Frequent words appearing in the Divine Liturgy include: Lord, God, Son, Amen, Holy Spirit, Christ, Master, Theotokos, holy, ages, mercy, glory, pray, life, grace, sins, peace, blessed, pure, saints, offer, people, love, precious, glorious, souls, heaven, salvation, praise.
These notes are assembled after listening to the lecture delivered by Rev. Dr. Nikolai Sakharov. Disclaimer: Any errors are completely my own as I intertwine the lecture material with my own reflections and additional source material.
If you look at the entire New Testament what would be the main message (in terms of time)? The eschata. The last judgement. The whole history of salvation of mankind- Noah, Moses, Abraham, Christ becomes Incarnate... the last day 'come... the kingdom is prepared for you. Because when I was hungry you gave me food. These little ones... The little ones become an ultimate concern, our attitude to these little ones... To every human person'. So our whole geschichte (event, struggle, story, history) is geared towards this for the Kingdom of Heaven. Ultimate criteria is how we treat our brother- are we worthy of the Kingdom?
Christ himself equates himself with little ones "It was me". For the human being he ascribes absolute value.
This is a quality of the NT in the whole.
What about St John's Gospel? Any anthropological statements which would reflect same maximalisms in Matthew's gospel?
Absoluteness of man, god-like value, is at the very heart of Johannine writings.
Look at: 'drama of salvation'. So profound change in mankind. Salvation of the whole world. But instead we see Christ having dialogues with crowds, random conversations at this or that point of the gospel, but behind all these random personal encounters with crowds. At end== now is judgement of this world (John 12). Now the prince of this world will be cast out. We do not see any cosmic battles in this Gospel of good v evil. We don't even have exorcisms in this Gospel. In fact, Satan is absent from this gospels. How can we explain Christ here? How is prince of this world is cast out? Of course in Book of Revelation we see the cosmic battle, but not in Gospel of John.
Christ encountered the worst evil on the Cross. And by going through this he was only strengthened more. He was victorious on the cross.
In this Gospel, everything is concentrated on the human person. It is from there, that the prince of world is cast out, in the hearts of man.
Karamazov: the battlefield is the human heart.
There is a frightening moment in 14:29-30 in Gospel of John... "the ruler of this world comes and has nothing in me"... a frightening moment where universal evil will appear; and who comes at this point? Judas Iscariot and Pharisees. Human beings. They are ones who became bearers of this power. Just as those who believe in Christ, God, become bearers of truth..
The fact that John is concerned with what is happening in our heart, shows the anthropological maximalism.
Fr Sophrony describes how victory has come: Christ, justifies man in the eyes of God. If God is like this, like Christ, then I accept him. And God says, if man is like this, like Christ, I forgive him, I love him. This was a victory of faith in God.
Anthropological maximalism in style of Gospel. But we can see this in the very composition of the Gospel. E.g. Sequence. The gospel begins with pan-cosmic presentation of the logos and salvific drama. Following chapters, we read about Christ in Galilee. Beginning of manifestation of Christ to world, the universal glory through Christ's miracles (ch 3-12). Then ch 13-20 we have revelation of Christ's glory to the Christian community, to whom the glory is revealed. He notices this kind of movement from pan-universal scale to 'never' in doubt perspective of Christian community. Bultmann did not believe ch 21 was part of Gospel. "Yea Lord I love thee". The personal. Directed manifestation of God toward human person. Focused on person.
We see anthropological maximilism in composition of gospel. John is very consistent to emphasise that people/men have been given authority to become sons of God. Prologue, creed, summary of his beliefs. He felt it was important in the prologue- as many as receive him... authority to become children of God. Part of his message, of his Gospel. There is a dramatic change in us. We shall see him as he is. Fr Sophrony: Those who believe in Christ, believe in their own deification. Anthropological message is at very heart of Gospel.
Ch 1:51: Truly I say to you... see heaven and angels of God descending upon sons of man. Of course, he spoke about himself. Barmashah- human being. Semitic way of expressing Sons of Man. Christ said: "you will see much more" to Philip. Main point of conflict with Jews, is anthropology- why they wanted to kill him for blasphemy- you being man want to be God. Isn't it written in your law that you shall be Gods. Divine sonship, man becoming divine. This also crops up in the Last Supper. John tries to make most of this most intimate setting- Christ opens up his heart and speaks to his disciplines in the most intimate way. Again, there John, 'you are my friends, I no longer call you servants'... "I have made known to you from my father".... very first words of Christ, after his resurrection: 'go to my brother, I say to my father, and to your father, to my God and to your God'... witnessing this drama of salvation. How can men become children of God? John is very sensitive- very eager to put everything about what Christ said to humankind.
Reality, new things. Water into wine. New reality. Ch 3, 'we are born now of the spirit, he who believes in me has everlasting life'... this is anthropological statements about life, in human being.
Why did John concentrate so much on anthropology? Why was it so important for him? Man is like Gods- we are given 'everything what I heard from my father'... In epistle, John, says 'God is love'. How can we measure it? John wants to show how much Christ has invested in human beings. The more you hear how much God gave us, the more you respond. And if you diminish these gifts, you diminish divine love and our own response. To show how much God loves human beings.
Indeed Christ, showed the ultimate measure of this love: 'no one has greater measure than this, that Christ laid down for his friends'...Important for John to show, that the Incarnation was the ultimate measure of love. This was the FINAL victory!
