FOR US UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, HE SUFFERED AND WAS BURIED...
The flame of divine love in eternity blazes constantly in the hearth of God's fatherhood and God's sonship. The winds of time never reach there. Capricious changes never touch that flame, nor do they bend it, expand it or diminish it. For this reason divine love is unaging life, untroubled joy, unlimited power. With this miraculous flame in His hands, in His heart, and in His whole being, the King of heaven came down in a miraculous way on a miraculous mission among men. And He spoke those blessed words: "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!" (Luke 12:49). Let just one spark of that holy fire fall on your hearts, and it will be enough to enlighten your long journey to the eternal hearth. Do not extinguish it, but hide it and guard it as though it were a most precious inheritance, O chosen people, who bear the image of God within you.
The Most Gracious Only-begotten Son of God bowed down the heavens and came down to the earth for our sake and for the sake of our salvation. He did not descend from a throne to another throne, but from a throne to cold stone. He suffered much for our sake and for the sake of our salvation. If we were only to say this much, it would be sufficient for our shame and for the glory of His love. But more must be said, so that the truth may be complete. The Messiah of the human race endured slander, malice, snares, spittings, blows, ridicule, and floggings. Even with this it has not all been told. He was condemned along with thieves, crucified on a cross, suffered to the point of death, breathed His last breath in agony, and was buried. He did not reject the brimming cup of torment, nor did He remove the crown of thorns from His head, nor did He cast the heavy cross from His back. Thus did He crown the true, Orthodox Faith with suffering and love with sacrifice.
Do you know, chosen people, why the Holy Fathers included the name of Pontius Pilate, the murderer of God, in our Creed? Do not doubt that the Holy Spirit of ~ who inspired the Holy Fathers with wisdom, deigned to do so. And the Holy Spirit of God deigned to do so, so that the faithful would know exactly and forever in which Christ they should believe. For there have appeared and there will appear false christs, false messiahs, in the world, to deceive and confuse. Therefore, the All-foreseeing Holy Spirit, filled with love for mankind, wished to safeguard Christ's faithful from any deception and confusion. Therefore, through the mouth of the Holy Fathers at Nicaea, He defined precisely which Christ was meant when the Messiah and Savior of the world was mentioned. It solely and exclusively meant Jesus Christ, who was crucified during the rule of Pontius Pilate, the procurator of the Roman emperor at that time. This Christ is the only true Christ, the only genuine Messiah, the only Savior filled with love for mankind. All the others who have presented themselves or will present themselves to the world under that great name, to the very brink of time, until the Day of Judgment, are false christs.
Pilate's name is mentioned for another reason, to show and confirm the personage of the Savior of the world as a historical personage and not a figment of the imagination. When the name of Pontius Pilate is mentioned, it fixes both the time and the place of the appearance of Christ the Lord in the world. For it was precisely known, even to the pagan, Christ-fighting historians of Rome, when and where Pontius Pilate was procurator of Caesar. Do you know human weakness, O chosen people? In their weakness many, too many people are inclined to renounce their benefactor and not doubt in their malefactor. In their weakness some people up to this time-and there will be other such people after this time-have doubted in the personage of Christ as a historical personage, while no one ever doubted in the existence of a man called Pontius Pilate, a man who in the reign of the Roman Caesar Tiberius was the procurator of Caesar in the city of Jerusalem. By mentioning the name of Pontius Pilate, then, the Holy Fathers of Nicaea wished to emphasize the historical personage of Christ, who appeared at a definite time and at a definite place and lived in this world.
Pilate's name was also included in the Creed in order to point out the injustice of the pagans. Roman laws are considered some of the greatest works created by pagan peoples. Yet the Man of Innocence was condemned to death at a time when these highly acclaimed Roman laws carried authority in the world; and He was condemned by a true representative of those laws, Pontius Pilate, the procurator of the Roman Caesar. In the application of these laws on the One more Righteous than the righteous, this "perfect work" of the pagans was shown to be perfectly worthless. This is one more obvious reason why the God of heaven had to come down into the world Himself-to save the world from the universal darkness of paganism. Hence the mention of Pilate's name in the Symbol of Faith resounds like an eternal condemnation not only of the executor of the pagan laws but of the pagan laws themselves.
