Friday, March 21, 2008

Why Good Friday is Good

Alice C. Linsley

The Apostle Paul’s authority in the Church is undisputed, yet he is undoubtedly one of the most hated figures of history because of his uncompromising defense of the Gospel. Part of his defense involved refuting the legalism that overthrows the sacrifice of Messiah. Were it possible to be saved by obedience to the Law, the Cross would merely be a tragic moment in history.

Paul understood the Blood of Jesus as the ground that constitutes the Pleroma, the single true all-encompassing Reality. The Church is recognized where this Reality is upheld through apostolic preaching, right doctrine and the dominical sacraments, all of which are efficacious because of the Blood of Jesus. This is what Luther realized after reading Paul's epistles. This is why Luther opposed indulgences, which posited the papal claim of salvific equality with the blood of Jesus beyond the grave. This diminishment of the Blood of Christ was intolerable.

The Apostle Paul's writing influenced St. Augustine, Luther, Calvin and many saints, monks and theologians. His confessional approach to Scripture and the Tradition of Israel is fundamental to a right understanding of the Christian Faith. Paul’s confessional hermeneutic is centered on the Blood of Jesus. He never allows philosophical speculation to lead the Gospel away from the comprehensive reality of the Blood of Jesus. All the things of God are realized in the Incarnation, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Messiah. All Truth comes into focus when viewed through Jesus’ Blood. All worldly striving is shown to be futile by His Blood.

Paul’s focus on “the centrality of the Cross” is one of the greatest strengths of his writings. We must always hold in our sight the bloodied cross upon which Christ’s immaculate Body was given for the salvation of the world. This is the vehicle of salvation, in fulfillment of the prophecies that he would be hanged on a tree.

His Cross is the new Tree of Life, from which we were driven by our sin in the beginning. In this sense, His Blood is restorative. By His Blood we are restored to Paradise and to the divine image. Referring to Moses lifting the staff with the serpent, Jesus tells his disciples, “When I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself” (John 12:34. Also see John 3:14.) In a very real sense, the waters of baptism are Jesus’ Blood, which makes us clean.

I came to understand this is a fresh way through a vision that I had in 1990 while sitting in a quiet church. Suddenly, everything around me disappeared except for the stone baptismal font, which had replaced the altar, front, center and elevated. An angel appeared above the font, and from a golden pitcher poured blood into the font. I knew that it was the Blood of Jesus and I slipped to my knees, overwhelmed by the presence of holiness.

Father Timothy Fountain, a reader of this blog, has noted, “Paul locates both death (burial = unclean) and life (new life) in baptism (Rom. 6) and in I Corinthians 11 says that in communion we proclaim Christ's death and "participate in his blood." Via the sacraments, as you say, the blood of the saints becomes the blood of Christ - "he in us and we in him." When a priest baptizes, chrismates and celebrates at the altar, water, blood and Spirit are all there, both under outward and visible signs and as inward and spiritual grace.”

The Cross was not a random event in history. It is the fulfillment of the most ancient divine promises and hopes of humanity. It was foretold in the Afro-Asiatic Dominion that flourished before the time of Abraham. Consider the linguistic connections between these Afro-Asiatic languages: The Hebrew root "thr" = to be pure, corresponds to the Hausa/Hahm "toro" = clean, and to the Tamil "tiru" = holy. All are related to the proto-Dravidian "tor" = blood. Hausa and Hahm are languages of Nigeria and Tamil and Dravidian are languages of India. These represent the far western and far eastern limits of the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion.

The Apostle Paul refers to the Blood of Jesus no less than twelve times in his writings. Because God makes peace with us through the Blood of the Cross, he urges “Take every care to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together” (Eph. 4:3). Paul's confession of the saving Blood of Jesus informs his understanding of Baptism and the Body of Christ. He continues: “There is one Body, one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. There is one Lord, one Faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, over all, through all and within all” (Eph. 4:4-5).

The blood of the saints is precious to God because it is the Blood of His eternal Son, by which our communion with God is restored. "But now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For He is peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in His own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law. This was to create one single man in Himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the Cross, to unite them both in a single body and reconcile them with God. In His own person He killed the hostility... Through Him, both of us have in one Spirit our way to come to the Father" (Eph. 2:13-14).


