God revealed it to us, the saints confirm it by their lives and teaching, and human experience bears witness to it. This is why we stand with reverence before the human body. We revere it, we love it, we struggle to purify ourselves of sins, so that it too may be glorified. It is very characteristic that the hesychasm of the so-called neptic Fathers also turned to the body, which we honour greatly. We note this in the works of St. Gregory Palamas.

Reverence for the human body is also shown in its burial. In the Orthodox Church the burning or cremation of bodies is not accepted, but they are buried. To be sure, as we said before, about the teaching of St. Gregory of Nyssa, the bodies which have been burned will also be raised, but if a person of his own will desires his body to be burnt, he indicates that he does not believe in his resurrection. It is not at all strange that where the burning of bodies prevailed, notions prevailed that the body is a prison of the soul which must be discarded in order for the soul to be liberated. We reverence the body, we bury it and we await its resurrection. The saints are sleeping with nostalgia for the resurrection. They confess "I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come".

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

St. John of Damascus: The Day of Resurrection

A Composition by Monk John

Ode 1. 1st Tone. Eirmos.

The day of Resurrection, let us be radiant, O peoples! Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha; for Christ God has brought us from death to life, and from earth to heaven, as we sing the triumphal song.


Let us purify our senses, and in the unapproachable light of the resurrection we shall see Christ shining forth, and we shall clearly hear him saying ‘Rejoice!’, as we sing the triumphal song.

Let the heavens, as is fitting, rejoice and let the earth be glad. Let the whole world, both seen and unseen, keep the feast: for Christ has risen, our eternal joy.

Ode 3. Eirmos.

Come let us drink a new drink, not one marvellously brought forth from a barren rock, but a Source of incorruption, which pours out from the tomb of Christ, in whom we are established.


Now all things have been filled with light, both heaven and earth and those beneath the earth; so let all creation sing Christ’s rising, by which it is established.

Yesterday I was buried with you O Christ, today I rise with you as you arise. Yesterday I was crucified with you; glorify me with you, Saviour, in your Kingdom.

Ode 4. Eirmos.

Let the Prophet Avvakoum, inspired by God, keep the divine watch with us, and show forth the radiant Angel, who with resounding voice declares, ‘To-day is salvation for the world, for Christ has risen as omnipotent’.


Christ appeared as a ‘male’ who opened the virgin womb. As our food he is called ‘lamb’; ‘unblemished’, as our Passover without stain; and ‘perfect’, for he is true God.

As a yearling lamb, for us the blessed crown, Christ was willingly sacrificed for all, a cleansing Passover. And from the tomb the fair Sun of justice has shone for us again.

God’s forebear David, dancing, leaped before the Ark, mere shadow, but seeing the fulfilment of the types, let us, God’s holy people, inspired, rejoice, for Christ has risen as omnipotent.

Ode 5. Eirmos.

Let us arise in the early dawn, and instead of myrrh, offer praises to the Master; and we shall see Christ, the Sun of Justice, who causes life to dawn for all.


Those who were held by Hades’ bonds, seeing your measureless compassion, press forward to the light, O Christ, with joyful steps, praising an eternal Passover.

With torches in our hands let us go out to meet Christ as he comes from the grave like a bridegroom, and with the festive ranks of Angels, let us together feast God’s saving Passover.

Ode 6. Eirmos.

You went down to the deepest parts of the earth, and you shattered the everlasting bars of those that those that were fettered, O Christ. And on the third day, like Jonas from the whale, you arose from the tomb.


Keeping the seals intact, O Christ, you rose from the tomb, you who did not harm the locks of the Virgin’s womb at your birth, and you have opened to us the gates of Paradise.

O my Saviour, the living, unslain Victim, as God offering yourself willingly to the Father, you raised with yourself all Adam’s race, in rising from the tomb.

Ode 7. Eirmos.

He who delivered the Young Men from the furnace, becoming man suffers as a mortal, and through suffering he clothes the mortal with the glory of incorruption: the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.