"He suffered and was buried," said the Holy Fathers of Nicaea. You will ask: Why did they feel it necessary to add these words, when it was already stated that He was "crucified?" When someone is crucified and fastened to a cross with nails, who can doubt in his suffering? And when he breathes his last breath on the cross, is it not something altogether natural and ordinary, for him to be buried? Logical people do not doubt this. To logical people it is both natural and clear. But doubt gnaws at illogical people. They think that they are exalting themselves by humiliating Christ. They think that by judging their Judge they will escape judgment. Certain illogical people appeared who maintained that the Lord did not feel any pain on the cross. They said that Christ was an illusory man, and that as such he was unable to feel torment and suffering. As though they did not hear the death rattle of the Son of God in Gethsemane: "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me" (Matt. 26:39)! And as though their heart of stone was not in a position to tremble before His outcry of pain on the cross: "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me" (Matt. 27:46)! O unrighteous people, why do you not believe in the suffering of the greatest Sufferer of all time? Why do you deny the pain which caused the earth to quake and the sun to grow dark? Why has your heart turned to stone before the pain which caused stones to split open? These stones will testify against you on the Day of Retribution, on the Dreadful Day.
Blessed are those two men, Joseph and Nicodemus, for they were zealous over the dead body of the Lord. They took him down from the cross with reverent fear, carefully wrapped it in linen with fragrant oil, and buried it in a tomb with honor. And the Jews came and secured the tomb and sealed it shut. And they asked Pilate for sentries to keep watch over the tomb, lest someone steal the dead body of Christ. Thus did it all happen; and thus do logical people believe. But there were illogical people who invented a fairy tale, that the Lord's body was not completely buried but was only hidden. From this fairy tale the opportunistic scribes concocted other untrue and unjust fairy tales.
All of this untruth and injustice against the Savior of the world was foreseen in advance by the Holy Spirit of God, who enlightened and inspired the Holy Fathers at Nicaea. Therefore, He prompted them to put the words, "He suffered and was buried," in addition to the word, "crucified;" so that you and your descendants, O chosen people, might know the truth about the Lord your Savior forever, and so that you might be able to fight against untruth with truth.
In this way the Holy Fathers expressed our faith in the Lord Savior, the Redeemer and Regenerator of the human race, who suffered for sinners out of love. But ungrateful, selfish, self-centered and soulless people cannot accept this faith. How could it be accepted by those who bury the image of God within them in the ground, and turn themselves into a tomb for their soul? Truly, tombs shall not enter into the eternal kingdom of God. Rather decay shall be handed over to inextinguishable fire.
This is the faith of grateful souls. Living in this valley of grief and terror, they do good without expecting anything back in return. They have recognized the thorny field of this world, and take great care lest their trail become one more thorn. They remain silent when they hear the sarcastic reproach: All the others are thorns, do you really believe that you can be roses? And in secret they weep for their brothers, who eagerly strive to mark their trail in this world with thorns. Only one kind of thorn is dear to their heart, only one-the one through which the tender feet of the Son of God walked, and on which roses have bloomed. Those of grateful heart see these roses, and are intoxicated by their fragrance-oh, the only bearable life-giving fragrance in the midst of the stench of mildew and death.
Grateful souls look and see many other thorns beside the way of Christ. They see the thorns of bitterness, the garden of the Mother of the Savior of the world, all soaked with tears, but all luxuriously abloom with white roses. And as they look they see many other lesser gardens of the righteous and of those who suffered for righteousness' sake, thorny stems adorned with various flowers. And when they sniff these flowers they notice that they all resemble Christ and give off the robust, life-giving fragrance of Christ. And a feeling of gratitude to the heavenly Gardener floods their hearts and overflows. And they strive with all their might to turn their life and the life of their friends into a flower, a scion of the Crucified Christ.
This is your faith, Christ-bearers, the faith of your forefathers, who were grateful to Christ the Lord until death. Let this also be the faith of your children, from generation to generation, all the way to the end, until the Judgment Day of Christ, on which the flowers shall be accepted, but the barren thorns shall be cast into the fire. This is the salvation-bearing Orthodox Faith, which has never been put to shame. Truly, this is the faith of the truly chosen people, of those who bear the image of God in themselves. On the Day of Retribution their faces shall shine like the sun, and they shall resemble God. And they shall be called blessed.
Love - the Cross - Death.