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Greek CommunityThe Patriarch Abraham & the Way of the Cross

The Patriarch Abraham & the Way of the Cross

Hellenic News of America
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By Father Konstantinos Koutroubas

Christ is risen!

There was once an anti-religious debate held in Russia in the years shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. A learned atheist made a very forceful argument to reject God and Christ. The people in the audience began to doubt. They began to waver. But when the speaker concluded, an elderly priest who was present was given the opportunity
to speak. Turning to the audience, he cried out fervently with faith, “Brother and sisters, CHRISTOS VOSKRESE! CHRIST IS RISEN!” And in response, there thundered a loud, resounding, decisive, and unanimous response of “VOISTINOU VOSKRESE! TRULY HE IS
RISEN!”

Christ is risen, brothers and sisters! With that powerful message, there went the arguments of the atheist. Christ is risen! This is the message wherein lies the hope of all mankind, a hope for Russians, a hope for Greeks, a hope for Arabs, a hope for Boston, a hope for New York, a hope for even Cleveland and Philadelphia, a hope for all mankind. This is a message so great, a message so profound and life- giving, a message that can transform the whole world, a message that can give strength and comfort like none other can. Christ is risen! The elder Russian priest knew that this message of “Christ is risen” would leave everything hostile, everything inimical, everything hateful and spiteful, everything that refuses to acknowledge Love Incarnate, ultimately powerless.

The news that “Christ is risen” is the message of victory, the victory over sin, the victory over the devil, the victory over death. Since we are all broken and in need of healing, since we all struggle with sin within us and around us, since we all face trials and difficulties,
struggles and temptations, since we all face or will face even death itself, how can this message not be a breath of fresh air for every single human being? How can this message not be a source of refreshment for all? How can this message not send upon us all waves upon waves of encouragement? The joy of the Resurrection is indeed a joy that no one
can take away from us, a joy that no one can stamp out. There is no room for despair. Where indeed is the pessimism? Where indeed is the fatalism? The Resurrection brings us joy even amidst sorrow, something that may sound foolish to the world but, “to those who are called,” we know that it is “Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God,” as the
Holy Apostle Paul tells us (1 Corinthians 1:24). Nevertheless, it is a joy that cannot be contained within our hearts, a joy that is meant to be poured forth throughout the world, because Christ’s Resurrection is for the whole world. The proclamation of the Resurrection is for the whole world. Is not this the most precious gift we can offer the world, this message of hope?

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Christ Himself would have it no other way. We hear it in the Gospel reading from Saint Matthew on Holy Saturday morning, in which Christ urges his disciples and, in turn, all of us “to go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 20:19). We hear it
proclaimed on Pascha. We hear it during the Agape Vespers as we read the Gospel in different languages to proclaim this reality of the Resurrection for all mankind, that, like the elderly Russian priest and the pious Russian people, “many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11). We hear it and see it not only from the words but from the unwavering testimony of the lives of all the Saints throughout the ages, from our beloved Panagia and the Myrrh-bearing Women- those faithful, dedicated women who were the first to receive the wonderful message of the Resurrection, to the Holy Apostles such as Saint Thomas whom we
remember this week, who went all the way to India to proclaim this life- changing message, to the Martyrs and Confessors, the Fathers and Mothers, men and women from all ages and backgrounds, all walks of life, of all ethnic backgrounds up until our very day. We hear and see it from the Saints who truly experienced the risen Lord. They proclaimed
the Resurrection of Christ with their lives and therefore are true sons and daughters of the Patriarch Abraham, of the New Israel, the Church, which Christ established for all of humanity, to have a living communion and participation in the power of His Resurrection.

Yet, to proclaim this message of Resurrection to all nations, to become true sons and daughters of Abraham, we must walk the path of none other than Abraham himself. This path of Abraham is the way of the Cross. To spread the message of the Resurrection, to extend the reach of the New Israel, to extend the reach of the Church of Resurrection into even the nooks and crannies of the world, we must become like Abraham and walk the way of the Cross. I will repeat that again: To spread the message of the Resurrection, we must become like Abraham and walk the way of the Cross. Only in such a manner has the Gospel spread in the past and only in such a manner will the Gospel spread until the end of time and the Second Coming of Christ.

