Volume 2 Number 1-2

ORIENS

February 2005

Initiatory Aspects in the Gospels (I)
Florin Mihaescu

a. Death and Resurrection In the discussion that Jesus had with Nicodemus, a well known Pharisee, the first said to the latter: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (John 3: 3-5). Obviously this is not about a bodily birth, but one into spirit, that is, realized by baptizing. Indeed, soon after this discussion came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized (John 3: 22). Concerning the initiatory character of the original baptize, we will take it into account later on. The birth that Jesus is referring to is possible only after the death of the individuality at the level of the profane life, and man’s resurrection, not only purified, but spiritualized, at the level of spiritual life. Another passage having as subject death and spiritual reborn is found in Jesus’ sayings: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit (John 12: 24). Symbolically, Jesus is referring to the death of the corn’s exterior skin, so that the inner kernel can flourish. Jesus is much more clear when He says: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life (John 5: 24). Here goes that death can be overtaken still in this life, securing soul’s rebirth in eternity for those who listen, meaning that they obey and believe, in the sense of identification, Jesus’ word as the messenger of the Father (Matthew 16: 28). The most eloquent example of death and resurrection is that of Jesus himself, who dies in order to resurrect, dies as Son of man in order to resurrect as Son of God. As I said before, the death for this life, while still being in this life, is a resurrection – a gift that is not for every common believer; because Jesus, after the example with the corn of wheat, says: He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal (John. 12: 25). Let us remark that almost all these examples are to be found in John’s Gospel considered the most profound and the most symbolic one.
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Initiatory Aspects in the Gospels (I) b. The Chosen Ones (initiatory qualifications) Like I said, the initiatory path – to die for this life in order to win the other one – is a difficult one, which cannot be followed but only by few people, namely the chosen ones. In the Gospels these few are chosen by Jesus himself, who says Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you (John 15:16). And, indeed, Jesus chooses the 12 Apostles, to whom He said that they where chosen because Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man (John 1:51). And later on, He told them ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). And if Jesus has chosen his 12 Apostles, after the descent of the Holy Ghost, in their turn they chose their own disciples who will spread Christ’s teaching. And not only the teaching, but His grace also, which has been transmitted on till this day and till the end of times. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:18). Moreover, among the chosen ones three disciples can be found that are chosen amongst chosen. They are Peter, Jacob and John who witness both the death and the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus and Christ’s Transfiguration, the uncreated light, not shown to the others. But, anyway, at the request of Zebedee’s sons to sit on the right and the left side of God’s throne, Jesus tells them: to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father (Matthew 20:23). There is thus a higher level for which fewer are chosen. A third and much bigger group of the chosen ones includes the 70 disciples. These three groups show the fact that, even among the chosen ones degrees of spirituality can be found, depending on their realization and on the grace received, that is, on the spiritual level attained. Beside the three groups, Jesus is referring to other chosen ones when He says: But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God (Luke 9:27). And in any case, to end this subchapter, do not we find in the Scripture: multi vocati, electi pauci?

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Volume 2 Number 3-4

ORIENS

April 2005

Initiatory Aspects in the Gospels (II)
Florin Mihaescu

c. The Secret or the Mystery What may seem strange is the fact that, though Jesus says at the Sermon on the mountain that the light should not be hidden under the tub (Matthew 5:15), still He adds later on, after explaining to the Apostles the parable of the sower: Because the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them (Matthew 13:11), them being the crowd that listens to him. This is also one of the reasons why Jesus talks using parables and symbols, also paradoxes, which are not accessible but only for the few chosen ones, those gifted with the capacity of knowledge and understanding, because this is all about higher truths (inner and esoteric truths, we could say, if this last term had not been altered and avoided so much by the Christian theology). 1 For Jesus says again: I will speak to you in parables and expound things hidden since the foundation of the world (Mathew 13:35). It is true that generally speaking the light should not hide under the tub, but there are secret hidden things that are reserved for the few chosen ones. Yet, speaking about secret things, Jesus repeats many times, mostly after some wonders, and especially the wonders of resurrection: do not tell anybody. But most of all, after the Transfiguration, Jesus tells the three chosen among the chosen Apostles: Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man is risen again from the dead, death and resurrection being facts connected with initiation. The same thing after Jesus confesses to the Apostles that He is the Son of God and calls Peter the rock of foundation of His Church: Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ (Matthew 16:20). These are thus high truths of metaphysical or ontological nature, which Jesus does not reveal but only to the chosen ones.

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It is worth noting that this term has been used apparently for the first time by the Apostle Paul, who says about hope that it is what “…we have an anchor for our soul, as sure as it is firm, and reaching right through beyond (έσώτερον, esoteron) the veil” (Hebrews 6:19).

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Initiatory Aspects in the Gospels (II) d. Trials of Initiation Therefore, if the initiatory path requires not only special qualifications, but also the keeping of some secrets, that is also because, not like the life of common believers, this path holds trials of a special kind of difficulty which culminates with death for this life, though being still alive. Jesus announces such a difficulty right from the first days when He says: Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed (Luke 13:24). Even the entering on the path is therefore a difficult task. Many of the trails to come are almost impossible to bear. All because it is about trials hard to comprehend and so much harder to overcome by men who want to continue their existence. There goes some of these trials expressed directly by Jesus himself: Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be those of his won household (Matthew 10:34-36). This is about the separation of the initiate from his natural family, in order to follow Jesus. Further He tells it even more categorically when His mother and brothers want to talk to Him: Who is my mother? And who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! (Matthew 12:48). The separation from the biological family is followed by the integration in the spiritual brotherhood. But as St. Paul says: unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness (I Corinthians 1:23); or further: The natural (ψυχικός, psychios) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually (πνευµατικîς, pneumatikos) discerned (I Corinthians 2:14). The separation from one of his members seems even more difficult for the “natural” man, for Jesus says: And if thy right eye offends thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell (Matthew 5:29). Any interpretation one could give to this passage cannot be fulfilled by a common believer and it is hardly comprehensible even for the chosen ones. And the saying of Jesus, I have come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? (Luke 12:49), even if symbolically it is about the fire of the Holy Ghost, it cannot be understood and followed by all the chosen ones. Many of the stumbling and trials of those that advance on the spiritual path are bore by the first of Christ’s chosen ones himself, Apostle Peter. First, in the boat, during the storm, when Jesus called him on the sea, Peter starts to sink: O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? says the Savior. Further more, he does not understand why Jesus has to die, attitude that brings upon him a hard reproof: Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me… And during Christ’s trial, Peter denies Him three times, unable to overcome his fear. Let us mention too about the doubt of Thomas that follows Christ’s Resurrection, in order to have a convincing picture of the trials that bestowed upon those chosen for the initiatory path, from whom is expected more than from the common believers.

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Initiatory Aspects in the Gospels (II) Finally, summarizing the trials that the one who wishes to follow Jesus has to bear, He says to the Apostles: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. The giving up of his ego and the take upon oneself of the sufferings of the cross with the sacrifice of one’s life constitute extreme trials that could appear on the path towards perfection.

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