CHRIST IS THE DEPTH As it is his usual way, the apostle Paul starts his epistle with thanksgiving to God for His work with His people, particularly with those to whom the apostle sends his epistle. In this attitude he expresses his perpetual longing for the life of thanksgiving and praise, supports the church in her weaknesses, and instigate in its congregation the spirit of hope. He reveals to us the exaltation of the Person of Christ, and clarifies His position concerning the Father, the creation, and the church; a revelation to the account of the church which is His body, enjoying what belongs to her Head. When he talks about the church, he means everyone of her members; as the goal of the epistle, and even the goal of his whole apostolic work, is to discover the believer, and to perceive his possibilities, to live a perfect life in Christ; for in such a goal will be the perfection of the church1. The Lord Christ is the Depth. How? He alone, can enter deep into us, to utterly solve our problems in their depths, not through changing the outer circumstances, but through reconciling us with the Father; to enjoy the Divine Bosoms; by which He does not just bring us back to the garden of Eden, but to the Creator of paradise Himself. He alone, being One with the heavenly Father, of the same essence, is capable of granting us the fullness, taking away our corruption, granting us His non-corruption, forgiving our sins, and granting us His righteousness. He deals with the problem of suffering in its depths, which has corrupted the human life along all generations; not through taking the suffering away, but by bringing man forth into its way, to find pleasure and joy in the fellowship with the Lord Christ in the midst of sufferings. 1 G.Campbell Morgan: An Exposition of the whole Bible, 1959, p. 496. 21 1- Paul the apostle and the Colossians 1 - 14 a- Greetings 1 - 2 b- What Paul the apostle heard concerning the Colossians 3 - 8 c- What Paul the apostle prays for the sake of the Colossians 9 - 14 2- A praise for the Lord Christ, the Prince of our salvation 15 - 19 a- The Lord Christ is the origin of all creation 15 - 17 b- The Lord Christ is the Head of the church 18 c- In the Lord Christ all the fullness should dwell 19 3- The role of the Lord Christ, the Prince of our salvation 20 - 29 a- The Lord Christ reconciled us with His blood 20 - 21 b- The Lord Christ institutes us in His righteousness 22 - 23 c- The Lord Christ grants us joy in the midst of the sufferings 24 - 25 d- The Lord Christ reveals to us the hidden mystery 26 - 27 e- The Lord Christ brings us forth, perfect in Him 28 – 29 1- THE APOSTLE PAUL AND THE COLOSSIANS: a- Greetings: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother” (1) The church of Colosse probably, has not so far recognized the apostle Paul by face; Here he writes to them, not as a ‘busybody’, but as an apostle, sent, not by man, but “by the will of God”. “and Timothy the brother”: Although Timothy has not got the grace of apostleship, yet he was granted the blessing and privilege to be, with the apostle Paul, a partaker of his ministry and strife. He has been his partner in many of his preaching journeys, sent as his deputy, and, together with him, wrote many epistles. While being twenty yeas of age, he carried the bishopric responsibility in Ephesus, and was imprisoned together with the apostle. About him, Paul wrote:: “I send Timothy to you shortly; … 22 for I have no one like-minded who sincerely care for your state, for all seek their own, not the things which are of Jesus Christ. But you know his proven character, that, as a son with his father, he served with me in the gospel” (Philippians 2; 19-22). “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse; Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2) How could he call them: “the saints who are in Colosse” (2); while he, later on, wrote to them, saying: “You must also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth” (3: 8)?! 1- ‘Consecrated’ or ‘sanctified’, is a term meaning (separated from the others for a certain task, to be referred to the Holy God. Despite their weakness, yet they were chosen by God to the account of His kingdom, and committed by His divine grace, to bear the features befitting to them, being “saints”. 2- ‘Consecrated’ or ‘sanctified’, is a word that bears the meaning of purity, when the believer is qualified for his mission, as consecrated for a divine task. This ‘sanctity’ is a divine gift, and not one’s own: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our Lord” (1 Corinthians 6: 11). We are committed to strive, by the divine grace, to grow in the holy life, lest we would lose it. According to the scholar Origen, the title ‘saints’ is not only used for those who have reached ‘holiness’, but also for those who desire it, and who faithfully seek God’s grace to work in him. Tell me: Since when have you have become a saint? … Was it not since you believed in the Lord Jesus Christ!; … Since when have you become a believer? When you have actually not kept faithfulness, by words, or by work; nor by what you have achieved! … Since when have you been worthy of God, entrusting you with His secrets, which are not even known by angels? Every believer is a ‘saint’, despite the fact that he lives in the world, for, according the apostle: “The unbelieving husband is 23 sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband” (1 Corinthians 7: 14)…. See how the apostle evaluates faith by ‘sanctity’? …. If we see a ‘laic’ (a member of the congregation) in affliction, we should stretch our hand to help him out. We should not only be zealous toward those who worship God in the wilderness, who are truly saints in their faith, as well as in their behavior. The former, as well, may be saints by their faith, and many of them also by their behavior. … I wish, the way we go to visit a monk cast in prison, we also do to a regular member of the congregation. For both are saints in the Lord1. Having been made ‘saints’ by the Lord Himself, we are committed to stay as such; for the ‘saint’ is he, who keep on living in faith, and walking a blameless life2. (St. John Chrysostom) He, who is purified from evil and sin (through the cross), is called ‘a saint’. For the absence of evil from man is a greater perfection of the soul, bringing pleasure to God. (St. Anthony the Great) We are committed to discern between the use of this term to call those who, by the grace of God, strive to become saints, and its use it to call those who have already, by grace, consummated this goal, and departed to paradise, after reaching the ultimate victory. … We are as well, committed to discern between ‘sanctity’ and the blameless behavior out of weakness. lthough little children are blameless, on account of that their bodies are still pure and sinless, yet they would not be called ‘saints’; for sanctity is not realized without will and strife; … he who commits no sin is called blameless; but the saint is he who is filled with virtues3. (St. Jerome) 1 In Hebr. Hom 10: 7. 2 Hom. On Ephes. Hom 1. 3 Ep. To Ephess. 1: 1: 4. 24 “… and to the faithful brethren”. By which he means those who keep faith, and are steadfast in it. “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2). By this, the apostle proclaims that God the father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, are One in divinity, the Source of the same grace and peace; contrary to the false claim of some of the Gnostics, that Jesus Christ has come to save the world from the Wrathful God of the old covenant, the Creator of matter; … But He is One with Him. b- What Paul the apostle heard concerning the Colossians: “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you” (3) What preoccupied the mind of the apostle and of those around him, even in his prison, was to give thanks to God for the sake of the spread of His kingdom in the world. For the apostle, thanksgiving was not only merely an item of worship, but an essential line in his whole life. Despite his many commitments, and of partaking of the sufferings of those to whom he ministered, whether because of persecution from outside, dissensions from within, or of suffering from those with wrong views; Yet, his epistles perpetually bore the fragrance of thanksgiving, praise, and joy, and often exhorted the recipients of his epistles to give unceasing thanks and prayers. For him, thanksgiving was a perpetual holy sacrifice of love, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, received by God the Father as a fragrance of pleasure. In the veins of the apostle, there has been an unceasing rich flow of thanksgiving praise, and joy.. For him, the ministry of thanksgiving and praise, was a rich and satisfying food for his soul, according to the words of the psalmist David:: “My lips shall praise You; thus I will bless You while I live. I will lift up my hands in Your name. My souls shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness” (Psalm 63: 3-5). In the song of conquest over the actual enemy who seeks the destruction of man with the spirit of despair, David says: “Out of the mouth of babes and infants, You have ordained (praise), that You may silence the enemy and the avenger” (Psalm 8: 2). 25 The apostle presents thanksgiving in the pleural tense (1 Thessalonian 1: 2). He opens most of his epistles with a praise of thanksgiving to God (Romans 1: 8; 1 Corinthians 1: 4; Ephesians 1: 16; Philippians 1: 3; 2 Thessalonians 1: 3; 2 Timothy 1: 3; Philemon 4). He starts by giving thanks to God for the sake of His work with His people, their faith in Him, their love for the saints, and for their hope in the heavenlies. He looks at them with a joyful positive spirit. … Starting his talk, not with the sorrowful negatives, but with the joyful positives; he motivated them to listen to him with a wide-open heart, and filled them with hope in the perpetual growth with no despair. Although he was in prison, physically shackled in chains, yet his soul remained alert, and free to work through perpetual prayers, seeking from God the salvation of every soul. In prison, he was a victorious lion, according to the words of the prophet Isaiah: “He cried like a lion: ‘My Lord, I stand continually on the watchtower in the daytime; I have sat at my post every night” (Isaiah 21: 8). What he heard concerning them from Epaphras brought joy to his heart; and motivated him to keep on praying and interceding for their sake, to perfectly perceive the will of God, and to enjoy the divine knowledge. It is not strange for the apostle to bind his thanksgiving to God to his perpetual prayers for the sake of his people. For, if God seeks from us, thanksgiving and praise, as a sacrifice well received by Him; Our love for Him, and our praise to Him, would not be separated from our unceasing love for our brethren, and our prayers for their sake. The apostle bore a true spirit of fatherhood toward all those for whom he ministered. For their sake, he did not cease to present thanksgiving to God, for His works with them. Paul always took on himself the position of a father for the sake of his children1. 