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#1 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 09:53 AM

Dear all,

I have the following query: when Christ was an infant, was He helpless and (almost) totally dependant like ordinary human babies? Did He cry to be fed, changed, rocked to sleep? Did He scream in discomfort?

I am trying to understand the notion of voluntary passion through this question. If it is a desparate plea for e.g. milk, how can it be voluntary? Or is the voluntary part only in the condescension to take on these human needs in the first place?

I hope this is expressed clearly enough. I'd just like to know what kind of baby Jesus was - a baby Who knows everything?!

In Christ
Byron

#2 Julia Hayes

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 12:43 PM

Dear all,

I have the following query: when Christ was an infant, was He helpless and (almost) totally dependant like ordinary human babies? Did He cry to be fed, changed, rocked to sleep? Did He scream in discomfort?

I am trying to understand the notion of voluntary passion through this question. If it is a desparate plea for e.g. milk, how can it be voluntary? Or is the voluntary part only in the condescension to take on these human needs in the first place?

I hope this is expressed clearly enough. I'd just like to know what kind of baby Jesus was - a baby Who knows everything?!

In Christ
Byron


Dear Byron,
I believe the answer to your question is yes, as St John of Damascus explains in the "Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith":
"We confess(3), then, that He assumed all the natural and innocent passions of man. For He assumed the whole man and all man's attributes save sin. For that is not natural, nor is it implanted in us by the Creator, but arises voluntarily in our mode of life as the result of a further implantation by the devil, though it cannot prevail over us by force. For the natural and innocent passions are those which are not in our power, but which have entered into the life of man owing to the condemnation by reason of the transgression; such as hunger, thirst, weariness, labour, the tears, the corruption, the shrinking from death, the fear, the agony with the bloody sweat, the succour at the hands of angels because of the weakness of the nature, and other such like passions which belong by nature to every man.
All, then, He assumed that He might sanctify all. He was tried and overcame in order that He might prepare victory for us and give to nature power to overcome its antagonist, in order that nature which was overcome of old might overcome its former conqueror by the very weapons wherewith it had itself been overcome.
The wicked one(4), then, made his assault from without, not by thoughts prompted inwardly, just as it was with Adam. For it was not by inward thoughts, but by the serpent that Adam was assailed. But the Lord repulsed the assault and dispelled it like vapour, in order that the passions which assailed him and were overcome might be easily subdued by us, and that the new Adam should save the old.
Of a truth our natural passions were in harmony with nature and above nature in Christ. For they were stirred in Him after a natural manner when He permitted the flesh to suffer what was proper to it: but they were above nature because that which was natural did not in the Lord assume command over the will. For no compulsion is contemplated in Him but all is voluntary. For it was with His will that He hungered and thirsted and feared and died."

I hope that answers your question.
God bless

#3 Paul Cowan

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 01:47 PM

I also read somewhere that Christ was never without complete knowledge. An example would be when he was 12 years old and teaching the elders in the temple. He astonished them all by his knowledge. However he did not make himself out to be a monster in the amount of knowledge he did have over them. He astounded them. He did not "over do it" as it were.

He is completely God therefore he is omnipotent at all times, even as a baby. Look at our icons. He is a child in the Theotokos's arms yet with the face of a man. But to not scandalize His parents or others He expressed His wisdom in proportion to His age. Albeit more so than any other human could have. This also prevented the devil from knowing this was the Savior.

Paul

#4 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 05:09 AM

Dear Julia and Paul,

Thank you both for your replies. The hypothesis about Jesus disclosing his infinite wisdom in ways that were (almost) age-appropriate and which did not excessively draw attention to Him or frighten human beings, sounds reasonable and resonates with the fact that He "permitted the flesh to suffer what was proper to it...For it was with His will that He hungered and thirsted and feared and died.", as St John writes. In other words, everything Jesus did from birth onwards (even before that, I assume) could not have been anything but entirely conscious and purposive. Behind His human will, the Divine Will knows what it is doing at all times. So I'm led to the conclusion that, if as a baby He cried for milk, He did so intentionally, permitting Himself to fully experience the hunger and even the distress of a hungry baby, but never at any point being anything less than the omnipotent God at the same time (but: how can it be distress, if it is actively engaged in? Mustn't one be a passive sufferer of distress in order to be, well...distressed?!). In fact, if I understand what St John writes correctly, this is the very way in which He redeeemed our fallen human nature in His Incarnation - by being fully God and fully human at the same time. Is that correct? If it is, then what I also have difficulty 'getting my head around' (probably because I'm not meant to), is that the Almighty could rest in a human mother's arms, the Creator turn to His creation for succour and maternal love. I wonder what message this is meant to give us ordinary humans?

