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Do monastics ever get lonely?


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#1 Christina M.

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 04:00 PM

I guess this question is about monastics who live inside community (cenobitic) monasteries. I figure that many/most of them do not converse very much with people, and they don't have many friends. Do they ever get lonely because of this type of seclusion, or does their close relationship with God prevent them from ever getting lonely?

If a monastic is not doing well spiritually, would he/she be more likely to feel lonely? On the other hand, if someone is usually in a very healthy spiritual state, is it safe to assume that such a person would never feel lonely, even if living in total seclusion?

#2 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 05:11 PM

Dear Christina,


I am as you know not a monastic so I will leave the first question to those who are, although I do bring to mind some saints who lived together in asceticism in the desert and never really spoke to each other and yet were very close, I think it was two friends who were both monks in one case and a teacher and his disciple in another.

Whoever in regard to the second question, I personally find I am far more lonely when I have sinned and feel far from God, and far more content when I feel near Him.

In Christ.
Daniel,

#3 IoanC

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 06:15 PM

We should not feel lonely. Most importantly, God is always with us.
As Daniel said, monks usually live in communities. Hermit monks have the blessing of spiritual father and are ready and suited for a life of isolation in prayer.
Of course, things are not always perfect, and we will feel estranged from the world and even God. But these feelings are to be avoided, we should not allow ourselves to fall into depression, or worse, lack of hope in God. We should have faith that God is close to us and He loves us, and we should strive to acquire The Grace of The Holy Spirit so that we feel God's presence in us, always.

#4 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 06:25 PM

It is in times of "loneliness" that we can feel closest to God. There was a time in my life when I was very isolated. It was then that God chose to make Himself apparent to me in a very special way that is very hard to explain. When you know you are surrounded by the angels and the saints, the Blessed Theotokos who prays for us, and to know that God is nearer than we think, one is less likely to be "lonely".

#5 Ilaria

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 07:13 PM

Well, i do not know if they feel lonely, but surely sometimes they may have temptations for something sweet!
I will illustrate this by a joke which I know from a monastic:
a certain nun had a huge appetite for a pancake. What to do? she started to pray st John the Baptist (aside: why John the Baptist??? he used to be so ascetic) to send her a small pancake, through an acquaintance. So she prayed, and prayed,again and again, fervently prayed. At last, st John had a response to her: 'why do you ask me for pancakes? Ask st Nicholas, he is the one that fulfils all your desires!' so she did. and a pancake arrived :)

I wanted to emphasize that monks do feel like any of us - they are not yet 'out of this body'; they struggle, they have bigger temptations than those outside this 'arena'.

#6 Father Stephanos

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 03:27 AM

Orthodox Christian monastics usually would not get lonely because of the seclusion of living in a cenobitic monastery unless our Lord Jesus Christ allowed it for a specific spiritual instruction or the monastic is greatly suffering spiritually.

All Orthodox Christian monastics are "married" to our Lord Jesus Christ; so as Daniel and Ioan have indicated, our Lord Jesus Christ is always with them, so they are not lonely. They are having agape for God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, or at least seriously trying to so, while having agape for their neighbor, whether resident monastic or pilgrim, as themselves.

Beside this, every Orthodox monastic has a spiritual father and/or a spiritual mother with whom they are usually able to speak with on a daily basis. In some cenobitic monasteries the monastics speak very little with one another; in some other cenobitic monasteries they are like tiny cities where they speak as needed, sometimes, more than they want to.

Importantly also, before all this takes place, a candidate for monasticism usually undergoes a waiting period (novitiate), traditionally of at least one year, sometimes three, seven, or more years, to help discern whether the monastic candidate is actually called by our Lord Jesus Christ to become a monastic who, among other things, would not get lonely.

I hope this helps!

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Father Stephanos



#7 Christina M.

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 12:37 PM

Thanks so much, everyone, for these wonderful replies!! I feel like I learned a lot.

God bless!

In Christ,
Christina

#8 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 01:48 PM

But we could also ask: do married people ever get lonely? Yes- certainly they do and at times they find themselves in a depth of loneliness that is very deep.

So- such a state is from our inner brokeness and separation from God, not from lack of physical proximity to people or from lack of emotional relationships. For monastics very often live in far more of a community than do people in the world; they often have far more interaction with people as part of their obedience. But still like married people they can struggle with loneliness, as part of the struggle to grow in Christ.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#9 Jan Sunqvist

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 03:19 AM

God is a Trinity, but He is also One God. A unique Being, Creator of all that exists. No one else like Him. As such He has no equals. Does He ever get lonely?

