One of the things i love about the “Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom” and Eastern Orthodoxy is that it does not present God as a wrathful judge Who demands satisfaction and appeasement. No matter where I have made contact with the Divine Liturgy in the context of Orthodoxy, this has been my experience. For that experience, I give great thanks.
Some might say that is not what they encountered or are encountering in Eastern Orthodoxy. I do not doubt that is true. Orthodoxy has its share of brokenness for it too is inhabited by sinners. But then, perhaps, just perhaps, sometimes we find what we expect to find and encounter what we expect to encounter.
The message offered, and which I have consistently encountered “again and again,” that shines forth and touches me, in spite of its brokenness, is the love and mercy of God. Christ Jesus’ sacrificial death is a life-sharing, life-creating, life-giving death not a life-ending death. The death of Christ Jesus is the death bears the fruit of life. That is the meaning of sacrifice, not appeasement or satisfaction.
And here is an important aspect of all of this. The irony. The treasure in earthen vessels – cracked pots. The need and the provision of mercy where judgment, a demand for satisfaction, would normally be the choice. Blessed are the merciful.
As we hear in the Divine Liturgy: “Lord, our God, whose power is beyond compare, and glory is beyond understanding; whose mercy is boundless, and love for us is ineffable; look upon us and upon this holy house in Your compassion. Grant to us and to those who pray with us Your abundant mercy.”
6 Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55.6-7)
10 Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live? 11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33.10-11)
4 Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. 5 For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Psalm 30.4-5)
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger forever. 10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103. 8-12)
“Though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
Oh, the boundless mercy of God! In His greatest wrath upon the faithless and ungrateful people, upon the peopleladen with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters (Isaiah 1:4), as princes of Sodom (Isaiah 1:10), and upon the people who have become as the people of Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:10): in such wrath, the Lord does not abandon mercy but rather calls them to repentance–just as, after terrible lightning, a gentle rain falls. Such is the Lord–long-suffering and full of mercy: neither will He keep His anger forever (Psalm 103:9). Only if sinners cease to commit evil, and learn to do good, and turn to God with humility and repentance, will they become white as snow.The Lord is mighty and willing. No one but Him is able to cleanse the sinful soul of man from sin, and by cleansing to whiten it. No matter how often linen is washed in water with ashes and soap–no matter how often it is washed and rewashed–it cannot achieve whiteness until it is spread under the light of the sun. Thus, our soul cannot become white, no matter how often we cleanse it by our own effort and labor, even with the help of all the means of the Law–until we, at last, bring it to the feet of God, spread out and opened wide, so that the light of God may illumine and whiten it. The Lord condones and even commends all of our labor and effort. He wants us to bathe our soul in tears, to wring it out by repentance, to press it by the pangs of the conscience, and to clothe it with good deeds. After all of this, He calls us to Him: Come now, says the Lord, and let us reason together (Isaiah 1:18). That is, “I will look at you, and I will see if there is Me in you; and you will look upon Me, as in a mirror, and you will see what kind of person you are.”
O Lord, slow to anger, have mercy on us before the final wrath of that Dreadful Day.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
Source: The Prologue, August 5th