Isaac said...

Forgive me, sister... a vision? These are for the saints and not for sinners like us. Imagination is different from vision, and the fathers seem unanimously to teach a skepticism regarding anything like this. I'm sorry for bringing it up in an otherwise good post-- but if you really did see such a thing you should hide it out of humility and gratitude (lest something real end up hurting you).

Again, please forgive me... I certainly don't mean to set myself up as your spiritual father or anything. I don't really even want this to be a public thing-- feel free to delete it... but we Orthodox have a very refined understanding and skepticism toward such things unless we are completely purified of our passions.

Forgive me.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Skepticism is good regarding this sort of thing. However, it wasn't my imagination and it wasn't a dream. As it aligns with what the Church, the Scriptures and the Apostles teach, I think it must be from God.

I'm sorry if I have offended you, Zac. Please forgive me. It is better not to tell speak of this at all, if it might cause any to fall. God bless you for your concern, dear Brother in Christ. I think, however, I will leave it in this post, as it speaks to the heart of the matter and may have been given for exactly this purpose.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Dear Zac, I should clarify that I had this experience 20 years ago. I first wrote about it here:

You may find the comments interesting. May this day be blessed!


Alice C. Linsley said...

Nancy has sent this comment via email:

“I read what Zac said and I think he has a good point. At least in the Orthodox world (I don't know about Episcopalians), any "vision" is to be approached with fear and trembling, and should be kept to one's self, as they can be a sign of spiritual delusion, but perhaps discussed with an experienced spiritual father, and I do emphasize the word "experienced." These things are very scary... That is one reason why the internet can be very damaging when these things are discussed as if they are "true" and not spiritual delusions or tricks of the camera. It certainly is an arena to be approached with great caution.”

As stated above, I had that vision about 20 years ago and have spoken about it only twice. This posting was a re-slant of an earlier essay titled "The Blood of Jesus is Restorative" and the comments on that essay were entirely different. I appreciate Zac’s concern and your wise counsel, but I hardly believe such a biblically sound vision is a delusion. (If it is, I pray that God will correct me!) Also I am wondering why both of you latched onto this small part of the essay and missed the much more significant thrust of Orthodox belief in the restoration of humanity?

Anonymous said...


I do not mean to be controversial or polemical with the others who commented, nor do I wish to take away from the real message of your post by pursuing this, but I just want to thank you for sharing your vision. We must be wary about such things, yes, and we must not present them as though we know with all certainty that they are from God. You did not present your vision as such. You simply presented your experience as it happened, and we readers can evaluate it as it is, with prayer and trembling. I think to refuse to speak about such things is to approach what Father Stephen refers to as "the two-storey universe," where spiritual realities are considered part of another world. Certainly you have had much time to think about what you saw, and that seems to make it far different from a run-of-the-mill "charismatic" phenomena. Also, if God has given you something to share, it would not be gratitude to keep it hidden. None of us are completely purified of our passions.

Again, thank you. And please delete this if you suspect that it will add too much controversy.

Alice C. Linsley said...

The Blood of Jesus Christ is the source and substance of our Life in HIM. Scripture teaches that life is in the blood. For Christians this has radical and profound implications. When one is born, there is water and blood. When our Lord died, there was water and blood. In Baptism and Communion there is water and blood. We humans are attracted to the water, but wary of the blood. Which is as it should be for there is power in the blood.

For many years I didn't grasp the distinct yet interwoven nature of the Dominical Sacraments. I think this is because I thought of Baptism apart from HIS blood, even though the Apostle Paul makes it clear that we are baptized into Christ's Sacrifice and raised to new life with HIM. Does this mean that we are free of passions that drive a wedge into our fellowship with HIM? Certainly not. That is why we also need the Priesthood, confession and spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, alms-giving and Scripture study.

Though I haven't spoken much of the experience I had in little St. Paul, West Whiteland, PA, my mind has ruminated on it for years and it has led me to delve more deeply into the metaphysical reality of the Blood of Jesus. There are several essays at this blog that touch on this. You may read some of them here:

It is also important to note that the blood of Jesus by which we are saved, is also the blood of the Theotokos, in fulfillment of God's promise at the beginning that the woman's seed would win the ultimate victory.