1 Comm.. On 1 Cor 1: 2 (1: 15). 26 (The scholar Origen) Every prayer we raise to God, whether thanksgiving for what we have got, or supplication for more; To encourages us to seek for ourselves, and for those we love, the apostle says: “making mention for you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1: 16) 1. (Father Marius Victorinus) “Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of your love for all the saints” (4) If the only-begotten Son has incarnated, and delivered Himself a sacrifice on behalf of the life of the whole world, We, in our turn, should present it to the only-begotten Son, who loved us, and delivered Himself for our sake. Salvation is the work of the Holy Trinity. Hearing about their faith, which is the fruit of the strife of his disciple Epaphras, the apostle Paul offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God; on account of that this faith is not his or his disciple’s work, as much as it is a gift from God: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2: 8); “(We) are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1: 5). “… and of your love for all the saints” (4). Our faith is not a mere mental doctrine, nor dry philosophical thought, but living faith working with love; Faith in the Savior, the Lover of mankind, translated practically in our love for our brethren in the Lord: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3: 16). The love of the believers for all the saints is not the fruit of human social bonds, but being the first fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5: 22); The love sung by the believing bride is “as strong as death, a most vehement flame, many waters cannot quench” (Song 8: 6-7). 1 Marius Victorinus: Ep. To Eph., ا رجع سیرته في قاموس سیر القدیسین. . 1 27 “because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel” (5) If we praise God, and give Him thanks for the gift of the gospel, which draws our hearts and minds, to perceive the eternal plan of God for us, even before we exist; And if we praise Him for the gift of love, to practice it, ourselves, by His Holy Spirit in our practical present, We, as well, give Him thanks for the gift of hope, which does not imply something we desire, that may, or may not be realized; but the hope which opens up the gates of heaven, to experience its deposit, and to perceive the truth of the eternity and the glory, prepared for us, and the pleasure of the Father in our fellowship in Him. We hear our Christ addresses the Father, saying: “I desire that they also whom You gave to Me may be with Me where I am” (John 17: 24); That is “the hope that does not disappoint” (Romans 5: 2-5). “… laid up for you in heaven” (5); namely, kept, guarded, and guaranteed, “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1: 4). This hope abides in us through the heavenly experience that we live now. “… of which you heard before in the words of the truth of the gospel” (5). The Colossians might have not so far received and enjoyed the written gospel, but have received and enjoyed the word of the truth of the gospel orally, transferred to them through Apaphras; “When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thessalonian 2: 13). The Lord Christ prepared another life for those who have hope in Him; on account of that this present life is prone to sin; whereas the higher life, He reserves as a reward for us1. (St. Ambrose) 1 Ep. To Ephess 1: 1: 4, 18. 28 To reach the heavenly goods, you have to abide to, and support the steadfast hope, all your works have to harmonize with these goods1. (Father Theodor, bishop of Messisa) It is not without labor that we come to know the hope of our call, and the riches of God’s inheritance in the saints; a hope which truly comes as a reaction to the renewable gift given by God Himself in the glorious resurrection of His Son; a gift, not given only once, but is a continuous gift; … For every day Christ is risen from the dead; and every day He is risen in the repentant2. (St. Jerome) Paul reveals to them that the hope set before us in the resurrection and the kingdom, is not realized by the ordinance of the angels; but is only realized by the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ3. (Father Severian, bishop of Gebalah) We actually see heaven through the eyes of faith, preparing for it by a zealous spirit4. (Father Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus) We may reach that divine revelation through an elaborate meditation in the heavenlies, as we do the physical and mental practices, to be able to receive the unutterable eternal glory, which separates us from this world, and from our thinking in it. By this we may realize the hope set before us, and securely abide in it5. (St. (Mar.) Isaac the Syrian) 1 Commentary on Colossians Cf. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scriptures (ACCS). 2 EP. TO Ephess. 1: 1: 4, 18. On his brother Satyrus, 2: 124. 3 Severian of Gabala: Pauline Commentary from the Creek Church., (Accs). 4 Interpretation of the letter to the Colossians (ACCS). 5 Homilies, 43. (ACCS). 29 We do not have hope in Christ, only in this life, where even the wicked can do more than the good, where the doers of more evil are happier, and the doers of more iniquity live richer1. (Father Maximus, bishop of Turin) “Which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth” (6) What they have received from Epaphras was ‘the truth’, or ‘the truth of the gospel”, namely, the joyful truth of good news; the truth that, being preached, gives heavenly joy. This good news is presented to the whole world, and not to a particular category of people “as it has also in all the world” (6); The joyful evangelic truth before which no diverse worldly culture, nor any particular race, could stand; for it is a steadily fruitful plantation, if planted in good soil (Matthew 13: 23); “It is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth” (6). Indeed “Men loved darkness rather than light” (John 3: 19). Yet, truth will abide in those who enjoy it; they will not be able to hold it back inside themselves, without testifying to it; the true practical longing for man to experience the joy of the evangelic salvation. That was the experience of the prophet Jeremiah who said: “The word pf the Lord was made to me a reproach and a derision daily. Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name’. But His word was in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not” (Jeremiah 20: 8-9). This is the fire of the Holy Spirit which burns the heart with the joyful love, which would never be held back, but would unceasingly flow. Faith is not only known all over the world, but grows every day …; and grows as well in your depths2. (Father Theodor, bishop of Messisa) 1 Maximus of Turin; Sermon 96: 1 (ACCS). 2 ACCS. 30 The fruit of the gospel refer to those who listen, then respond to it by living a life worthy of commendation1. (Father Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus) Although the gospel at the time of the apostle, has not yet extended to the whole world, he says it will definitely grow and will give fruit. Even though it is now hidden from us, yet it is certain that the ultimate end will not come before the whole world gets filled with the fruits and growth of the church2. (St. Augustine) According to the scholar Tertullian, while opposing the heresy of Mercion: [Whatever the heretics will do, our gospel will extend all over the world, and not their gospel3]. And according to St. Augustine: [Steadfast hope in the enjoyment of the whole world of the gospel, is realized according to the words of the Son of God Himself, saying: “You shall be witness to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1: 8) 4]. Honor, love, and praise the holy church, your mother the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of God, in this faith you receive, that bears fruits and extends all over the world; “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3: 15) 5. (St. Augustine) “as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the spirit” (7, 8) Here, the apostle presents to us the following practical steps to ascend to the enjoyment of the gladness and strength of 1 ACCS. 2 Letters, 199: 12-51. 3 Against Narcion, 5: 19. 4 Letters, 185: 1-5. 5 Sermons, 214: 11. 31 salvation, or to get the experience of glory; that ladder which is befitting of us to climb1: 1- Thanksgiving, together with fervent prayers for the sake of every believer in the church to enter into glory (9). 2- To be filled with the will of God (Knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual understanding). 3- Walking with joy, as is befitting of the children of God (10). 4- Continuous growth in work and spiritual knowledge (10); namely, in the increasing fruit. 5- The glorious experience of God’s strength, working in us. 6- Perception of the life of conquest over the devil. 