Paul, you write

But to not scandalize His parents or others He expressed His wisdom in proportion to His age. Albeit more so than any other human could have. This also prevented the devil from knowing this was the Savior.

This last bit about the devil, is that based on something you read, or your own hypothesis? I don't like talking about the devil, but I think this is a question which merits some attention: I find it hard to believe that the wily and malevolent fallen spirit which the devil is, would have difficulty sorting out the Son of God from other children! This geezer knows scripture perfectly, and still manages to do so much harm around the globe at the same time - are you saying he wouldn't know where his arch Enemy was?!

In Christ,
Byron

#5 Paul Cowan

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 01:57 PM

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”[a]
5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:


‘ He shall give His angels charge over you,’

and,


‘ In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”[b]

7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’”[c]
8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you,[d] Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”[e]
11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.


Why does it say "If you are the son of God" if he knew who Christ was?
Why in our hymnography does it refer to Hades being destroyed when Christ was killed. It seems pretty stupid for an intelligent creature to kill the One that would destroy its power.

Fr. Pat Reardon also mentions something to this effect. "Had the devil known he never would have killed the Saviour".

The demons knew who He was I "think" because they were allowed to know and to make Him known to those around Him. I also "think" Christ has the ability to mask Himself from anyone He chooses as He did on the road to Emmaus.

I also don't want to give satan more credit than he is due. But he is very clever against us and I am sure followed the star like the Magi did. But what miracle occured other than a vision of Gabriel to the shepherds? I can see in myself doubtful thinking of "yeah the angel said such and such but if I don't see a sign I won't believe" and there was none actually in the manger. Jesus was born into the world as any other child. No sign, doubt continues. I think the devil wanted proof like the Pharasees did and Jesus would not give it to him.

He did show to the demons who He was when He cast them out, but also told everyone to keep it quiet about Him. Only the humans blabbered their mouths to everyone. The demons obeyed. hummm, something there to look at.

Paul

#6 Father David Moser

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 02:27 PM

I am sure followed the star like the Magi did. But what miracle occured other than a vision of Gabriel to the shepherds? I can see in myself doubtful thinking of "yeah the angel said such and such but if I don't see a sign I won't believe" and there was none actually in the manger. Jesus was born into the world as any other child. No sign, doubt continues.


The devil did indeed attempt to insure his victory by inciting Herod to slaughter the Holy Innocents, and only by a miraculous vision was Joseph warned to escape with the Child and His mother to Egypt. Therefore, even though the devil could not identify the One to Whom the star pointed, he still thought that He had killed Him. And then when Joseph returned, rather than go to Bethlehem or Jerusalem, he took our Lord to Galilee from whence no prophet had spoken of the coming of the Messiah.

The devil is smart and clever, yes, but he is also ultimately proud and could not allow himself to think that his clever scheme to slaughter the Messiah had failed. Having caused the slaughter of the innocents, the devil thought he had done away with the Messiah and therefore in his mine Jesus was "just another prophet" and not the Son of God. The devil blinds himself by his pride.

Fr David Moser

#7 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 02:42 PM

One of the stikera of Matins uses words to this effect:

"Wrapped in flesh like bait on a hook, thou didst descend into hades O our Savior..."

And of course we have the most famous Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom:

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.


I'm guessing that means somebody got a very unpleasant surprise when our Lord arrived at his gates.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain,
Herman the Pooh

#8 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 03:55 PM

Look at our icons. He is a child in the Theotokos's arms yet with the face of a man.


In such icons, the Christ Child is usually shown holding a scroll; Olga will correct me if I'm wrong but I believe that represents His having divine knowledge even as a young child. What sort of self-awareness He had of His two natures when only a child I wouldn't like to speculate.

He "permitted the flesh to suffer what was proper to it...


