Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The wrath of the Lamb

                    Lo! he comes, with clouds descending,                    
                    once for our salvation slain;                    
                    thousand thousand saints attending                    
                    swell the triumph of his train:                    
                    Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!                    
                    Christ the Lord returns to reign.
                    Every eye shall now behold him,
                    robed in dreadful majesty;                    
                    those who set at naught and sold him,                    
                    pierced, and nailed him to the tree,                    
                    deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
                    shall the true Messiah see.

In the Western Christian world, the season of Christmas is ushered in by four weeks of Advent, remembering Christ’s second coming, during which the hymn quoted above is sung, certainly from the tone of the hymn, a frightful prospect for ‘those who set at naught and sold him,’ and a far cry from the spirit in which this season begins in the Orthodox world, ‘Today the Virgin comes to the cave to ineffably give birth to the Word before all worlds. Dance, O universe, upon hearing this…’

Reading the book of Revelation, in Greek, Η Αποκάλυψις του Ιωάννου, I am always struck by this very strange phrase, the wrath of the Lamb.’ If anything could present a more ironic picture, it would be a very, very angry lamb. Almost universally, the lamb is considered an animal of meekness, gentleness and, for children, even cuddliness. Notice I said ‘almost.’ There is something about lambs we don’t know, but the Word of God does, at least about THE Lamb.

When Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Divine Logos came the first time, He was born of woman, in an obscure place, at a time rushed and unnoticed—a census was being taken, was He even counted? Was anyone even there to receive Him? Did anyone know Who He was? Not really. Only His parents, and a handful of shepherds in the area. Only later did some astrologers from Babylon come in search for Him, and a little after that, a jealous and illegitimate worldly authority, Herod, tried to ‘nip Him in the bud,’ by having his soldiers cruelly kill all male children recently born in the area. ‘Innocent?’ he cried, ‘Not innocent! Guilty! Guilty of the womb! Guilty of the stars! There's room for only one king on this throne! Only Herod, only me!’

It will be a different story when Jesus Christ returns to earth in His second and glorious coming. It will be something like what the hymn relates, those who rejected Him ‘deeply wailing, shall the true Messiah see.’ The book of Revelation, a more reliable source than this hymn, says that they will cry out to the mountains and to rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us away from the One who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’ (Revelation 6:16) The ikon that is always on the right side of the royal doors in an ikonostasis shows Christ seated on the throne. That’s who they’re talking about.

The wrath of the Lamb… so that’s why they fear him! That’s why our world is filled with people afflicted with the malady of Christophobia, the fear of Christ. There is a wonderfully well-written article by Srdja Trifkovic at the site Serbianna entitled Battling Christophobia in California and Serbia. I should rather have called it, Battling World Christophobia. Reading this article gave rise to the ramble above. I really latch on to a concept once a keyword has been cut for it, and Christophobia is that word. Read more at the link above, but here are some samples of what Trifkovic writes in his article…

The intention of post-moderns to destroy real people, with their natural loyalties, traditional morality, and inherited cultural preferences, is the same everywhere.

It is Christophobia, the incubator of countless secondary pathologies that are imposed and celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic under the label of diversity.

Western conservatives, he says, are hoping to save the key institution of the West—namely, Christianity—but Christianity did not originate in the West, and therein lies the crux of the matter: “The development of the West since 1054, in opposition to the Orthodox East, was a revolutionary act. The West, at its core, is revolutionary; hence the shouting of our conservatives for history to stop, while intermittently effective in slowing the slide, has proven vain. The West’s defining act was the fundamental innovation of the filioque. The fruit of the schism was apparent in successive heresies and rebellions, which led to the wars of religion that would kill millions and tear Europe apart. Later subversives would translate the revolutionary logic into decidedly unchristian contexts such as the French and Bolshevik revolutions, with monstrous results.”

While the unraveling of Western Christianity has been under way for a thousand years, it gained a new head of steam in our time. With Vatican II, Roman traditionalists were dealt a tremendous blow, and they are still suffering its consequences. Meanwhile, “The more traditionally minded Protestant denominations are now sprinting toward Sodom, while the newer ‘Bible churches,’ holding the line somewhat more effectively on the moral front, show themselves very much of this world in their Dionysian revels featuring ‘Christian’ rock music and self-help philosophies about how to succeed in the world of mammon without really trying. The job of shoring up what remains of traditional Western Christianity is, needless to say, not getting any easier.”

Orthodoxy, on the other hand, does not lend itself to the political realm, precisely because its kingdom is not of this world. It is impossible to turn Orthodoxy into a “movement” in the modern political sense, yet the Orthodox view on most political issues today largely tracks the views of traditional Roman Catholics and Protestants, in spite of their theological and ecclesiological differences: “Even in a decidedly Protestant and “revolutionary” country such as the United States, the Orthodox easily recognize the practical wisdom embodied in a document such as the Constitution and its principle of limited government. They are more than anyone averse to the deification of political figures and of the state that has been the bane of the modern era. But they are by nature ill-adapted to navigating the turbulent waters of modern politics, which grow ever more frenzied and anti-Christian.”

The greater part of the article discusses in more detail political and social issues that are not within the range of either my blog or my mindset. I am, and always will be, a rather apolitical Orthodox disciple. What is important to me is God, the Bible, following Jesus, witnessing for Him, and holding wide open the doors of the Church, not arguing or combating the evil one. He has already been defeated by Christ, both in His forty days’ temptation, and in his suffering on the Cross, and since no man can be greater than his Master, I can only hope the same for me, through enduring temptation and dying on the Cross, to enter Paradise with the good thief. But I did find it interesting that there are many in the world who are not of the world, and whose role in the Body of Christ is to unmask false ideologies and defrock false authority.

Knowing that to see the Lamb when He appears will be terror and wrath to the lost, let’s use what time remains to open their eyes to Him Who is, the Holy One, the Eternal, the Only Lover of mankind, the One who says, ‘Do not be afraid; it is I, the First and the Last; I am the Living One, I became dead and now I am to live for ever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades’ (Revelation 1:17).

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

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