Advent V: ‘The sign of God is powerlessness in the world’

‘And to us who come, in the midst of the wicked world torn by malice, to venerate the Infant lying in the manger, what law and wisdom of life are given by this miraculous sign? To what do the angels now call those who come to venerate Christ? They call them to receive into their hearts His humiliation, His persecution, His Crucifixion, as the sole sign of the Christian life, as its power and triumph.

For the best self-attestation of the Good is its defenselessness in the face of the power of evil. The best attestation of Truth is silence in the face of much-talkative falsehood. The supreme manifestation of Beauty consists in the unadornment by vain adornment. The power of God triumphs by means of itself, not by means of the power of this world. For the world, there is no power of God. The world does not see and does not know the power of God: it laughs at the power of God. But Christians know that the sign of God is powerlessness in the world – the Infant in the manger.

And there is no need to gild the manger, for a gilded manger is no longer Christ’s manger. There is no need for earthly defense, for such defense is superfluous for the Infant Christ. There is no need for earthly magnificence, for it is rejected by the King of Glory, the Infant in the manger. But there is a need for the authentic revelation of the God of Love. There is a need for the image of all-forgiving meekness, praying for His enemies and tormentors. There is a need for the image of the way of the cross to Christ’s Kingdom, to defeat evil by the triumphant self-evidence of good. There is a need for the image of freedom from the world. And powerless, we are powerful. In the kingdom of this world we desire to serve the Kingdom of God; we believe in, call, and await this Kingdom. For we have come to know the sign of the Infant in the manger. Power in powerlessness, Triumph in humiliation. And let our heart be our manger, in which we bear the divine sign, the sign of the cross.

By this sign reigns the King of kings, the Infant in the manger. In Him and with Him we are united forever by the fact He was made man. We call him Emmanuel – God with us’.

– Sergeĭ Nikolaevich Bulgakov, Churchly Joy: Orthodox Devotions for the Church Year (trans. Boris Jakim; Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2008), 39–40.

3 comments

  1. Seems like theology in the last few decades has been fixated on the theme of God’s weakness. The Open Theists don’t like a god who knows much, so they claim the humanity of Christ as a revelation of God-in-Himself and thus have a god who is nescient.

    Mr. Sergei cleverly ignores the resurrection of Christ by claiming the crucifixion as “the sole sign of the Christian life”. Mercy! The early church knew none of this (2 Cor.4:16). As Paul shortly notes: “Jesus is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you.”

    Christians live under the dual sign of the crucifixion and the resurrection. If either element is blotted out, faith becomes a vain and stupid thing. And the world most certainly does have a powerful God. Jesus is not eternally pinned to the death and agony of the cross, for it is impossible for death to hold him. He lives on the basis of an indestructible life, He sustains the whole universe with the power of His Word, all angels, authorities and kingdoms are subject to Him. He rules the world with an iron scepter and dashes the nations to pieces like pottery, and comes soon in the revelation of blazing fire to destroy his enemies by the breath of his mouth.

    Like

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