I 'm sorry if I'm saying what is obvious to everyone but I just thought it as well to mention that 'suffer' in this context (and most others in Biblical English) is the form of that word which means to allow, not to endure pain etc. (though both meanings may mingle in some contexts).

Why does it say "If you are the son of God" if he knew who Christ was?


In an attempt to test Christ's humanity (when He was at His weakest) with the thought that He might doubt His being Son of God, and some demonstration would prove it to Himself. After all, the suggestion to turn stones into bread was very reasonable: Christ was starving hungry, and no one would see this miracle. When He later did miraculously provide food and drink it was for others, not Himself. The devil's taunt, 'If you are the Son of God' was repeated at the Crucifixion.

#9 Paul Cowan

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 03:43 AM

I'm guessing that means somebody got a very unpleasant surprise when our Lord arrived at his gates.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain,
Herman the Pooh


I would not have wanted to be the one on guard duty that day.

"Uhhh, boss? There is Someone here to see you."

#10 Father David Moser

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 04:30 AM

I'm guessing that means somebody got a very unpleasant surprise when our Lord arrived at his gates.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain,
Herman the Pooh


I would not have wanted to be the one on guard duty that day.

"Uhhh, boss? There is Someone here to see you."


From the Gospel of Nicodemus, an eyewitness account:

1 And while all the saints were rejoicing, behold Satan the prince and chief of death said unto Hell: Make thyself ready to receive Jesus who boasteth himself that he is the Son of God, whereas he is a man that feareth death, and sayeth: My soul is sorrowful even unto death. And he hath been much mine enemy, doing me great hurt, and many that I had made blind, lame, dumb, leprous, and possessed he hath healed with a word: and some whom I have brought unto thee dead, them hath he taken away from thee.

2 Hell answered and said unto Satan the prince: Who is he that is so mighty, if he be a man that feareth death? for all the mighty ones of the earth are held in subjection by my power, even they whom thou hast brought me subdued by thy power. If, then, thou art mighty, what manner of man is this Jesus who, though he fear death, resisteth thy power? If he be so mighty in his manhood, verily I say unto thee he is almighty in his god-head, and no man can withstand his power. And when he saith that he feareth death, he would ensnare thee, and woe shall be unto thee for everlasting ages. But Satan the prince of Tartarus said: Why doubtest thou and fearest to receive this Jesus which is thine adversary and mine? For I tempted him, and have stirred up mine ancient people of the Jews with envy and wrath against him. I have sharpened a spear to thrust him through, gall and vinegar have I mingled to give him to drink, and I have prepared a cross to crucify him and nails to pierce him: and his death is nigh at hand, that I may bring him unto thee to be subject unto thee and me.

3 Hell answered and said: Thou hast told me that it is he that hath taken away dead men from me. For there be many which while they lived on the earth have taken dead men from me, yet not by their own power but by prayer to God, and their almighty God hath taken them from me. Who is this Jesus which by his own word without prayer hath drawn dead men from me? Perchance it is he which by the word of his command did restore to life Lazarus which was four days dead and stank and was corrupt, whom I held here dead. Satan the prince of death answered and said: It is that same Jesus. When Hell heard that he said unto him: I adjure thee by thy strength and mine own that thou bring him not unto me. For at that time I, when I heard the command of his word, did quake and was overwhelmed with fear, and all my ministries with me were troubled. Neither could we keep Lazarus, but he like an eagle shaking himself leaped forth with all agility and swiftness, and departed from us, and the earth also which held the dead body of Lazarus straightway gave him up alive. Wherefore now I know that that man which was able to do these things is a God strong in command and mighty in manhood, and that he is the saviour of mankind. And if thou bring him unto me he will set free all that are here shut up in the hard prison and bound in the chains of their sins that cannot be broken, and will bring them unto the life of his god head for ever.

V (XXI)

1 And as Satan the prince, and Hell, spoke this together, suddenly there came a voice as of thunder and a spiritual cry: Remove, O princes, your gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in. When Hell heard that he said unto Satan the prince: Depart from me and go out of mine abode: if thou be a mighty man of war, fight thou against the King of glory. But what hast thou to do with him? And Hell cast Satan forth out of his dwelling. Then said Hell unto his wicked ministers: Shut ye the hard gates of brass and put on them the bars of iron and withstand stoutly, lest we that hold captivity be taken captive.

