A Meeting Place for Evangelicals, Reformed, and Orthodox Christians

Author: Robert Arakaki

Resurrection Sunday 2022

The Harrowing of Hell

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Dear Folks,

We are living in troubled times. This year, just before the start of Great Lent, one Orthodox country (Russia) felt compelled to invade another Orthodox country (Ukraine). It is ironic and tragic that Moscow would take military action against Kiev, the original home of Slavic Orthodoxy. Kallistos Ware’s The Orthodox Church (pp. 78-82) describes how Orthodoxy took root in Kiev centuries before Moscow became a Christian city. This delay reflects the gradual spread of the Good News of Christ from Constantinople upwards into the Slavic lands. While Russia and Ukraine have much in common, they are also distinct from each other. This can be seen in the similarity and differences between the two leaders’ names: Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky. The situation between Russia and Ukraine is complicated and confusing. Orthodox Christians in the U.S. should avoid rushing to pass judgment. I suggest that they also take into consideration Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilization thesis.

This is not the first time Orthodoxy has experienced times of darkness and confusion. In 1204, Catholic Crusaders attacked the fellow-Christian city of Constantinople leading to five decades of Orthodox Christians living under papal rule. In 1453, Constantinople fell to the Muslim Turks leading to centuries of Orthodoxy under Muslim rule. The 1917 Russian Revolution led to a generation of Orthodox Christians in Russia and Eastern Europe living under an atheistic state determined to eradicate Orthodoxy. Orthodox Christians endured these challenging and confusing circumstances holding fast to their faith in the Crucified Savior who would rise on the Third Day. The resurrection icon teaches us that the Incarnate Son of God entered into the realm of Death, destroyed the power of Death and set free those languishing in Hell/Hades. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15; RSV)

Mary Magdalene Encountering the Risen Christ

The times we are in currently find parallels in the times of Christ. Religious leaders colluded with secular rulers, the innocent suffered, and the righteous were put to death for speaking the truth. Matthew chapter 2 tells of King Herod plotting to kill the Christ Child and slaughtering the Holy Innocents. Luke chapter 3 recounts John the Baptist being imprisoned by King Herod for speaking out against the tetrarch’s immoral lifestyle. We learn from Mark chapters 14 and 15 how the disciples responded to the atrocities inflicted on Christ by the religious hierarchy and the secular authorities. Many of Jesus’ followers buckled under pressure, running away and denying they knew Jesus. Only a few remained faithful during those dark hours, the unnamed young man who followed Christ wearing only his night clothes (Mark 14:51-52), and the secret followers: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. It was the Theotokos and the Beloved Disciple, and a group of women who remained faithful up to Jesus’ last moments on the Cross (John 19:25-27). In the hour of darkness and confusion, it was the little folks who remained faithful to Christ, while the big men broke and ran. It is fitting then that on Easter morning Jesus would first show himself to the least of the disciples. In Peter’s restoration we learn that it is possible for unfaithful Christian leaders can be restored to ministry, but they must first show sincere remorse for their apostasy and moral compromise. So, when we find ourselves in circumstances of darkness and confusion, let us remember how God honored the little folks who remained faithful and showed kindness and mercy to the VIP leaders as well. Here we see the mystery of the kingdom of God.

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Robert Arakaki

 

P.S. – Readers should be aware that there is a copycat site: Orthodoxbridge dot blogspot dot com. I have nothing to do with it, and I have had no contact with it. The site administrator just copied my blog’s name and used it for his own site.  The blogspot site does not support Orthodoxy.

 

 

Christmas 2021

What Shall We Offer You, O Christ?

The Real Meaning of Christmas – The Spirit of Christmas – Orthodox Christmas Hymns – Novo Scriptorium

 

What Shall We Offer You, O Christ?

Who for our sake has appeared on the earth as a man?

Every creature which You have made offers You thanks.

The angels offer You a song.

The heavens, their star.

The wise men, their gifts.

The shepherds, their wonder.

The earth, its cave.

The wilderness, the manger.

And we offer You a Virgin Mother.

O Pre-eternal God, have mercy on us!

