Jesus’ Arms Outstretched: Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

Athanasius 5, Heretics 0

Athanasius 5, Heretics 0

Athanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday as we sit at the feet of our forefather in the faith – a warrior for Christ who relentlessly pursued truth in all the churches. I’ve been posting quotes from his magnum opus “On the Incarnation of the Word” each Tuesday so far. Please check out the past posts – they really are awesome to get into.

Uncle Ath?

Yes kids?

Do you see any significance in the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross as He died?

Well…

…If any honest Christian wants to know why He suffered death on the cross and not in some other way, we answer thus: in no other way was it expedient for us, indeed the Lord offered for our sakes the one death that was supremely good. He had come to bear the curse that lay on us; and how could He “become a curse” otherwise than by accepting the accursed death? And that death is the cross, for it is written “Cursed is every one that hangs on tree.”

Again, the death of the Lord is the ransom of all, and by it “the middle wall of partition” is broken down and the call of the Gentiles comes about.

How could He have called us if He had not been crucified, for it is only on the cross that a man dies with arms outstretched? Here, again, we see the fitness of His death and of those outstretched arms: it was that He might draw His ancient people with the one and the Gentiles with the other, and join both together in Himself.

My favorite uncle.

A little allegorical, yes, but wow – think of the image painted there. The Word of God made flesh, a perfect Man – perfect in love, grace, and purity – being murdered ruthlessly and with mockery. He was suffering not only the incredible pains of torture, but also the shame of nakedness and disfigurement before His nation… and in the midst of this, His arms pinned to the wood, He was calling His Jewish family to Him with one bleeding hand, and His Gentile flock with the other, carrying each of us down into His death with Him so that we might rise again with Him in His resurrection.

Meditate, my friends. Before you go off to the next thing, meditate.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, chap. 4, sec. 25, http://www.ccel.org.

A Grand Piece of Spiritual Yum – Gregory Nazianzen

You’ll want a fork, knife, and napkin for this one. From Gregory Naziazen, a fourth-century theologian from Cappadocia. In defending the deity and ministry of the blessed Lamb of God against the heresies of the Arians, he wrote:

Gregory-Naziazen

He was born—but He had been begotten:  He was born of a woman—but she was a Virgin.  The first is human, the second Divine.  In His Human nature He had no Father, but also in His Divine Nature no Mother.  Both these belong to Godhead.  He dwelt in the womb—but He was recognized by the Prophet, himself still in the womb, leaping before the Word, for Whose sake He came into being.  He was wrapped in swaddling clothes—but He took off the swathing bands of the grave by His rising again.  He was laid in a manger—but He was glorified by Angels, and proclaimed by a star, and worshiped by the Magi.

. . . He was driven into exile into Egypt—but He drove away the Egyptian idols.  He had no form nor comeliness in the eyes of the Jews—but to David He is fairer than the children of men.  And on the Mountain He was bright as the lightning, and became more luminous than the sun, initiating us into the mystery of the future.

He was baptized as Man—but He remitted sins as God—not because He needed purificatory rites Himself, but that He might sanctify the element of water.  He was tempted as Man, but He conquered as God; yea, He bids us be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world.  He hungered—but He fed thousands; yea, He is the Bread that giveth life, and That is of heaven.  He thirsted—but He cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.

Yea, He promised that fountains should flow from them that believe.  He was wearied, but He is the Rest of them that are weary and heavy laden. He was heavy with sleep, but He walked lightly over the sea. He rebuked the winds, He made Peter light as he began to sink. He pays tribute, but it is out of a fish; yea, He is the King of those who demanded it.  He is called a Samaritan and a demoniac;—but He saves him that came down from Jerusalem and fell among thieves; the demons acknowledge Him, and He drives out demons and sinks in the sea legions of foul spirits, and sees the Prince of the demons falling like lightning.

