Author: St. Nikolay Kavasilas
Word one: Life in Christ is realized through the sacraments of divine baptism, holy anointing and communion
36. Since before the Cross it was impossible to find forgiveness of sins and deliverance from punishment, what righteousness can be thought of at all? It is inconsistent, I think, that before they are reconciled, they should fall into the place of friends, and while still in fetters, should be proclaimed victors. After all, if that lamb had finished everything, what was the point of what happened next? Since those types and images [τῶν γὰρ τυπό καὶ τῶν εἰκόνων] were able to bring about the blessedness thus sought [εὐδαιμονίαν], therefore already truth and works are in vain. However, until the enmity is destroyed by Christ’s death and the middle ground is overthrown [τὸ μεσότοιχον], and until peace and righteousness dawn in the Savior’s times, and in general until all these things take place, what place will they have before that sacrifice, if not the place of God’s friends and righteous?
37. The proof of this is this: then we were united to God by the law, and now by faith and grace, and if there is anything else connected with them. It is clear from this that then it was slavery, but now adoption and devotion achieve the communion of men with God, because the law is for slaves, and for friends and sons – grace, faith and boldness.
38. From all this it became clear that the Savior is the firstborn from the dead [πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν] and none of the dead can live to immortal life until He rises. Likewise, the sanctification and justification of men depended on Him alone. This, therefore, was also pointed out by Paul, writing: the forerunner for us entered the holy [εἰς τὰ ἅγια] Christ (Heb. 6:20).
39. For He entered into the holy place, offering Himself to the Father, and brought in those who wished, joining His tomb, not dying like Him, but at the holy table, anointed and fragrant, in an unspeakable way they announce Him Himself as having died and resurrected. And so, bringing them through these gates, He leads them to His Kingdom and to a coronation.
40. These gates are far more exalted and more perfect [λυσιτελέστεραι] than the heavenly gates. They would not open to anyone who had not previously entered through those doors, and these are open even when those are closed. Those can bring out those who are inside, but these only bring in, they don’t take anyone out. It is possible for them to be both locked and finally unlocked, and through these the curtain and the middle were completely destroyed and destroyed.
41. It is no longer possible to rebuild the fence and erect gates that would divide the worlds from each other by a wall. At this the door was not merely opened, but the heavens were also opened, says the marvelous Mark, showing that there was no longer any door, nor walls, nor curtains of any kind left. For He Who reconciles, unites and reconciles the upper world with the lower [τὸν ἄνω κόσμον τοῖς ἐπάν], by destroying the middle of the fence, cannot deny Himself, says the blessed Paul. Because those doors that were opened because of Adam, when he didn’t stay where he was supposed to stay, of course it was clear that they were going to close. They were precisely opened by Christ Himself, Who had not committed sin, nor could he sin, because His righteousness – it is said – abides forever. Whence it necessarily follows that they were to remain open and lead to life, and from life there should be no way out for anyone. For I have come, says the Savior, that they may have life (John 10:10).
42. This is precisely the life which the Lord brings: that those who come through these sacraments participate in His death and become partakers of His sufferings, and without this no one can escape death. For it is impossible for one who is not baptized with water and the Spirit to enter into life, neither can those who do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood have life in them. We will look at this further.
43. What is the reason why only the sacraments can put life in Christ in our souls. To live in God is impossible for those who have not died to their sins, and to kill sin they could only with God’s help. Men are bound to do this: after we have become righteous and voluntarily suffered defeat, it is utterly impossible and far from our ability to renew the struggle when we have become slaves to sin. How could we become stronger after being enslaved? Even if we become stronger, no slave is above his master. Since, therefore, he who was to reject this debt and retain this victory, being righteous, was a slave to those over whom he should have prevailed in the struggle, and God, who is mighty to do so, was under no obligation to anyone, therefore no one took up the fight, and sin lived, and the true life was impossible to shine upon us – the victorious reward on the one hand is for him who has to pay the debt, and on the other it is for him who has the power – therefore there had to be one, and the other to join together, so that they both have the same nature – of the one who goes to the battle and of the one who can conquer.
44. So it happened. God appropriated the struggle for men by becoming man. Man overcomes sin, being clean from all sin because he was God. Thus nature is freed from shame and crowned with a victorious crown, for sin is broken.
