The Church was born in culturally diverse region. Judaism, Hellenism, and Roman Imperialism all converged creating a cultural melting pot. You could essential practice, privately, whatever religion you wanted within the empire as long as you paid homage to Caesar (Caesar worship) There are striking similarities with our culture: you can believe whatever you want as long as you pay homage to the secular ideology, if you question that then you’re a disturber of the peace, radical, or unpatriotic. The Church proclaimed the cultus publicus, meaning public worship, a public truth. The Crucifixion and Resurrection were public facts, with eye-witnesses. The stories were about a named Person, told by named persons, and rooted in named places. This rootedness in place and time gives physicality to these stories, which are contained within the Story. The eye-witness accounts remind us of the flesh and bone: that these were real people proclaiming a public truth about a Real Person and those on the receiving end were real, as well. These weren’t myths that happened long ago in an unnamed magical place about characters that may or may not be real. The reality of the Gospel came with a command, take up your cross and follow Christ, in the here and now, because the hereafter is made manifest here and now but in fullness is yet to come. This tension of living in the new reality of the in-between put an explicit demand on early Christians to urgently proclaim the Gospel to all peoples. So, naturally the Church came into conflict with the Empire, this would have deadly consequences. Many a Christian truly took up their cross, and when they refused to bow to Caesar, they became martyrs. For the early church--and still for Orthodoxy--the Cross wasn’t a defeat--it was brutal, yes--but it was a victory made known by the Resurrection. And for Church to bear its own cross meant that she had to die daily to the world, which sometimes meant literally dying. That’s why Tertullian once wrote that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church”
The Incarnation, along with the physicality of the Christian life lived out in the here and now, is crucial for understanding the Church's relation to creation. One can see a reciprocal relationship between creation and covenant. Christ was the fulfillment of the covenant which ushered in the new creation and new covenant. I will write more about this next time.
Your loving husband,