Crucifixion

I do not believe in the Crucifixion as a sacrifice to appease the wrath of God, and pay the price of human sin. I see Jesus’ death as our example, not our get-out-of-jail-free card. This is not original: when I heard Richard Holloway say something similar, I challenged him, as it chucks out most of the Epistle to the Hebrews; and now I have come round to it.

In Hebrews, Jesus is Melchizedek, the deathless priest who enters the Holy of Holies and sacrifices himself for our sins. But Christians’ understanding of the meaning of that sacrifice has changed over the years.

In the mediæval period, it was believed that man had withdrawn his allegiance from God, and given it voluntarily to the devil, as in the act of diffidatio under feudal law. This gave the devil rights, which God could not override. In becoming man, God in Jesus was the man who had not bowed to the devil, over whom the devil had no rights. When the devil subjected Jesus to death, he took authority over a man who had made no diffidatio, and thus lost his rights over all mankind. This doctrine lasted five hundred years.

St Anselm and St Bernard changed the view of the crucifixion. The invisible God wished to be seen in the flesh and to converse with men, that he might draw all the affections of carnal men, who were unable to love except after the flesh, to the saving love of His flesh, and so step by step lead them to spiritual love. God was of Love, not of Law.

Jesus went to his destiny with open eyes. He did not run or hide, but taught in the temple. He did not resist. When Peter struck the ear of the priest’s servant with his sword, Jesus healed him. Jesus spoke the truth as he saw it. He spoke it in his trial.

Jesus was our example, not to resist evil but to respond to it with love, so that the fear of the other, always opposing the other in self-defence, would melt away.

Mine is not a biblical view. I am emphasising certain parts, ignoring others (especially Hebrews). And yet mine makes God more than a violent abusive and manipulative parent. When God is in one of his more Old Testament moods- eg Exodus 20:5:

I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me

it helps to see this as descriptive, not prescriptive. God is not being cruel for the fun of it, that is just the way the World is. In the same way, the wrath of God, through which we suffer, is truly the wrath of Man: as we resist each other, seeking to defend what we hold dear, we inflict suffering on others and prolong and ensure our own. It is in Proverbs 15:1:

A gentle answer turns away wrath,

but a harsh word stirs up anger.

This is the answer to my post Certainty.

Andrei Rublev

Given that among the best searches leading to my blog are “agios oros” and “Pefkis Ikonen”, I present to you my other icon.

father-pefkis-the-angels-at-mamre-trinity

It is of the angels at Mamre, who represent the Trinity: the Greek transliterates as “Hagia Trias”, Holy Trinity. Again, it comes from Mount Athos. I bought it in the cathedral at Le Puy en Velay, where a pilgrim offered to pray for me (it is always good to know someone is praying for me).

For those looking for icons, I recommend Icons Explained, a voluminous site including details of hagiographers (icon painters) from all over the world. The link from there to Fr. Pefkis no longer works. When I came home, I did some Googling but could not find a source for the Mount Athos icons, and it seems to me that, possibly, these handmade icons are sold for far less than they might fetch as a service to God and the community; that they are devotional tools seeking devotional use, not the home of the collector or even the connoisseur. In my last flat, this icon hung at the end of the hallway, visible as I came in the front door or went to the kitchen. I sat meditating on it. Now it is on my shelves, and I glimpse it when I look up from the television.

It appealed to me because the figures look so feminine, and so reassure me that I, too, am made in the image of God.

I still want a Pantocrator. I think it is worth the search. Perhaps in some cathedral shop I will find something so beautiful: or perhaps see one in a church somewhere, and find that seeing it is enough, I do not need to possess it.