The Firstborn From The Dead

“Not only was the creation of all existent things brought about by Him [The Son of God], but that when the original creation of man had decayed and vanished away, to use his [Paul’s] own language, and another new creation was wrought in Christ, in this too no other than He took the lead, but He is Himself the first-born of all that new creation of men which is effected by the Gospel. And that our view about this may be made clearer let us thus divide our argument. The inspired apostle on four occasions employs this term, once as here, calling Him, “first-born of all creation,”(Col. 1.15), another time, “the first-born among many brethren,”(Rom. 8.29), again, “first-born from the dead,”(Col 1.18, cf. Rev. 1.15) and on another occasion he employs the term absolutely, without combining it with other words, saying, “But when again He brings the first-born into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship.” (Heb. 1. 6)…In what sense then does He become “the first-born among many brethren?” in what sense does He become “the first-born from the dead?” Assuredly this is plain, that because we are by birth flesh and blood, as the Scripture saith, “He Who for our sakes was born among us and was partaker of flesh and blood,”(Cf. Heb 1.14) purposing to change us from corruption to incorruption by the birth from above, the birth by water and the Spirit, Himself led the way in this birth, drawing down upon the water, by His own baptism, the Holy Spirit; so that in all things He became the first-born of those who are spiritually born again, and gave the name of brethren to those who partook in a birth like to His own by water and the Spirit. But since it was also right that He should implant in our nature the power of rising again from the dead, He becomes the “first-fruits of them that slept”(1Cor. 15.20). and the “first-born from the dead,”(Col. 1.18) in that He first by His own act loosed the pains of death, so that His new birth from the dead was made a way for us also, since the pains of death, in which we were held, were loosed by the resurrection of the Lord. Thus, just as by having shared in the washing of regeneration He became “the first-born among many brethren,” and again by having made Himself the first-fruits of the resurrection, He obtains the name of the “first-born from the dead,” so having in all things the preeminence, after that “all old things,” as the apostle says, “have passed away,”(cf. 2Cor. 5. 17). He becomes the first-born of the new creation of men in Christ by the two-fold regeneration, alike that by Holy Baptism and that which is the consequence of the resurrection from the dead, becoming for us in both alike the Prince of Life (Cf. Acts 3.15), the first-fruits, the first-born. This first-born, then, hath also brethren, concerning whom He speaks to Mary, saying, “Go and tell My brethren, I go to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.” (Cf. John 20.17). In these words He sums up the whole aim of His dispensation as Man. For men revolted from God, and “served them which by nature were no gods,” (Cf. Gal.4.8), and though being the children of God became attached to an evil father falsely so called. For this cause the mediator between God and man (Cf. 1Tim.2.5) having assumed the first-fruits of all human nature, sends to His brethren the announcement of Himself not in His divine character, but in that which He shares with us, saying, “I am departing in order to make by My own self that true Father, from whom you were separated, to be your Father, and by My own self to make that true God from whom you had revolted to be your God, for by that first-fruits which I have assumed, I am in Myself presenting all humanity to its God and Father.” St. Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, Book 2, Chapter 8.

In His descent from on High to us, The Logos assumes all of humanity and all that it is to be human. This culminates the triumphant Paschal cry,

“Christ our God, has risen from the dead, He is the first-fruit, of those who departed.” Verses of The Cymbals of The Matins of Pascha

and,

“He has abolished death by His might, and made life shine upon us, He is the One who has descended, to the lower parts of the earth. The gatekeepers of Hades, saw Him and were afraid, He abolished the pangs of death, and He was not held by them. He has crushed the gates of brass, and broke the bars of iron, and brought out His chosen ones, with rejoicing and with joy. He lifted them up with Him, into His place of rest, and saved them for His name’s sake, He revealed His power to them.” The First Doxology of The Matins Service of Pascha

He descends where we are that He might return a lost humanity to its True Father. Hence the imagery of the Good Shepherd is used so often for Christ Who herds us back to the bosom of The Father where He is from all eternity. Thus, he becomes firstborn of all humanity that we might follow Him as The Son of The Father. In coming to the depths of our lost humanity (as we saw in My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?), He reunites the Divine to the human being. St. Paul therefore teaches us that, “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5, 18,19.

We who, in the words of St. Gregory of Nyssa, attached ourselves to a strange father had become subject to death by this departure from life. Christ reunites the world to Himself (not vice versa) so that our deadness may be infused with life from The Life Himself. We will celebrate the Paschal season in jubilation which will not culminate until we have celebrated the ascension of Christ in our humanity and The Descent of The Spirit at Pentecost. This is where we see St. Gregory of Nyssa elaborating on the liturgical cycle. In the above passage, there is one organic unity between the Son’s descent to us, even into hades and His subsequent rising from the dead and ascent into the Heavens in the body.

Christ is Risen! Glorify Him!

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