Matt has some questions about the Orthodox view of Christ's work on the Cross and God's wrath. Please tell me if what I told him is the correct understanding:
The Orthodox conception of God is a loving Father whose children disobeyed Him, and lost their communion with Him, becoming susceptible to death. So He sent His Son to “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death,” (Heb. 2:15) by living a life that met God's holy standard, so when He was crucified, death had no power over Him, and He rose again. In this, communion between God and Man is restored, and through His grace granting us victory of the struggles against the flesh and this world, our natures approach His.
The wrath of God is simply Him responding to humanity's actions, giving us what we most desired- to be cut off permanently from Him and His creation, since we were destroying it. So the Flood was a natural consequence. God loved us so much He was willing to give them what they wanted, despite His wish of reconciling them with Him. Same for the Plagues and things like that. You ask God to destroy you through your sinful thoughts, desires, and actions, and He will.
The Orthodox view of the OT sacrificial system is that the outer act of sacrifice should reflect the inner state of the offerer seeking personal reconciliation with God.
Sacrifice is expiatory, not propitiatory. It is meant as an outer act to show that you have born the fruit of repentance. If you have not truly changed your heart, your sacrifice will be useless. It is the same today with the Catholic Sacrament of Penance or Orthodox Mystery of Confession: if you are not truly contrite before God, the priest's words of absolution mean nothing.
Cain offered the first fruits of his harvest as an offering to the Lord, which would've been acceptable if he was truly contrite. He wasn't, and that's why the Lord would not accept the sacrifice.
St Anthony the Great wrote “God is good, dispassionate, and immutable. Now someone who thinks it reasonable and true to affirm that God does not change, may well ask how, in that case, it is possible to speak of God as rejoicing over those who are good and showing mercy to those who honor Him, and as turning away from the wicked and being angry with sinners. To this it must be answered that God neither rejoices nor grows angry, for to rejoice and to be offended are passions; nor is He won over by the gifts of those who honor Him, for that would mean He is swayed by pleasure. It is not right that the Divinity feel pleasure or displeasure from human conditions. He is good, and He only bestows blessings and never does harm, remaining always the same. We men, on the other hand, if we remain good through resembling God, are united to Him, but if we become evil through not resembling God, we are separated from Him. By living in holiness we cleave to God; but by becoming wicked we make Him our enemy. It is not that He grows angry with us in an arbitrary way, but it is our own sins that prevent God from shining within us and expose us to demons who torture us. And if through prayer and acts of compassion we gain release from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him to change, but that through our actions and our turning to the Divinity, we have cured our wickedness and so once more have enjoyment of God’s goodness. Thus to say that God turns away from the wicked is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind.”
Protestant and Catholic understanding of salvation still relies on the Law. The Law and the sacrifice system was never meant to save us from sin, it was meant as an icon of Christ and a mirror to show us just how far we were from God's holiness.
We are sick from our hamartia, and need the Eucharist, the medicine of immortality, to heal us and allow us to conform to the nature of God. Believing God just justifies us through Christ's sacrifice, but repentance is still of our own doing, would be like a judge simply declaring us innocent, and then telling us to escape our imprisonment.
By drinking His blood, our soul-sickness is healed, we are able to come to repentance, and we have new life in Him.