While the Lord Jesus was yet a forty day old child, the Elder Simeon proclaimed, “This child is set for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and as a sign which is spoke against” (Lk. 2:24).
The sign is the sign of the Cross. St. Paul teaches, “The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).
Christ Crucified is the power of God’s wisdom (cf. 1 Cor. 1:24). To this day this power scandalizes many, even those who are called Christians. In our times, many who are called Christians exalt secular reasoning above that of the Divine Logos. In many ways they desire to subject (as if possible) the Gospel to the “wisdom” of this world. Yet St. Paul reminds us, “Did not God make foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world knew not God through its wisdom, it pleased God through the foolishness of the preaching to save those who believe …The foolish thing of God is wiser than man, and the weak thing of God is stronger than man” (1 Cor. 1:20b-21, 25).
The fallen world in its blinded wisdom calls foolishness the things of God. Let us guard our hearts that we do not accept this spirit into them. Let us diligently ensure that we do not begin to reason according to this “wisdom.” When we subject the things of God to the world and its “reason” then we are losing the Divine foolishness of the Gospel. Let us be fools to the fallen world, for what can it offer to one striving to be a true Christian?
One of the vital elements of the Truth of the Gospel, and moreover the life of the Church, is that those who will follow after Christ Jesus should be prepared to be considered fools by the spirit of the world.
St. John Chrysostom teaches, “When the Greek (that is one reasoning according to the “wisdom” of the world, my note) calls me foolish, he shows himself excessively foolish: since I who am esteemed by him a fool, evidently appear wiser than the wise. When he calls me weak, he shows himself to be weaker. For the mighty achievements which the tax collectors and fishermen were able to effect by the grace of God, these, philosophers, and rhetoricians, and tyrants, and in short the whole world, running ten thousand ways here and there, could not with all their strength even imagine.”
When one is called a fool for trusting in the Holy Trinity and in the holy things in the body of Christ, the Church – such is a wonderful complement! In truth what the world calls foolishness is but the most brilliant of Wisdom.
As the Lord Jesus Himself proclaimed to His disciples, of whom may we be found, “Blessed are you when people revile you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake! Rejoice!” (Matt. 5:11). “Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall exclude and mock you, and throw out your name as evil for the sake of the Son of Man” (Lk. 6:22).
Why? Because the Lord has come as a sign which will be spoken against. Why? Because He has come to free mankind from the darkness. But mankind loves the darkness.
“And this is the judgment: that the light has come into the world, and people have loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil. For everyone who practices evil hates the light and does not come to the light, for fear that his works will be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be revealed as done in God” (Jn 3:19-20)
Only works done in God, in the Holy Trinity, are of the light. It is because of the light that the world seeks to belittle, exclude, and cast out those who are striving to be children of the light.
The great tragedy is this – it also transpires in the midst of those who are called Christians. When those who bear the name of Christian begin to accept the dark wisdom of the world as a guiding oracle, then they will also seek to discredit and defame those Christians who desire to remain true to the Commandments of Christ the Lord. Such who are Christian in name only but innerly have begun to be governed by the spirit of this age are ashamed of the foolishness of the Gospel. Thus, they seek to modify and “update” it to satisfy the times and their own acceptance of the dark wisdom of the world as the primary standard.
The Elder Athanasios teaches, “The end result of a cosmopolitan secularized Christianity – a Christianity used as bait for the hook of selfish material interests and hedonistic pursuits – is atheism.”
Such will ardently pursue, so to silence, those who at least attempt to speak from the foolishness of the Cross. They will seek means to discredit and defame those who strive to hold fast to the Traditions of Truth. This is a greater tragedy than when the unbelievers do such things.
Yet, Christ is the sign for the rise and fall of many. Even those who call themselves Christians.
The Lord Himself spoke to this when He proclaimed, “Do not think I have come to bring peace on the earth! I did not come to bring peace but a sword. Indeed, I came to set son against his father, a daughter against her mother … a man’s enemies will be members of his own household” (Matt. 10:34-35). The sword is the word of God, the standard of Truth (cf. Heb 4:12). In this life the Truth of the Gospel is a dividing line. For there can be no fellowship between light and darkness (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14). Our Lord Himself suffered from “enemies” within His own house, the house of Israel. In similar manner, those who will seek to hold fast to the Tradition of Truth in Christ through His Church will be attacked by those who desire to remove the sword of the Word as a stumbling block.
Again we are told, “You will be handed over even by parents, relatives, friends, and brothers. Some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men for my Name’s sake, yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance acquire your lives” (Lk. 21:16-19).
Many want a gospel of earthly peace, one that harmonizes with the spirit of the world. One that will not make us fools to the world. Such enjoy the possibility of exploiting the Gospel for earthly prestige, yet to do so they must first make it a friend of the world. They desire a gospel that will not rock the boat; that will not bring the division between light and darkness. Such will hand over their brethren who are striving to stand steadfast in the unchanging Truth of Christ. They may even think they are offering service to God (cf. Jn. 16:2). But it is written, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility with God? Whoever want to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own! But you are not of this world” (Jn 15:18-19).
Until the end of time, the sign of the Lord Jesus will stand as a line of demarcation. Most of all for those who claim the name of Christian. It is the threshing floor of which St. John the Baptist spoke, “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clear his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12).
The Lord is, in our times, in the very events around us, clearing His threshing floor. If we strive to hold fast to the foolishness of the Truth, the sign of Christ in His Body the Church, then by His mercy may we be found as wheat in the barn.