He is stoned, but is not taken.  He prays, but He hears prayer.  He weeps, but He causes tears to cease.  He asks where Lazarus was laid, for He was Man; but He raises Lazarus, for He was God. He is sold, and very cheap, for it is only for thirty pieces of silver; but He redeems the world, and that at a great price, for the Price was His own blood.  As a sheep He is led to the slaughter, but He is the Shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also.  As a Lamb He is silent, yet He is the Word, and is proclaimed by the Voice of one crying in the wilderness.  He is bruised and wounded, but He healeth every disease and every infirmity.

He is lifted up and nailed to the Tree, but by the Tree of Life He restoreth us; yea, He saveth even the Robber crucified with Him; yea, He wrapped the visible world in darkness.  He is given vinegar to drink mingled with gall.  Who?  He who turned the water into wine, who is the destroyer of the bitter taste, who is Sweetness and altogether desire.  He lays down His life, but He has power to take it again; and the veil is rent, for the mysterious doors of Heaven are opened; the rocks are cleft, the dead arise.  He dies, but He gives life, and by His death destroys death.  He is buried, but He rises again; He goes down into Hell, but He brings up the souls; He ascends to Heaven, and shall come again to judge the quick and the dead…

Catch your breath, and worship our Lord.

Thanks for reading,

-Adam

Gregory Nazianzen, The Third Theological Oration: On the Son, NPNF2-7, sec. 19-20, http://www.ccel.org.

Christ on the Cross was God Crucified: Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

AthanasiusAthanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday as we sit at the feet of our forefather in the faith – a warrior for Christ who relentlessly pursued truth in all the churches.

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

Was it wise of the Father to let His Son Jesus be publicly humiliated and crucified? Did it really prove anything?

Well,

All these things the Savior thought fit to do, so that, recognizing His bodily acts as works of God, men who were blind to His presence in creation might regain knowledge of the Father. For, as I said before, who that saw His authority over evil spirits and their response to it could doubt that He was, indeed, the Son, the Wisdom and the Power of God? Even the very creation broke silence at His behest and, marvelous to relate, confessed with one voice before the cross, that monument of victory, that He Who suffered thereon in the body was not man only, but Son of God and Savior of all.

The sun veiled his face, the earth quaked, the mountains were rent asunder, all men were stricken with awe. These things showed that Christ on the cross was God, and that all creation was His slave and was bearing witness by its fear to the presence of its Master.

Thus, then, God the Word revealed Himself to men through His works. We must . . . consider the end of His earthly life and the nature of His bodily death. This is, indeed, the very center of our faith, and everywhere you hear men speak of it; by it, too, no less than by His other acts, Christ is revealed as God and Son of God.

My favorite uncle…

1,700 years later, the crucified Man who is God is still the very center of our faith – timeless, objective, and powerful. Be sure to meditate on these things without ceasing, my friends.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, chap. 4, sec. 19, http://www.ccel.org.

Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius: How does the Salvation of Creation Tie in with Human Salvation?

AthanasiusAthanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday, as we cozy up at the feet of Uncle Athanasius.

This post takes a glance at a little Athanasian eschatology, sometimes known as Christus Victor in today’s parlance. To put it briefly, this is the holistic view of salvation wherein not only are humans saved from God’s wrath and from corruption, but the entire world will be restored by the same act of reconciliation, through the cross of Christ. Check him out…

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

Will the rest of the natural world be saved along with humankind? We see corruption everywhere.

Well,

You must understand why it is that the Word of the Father, so great and so high, has been made manifest in bodily form. He has not assumed a body as proper to His own nature, far from it, for as the Word He is without body.

He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men.

We will begin, then, with the creation of the world and with God its Maker, for the first fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning.

There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word Who made it in the beginning.

Regenerating human beings ends up including a regeneration of our world. Picture it like God reaching down to scoop us up in His hands of grace, and because He grabbed so widely, He ends up grabbing the earth and cosmos too. All things to be reconciled to Jesus! (Compare Matthew 19:28, Colossians 1:19-20, and Revelation 21-22).