#10 Father Stephanos

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 05:45 AM

God is a Trinity, but He is also One God. A unique Being, Creator of all that exists. No one else like Him. As such He has no equals. Does He ever get lonely?


No.

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Father Stephanos

#11 Jan Sunqvist

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 12:44 PM

Logos Incarnate experienced not just rejection but loneliness and sorrow. And He was not in a state of 'inner brokeness and separation from the Father', so I would suppose that not all experience of sorrow and loneliness are due to separation from God.

#12 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 09:13 PM

But on the other hand there is also this to think about:

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Mt 27:46).

#13 Father Stephanos

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 09:39 PM

For discussion purposes, I would like to submit, that our Lord Jesus Christ while alone at various times, such as when he went off alone to pray, was never lonely or experienced loneliness in any other sense of the word.

Where in our Holy Scripture is our Lord Jesus Christ actually lonely or experiencing loneliness, rather than just being alone for a specific reason?

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Father Stephanos

#14 Antonios

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 07:31 AM

For discussion purposes, I would like to submit, that our Lord Jesus Christ while alone at various times, such as when he went off alone to pray, was never lonely or experienced loneliness in any other sense of the word.

Where in our Holy Scripture is our Lord Jesus Christ actually lonely or experiencing loneliness, rather than just being alone for a specific reason?

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Father Stephanos


Dear Father Stephanos,

Evlogite pater!

It is my understanding (though I may be mistaken) that in Christ's human nature, He experienced anxiety, fear, and agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, as this is demonstrated when He cried tears of blood and asked the Father to have the cup pass before Him.

However, in typical Christ-like fashion, His human will succumbed to His divine will, in perfect obedience proclaiming 'not what I will, but what You will', and in doing so He overcame anxiety and fear and rendered it powerless.

Similary, Christ in His human nature experienced human doubt, loneliness and despair when He called out on the Cross 'My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?!' as was prophecized by King David. This was the final work of His earthly ministry before He died, namely to experience and overcome human doubt, loneliness and despair (which is abandonment and separation from God). Not that He was abandoned by God or seperated from Him, for how can He separate from Himself! But rather, to heal the final human impediment and corruption which remained, namely doubt and despair, so as to destroy the power of death through faith and trust in God. This is partly what St. Paul means when he said that Christ became sin in order to vanquish sin. Christ in His human nature experienced doubt in order to vanquish doubt. He experienced loneliness in order to vanquish loneliness. For what is unassumed is not healed, and what greater human failing exists which needs to be healed then doubt and feeling abandoned by God?

And after doing so, after overcoming the doubt and feeling of abandonment (beautifully prophecized a little later in that same psalm above), fulfilled the next prophecy saying:[TABLE="class: mainbk, width: 100%, align: center"]
[TR]
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[TR]
[TD][TABLE="width: 100%"]
[TR]
[TD="class: btext, colspan: 2"]Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth. (Psalm 31:5)[/TD]
[/TR]
[/TABLE]
[/TD]
[/TR]
[/TABLE]
[/TD]
[/TR]
[/TABLE]

With that, it was finished. The human experience of doubt, separation and estrangement from God was overcome (and with it the power of death over man) by Christ through His perfect obedience, faith and trust in the Father.

Again, this is my understanding which may be in error, so forgive me if I am. Also, I hope this does not derail the thread.

In Christ,
Antonios

Edited by Antonios, 20 August 2012 - 07:52 AM.


#15 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 02:38 PM

Yes- we always need to keep in mind that Christ has experience of what the Fathers refer to as the blameless passions such as fear of death. By this we do not mean that the pre-eternal Logos, Who is Life itself, fears death. Rather we mean that the incarnate Word shares in the human condition, except for sinful actions. As such then it could be argued that on the Cross, Christ did experience that separation from God which caused Him to cry out; "My God, My God why hast Thou abandoned Me?"

As relating to us I think it is crucial to always keep in mind what is central to our theology concerning Christ that He shares in the human condition except for the commission of sinful action. Even here we have to be very careful of what we mean for we never mean that Christ does not know the significance of sin. Most certainly He does for as Creator of life He knows more than anything created what the meaning of the denial of this life means- and so He does experience in a sinless way the effects of sin.