The holy women hastened after you with sweet spices. The One whom they sought with tears as a mortal, they worshipped with joy as the living God, and they proclaimed the mystic Passover, O Christ, to your disciples.

We feast death’s slaughter, the overthrow of Hell, the first fruits of a new eternal life: and dancing we hymn the cause: the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.

How truly holy and all-festive is this saving night, how full of light, herald of the bright day of the resurrection, in which the timeless Light shone bodily for all from the tomb.

Ode 8. Eirmos.

This chosen and holy day is the first of Sabbaths, the Queen and Lady, the Feast of Feasts and the Festival of Festivals on which we bless Christ to all the ages.


Come let us share in the new fruit of the vine, in divine joy, and in the kingdom of Christ, on the glorious day of the Resurrection, as we sing his praise as God to all the ages.

Lift your eyes around you, Sion, and see. For behold, like beacons shedding light divine your children have come to you, from West and North, from the Sea and from the East, blessing Christ in you to all the ages.

Almighty Father, Word and Spirit, nature united in three Persons, beyond all being and beyond all Godhead, into you we have been baptised and we bless you to all the ages.

Ode 9. Eirmos.

Megalynarion: Magnify, O my soul, him who suffered willingly, and was buried, and rose from the grave on the third day.

Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Dance now and be glad, O Sion, and you too rejoice, pure Mother of God, at the arising of him to whom you gave birth.

Megalynarion: Magnify, O my soul, Christ the Giver of life, who arose from the grave on the third day.

Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Dance now and be glad, O Sion, and you too rejoice, pure Mother of God, at the arising of him to whom you gave birth.

Megalynarion: Christ is the new Passover, the living sacrificial victim, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

O divine! O beloved! O sweetest voice! You have truly promised that you will be with us unto the end of time, O Christ. And we the faithful rejoice, having this as an anchor of hope.

Megalynarion: The Angel cried to her that is full of grace: Pure Virgin, rejoice! And again I say: Rejoice! For your Son has risen from the tomb on the third day.

O divine! O beloved! O sweetest voice! You have truly promised that you will be with us unto the end of time, O Christ. And we the faithful rejoice, having this as an anchor of hope.

Megalynarion: Mary Magdalen ran to the tomb, and seeing Christ, questioned him as though he were the gardener.

O divine! O beloved! O sweetest voice! You have truly promised that you will be with us unto the end of time, O Christ. And we the faithful rejoice, having this as an anchor of hope.

Megalynarion: A dazzling Angel appeared to the women and cried: Cease your tears, for Christ has risen.

O divine! O beloved! O sweetest voice! You have truly promised that you will be with us unto the end of time, O Christ. And we the faithful rejoice, having this as an anchor of hope.

Megalynarion: You awoke and wakened the dead from every age, as the Lion of Juda, roaring like a king.

O great and most sacred Pascha, Christ! O Wisdom and Word and Power of God! Grant that we may partake of you fully in the day that has no evening of your Kingdom.

Megalynarion: Christ has risen, trampling on death and raising the dead. Rejoice all you peoples.

O great and most sacred Pascha, Christ! O Wisdom and Word and Power of God! Grant that we may partake of you fully in the day that has no evening of your Kingdom.

Megalynarion: Today the whole creation rejoices and is glad, for Christ has risen and Hell has been despoiled.

O great and most sacred Pascha, Christ! O Wisdom and Word and Power of God! Grant that we may partake of you fully in the day that has no evening of your Kingdom.

Megalynarion Today the Master despoiled Hell and raised the prisoners whom it had held from the ages in harsh captivity.

O great and most sacred Pascha, Christ! O Wisdom and Word and Power of God! Grant that we may partake of you fully in the day that has no evening of your Kingdom.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

Megalynarion: Magnify, O my soul, the might of the Godhead in three Persons yet undivided.

O great and most sacred Pascha, Christ! O Wisdom and Word and Power of God! Grant that we may partake of you fully in the day that has no evening of your Kingdom.