(Vespers of the eve of the feast of the Nativity)

 

Dear Folks,

2021 has come and gone like a blur.  Although I’ve been busy with other things, I remain committed to this blog. I have been preparing articles that I hope to upload in the near future.  Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Robert Arakaki

 

 

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Resurrection Sunday 2021

 

In its worship the Orthodox Church uses what is called the eight tones.  These tones guide the singing of the various hymns relating to Christ’s resurrection, the Virgin Mary, and the theme of the day.  Tone two for the Resurrectional apolytikia describes quite nicely and very succinctly Christ’s resurrection.

Second Tone

When you descended unto death, O life immortal, You destroyed Hades with the splendor of Your divinity. And when You raised the dead from the depths of darkness, all the heavenly powers shouted: O Giver of life, Christ our God, glory to You.

Here is the link to the choir of St. Anne Orthodox Church (Corvallis, Oregon) singing this particular hymn.  Source

Christ the Firstborn of the Dead

In Colossians 1:18 the Apostle Paul describes Jesus Christ as the firstborn of the dead.  It seems that Paul has inserted an ancient Christological hymn into his letter to the Colossians.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 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 [f]powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 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. [NKJV; emphasis added]

In this ancient hymn we find an allusion to Genesis in which Christ creates the Earth and our first parents, Adam and Eve, and an allusion to the new heaven and the new earth that would be described in Revelation 21.

The Greek word for “firstborn” is “πρωτότοκος” (prototokos).  While the word can be understood as first in time, it is better understood as first in  hierarchical ordering.  Thus, “firstborn” can also be understood to mean “first in rank,” “preeminent,” or “unique supremacy.”  (See Kittel Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Vol. VI pp. 876-881)

In the case of Christ’s resurrection, he was indeed the first Man to rise from the dead.  We see in the Resurrection Icon the Second Adam descending to Hades and rescuing the first Adam.  Unlike Lazarus whose resurrection in John 11 was a temporary one, Christ’s resurrection is a permanent triumph over Death.  The liberation of Adam and Eve from the power of Death is a promise that we too will be sharers in Christ’s Resurrection.

What is striking about Colossians 1 is the dominance of the Christus Victor paradigm.  Our salvation is described in terms of our being delivered from the power of darkness and our transfer into the kingdom of the Son (1:13).  Christ’s preeminence over thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers (1:16) likewise reflects the Christus Victor paradigm.  While elements of the penal or forensic paradigm can be inferred from “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (1:14) and “peace through the blood of His cross” (1:20), these verses can also be understood from the standpoint of a cosmic war.  Christ comes to rescue those held hostage by the Devil. The long war between Christ and Satan is concluded by Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross and his triumphal Resurrection.  Now that we have been rescued from the Devil and from Death, we can like the Prodigal Son return home and be reconciled with the Loving Father who awaits our return.

Christ’s Resurrection entitles him to supremacy over the new heaven and new earth.  This is the basis for the Great Commission passage found in Matthew 28:18-20 in which Christ commands his Church to go and evangelize all the nations.  We are commanded to let the world know that mankind’s great enemy Death has been defeated and that the gift of Life is available through the Risen Christ.  Along with the command to evangelize is the command to baptize.  This is because through the sacrament of baptism we are joined to Christ’s death and to his resurrection (Romans 6:3-4).  Baptism is more than a symbolic gesture, it contains a spiritual power that joins the believer to their Lord on a profound level resulting in new life.  Previously, there was darkness and corruption in the core of our being but thanks to the sacrament of baptism we have been engrafted into Jesus Christ the New Vine.

Hope Under the Shadow of COVID-19

For over a year we have been living under the shadow of the global COVID-19 pandemic.  See my Easter posting from last year: “Being Faithful in Dark Times.”  Our generation is not the first to struggle with the terror of widespread illnesses and unexpected deaths of friends and loved ones, and the sense of isolation and desolation caused by social distancing.  The history of mankind has been shadowed by other plagues and pestilence as well.  It is not certain when we will exit the current health crisis, but it will pass as did many prior pandemics.  COVID-19 is a reminder that our enemy Death is not far away.  Easter Sunday is a reminder that Jesus Christ has dealt Death a decisive blow.  This is the basis for Good News of the Christian religion.  Christians can dare to hope in the face of death, sickness, and suffering.

I would encourage readers to visit the website for the Resurrection Icon illustration above.  There you will see a much larger version of the Resurrection icon shown here.  If you look closely at the faces of the three central figures: Christ, Adam, and Eve, you will see expressions of joy, hope, and courage–the three things so desperately needed in these COVID-19 times.

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Robert Arakaki