My favorite uncle.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, chap. 1, sec. 1, http://www.ccel.org.

Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius: Why is Repentance Not Enough to Save Us?

AthanasiusAthanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday, as we cozy up at the feet of Uncle Athanasius.

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

Is repentance all it takes to be turned back from our corruption in sin, or was something more necessary?

Well,

As we have already noted, it was unthinkable that God, the Father of Truth, should go back upon His word regarding death in order to ensure our continued existence. He could not falsify Himself; what, then, was God to do? Was He to demand repentance from men for their transgression? You might say that that was worthy of God, and argue further that, as through the Transgression they became subject to corruption, so through repentance they might return to incorruption again. But repentance would not guard the Divine consistency, for, if death did not hold dominion over men, God would still remain untrue. Nor does repentance recall men from what is according to their nature; all that it does is to make them cease from sinning.

Had it been a case of a trespass only, and not of a subsequent corruption, repentance would have been well enough; but when once transgression had begun men came under the power of the corruption proper to their nature and were bereft of the grace which belonged to them as creatures in the Image of God. No, repentance could not meet the case.

What—or rather Who was it that was needed for such grace and such recall as we required? Who, save the Word of God Himself, Who also in the beginning had made all things out of nothing? His part it was, and His alone, both to bring again the corruptible to incorruption and to maintain for the Father His consistency of character with all. For He alone, being Word of the Father and above all, was in consequence both able to recreate all, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be an ambassador for all with the Father.

My favorite uncle. Christologically delicious!

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, chap. 2, sec. 7, http://www.ccel.org.

Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius: Why did Jesus Die Publicly?

Athanasius

Athanasius, my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday, as we cozy up at the feet of Uncle Athanasius.

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

Why did Jesus have to die publicly?

An excerpt from chapter 4 of On the Incarnation:

Have no fears then. Now that the common Savior of all has died on our behalf, we who believe in Christ no longer die, as men died aforetime, in fulfillment of the threat of the law. That condemnation has come to an end; and now that, by the grace of the resurrection, corruption has been banished and done away, we are loosed from our mortal bodies in God’s good time for each, so that we may obtain thereby a better resurrection.

Like seeds cast into the earth, we do not perish in our dissolution, but like them shall rise again, death having been brought to nought by the grace of the Savior. That is why blessed Paul, through whom we all have surety of the resurrection, says: “This corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality; but when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?'”26

“Well then,” some people may say, “if the essential thing was that He should surrender His body to death in place of all, why did He not do so as Man privately, without going to the length of public crucifixion? Surely it would have been more suitable for Him to have laid aside His body with honor than to endure so shameful a death.”

But look at this argument closely, and see how merely human it is, whereas what the Savior did was truly divine and worthy of His Godhead for several reasons. The first is this. The death of men under ordinary circumstances is the result of their natural weakness. They are essentially impermanent, so after a time they fall ill and when worn out they die. But the Lord is not like that. He is not weak, He is the Power of God and Word of God and Very Life Itself. If He had died quietly in His bed like other men it would have looked as if He did so in accordance with His nature, and as though He was indeed no more than other men.

But because He was Himself Word and Life and Power His body was made strong, and because the death had to be accomplished, He took the occasion of perfecting His sacrifice not from Himself, but from others. How could He fall sick, Who had healed others? Or how could that body weaken and fail by means of which others are made strong? Here, again, you may say, “Why did He not prevent death, as He did sickness?” Because it was precisely in order to be able to die that He had taken a body, and to prevent the death would have been to impede the resurrection. And as to the unsuitability of sickness for His body, as arguing weakness, you may say, “Did He then not hunger?” Yes, He hungered, because that was the property of His body, but He did not die of hunger because He Whose body hungered was the Lord. Similarly, though He died to ransom all, He did not see corruption. His body rose in perfect soundness, for it was the body of none other than the Life Himself.

My favorite uncle.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, chap. 4, sec. 21, http://www.ccel.org.