2 But when all the multitude of the saints heard it, they spake with a voice of rebuking unto Hell: Open thy gates, that the King of glory may come in. And David cried out, saying: Did I not when I was alive upon earth, foretell unto you: Let them give thanks unto the Lord, even his mercies and his wonders unto the children of men; who hath broken the gates of brass and smitten the bars of iron in sunder? he hath taken them out of the way of their iniquity. And thereafter in like manner Esaias said: Did not I when I was alive upon earth foretell unto you: The dead shall arise, and they that are in the tombs shall rise again, and they that are in the earth shall rejoice, for the dew which cometh of the Lord is their healing? And again I said: O death, where is thy sting? O Hell, where is thy victory?

3 When they heard that of Esaias, all the saints said unto Hell: Open thy gates: now shalt thou be overcome and weak and without strength. And there came a great voice as of thunder, saying: Remove, O princes, your gates, and be ye lift up ye doors of hell, and the King of glory shall come in. And when Hell saw that they so cried out twice, he said, as if he knew it not: Who is the King of glory? And David answered Hell and said: The words of this cry do I know, for by his spirit I prophesied the same; and now I say unto thee that which I said before: The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle, he is the King of glory. And: The Lord looked down from heaven that he might hear the groanings of them that are in fetters and deliver the children of them that have been slain. And now, O thou most foul and stinking Hell, open thy gates, that the King of glory may come in. And as David spake thus unto Hell, the Lord of majesty appeared in the form of a man and lightened the eternal darkness and brake the bonds that could not be loosed: and the succour of his everlasting might visited us that sat in the deep darkness of our transgressions and in the shadow of death of our sins.

VI (XXII)

1 When Hell and death and their wicked ministers saw that, they were stricken with fear, they and their cruel officers, at the sight of the brightness of so great light in their own realm, seeing Christ of a sudden in their abode, and they cried out, saying: We are overcome by thee. Who art thou that art sent by the Lord for our confusion? Who art thou that without all damage of corruption, and with the signs (?) of thy majesty unblemished, dost in wrath condemn our power? Who art thou that art so great and so small, both humble and exalted, both soldier and commander, a marvelous warrior in the shape of a bondsman, and a King of glory dead and living, whom the cross bare slain upon it? Thou that didst lie dead in the sepulchre hast come down unto us living and at thy death all creation quaked and all the stars were shaken and thou hast become free among the dead and dost rout our legions. Who art thou that settest free the prisoners that are held bound by original sin and restorest them into their former liberty? Who art thou that sheddest thy divine and bright light upon them that were blinded with the darkness of their sins? After the same manner all the legions of devils were stricken with like fear and cried out all together in the terror of their confusion, saying: Whence art thou, Jesus, a man so mighty and bright in majesty, so excellent without spot and clean from sin? For that world of earth which hath been always subject unto us until now, and did pay tribute to our profit, hath never sent unto us a dead man like thee, nor ever dispatched such a gift unto Hell. Who then art thou that so fearlessly enterest our borders, and not only fearest not our torments, but besides essayest to bear away all men out of our bonds? Peradventure thou art that Jesus, of whom Satan our prince said that by thy death of the cross thou shouldest receive the dominion of the whole world.

2 Then did the King of glory in his majesty trample upon death, and laid hold on Satan the prince and delivered him unto the power of Hell, and drew Adam to him unto his own brightness.

VII (XXIII)

