We are here honored to present a guest essay by fellow orthospherean Mark Citadel.
My knowledge of the lives of Christian saints is sub-encyclopedic to say the least, in part due to a lack of time to really sit down and read. I have, in my time, gained a familiarity with some of the greats; St. John Chrysostom, St. Athanasius, St. Cyril, St. Basil the Great, and one of my personal favorites, St. John of Kronstadt. However this barely even scratches the surface of the rich history extending from the Mediterranean to the frozen north of Europe, and even to the modern United States with great teachers such as the likely soon-to-be-canonized Seraphim Rose.
Saints of course have huge significance in Christian theology and ritual. Nicolas Zernov stated in his study on Orthodox practice that saints were treated “as teachers and friends who pray with them and assist them in their spiritual ascent. Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry was surrounded by disciples who did not prevent others from meeting Him, but on the contrary helped newcomers to find the Master. In the same manner fellowship with the saints facilitates communion with God, for their Christ-like character brings others nearer to the divine source of light and life.”
We are pleased to offer another guest post by blogger Mark Citadel.
In Gustav Aulén’s 1931 book Christ the Victor, he writes, “the work of Christ is first and foremost a victory over the powers which hold mankind in bondage: sin, death, and the devil.”
Such a concept is unsurprisingly alien to most Western readers who have for so long been believers in a very different theory of atonement, that is, what exactly occurred at the metaphysical level during our Savior’s crucifixion. While Aulén’s theory would not have been at all controversial before the turn of the first millennium after Christ, when the east and west were divided, the western portion of the Occident was heavily influenced by the works of St. Anselm of Canterbury and his book Cur Deus Homo?, which was published in 1097. It’s important we understand what this model puts forth.
One of the most amazing and scandalous things about Christianity is its insistence that in Jesus of Nazareth, God is become Man. Theologians struggled with the Incarnation for centuries; indeed, I doubt whether that struggle may ever end. Probably, not. For, how to comprehend the infinite, compassed in a baby?
The Incarnation is categorically different from all other types of divine participation in history. The countrymen of Jesus tried to apply all of them to him, but without particular success. They are all more or less familiar to us, because they have occurred to us as we ourselves have struggled to understand the Incarnation; and while they all capture a bit of the truth, they are all Christological heresies.