45. Although of the people none had conquered and none had fought, yet they were freed from the fetters. This was done by the Savior Himself for those to whom He made it available, giving each person the power to kill sin and become partakers of His feat.
46. Since after that victory, instead of being crowned and triumphed, He suffered beatings, death, and the like to the end, as Paul says, for the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame (Heb. 12:2), what happened ?
47. He did no wrong, but received such a sentence. He committed no sin, and had nothing to call a slanderer too shameless. And wounds, suffering, and death were from the beginning designed for sin. How did the Bishop allow this, being philanthropic? It is not fitting, then, for goodness to console itself with ruin and death. Therefore, immediately after the fall, God allowed death and suffering not so much as a punishment for the sinner, but as a cure for the sick.
48. Since for what Christ had done no such punishment should have been awarded, and the Savior had not in Himself any trace of infirmity to be taken away in order to receive any medicine, the power of that cup is directed to us, for to put sin to death in us, and the wounds of the Innocent One become the punishment of those who have sinned in many things.
49. Since the punishment was wonderful and far greater than the equivalent of human evils, this punishment not only freed from the accusation, but provided such an abundance of goods that it led to an ascent to heaven itself and communion with the Kingdom of God there. It includes those of the earth, the hostile, the chained, the enslaved, the vanquished. That death was dear, therefore, and it is impossible for men to fathom how much, although, on the Saviour’s assumption, it was bought by the murderers for too little to cover His poverty and dishonor.
50. Suffering what belongs to slaves, to be sold, he earns dishonor, because the gain honored dishonor upon us [κέρδος γὰρ ἡγεῖτο τὴν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἀτιμίαν], and that for so little means that he accepted to die gratuitously and for nothing. for the world; willingly died without committing any injustice, neither against life nor against any state, preparing for His murderers also gifts far greater than desires and hopes.
50. But why do I say this? God died. God’s blood was shed on the Cross. What could be dearer than this death? What’s more shocking? What did human nature so sin that it was awarded such a ransom? What could this wound be that needed the power of such a medicine to cure it?
51. It is clear, therefore, that sin is atoned for by some punishment, and that of those who have sinned against God, those who suffer a worthy punishment will be freed from condemnation. The subject of punishment, however, could not be called upon for that for which he deserves a sentence. There is no man who, being perfectly pure, would himself suffer for others, so that no one could bear the corresponding punishment either for himself or for the whole human race, even if it were possible for him to die a thousandfold. For what does this most shameless slave deserve to suffer, who has ruined the king’s countenance, and shown such audacity against his majesty?
52. That is why the sinless Lord, having suffered much, died. He bears the wound by taking upon Himself the protection of men, being human. He frees the human race from punishments and gives freedom to those who are chained, because He Himself does not need it, being God and Lord. And why true life enters us through the death of the Saviour, that is what we are about to say.
53. On the one hand, the way in which we draw him into our souls is this: initiation into the sacraments [τὸ τελεσθῆναι τὰ μυστήρια], washing, anointing, enjoying the holy table. In those who do this, Christ indwells and dwells, unites, joins [προσφύεται] and banishes sin from us, invests His life and nobility [ἀριστειαν] and makes us partakers of His victory. Goodness of goodness! Those who wash are girded and those who partake of the dinner glorify.
54. Why does Christ crown those who wash, those who are anointed with oil and those who participate in the supper. Why and for what reason are the victory and the crown at the font, the ointment and the table, which are the fruit of labor and sweat? For though we do not fight or toil, in doing these things we glorify that feat, admire the victory, and bow down before the trophy of victory, and for that decisive feat [τὸν ἀριστέα σφοδρόν] we show unspeakable gratitude [φίλτρον]. Those wounds and paint and death we appropriate for ourselves, and as far as possible we draw them to ourselves by tasting of the very flesh of the Dead and Risen One. Because of this, of course, we also enjoy those goods that correspond to death and exploits.
55. If anyone, surrounding a captured and awaiting punishment tyrant, praises and crowns him, honors tyranny and himself prefers to die after his fall, speaks against the laws and complains against justice, does this without shame and without hiding his malice, but speaks boldly, testifies and proves it, what judgment shall we pass on such a one? Shall we not render him the same as the tyrant? It is absolutely certain.
