Re: My doubts on Good Friday Service
- Dearly beloved in Christ,
I take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed to my query with their mite. It is quite embarrassing me that some of you have misunderstood me. Before crucifying me, please go through my
article written about the 'Cross' which is attached in the file. In the anvil of moulding this article, there occured some doubts in my mind quite naturally. I thought I would be able to clear it off through this forum for there have been many scholarly clergy and laity who form part of it. But some of you were jumping the gun.
I assure you that I would remain as a staunch orthodox priest till my last breath. Sorry, if I have confused anyone. May God bless us all to grow in His faith and to be united in His love!
Read the article at http://www.icon.org.in/article/SignificanceOfCrossFrTG.pdf
- Sometime back on a Good Friday, I heard our vicar, Rev. Fr. Sam Mathew, describe the cross with admirable brevity and clarity as - (i) the THRONE of Jesus, the King; (ii) the ALTAR of Jesus, the High Priest; and (iii) the PULPIT of Jesus, the Preacher of Good News. The singular significance of the cross does NOT stem from its intrinsic merit, but from its association with the Lord, our Paschal Lamb, slain on it. Apart from Him, the cross is merely an 'instrument of death' of antiquity.
The line of demarcation between 'veneration/adoration' and 'idolatry' is too fine to be readily recognizable. There is room for overlap unless deliberately eschewed through carefully compiled liturgy in terms of the textual content and wording of prayers and hymns used. Veneration of the cross in its set limits is more 'a means to an end' than 'an end in itself '. It is indeed 'a means' to our merging with the pangs of our dying Savior while dying to our petty selves, to rise with the Glorified Risen Lord as His transformed disciples, committed to living in peace and harmony with our dissenting co-believers and the rest of the world at large. But that does NOT happen in practice. We venerate the cross with our lips, but our hearts are far from Him; in vain do we venerate His cross, teaching as doctrines the traditions of men. When we fail to witness to the Lord by the way we live our day-to-day lives, there is NO point in idolizing the
cross, and prostrating before it. The purpose of venerating the cross must be to magnify the Almighty Triune God, and to inspire the faithful to crucify the flesh along with its temptations.
Venerating the cross as 'an end in itself ' is to degrade it to sinful idolatry. The cross is NO substitute for the Redeemer or for His supreme selfless sacrifice of Himself as a 'sin offering' to set us free from our bondage to Satan, sin, sickness and death. Our primary focus is therefore on Him, and then only, on His venerable cross. Veneration of the cross has to be for its remembrance with awe, reverence and gratitude. As has already been recommended by a few writers, such expressions/words as "Aaradhana arpikkuvanum, kumbidunnu, namikkunnu" etc. must be replaced by more appropriate words such as "Orkkunnu, smarikkunnu, pukazthunnu, vaazthunnu" etc.
It is important to bear in mind that Christ the Lord suffered a dual death on the cross.
(i) He died physically to rise from the dead; and (ii) He suffered 'substitutionary spiritual death' on our behalf when He, the Sinless One, became our sin on the cross to facilitate our spiritual revival and restoration. The agony of His substitutionary spiritual death far exceeds the pain of His humiliating physical death, and it explains His sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, and His desperate wailing: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me."
The meaningful verses from a hymn by an anonymous writer are reproduced below for their contextual relevance to the subject under review:
"The dearest idol I have known,
Whatever that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Your throne,
And worship only Thee!
So shall my walk be close with God.
Calm and serene my frame,
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb!
Nakkolackal V. L. Eapen,
St. Gregorios Church, Austin, TX