Then Hell, receiving Satan the prince, with sore reproach said unto him: O prince of perdition and chief of destruction, Beelzebub, the scorn of the angels and spitting of the righteous why wouldest thou do this? Thou wouldest crucify the King of glory and at his decease didst promise us great spoils of his death: like a fool thou knewest not what thou didst. For behold now, this Jesus putteth to flight by the brightness of his majesty all the darkness of death, and hath broken the strong depths of the prisons, and let out the prisoners and loosed them that were bound. And all that were sighing in our torments do rejoice against us, and at their prayers our dominions are vanquished and our realms conquered, and now no nation of men feareth us any more. And beside this, the dead which were never wont to be proud triumph over us, and the captives which never could be joyful do threaten us. O prince Satan, father of all the wicked and ungodly and renegades wherefore wouldest thou do this? They that from the beginning until now have despaired of life and salvation-now is none of their wonted roarings heard, neither doth any groan from them sound in our ears, nor is there any sign of tears upon the face of any of them. O prince Satan, holder of the keys of hell, those thy riches which thou hadst gained by the tree of transgression and the losing of paradise, thou hast lost by the tree of the cross, and all thy gladness hath perished. When thou didst hang up Christ Jesus the King of glory thou wroughtest against thyself and against me. Henceforth thou shalt know what eternal torments and infinite pains thou art to suffer in my keeping for ever. O prince Satan, author of death and head of all pride, thou oughtest first to have sought out matter of evil in this Jesus: Wherefore didst thou adventure without cause to crucify him unjustly against whom thou foundest no blame, and to bring into our realm the innocent and righteous one, and to lose the guilty and the ungodly and unrighteous of the whole world? And when Hell had spoken thus unto Satan the prince, then said the King of glory unto Hell: Satan the prince shall be in thy power unto all ages in the stead of Adam and his children, even those that are my righteous ones.



#11 Olga

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 05:48 AM

In such icons, the Christ Child is usually shown holding a scroll; Olga will correct me if I'm wrong but I believe that represents His having divine knowledge even as a young child. What sort of self-awareness He had of His two natures when only a child I wouldn't like to speculate.


Indeed the scroll represents the wisdom of God. The equivalent motif in icons of the adult Christ is that of the Gospel book. There are almost innumerable verses to the Mother of God which illustrate the mystery of the Child, divine, yet human, nursed and nurtured by His mother.

If it is, then what I also have difficulty 'getting my head around' (probably because I'm not meant to), is that the Almighty could rest in a human mother's arms, the Creator turn to His creation for succour and maternal love. I wonder what message this is meant to give us ordinary humans?


The text for the vigil of the Meeting of the Lord contains some of the most beautiful and profound images and expositions of this great mystery. In this feast, there are many references to Righteous Symeon and his awe and joy at the sight of God incarnate, and his utter incomprehension and humility in holding Him in his arms. This magnification verse at ode 9 is short, but particularly evocative:

It is not the old man who holds Me, but I uphold him; for he begs Me to let him depart.

#12 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 06:35 AM

Dear all,

My question about satan knowing, or not, who the Son of God is, seems to have prompted a greater response than my initial one about the nature of the Infant Christ and His relationship to His own creation.

A number of points arise from the debate of whether the devil knew. Firstly, the words "If you are the Son of God...", to me sound indeed like a taunt, and hence I have in the past assumed that satan knew Who he was taunting. Secondly, it seems to me plausible that, in stirring the crowds to crucify Jesus, satan also knew Who he was crucifying, but wanted him out of his own domain, ie. the earth. The 'nasty surprise' would then have come because, rather than going to Heaven as one may rationally suppose, Jesus ends up paying hell a visit instead on Holy Saturday. The 'Gospel of Nicodemus', which Fr Moser kindly quotes, seems to suggest that the devil was not only stupid enough not to recognize the Son of God during His earthly ministry, but was then also dumb enough to think that, although no sin could be ascribed to this 'man', He would somehow still end up in hell, becoming subject to him. To me this sounds strange, because it suggests that the devil doesn't understand the basic equation 'no sin=Paradise'. Even if the devil was blinded to the presence of the Son of God by his own pride (which I can see as a possibility), would this cunning spirit also be so foolish as to crucify Jesus the 'man', as he presumably perceived Him, without at least checking the records first to find some sins he could imprison Jesus for? Of course, his demonic pride could have been such that he was also lazy on this occasion, simply assuming that all men, even great healers like Jesus the Nazarean, must have some sins somewhere for which they may be impugned; if such is the case, this is pretty sloppy work for the prince of darkness. The fact of hell having a shock upon receiving the King of Glory does not automatically suggest to me that the devil had previously assumed the Son of God perished during the slaughter of the innocents; instead, if Jesus did enter hell as a Divine warrior, it makes more sense that He entered it purposely, disguised as a 'mere' corpse:

It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

. Also, if demons did recognise the Son of God (e.g. the Gadarene swine incident), doesn't it make sense that - even if we assume the devil didn't know the Son of God was still alive at the time - the fiends would then run off and tell their master?