7- Entrance into the kingdom of the Son of His love. 8- In Christ, we enjoy the gladness of redemption and the forgiveness of sins c- What Paul the apostle prays for the sake of the Colossians; “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (9) Having heard that the Colossians have received faith on the hands of Epaphras, St. Paul and St. Timothy, not only presented thanksgiving to God, and their souls exulted with His praise (1); they also felt a commitment toward them, namely, the perpetual prayers and supplication for their sake, to ascend the ladder of joyful salvation without ceasing, which is set, not upon ignorance, but upon being continuously filled with the will of God, the enjoyment of the heavenly wisdom, and the true spiritual understanding. This role in the ministry of the apostle Paul for all the peoples, is so vital, that he says: “I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3: 14). St. Paul often refers to himself as a man of prayers for the sake of the salvation of men, which does not stop at wishing for 1 ا رجع الدكتور یوسف سلامة: كولوسي. 32 their salvation, but he even bows his knees, and supplicates with his heart, mind, and his whole being for their sake. Commenting on this, father Marios Victorinus says: [By bowing our knees we realize the perfect appearance of prayer and supplication. We are committed to pray, not only with our minds, but also with our body. We bow our knees, to wipe out any tendency in us toward haughtiness or pride1]. According to St. John Chrysostom, St. Paul the apostle repeats the word “all”, for the believers to perceive that they are committed to persist on perpetual growth until they reach (all) wisdom, and, with (all) pleasure and joy, practice every good deed. Getting filled with the knowledge of God’s will, means the perception of the secret of Christ, who, alone, knows the Father, and proclaims His knowledge to whom He chooses. The believer should not cease seeking until he get the fullness of knowledge, through his perception of the secret of Christ; of all wisdom, uniting with Christ, the Wisdom of God; and of all spiritual understanding, led by the Holy Spirit, to enter into the bosom of the Father. It is the will of God that we know Him, and to know that we would not be saved through the angels, but only through Jesus Christ. We shall know this, only by the spiritual, and not by the temporal wisdom2. (Father Severian, bishop of Gebalah) As there is no consummation of blessing, except by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle could find nothing better to wish for us than that, saying: “We do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that you may have a walk worthy of the Lord” (9, 10). We know that it is the will of God, that, by walking in good works, words, and 1 Marius Victorinus, On. Eohes. 1: 3: 14. 2 ACCS. 33 feelings, we would get filled with the will of God, who puts His Holy Spirit in us1. (St. Ambrose) “That you may have a walk (behavior) worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (10) The apostle seeks from us to translate our faith to a living behavior, which is not a mere commitment to social virtues, but is rather a unique one: 1- “A walk (behavior) worthy of the Lord” (10), which we practice as children of God, icons of Christ, bearing the Spirit of the Lord in us, motivated by being the ambassadors of Christ, bearing the stewardship of heaven. 2- “Fully pleasing Him”. Through such a behavior, we see in the narrow road of the cross, the pleasure of God, and our pleasure as well, sharing with our Christ His cross, and enjoying the fellowship of the divine nature. 3- “Being fruitful in every good work”. Not just in the material and mental giving to others, but in practicing the work of the Lord, who, through His love for all mankind, has laid His life for the salvation of the world; “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men” (3: 23).; Whether we eat or drink, would be to the glory of God; In our sleep, our heart should be alert; Our life, with all big and little things, should bear the touch of the Holy Spirit to the account of the kingdom of God. We were commanded to do good, in the saying: “Depart from evil, and do good” (Psalm 37: 27). But we have to pray to do good, “We do not cease to pray and ask …” (9). Among the things Paul asks for, he says: “You may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work” (10). Having known the role played by the will, when we were given this command, I wish we also know the role played by the divine grace, when we present these supplications2. 1 Of the Holy Spirit, 1: 7: 89. 2 Letters, 177: 105. 34 (St. Augustine) “Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (11) The divine commandment may seem difficult, and the way of the cross may seem extremely narrow; but walking along it together with our crucified Christ, we experience the power and joy of His resurrection (Ephesians 1: 19-20). We practice the longsuffering, which is not our own, but is the work of God in us; and we rejoice and exult, on account of that we bear the fellowship of His features; the experience of the apostles who, “when they were beaten, they departed rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5: 40-41). Talking about the city of God, St. Augustine clarifies that God allows for those on their the way to the city of God, to pass through hardships, afflictions, and opposition of people against them; yet He arms them with perseverance and longsuffering, to support them on the way1. “You, therefore, must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2: 3) … If it is counted as a great honor to serve an earthly kings, and to endure hardship as his soldier, What would be expected of the soldier of Jesus Christ2?!. (St. John Chrysostom) The true soldiers of Christ are committed to be perpetually strongholds for the truth, and never to allow for any vain seductions to crawl to their souls3. (The scholar Origen) “Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (12) 1 Cf. City of God 15: 6. 2 Hom on 2 Tim, 4. 3 Comm.. On John 6: 32. 35 According to St. John Chrysostom, this saying conforms to the nature of God, who, has not only given us the inheritance, but qualified us for it as well. As an example he says that, choosing a governor on a certain province, the earthly king would qualify him through training to do his job efficiently; otherwise, he would probably fail in a sorrowful way. Calling it an inheritance, is on account of that it is not acquired through self-effort or abilities, but it is like a gift given by a father to His children as an inheritance. “in the light”. This inheritance is in Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, and the Lamp of the higher Jerusalem. For “the new Jerusalem has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it; for the glory of God illuminates it, and the Lamb is its light; and the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light” (Revelation 21: 23-24). It is the divine light that shines its splendor on His believers, to become, themselves, illuminating stars. “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; And those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12: 3). “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13: 43). According to St. Augustine, presenting thanks to the Father who qualified us for the fellowship in the inheritance of the saints, is a sign that it is through the will of God, and not through our own will1. The great amphitheater is full to capacity with spectators who will come to watch your strife and martyrdom, the way they watch wrestlers competing for championships…. So will the whole world, all the angels, on the right and on the left, as well as men, the portion of God (Deuteronomy 32: 9), they will all come to watch us wrestling for the sake of Christianity. … Yes indeed, angels in heaven will exult, and the rivers will clap their hands; … But the hosts from down below, who rejoice in evil, will definitely not rejoice2. (The scholar Origen) 1 Letters, 217- 1: 3. 2 Exhortation to Martyrdom, 18. 36 “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son” (13) On a negative aspect, He transfer us from the bondage of darkness that corrupted our insight; And on a positive aspect, He brings us forth to the glorious liberty of the children of God. Being the children of light, He takes us away from among the team who bear enmity to God, the kingdom of darkness, to the team of light and unity with God. The word “power”, in Greek, means (legal right); for on him, who gives his back to the light and cast himself willingly in the pit of darkness, the kingdom of darkness will have legal rights to conform him according to its features and corrupt nature; and the devil, as the prince of darkness, will have the legal right to seek and enslave his soul to the account of his kingdom. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness”. Namely, from the tyranny of the devil. He said “the power of darkness, on account of that the darkness has indeed great power on us. It is difficult for us to be under the devil, and would be more difficult to be under his power. “and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son”. Namely, He not only saved us from the darkness, but He showed as well His love for mankind1. (St. John Chrysostom) The angels of God, before, and in the law, have ministered for the sake of our salvation; Yet, God did not bring us forth into His kingdom through them; but through our Lord, His onlybegotten Son.. (Severian, bishop of Gebalah) According to the statement of Paul, who showed that God is the Creator of everything, it is not the law, but the Lord Christ who bore the law, who granted us salvation through the saving baptism; (Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus) 1 Explanatory notes for the Ep. To Colossians, hom, 2, PG 62: 337. 