Speech delivered in Athens on June 13, 1866
In accordance with the promise I made to you, the subject of to day’s address will be the holy faith of Christ and the external policy of Greece which is imposed upon us by reason of our very calling and mission. By policy I mean the internal and the external activity of those who govern the polis (state). Just as the internal policy should spring from rational principles professed by all the citizens lest any one hinder it or fight against it, so too should the external policy originate from a rational principle respected by all the nations, lest any nation fight against that principle charging that our activities and intentions are unjust. Such a principle is the holy faith in Christ which we wish to state and interpret by means of a simple parable:
“A certain donkey dressed in a lionskin began one day to frighten all the animals. When they discovered the deceit, the clever fox approached and pulled off the skin, exposing the donkey which had taken on the appearance of a lion. Then the other animals becoming enraged, came and struck the donkey and disgraced it.”
What does this simple parable demonstrate? It teaches one thing and many things at the same time. Now how does one parable point to both one and many things? That the parable indicates many things means that we can learn many things from the application and practice of one such principle. First we should ask: what is the moral principle signified by the parable? This is it: no one has the right to play the hypocrite and to deceive others. For as Plato, the Athenian, states, “The extreme limit of injustice is for one to appear to be righteous while he is not so.” The donkey, daring to appear as a lion, while really being a donkey, perpetrated the greatest of crimes. And he received due punishment in being struck and disgraced by all the other animals. If no one has the right to play the hypocrite and deceive others, it follows that everyone must appear and be believed to be such as he truly is; otherwise, one must suffer things similar to the hypocritical donkey which was beaten and put to shame.
Let us now come to the practice and application of this principle: let us apply it first to Christ. I ask: is Christ, as he said He was, the Son of the living God through whom all things were made [John 1:3], or is He not? According to the professed moral principle, if Christ is such as He stated that He is, He has the right to be believed in and to be worshipped by all rational and free beings. Also, every man is bound to believe and obey Him. On the contrary, if He feigned the lion, while actually being a donkey; if being a mere man, He usurped the attributes and the glory of God, should he not as a liar and deceiver be spat upon, scourged, crucified, and suffer due punishment for his bold crime? No one will say anything to the contrary: the ethical law is implacable. If Christ is untruthful, the ethical law obliges us to condemn and renounce him as did the Jews. How then can we resolve this issue, and being convinced of the truth, act according to the responsibility that devolves upon us by reason of the ethical law? In order that we may know who Christ is, we must view Him in the midst of two animals, as the Prophet Habakkuk proclaims: “Lord, in the midst of two beasts thou shalt be known.” [According to the Septuagint, Habakkuk 3:2] Now what are these two beasts or animals in the midst of which Christ is known? Under stand as the two animals the two nations: the Jewish one and the Greek one. Christ comes in the midst of these two peoples, and requires of both of them that they believe in and worship Him as very God of very God [According to the Nicene Creed]. The first animal takes him as a liar and deceiver, and as such dishonors and condemns him to a shameful death. The second animal – O, the marvel of it! – recognizes Him as absolute truth itself, and rejoices over the discovery, to such a degree that it cries out: “Our Savior, the Dawn of all dawns, visited us from on high; and those in darkness and gloom discovered the truth. For the Lord was born of the Virgin!” So convinced s the second animal that it discovered the truth, that it prefers to suffer countless afflictions and to undergo the most terrible deaths, rather than deny the truth. Let us forthwith examine the nature of the two animals so that we may correctly evaluate and justly appreciate their acts.
The Jewish nation is the irrational animal. Moses himself in the second ode bears witness to this saying: “These people are foolish and not wise. It is a nation which has utterly done away with counsel: there is no wisdom in them, and they did not intend to understand.” The Greek nation, however, is the rational animal, for it is the only nation on earth that drew up logic and clearly displayed understanding. Even St. Paul confesses this when he states, “The Greeks seek wisdom.” [1 Cor. 1:22]
What is inferred from the nature and the action of the two animals? Aristotle says that “a syllogism is a rational process according to which, when certain basic principles are set forth, a further statement necessarily follows by means of the given principles.” The things set forth and witnessed to here are two animals, one of which is rational, the other, irrational; and Christ in their midst is suffering adverse things. The irrational animal shouts out: “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify Him!” “But what evil did He do?” asks the governor. “If this man were not an evil-doer, we would not have given him over into your hands; away with him! Away with Him! Crucify Him!” “I, however, am innocent of the blood of this righteous man; take heed.” “May his blood be upon us and upon our children; away with Him! Away with Him! Crucify Him!” Behold the cry, the judgment, and the act of the irrational beast.
Now how does the rational animal judge and act? The rational animal chants most elegantly and respectfully before Him who was dis honored: “I have given heed, O Lord, to the mystery of thy divinity.” “You, my Lord, have come as a light into the world; you are the holy light converting from gloomy ignorance those who faithfully praise You.” ”I adore and magnify and glorify You, my Christ, as being blessed both now and forever.” Behold the voice, the judgment, and the act of the rational animal. What necessarily follows from these things which have been set forth and from all the things to which witness has been borne? Let us listen to these Aristotelian syllogisms:
Every rational animal is truthful.
