Monday, August 18, 2014

The cross and the groaning of the world

One of the more fascinating events asserted to have taken place during Christ's crucifixion is that of a darkness coming over the land for a span of three hours. Mark relates that When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon (Mark 15.33). This takes place during the crucifixion of God's Son, who'd become man to serve mankind and to give himself as a ransom for their sins (10.45). After the darkness, Christ cries out: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (15.34)

The darkening of the whole land tells us that this is an event of cosmic proportions. Something infinite, ineffable beyond understanding is taking place in the crucifixion of this man Jesus of Nazareth. Even the elements are involved in what is happening, and it would seem the world is mourning, groaning at his death. Like Paul says, the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains (Rom 8.22).

This image of darkness over the land tells us that what we do as human beings is not disconnected from the world and nature at large. Too often we think we live above and beyond nature, as if we can do whatever we'd like, without thinking that we are affecting the environment in grave ways. This is not to mention the torture we put our bodies through, thinking we are invincible and can do whatever we'd like! Think only of the poisons we eat and consume: junk food; fast food; binge drinking; overeating; etc.

We are not Platonic psychai temporarily and unfortunately contained within prison-house bodies. We are a part of the natural order as human beings; we were created from the dust, and so we cannot expect to be able beyond the limitations of nature. Neither can we suppose that what we do has no connection with the nature we inhabiting. The darkness at the crucifixion shows us that everything is connected.

There's a Romanian hymn that captures this notion well. One verse reads:

Te plânge izvorul din vale,
Și raza de soare-n amurg,
Se scutură florile-n cale,
Și stelele toate se-ascund.

The valley spring cries over you,
And the sun's rays at dusk,
The flowers on the way tremble,
And all the stars hide themselves
.

This a powerful image! All the forces of nature respond with horror at the thought of the death of the Son of God: the springs of water are the earth's tears being shed over his murder; the flowers trembling in the wind are trembling with fright and sorrow; the stars don't even show themselves in the face of what is happening.

To close, Dumitru Stăniloae has said on this matter:

The economy of God, that is, his plan with regard to the world, consists in the deification o the created world, something which, as a consequence of sin, implies also its salvation. . . . Salvation and deification undoubtedly have humanity directly as their aim but not a humanity separated from nature, rather one that is ontologically united with it. . . .
Through the corruption, sterilization, and poisoning of nature, a human being makes his own existence, as well as that of his fellow human beings, impossible. Thus, nature is the condition not just of individual human existence, but also of human solidarity (The Experience of God II:1-2).