37 From these words we understand that there is only one King who created the whole universe; While, on the other side, there is the ruler of this world, who calls himself the prince of the power of darkness. Tens of thousands of angels minister to the true King; while, tens of thousands of demons surround the prince of the power of darkness (13). The principalities, the rulers, and the virtues follow the King of kings and the Lord of Lords. Then comes the end, when Christ delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power, For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15: 24, 25) 1. (St. Gregory of Nyssa) Nothing would save man from this power of the evil angels except the grace of God about which the apostle says: “Who delivered us from the power of darkness, and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son” (13). . The story of Israel clarifies this portrait, as they were saved from the power of the Egyptians, and were transferred into the kingdom of the promised land, that flows of milk and honey, in reference to the sweetness of the grace2. (St. Augustine) “He transferred us”. According to St. Augustine, The crossover or Passover of the Israeli people from Egypt through the Red Sea; was a “transfer”. We, as well, are transferred or cross over from the devil to Christ, and from the mortal world to the steadfast kingdom. Here, the apostle praises God for this grace given to us3…. We are saved, and we deny the devil; shall we not strive so as not to fall again in his hands4?! “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (14) 1 Homilies on Song of Songs, ترجمة الدكتور جورج نوّار . 14 2 On the Psalms, 77: 30. 3 St. Augustine: Tractates on John, 55:1. 4 Sermons on N.T. Lessons, 59: 1. 38 According to the scholar Origen, the Lord Christ delivered Himself to the enemy in Hades to redeem His believers; There, the enemy assumed that he could take hold of Him, but he did not perceive that Christ, alone, could break down the gates of Hades, not to set forth through them on His own, but to carry on His arms the captives, and to bring them forth into the bosom of the Father. The apostle says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men” (Ephesians 4: 8). He purchased us with His blood, and restored us into His bosom. And according to St. (Mar) Ephraim the Syrian, when the Word became a Lamb, the devil wolf intended to devour Him, which he did; yet his stomach could not keep hold of Him, the divine Lamb tore it open, but saved those who were in it. The word “redemption” refers to the ransom given to an enemy to save the captives, and to redeem them to their freedom. That is why, when humanity fell captive through their enemy, the Son of God, “who became for us, (not only) wisdom from God – and righteous and sanctification, (but also) redemption” (1 Corinthians 1: 30), came and delivered Himself a ransom for us; Namely, He delivered Himself to our enemies, and poured His blood on those who thirst for it; by which the “redemption” was realized for the believers1. (The scholar Origen) Christ is “Redemption”; having delivered Himself an atonement to our account; when He granted us the gift of nonmortality to acquire. He redeemed us from death by His life2. (St. Gregory, bishop of Nyssa) God, not only made us wise, righteous, and saints, in Christ, but He, as well, granted us Christ Himself, so as to need nothing concerning our salvation3. (St. John Chrysostom) 1 Commentary on Rom, 3: 24. 2 On Perfection. 3 Hom. On Corinth., 5; 4. 39 A person who anticipates redemption is a captive under the authority of an enemy. We, therefore are captives in this world, bound by the yoke of servitude to the principalities and powers; helpless to set our hands free from shackles. Hence we lift our eyes up high, anticipating the coming of a Redeemer1. (St. Jerome) 2- A PRAISE FOR THE LORD CHRIST, THE PRINCE OF OUR SALVATION: a- The Lord Christ is the origin of all creation: Paul the apostle quoted this praise pertaining to the Person of the Lord Christ, the Prince of our salvation, which sings praise for His position, through which He presents to us His divine possibilities. Whether the apostle quoted this praise as it is, or he is its author, or gave it his interpretation and Theological touches, It is considered one of the most prominent pieces that came in the New Testament about the Person of the Lord Christ. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (15) “He is the image of the invisible God” (15). If sin has denied man the vision of the glory of God, the incarnate Word came, not to provide us with theoretical mental doctrines concerning the glory of God, but to wipe out the sin, to split the veil, and to restore to us the right to see God through the cross. When the Lord Christ shined with His divine light on Saul of Tarsus, on his way to Damascus, his physical eyes were blinded; but his inner insight opened up to see the true light. This same experience was enjoyed by the apostles Peter, James, and John, on Mount Tabor, “when the Lord Christ transfigured before them, His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17: 1-5). The word “image”, an (icon) in Greek, refers to the complete visible proclamation of the invisible God; by Him, who bears the nature of His essence and the image of His splendor; 1 Ep. To Ephes. 1 (1: 7). 40 which the Lord said about Himself: “He who saw me has seen the Father”. The Lord Christ, the incarnate Word, came to realize the wish He has put deep in the heart of man, namely, the longing to see God. It was the heart desire of the prophet Moses, after all those amazing things he has seen, to say to the Lord: “Please, show me Your glory” (Exodus 33: 18); And that of David the psalmist who says: “When I will go to the altar of God; (toward the face) of God my exceeding joy” (Psalm 43: 4 LXX). It is even the pleasure of God Himself, to be seen by His beloved man, as He used to do with Adam in paradise at the time of the evening breeze (Genesis 3: 8-9). He ultimately came to let man enjoy the fellowship with Him on earth, to carry him forth by the cross into the bosom of the Father, to enjoy the divine vision forever. There may be conformity between the image of an earthly father and that of his children, regardless of the difference in age. Yet, with God, the difference of time does not exist; For we cannot imagine that God the Father has begotten the Son in a certain time, He through whom time was created. That is why the Son is not just the image of God, for He is of Him, according to His image. Here, the likeness is great, on account of the absence of any time distinction to come in between them1. (St. Augustine) Let us meditate before anything else in the thing called ‘image’, according to the human sense. This term could be used to describe a painting or a sculpture of wood or stone. And is sometimes used to express the great likeness of a child to his father or mother … As to the Son of God, His image could best be expressed by saying: “He is the visible image of the invisible God” 2. (The scholar Origen) The regular image is a still image of a movable being. But here, we have a living Image of a living Being, and although distinct 1 Three Different Questions, 74. 2 De principiis, 1: 2: 6. 41 from Him, yet it conforms to its Origin to a higher level than between Adam and his children1. (St. Gregory the Nezianzen) The Lord proclaims: “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me” (John 10: 37). By this He teaches that, as He consummates the works of the Father, He is seen in Him; that the power of the perceived nature proclaims that of the unperceived. When, therefore, the apostle Paul says: “… who is the image of the invisible God”; … .by whom He reconciles all to Himself, He means that He is the image of God by the power of those works2. (St. Hilary, bishop of Poitier) He calls the Lord Christ the “the image of the invisible God”, not that God becomes visible in Him, but rather because the greatness of God appears in Him. On one aspect, we see the invisible nature of God in Christ as an image; namely, He is begotten from God … And will judge the whole earth when He appears in the nature befitting of Him in His second coming. For our sake, therefore, He took upon Himself the state of the visible “image”, that belongs to the earthly Jesus, in His human form, so that we can refer to His divine nature. (Father Theodor, bishop of Messisa) Being Himself, the image of the invisible God, the noncorrupted, let Him shine on you as in the mirror of the law. Confess Him in the law, to be able to recognize Him in the gospel3. (St. Ambrose) To reveal the goal of the divine incarnation, and to deal with the heresies of the Gnostics, some of whom called for worshipping the angels as intermediaries, ions, or intercessors, who, they claim would bring the believers forth to the true knowledge of the supreme Being; While others claim that there is 1 Orations, 30: 20. 2 On The Trinity, 8: 49. 3 Letters, 20 42 contradiction between God of the old covenant and that of the new; the apostle Paul used the expression, “image of the invisible God”, to confirm that the Lord Christ is the incarnate Word, the Creator, by whom, and for whose sake, everything has been, in whom all creation are set; And that, having incarnated, and proclaimed by the cross the divine love, is capable of proclaiming the knowledge of the Father. We see the Father, and perceive His secrets in the incarnate Son, as in an image, not hard, but living, capable of revealing the Father. “the firstborn over all creation” (15) Calling Him “the firstborn (or prince) over all creation”, does not mean that He is one of the exalted creatures; But that, having incarnated, He became through His own choice, a Brother, to embrace all creation to Himself, and to bring them forth into the bosom of His Father; and that He, alone, by His blood, is capable of consummating the reconciliation between the Father and humanity. According to St. Athanasius the apostolic, it was never mentioned in the Holy Scripture, that the Lord Christ is “the firstborn from God”, nor “a creature by God”; but it was written that He is “the only-begotten”, “the Son Word”, and “the Wisdom”; all of which touch the relationship between the second and the first Persons of divinity. As to calling Him “the firstborn over all creation”, it concerns His condescendence for the sake of the creation1. “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven, and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (16) As “He is before all things, and in Him all things were created” (17), He, therefore, is not a creation, but the Creator of creation. Calling Him the firstborn, is not that He is as such from the Father, but because, by Him, all creation came to existence; and He is the only-begotten Son of the Father. 1 Discourses Abainst Arians, 2: 21 (63). 