When I walk into an Orthodox Church… one is immediately aware that one has stepped into the presence of what Saint Paul would call the whole family in heaven and earth. You have stepped into the precincts of heaven!
Thomas Howard

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The Crucial Cure

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A close friend of mine (and my godson) recently preached on the Sunday of the Paralytic. As I commented when he posted the text of his sermon, “I particularly liked the reversal of the ‘crutch’ accusation at the end, and how it tied in with the central medical theme. Great job, and I hope that your hearers were edified.” I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

I would like to offer one further remark — and it may simply reflect a different perspective: I have become somewhat sensitive of late to the fact that the cross is the center and sine qua non of Christian faith. Chris mentioned the Lord’s passion (which is the cross); it could have been a bit more central to the entire homily. The cross is the sacrament from which every other sacrament flows. You see this in icons of the crucifixion: A cup capturing the blood and water flowing from the Lord’s side. (This image of baptism and eucharist — of the church as sacrament — represents a timeless connection rather than an historical event. The crucified Lord eternally gives birth to the church in the timeless reality of the cross.) I would have nailed the fact that the Lord’s cross is the medicine (and sometimes, we don’t get a spoonful of sugar to make it go down more easily).

Sometimes we speak easily of the church and theology without referring it back to the cross. However, the earliest patristic writers, as well as many of the most important through the centuries, always took the cross as their starting point and referred to it constantly. The more that our teaching becomes able to stand apart from the cross (which is the revelation of God enfleshed), the less it resembles patristic teaching. A theology which can stand without the cross is not the gospel and it is not really Christian.

In closing, I reemphasize that I really liked this homily. However, I think that the cross is crucial to Christian teaching and thought it important enough to mention. In some ways, this merely reflects a different perspective. I am emphasizing this crucial element of Christian teaching partly due to the deep vale where my own journey has taken me. However, part of it is also a shift in thinking spearheaded by Fr John Behr, now the dean at St Vladimir’s Seminary, where I am a student. I highly recommend his book, The Mystery of Christ. To get an idea of his central thesis, read this article: “The Paschal Foundations of Christian Theology.”

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Filed under: — Basil @ 2:56 pm