So many incorrect teachings have accumulated around Christianity in the popular mind that its basic message is in danger of drowning in inanity. Here are a few points to bear in mind when reading this classic text from the 5th century.
Tortured human beings, those suffering both right now and in the past, highlight the power of evil and causes us to question most deeply how that which created us could possibly be a God that is all good. The teaching is that in this assault against their dignity each individual victim, and all those who suffer unjustly such as our abused children, are united in their humanity with the crucifixion of God. It is the price of human freedom being true freedom that it includes the real ability to say no to love, respect and compassionate kindness. This ‘no’ tears at the brotherhood of man. The crucifixition is allowed and willingly accepted not as a vindictive payback to satisfy some abstract ideal of justice under the eyes of a sadistic monster-god but so that all those who suffer unjustly will not be alone in the extremes of their suffering, ever, even to the point of dying. This unity between the creature and the mystery that created them is extremely personal, as is the suffering. The cross teaches man’s heart about God’s heart, a God who loves each person equally, the poor and the rich alike. Because this love respects each person’s dignity it cannot allow evil to have the last word.
Christian spirituality is meant to be about how an individual, in community, finds their Way of perfection as they alone can. Traditionally this Way consists of the three stages of the purgative, illuminative, and unitive. It is the Way any given individual walks, both day to day and in the sum of the events of their lives, towards union with God in the beatific vision. “For as a young man marries a virgin, your Builder will marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.” Isaiah 62.5 Let that really sink in.
Often Christian writings will talk of “saving one’s soul (anima)” and today this can be easily misunderstood. Anima, a Latinism meaning rational soul, is here being used as a synechdoche, naming a part of the self to stand for the whole self (homo), body and soul. The creed by clearly stating its belief in the resurrection of the body quite explicitly protected believers from the error of the Neoplatonists who considered the body as evil or “the tomb of the soul.” As heirs of the Enlightenment and Descartes error modernism is actually quite Gnostic on this point. This misuse of Christianity to condemn the body as such has found more than a few followers. It needs to be stated again very clearly that in the teaching of the seven deadly sins the carnal sins were not considered as soul destroying as those of a spiritual nature. They are all deadly but lust was never traditionally considered as dangerous as the sins of greed and pride, particularly spiritual greed and pride.
Through the mystery of God becoming flesh in the fullness of time, the Incarnation St. Anthanasius wrote about so eloquently (pdf), the mysteries once hidden behind the veil of the temple(s) were placed on public display. There is no hidden teaching or Gnostic elite in Christianity; the contemplative subjects of the illuminative stage are available to all people in the Gospels. There is no room for the Illuminism of the Illuminati due to this open exposure. This sermon by St. Leo the Great explains some of these openly taught correspondences so often unknown as the orthodox teaching by believers and non-believers alike in our day and age.
Contemplating the Lord’s Passion
St. Leo the Great, pope
True reverence for the Lord’s passion means fixing the eyes of our heart on Jesus crucified and recognizing in him our own humanity.
The earth — our earthly nature — should tremble at the suffering of the Redeemer. The rocks — the hearts of unbelievers — should burst asunder. The dead, imprisoned in the tombs of their mortality, should come forth, the massive stones now ripped apart. Foreshadowings of the future resurrection should appear in the holy city, the Church of God: what is to happen to our bodies should now take place in our hearts.
No one, however weak, is denied a share in the victory of the cross. No one is beyond the help of the prayer of Christ. His prayer brought benefit to the multitude that raged against him. How much more does it bring to those who turn to him in repentance.
Ignorance has been destroyed, obstinacy has been overcome. The sacred blood of Christ has quenched the flaming sword that barred access to the tree of life. The age-old night of sin has given place to the true light.
The Christian people are invited to share in the riches of paradise. All who have been reborn have the way open before them to return to their native land, from which they had been exiled. Unless indeed they close off for themselves that path that could be opened before the faith of a thief.
The business of this life should not preoccupy us with its anxiety and pride, so that we no longer strive with all the love of our heart to be like our Redeemer, and to follow his example. Everything that he did or suffered was for our salvation: he wanted his body to share the goodness of its head.
First of all, in taking our human nature while remaining God, so that the Word became man, he left no member of the human race, the unbeliever excepted, without a share in his mercy. Who does not share a common nature with Christ if he has welcomed Christ, who took our nature, and is reborn in the Spirit through whom Christ was conceived?
Again, who cannot recognize in Christ his own infirmities? Who would not recognize that Christ’s eating and sleeping, his sadness and his shedding tears of love are marks of the nature of a slave?
It was this nature of a slave that had to be healed of its ancient wounds and cleansed of the defilement of sin. For that reason the only-begotten Son of God became also son of man. He was to have both the reality of a human nature and the fullness of the godhead.
The body that lay lifeless in the tomb is ours. The body that rose again on the third day is ours. The body that ascended above all the heights of heaven to the right hand of the Father’s glory is ours. If then we walk in the way of his commandments, and are not ashamed to acknowledge the price he paid for our salvation in a lowly body, we too are to rise to share his glory. The promise he made will be fulfilled in the sight of all: Whoever acknowledges me before men, I too will acknowledge him before my Father who is in heaven.