«Καὶ σκοπῶμεν ἄνωθεν. Τίς ἡ αἰτία, δι᾿ ἣν τὰ μυστήρια δύνανται μόνα τὴν ἐν Χριστῷ ζωὴν ἐντιθέναι ταῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων ψυχαῖς. Ζῆσαι μὲν γὰρ οὐκ ἦν τῷ Θεῷ μὴ ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ἀποθανόντας· ἀποκτεῖναι δὲ δυνηθῆναι τὴν ἁμαρτίαν μόνου Θεοῦ. Τοῖς γὰρ ἀνθρώποις ὠφείλετο μέν· δίκαιοι γὰρ ἦμεν ἑκόντες ἡττηθέντες, ἀναπαλαίσασθαι τὴν ἧτταν· οὐκ ἐνῆν δὲ οὐδ᾿ ἐγγύς, δούλοις ἤδη γενομένοις τῆς ἁμαρτίας· πῶς γὰρ ἂν ἐγενόμεθα κρείττους ᾗ δουλεύοντες ἦμεν; ἦ γὰρ ἂν καὶ μείζους ἦμεν, «οὐκ ἔστι δὲ δοῦλος μείζων τοῦ κυρίου αὐτοῦ».
Ἐπεὶ τοίνυν ὁ μὲν τὸ χρέος τοῦτο καταβαλεῖν καὶ τὴν νίκην ἄρασθαι ταύτην δίκαιος ὤν, ἀνδράποδον ἦν ὧν ἔδει τῷ πολέμῳ κρατεῖν· ὁ δὲ Θεὸς ᾧ ταῦτα ἐξῆν οὐδενὸς ὑπόχρεως ἦν, καὶ διὰ ταῦτα τὸν ἀγῶνα οὐδέτερος ἀνῃρεῖτο, καὶ ἡ ἁμαρτία ἔζη, καὶ ἦν ἀμήχανον ἤδη τὴν ἀληθινὴν ζωὴν ἡμῖν ἀνατεῖλαι—τὸ τρόπαιον ἄλλου μὲν ὀφείλοντος, ἄλλου δὲ δυναμένου—, τούτων ἕνεκα συνελθεῖν ἐδέησε τοῦτο κἀκεῖνο, καὶ ἕνα καὶ τὸν αὐτὸν ἀμφοτέρας εἶναι τὰς φύσεις, τοῦ τε προσήκοντος τῷ πολέμῳ καὶ ἐδύνατο νικῆσαι.
Γίνεται τοίνυν. Καὶ Θεὸς μὲν οἰκειοῦται τὸν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀγῶνα· ἄνθρωπος γάρ· ἄνθρωπος δὲ νικᾷ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν, καθαρὸς ὢν ἁμαρτίας ἁπάσης, Θεὸς γὰρ ἦν. Καὶ τοῦτον τὸν τρόπον ἡ φύσις τῶν ὀνειδῶν ἀπαλλάττεται, καὶ ἀναδεῖται νίκης στεφάνῳ, τῆς ἁμαρτίας πεσούσης.
Οὔπω δὲ καὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἕκαστος ἢ νενίκηκε τούτων ἕνεκα ἢ ἠγώνισται, ἤγουν τῶν δεσμῶν ἐκείνων ἐλύθη· καὶ τοῦτο δὲ αὐτὸς ἐποίησε, δι᾿ ὧν προσέθηκεν ὁ Σωτήρ, ἐν οἷς ἑκάστῳ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἔδωκεν ἐξουσίαν ἀποκτεῖναι τὴν ἁμαρτίαν καὶ κοινωνοὺς αὐτῷ γενέσθαι τῆς ἀριστείας. Ἐπεὶ γὰρ μετὰ τὸ τρόπαιον ἐκεῖνο δέον στεφανοῦσθαι καὶ θριαμβεύειν, ὁ δὲ πληγῶν καὶ σταυροῦ καὶ θανάτου καὶ τῶν τοιούτων εἰς πεῖραν ἦλθε, καὶ ὅ φησι Παῦλος· «ἀντὶ τῆς προκειμένης αὐτῷ χαρᾶς, ὑπέμεινε σταυρὸν αἰσχύνης καταφρονήσας», τί γίνεται; Ὁ μὲν οὐδὲν ἠδίκησεν ὧν ταῦτα ἔδωκε δίκην, οὐδὲ ἐποίησεν ἁμαρτίαν οὐδὲ εἶχεν οὐδὲν ὅθεν ἂν ἐγκαλεῖν εἶχεν ὁ συκοφάντης καὶ σφόδρα ἀναισχυντῶν. Πληγὴ δὲ καὶ ὀδύνη καὶ θάνατος ἐξ ἀρχῆς κατὰ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ἐπενοήθη· τί γὰρ καὶ συνεχώρει φιλάνθρωπος ὢν ὁ Δεσπότης; Οὐ γὰρ εἰκός ἐστι φθορᾷ καὶ θανάτῳ τὴν ἀγαθότητα χαίρειν. Διὰ τοῦτο μετὰ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν εὐθὺς τὸν θάνατον καὶ τὴν ὀδύνην συνεχώρησεν ὁ Θεός, οὐ δίκην ἡμαρτηκότι μᾶλλον ἐπάγων ἢ φάρμακον νενοσηκότι παρέχων. Ἐπεὶ τοίνυν τοῖς ὑπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ πεπραγμένοις οὐκ ἦν ἐφαρμόσαι ταύτην τὴν δίκην, καὶ ἀρρωστίας ἴχνος εἶχεν οὐδὲν ὁ Σωτὴρ ἣν ἀνεῖλεν ὅπερ ἔλαβε φάρμακον, εἰς ἡμᾶς ἡ τοῦ ποτηρίου δύναμις ἐκείνου διαβαίνει, καὶ ἀποκτείνει τὴν ἐν ἡμῖν ἁμαρτίαν· καὶ ἡ τοῦ ἀνευθύνου πληγὴ γίνεται δίκη τοῖς πολλῶν ὑπόχρεως οὖσι.