Both now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Megalynarion: Rejoice, O Virgin, rejoice! Rejoice, Blessed One! Rejoice, Glorified One. your Son has risen from his three days in the tomb.

O great and most sacred Pascha, Christ! O Wisdom and Word and Power of God! Grant that we may partake of you fully in the day that has no evening of your Kingdom.

Paschal Sermon of St. John Chrysostom

If any man be devout and loveth God,
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.

If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.

For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour's death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Το Δοξαστικό της Κασσιανής

Ιδιόμελο δοξαστικό των αποστίχων του όρθρου της Μ. Τετάρτης:

Κύριε, η εν πολλαίς αμαρτίαις περιπεσούσα Γυνή,
τήν σήν αισθομένη θεότητα, μυροφόρου αναλαβούσα τάξιν,
οδυρομένη μύρα σοι, πρό τού ενταφιασμού κομίζει.
Οίμοι! λέγουσα, οτι νύξ μοι, υπάρχει, οίστρος ακολασίας,
ζοφώδης τε καί ασέληνος, έρως τής αμαρτίας.
Δέξαι μου τάς πηγάς τών δακρύων,
ο νεφέλαις διεξάγων τής θαλάσσης τό ύδωρ,
κάμφθητί μοι πρός τούς στεναγμούς τής καρδίας,
ο κλίνας τούς ουρανούς, τή αφάτω σου κενώσει,
καταφιλήσω τούς αχράντους σου πόδας,
αποσμήξω τούτους δέ πάλιν, τοίς τής κεφαλής μου βοστρύχοις,
ών εν τώ Παραδείσω Εύα τό δειλινόν,
κρότον τοίς ωσίν ηχηθείσα, τώ φόβω εκρύβη.
Αμαρτιών μου τά πλήθη καί κριμάτων σου αβύσσους,
τίς εξιχνιάσει ψυχοσώστα Σωτήρ μου;
Μή με τήν σήν δούλην παρίδης, ο αμέτρητον έχων τό έλεος.

Download this hymn here: Gregorios Ntaravanoglou

Μεταγραφή του Φώτη Κόντογλου:

Κύριε, η γυναίκα που έπεσε σε πολλές αμαρτίες,
σαν ένοιωσε τη θεότητά σου, γίνηκε μυροφόρα
και σε άλειψε με μυρουδικά πριν από τον ενταφιασμό σου
κι έλεγε οδυρόμενη: Αλλοίμονο σε μένα, γιατί μέσα μου είναι νύχτα κατασκότεινη
και δίχως φεγγάρι, η μανία της ασωτείας κι ο έρωτας της αμαρτίας.
Δέξου από μένα τις πηγές των δακρύων,
εσύ που μεταλλάζεις με τα σύννεφα το νερό της θάλασσας.
Λύγισε στ' αναστενάγματα της καρδιάς μου,
εσύ που έγειρες τον ουρανό και κατέβηκες στη γης.
Θα καταφιλήσω τα άχραντα ποδάρια σου,
και θα τα σφουγγίσω πάλι με τα πλοκάμια της κεφαλής μου·
αυτά τα ποδάρια, που σαν η Εύα κατά το δειλινό,
τ' άκουσε να περπατάνε, από το φόβο της κρύφτηκε.
Των αμαρτιών μου τα πλήθη και των κριμάτων σου την άβυσσο,
ποιος μπορεί να τα εξιχνιάση, ψυχοσώστη Σωτήρα μου;
Μην καταφρονέσης τη δούλη σου, εσύ που έχεις τ' αμέτρητο έλεος.

Η Κασσιανή (Kωστ Παλαμ)

Κύριε, γυναίκα αμαρτωλή, πολλά,
πολλά, θολά, βαριά τα κρίματά μου.
Μα, ω Κύριε, πώς η θεότης Σου μιλά
μέσ΄ στην καρδιά μου!

Κύριε, προτού Σε κρύψ΄ η εντάφια γη
από τη δροσαυγή λουλούδια πήρα
κι απ΄ της λατρείας την τρίσβαθη πηγή
Σου φέρνω μύρα.