The Greek nation is a rational animal.
Therefore, the Greek nation is truthful.
Every irrational animal lies.
The Jewish nation is an irrational animal.
Therefore, the Jewish nation lies.
Now if the Jewish nation lies, while the Greek nation is truthful, it follows necessarily that Christ is not a liar and a fraud, but rather, very God of very God. Christ is not a donkey clothed in a lionskin, but rather is the lion from the tribe of Judah about whom glorious things were said. Woe to that animal which foolishly would dare insult His lawful authority. Woe! Woe! Plato says in the second book of Laws:
“And which may be supposed to be the truer judgment – that of the inferior or that of the better soul? Surely, that of the better soul.”
When two persons, he says, one being wise and the other a fool, make contrary judgments about one and the same matter, which judgment is authoritative and truthful? When the wise Greek deems that Christ is truth itself and worthy of all honor and worship, while the foolish Jew deems that Christ is a liar and imposter and worthy a dishonorable death, whose judgment is authoritative and truthful? That of the wise Greek, or that of the foolish Jew?
“And which may be supposed to be the truer judgment – that of the inferior or that of the better soul? Surely, that of the better soul.”
Thus not only according to the logic of Aristotle, but also according to the dialectic of Plato, the same conclusion is reached. Very aptly did the prophet proclaim: “Lord, in the midst of two beasts, thou shalt be known.” In all truth, who can still have doubts about the nature of Christ, contemplating Him suffering adversities in the midst of two animals having contrary natures? On the one hand, the Sanhedrin around Annas and Caiaphas judge Christ as a liar and blasphemer, and decide that he should be punished by death; alas. the whole foolish Jewish nation follows suit, crying out, “Away with Him! Away with Him! Crucify Him!” On the other hand, the Council in Nicaea [The First Ecumenical Council], the excellence of Hellenism, pronounces the dogma that “Christ is very God of very God.” The universal Greek race proclaims the Divinity of Christ; it battles for the holy faith in Christ; and for the sake of this faith it does not spare its own blood. Therefore, which judgment is authoritative and truthful? “That of the wise and rational nation of the Greeks, or that of the foolish and senseless nation of the Jews?
“And which may be supposed to be the truer judgment – that of the inferior or that of the better soul?”
We can, moreover, prove the Divinity of Christ in a more geometrical manner, so to speak, embarking from the following logical axiom: Two contradictory judgments cannot both be true or both be false. Here we have two contradictory judgments: Christ is very God of very God. Christ is not very God of very God, but a liar and an impostor. The first judgment is that of the Nicene Council and of the whole Greek race. The second is that of the Sanhedrin around Annas and Caiaphas, and of the whole Jewish nation. According to the logical axiom, the two opinions cannot both be true or both be false; rather, quite necessarily one is true and the other is false. Let us propose that the opinion of the Jews is true. If the judgment of the Jews is true, then their act is lawful, just, and praiseworthy; for the Mosaic law condemns to death every man who says that he is of God, while he is not. If Christ said that I am of God come into the world; but was not so, why is it not just to kill and dishonor him according to the law? But if the Jews’ opinion is true, and if their act is lawful and just, all the prophets of Israel are, consequently, censored as false. The very God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob not only is censored as false, but also, very unjust. For, while the sorts of Abraham, with whom He made an eternal covenant, acted righteously, he punished them unjustly scattering them over all the earth and altogether abandoning them.
All the prophets foretold the advent of the Messiah in the name of the God of Abraham, in the name of God who created heaven and earth. All the Jews believed the word of the prophets, and were awaiting the Messiah proclaimed by the prophets. Thus if the Jews were not deceived with regard to Christ, surely they were tricked by the prophets. The prophets are then censored as liars, and the Jews are accused of being fools for believing these liars. Only with regard to Christ were the Jews wise. Now if the prophets uttered falsehoods, either God did not speak through them, or while speaking, deceived them. Whichever of these is admitted, we must by the necessity of logic confess that there is no God. Logic does not admit of a senseless and foolish God, i.e. a God creator while not a provider. For to create man and to allow him to live without purpose is peculiar to foolishness and senselessness. Therefore, if Christ is not God, there is no God. When the Jews’ judgment is accepted as true, there follows a series of many absurdities, the last of which is atheism, i.e. the acceptance of a blind and senseless power as the cause of all beings and phenomena. The opinion of the Jews is, therefore, false; for it leads one through a series of absurdities to the greatest of absurdities.