Of course for us the cause of the experience of sin is in a sense always the result of our sin. This is radically different from the experience of the Word Who is Life itself. However what is similar is that as the Word as incarnate does experience what is broken in the human condition so we too in Christ are allowed to experience human brokeness on the wider level beyond just ourselves.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#16 Father Stephanos

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 04:17 AM

Dear Father Stephanos,

Evlogite pater!

It is my understanding (though I may be mistaken) that in Christ's human nature, He experienced anxiety, fear, and agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, as this is demonstrated when He cried tears of blood and asked the Father to have the cup pass before Him.

However, in typical Christ-like fashion, His human will succumbed to His divine will, in perfect obedience proclaiming 'not what I will, but what You will', and in doing so He overcame anxiety and fear and rendered it powerless.

Similary, Christ in His human nature experienced human doubt, loneliness and despair when He called out on the Cross 'My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?!' as was prophecized by King David. This was the final work of His earthly ministry before He died, namely to experience and overcome human doubt, loneliness and despair (which is abandonment and separation from God). Not that He was abandoned by God or seperated from Him, for how can He separate from Himself! But rather, to heal the final human impediment and corruption which remained, namely doubt and despair, so as to destroy the power of death through faith and trust in God. This is partly what St. Paul means when he said that Christ became sin in order to vanquish sin. Christ in His human nature experienced doubt in order to vanquish doubt. He experienced loneliness in order to vanquish loneliness. For what is unassumed is not healed, and what greater human failing exists which needs to be healed then doubt and feeling abandoned by God?

And after doing so, after overcoming the doubt and feeling of abandonment (beautifully prophecized a little later in that same psalm above), fulfilled the next prophecy saying:
Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth. (Psalm 31:5)

With that, it was finished. The human experience of doubt, separation and estrangement from God was overcome (and with it the power of death over man) by Christ through His perfect obedience, faith and trust in the Father.

Again, this is my understanding which may be in error, so forgive me if I am. Also, I hope this does not derail the thread.

In Christ,
Antonios

Dear Antonios,

Ἡ εὐλογία τοῦ Κυρίοῦ!

Briefly, our Lord Jesus Christ did not experience anxiety, fear, or agony for Himself and for what he was going to do. If you remember, during Holy and Great Week many of our hymns talk about our Lord running to the Cross and His Death. He was on a mission to conquer and destroy sin and death. He knew what to do, and He knew He would be successful!

As the Holy Prophet Moses the God-Seer often interceded for the Israelites, so our Lord Jesus Christ interceded for all people during His Holy Passion. In Gethsemane, He was praying for all human beings. He came to save everyone, which was still possible until after He left Gethsemane. The cup that He wanted to pass was that some human beings, such as Judas Iscariot; the high priests, Annas and Caiaphas; Herod; et cetera, He would not be able to save, since they had so violently acted against God. Such people, who act so violently against God, do not truly repent, as it is extremely hard, if not impossible, for anyone who is so against God to be saved. In other words, our Lord Jesus Christ in His great agape and storge for us wanted everyone to be able to enter into Paradise and for no one to enter into eternal punishment. This is why He was weeping tears of blood. Once it was decided that everything should go forward as planned, our Lord Jesus Christ went forward knowing that some would be lost. Now, we better understand why Judas Iscariot did not repent. He could not repent and be forgiven because of the nature of his sin. Neither could Annas and Caiaphas. This is why it is a false supposition to assume that Judas Iscariot could have repented and been forgiven by our Lord Jesus Christ after that fateful kiss of betrayal. The verbal denial of the Holy Apostle Peter was a different type of sin than Judas Iscariot’s kiss of betrayal.

Concerning our Lord Jesus Christ’s words on the Cross: Our Lord Jesus Christ as a devout Israelite, just as many devout Israelites, knew all of the Psalter by heart. Saint Joseph the Betrothed and our Most-Holy Theotokos Maria, as devout Israelites, would have taught Him to memorize, not only the Psalter, but other passages from the Old Testament as well.

When our Lord Jesus Christ was on the precious and Life-making Cross and when He knew that His soul was about to separate from His body, in Hebrew He shouted for all about Him to hear in prayer: all of Psalm 21, which begins “My God, my God why have Thou forsaken me?”

