All visible realities need the Cross and the Tomb, i. e. the experience of dying.
In the work of St Maximus the Confessor on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God there are the following lines: “All visible realities need the cross, that is, the state in which they are cut off from things acting upon them through the senses. All intelligible realities need burial, that is, the total quiescence of the things, which act upon them through the intellect. When all relationship with such things is severed, and their natural activity and stimulus is cut off, then the Logos, who exists alone in Himself, appears as if risen from the dead. He encompasses all that comes from Him, but nothing enjoys kinship with Him by virtue of natural relationship. For the salvation of the saved is by grace and not by nature (cf. Eph. 2:5).”
All visible realities need the Cross and the Tomb, i. e. dying.
These words of St Maximus fully correspond to the words of the Gospel: “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24).
Paradoxically, in order to survive, one must die. This is the essence of Great Lent when you die together with God, Who was crucified for us, and receive from Him a new life without sin. We offer ourselves to God by fulfilling His commandments. The world calls us crazy, predicting our imminent death. However, if you continue your path following Christ, suddenly the yoke is easy, and the burden is light. You enter the beautiful shining world of the kingdom of heaven, with its absolute freedom, moral beauty and direct communion with God.
First of all, the experience of dying consists in the fact that you sacrifice yourself entirely to God. This means, quite simply, trying to live according to the commandments of God. We often hear this from priests, and of course, this is the main thing in the life of an Orthodox Christian.
How do we fulfill this task in everyday life? It appears that we have to sacrifice to God the most intimate things, including our thoughts, emotions and feelings. To achieve this practically, we must read the Holy Scripture and memorize it, so that we always have our “inner gospel” with us. The more you read the Gospel, the more it will penetrate you. It will soak into your blood, your thoughts and your soul. I once saw a monk who spoke in phrases that were in fact gospel quotes. However, he allowed him to pass through himself, actually making them HIS OWN. These thoughts had become his life. Among other things, the Gospel is a collection of God's commandments. If you have it inside you, you will align your thoughts, feelings, actions with this inner waymark.
To do this, one needs to be honest with himself and with God, to Whose judgement he defers his thoughts, feelings, deeds and desires, openly nailing them to the Cross where they will either die as sins, or be cleansed and revived as virtues. This is what it means to crucify oneself together with Christ. It is a painful process, but a person healed from sin will be able to taste the sweetness of Paschal joy and heavenly bliss. God Himself will enter the tomb of this person’s soul, raising it to eternal and joyful life.
Archpriest Andrey Chizhenko
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