Οίστρος με σέρνει ακολασίας... Νυχτιά,
σκοτάδι αφέγγαρο, άναστρο με ζώνει,
το σκοτάδι της αμαρτίας φωτιά
με καίει, με λιώνει.

Εσύ που από τα πέλαα τα νερά
τα υψώνεις νέφη, πάρε τα, Έρωτά μου,
κυλάνε, είναι ποτάμια φλογερά
τα δάκρυά μου.

Γύρε σ΄ εμέ. Η ψυχή πώς πονεί!
Δέξου με Εσύ που δέχτηκες και γείραν
άφραστα ως εδώ κάτου οι ουρανοί.
και σάρκα επήραν.

Στ΄ άχραντά Σου τα πόδια, βασιλιά
μου Εσύ θα πέσω και θα στα φιλήσω,
και με της κεφαλής μου τα μαλλιά
θα στα σφουγγίσω.

Τ΄ άκουσεν η Εύα μέσ΄ στο αποσπερνό
της παράδεισος φως ν΄ αντιχτυπάνε,
κι αλαφιασμένη κρύφτηκε... Πονώ,
σώσε, έλεος κάνε.

Ψυχοσώστ΄, οι αμαρτίες μου λαός,
Τα αξεδιάλυτα ποιος θα
Αμέτρητό Σου το έλεος, ο Θεός!
'Αβυσσο η κρίση.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Eros and Personhood

(excerpted from "The Person in the Orthodox Tradition")

It is being emphasised today that the person is linked with love and that only as person can man have true and real love. We read that "Personal distinctiveness is revealed and known only within the framework of direct personal relationship and communion, only by participation in the principle of personal immediacy, or of the loving and creative force which distinguishes the person from the common nature. And this revelation and knowledge of personal distinctiveness becomes ever more full as the fact of communion and relationship achieves its wholeness in love. Love is the supreme road to knowledge of the person, because it is an acceptance of the other person as a whole. It does not project on to the other person individual preferences, demands or desires, but accepts him as he is, in the fullness of his personal uniqueness. This is why knowledge of the distinctiveness of the person achieves its ultimate fullness in the self-transcendence and offering of self that is love, and why, in the language of the Bible, sexual intercourse is identified with knowledge of a person".

There is no doubt that when man becomes person, as described by the holy Fathers, then true love also develops and is experienced. The person is linked with love. God is a person and He loves man. That is why St. Maximos the Confessor, following St. Dionysios, says: "Theologians call the divine sometimes an erotic force, sometimes love, sometimes that which is intensely longed for and loved. Consequently, as an erotic force and as love, the divine itself is subject to movement; and, as that which is intensely longed for and loved, it moves towards itself everything which is receptive of this force and love". Thus person cannot be understood without love, and true love cannot be understood without the existence of the true person.

It is possible, however, for us to understand the person philosophically and abstractly, and by extension also to understand love as sensual and biological. That is why at this point the necessity for asceticism must be emphasised. Besides, even the character of marriage is ascetic.

Sexual love as a biological need is characterised by two passions, which "destroy precisely that towards which the human hypostasis is thrusting, namely the person". The first passion can be called ontological necessity and the second passion could be called individualism and separation of the hypostasis. The first is connected with instinct and the second with death, since a man is born who is going to die. "All this means that man as a biological hypostasis is intrinsically a tragic figure. He is born as a result of an ecstatic fact - erotic love - but this fact is interwoven with a natural necessity and therefore lacks ontological freedom. He is born as a hypostatic fact, as a body, but this fact is interwoven with individuality and with death".

This means that only when man becomes a person does he preserve love. And, as we said before, essentially the person is a revelation, a manifestation of the place of the heart, a rebirth of man. It is with these presuppositions that the Fathers of the Church speak both of person and of love.

