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Sacrifice. Little way Category: Sacrifice Bulgakov. About Sacrifice

Sacrifice. Propitiation
In the works of Fr. Sergei Bulgakov

Christ's inner acceptance of His fate

The high-priestly ministry of Christ constitutes of the inner acceptance of His fate as the will of the Father and with the Divine-Human living-out of this fate.

In coming into the world, Christ enters the realm of sin-poisoned being. His redemptive suffering begins with His Incarnation. Absolutely without human sin, the God-Man experiences the sin surrounding Him as severe suffering. He has come to save the world, but it is alien to Him; and the hostility of the world to Christ gradually becomes so intense that the way out — in the form of the death on the cross — becomes clear and inevitable. From a specific moment of time, therefore, Christ begins to speak to His disciples about His coming suffering and death. But in what manner are these sufferings and this death fated to become those of the cross? How do they acquire the redemptive significance of the sacrifice on the cross for sin? This is connected with the God-Man's inner acceptance of His fate as the will of the Father and with the Divine-Human living-out of this fate. This is precisely what constitutes the high-priestly ministry of Christ, who offers Himself in sacrifice and manifests His obedience unto the death on the cross.

Sergius Bulgakov
The Lamb of God
Ch. V. The Work of Christ
II. The HighPriestly Ministry of Christ

Supratemporal significance of the redemption

How should one understand this empirical and as if new burdening of Christ with our sins? The redemptive sacrifice, accomplished just once for eternity, is being accomplished empirically, so to speak, in the repeated liturgies.

The man who sins really tears open anew the bloody wounds of Christ, inflicted once on Golgotha; and this man receives remission of sins from Christ if he turns to Him for this remission (in baptism and in penitence).

There arises here a new question, even more vertiginous: Does this intense, so to speak qualitative assumption of quantity, this assimilation of all the sins of the present and of the future, correspond to a distinct, particular experiencing of the empirical sins that have already been committed in the past or that are yet to be committed in the future? In other words, does the redemption continue in time after having once been accomplished supratemporally and for all times on the cross? One cannot simply ignore this question, since the foundation for an affirmative answer is given in the Gospel image of the Last Judgment, where Christ takes His self-identification with the whole of humanity to the extreme. But in this case how should one understand this empirical and as if new burdening of Christ with our sins? There is nothing ontologically new here, because these sins, assumed and redeemed supratemporally, are in their entirety accomplished in an equivalent manner, empirically, in time, in which the content of the supratemporal is thus disclosed: unity in multiplicity and vice versa. We can dogmatically understand this, first of all, by analogy with the Church year, in which the various events of Christ's life — events that occurred just once in time and seemed to disappear in it, but that actually have a supratemporal significance — are "commemorated" (i.e., really take place).[15] Likewise, the redemptive sacrifice, accomplished just once for eternity, is being accomplished empirically, so to speak, in the repeated liturgies. Therefore, the man who sins really tears open anew the bloody wounds of Christ, inflicted once on Golgotha; and this man receives remission of sins from Christ if he turns to Him for this remission (in baptism and in penitence). This extends also to the pre-Christian past, not empirically, because of the irreversibility of time, but in virtue of the unity and connectedness of the universal human life, as a result of which the past lives in the present and in the future. Beyond these general contours, however, the human eye can discern nothing in the mysterious darkness of the Gethsemane night.


[15] This was already discussed in my essay "The Holy Grail." [See n. 9 above. — Trans.]

Sergius Bulgakov
The Lamb of God
Ch. V. The Work of Christ
II. The HighPriestly Ministry of Christ

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