How do we become divine as sons of God?
John concentrates on 1) following Christ; 2) believing in Christ.
In ch. 6, it is stated clearly: 'what shall we do that we might work the works of God'? And John/Jesus replies: 'this is the work of God to believe in him who he has sent'. Not 10 commandments, but believe in me. This is the concept of faith. This is the heart of the gospel. Christ's incarnation is motivated. That all man who hears might believe. And in ch 7. those who believe in him, all miracles done for sake of faith. 'That you may believe.'
Jesus himself confirms this in ch 10: 'if you do not believe me, believe the works I do'.
How does faith save us? Why is faith so important for our salvation? Why believing in God is crucial?
Remember when Christ appeared, John says: 'this is the love of God which takes away the sin of the world'. Concept is strange. Not Jewish concept. What is the sin of the world? We would be unable to interpret these concepts without referring to fall of Adam.
Faith in God was very basis of Adam's existence.
Man is free to choose for himself. He was made in image and likeness. There was no point in creating robots or machines. Man had freedom to be with God or turn away from God. How can you secure a relationship between two free beings? So in marriage you cannot control heart and mind of another person by force. You are dependent on another person, only faith. Once you lose your faith, your marriage falls apart. So same happened to Adam. God created him out of love, for immortal life. Faith was his paradise. But once this faith was taken away from him, 'is it true that God said x or y'... 'your eyes will be opened'. Serpent said to Adam, God is not what he appears to be... so faith in God was destroyed as sin comes in. So having lost faith in God, he was cast out of Paradise, so question of faith is important. Faith in God was destroyed and that is where sin comes in. Having lost this paradise, this trust in God, this faith in God, Adam was cast out of Paradise.
Why was it dangerous to eat from the tree of knowledge?
Fr Sophrony: the way of knowledge was the opposite way of faith. E.g. Gnosis is something which is not based on personal life ('tree of knowledge'). Esp impersonal knowledge gives you certain amount of information (certain power) by which you can master your life, that you can be in control of your life. That is what Adam wanted, he wanted to secure his future, not dependent on God, but wanted something sure, proven, demonstrated, manipulated (by knowledge). So trust in God and faith in God is diminished/ gone completely. So in a relationship, it is bad to spy on a person, is very dangerous, your relationship suffers tremendously.
How Christ won his victory in human hearts. WIth the manifestation of God in Christ incarnate he reaches the ultimate symbol of love. The serpent has NO more arguments against God. It was the ultimate measure. Faith was the very basis of relationship between persons. And Christ, through his ministry restores the faith that Adam had in God. First Adam, second Adam.
And very concept of faith, what does it mean to believe in God? Creed? What does it mean?
Not only that God exists. 'Devils also believe and tremble'. Simply believing there is a God (Zizioulas) said this is 'information about reality'. But there is faith in God as a person. We trust in whatever he does, commands us, "pistis" has a variety of meaning. Pistevo. Conviction- I am sure about something. God is Good. Can be assurance. Asfalia- insurance. Pistosini. I can entrust in God my being. In Your hands I deliver my spirit. It is personalistic. Faith is personal relationship between two persons. 'I believe in God'. He won't let me down. For example, how we say that a person is trustworthy and can be relied upon.
So why was Faith concept so important to John?
Restoration. How sin of the world was taken away.
Concept of eternal life in John's Gospel.
Important anthropological statement. Before Christ, the theme of death was a taboo in early Israel, and to an extent in Judaism. Jewish thought is designed to be about this life, here. Torah teaches us in this life, how to reach well-being here on earth. How to build up your beliefs, your paradise. And once you die, Jewish thought was rather silent- simply reference to Sheol. So you have lived your life, blessed existence, your temple and God, and then you are shut away from this loyal God that dwells in the land and temple.
Fr Sophrony: human spirit does not accept the idea of death. There is much more than this life. Human beings can never be satisfied.
Death is the end? No. Instinctively people try to find this source of immortality. E.g. films now popular about vampires--- why?
With Ecclesiastes, King Solomon, we can see the nothingness of this life. If man lives many years, let him remember the days of darkness for their shall be darkness. That comes with vanity. Creeps in with Jewish thought. This issue of death became a burning issue- immortality. What is point of dying? Maccabean martyrs. 'You search the scriptures for you think in them you have eternal life.' Dialogue between the Pharisaic and Sadduccees. Burning issue in Israel. Here comes Christ- those that believe in me have everlasting life. If man keeps my word he shall not see death.
Imagine the impact on those listening to this. A shock to the Jews who built morals and ethics of man. Things were turned upside down.
Why does John love this concept of eternal life? He likes this expression because it is different to Kingdom of God. Compare the two ideas. Difference because they speak of the same reality? What is it with eternal life? Kingdom = impersonal notion. A rule of God. Theocratic state. And then see tendency in NT to personalise the Kingdom. St Luke: 'Kingdom of God is within you'. John brings the tendency to personalisation. He speaks of eternal life for each human being- my personal eternal life.
With this concept eternal life, you value differently your life on earth. Your future is in your hands. You build it here, now, you will be in life eternal. St Gregory of Nyssa, uses quite remarkable idea, that we ourselves become our own parents, fathers or mothers. We create our personality in this world.