SURPASSING HUMAN JUSTICE: ENTHRONING DIVINE JUSTICE.
IN CHRISTIANITY, MERCY TRUMPS JUSTICE.
"Compassion and justice in one soul are as a man adoring God and idols in one house." -St. Isaac of Syriai
The cry for "justice" is heard around the world. But what "justice" is cried out for? A casual overview of the media clearly indicates that the cry for worldly justice is very often accompanied by cries for retaliation, retribution and vengeance. Such 'justice' is often attributed to third world nations or countries that have been in constant conflict. For example, a British newspaper article headline about a recent Libyan incident read, "The car was armoured like a tank. But that wasn't enough to save Gaddafi's son Khamis when the rebels took their vengeance."ii History books recount incidents of murderous atrocities against individuals, nations and entire peoples, committed in the name of revenge, since the dawn of recorded time.
I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will. (Phlm 1: 14)
In today's secular society there are two extreme views of those serious followers of Christ who apply Christ's teachings on tolerance and forgiveness in their lives. One view is that such Christians are wanting in courage by failing to call for retribution and vengeance for crimes society may rightly find abhorrent. On the other hand, committed Christians are viewed as intolerant if they choose to reject values and practices that are un-Christ like. The Christian response can only be understood by deepening our understanding of the Holy Trinity and the relationship of the Persons of the Holy Trinity among themselves.
What we know of the essence of the Godhead, the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God, is magnificently summarized by St. John Chrysostom in his Divine Liturgy: "for Thou art God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever existing and eternally the same." The Holy Spirit-inspired Church and its early Councils undertook the task of trying to understand and express the relationship between the veiled prototype of the Holy Trinity contained in the Old Testament Scriptures and God as One-in-Three as revealed by Christ Himself. McGuckin summarizes that it consisted of a "theology of three perfectly coequal divine persons (hypostases), all sharing the selfsame divine nature (ousia). . . more succinctly . . .a vision of God where the Son and Holy Spirit were homoousion with the Father though hypostatically distinct."
One interesting thing about people: we have a tendency to want others to treat us with understanding and compassion. The cry for mercy can be heard everywhere around the globe. Unfortunately, this cry is often one-sided. We want what we consider fairness, mercy and forgiveness for ourselves, but are reluctant to apply the same to others.
by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, April 1978
I want to start an argument. However, if we are going to argue we must do so on my terms only. I must write both sides of the script. Not only must I know what I want to say but you must respond precisely the way I expect you to. Does that sound unreasonable? Of course it does. Yet there are many people who insist that they write both sides of the dialogue, and who are upset when others won’t follow their script.
Some people really think they have the right to decide how others should respond to them. A wise person once said that your feelings are hurt not because of what people say but because of what you hear. That makes a lot of sense to me. If we are in a disturbed frame of mind and emotionally upset, we hear things that other people really did not say. They may have said the words, but their intent was very different from the meaning which we received. We must be extremely careful that we not try to write both sides of the dialogue. We cannot control the scripts of life. Life’s scenario can be filled with love or with bitterness, with forgiveness or with grudge bearing.
Jesus said, “If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and the Pharisees you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” (St. Matthew 5:20) He also said, “The kingdom of God is among you.” (St. Luke 17:21) It’s not beyond the clouds, it is among you. You can be together in this group, in the same congregation and some of you are already in the kingdom and some of you are not because there are those among you whose virtue goes no deeper than the virtue of the scribes and the Pharisees.
St. John the Evangelist informs us what Jesus told him about the acts of a group who had left the Church “. . . you hate the deeds. . .which I also hate” (Rev. 2: 6). There are probably none in San Diego, and few worldwide who do not know about, deplore and lament the horrific rape and murder of two young high school girls in our community, one just over a month ago and the other last year. Similar feelings about such opprobrious deeds against children abound in our community and elsewhere. These criminal actions demonstrate the sinful brokenness mankind is capable of.
Our Eastern Church Fathers teach us that in brokenness however, love can emerge. The brokenness in the world, often a source of despair, can be transformed into an opportunity, in imitation of Christ, to empty (kenosis) ourselves from our own self-love, to “put on Christ” - an emptying that reaches fulfillment in love towards God and neighbor. Indeed, thousands of loving San Diegans and countless others nation and world-wide, lovingly and fervently prayed for Chelsea and her family as well as for the other victims of such evil and for their families. Two weeks after Chelsea’s body was found, the body of Amber, daughter of another grieving local family was found about a year after her unexplained disappearance.” Rightly, the throne of God was stormed by prayers for these innocents and their loving families and friends.
“If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”(Mt 6:14-18)
The Lenten Season in the Eastern Church is embedded in the spirit of forgiveness. Lent itself is preceded by a series of Sunday Gospels, collectively called the Lenten Triodion, leading us to forgiveness in emulation of the forgiving Christ, who said on the Cross of His persecutors and executioners: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Lk 23:34).
The Following is an excerpt from Great Lent, by Alexander Schmemann
From Chapter 2: Preparation for Lent
Finally comes the last day [of preparation for Lent], usually called "Forgiveness Sunday," but whose other liturgical name must also be remembered: the "Expulsion of Adam from the Paradise of Bliss." This name summarizes indeed the entire preparation for Lent. By now we know that man was created for paradise, for knowledge of God and communion with Him. Man's sin has deprived him of that blessed life and his existence on earth is exile. Christ, the Savior of the world, opens the door of paradise to everyone who follows Him, and the Church, by revealing to us the beauty of the Kingdom, makes our life a pilgrimage toward our heavenly fatherland. Thus, at the beginning of Lent, we are like Adam:
Adam was expelled form paradise through food;
Sitting, therefore, in front of it he cried:
"Woe to me....
One commandment of God have I transgressed,
depriving myself of all that is good;
Paradise holy! Planted for me,
And now because of Eve closed to me;
Pray to thy Creator and mine that I may be filled again by thy blossom."
Then answered the Savior to him:
"I wish not my creation to perish;
I desire it to be saved and to know the truth;
For I will not turn away him who comes to Me....