The Scope of Passover and Penal Substitution Theory

One of the terms used in the early fathers when interpreting the Scriptures was the “scope” of Scripture. By this they meant backing away from the detail of the text to see the larger picture, the “scope” of a broad reading. This technique was particularly valued in the so-called Antiochene School of interpretation, which is usually associated with a more historical/literal reading of Scripture. The failure to see the “scope” of the…

Christ Our Passover

St. Paul offers the familiar words: “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us!” (1 Cor. 5:7). Most readers of the Bible will find nothing surprising about this – though they should. It is an extremely sophisticated commentary on the death and resurrection of Christ uttered at a very early date in Christian history. For what is equally as remarkable as the eye-witness accounts of the resurrection, are the primitive proclamations about what…

The Bridegroom and Judgment

Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching; and again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless.  Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given up to death and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom.  But rouse yourself crying: Holy, holy, holy, art Thou, O our God.  Through the Theotokos, have mercy on us. +…

Dying to Become Human

St. Irenaeus was perhaps the first to suggest that the creation of man was a “project.” “Let us make man in our own image,” is strikingly different from “Let there be man!” And the project goes wrong from the beginning. Rather than becoming fully what he is created to be, man breaks communion with God and brings death upon himself. The first time we hear, “It is not good,” is spoken of…

The Death of Christ on the Cross – the Life of Man

Several years ago, someone wrote and asked, “Why did Christ have to die on the Cross?” It is the question that prompted this article. On September 14th (New Calendar), the Church marks the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross. It is a fitting time to ask, “Why did Christ have to die?” His death and resurrection are the utter foundation of the Christian faith. Either we can answer this question, or…

God’s Absence on the Cross

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The cry of Christ on the Cross, quoting Psalm 22, could also be the cry of modern man in his daily life. We generally experience the world as a place devoid of God’s presence. When we are aware of Him, it is by special effort, and most often by reference to ideas and not to the world itself. Modern Christians are decidedly non-sacramental.…

Today Is Suspended – The 15th Antiphon

At the Matins service of Holy Friday the following hymn is sung: Today is suspended on a tree He who suspended the earth upon the waters. The King of the angels is decked with a crown of thorns. He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery. He who freed Adam in the Jordan is slapped on the face. The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to…

The Tree Heals the Tree

The Third Sunday of Great Lent is given to meditation on the Holy Wood of the Cross. I offer this mediation. Readers of the New Testament are familiar with St. Paul’s description of Christ as the “Second Adam.” It is an example of the frequent Apostolic use of an allegoric reading of the Old Testament (I am using “allegory” in its broadest sense – including typology and other forms). Christ Himself had…

Outside of Paradise

And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden…     Joni Mitchell (1969) The instinct of the folk-music singer celebrating the Woodstock Festival was not wrong. The religious sensibilities of younger generations today would likely say the same thing but with no reference to the Scriptures. The longing that marks the human heart finds many means of expression. I often think as I see the tattooed bodies of the young (and even…

Emptiness

Our life in the Body of Christ begins with our Baptism into Christ’s death (Romans 6:3). This phrase explains what it means to be Baptized “into the Body of Christ” (I Corinithians 12:13).  To exist in the Body of Christ is to do so by existing in the death of Christ, as well as His resurrection. How this makes us “His body” is amplified when we see that “His death” is more…