It is not at all inappropriate that we bring Abraham to mind during this moment in time and remember him in seeking to spread this message of the Resurrection. We remembered Abraham during Lent. We read about him in the book of Genesis. We chanted about him in the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete. Now, in the period of Pascha, we celebrate what he looked forward to. Now, we celebrate the fulfillment of what his life constantly pointed to. Now, we celebrate together with him the Resurrection.

Nevertheless, Abraham first had to deny himself and take up his cross. God tells Abraham in the book of Genesis, “Get out of your country, from your family, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation…and in you all the
families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). This calling of Abraham, this truly missionary endeavor that Abraham undertook, entailed in its very DNA the way of the Cross. This way of the Cross is the only way in which all the families of the earth would be blessed. This way of the Cross would produce the fruit of Abraham’s faith, Christ Himself as a human being, Christ our God who would follow the path of the Cross to its extreme limits and help us carry our own crosses, promising Resurrection.

Abraham had left his earthly homeland, his family, and his people yet he trusted in the mercy and love of God. He rejected his own ego. He rejected his own selfishness, his own desires, and recognized that God, the true God, the loving God, would never lead Him astray, even in a foreign land, the land from which Christ would shine forth for all
mankind.

Abraham trusted even when faced with the extremely difficult decision to sacrifice his only son Isaac, a son who was given to him in deep old age after being told that he would have many descendants, descendants that would number as the sand of the sea. Defying all
human logic, Abraham truly believed, as he himself said, that the Lord would provide. So deep was Abraham’s trust in God that he was willing to sacrifice his only son, knowing that the Lord would somehow take care of everything, believing that God was able to even raise Isaac up from the dead, as Saint Paul tells us in his epistle to the Hebrews. Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes that he could never pass by an icon depicting Abraham ready to sacrifice his son Isaac without being moved to tears. Just imagine…

So great was Abraham’s faith, a faith we are called to imitate and put into practice, a faith rooted in the hope of the Resurrection. Abraham waited for the day when Christ would descend into Hades and bring him within His embrace. Abraham, with faith, waited for the
Resurrection. How much more then should we Orthodox Christians embrace the reality of the Resurrection for our lives when we have Christ enthroned in glory and the Holy Spirit present with us? If only we could have an ounce of Abraham’s faith and love, how much closer to the Lord would we be? If only we could have an ounce of his faith and love, how much more would the joy of the Resurrection spread? If only we could have one ounce of his faith and love, how much quicker would Orthodoxy take roots, spread and grow here at home and throughout the world? But the only way to spread the message of the Resurrection is to follow the path of Abraham, which is the path of the Cross. For some of us, the path may entail us going to Albania, to Kenya, and to Guatemala. For most of us it will probably mean spreading the message of the Resurrection within the United States.
Nevertheless, we can only proclaim the Resurrection to the world through this way of Abraham, the way of the Cross.

Abraham breathed in the hope of the Resurrection of Christ, walking along the way of the Cross. The Myrrh-bearing women, the Apostles, and all the Saints followed in the footsteps of Abraham. Truly, there is an unbroken tradition and we can continue that tradition.
Like Abraham, like all the Saints, we must deny ourselves. We must deny ourselves and see Christ in our difficulties and struggles. We must crucify our ego. We must crucify our pride, crucify our hatreds and jealousies and anything that keeps us away from God, anything that keeps us away from trusting in Him wholeheartedly, anything that
prevents us from realizing that He will never lead us astray, anything that prevents us from basking in the light of the Resurrection, that prevents us from sharing the message of hope, the message of the Resurrection, with others. We must allow ourselves to be inundated by love, welcoming all into our hearts, just like Abraham did, seeing Christ
in all. And don’t worry. As a modern-day Saint, a Greek woman from Constantinople who found herself in distant India, Mother Gavrilia, assures us, “Any place may become a place of Resurrection, if the Humility of Christ becomes the way of our life.” Thus we can, without
hindrance, proclaim to the world: ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! Christ is risen!

The copyrights for these articles are owned by the Hellenic News of America. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hellenic News of America and its representatives.

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