56. Contrary to all this, if one admires the noble, rejoices in the victor and weaves wreaths for him, raises shouts of victory and shakes the theater, faints with pleasure before the triumphant, gently embraces his head, kisses his right hand, and thus greatly exults from the general, and from the victory he has brought, that as if he himself should have crowned his head, will he not receive a share of the victor’s rewards, judged by prudent judges, as he – I think – will join in the punishment of the tyrant? If we reserve to the bad what is due, by exacting punishment for their intent and thoughts, it is not quite right to deprive the good of what they deserve.
57. If we add to this that he who won that victory does not himself need the gifts of victory, but rather prefers to see the splendor of the theater around his supporter, and considers it the reward of his struggle that his friend should be crowned, how is it not is it fair and not acceptable that he should adorn himself with a wreath, though he has not shed the sweat and endured the hardships of war?
58. This is exactly what the baptismal font, the supper, and the judicious enjoyment of the ointment can do for us. Consecrating ourselves [μυούμενοι], therefore, we punish the tyrant, despise him, and deny him, and the victor we praise, admire, worship him, and love him with all our souls, so that with the love that surrounds us like bread we are satisfied , like ointment – we anoint ourselves and like water – we pour ourselves over.
59. It is evident that if he entered into this war for our sake, and that we might conquer, Sam suffered death, so that there is nothing inconsistent and nothing disagreeable about the crowns of victory being reached by these sacraments. For we show the possible disposition [τὴν δυντὴν ἐπιδεικενμεθα προθυμίαν], and hearing of this water, that it has the power of Christ’s death and burial, we strongly believe, willingly come forward, and immerse ourselves. He – because he does not give little and what he honors us with is not little – welcomes those who come after death and burial, not giving a crown, not by giving glory, but with the Victor Himself, with Himself crowned.
60. Coming out of the water, we carry the Savior Himself in our souls, in the head, in the eyes, in the very entrails, in all the members, pure from transgression, freed from all corruption, as he rose, as he appeared to his disciples, and as he ascended , as he will come again, demanding this treasure back.
61. Thus, after we are born and sealed with Christ, He himself guards the entrances of life, lest we bring in any foreign species. By means of that by which, by taking in air and food, we maintain the life of the body, by this He penetrates into our souls and joins to Himself these two doors: the one as myrrh and fragrance, and the other as food. Because we inhale Him at the same time, but He also becomes food for us. And so, mixing and combining himself fully with us in every way, He makes us His body, and becomes to us what the head is to the other members. Therefore and through Him we participate in all good things, because He is the head, and from the head they necessarily go to the body.
62. This is precisely what we should admire, because we do not share with Him either in the wounds or in the death, but He Himself took them, but then, at the crowning, then He makes us His partakers.
63. This, therefore, is indeed a work of unspoken philanthropy, which is not far from reason and expediency [τῆς γινομένης ἀκολουθίας]. Because after the Cross we are united with Christ. Until He suffered, we had nothing to do with Him. Because He is Son and Beloved, and we are defiled, and slaves, and enemies in consciousness [τῇ διανοίᾳ]. After he died and the ransom was given to us, and the devil’s prison was destroyed, we entered into such liberty and adoption, and became members of that blessed Head. Hence, whatever belongs to the Head belongs to us.
64. Now, therefore, through this water we become sinless, we join His gifts through the ointment, and through this table we live one and the same life with Him. In the future we shall be gods with God [θεοὶ περὶ Θεόν], heirs of the same with Him, we shall reign with Him in the same kingdom, if only we do not voluntarily blind ourselves and tear the king’s tunic in this life. We must only strive for this in this life, so that we preserve the gifts [τὰς δωρεὰς ὑπομεῖναι], preserve the charisms [τῷν χαρίτων ἀνασχέσθαι] and not tear down the crown that God has woven for us with much sweat and labor.
65. This is the life in Christ which is contained in the sacraments. It seems to me that it is clear what human zeal can do for him. Therefore, he who wishes to speak about this should first consider each of the sacraments separately, and then it would be consistent to consider each action according to virtue [τῆς κατ’ ἀρετὴν ἐργασίας].
 Literally, “crowned” (note trans.).
 That is, the lamb from the Old Testament Passover (note trans.).
 Cited by the author (trans. note).
 Mark 1:10.
 2 Tim. 2:13.