Beloved brothers and sisters,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
Blessed in the man,
Who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stands in the way of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scoffers.
Rather, his delight is in the Law of the Lord,
And on his Law he mediates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
That yields its fruit in its season,
And its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
But are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.
SANCTIFICATION IN CHRIST
by Bishop Gerasimos (Papadopoulos) of Avidou
Every person wants to be a Saint, to live in communion with God. But no one could become holy by himself. This is why mankind, from the time of Adam, remained outside Paradise, far from God. All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23, 5:12).
What man alone could not achieve, God Himself did in Christ. Out of His great love for man God sent His Son Who became man, and as man, offered Himself as a sacrifice to sanctify us all. This is why while going to the Cross Christ said: "For them I sanctify Myself, that they too may be truly sanctified" (St. John 17:19, cf. St. John 3:16; Gal. 4:4). Christ is the Only "Holy One of God" and we become holy as we participate in the Holiness of Christ. In the Old Testament God cleansed the Prophet Isaiah with the burning coal of the sanctuary (Is. 6:6-7). In Christ God has granted us the true coal that cleanses, sanctifies, and brings us to God blameless and holy. In the name of Christ we all have been washed and sanctified (1 Cor. 1:30, 6:11). Our sanctification is a gift of God in Christ.
Cooperation Between Divine Grace and Human will (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5: 16-26)
Even though sanctification is God's gift, free man is called to cooperate with Divine Grace and to make that free sanctification his own. First of all, he has to recognize his weaknesses and believe that Christ is the source of his sanctification. Secondly, he has to live a virtuous, spiritual and sacramental life in order to be united personally with Christ. With the help of God, he checks his weaknesses and allows the Holy Spirit to direct his life according to the will of God; to form in his soul the image of Christ which helps him to become and imitator of Christ. That was the goal Adam had to attain.
With constant effort, reading, fasting, vigilance, prayer, and tears of repentance, man gradually cleanses his heart from the various passions and desires of this world until he attains the blessed state of "apatheia" (Passionlessness), purity of mind and heart. Only one passion remains in the Saint; unbounded love for God and Christ, sacred desire to be united with God and Christ. He has only one prayer: "Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done." His whole life is directed by and scented with the love of God for man and the love of man for God and for all God's creation, particularly for our fellow man for Whom Christ died (1 Cor. 8:11; St. John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:14).
The Saints do not separate themselves from people. They love people and every creature of God, and they pray for all. They become instruments of God and Christ. "God loves the world through His Saints." This the Divine Love of the mystics, the ultimate goal of our life. He loses himself in Christ and in God. He allows Christ to live in him (Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 5:15). In such a life of faith, love, ceaseless prayer and communion with God, man reaches the state of sanctification. God condescends, visits His creation and man becomes a temple of God and the true dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19; St. John 14:21-23).
Theosis. When sanctity reaches its highest form, the Saint, without ceasing to be human, has transcended the measures of everyday life; man comes into real communion with God. The mystic Fathers who had this experience called it the theosis (deification) or glorification of man. God became man so man could become god. God became what we are, so that we can become what God is. (Saints Irenaios and Athanasios)
Sanctification and Theosis in Christ
The sanctification, or theosis (deification) of man as we have noted, was realized primarily in the Person of Christ and actually began with the Incarnation. Our sanctification and theosis are realized in the mystical union between Christ and humanity. It is true that Christ saved us with His teaching, by revealing to us the True God, and by His sacrifice on the Cross as the great High Priest. But, if we examine things more closely, we shall see that Christ saved us, and He continues to save us, primarily by our mystical union with Him. The world is not saved so much by Christ as in Christ, when it is united mystically with Christ. Those who are saved in Christ. Our whole life has its source in this union of ours with Christ, precisely as the branch lives from its connection to the vine. Saint Paul particularly emphasized this mystical union with Christ in His Death on the Cross (Romans 6:1-6).
It is for this reason that the holy Fathers of the Church, with the risk of becoming scholastic, particularly emphasized the truth of the Incarnation and of the two natures of Christ (divine and human). They taught that the Logos [Word] of God assumed human nature (Incarnation) which He received was sanctified and deified through the hypostatic union in the Person of the Incarnate Logos [Word], God. This deified human nature of God the Logos became the source of sanctification and theosis for all mankind, for those who, through faith, united themselves to Christ. This union is accomplished primarily in the sacramental life (mysteriaki zoe) of the faithful and especially in the Holy Eucharist where we really live our mystical union with Christ and become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). We become one with the body and blood of Christ; we partake in the newness of life which Christ has inaugated. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come!" (2 Cor. 5:17-18).
CHRISTOS ANESTI! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God