We must remember that the written Holy Gospel was written within our Holy Church of our Lord Jesus Christ for His Holy Church. Furthermore, back in the 1st century, writers and scribes sometimes used acceptable abbreviation devices such as quoting the first few words of a psalm to indicate the psalm being referred to, as writing surfaces, such as papyrus and parchment, were not so easily available, and the more that had to be copied, the more expensive the transcription was. This is the reason why only the first few words of the Psalm 21 are quoted in the Holy Gospel according to both the Holy Evangelists Matthew and Mark. Still today while praying, many Orthodox Christians do not necessarily refer to different psalms by their number, but by the first few words of the psalm. For example, Psalm 50 is not referred to as “Psalm 50,” but as, “Have mercy on me, God.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed the entirety of Psalm 21 on the Cross. This very Psalm 21 was used by the Holy Prophet David the King and other devout Israelites whenever they were in desperate life-and-death situations, but knew without a doubt in the end they were going to be victorious. When we pray this psalm, we see it is also a prophecy about our Lord Jesus Christ’s passion, and we see how appropriate it was for our Lord to pray this holy psalm when He did. When our Lord Jesus Christ prayed this psalm on the Cross, it was to let those who were nearby Him know that He knew He was going to be victorious in this situation. Remember, His Holy Passion was voluntary on His part. He could have escaped death at any time with or without His legions of heavenly bodiless Hosts. But as so many other things He did for our benefit, He showed us how to accept death with prayers on our lips. He showed us not to be afraid of death. He showed us how to enter into Paradise.

One of the reasons He accepted death on the Cross was to put an end to the Old Testament Law including the Levitical Priesthood. Another reason He accepted death on the Cross, as you have stated, was to assume our sins, without partaking of them, and heal us of them. However, He was not overwhelmed by our sins and did not personally doubt and feel abandoned by God while He was on the Cross.

Our Lord Jesus Christ was not afraid, anxious, or in agony about His own death; and when we consider how others have faced death over the millennia; it does not make much sense for Him to have been afraid, anxious, or in agony about His own death. We do not even have to look at the resolve of any of our Holy Martyrs and Holy Greatmartyresses and other Saints of our Holy Church who after the Holy Resurrection were not afraid of death while remembering that our Lord Jesus Christ told us that a servant is not greater than the Master. He set the example not to be afraid of Death; it was not the other way around. Let us look at some of the Saints of Old Testament times: for instance, the Holy seven Martyrs of the Maccabees: Aveim, Anthony, Gurios, Eleazar, Efsevonas, Achein, and Markellos, and their mother the Holy Martyress Solomone and their Teacher, the Holy Martyr Eleazar were not afraid, anxious, or in agony about death; neither were the Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Children Ananias, Azarias, and Mishael afraid, anxious, or in agony concerning death; and numerous others were not afraid of death (whom I am sure other members of our forum could point out), yet some incorrectly suppose that our Lord Jesus Christ was afraid of death. It is not true that our Lord Jesus Christ was afraid, anxious, or in agony about facing His death — His Holy Passion and Death was voluntary on His part. Unfortunately, misplaced suppositions by those who do not know what actually happened, especially by those outside our Holy Church, has influenced the beliefs of many inside our Holy Church.

Now when we understand, as our Holy Orthodox Church teaches us, what actually happened in the Garden of Gethsemane and why our Lord Jesus Christ prayed all of Psalm 21 rather than just the first few words of Psalm 21 shortly before His soul separated from His body, we are able to comprehend the true great significance of these holy events. In addition, as Orthodox Christians since we better grasp what happened then, we thus see that for good reasons our Holy Church is able to teach about the Truth.

God bless you.

I hope this helps!

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Father Stephanos

#17 Antonios

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 07:32 AM

Dear Father Stephanos,

Give the blessing!

Thank you for your reply and for the time you took in writing it. I know I have much to learn and that there will be much I will never learn, which I why I pray for His mercy, for I have no hope outside of His mercy.

Much of what you have written above rings very true to me. I am familiar with much of what you mentioned, which brings me great reassurance. For example, I believe Christ knew very well what He was running to and what He would accomplish on the Cross and do not doubt His steadfast and pure offering of selfless love on the Cross for the sake of all.

I do however have a difficult time interpreting the scene in the Garden where He cried tears of blood and prayed to the Father to have the cup pass before Him. For it seems (to me and from my little study) that He was experiencing real human anguish and human fear of what He was about to go through. This may very well be due to my limited knowledge and experience which puts me in error, as I simply may be misled or have not read enough Patristic commentary. For example, the reason you have given in your reply, namely that Christ cried tears of blood without the experience of anguish and prayed for the cup to pass before Him because He could not save Judas or Caiaphas are teachings I don't recall having read before. I would be grateful Father if you could lead me to some Patristic writings or other sources which further expound on this this so that I might study them as well. I admit I have barely scratched the surface in studying the writings of the Fathers.