Καὶ ἐπεὶ μεγάλη τις ἦν ἡ δίκη καὶ θαυμαστὴ καὶ μείζων ἢ τῶν ἀνθρωπείων κακῶν ἀντίρροπος εἶναι, οὐ μέχρι τούτου μόνον ἔστη λύσασα τὸ ἔγκλημα· ἀλλὰ τοσαύτην προσέθηκεν ὑπερβολὴν ἀγαθῶν, ὥστε καὶ εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν αὐτὸν ἀναβῆναι καὶ τῆς ἐνταῦθα βασιλείας τῷ Θεῷ κοινωνῆσαι, τοὺς ἀπὸ γῆς, τοὺς ἐχθίστους, τοὺς δεδεμένους, κοινωνῆσαι, τοὺς ἀπὸ γῆς, τοὺς ἐχθίστους, τοὺς δεδεμένους, τοὺς ἠνδραποδισμένους, τοὺς ἠτιμωμένους. Τίμιος γὰρ ἦν ὁ θάνατος ἐκεῖνος, οὔμενουν οὐδ᾿ ὅσον ἀνθρώποις λογίσασθαι δυνατόν, καὶ εἰ ὀλίγου τινὸς ἐπράθη τοῖς φονευταῖς συγχωροῦντος τοῦ Σωτῆρος· ἵνα καὶ τοῦτο πτωχείας αὐτῷ γέμῃ καὶ ἀτιμίας.
Ὡσὰν τῷ μὲν ὅλως πραθῆναι τὰ δούλων ὑπομείνας, τὸ ὑβρισθῆναι κερδάνῃ· κέρδος γὰρ ἡγεῖτο τὴν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἀτιμίαν· τῷ δὲ ὀλίγου τινός, αἰνίξηται προῖκα καὶ δῶρον εἰς τὸν ὑπὲρ τοῦ κόσμου θάνατον ἀφιγμένος· ἑκὼν ἀπέθανε μηδένα μηδὲν ἀδικήσας, οὔτε τοῦ βίου ἕνεκα οὔτε τῆς εἰς τὸ κοινὸν πολιτείας, χαρίτων ὑπάρξας τοῖς φονευταῖς, τῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν καὶ τῶν ἐλπίδων πολλῷ μειζόνων.
Καὶ τί δὴ ταῦτα λέγω; Θεὸς ἀπέθανεν· αἷμα Θεοῦ τὸ χεθὲν ἐπὶ τοῦ σταυροῦ. Τί τιμιώτερον τούτου γένοιτ᾿ ἂν τοῦ θανάτου; Τί φρικωδέστερον; Τί τοσοῦτον ἥμαρτεν ἡ τῶν ἀνθρώπων φύσις, ὅσον λύειν εἶχεν ἡ δίκη; Πηλίκον ἂν ἦν τὸ τραῦμα, ὥστε ἀντίρροπον γενέσθαι τῇ τοῦ φαρμάκου τούτου δυνάμει;
Ἔδει μὲν γὰρ τιμωρίᾳ τινὶ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν καταλυθῆναι, καὶ ὧν πρὸς Θεὸν ἐξημάρτομεν τὴν ἀξίαν δόντας δίκην, ἀπηλλάχθαι τῶν ἐγκλημάτων· ὁ γὰρ τιμωρησάμενος οἷς ἐπήνεγκε δίκην, ἐγκαλοίη περὶ τῶν αὐτῶν οὐκ ἂν ἔτι. Ἀνθρώπων δὲ οὐδεὶς ἦν ὃς εὐθύνης καθαρὸς ὢν αὐτός, ὑπὲρ τῶν ἄλλων ἔπαθεν ἄν, ὅπου γε οὐδὲ ἑαυτῷ τις ἤρκεσεν οὐδὲ τὸ γένος ἅπαν, εἰ μυριάκις ἐξῆν ἀποθανεῖν, τὴν γιγνομένην ἂν ἀπέτισε δίκην. Τί γὰρ ἂν ἄξιον καὶ πάθοι δοῦλος αἴσχιστος, τὴν εἰκόνα συντρίψας τὴν βασιλικὴν καὶ πρὸς τοσοῦτον ὕψος ὑβρίσας;
Διὰ ταῦτα ὁ Δεσπότης ὁ ἀναμάρτητος πολλῶν δεινῶν ἀνασχόμενος ἀποθνήσκει· καὶ φέρει μὲν τὴν πληγὴν δεινῶν ἀνασχόμενος ἀποθνήσκει· καὶ φέρει μὲν τὴν πληγὴν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀπολογούμενος, ἄνθρωπος ὤν· λύει δὲ τὸ γένος τῶν ἐγκλημάτων καὶ δίδωσι τοῖς δεδεμένοις ἐλευθερίαν, ὅτι αὐτὸς οὐκ ἐδεῖτο ταύτης, Θεὸς ὢν καὶ Δεσπότης».
