“Only upon the cross does one die with hands stretched out.” –Athanasius the Great
10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.
The opening quote is from a book entitled, “On the Incarnation,” page 76. The interesting thing is how old it is:
Athanasius’s two-part work of apologetics, Against the Heathen and The Incarnation of the Word of God, completed about 335, was the first great classic of developed Greek Orthodox theology. In Athanasius’s system, the Son of God, the eternal Word through whom God made the world, entered the world in human form to lead men back to the harmony from which they had fallen away. Athanasius reacted vigorously against Arianism, for which the Son was a lesser being, and welcomed the definition of the Son formulated at the Council of Nicaea in 325: “consubstantial [same in nature] with the Father.” Biography
Athanasius goes on to say, “Therefore it was fitting for the Lord to endure this, and to stretch out his hands, that with the one he might draw the ancient people and with the other those from the Gentiles, and join both together in himself.” The “ancient people” is most likely a reference to the Jews, and his statement is confirmed in Ephesians 2:14-16,
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
Athanasius continues, “This he himself said when he indicated by what manner of death he was going to redeem all, ‘When I am lifted up, I shall draw all to myself’ (John 12:32).” In the drawing of all people to Himself, Jesus was including Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female (Galatians 3:28).
As for reading such an old book, C.S. Lewis said, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.” By reading what the early Christian leaders believed, we can bypass many of the pitfalls of changing cultures and the quicksand of Western thinking*.
Abba, may You continue to introduce me to early Christians whom I shall meet someday in Your kingdom. I look forward to hearing their stories and learning from them even as I do today through their writings. Thank You for such a treasure trove of faith. Amen.
*(T)he Western style of thought is characterized as embodying the value of ”individual distinctiveness” or ”independence,” while the Eastern style of thought embodies the value of ”harmonious social relations” or ”interdependence.” NYTimes