St. Gregory Palamas writes that just as God is Nous, Word and Spirit, the same is true of man. Man too, created by God in His image, has nous, word and spirit. The spirit that quickens his body is his noetic love, "which issues from the nous and from the word and possesses in itself both the word and the nous". From these things we see that so long as the nous is pure, so is the noetic love which is connected with it. And as far as that purity of the nous is a condition for man's cure and is connected with the whole ascetic effort which man puts forth, and as far as this is connected with man's rebirth, to that extent love too is not simply biological, but noetic.

St. Dionysios the Areopagite, who speaks about love, stresses emphatically: "real love is praised as appropriate to the divine". And of course there are a number of preconditions which determine true love. When the powers of the soul are moved according to nature and above nature, then they experience real love; otherwise sensual love develops, which is an idol, or rather, a falling away from real love. St. Dionysios says: "Others, however, tended naturally to think of a partial, physical and divided love. This is not true love but an empty image or, rather, a lapse from real love".

Consequently, love is linked with the person, particularly when the person has a theological infrastructure and interpretation, and not a philosophical and psychological one. The philosophical and psychological interpretation does not give us assurance that love is genuine.

All the holy Fathers move within this framework. St. Gregory of Sinai says that love is "a spiritual intoxication that arouses our desire". In analysing this topic he writes that there are two "spiritually ecstatic loves". One is within the heart and pertains to those who are still in the process of achieving illumination of the nous, and is connected with noetic prayer, and the other is ecstatic, which pertains to those perfected in love. Both loves, which are divine, "acting on the nous, transport it beyond the sense-world". Thus true love, which constitutes the person, is a liberation of the nous from the senses. And this is also called spiritual intoxication, because the senses too are detached from their involvement with visible things.

This is the extended meaning of love in the teaching of the holy Fathers of the Church. St. Niketas Stethatos connects spiritual longing and love for other people with humility, compunction and pure prayer. "Nothing so inspires the soul with love for God and love for one's fellow men as humility, compunction and pure prayer". Humility shatters the spirit, that is to say, it makes low the heart of man. Compunction purifies the nous and illuminates the eye of the heart, and pure prayer binds the whole man to God. About this St. Niketas Stethatos says: "Where there is love for God, spiritual labour, and participation in the unapproachable light, there too the soul's powers will be at peace, the nous will be purified, and the Holy Trinity will dwell within us".

All these things indicate that we can speak of true love, when we have a real person. And, as we said before, that man is a true person who participates in the purifying, illuminating and deifying energy of God. The person is closely linked with the rebirth of man, the discovery of the heart. It is just at that point that we can speak of love. Otherwise, there are the sensual loves, which St. Gregory Palamas aptly calls the empty image of real love, the lapse from real love, as St. Dionysios the Areopagite puts it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Nicholas Kabasilas : THE OLD AND THE NEW ADAM

INDEED man's nature was created in the beginning for the new man, and mind and desire toward the new man were built. We were given thinking in order to know Christ; desire, in order to run to Him; memory, to remember Him, because even in the time of our creation, it was He that was our archetype. Because the old man was not the exemplar of the new, but the new Adam was the exemplar of the old. (...) And while the one brought in the imperfect life, that needs a thousand aids, the other became for men the father of immortal life.

Our nature harried from the beginning to immortality, but it arrived to it afterwards in our Savior’s body, Who by Himself resurrected it from the dead to the immortal life. He was the leader of immortality for our kind. And to complete my word, it was the Savior first and only Him who showed us the real man, the perfect in ways and life and everything. (...) As for how we will be able to direct our attention and gaze at Him continuously, let our thinking be always a prayer to Him. In any case, they don't need special preparations and locations nor cries those who pray to Him. For there isn't any place where He is not present, nor is it possible not to be with us, He who, be certain, is closer to those that call Him than than they are to their heart. Hence, that He will answer our prayers we can also be perfectly sure, and be not afraid, but have courage, because the one whom we call upon is good. (...) We don't call our Lord to honor us, but to have mercy on us and love us. (...) We call God through our tongue and our will and thoughts, so that upon all our sins we may be able to put the only saving medicine, because he says that "there isn't any other name in which we can be saved." [Acts 4.12]

It will be enough for all of these the real bread, it will give us strength in our labor, it will remove the laziness that has grown in our hearts, the one that supports man's heart, He who has come from the heaven to bring us the life, Whom we must have the need to eat everywhere, all times, in all ways, and while we have this dinner constantly, to keep the work of preserving hunger.