Περὶ τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ ζωῆς Λόγος Α' 509-516.
«[ § 10. The Ransom which Christ has paid for us ]
Let us examine this further. It is not possible for those who have not died to sin to live for God. So it is of God alone to be able to slay sin. For men it was necessary, for had we been defeated against our will we should have been worthy of retrieving our defeat; but for those who had become slaves of sin it was in no way possible. How should we have been able to prevail over that to which we had become slaves? Even had we been more powerful, yet "the slave is not greater than the master" (Mt. 10:24).
It was man, then, who by rights should have attained this end and for whom it was fit to win the victory; but he had become enslaved by those whom he should have conquered in battle. God, however, who was indebted to no one, had the power to do these things. Therefore, as long as neither God nor man undertook the battle, sin lived on. It was impossible for the sun of the true life to rise on us, since it was man who should wrest the victory for himself but only God who was able to do so. It was necessary, therefore, for manhood to be joined to Deity, and for one and the same to possess the nature both of him to whom the warfare pertained and of Him who was able to prevail in it.
It is this, then, that comes about. God makes His own the struggle on behalf of the human race, for He becomes man. Man, being pure from all sin, overcomes sin, for He is God. In this way human nature is cleared of disgrace and, now that sin has fallen, puts on the crown of victory.
Even though it has not yet happened that each member of the human race has been victorious because of this, or has even entered into the struggle, yet he has been released from these bonds. This the Saviour Himself accomplished by means of the nature which He assumed. Thereby He gave to each member of humanity the power to slay sin and to share with Him in the hero's prize. Since after that victory He had to receive His crown and celebrate His triumph, He underwent wounds, the cross, and death, and as Paul says, "for the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb. 12:2). What does this mean ? He had done no wrong for which He might pay the penalty, nor had He committed sin, nor had He done anything of which the most shameless informer might accuse Him. Yet wounds, pain, and death were from the beginning devised against sin! Why then did the Lord permit it, since He loves man? It is not reasonable for goodness to take pleasure in an atrocity and in death. This is the reason that God permitted death and pain as soon as sin had entered in, not so much to inflict a penalty on the guilty but rather to supply a remedy for him who had fallen into sickness. Since, therefore, it was impossible to apply this penalty to the things which Christ had done, and since the Saviour had no trace of any disease for which He needed a remedy to heal Him, the power of His cup is applied to us and slays the sin that is in us. The wounding of Him who is under no censure becomes the penalty of those who are guilty of many things.
Since it was a great and wondrous penalty which more than outweighed the evils committed by men, it not only cancelled the indictment but added so great an abundance of benefits that He ascended into heaven in order to make those who were of the earth, the most hateful captives, enslaved and dishonoured, to become partakers with God of the heavenly kingdom. That death was precious beyond the power of human thought, and yet the Saviour yielded Himself to be sold to His murderers for a trifling sum, so that even this should be full of poverty and dishonour for Him! By being bought He willed to share the lot of a slave and be subject to outrageous treatment. He considered it gain to be dishonoured for our sake; by being sold for a trifling sum He would hint that He came freely, as a Gift, to suffer death for the world. Willingly He died, having wronged no one either for the sake of His own life or for the common good, supplying graces to His murderers far greater than they could wish or hope for.
But why do I mention these things? It is God who died; it was God's blood which was shed upon the cross. What could be more precious than this death, what more awesome? How great a sin had human nature committed that needed so great a penalty to expiate it! How great was the wound that required the power of this remedy!
It was necessary that sin should be abolished by some penalty, and that we, by paying a just penalty, should be cleared of the indictment of the sins which we have committed against God. He who has been punished for the things which he has committed will not be called to account for them again. But among men there was no one who, himself being guiltless, might have suffered for the others. Since no one could have sufficed for himself, even the whole race, could it have died ten thousand times, was unable to pay the penalty it deserved. What fitting penalty could that most wretched slave undergo, who had utterly destroyed the image of the king and acted contemptuously towards so great a dignity ?
It is for this reason that the Master who is without sin suffers many terrible things and dies and endures the blow. As man He undertakes the cause of mankind. He releases our race from the indictment and gives freedom to the prisoners, since He Himself, being God and Master, stood in no need thereof.»
The life in Christ 1:509-516,
St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1974,
* Wilhelm Gass,
Die Mystik des Nikolaus Cabasilas vom Leben in Christo,
C.A. Koch, 1849.