An Orthodox Understanding of the Atonement

How does the Eastern Orthodox Church view and articulate the atonement of our Lord? This question arises from many converts to the Eastern Orthodox Church, particularly here in America. Many come to the Eastern Orthodox Church looking to leave behind what they may consider harsh or even terrifying notions of God unleashing His wrath upon His Son on the cross. This can become strained when they then come to see the Orthodox Church, through Her fathers and hymnography, employ the same terms and verbiage as their former tradition. So, does the Eastern Orthodox Church thus employ a Penal Substitution model of the atonement?

St. Marina (Margaret), Great Martyr, of Antioch in Pisidia

Commemorated on July 17

The Holy Great Martyr Marina was born in Asia Minor, in the city of Antioch of Pisidia (southern Asia Minor), into the family of a pagan priest. In infancy, she lost her mother, and her father gave her into the care of a nursemaid, who raised Marina in the Orthodox Faith. Upon learning that his daughter had become a Christian, her father disowned her. When she was fifteen years old, St. Marina was arrested and thrown in prison.

Governor Olymbrios was charmed when he saw the beautiful girl, and tried to persuade her to renounce the Christian Faith and become his wife. But Marina refused his offers. The governor became angry and ordered that Marina be tortured. She was fiercely beaten, then fastened to a board and her body torn with hooks. The governor hid his face, unable to witness her suffering. However, Marina refused to yield. Thrown again into prison, an angel appeared and healed her wounds. The next day, she was stripped and tied to a tree, then burned. Barely alive, she prayed: “Lord, You have granted me to go through fire for Your Name, grant me also to go through the water of holy Baptism.”

Holy Archangel Gabriel

Synaxis of the Holy Archangel Gabriel: The Archangel Gabriel was chosen by the Lord to announce to the Virgin Mary about the Incarnation of the Son of God from Her, to the great rejoicing of all mankind. Therefore, on the day after the Feast of the Annunciation, the day on which the All-Pure Virgin is glorified, we give thanks to the Lord and we venerate His messenger Gabriel, who contributed to the mystery of our salvation.

Gabriel, the holy Archistrategos (Leader of the Heavenly Hosts), is a faithful servant of the Almighty God. He announced the future Incarnation of the Son of God to those of the Old Testament; he inspired the Prophet Moses to write the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament), he announced the coming tribulations of the Chosen People to the Prophet Daniel (Dan. 8:16, 9:21-24); he appeared to Saint Anna (July 25) with the news that she would give birth to the Virgin Mary.

The Lives of Saints Peter and Paul

THE HOLY APOSTLE PETER

The son of Jonah and brother of Andrew the First-Called, of the tribe of Simeon and the town of Bethsaida, he was a fisherman and was at first called Simon, but the Lord was pleased to call him Cephas, or Peter (Jn 1:42). He was the first of the disciples to give clear expression to his faith in the Lord Jesus, saying: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (Mt 16:16). His love for the Lord was very strong, and his faith in Him went from strength to strength.

When the Lord was put on trial, Peter denied him three times, but it needed only one look into the face of the Lord, and Peter's soul was filled with shame and repentance. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, Peter became a fearless and powerful preacher of the Gospel. After his first sermon in Jerusalem, about 3,000 souls were converted to the Faith. He preached the Gospel throughout Palestine and Asia Minor, in Italy and Illyria. He performed many wonders, healing the sick and raising the dead, and even his shadow had the power of healing the sick. He had a major struggle with Simon the Magician, who declared himself to be from God but was actually a servant of the devil. He finally put him to shame and overcame him.

The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Among the Church's feasts, there are three in honor of God's saint which in their significance stand out from the others devoted to the saints and are numbered among the great feasts of the Church of Christ. These feasts glorify the economy of God for our salvation.

These three feasts are the Nativity of St. John the Forerunner, his Beheading, and the feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

The apparition of the holy Archangel Gabriel to the priest Zacharias in the Temple, with the announcement of the birth to him and the righteous Elizabeth, of a son who would prepare the way for the Lord, the Savior of the world, and the subsequent fulfillment of this premise, are the first of the events related by the Evangelists.