Death as Victory
by Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia
Christ’s death upon the Cross is not a failure which was somehow put right afterwards by His Resurrection. In itself the death upon the Cross is a victory. The victory of what? There can be only one answer: the victory of suffering love. “Love is as strong as death….many waters cannot quench love” (Song of Songs 8:6-7). The Cross shows us a love that is as strong as death, a love that is even stronger.
St John introduces his account of the Last Supper and the Passion with these words: ‘’Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end’’ ( 13:,1). ‘’To the end’’ – the Greek says eis telos, meaning ‘’to the last’’, ‘’to the uttermost’’. And this word telos is taken up later in the final cry uttered by Christ on the Cross: ‘’It is finished’’ , tetelestai ( John 19:30). This is to be understood , not as a cry of resignation or despair, but as a cry of victory : It is completed, it is accomplished, it is fulfilled. Because of love he offered Himself as a sacrifice, choosing at Gethsemane to go voluntarily to His Passion: ‘’I lay down my life for my sheep… No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself’’ (John 10:15,18).
Loving humility is an incredible force. Whenever we give up anything or suffer anything, not with a sense of rebellious bitterness, but willingly and out of love, this makes us not weaker, but stronger. The power of God is shown, not so much in His creation of the world or in any of His miracles, but rather in the fact that out of love God has ‘’emptied Himself’’ (Phil.2:7), has poured Himself out in generous self-giving, by His own free choice consenting to suffer and to die.
Love and hatred are not merely subjective feelings, affecting the inward universe of those who experience them, but they are objective forces altering the world outside ourselves. By loving or hating another, I cause the other in some measure to become that which I see in him or her. Love is creative and hatred is destructive.
Christ’s suffering love has a creative effect upon us, transforming our heart and will, releasing us from bondage, making us whole, rendering it possible for us to love in a way that would is completely beyond my own powers.
Christ did not suffer instead of us but He suffered on our behalf; He did not exempt us from suffering but showed us how to suffer. Christ offers us, not a way round suffering, but a way through it; not substitution, but saving companionship.
And so Christ’s death upon the Cross is truly, as the Liturgy of St. Basil describes it, a “life-creating death.”
The Orthodox Way by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Diokleia, Death as Victory, p.107.
Give me this stranger
Plagal of First Tone
When he saw that the sun had hidden its rays, and the veil of the temple was rent at the death of the Savior, Joseph came un to Pilate and entreated him, saying:
Give me this Stranger, Who from His youth hath been received as a stranger in this world. Give me this Stranger, Whom His kinsmen killed in hatred like a stranger.
Give me this Stranger, concerning Whom I am in perplexity, seeing the strangeness of His death.
Give me this Stranger, Who knew how to take in the poor and strangers.
Give me this Stranger, Whom the Jews in their malice, estranged from the world.
Give me this Stranger, that I may conceal Him in a tomb, Who being a Stranger hath no place whereon to lay His head.
Give me this Stranger, to Whom His Mother on beholding Him dead, cried:
O my Son and my God,though my bowels be wounded, and I be pierced in my heart as I behold Thee dead, yet trusting in the Resurrection, I magnify Thee. Having, therefore, besought Pilate with these words, the noble Joseph receiveth the Saviour’s body, which with fear he wrapped in linen and spices. In a tomb he placed the One Who granteth unto all life everlasting and great mercy.