With the little I have read, I think it is a well established Orthodox teaching that Christ, being fully Man and fully God, felt the lashings of the whips and the piercing of the nails and experienced physical pain and suffering during His Passion. This is of course in contrast to the Gnostics who believed that Christ did not suffer or feel death on the Cross but only appeared to. Likewise, Christ felt hunger and pain and thirst and all the other physical ailments of the fallen flesh. Holy Scriptures also tell us that Christ became angry, that He marveled, and that He wept, all human experiences of passability. Of course, we do not believe God the Father experienced these things and ascribe to the heresy of patripassianism as Sabellius did and, in the end, try to crucify the Father. We know that it is in the God-Man Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity and Incarnate Word of God, that these human passions and experiences were encountered and vanquished in order for redemption and healing to occur and for salvation take place.

It seems to me that Christ feeling hunger and pain did not make Him less God, but rather more human according to the condition we have become on account of our sins. And as He overcame hunger by His fasting and obedience and trust in the Father, likewise He overcame every and all human passions. For the Holy Fathers tell us that the sin is in the assent to the passion or temptation, and not in the temptation itself. Thus, although He experienced temptation as the Incarnate Son of God, He never assent to it, neither in the Desert or in the Garden. Thus, it is for our benefit that we hear Him ask the Father in the Garden 'If You are willing take this cup from me, but not as I will but as You will', for in this way Christ shows us the way we are to overcome fear, namely by submitting ourselves to the will of God and trusting in Him. And the strength He gives us is because He Himself overcame it first.

Likewise, Christ sinlessly experienced doubt and abandonment and yelled 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me' because He experienced that final temptation and human passion, though He did not assent to it. Thus, He proclaimed that cry and fulfilled the prophecy not because He assented to it and was overtaken by it, but rather because He experienced it right before He destroyed it, again saying it out loud and for our benefit so that we too can know how to pray in those moments we might feel abandoned and forsaken by God.

Anyway, it is getting late here Father and I must get some rest. I know that I may very well be in error and that is why I humble ask your forgiveness for any misunderstands or dangerous things I may have said which do not agree with what you have written above. I ask that you please have patience with me and hope you (or anyone else for that matter) can correct me and help me understand better those things which I am in error with.

In Christ,
Antonios

#18 Father Stephanos

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 10:42 AM

Dear Father Stephanos,

Give the blessing!

Thank you for your reply and for the time you took in writing it. I know I have much to learn and that there will be much I will never learn, which I why I pray for His mercy, for I have no hope outside of His mercy.

Much of what you have written above rings very true to me. I am familiar with much of what you mentioned, which brings me great reassurance. For example, I believe Christ knew very well what He was running to and what He would accomplish on the Cross and do not doubt His steadfast and pure offering of selfless love on the Cross for the sake of all.

I do however have a difficult time interpreting the scene in the Garden where He cried tears of blood and prayed to the Father to have the cup pass before Him. For it seems (to me and from my little study) that He was experiencing real human anguish and human fear of what He was about to go through. This may very well be due to my limited knowledge and experience which puts me in error, as I simply may be misled or have not read enough Patristic commentary. For example, the reason you have given in your reply, namely that Christ cried tears of blood without the experience of anguish and prayed for the cup to pass before Him because He could not save Judas or Caiaphas are teachings I don't recall having read before. I would be grateful Father if you could lead me to some Patristic writings or other sources which further expound on this this so that I might study them as well. I admit I have barely scratched the surface in studying the writings of the Fathers.

With the little I have read, I think it is a well established Orthodox teaching that Christ, being fully Man and fully God, felt the lashings of the whips and the piercing of the nails and experienced physical pain and suffering during His Passion. This is of course in contrast to the Gnostics who believed that Christ did not suffer or feel death on the Cross but only appeared to. Likewise, Christ felt hunger and pain and thirst and all the other physical ailments of the fallen flesh. Holy Scriptures also tell us that Christ became angry, that He marveled, and that He wept, all human experiences of passability. Of course, we do not believe God the Father experienced these things and ascribe to the heresy of patripassianism as Sabellius did and, in the end, try to crucify the Father. We know that it is in the God-Man Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity and Incarnate Word of God, that these human passions and experiences were encountered and vanquished in order for redemption and healing to occur and for salvation take place.