Monday, April 03, 2006

St. Peter the Damascene: What is True Faith?

[Excerpted and translated by Elpenor]

FOR such a person--a person of true faith--will not worry at all anymore about anything whatever, knowing, that A horse is prepared for war but it is salvation that is from God , as Solomon says (Prov. 21.31). And by faith he dares anything without any doubt, as St. Isaak says: Aquire faith inside yourself to defeat your enemies. For he neither lives as autonomous, but as a living being guided by God's will, as the prophet says:

I became near you like a beast,
nevertheless I am continually with you (Ps. 72.22-23). Do you wish to comfort me in your knowledge? Be it as you wish. Do you wish to let me in temptations in order to humiliate me? The same I follow you. Without you I have nothing to do. Without you I wouldn't be born out of nothing, neither can I live or be saved. Do with your creature whatever you like.

But I believe that you have prepared for me good things, since you are good, even if it isn't useful for me to know them. But neither am I worthy to know, nor do I ask to know in order to gain comfort. Perhaps it will not do me good. Nor comfort from any war dare I to ask, though I am feeble and everything brings me pain, because I don't know for whom it is beneficial. It is you who knows everything, do accordingly as you know. Let me only not fail, whatever might happen. But whether I will it or not, save me. And this, if it pleases you. Therefore, I don't want anything at all. I stand before you like a soulless being. I put my soul into your inoccent hands, in this age and in the age to come.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

What is Christianity?

An excerpt from the book "Orthodox Psychotherapy"

Many people interpreting the character of Christianity see it as one of the numerous philosophies and religions known from antiquity. Certainly Christianity is not a philosophy in the sense that prevails today. Philosophy sets up a system of thought which in most cases bears no relationship to life. The main difference between Christianity and philosophy is that the latter is human thinking, while Christianity is a revelation of God. It is not a discovery by man but a revelation by God Himself to man. It was impossible for human logic to find the truths of Christianity. Where the human word was powerless, there came the divine-human Word, or Christ the Godman, the Word of God. This divine revelation was formulated in the philosophical terms of the time, but again it must be emphasised that it is not a philosophy. The garments of the divine-human Word are taken from the philosophy of that time.

St. John Chrysostom, interpreting Isaiah 3,1: "Behold the Lord, the Lord of Hosts, takes away from Jerusalem and from Judah...the mighty man and the soldier, the judge and the prophet, the diviner...", observes: "He seems here to be calling a diviner a person who is capable of conjecturing the future through profound intelligence and experience of things. Divining and prophesying are indeed two different things: the prophet, setting self aside, speaks under divine inspiration; the diviner for his part starts from what has already happened, puts his own intelligence to work and foresees many future events, as an intelligent person normally does. But the difference between them is great: it is the distance that separates human intelligence from divine grace" (1).

So speculation (or philosophy) is one thing, and prophecy, or the word of the prophet who theologises, is another. The former is a human activity while the latter is a revelation of the Holy Spirit.

In the patristic writings, and especially in the teaching of St. Maximus, philosophy is referred to as the beginning of the spiritual life. However, he used the term `practical philosophy' to mean cleansing the heart from passions, which really is the first stage of the soul's journey towards God.

Yet Christianity cannot be regarded as a religion, at least not as religion presents itself today. God is usually visualised as dwelling in heaven and directing human history from there: He is extremely exacting, seeking satisfaction from man, who has fallen to earth in his sickness and weakness. There is a wall of separation between God and man. This has to be surmounted by man, and religion is a very effective help. Various religious rites are employed for this purpose.

According to another view, man feels powerless in the universe and needs a mighty God to help him in his weakness. In this view God does not create man, but man creates God. Again, religion is conceived as man's relationship to the Absolute God, that is to say, the "relationship of the `I' to the Absolute Thou". Yet again, many regard religion as a means whereby the people are deluded into transferring their hopes to the future life. In this way strong powers put pressure on the people by means of religion.