43 “In, by, and for Him all things were created”, namely, that within the mental ordinance of the Son; or through the Wisdom of God, the Son, the Word and the Wisdom, they were created. By Him the plan of creation was realized, when God said, and it was. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1: 3). It is a confirmation that in Him, all things were created, … whether thrones or dominions or …. to confirm the importance of discerning between the Creator, and even the most exalted among the heavenly creation (16), … He is not one of them, nor are they partners with Him in the intermediation or atonement intercession, and in lifting man to the bosom of the Father. St. Paul had to confirm and reconfirm that all creation – whether in heaven or on earth – owe their existence to the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ; so that the believers would be sure that there is no point of comparison between the Lord Christ and the angels; contrary to the wrong assumption by those who claim the intermediation of the angels between God and mankind, without the Lord Christ. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1: 3). There is no exception to this “all”. The Father made everything through Him, visible and invisible, the sensed and the mental, the temporary and the eternal. All have been made, not by angels, nor by any other power, separate from His ordinance1. (St. Erinaos) If there was anything before the Son, it would instantly follow that all things in heaven or on earth have not been created in Him, and the apostle would be wrong in what he wrote in his epistle. … Anyway, I wonder how could it be said that He, who was born before the ages, came after the existence of anything2! (St. Ambrose) 1 Adv. Haer. 22: 1. 2 Of The Christian Faith, 4: 100. 44 There is no doubt that all things are by the Son, according to the words: “All things were made through Him”. If all things came from nothing; with no exception, I wonder how could He lack anything of the nature and the power of Divinity; when He used the power of His nature to create those things, the object of His pleasure, which never existed before1? (St. Hilary, bishop of Poitier) Christ is the only-begotten Son of God, the Creator of the world, For, as we are taught by the gospel: “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him”, and “He came to His own” (John 1: 10, 11). According to the command of the Father, Christ created, not only the visible, but the invisible things as well; the apostle says: “By Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (16, 17). Even if I talk about the (worlds), Jesus Christ is their Creator as well, by the command of the Father, as “He in these last days has spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the (worlds)” (Hebrew 1: 2). He, to whom is the glory, the honor, the might, now, and forever, Amen2. (St. Cyril of Jerusalem) The Word of God did not exist for our sake, but we rather exist for His, and by Him all things were made. It is not because our weakness that He was strong, and came from the Father, to create us through Him as a tool, Far from it to be like that! For, even if God did not choose to create creation, the Word, though, has been with God, and the Son was in Him. At the same time, it was impossible for the creatures to be without the Word, for they exist by Him. And as the Son is the Word Himself, according to the nature concerning the Essence of God, and He 1 On the Trinity, 5: 4. . 2 مقالات لطالبي العماد 24 :11 45 is from, and in Him, as He says Himself, Hence it would not be possible for the creation to exist except by Him. For, like the light which shines on everything with its radiation, without which everything would be in the dark, the Father, likewise created all things by the Word, as though by a hand, without which nothing would be created1. (St. Athanasius the apostolic) “whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, All things were created through Him and for Him” (16) According to St. Anthony the Great, there are different kinds of angels and demons. They were given different names according to their kinds. Some angels are called ‘archangels’, ‘thrones’, ‘principalities’, ‘dominions’, and ‘powers’. These names were given them when they kept the will of their Creator. On the other side, the evil of the others made it necessary to call them by other names: they are called ‘demons’, ‘evil spirits’, ‘unclean spirits’, ‘princes of this world’, etc2. (St Anthony the Great) As I already said, If the Word is a creature, it would not be necessary for Him to be the foremost among the other hosts, even though He surpasses them in glory; the way we may find in the other hosts, which, although all were created at the same time, yet there is no first and second among them; they may differ in glory, as some of them stand on the right side of the throne, some around it, some on its left side; yet they all sing praise together, and minister to God3. (St. Athanasius the apostolic) 1 St Athanasius: Discourses Against Arians, Book ترجمة مركز د ا رسات الآباء بالقاهرة. . 2: 18: 31 2 الرسالة السادسة 3 St Athanasius: Discourses Against Arians, Book 2. . ترجمة مركز د ا رسات الآباء بالقاهرة، ص 79 46 According to St. Dionysius the Areopagite, there are nine heavenly ranks, he divides into three categories1, each includes three ranks; (1) The first category includes the ‘thrones’, the cherubim, and the Seraphim, full of eyes, and have many wings, who dwell eternally and perpetually stand in the presence of God; more attached to him, and above all the other ranks. These; Although equal in rank, yet they are more perfect than others in their direct union with the first light of the Godhead. (2) The second category includes the ‘powers’, ‘dominions’, and ‘virtues’. (3) The third category includes the ‘angels’, the ‘archangels’, and the ‘principalities’. According to ‘Ben Ebri’2, these three categories are analogous to three heavenly churches: (1) The first church includes the ‘seraphim’, the ‘cherubim’, and the ‘thrones’; these three ranks together represent the divine throne. In the book of Ezekiel, we see the ‘seraphim’ as the chariot carrying God. And in the psalms we read: “He who sits on the ‘cherubim’”, they are the throne of God. (2) The second church includes the ‘virtues’’, the ‘powers’, and the ‘dominions’. (3) The third church includes the ‘principalities’, the ‘archangels’, and the ‘angels’. In the Old Testament we read that the high priest used to put on a breastplate carrying 12 precious stones, nine of which represent the angelic hosts, which are: The first row includes a red sardius, representing the fiery seraphim; a yellow topaz, representing the knowledgeable cherubim, and an emerald, representing the thrones. The second row includes a turquoises, a blue sapphire, and a white diamond. The third row includes a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst. 1 Dionysius the Areopagite Celestial Hierarchy, 6. .2 ، 2 ركن 5، الباب 2، فصل 1، مقصد 1 47 The fourth row, representing the church of mankind, joining the heavenly churches, includes a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper, referring to the ranks of priesthood: the high priests: the priests, and the deacons. “And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (17) “In Him all things hold together”. The Son was not a mere tool to realize the creation, but, being their Lord, who loves, and cares for them, works continuously for the sake of their dynamic, “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrew 1: 3), To Him is offered the heavenly praise, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power. For You created all things, and by You they will exist, and were created” (Revelation 4: 11). All things submit to Him, And through His divine power, perpetually creating, the creation enjoy continuity. He is Almighty, who ordains everything; nothing in this world or in this life runs haphazardly, but is under the control of Christ. If the creation was created through the Son, and “in Him all things hold together” (17), he who meditates in the creation in the upright way, will necessarily see the Word who created it, and through the Word, he will start perceiving the Father1. He was not called ‘firstborn’, meaning (equal) to the other creatures, or preceding them time-wise, for how would this be, when He is truly the only-begotten?. But, because of the condescendence of the Word, He became a Brother to many. … He definitely is “an only begotten”, for He is alone with no other brothers; And He is the “firstborn” among other brothers … Now, if He is a “firstborn”, he would not be an “Only begotten” (1 John 4: 9); For He could not be “Only begotten” and a “Firstborn” at the same time, unless this refers to two different things. … He is “Only begotten” because of being born from the Father, and “firstborn” because of His condescendence to be a Brother to many … He is bound to the creation, referred to by 1 Adv. Arian. ترجمة مركز د ا رسات الآباء بالقاهرة . 1: 4: 12 48 the apostle Paul, saying: “By Him all things were created” (16). If all creation were created through Him, He, therefore, should be different than all creation, and would never be a creature, but the Creator of creatures1. “In Him all things hold together”. It is obvious that the Son could not be a “work”, but He is God’s Hand and His Wisdom2. (St. Athanasius the apostolic) b- The Lord Christ is the Head of the church: “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (18) “And”, here, as conjunction, clarifies that the care of the Lord Christ for the world, is set upon His love for humanity, desiring to see it all as His one unified church, being His body, to which He is the head. He cares for the world, and allows for all kinds of temptations, for the benefit and the purity of the church, and her enjoyment of the fellowship of His glory. All events, including the sufferings and the joys, work together for the edification of the church, the kingdom of God on earth, to realize her mission as the light of the world, and the salt of the earth (Matthew 5: 13-15). Being His one body, He flows on her (the church) with His abilities, and possibilities, being Himself, Holy, Righteous, the Wisdom of God, the Word of God, the Life, and the resurrection; to become the secret of her sanctity, righteousness, wisdom, enjoyment of the truth, as well as of the risen life. He is her spiritual food, which the apostle means by saying: “For no one ever hated hates own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does His church” (Ephesians 5: 29); and, “It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2: 13). 