By Deacon Daniel Malyon
“As we prepare to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord and remember his coming into the world in flesh, how better to make ourselves ready to truly appreciate this wonderful mystery than to cultivate a living Christology inside ourselves through humility and love.” A Living Christology
Christology is often an area of dispute in the Church and has been since its foundations, with the Church battling heresies from all sides. Having to often look inwards to its terminology to formulate the boundaries of theological discussion, in response to the challenges of expressing the greatest mystery of the nature of the Incarnation.
In modern times, this seems to live in informally through the discussions between those of varying Christian communities. This is especially prevalent between the Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian Orthodox communities, both of whom see themselves as the defenders of our shared patristic heritage and who often forget the decorum of those very patristic fathers in their discussions.
I believe it not inappropriate to say that the current manner of such discussions leave out both the spiritual preparation which one should surely undertake before speaking of such matters as well as the vital importance of speaking the truth in love when engaged in any theological dialogue. Now, in saying this I am not claiming that one should not speak of Christology.
In fact, it is through discussion and debate of Christology that we are able to further understand the nature of the incarnation, and through historical instances of this that the Church formulated the Christological formulae that we use in every set of prayers, alongside the wonderful prayers and hymnology which illuminate our Churches and liturgies.
However, it is the danger of making Christology a mere intellectual exercise that makes such mindless bickering something of a danger to those involved or on the side-lines like spectators at the gladiatorial games.
To help express this, we need only look to the words of St Thomas upon his realization of the resurrection of Christ in John 20. He states, “My Lord and my God!” in the manner of one who has seen the face of God, which he had. The same can be said of the other disciples on the road to Emmaus when they asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
These reactions and their implications, often lost by those in such discussions today, form the basis of our Apostolic Faith.
With this in mind, we must ask when our Love for Christ was replaced by a love of speculation. When did we decide to replace the awe and wonder of the Apostles in the realization of the risen Christ with awe and wonder at the capacity of an anonymous YouTuber to use the name of the Lord as a weapon against his brother? When did Christology die in our hearts and remain only a philosophical exercise?
With this in mind, I would like to propose two approaches to living out our Christology as we prepare for the nativity of our Lord: Living our Christology through humility and Living our Christology through the love of our neighbour.
To live our Christology through humility is to live out one of the greatest virtues of our faith. Now many will ask what this has to do with Christology, however, if we are to understand the nature of Christ we must also look to his teachings and example in order to apply these in our own lives. In doing so we can live our Christology rather than purely focus on the ontological and philosophical aspects. St Anthony the Great recognized this when he spoke of Christ’s actions during the last supper.
He asked, “What made our Lord Jesus Christ lay aside his garments, gird himself with a towel, and, pouring water into a basin, begin to wash the feet of those who were below Him if not to teach us humility?” reminding us of the important task of not just exploring the nature of Christ through his life but also applying it to ours.
In this manner, we can grow in our understanding of Christ through imitation and adherence to the values he taught as St Anthony, the disciples and others who saw Christ in others did.
Putting this into practice is one of the most common topics in the writings of the desert fathers, who dedicated their lives to the pursuit of prayer and humility. It is therefore in them that we can see an abundance of guidance, some of which is meant for monks and others for all.
One famous saying of the fathers is that the practice of humility is, “not to give your attention to the sins of others but always to give your attention to your own sins and to pray without ceasing to God.” This in itself is a challenge and one which takes a lifetime of work.
However is we are to put our Christology into practice we can begin to develop this through resisting urges to defend our views against all who disagree or log off from a social media site without engaging, and instead of engaging in prayer and reflection on the scriptures.
This form of fasting is as important as any other. Alongside this comes the practice of living our Christology through the love of our neighbour.
This was one of the key teachings we see in Christ’s earthly mission and one which is a part of his greatest commandment to, ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to, ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’ Turning again to St Anthony, we see the importance of this practice when he says, “Our life and our death is with our neighbour.
If we gain our brother, we have gained God, but if we scandalize our brother, we have sinned against Christ.” Therefore in this manner, we must emulate Christ’s teaching and his greatest commandment to love our neighbour and thus live out our Christology through uniting ourselves with all others in both love and humility.
In what manner can we apply this teaching but show love to others through Charity and acts of kindness? Nothing expresses this stronger than the words of St John Chrysostom in his homily on 2Corinthians when he says, You venerate the altar of the church when the body of Christ descends there. But you neglect the other who is himself the body of Christ and remain indifferent to him when he dies of hunger.”
In this he is making that direct correlation between our living Christology and the love of our neighbour, reminding us that if we wish to be closer to God and to understand the meaning of the incarnation we must live out Christ’s own example of seeing God in the love of others and works which he taught of us.
Therefore, as we prepare to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord and remember his coming into the world in flesh, how better to make ourselves ready to truly appreciate this wonderful mystery than to cultivate a living Christology inside ourselves through humility and love.
Making our faith in his incarnation more than simply words we speak but a living and active faith in him through both our actions and our prayers, bearing spiritual fruit in our love of others that they see Christ in us, rather than simple words.
In this manner, we can make our Christology a living one and grow in our love of Christ in a manner that we will truly know St Thomas’ words of, “My Lord and my God” and live in a manner according to the awe and wonder of the Apostles. May your Nativity Fast be a fruitful one and your faith in Christ a living one.
By: Deacon Daniel Malyon | A Deacon of St Paul’s Ministry and St Mary & Pope Kyrillos VI Church. United Kingdom ~ Coptic Diocese of London.
Delivered to you by COPTICNN™ | Coptic News Network on 2020-11-23 from London, England
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