These are just questions, I would like some clarification of this point, even though I'm not ultimately concerned with whether the devil knew the Son of God or not, it currently seems far more pressing to just try to escape his satanic clutches during my own paltry existence!

By the way, one interesting thing about the pseudepigraphal 'Gospel of Nicodemus' account, is the personification of Hell. Hell is talking with satan. Hell is even male, 'he'. Is this just a literary device, or did the author think of Hell, the place or spiritual condition, as actually talking through the person of Hades, perhaps the ancient god of the underworld? If this is an 'eyewitness account' (although I think Fr Moser, you just said that in jest?) Then who is this 'person' called hell?

In Christ
Byron

#13 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 06:41 AM

Dear Olga,

The text for the vigil of the Meeting of the Lord contains some of the most beautiful and profound images and expositions of this great mystery. In this feast, there are many references to Righteous Symeon and his awe and joy at the sight of God incarnate, and his utter incomprehension and humility in holding Him in his arms. This magnification verse at ode 9 is short, but particularly evocative:

It is not the old man who holds Me, but I uphold him; for he begs Me to let him depart.

I was writing my own post while you posted yours. Thank you for this comment, which returns the focus of the thread to this mystery of the creation holding the Creator in its hands. I still wonder, what was Christ saying by making himself vulnerable like that?

In Christ
Byron

#14 Moses Ibrahim

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 06:54 AM

I remember reading that St. Theophylactus said that as Christ revealed Himself slowly. So that when it says in the Gospels that Christ grew in stature (especially when He was at age 12 in the temple teaching others), it was not that He increased in wisdom, but that He began to reveal His wisdom even more than before. Dunno if this helps at all.

#15 Olga

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 07:35 AM

By the way, one interesting thing about the pseudepigraphal 'Gospel of Nicodemus' account, is the personification of Hell. Hell is talking with satan. Hell is even male, 'he'. Is this just a literary device, or did the author think of Hell, the place or spiritual condition, as actually talking through the person of Hades, perhaps the ancient god of the underworld? If this is an 'eyewitness account' (although I think Fr Moser, you just said that in jest?) Then who is this 'person' called hell?


It may simply be that the "male" Hell is simply to do with grammatical gender, which English does not have. St Nicodemus is simply using the common literary forms available to him. Hades, the Greek word, is indeed of the masculine gender grammatically, and, in the pre-Christian world, referred to the place of the dead, as well as to the god of the underworld himself.

Placing undue importance on grammatical gender has its traps. The word wisdom is of the feminine gender in most languages, ancient and modern, and, unfortunately, has contributed greatly to the spurious sophian "theologies" based on the notion of the "divine feminine". The iconographic manifestation of such heretical ideas can be found in the images known as Christ Holy Wisdom and Angel of Blessed Silence, which depict Christ as a winged androgynous or feminine youth.

Indeed the pre-incarnate Christ is referred to as the wisdom of God. He is also called the Word of God. Logos is of the masculine grammatical gender in Greek, and in most languages (ancient and modern) varies between masculine and neuter, with the occasional feminine. So ascribing personhood based on grammatical gender is risky.

#16 Father David Moser

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 01:26 PM

it suggests that the devil doesn't understand the basic equation 'no sin=Paradise'. Even if the devil was blinded to the presence of the Son of God by his own pride


Here, I think, is a bit of western baggage peeking out. "No sin=paradise" is more of a legal concept that is more at home in the Roman Catholic satisfaction theology of redemption than in the Orthodox teaching that we are rescued from hell and healed of our wounds. The way that I "visualize" it is that when we die, we progress from earth to heaven and that part of the path between earth and heaven is hades. The devil "blocked the path" so that mankind, after death was stuck in hades and held captive there, unable to progress to paradise. However hades is not monolithic, there are places there that are closer to paradise and so "pleasanter" and there are places there that are dark and hideous. Those who were near God on this earth got as close to paradise as possible while those who hated God sought the darker places. The only way to remove the "roadblock" was for one more powerful than the devil, God Himself, to come and destroy the gates of hades and open the path, once again to paradise. Thus it was natural for the devil to assume that a mere man (remember that the devil is proud and could not himself conceive of the idea that God would humble Himself to such a degree as to actually become incarnate) would have to pass through hades and as such would get "stuck" there like everyone else. The surprise was that although Jesus Christ was indeed a "mere man", he was also fully God. Pride does not understand humility at all and thus the devil was blinded by his own monumental pride.