1 Adv. Arian. ترجمة مركز د ا رسات الآباء بالقاهرة . 2: 21: 62 2 Adv. Arian. ترجمة مركز د ا رسات الآباء بالقاهرة . 2: 21: 71 49 “The firstborn from the dead” (18). This does not mean that He died like every man, but He received death in His mortal body; through His own will, to destroy death by His death. And once He is risen, He became “the Preeminent”, the first to rise with no going back to death, and without being affected by the corruption that dwelt upon us because of sin. The Lord Christ put on our nature, to carry ours in Him; and put on our death, without being stricken in His body by the darts of the corruption associated with death. By that, He granted us the right of resurrection, and the enjoyment of its power, having become our firstborn, and brought us forth as children to glory (Hebrew 2: 10), Being the resurrection, He granted His own body the experience of resurrection, although it was not possible for corruption to dwell upon His body, on account of that it is One with His Godhead. This experience He received in Himself, to preeminent in everything. He presents His experience to us to live; so that the resurrection, the heavenly glories, and the eternity, would not be for us, mere promises, but facts which we see in Him, having preceded us. “He is the beginning” (18) The word “beginning”, in Greek, is derived from (Arche), which bears two meanings: (priority) and (preeminence). The Lord Christ is the beginning of creation, meaning, He is its origin, “In the beginning was the Word, … All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1: 1-3).. And He is the beginning of the church, namely, He is the origin of the new creation. “that in all things He may have the preeminence” (18) “Having emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness, and being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross; Therefore God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2: 7-11). 50 Being in whom everything was created, He is described here as the Head of the church, which was found in His body through the new spiritual birth, and which bears the form of the resurrection to come, of which we hope to partake with Him as partners in eternity, as we get baptized1. (Father Theodor, bishop of Messisa) Christ is the Head of the church, and the firstborn of those who have fallen asleep, through His Manhood; Here, Paul crosses over from talking about the divinity, to meditating in the ordinance of salvation2. (Father Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus) We Christians, know that resurrection already happened to our Head; although in the rest of the body members it did not happen yet. The Head of the Church is Christ; and the members of Christ are the church. What happened to the Head, will consequently happen to the members of the body. That is our hope, and our faith; for whose sake we endure and persist amid the suppressions of this stubborn world, hoping for the comfort, and believing that hope will be transformed into fact3. “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you; He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through the Spirit who dwells in You” (Romans 8: 11). That is why, the catholic church, navigating through this mortal life, anticipates at the end of time, what first appeared in the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, He who is “the firstborn of those who have fallen asleep”; on account of that the church is His body, and He is her Head4. (St. Augustine) Being Man, “He is the firstborn of those who have fallen asleep”; For “He loosed the pain of death”, and gave to 1 ACCS 2 ACCS 3 Commentary on the Psalms, 66: 1. 4 Letters, 55: 2-3. 51 everyone the sweet hope in the life to come. Being Man, He suffered; but being God, He remained unchanged1. (Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus) You certainly know that many have been born anew, that He became “the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8: 29); that “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead” (18); that “He loosed the pains of death”, and ordained the birth from the dead by His resurrection (see Acts 2: 24) 2. (St. Gregory of Nyssa) That also supports our confession; While it is the natural and true body which is risen, yet it is risen free and purified of any corruption, according to the words of the apostle: “It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a physical body, it is raise a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15: 42-44). Being, therefore, a spiritual, glorious, and un-corrupted body, it is provided and adorned with members befitting of Him, not with members taken from another place; according to the glorious portrait, shown by Christ as a perpetual model, for the sake of our hope in resurrection, being the firstborn of those who have fallen asleep, and the Head of all creation3. (Rophinius, bishop of Aquila) Christians will reign together with the heavenly King in the heavenly church; being “the firstborn from the dead” (18); Although they are firstborns as well, and they are chosen and well received before God; yet it is their second nature to consider themselves the least of all, unworthy, and as good as nothing4! (St. Maccarius the Great) 1 Demonstrations by Syllogisms, Proof that the Divinty of the Savior is impassible. 2 Homilies on Song of Songs, ترجمة الدكتور جورج نوار . 13 3 Rufinius of Aquileia: Apology for Origen, 1: 6-7. 4 Homilies, ترجمة مركز د ا رسات الآباء بالقاهرة . 27: 4 52 He is called “the only begotten Son”, according to the testimony of the Holy Scripture that, “He is the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1: 18). But when His called by the Holy Scripture: “the firstborn”, they directly add the reason, by saying: “that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8: 29). And He is also called: “the firstborn from the dead” (18). The former title, is on account of that He became like us in everything, except for sin; And the later one is on account of that He was the first to raise His body to a state of non-corruption1. (St. Cyril the Great) “Golgotha” is translated, by a prophetic spirit, as (the location of the skull); on account of that there, Christ, the true “Head” has endured crucifixion. The apostle says: “He is the image of the invisible God” (15); then follows up by saying: “He is the Head of the body of the church” (18). The apostle also says: “The head of every man is Christ” (1 Corinthians 11: 3); and, “He is the Head of all principality and power” (2: 10). The head suffered (in the location of the skull). What a prophetic statement! It is as though, that location says to you: [Do not think that He, who was crucified here, was merely a man; for He is “the Head of all principality”, whose Head is God the Father; for: “The Head of every man is Christ; and the Head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11: 3) 2. (St. Cyril of Jerusalem) c- In the Lord Christ, all the fullness should dwell: “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell” (19) It was the pleasure of God the Father that the Son Word should incarnate, and become a perfect man, while still being the perfect God “the fullness of Godhead”. 1 Comm.. on The Gospel of Saint Luke, Sermon ترجمة: دكتور نصحي عبد الشهید. 1 . 2 مقالات لطالبي العماد 23 :13 53 “It pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell”.(19). For having become man, and the Godhead united with Manhood, His divinity did not change, nor Manhood separated from Him. But He proclaims that whoever unites with Him will enjoy fullness in everything; he will not become God, but will bear of the features of the incarnate Word, what renews his nature, through the work of His Holy Spirit, to be qualified for the heavenly glory. As according to St. Athanasius the apostolic, the Word of God, becoming Man, remained God; And He grants man the fellowship of His features, and remains Man. Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus, his followers, and his disciple ‘Nestor’, misinterpreting this phrase, assumed that the Lord Christ carries two personalities: He is Jesus the Man, in whom the fullness of Godhead later dwelt, to become the full God; as though there was time, however long it was, when Jesus has been Man without the Godhead. Responding to this misinterpretation, St. Cyril the Great clarified that there was never a time, even for the twinkle of an eye, when Godhead has been without Manhood. It would be unacceptable to believe in two natures of Christ: Godhead and Manhood, during any lapse of time.. The union between the Godhead and Manhood of the Lord Christ has been realized at the instant of incarnation with no time lapse separating between them1. In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul calls the church “the fullness”; on account of that she is filled with divine talents. Through God’s care, you dwell in Christ, you are bound to Him, you are under His authority, and you follow His law2. (Father Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus) Concerning His Godhead, the Son of God has His own glory; As the glory of the Father and the Son is One, the Son is not less 1 ا رجع للمؤلف: الاصطلاحان طبیعة وأقنوم في الكنیسة الأولى، 1987 ؛ طبیعة المسیح حسب مفهوم الكنیسة الأرثوذكسیة غیر الخلقدونیة. 2 ACCS 54 exalted than the Father, nor less in Godhead, “For in Christ the fullness of Godhead dwells” 1. (St. Ambrose) 3- THE ROLE OF THE LORD CHRIST, THE PRINCE OF OUR SALVATION: a- The Lord Christ reconciled us with His blood: “And by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (20) As sin entered into the life of man, it corrupted his nature, to bear enmity toward God, that went so far that man sometimes could not endure faith even in the existence of God, but fights and opposes Him; and even replaces Him with creatures. And if he happen to believe in God’s existence, he does not keep His commandment, denies His care, and counts Him as enslaving him, limiting his freedom, and depriving him of his personality. “Every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6: 5). As it was not possible for man to seek reconciliation on his side, but persisted on turning his back to God, and not his face (Jeremiah 2: 27), God set His own plan for reconciliation by the cross, “thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2: 16). 