But Christianity is something higher than these interpretations and theories; it cannot be contained within the usual conception and definition of religion given in the "natural" religions. God is not the Absolute Thou, but a living Person Who is in organic communion with man. Moreover Christianity does not simply transfer the problem to the future or await the delight of the kingdom of heaven after history and after the end of time. In Christianity the future is lived in the present and the kingdom of God begins in this life. According to the patristic interpretation, the kingdom of God is the grace of the Triune God, it is vision of the uncreated Light.

We Orthodox are not waiting for the end of history and the end of time, but through living in Christ we are running to meet the end of history and thus already living the life expected after the Second Coming. St. Symeon the New Theologian says that he who has seen the uncreated light and united with God is not awaiting the Second Coming of the Lord but living it. So the eternal embraces us at every moment of time. Therefore past, present and future are essentially lived in one unbroken unity. This is so-called condensed time.

Thus Orthodoxy cannot be characterised as the `opium of the people', precisely because it does not postpone the problem. It offers life, transforms biological life, sanctifies and transforms societies. Where Orthodoxy is lived in the right way and in the Holy Spirit, it is a communion of God and men, of heavenly and earthly, of the living and the dead. In this communion all the problems which present themselves in our life are truly resolved.

Yet since the membership of the Church includes sick people and beginners in the spiritual life, it is to be expected that some of them understand Christianity as religion in the sense referred to above. Moreover, the spiritual life is a dynamic journey. It begins with baptism, which is purification of the `image', and continues through ascetic living aimed at attaining `likeness', which is to say communion with God. Anyway it must be made clear that even when we still speak of Christianity as a religion we must do it with certain necessary presuppositions.

The first is that Christianity is mainly a Church. `Church' means `Body of Christ'. There are many places in the New Testament where Christianity is called the Church. We shall only mention Christ's words: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church" (Matt.16:18) and the words of the Apostle Paul to the Colossians: "And he is the head of the body, the church" (1:18) and to his disciple Timothy: " that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1Tim,.3,15). This means that Christ does not simply dwell in heaven and direct history and the lives of men from there, but He is united with us. He assumed human nature and deified it; thus in Christ deified human nature is at the right hand of the Father. So Christ is our life and we are `members of Christ'.

The second presupposition is that the aim of the Christian is to attain the blessed state of deification. Deification is identical with `likeness', that is, to be like God. However, in order to reach the likeness, to attain the vision of God, and for this vision not to be a consuming fire but a life-giving light, purification must previously have taken place. This purification and healing is the Church's work. When the Christian participates in worship without undergoing life-giving purification - and moreover these acts of worship also aim towards man's purification - then he is not really living within the Church. Christianity without purification is utopia. So when we are being purified, especially when we are seeing to our healing, we can speak of religion. And this accords with the words of the Lord's brother James: "If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (Jas.1:26-27).

This abstinence gives us the right to claim that Christianity is neither philosophy nor `natural' religion, but mainly healing. It is the healing of a person's passions so that he may attain communion and union with God.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan the Lord showed us several truths. As soon as the Samaritan saw the man who had fallen among thieves who had wounded him and left him half dead, he "had compassion on him and went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn and took care of him" (Luk.10:33f). Christ treated the wounded man and brought him to the inn, to the Hospital which is the Church. Here Christ is presented as a physician who heals man's illnesses, and the Church as a Hospital.

