On the Pyramid of Being

upside -down pyramidBlessed Elder Sophrony of Essex 1896-1993

In the structure of the world we observe a hierarchical order, a division into upper and lower — a pyramid of being. Yet the idea of equality is deeply rooted in our consciousness and is not to be denied.

Some people, observing the psycho-physical world for the one part, and the empirically-given spiritual state of humanity for the other, and remarking a pyramid of inequality in both, arrive at the conclusion that inequality is something ontologically necessary to human nature. Then, either because of passion or calm and collected philosophical conviction, they stifle the demands of their conscience, tirelessly strain to achieve equality in mankind’s existence.

But is equality possible where liberty is the fundamental principle of existence? Millenary experience of the history of humanity suggests a reply in the negative.

What, then, can be done to alter this state of affairs, so unacceptable to the human conscience? We cannot ignore our longing to see all men equal in plenitude of divine life.

Let us see how Christ resolved the dilemma.

The Lord does not deny the fact of inequality, hierarchy, division into upper and lower, into overlord and servant; but He turns the pyramid upside down and thus achieves the ultimate perfection.

The incontestable apex of this pyramid is the Son of Man Himself, the Unique, True, Eternal Savior; and He says of Himself that He ‘came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life as a ransom for many.’ (Mat. 20:28) Concerning the angels, we learn that they are beings superior to us in their knowledge and mode of existence, in comparison with our terrestrial mode of existence, but the Apostle speaks of them as ‘ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.’ (Heb. 1:14) The Savior bade His disciples follow the example He gave them when He washed their feet. ‘Ye know,’ He told them, ‘that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister. And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.’ (Mat. 20:25-27; Mk. 10:42-44) Here we are shown both the designation and the raison d’être of the ecclesiastical hierarchy — to raise those low in the spiritual scale to a higher degree of perfection, as the Apostle puts it, ‘And He gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Until we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ (Eph. 4:11-13)

Christ as Creator — and in this sense, cause — of the created universe, took upon Himself the burden, the sin of the whole world. He is the summit of the inverted pyramid, the summit on which the whole weight of the pyramid of being falls. In an inexplicable way those who follow after Christ become like Him in taking upon themselves the burdens of the infirmities of others. ‘We then who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak.’ (Rom. 15:1)

…The Christian goes downwards, into the depths of the overturned pyramid where the crushing weight is concentrated — to the place where the Lord is, Who took upon Himself the sins of the world — Christ… At the base of the overturned pyramid — the unfathomable base which is really the summit — is He Who took upon Himself the sins and burdens of the world, the Christ crucified in love for the world. And there we remark a quite especial life, a quite especial light, an especial fragrance. This is where love attracts the athletes of Christ. Love for Christ martyrizes the chosen one, weighs heavily on him, makes his life unbearably hard, until this love arrives at its ultimate desire, and the ways the soul elects to attain to that ultimate end are peculiar. (St. Silouan the Athonite, p. 237-239) 

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