1- By the cross, God proclaimed His initiation of love without limit. 2- By the cross, God put to death the enmity, and broke down the middle wall of division between Him and man, as well as between man and his neighbor (Ephesians 2: 14-17). 3- By the cross, God gave man the possibility to enjoy the nature of love. Heaven reconciled with earth; as the man of dust could put on non-corruption, and dwell in the bosom of the Holy heavenly Father. And man reconciled with the angels, who for long have longed to see the salvation of men, to whom they were a multitude of times dispatched by heavenly messages from God. As 1 Of the Christian Faith, 2: 9: 82. 55 messengers of love, they bore love toward man. And once the sacrifice of the cross was consummated, to them the secret hidden before time concerning the salvation of man, was revealed. It was necessary for my God and my Savior, not only to be born as man among men, but also to descend to Hades, as a Man, in readiness and ability to set forth a lot (portion) of atonement in the wilderness of Hades. And once He returned from there, He could ascend to the Father, having perfectly consummated His work on the heavenly altar, where He could offer the deposit of His body which He brought forth with Himself in perpetual purity. That was the true day of atonement, when God became an atonement for men; as according to the apostle: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5: 19). And speaking about the Lord Christ, he says: “By Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” 1 (20). (The scholar Origen) Once peace started to dwell, the angels proclaimed: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace” (Luke 2: 14). And when the lower beings received peace from the more exalted ones, they cried out: “Glory on earth, and peace in heavens” (see Luke 19: 38). When the Godhead descended clothed in Manhood, the angels cried out: “On earth peace”; And when the Manhood ascended to be swallowed by the Godhead (Without cancellation of Manhood) and to sit at the right hand of God, with “peace in heaven”, the little children cried out before Him, saying: “Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21: 9). Hence the apostle was committed to proclaim: “having made peace through the blood of His cross, whether things on earth, or things in heaven” 2 (20). (St. (Mar) Ephraim the Syrian) 1 Homilies on Leviticus, 9: 4. 2 Commentary on Hatian's Diatessaron, 14. 56 The true peace is high up. As long as we are bound to the body, we are carrying the yoke of many things that trouble us. Seek, therefore peace, and free yourselves from the troubles of this world. Acquire a tranquil mind and a soul, undisturbed by whims, nor drawn by vain teachings; but challenges their seductions; in order to be able to say: “The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard (our) hearts and minds through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4: 7). He, who seeks peace, seeks Christ, who Himself is our peace, who has made both a new one man (Ephesians 2: 14), “making peace through the blood of His cross, whether on things on earth or things in heaven” 1. (St. Basil the Great) The Savior endured all that, “making peace through the blood of His cross, whether things on earth, or things in heaven” (20); Having been enemies of God through sin, and the verdict on the sinner is death; there was only one of two possibilities: Either God, in His justice would wipe out the whole humanity; Or, in His compassionate love, He would cancel the verdict. But see the wisdom of God: keeping the verdict intact, at the same time, He realized His love! Christ came to bear our iniquities in His body on the cross, “that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2: 24). He, who died for our sake was not literally a lamb, nor even a regular man, but was more exalted than an angel; He was the incarnate God. The iniquities of men were not greater than the righteousness of Him who died because of them; were not too many compared to the righteousness of Him, who, through His own free will, put Himself, and by His own free will, He took it back2. (St. Cyril of Jerusalem) “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled” (21) 1 Homilies 16: 10. . 2 مقالات لطالبي العماد 33 :13 57 Stretching His arms on the cross, the Lord Christ embraced to His bosom all those who believed in Him from all peoples and nations, to carry them together with the spirit of love into the bosom of the father. Hence the apostle says: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2: 19). By saying “enemies in your mind”, the apostle clarifies that the enmity on their part toward God was not out of necessity or commitment, but was “in mind”, and out of not wishing to return to God1. (St. John Chrysostom) Talking about God’s gifts to the Gentiles, Paul shows how they are indebted with appreciation to the grace of God. They were the enemies of His counsel by which He chose to visit mankind through His servant Moses, whose teachings they did not receive but rejected; practiced evil works, and worshipped gods, of their own handiworks2. (Ambroseaster) b- The Lord Christ institutes us in His righteousness: “… in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight” (22) Having brought us forth to Himself as members in His body, we bore His features, and became saints, who have the right to stand irreproachable before the divine throne, Again, referring to the cross, he presents another benefit, saying: “Through His death, He presents you holy, blameless, and irreproachable in His sight”. He, not only saves us from sins, but justifies us as well. He endured all that, not only to save us from evil, but to reward us. It is like, not only releasing a criminal from punishment, but giving him honor. He gathers you, not only together with those without sin, but rather with 1 St. Chrysostom: in Colos., hom 4. 2 Commentary on the Letter to the Colossians. 58 those who have truly done great righteousness. He grants you sanctification and blamelessness in His sight1. (St. John Chrysostom) Intending to show to the Colossians in his epistle, that the body of Christ is material and not spiritual and ethereal, the apostle Paul said in a significant way: “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled you in His flesh through death” (22). And again, in the same epistle he says: “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh” (2: 11) 2. (St. Jerome) “If indeed you continue in the faith grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister” (23) In awe, St. John Chrysostom stands before this magnificent statement. Enjoying the death of Christ on the cross, man becomes as though in a ship, that no winds of the world could shake, but grounded and steadfast, for it is loaded with exalted divine merchandise. of which are faith andhope of the gospel3. What is “hope of the gospel”, but Christ? For He is our peace, who has done all those things … Whoever does not believe in Christ, will lose everything4. (St. John Chrysostom) Wondering about how far these words are connected to the previous talk; and how he suffers for their sake, St. John Chrysostom responds by saying that there is a strong connection with the previous talk; showing that the apostle has clarified that the Lord Christ alone, and not the angels, did the reconciliation by His blood on the cross; and that he – Paul – as an apostle, had no 1 St. Chrysostom: In Colos., hom 4. 2 Letter to Pamachius against John of Jerusalem, 27. 3 St. Chrysostom: In Colos., hom 4. 4 St. Chrysostom: In Colos., hom 4. 59 role; for his own sufferings are the sufferings of Christ who works in and by him. He says: [See how Christ binds us to Him! … Why do you make out of the angels intermediaries (for the reconciliation with the Father)? …….; He says: “of which, I, Paul, became a minister”… [If I am not more than a minister!]; Why would you include the angels into it1? c- The Lord Christ grants us joy in the midst of the sufferings: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and am completing in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church” (24) St. Paul proclaims his longing for completing what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ; not His atonements afflictions, of which no one could partake; having “gone alone through the winepress”; which no one could present, except he who is without a sin; who is able to present as an atonement sacrifice on behalf of the whole world; but afflictions for the sake of the extension of the kingdom of God, endured by the Lord Christ dwelling in the life of His ministers and people, as being His own afflictions. That was what the Lord Christ Himself made clear to Saul of Tarsus, when He said to him: “Why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9: 4), considering any persecution against the believers as though are personally against Him. The apostle Paul was exulted in his afflictions, on account of that they are fellowship in those of Christ; and because they are necessary for the edification of the church; a divine gift granted to the ministers, as well as to the people: “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same struggle that you saw I had, and now you hear that I still have” (Philippians 1: 29-30). He did not feel, in his afflictions for the sake of the church that the congregation awe him a favor, but he counts them is a necessity and a commitment on his part, considering himself a servant of the believers, saying: “For we do not preach ourselves, 1 St. Chrysostom: In Colos., hom 4. 