From an earlier post on the Cross.
In writing about our union with Christ I offered the following as the response to a question. It seemed to me, worth a posting of its own, though it be short. I have, however, added a few thoughts to it.
There are many ways of which to speak of Christ’s work on the Cross, all of them, of course, seeing it as central. In some ways, it is the whole of the Old Testament in a single moment. Which image of sacrifice is not fulfilled in that Great Sacrifice, and yet there are many images? Christ is also the Paschal Lamb, which itself is not part of the normal sacrificial system and yet it is in the Cross as well.
Nor does the sacrificial system make much sense except by some aspect of union with that which is offered. But on the Cross, Christ completes His union with us, if I may be so bold, by assuming even our death that by death He might trample down death.
The mistake too easily made is to think of the Cross as only one thing. The Cross is everything. All things are summed up and completed by Christ on the Cross, just so, everything is summed up and healed in His resurrection from the Dead. On the Cross He is the serpent lifted in the wilderness. On the Cross He is the Lamb of the Passover. On the Cross He is the Offering of Atonement. On the Cross He is Moses’ staff stretched over the waters of the Red Sea. On the Cross He is the arms of Moses stretched out at the destruction of Amalek. On the Cross He is the ram in the thicket that God gave in place of Isaac. On the Cross He is Blood poured out on the Mercy Seat. On the Cross He is the love of God made manifest in its utter self-emptying. On the Cross He is the Bridegroom now come for His bride to bring her back from the dead. On the Cross He is man in His alienation from God and God in His union with man.
All of these are part of the fullness of what it means to be forgiven, and I have only barely touched the edge of it. God has reconciled us to Himself through the Cross of Christ. This is not to say one thing – it is to say everything.
We’ll have read my writings wrong if it is seen that I have offered “the” explanation of the Cross. The Cross is the explanation of everything else, while no one other thing can explain the Cross.
Anthropologically speaking, the practice of sacrifice is very old. It likely began when the earliest humans experienced blood guilt (which is of two kinds: blood shed in killing and blood shed in birthing). Those holy ones who offered sacrifice were proto-priests. The Cross represents the sacrifice, but it is by His blood that all things are accomplished. Recognizing this, the Apostle Paul speaks in his writings of the Blood of Christ no less than 12 times.
Father, bless! I am a convert (very recent) to Orthodoxy, and this question probably arises as a result of too many years spend in ‘washed-in-the-blood’ baptist churches … but what you describe sounds synonymous with the protestant notion of penal substitution. I am probably equivocating on certain terms that still have a distinct ring from my upbringing. can you (when your leisure permits) explain how it is different, or how I am misunderstanding it? thanks ever so much.
Is it likely that Paul was speaking Anthropologically or knew the historical roots and meanings of blood sacrifice outside of his present day Jewish and Roman pagan paradigms?
St. Paul doubtless wrote with limitations, which does not change Alice’s point, I think.
I am not particularly speaking of the Protestant penal substitution which would be only one way of speaking of the Cross. Instead I am speaking more of St. Athanasius’ “Divine Solidarity” or our union with Christ, and His union with us. It is not so much substitute one for another as it is uniting us to Him and Him to us. There is, it seems to me, a difference. Though all of it is to speak of our salvation in Christ.
Scott Cairns’ poetic rendering of St Ephraim of Syria, “Due Praise”:
“…Glory to the One who sank to save the sinking sinner.”
in Love’s Immensity, Mystics on the Endless Life. Brewster MA: Paraclete Press, 2007.
(How does one do italics in this blog?)
I can edit them in but otherwise I’m not sure.
thank you for writing this, it was a blessing to me!