In the Feast of Sacrifice pilgrimage, Muslims perform rituals at and around their holiest shrine, the Ka’ba, in Mecca. The ritual itself reminds them of what they believe to be the reenactment of Abraham’s near Sacrifice of his son (Ishmael not Isaac according to Muslims) which God replaced with an animal sacrifice. At the conclusion of their rituals, they slaughter animal sacrifices, called “Qurban,” to be distributed to the poor.
This word “Qurban” was also used by the Jews during the time of Christ to signify anything that is sacrificed to God, as it is said:” “But you say, `If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me [is] Corban” (that is, a gift to God) (Mark 7:11).
This word is also used by the Syriac Orthodox Christians for the Divine Liturgy/Holy Communion in the form of “Holy Qurbana,” and is also used by the Coptic Orthodox Christians for the “prosphora” bread, which they simply called it as “Qurban”.
In itself the word “Corban/Qurban” is derived from the word “Qarab/Qarib” which means “to be near/to be close”. Therefore a Qurban is a sacrifice that makes the sacrificer closer to God; it is a way to unite with God.
The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sin and our trespasses, begun by the Fall of Adam, have caused this spiritual death of ours, which is the loss of the divine life in us. We are “being alienated from the life of God,” (Ephesians 4:18b). By being alienated from the life of God, we have no recourse to that very life, unless the alienation be destroyed and we be reconciled to God: be made near to God through a “Qurban”.
Through His crucifixion on the Cross Christ has become our “Sacrifice” or our “Qurban” (“the One who brings us closer to God”) because “by Him” God “reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20). We are brought near to God, by being “reconciled” and “made peace” through the blood of His Cross. In it “He condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3).
The essential nature of sin is disobedience, and in His Crucifixion, Christ “humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). He used His body to be obedient on the Cross, thus condemning sin. Hence the disobedience of sin in the fleshly human nature is defeated through the obedience of Jesus Christ.
The result of this redemptive act of Christ’s is “by one man’s (i.e. Adam’s) disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s (i.e. Christ’s) obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). By being “made righteous,” we have boldness to enter into the throne grace of God (Hebrews 4:16), where we are united into Christ.
Every week we enter into this communion offered to us through the partaking of the blood and body of Christ. Hence we are made near to God through the Sacrifice of Christ; Christ is our true Qurban.
Holy Week and Pascha are when the mystery of the healing and restoration of our nature is manifested. The time of the actual sacrifice, but His Qurban started long before when he humbled Himself and was born on earth. As the Advent Kontakion says, “He appeared by His own Will as a young child.” He embraced our nature through His Incarnation, squeezed out sin from this nature through His Crucifixion, and destroyed completely the death that holds sway over this nature through His Resurrection.
As Christ has become our Qurban, may in turn we make our life as Qurban in the service of God and humanity.