John the Forerunner, the beginning of the joy-bearing message about the coming of our Christ in the world, ceaselessly preaches the gospel of salvation for about two thousand years: “Brethren, prepare the way, make straight the paths of your hearts, He is coming, who is incomparably stronger than me, He, of whom I am not worthy to bow and loosen the straps of his sandals. Christ, the King of glory:” “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.
Fearful are the words, the witness of the divinity of the Word is unique, the clarity of the meanings of the Forerunner are crystal clear. God came and became a man: there is His preaching! Consequently, for centuries the Church clearly borrows lives and preaches this confession. Did she help the people to understand and believe it? If today’s man asks: “What is Christ for you?” What he will answer?
Christ was also troubled by these fearful questions. The questions of Christ to His Disciples: “who do people say the Son of man is?” and “You, who do you say He is?” are not naturally the fruit of a curiosity of Christ, who is seeking from the Disciples’ answer to support His consciousness of self. They are a challenge of our faith in Him. We must give the correct answer about Christ’s essence, to be able to find salvation in Christ. From the manner in which we see and approach Christ, governs our deliverance. It is possible for us to speak about Christ, to say that we are Christians, and yet not to become partakers of salvation in Christ. This happens when we don’t correctly approach Christ, or rather, when we don’t accept the True Christ, but other “Christ’s” of our own, which are unable to save us.
Jesus got the disciples’ answer that is similar to that which people give to this question: Some say that you are John, other Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”
This answer is a landmark which reveals peoples’ attitudes throughout time. Glancing at history we see how much ink rationalism has lost striving to limit the God-man Christ to a man, to shrink to the framework of an earthly man? Systematically Christ is diminished. Arius’ work is constantly performed, and it seems that rationalism does still doesn’t want to bury it. The “Religion” of pure logic and individualism measure Christ with the criterion of His persecutors. It lowers Christ to a man. “It boasts” that Christ is a great man, a wise man, the greatest revolutionary or Teacher but certainly not God! Man became the measure of everything, visible and invisible, and thus blurred it rejected whatever was higher than it, greater, more infinite. This cheap measure narrows the God-man Lord to a human, thus choking the proud human mind and leading it to not recognize any reality greater than himself, the human.
But heresy throughout time pursued the same thing. Either it takes the flesh off Christ and wants him as a “thin” only God or it chokes God in His person, making Him a “thin” man alone. The Church, the Body of Christ, never pursued to “construct” some Christ, but struggled to hand over throughout History the one Christ and to confess Him, as the Disciples with Peter’s saying: “You are Christ, the son of the living God.” And John very theologically ascertains: “Who is the liar except him who denies that Jesus is not Christ? He is the antichrist, who denies the Father and the Son.” The Lord himself, asked by His unlawful judges if Christ is the Son of God, stunned them saying: “It is I”.
But also the Church between the 1st and especially the 4th Ecumenical Synod confessed its faith in Christ as a perfect God and perfect man-one person-God who “became a man to deify us in himself” according to Athanasios the Great.
The incarnate Word, the God-man Jesus is precisely the essence of God’s Revelation, the Life of the world. And this Orthodox Christocentrism guarantees the capability in man to recognize the mystery of the Trinitarian God.
If God became man, then man is saved.
Only the Church which tastes and breathes Christ as “the lamb of God”, according to the Forerunner’s confession is justified to tell us who and what Christ is.
The witness of the Church, about Christ, to the person of every age remains firm and immovable: Christ is perfect God and perfect man. And this is the Christ of the Church, who is offered always as an answer to the search of the world.
As we are stepping on the doorstep of one more New Year, the great prophet
the Forerunner and Baptist, in the Jordan desert, today also, points to the world the Lamb of God, our Deliverer and Lord Jesus Christ. “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Fearful are the words; the witness of the divinity of the Word, for the meanings of the Forerunner are crystal clear. God came and became a man; there is his preaching! For centuries now the Church clearly borrows, lives and preaches this confession. Did the Church aid the world in believing it? If contemporary man is asked: “Who is Christ for you?” What will he answer?
by Katerina Tsakiri
Translated by Fr. Nicholas Palis from Πειραϊκή Ἑκκλησία
January 2002, Vol. 123 (230) pp. 8-9; Edited by Anastasia A. Koutoulakis.