Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cries from The Cross of Christ - The Fifth Cry

Meditations on Jesus' Words During His Suffering: 
by Priest Symeon Elias (Robinson) -copyright 1996

(This article is an examination of the cries from the Cross, and the some of the meanings one priest gives them. Originally written in 1996 as lenten articles and complied and edited for limited distribution in the fall of 2001.)


"Prepare ye the way of the Lord."
The Fifth Cry


"This is awful ! "
"O God The Pain ! "
"None of you understand how this crucifixion hurts ! "
"This is un-godly pain."
"You can't possibly understand if you haven't been there ! "
"This is such injustice."
"This is such a shame."
"There is such a stigma attached to crucifixion."
"We've got to organize to stop these cruel crucifixions."
"How can you know my pain if you haven't hung on my cross? >>
One type of New Ageism would have Jesus say, "Don't worry about me, I'm just here to experience everything." Another type would have him say, "If I can remember to remember that this is just an illusion, it won't hurt. 

All of these (except the last) are likely expressions of human suffering. When we suffer we tend to focus on it and it becomes too often the topic of our conversation. I am convinced that Jesus did not want us to focus on his physical suffering - other than to admit that it was REAL suffering and really happened. Every word from the Cross has deep Spiritual significance - yet he had to show the humanity of it or he would be reduced to another Greek demi-god or a super-Buddha. That humanity is pictured in a one word cry from The Cross, "Dipsao" meaning "I thirst." Cicero described the tormenting thirst of crucifixion victims as "indescribable, intense, over-powering and terrible." A friend who lost his leg in Korea told me that all he remembered of the injury was a terrible thirst. "I felt as if I were on fire, and the thirst went to my gut." I assume that this loss-of-blood type thirst is what Jesus felt, just like any other human would with severe blood loss.

As time advances, I become more convinced of the beauty and "Mystery" of the Holy Scripture. It is no accident that this single word is included in the Crucifixion narrative. For in this single word is the telling-proof of Jesus' humanity. This single word is a testament against those of the mind sciences who say that the crucifixion was "mere appearances." If you have ever been tempted to think that Jesus, "really didn't suffer" or that he "suffered less than we would suffer": Hear the plaintive cry from the Cross, "Dipsao-I thrust." This word speaks nothing of his Divinity but everything of his Humanity. This one word voids the speculation of certain early Gnostics and much of the modern mind sciences, because simply stated; "If it was 'illusional' then Jesus took part in a 'deception' on the Cross, and he lied when he said this very expected - very usual - very human - very physical thing, " Thirst." It was not an "delusional" cup Jesus prayed over in the Garden. It was the cup of bitter suffering, of an intensity we may never know. And in this word we can understand the fullness of its physical side.

At this point St. John tells us that the women were "looking on afar off." Only the soldiers were near, "one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a long stick and gave Him to drink." What change of heart had taken place in the soldier(s) who hours before were beating Jesus, laughing and taunting him. It is sad that we don't know this soldier's name who came running, because if we did it would be a household name - it would have become synonymous with "helping someone who suffers." We would probably never use the term "Good Samaritan" because it would likely be replaced with this man's name - remembered for all time as the only human to minister to Jesus Christ on the Cross. There is a Gospel to be learned in that soldier's actions. It is the truth that who he helped most, when he ministered to Jesus, was himself. When we Minister to Jesus, we minister to ourselves. And by Jesus' own words, when we minister to the least of humanity, we minister to Him. The soldier ran with a drug to ease Jesus' pain. We of Jesus' family run with living water to minister to the world. Too often we spend our time ministering to one another, shut off from the rest of the world. This is simply wrong. When I think of this Centurion I hear the words of the old Spiritual/Hymn . . "I'm gonna start hauling water to the desert and gonna stop this hauling water to the sea." The people least likely the hear the Cries of the Cross are the ones who need their lessons the most. I think of the Bishops and Priests who place their crosses in the vest pocket when in public, not to offend the sensibilities of our divergent culture!  O how that action mocks Christ's great gift! It is the same when we ignore physical, emotional and spiritual suffering, when we don't take the time to answer with compassion but TRUTH those who seek our comfort and help. 

Who do we know who is hungry? Who do we know who is thirsty? Who do we know who is in need? Who do we know who is suffering? Who do we know who is dying? Who do we know who is isolated in bitterness and spiritual/emotional pain? "Dipsao" is the condition of all humankind. Are we running with a drink? Are we offering spiritual help? Are we offering the Bread and Cup, the Communion of fellowship, in the bonds of the Love displayed on the Cross? Is the work of the Cross extended to humankind through our work? OR do we offer them secular "feel-good" formulas that have already failed? I hear the Prophet saying, "Comfort ye, Comfort ye my people." They too, Thirst "Dipsao."

"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me and I in him. As the Living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven - not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever." "Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life." (Jesus speaking as recorded by John in Chapter Six of his Gospel.) The Eucharist holds a central place in the experience of the Mysterion that Jesus taught here. It is HIS physical presence in the reality of his Divine Human nature, HIS very Flesh and Blood he shares with us and all who will taste and see that the Lord is Good.  It is an offering to a world of people who burn with thirst. A point of physical contact with the power of His Spirit. Millions deny its reality - remain in their "Dipsao" state having never experienced in the Mass, His Presence and Life, sadly believing that it is symbol only or a sort of sacred remembrance. He is LIFE and we of the Mysterion meet Him and partake of His life present in the Myteries of elements of His Altar. The Divine Liturgy is where more than any other place and time, we connect with the Eternal Moment, a gateway to New Life, strength and recreation of ALL that is.  How can those claiming HIS name, neglect this?  How can those claim HIS name, deny its ETERNAL REALITY. What on earth could Saint Paul mean when he said, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?"  Try to tell the apostles and the Holy Father and Mother of every decade of the Church's history that this communion in the Body and Blood of Jesus the Christ is symbol only.

I recently had a Protestant fundamentalist tell me that the Mass was blasphemy. And in her gnostic heresy she had it all worked out, ripping scripture from context and ignoring the reality of the Church's teaching in every generation since Christ.  Such darkness shames such a one, and you guessed it, blasphemes the Cross of Christ, Sacred Scripture and this mysterious means of Grace. But like Saint Symeon the New Theologian said, "How can one understand repentance and renewal when one has not tasted this Precious Cup."  Saint Symeon rightly tied the experience of the Body and Blood in the Eucharist with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  He like Saint Paul new that this mystery of the Eucharist, the communing in Christ Body and Blood is a powerful thing. " 1Co 11:23  For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 

1Co 11:24  And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 
1Co 11:25  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 
1Co 11:26  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. 
1Co 11:27  Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 
1Co 11:28  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 
1Co 11:29  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 
1Co 11:30  For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep."

And this "sleep is death."  
Job_14:12; Mat_9:24; Mar_5:39; Luk_8:52; Joh_11:11-12; 1Th_4:14

So with all the evangelists of the Church, I too say, "Come and See! Taste and see that the Lord is Good!" This is not a game of philosophy, or gnostic pretensions, or some symbolic ceremony for psychological benefit, it is rather LIFE, LIBERTY and THE WAY, purchased for us through great suffering. 

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