If then the above judgment is false, its opposite is logically true, and Christ is very God of very God, through whom all things were made. This is exactly what the Council in Nicaea pronounced as dogma and what the whole Greek race believes. All logical arguments, moreover, admit of the divinity of Christ, and no logical argument can be found contrary to it. Christ is perfect God and perfect man, because there is a God who is both creator and provider for man; because He spoke through the prophets; because things occurred just as the prophets had foretold them. All the prophets not only simply prophesized the coming of Christ, but also foretold that He was to be crucified by the irrational animal; that He was to be believed in as God by the rational one; and glorified in all the nations. All rational arguments, both prophetic and historical, logical and theological, admit of the divinity of Christ. All truths, both natural and metaphysical, plead for the first truth; that without the latter, the former cannot exist. If Christ is not the truth, there can be no truth. It is impossible to find a truth which contradicts the divinity of Christ. Contrary to the divinity of Christ are only the sophistry of falsehood which dissemble the truth in opposition to the divinity of Christ. Contrary to the divinity of Christ are only the hypocrites and the deceivers to whom the truth is of no benefit. The Greek nation which is the nation of rational thinking and understanding does not chant in vain:. “Our Savior, the Dawn of dawns, visited us from on high; and they who are in darkness and gloom have found the Truth. For the Lord was born of the Virgin!” [Taken from the Orthodox Nativity matins service.]
How can the Greek nation’s great love and self-denial for Christ be explained unless this is the truth? King Darius once dispatched ambassadors to this nation requesting earth and water of it to signify that they accept his rule. Did they give it, or obey? Far from it. Be coming indignant, they slew the ambassadors, casting one into a well to draw water, and the other, into a deep pit to take earth. After that, when Xerxes returned with an army and fleet with which he covered the earth and the seas, they did not yield to his might out of fright. Rather, they chose victory or death in order that they may not, while living, be subservient to a foreign will. The Greeks were crowned with the resulting success because of their heroic deeds.
Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews, sent His ambassadors here, and requested of the Greek nation not earth and water, but rather the rejection of the fatherland’s religion, mores, and customs; the denial of even legitimate appetites and desires; the denial of natural filial and paternal love; and finally, the denial of life itself. In a word, he requested complete self-denial as a token that they recognized his lordship in heaven and on earth. While asking for so many, not to say, impossible things, he nevertheless persuaded the Greeks to grant those things and to subject themselves to him. That nation, which the great kings Darius and Xerxes could not persuade to yield earth and water, Jesus persuaded to grant all those demands. Now how and by what power did he achieve this? With weapons? With gifts? With money? With sophistry? He persuaded the Greeks be cause He was the Truth. Only the intrinsic power of truth explains the self-denial and willful subjection to the Truth; we obey Him and bow down before Him willingly. For His sake we deny both father, mother, children, and even ourselves. And neither worldly pleasures, nor pain, nor honors, nor dishonors, nor depth, nor height, nor any power whatsoever can separate us from the faith in Christ. Because Christ is the Truth. This is so in spite of what the deceitful academicians and false apostles speak out in shame.
Before believing in Christ the Jews demanded a sign from Him [Matthew 12:38]: “What sign do you perform in order that we may see and believe you?” Yet within themselves they used to say, “This man works many signs.” Behold a foolish and not a wise people, as Moses says. They admit within themselves that this man performs many signs, while later they approach him saying, “What sign do you work in order that we may believe you?”. For this reason Christ answered them saying: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” He gave them this sign because the soldiers guarding the grave announced to them the resurrection of Him Who had been crucified. In order to remain in falsehood, however, they bribed the soldiers with silver pieces that they would say: While we were sleeping, the dead man was stolen from the tomb. Now if He was stolen, why did you not pursue and apprehend the thieves? Since you had soldiers and guards, why did you neglect the pursuit and the investigation? An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign in order that it may believe; and when the sign of Jonah, the prophet, is given to it, it still persists in unbelief.
The wise men of this age, the men of enlightenment and science, in order to believe in Christ seek for rational reasons and mathematical proofs. They are not persuaded except by the most precise understanding, being that they are men of exacting comprehension. Although they hear countless rational reasons and see much mathematical evidence before which they remain as mute fish and have nothing to refute, they nonetheless persist in unbelief, saying after the Jews that they have no proofs, and that a knowledgeable person is disgraced in believing without proofs. Behold persons who, according to Paul, saying that they are wise, were made foolish [Romans 1:22]. For God rendered the wisdom of this world foolish, and proved the academicians of the nineteenth century to be guilty of the senselessness and wickedness of the Jews.
We, however, who dearly know that Christ is the Truth and conscientiously confess Him as such, act according to the just demand of truth. And when asked, what is faith in Christ? we respond: it is the just claim of the Truth. Because Christ is the Truth, he has the right to be believed in as such. Now wherever there is a just demand, there too is an obligation. If Christ has the right to be believed as very God of very God, I have the obligation to believe, just as do all persons. The just claim of the Truth is universal in scope; it is extended to everyone and has no limits. Whosoever opposes this divine right “kicks against the pricks,” [Acts 9:5] for he conflicts with the very truth and justice of God, and brings nothing but perdition upon himself. In order that persons may learn what obligation they have toward the truth, they must be taught by others who are knowledgeable. As we said at the beginning of the first speech. if you recall, man is not like plants and other animals that function naturally: In order that man may act, he must learn; and in order to learn he must be taught. The truth and its just claims have need of being taught and of teachers until all the nations and all men receive paideia (culture). The Greek nation was called by God to battle and struggle in behalf of the just claims of truth, and to teach the nations their own responsibilities. This calling and mission will be the subject of next Sunday’s oration.