It seems to me that Christ feeling hunger and pain did not make Him less God, but rather more human according to the condition we have become on account of our sins. And as He overcame hunger by His fasting and obedience and trust in the Father, likewise He overcame every and all human passions. For the Holy Fathers tell us that the sin is in the assent to the passion or temptation, and not in the temptation itself. Thus, although He experienced temptation as the Incarnate Son of God, He never assent to it, neither in the Desert or in the Garden. Thus, it is for our benefit that we hear Him ask the Father in the Garden 'If You are willing take this cup from me, but not as I will but as You will', for in this way Christ shows us the way we are to overcome fear, namely by submitting ourselves to the will of God and trusting in Him. And the strength He gives us is because He Himself overcame it first.

Likewise, Christ sinlessly experienced doubt and abandonment and yelled 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me' because He experienced that final temptation and human passion, though He did not assent to it. Thus, He proclaimed that cry and fulfilled the prophecy not because He assented to it and was overtaken by it, but rather because He experienced it right before He destroyed it, again saying it out loud and for our benefit so that we too can know how to pray in those moments we might feel abandoned and forsaken by God.

Anyway, it is getting late here Father and I must get some rest. I know that I may very well be in error and that is why I humble ask your forgiveness for any misunderstands or dangerous things I may have said which do not agree with what you have written above. I ask that you please have patience with me and hope you (or anyone else for that matter) can correct me and help me understand better those things which I am in error with.

In Christ,
Antonios

Dear Antonios,

The blessing of the Lord!

If I remember correctly, you could start with our Father among the Saints Kyril of Alexandria's Commentary on Luke for what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Again, our Lord Jesus Christ recited all of Psalm 21, not just the first several words. I was taught within our Holy Orthodox Church, both in seminary and outside of seminary, that He did not feel the doubt and abandonment that could otherwise be taught if He only prayed the first several words of Psalm 21 and not all of it.

You could also talk with with some devout, knowledgeable Orthodox Christian priests and/or monastics in the United States, from Greece if necessary, perhaps for more information on both of these above matters.

I hope this helps!

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,

+ Father Stephanos



#19 Antonios

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 04:47 PM

Dear Father Stephanos,

The commentaries of St.Cyril confirm what you have written above with regards to the reason why Christ was 'sorrowful unto death', namely that His sorrow and anguish was not because of fear of what He would soon endure but rather that there would be many who would still fall away on account of their sins. Thank you for directing me to these works by St. Cyril (I have found his commentaries on John as well!) and for correcting me in my error.

#20 Antonios

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 04:58 PM

Here is commentary by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpatkos:

Christ's fourth saying on the Cross is the cry: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46). This saying must be interpreted in an Orthodox way, within the interpretive analysis of the holy Fathers of the Church, because otherwise it can be considered heretical. This is said because there are some scholastics and rationalists who try to interpret these words of Christ by maintaining that, if only for a few seconds, the divine nature abandoned the human nature on the Cross in order for Christ to feel the pain, the suffering of His abandonment.

In the first place this saying is connected with a Psalm of David (22) which is purely christological, since it refers to Christ's incarnation and His saving Passion, and which begins as follows: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Ps. 22:1). This Psalm is prophetic, because it reveals Christ's suffering on the Cross. Christ was not repeating it mechanically, but by the repetition He was fulfilling the prophecy. Of course the prophet's vision came first, and Christ said it in order for all the prophecies which had been spoken about Him to be fulfilled.

St. Gregory the Theologian, interpreting this cry of Christ, says that Christ was not abandoned by either His Father or by His own divinity, as if fearing the Passion and shrinking from the suffering of the Christ. So what happened? By this cry Christ "stamps on Himself what is ours". In other words, at that moment Christ is speaking in our place. For we were those abandoned and overlooked and then assumed and saved by the Passion of the impassible One. And St. Cyril of Alexandria, interpreting this, says that "He abandoned understanding and forgave the passion". Christ's kenosis, which began with His incarnation, reached its highest point. And this is called abandonment.

We have emphasized in previous analyses that in Christ the divine and human natures were united unchangeably, inseparably and indivisibly, according to the definition of the Fourth Ecumenical Council. This means that they have not been separated, nor ever will be separated. And this is why we can partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. So this cry of Christ to the Father expresses our own cry at having lost communion with God through sin. Moreover, Christ was suffering for us.


I understand that Christ was never abandoned by the Father, but my confusion is in the final sentence of this commentary. Christ is suffering for us and 'this cry of Christ to the Father expresses our own cry at having lost communion with God through sin'. So, does this mean that He experienced the suffering of abandonment for our sake even as He Himself was never was abandoned by the Father?




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