And keep in mind that this account (the Gospel of Nicodemus), like many other visions, dreams, images etc, is not a literal account but rather a verbal or written "icon" of a reality that we are unable to fully grasp or understand due to our fallen and corrupted nature. In the same light, the little "visualization" that I described above about what happens after we die is my attempt at explaining something that I don't understand and so is at best an icon of an icon - and probably more like a really poor and messy attempt to copy an icon.

Fr David Moser

#17 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 05:19 AM

Dear all,

It is not the old man who holds Me, but I uphold him; for he begs Me to let him depart.

I get it now. Thanks again for that quote, Olga. I still have, however, the question about what the 'form' of the infant (no lectures on docetism or Platonism, please, I'm using this word purely to describe the infant state!) is meant to signify to us as believers.

As for the gender of Hell, Fr Moser clarifies that the account is

not a literal account but rather a verbal or written "icon" of a reality that we are unable to fully grasp or understand

Is the extent to which such accounts can be used as a basis for the formulation of doctrine then perhaps in question?

Moses Ibrahim mentions Christ

revealed Himself slowly. So that when it says in the Gospels that Christ grew in stature (especially when He was at age 12 in the temple teaching others), it was not that He increased in wisdom, but that He began to reveal His wisdom even more than before.

This would chime with the fact that, during the Transfiguration, He revealed as much of His brilliant Divinity as His disciples could bear to gaze upon (actually a little more I assume, since they fell to the ground almost blinded if I recall the incident narrated in Scripture correctly). God really didn't want to scare us or impose Himself it seems...

In Christ
Byron

#18 Father David Moser

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 01:30 PM

As for the gender of Hell, Fr Moser clarifies ... Is the extent to which such accounts can be used as a basis for the formulation of doctrine then perhaps in question?


This account is not the basis of any doctrine. All truth is already revealed to us in Christ and so we need no other "basis for the formulation of doctrine". This account, rather, is an expression of the revelation that already exists.

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#19 Benjamin Martin

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 07:29 AM

Dear all,

I have the following query: when Christ was an infant, was He helpless and (almost) totally dependant like ordinary human babies? Did He cry to be fed, changed, rocked to sleep? Did He scream in discomfort?

I am trying to understand the notion of voluntary passion through this question. If it is a desparate plea for e.g. milk, how can it be voluntary? Or is the voluntary part only in the condescension to take on these human needs in the first place?

I hope this is expressed clearly enough. I'd just like to know what kind of baby Jesus was - a baby Who knows everything?!

In Christ
Byron

 

Hello Byron,

 

This might help you with a deeper understanding of what the Bible teaches concerning the Hypostatic Union.

 

Physical And Intellectual Growth

 

Through a genetic makeup the "unique/one of a kind" 12 year old child grew (Greek αὐξάνω - transliteration auxano) which means "to cause to grow and to increase" (Luke 2:40 & 52) wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Jesus and John's intelligences and bodies goes through by a normal stages of being a human. Both had their normal development of physical, mental, and emotional growth, etc. Even Jesus accommodated or adapted himself to the Jewish languages, cultures, and their mentality among the people of that specific times era without ever compromising the integrity of his Deity. He also grew in the process within his genotype which the body developed in puberty or the process of physical changes strengthen within a child's body to adult's body of reproduction. The hormones is what stimulate growth and transforming the body organs, bones, muscle, voice and hair.

 

In the town of Nazareth Jesus grew and became strong:
 

Luke 2:39, 40 "When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

 

In the wilderness or desert John grew and became strong:

 

Luke 1:80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
 

But there was something different about Jesus growth:


Luke 2:52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man."

 

Grow in Wisdom - Now Christ's Divine Nature helped in the influence and growth of his soul/spirit by the possession of wisdom (Greek σοφία - transliteration sophia) which means "broad and full of intelligence" (grew in and filled with wisdom Luke 2:40, 52) this indicates that "broad" is used in the sense that he grew in intelligence in varities of diverse matters. He had full of intelligence acquired by acuteness and experience that his human intellect can only reach to it maxium capacity can only extend towards, in which, Jesus's human intellect basically grew in both humanity and Divine as the God/man.

