People react quite differently when confronting suffering. Some cry out in anger; others rebel in frustration. Another might seek scapegoat to vent his frustrations. A fourth might instead abandon the way of purity and righteousness, and decide to live a life of pleasure and lust, feeling almost justified to lust for his light affliction.
St. Cyril of Alexandria explains that the entire purpose of the Incarnation was for our Beloved, Lord Christ was to save the impoverished state of humanity, and to help it with His divine aid and love. But in order to fully help and save humanity, He had to take all that it was as His own, without sin, in order to lift it to the heights of His glory. When Nestorians claimed that the true God could never suffer completely, St. Cyril pointed to the Lord’s cry on the cross, “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?” (Mt. 27:46) as proof of His perfect humanity and His great love towards us.
He “Who in the days of His flesh offered prayers and supplications with a great cry, and with tears to the One Who was able to save Him from death” (Heb. 5:7). But, St.Cyril warns, “If anyone thinks that Christ had fallen so low into faintheartedness as to be ‘sorrowful and cast down’ (Mt. 26:37) that He could no longer bear His sufferings but was overcome by fear and mastered by weakness, then He assuredly convicts Him of not being God, and also shows that He apparently had no right to rebuke Peter…After all, He Himself had commanded His disciples to stand fast against their fears of death and consider suffering as nothing in the course of fulfilling the will of God.”
God became human in order to teach us how to live as human beings. He became a model for us in everything, including suffering. “For Christ also suffered for you leaving you an example that you might follow in His steps.” (1 Pet. 2:21). “This is why,” St.Cyril writes, “He extended His prayer, and shed a tear, at times, even seemed to need a savior Himself, and learned obedience, while the whole time He was the Son…Yet the beautiful and helpful example of this action was…meant so that we should learn something from it, an easy lesson, that we must not hurry down another path when the occasion calls for courage. For this reason Christ once said, ‘Do not be fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather fear Him Who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell’ (Mt. 10:28), and again, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me let him deny Himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.’ (Mt. 16:24).”
So what is the response of the true and faithful Christian in the midst of suffering? It is to be united with Him in His suffering. Thus, St. Cyril again writes, “Should we, for example slack our grip and fall into carelessness, with unreasonable reveling, living for the sake of pleasure? Or should we give ourselves over to prayer, standing in tears before our Savior, seeking and thirsting for His assistance, and even asking for courage in case it is His will that we should suffer?”
Let us all stand fast in the Christian faith, and be unwavering in our path, steadfast in our faith, firm in our resolve, joyful in our struggle, faithful in our carrying the cross, so that on that day we may hear that joyful voice crying, “Come to Me, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt. 25:34).
May we all continue the blessed season of Advent carrying the cross with our Savior, praising His first coming to earth and eagerly awaiting His Second Coming.