60 but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4: 5). Being children, you heard that the body of the Lord Christ is the church; few are those who touch her, and many who throng and press her (see Luke 8: 45); and you also heard that “Now you are the body of Christ and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12: 27). If we are His body, what His body endured in the press of the crowd, the church now, though enduring pressing and thronging, few are those who touch her. She is pressed by the body, and touched by faith. I counsel you to lift your eyes up, for before you, there are things to see; lift up the eyes of faith; touching the fringe of His garment is enough to grant you health1. (St. Augustine) Because I believe that my sufferings are for His sake, I rejoice in my sufferings, looking forward to the hope to come; I suffer not for my own sake, but for yours2. (St. John Chrysostom) To preach to you, I am committed to suffer. As Christ is the Head of the body, troubles are developed through the word of truth for those in the church; which are naturally considered the afflictions of Christ. (Father Severian, bishop of Gebalah) Paul completes in his flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ; meaning, he endures the sufferings to preach salvation to the Gentiles. (Father Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus) Paul confesses that he rejoices in the sufferings he endures, on account of that he sees growth in the faith of believers. His sufferings, therefore, not being void; what he suffers is added to his life; he counts his sufferings as bound to those for Christ, by those who follow his teachings. 1 Sermon on N.T.lessons, 12: 5. 2 St. Chrysostom: In Colos., hom 4. 61 (Ambroseaster) “Of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God” (25) What an amazing fatherly feeling by the apostle Paul. Although he has got the honor of fellowship in the sufferings of Christ, he considers himself a minister to the people, presented to them by God, according to His exalted stewardship; not as one of authority, but as their servant and slave. What he practices is within God’s plan for them. He suffers, not because he is better than them, nor because he is more capable to endure the sufferings, but according to the ordinance of God toward them. In some detail, St. John Chrysostom comments on this verse, showing that the apostle Paul’s ministry to the gentiles, is not according to his own choice, a favor on his part, or something that happened all of a sudden, but they were all in God’s plan, proclaimed and realized in the designated time. d- The Lord Christ reveals to us the hidden mystery: “The mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints” (26) Through the sufferings, the mystery which has been hidden from ages, has been revealed to him; the exalted mystery of God’s love for the whole world, a mystery that has been hidden even from the heavenlies; no heavenly rank, however exalted they are, could perceive or imagine the extent of God’s love for man. This mystery has been revealed to His saints (26), who saw and touched the work of the grace of God in the life of the Gentiles. Once they believed in salvation, it has become the subject of testimony and preaching of all, for men to enjoy the riches of the glory set for them (27); “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3: 10). Having spoken about what we have reached, showing the compassion of God, and the honor in the greatness of the things 62 granted, he presented another aspect, namely, the exaltation of those things, that we find no one who can know Him (Christ); as he said in the epistle to the Ephesians, that not even the angels, nor the principalities or any other created power; only the Son of God can1. So far, this mystery is still hidden, proclaimed only to the saints2. (St. John Chrysostom) “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (27) In the midst of His sufferings, the Lord Christ proclaims the riches of His exalted glory and His mercy, indiscriminately poured on all, Jews and Gentiles; without the least worthiness on man’s part. By saying “Christ in you”, the apostle proclaims that He is closer to us than to any heavenly being. Although He is the Creator of all, yet He is inside us, and not far from us, whom we encounter directly, without need for the intermediation of (ions), as falsely claimed by the Gnostics.. He is in us, grants us everything; He is “the hope of glory”; In Him we enjoy the deposit of the heavenly glories; He is our wisdom, life, and hope. In Him we perceive what we live, that in the midst of the passion of crucifixion, we are glorified in Him. “The riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles”. He became more shown among the Gentiles, according to his words to the Romans: “that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy” (Romans 15: 9). For although the riches of the glory of this mystery was made known among others as well, yet it was more so among the Gentiles. Those who were before harder than stones were suddenly transformed to the honor of angels. It was like taking a dog on the verge of dying out of hunger and 1 St. Chrysostom: In Colos., hom 5. 2 St. Chrysostom: In Colos., hom 5. 63 disease, and smelling terribly, and all of a sudden transforming it into man, and putting him on a throne. They were before on earth, but learned afterwards that they are better than heaven and the sun, and that the whole world is at their service. They were before captives of the devil, and suddenly became over his head, commanding and scourging him. They were transformed from captives and servants of the devil, to the body of the Lord of the angels and the archangels.. Do you want to know the steps they jumped? 1- They learned that stones are not gods. 2- That they are even less than men. 3- That they are even less than the irrational animals. 4- That they are even less than plants. 5- That they have fallen into exaggerations. Having so perceived, in some kind of depth, they were committed to know that God is the Lord of all; to whom alone, worship is due; that the virtuous life is good; and that the present death is not death, nor the present life is life. They were committed to know that He who is above all, who has the authority over angels, principalities, and all powers, came down to earth, became Man, suffered much, resurrected and ascended back to heaven That all is the mystery; He set together and commended, saying: “which is Christ in you”. So, if He is in you, why should you seek the angels1? (St. John Chrysostom) e- The Lord Christ brings us forth perfect in Him: “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (28) The mission of St. Paul and his coworkers, was not confined to preaching and testifying to the Lord Christ as the Savior of the world, but extended to teaching by the wisdom in Christ Jesus; which no man of the wisdom of this age could reach; on account of that it is not a theoretical and philosophical wisdom, 1 St. Chrysostom: In Colos., hom 5. 64 but is capable of carrying the believer up to an exalted perfect life – the fellowship with the divine nature. It is a wisdom, not confined to certain category of men, like the philosophers and their disciples, but presented to every man, to open his heart wide by the Holy Spirit to receive a flow of the divine love through receiving “Christ the power and wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1: 24, 31), who is for all. This action is an unceasing perpetual movement, in the hope that the believer may reach the perfect man, the blameless icon of Christ; to cross over from childhood to complete maturity. We, and not the angels, teach and warn, with no haughtiness nor arrogance; which is, as well, through the compassion of God, to bring forth believers to Him, not as though to a tyrant, but through “preaching and warning”, like a father more than a teacher1. (St. John Chrysostom) “that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (28); not in the law, nor in the angels, for that would not be perfection. “In Christ Jesus”., namely, in the knowledge of Christ; because the thoughts of him who knows what Christ does, will be higher than him who confines himself to the angels2. (St. John Chrysostom) “To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily” (29) If I labor for your sake, you should see how much more you are committed to labor. And again, to let them know that this is the work of God, he says: “according to His working which works in me mightily” 3. (St. John Chrysostom) 1 St. Chrysostom: In Colos., hom 5. 2 St. Chrysostom: In Colos., hom 5. 3 St. Chrysostom: In Colos., hom 5. 65 AN INSPIRATION FROM THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS (Chapter 1) LET ME ENTER BY YOU TO THE DEPTHS By You alone I can enter into the depths of love; Together with the apostle Paul, my heart is wide-open with love; I love all mankind, for You are the Lover of mankind; With every breath, I present to You unceasing thanks, for the sake of Your work with mankind; And I present, as well, unceasing cry-outs; Hoping for the salvation of all by You. By You I enter into the depths; Getting in touch with You, I recognize the Father through You; For You are the image of the invisible Father; The image of union with Him in His same essence; Seeing You, I see Him Recognizing You, I get filled with the treasures of wisdom and understanding. By You, I recognize You; O Creator of all universe, and the Almighty One; O Care-giver of everything big and small; When I enter into the mystery of Your church; I discover Your leadership of her, O the Head who loves His body; You grant her Your Holy Spirit, to prepare her for an eternal encounter with You; She will truly come to be the blameless heavenly bride; without reproach; She will come to have the right of fellowship in Your glory, for she is Your holy body; Every moment, she enjoys more and more fullness; Until she comes to be Your living icon. By Your blood You reconciled us to the Father; And by Your sufferings You turned our sufferings into glories; 66 By Your cross You revealed the hidden divine mystery; By Your resurrection You brought us forth to perfection. Grant me the grace to set me forth from depth to depth; For, whenever I encounter You, I become more thirsty for You.