It is very characteristic that in analysing this parable St. John Chrysostom presents the truths which we have just emphasised. Man went down "from the heavenly state to the state of the devil's deception, and he fell among thieves, that is, the devil and the hostile powers". The wounds which he sustained are the various sins. As David says, "My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness" (Ps.38:5). For "every sin brings bruises and wounds". The Samaritan is Christ Himself, who came down from heaven to earth to heal wounded man. He used wine and oil for the wounds. That is to say, "by mixing the Holy Spirit with his blood, he brought life to man". According to another interpretation, "oil brings the comforting word, wine provides the astringent lotion, the instruction which brings concentration to the scattered mind". He set him upon his own animal: "Taking flesh upon his own divine shoulders, he lifted it towards the Father in Heaven". Thereupon the good Samaritan, Christ, led the man "into the wonderful and spacious inn, this universal Church". He gave him to the innkeeper, who is the Apostle Paul and "through Paul to the high priests and teachers and ministers of each church", saying: "Take care of the people of the Gentiles whom I have given to you in the Church. Since men are sick, wounded by sin, heal them, putting on them a stone plaster, that is, the prophetic sayings and the gospel teachings, making them whole through the admonitions and exhortations of the Old and New Testaments." So according to St. John Chrysostom, Paul is the one who upholds the churches of God "and heals all men through spiritual admonitions, distributing the bread of offering to each one..." (2).

In St. John Chrysostom's interpretation of this parable it is clearly evident that the Church is a Hospital which heals those sick with sin, while the bishops and priests, like the Apostle Paul, are the healers of the people of God.

These truths also appear in many other places in the New Testament. The Lord said: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick" (Matt.9:12). Likewise Christ, as a physician of souls and bodies, was "...healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people...and they brought to him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and he healed them" (Matt.4:23f). The Apostle Paul is well aware that the conscience of men, especially of simple ones, is weak: "When you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ" (ICor.8:12). The Book of Revelation says that John the Evangelist saw a river of the water of life proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. "On either side of the river was the tree of life...and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations" (Rev.22:1f).

So the work of the Church is therapeutic. It seeks to heal men's sicknesses, mainly those of the soul, which torment them. This is the basic teaching of the New Testament and of the Fathers of the Church. In what follows in this chapter as well as in other chapters many passages from the Fathers will bring out this truth.

Here again I want to emphasise the indispensability of the Church. I am very grateful to the priest and professor John Romanides for laying stress on this in his writings. I am convinced that he is very well read in the neptic Fathers -especially in the writings contained in the Philokalia - and has therefore grasped the real meaning of Christianity. I believe that this is his great contribution. For in this era when Christianity is being presented as a philosophy or intellectual theology or a culture and popular tradition - customs and manners - he presents this teaching about a therapeutic discipline and treatment.

Concretely, he says: "Having faith in Christ without undergoing healing in Christ is not faith at all. Here is the same contradiction that we find when a sick person who has great confidence in his doctor never carries out the treatment which he recommends. If Judaism and its successor, Christianity, had appeared in the twentieth century for the first time, they would most likely have been characterised not as religions but as medical sciences related to psychiatry. They would have a wide influence on society owing to their considerable successes in healing the ills of the partially functioning personality. In no way can prophetic Judaism and Christianity be construed as religions that use various magical methods and beliefs to promise escape from a supposed world of matter and evil or hypocrisy into a supposed spiritual world of security and success" (3).

In another work the same professor says: "The patristic tradition is neither a social philosophy nor an ethical system, nor is it religious dogmatism: it is a therapeutic treatment. In this respect it closely resembles medicine, especially psychiatry. The spiritual energy of the soul that prays unceasingly in the heart is a physiological instrument which everyone has and which requires healing. Neither philosophy nor any of the known positive or social sciences is capable of healing this instrument. That can only be done through the Fathers' neptic and ascetic teaching. Therefore those who are not healed usually do not even know of the existence of this instrument" (4).

So in the Church we are divided into the sick, those undergoing therapeutic treatment, and those - saints - who have already been healed. "The Fathers do not categorise people as moral and immoral or good and bad on the basis of moral laws. This division is superficial. At depth humanity is differentiated into the sick in soul, those being healed and those healed. All who are not in a state of illumination are sick in soul...It is not only good will, good resolve, moral practice and devotion to the Orthodox Tradition which make an Orthodox, but also purification, illumination and deification. These stages of healing are the purpose of the mystical life of the Church, as the liturgical texts bear witness" (5).