 

  • Knowledge of things that be of Divine (Matthew 12:42, 13:54). Though he did not possess a full knowledge of his Divinity that he physically possesses in his One Person. But the One Person in his humanity remained in the consciousness of Deity, and in his incarnate state he carried out the mind which animated him before his incarnation. He was clearly able to assert where he came from (John 8:42, 16:27, 17:8), and his eternal pre-existence (before Abraham John 8:58, before the world came into existence John 17:5, 24) with the Father.

 

  • Knowledge of things that be of humanity (Matthew 11:19). Then from the stand point of his human intellect he grew in the acknowledment and wisdom of his Deity. The rational soul of Jesus is gradually and developing his self-consciousness within his incarnated state; but he never quite successfully attained 'what' and 'who' he fully is of himself. Or in his human consciousness he never became fully aware of his self-identity, nor was he fully aware of his human nature that's in subsistence with the Divine Nature by the union of One Person.

Grow in Stature - Both natures entered into training and development into his stature (Greek ἡλικία - transliteration hēlikia) which means "a time of life to adult age in maturity;" the growth were as real in the experience of Jesus as in that of any other human being. Which his holy sinless human nature has grown from both Divine Nature and the human body of being God/childhood to God/manhood. The Divine Person didn’t suddenly appears in a body as a fully grown man; but that he had a real physical birth through a genetic makeup and his body grew in a genotype that developed in the union of both natures of human and Divine through the act of holiness.
 

  • For both natures must be holy in order to be inseparable, subsisting, and united to each other because a one Divine Person cannot assume a sinful human nature. The Divine Nature doesn't increase or grow but the human nature grew in the subsistence with the Divine Nature by the union of one Divine Person. And the one Divine Person influenced his steady increasing growth by the union of two natures by development of bodily powers and mental faculties.

 

  • The human nature could not have sinned without the consent of his one Divine Person (1 John 3:5, 1 Peter 2:24, 2 Corinthians 5:21) for which the Divine Person requires a work of perfection that automatically have supremacy over every impulse and affection of his human nature to be without sin. And his holy sinless human nature undoubtedly materially assisted in the influence of his growth. He remain sinless through his infirmities, restrictions, and limitations in the human nature to meet our needs.

And became strong - Both natures grew in the construction of what it will be as fully God and fully man in one Person of Christ. And through his growth of wisdom and stature has made him strong (Greek κραταιόω - transliteration krataioō) which means "to increase in strength or strengthen" because he had to grow in wisdom in order to be filled with wisdom, and then he became strong in spirit. The description of fully God and fully man is both natures have their own attributes or their own inherent substantial qualities within their natures is an indication of his fashion. And through Mary the physical birth and physical growth of Jesus Christ in the union between the human nature to the Divine Nature is like an analogy of ignited iron. There is not two separate natures of iron and fire, but iron is united with fire. And the ignited iron preserves all the properties of iron and all the properties of fire.

 

Distinct in their union - The distinction of two natures and two wills in their union has developed a plurality. For both natures function independently unless the divine will adds assistance or interference to the human will. And the composition of their natures are harmonizing, by them being set apart within their individual substance, and still maintaining their uniqueness without change in the continuity of a single unit as a whole.


Preserved in their union - The two natures maintain a safe preservation and protected from any contingent loss. Both natures stay the same nor does it emptied itself of their properties. Each natures’ properties are isolated and detained within its own physis/substances. These properties co-operate in the human nature’s will dependently and the divine nature’s will independently. And these properties do not separate into parts, but are the whole nature itself.


The One Person is in the fashion (Greek σχῆμα - transliteration schema) which means "a figure or appearance as" a man (Philippians 2:8, Hebrew 2:17) of his outward phenotype. Because he is made resemble in comparison or like us in all things of personal appearance and sufferings that he experienced. When Jesus Christ walked upon earth he was recognized and enquired what he was in the eyes of men. He had no physical attractiveness or glorious beauty. His physical description is signifying his whole outward presentation of perceptible mode and shape by containing a outline portary or the semblance of an human person such as: head, neck, torso, arms, legs. Only in a personal appearance, along with the characteristics, actions, and mannerism of life.






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