Anonymous said...

Dear Alice,
I think William probably said it all, but I would like to add some thoughts I hope will be helpful. When I read your account, it inspired in me gratitude to Christ for what He does in and through all who are trusting Him, and most of all for His astonishing gift of true communion with Him in His Church. I find when others share something like this (especially from a perspective of several years rumination on such experiences in the light of Christ given through His Church), it greatly encourages my faith and active trust in God. I would like to very respectfully point out to Zac and Nancy (who in their fears/skepticism I am sure are representative of many), that many biblical Saints, (e.g., Jacob/Israel, Saul/Paul) received dreams and visions while they were in fact in active rebellion against God--visions which revealed Christ and led them to repentance. These accounts appear in Scripture for our edification and instruction. These accounts also would not be there if those people had not shared those experiences within their lifetimes. Such events reveal not the particular sanctity of those people at that moment, but the depths of God's mercy. How much more will He speak thus to those who sincerely love and seek Him now, when it serves His purposes, even though they are sinners?

Though I am now Orthodox, I wasn't always, and I have seen firsthand the chaos, confusion, and damage that occurs when there is a lack of discernment about the more spectacular of God's gifts (and their counterfeits). So I do appreciate that a healthy skepticism and deep roots in the Tradition of the Church are in order when it comes to visions, prophecies, etc. (and also frankly to any particular interpretation or application of the Tradition of the Church advanced as truth!).

I also wholeheartedly agree that the greater one's Christian experience and the further one is along the path of ascent to Christ, the more discernment one will have with regard to these experiences, whether our own or of others.

On the other hand (and this is why I am writing such a long post--forgive me!), I believe the impression some Christians have that God does not normally speak in an immediate and clear way to common sinners can be equally misleading and even spiritually dangerous. Though not all such "words" from God take the dramatic form of a vision--most are just promptings in our consciences or ideas we receive, they are nonetheless, no less supernatural. If His Spirit did not so reveal Christ to all of us in our hearts this way, illumining the Scriptures and all the practices and teachings of the Church such that we come to have a "conscious experience of Christ in our hearts" (a teaching of a well-known Orthodox Saint, whose name I have for the moment forgotten)--of which none of us is ever worthy, I might add--our "understanding" of the Scriptures and of all Orthodoxy's forms and canons, will be analogous to that of the Scribes and Pharisees "understanding" and application of the OT Scriptures in Jesus' day, i.e., we will not truly understand them at all! We are all wholly dependent upon the Spirit of God working supernaturally within our minds and hearts in order to even begin or move along the path of spiritual maturity. Clearly what increases as we grow in our likeness to Christ is our discernment in recognizing: a) that He is speaking to us, and b)distinguishing His Voice from that of other voices. One of the main ways we do that is by their effect on us. Does it produce in our hearts a deeper trust in the message of the gospel in the Church (i.e., the living Person of Christ and our sense of true communion with Him in love), or cast doubt upon the clear teachings of the Church? Does it create in us genuine humility and a more fervent love for God and for all people (especially those we are most tempted to disdain)? I think this is what we need to be asking ourselves when it comes to this sort of thing (and indeed all our understandings of what Orthodoxy teaches, for that matter). This being the case, I believe you spoke well here--thank you, Alice.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Thank you, Ann. I was such as sinner then (and I'm still a sinner), and at the time I didn't understand what was shown. These 20years later, I'm only beginning to understand. You have said it well: "Such events reveal not the particular sanctity of those people at that moment, but the depths of God's mercy."

Is there anything more important in life than trying to discover the depths of God's mercy?

Susan Burns said...

"Forgive me, sister... a vision? These are for the saints and not for sinners like us. Imagination is different from vision, and the fathers seem unanimously to teach a skepticism regarding anything like this."

Zac, the scepticism you speak of is the attempt to establish a heirarchy to drive a wedge between God and men (and women). "The fathers" you speak of would like to be the ONLY conduit of God's communication with mortal men. What could the reason be? IMHO it is for power, control and wealth.