My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
SANCTIFICATION ACCORDING TO ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY
Baptism by water is called in the Apostolic Scripture likewise "a new birth, adoption, sanctification. But ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus" (1 Corinthians 6:11). "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27).
Saint Symeon the New Theologian explains how, through the sacrifice of Christ, man can be cleansed of sin and delivered from spiritual death, receiving within himself the Grace of God as Adam had it before the fall: "One Person of the Holy Trinity, namely the Son and Logos/Word of God, having become incarnate, offered Himself in the flesh as a sacrifice to the Divinity of the Father, and of the Son Himself, and of the Holy Spirit, in order that the first transgression of Adam might be benevolently forgiven for the sake of this great and fearful work, that is, for the sake of this sacrifice of Christ, and in order that by its power and fearful work, that is, for the sake of this sacrifice of Christ, and in order that by its power there might be performed another new birth and re-creation of man in Holy Baptism, in which we also are cleansed by water mingled with the Holy Spirit. From that time people are baptized in water, are immersed in it and taken out from it three times, in the image of the three-day burial of the Lord, and after they die in it to this whole evil world, in the third bringing out from it they are already alive, as if resurrected from the dead, that is, their souls are brought to life and again receive the grace of the Holy Spirit as Adam had it before the transgression. Then they are anointed with Holy Myrrh, and by means of it are anointed with Jesus Christ, and are fragrant in a way above nature. Having become in this way worthy of being associates of God, they taste His Flesh and drink His Blood, and by means of the sanctified bread and wine become of one Body and Blood with God Who was incarnate and offered Himself as a sacrifice. After this it is no longer possible that sin should reign and tyrannize over them, for they are gods by Grace..." (Orthodox Dogmatic Theology).
"He Who sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of the One (God); therefore Christ calls those who have been sanctified His brothers" (Hebrews 2:11). Most important, He is the Captain of (our) salvation (Heb. 2:10). In the Holy Spirit, in His Divine power, is given us "all things that pertain unto life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3). "These Grace-given gifts are in the Holy Church which the Lord founded on earth". They comprise the means of our sanctification and salvation.
The Church is our spiritual home. As with one's own house--and even more than that--a Christian's thoughts and actions are closely bound up with the Church. He must, as long as he lives on earth, work out his salvation, and make use of the Grace-given means of sanctification given him by it. It prepares its children for the heavenly homeland.
The word "Grace" is used in Sacred Scripture with various meanings.
Sometimes it signifies in general the mercy of God: God is "the God of all Grace" (1 Peter 5:10). In this, its broadest meaning, Grace is God's goodwill to men of worthy life in all ages of humanity, and particularly to the righteous ones of the Old Testament like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, the Prophet Moses, and the later Prophets.
In the more precise meaning, the concept of Grace refers to the New Testament. Here in the New Testament we distinguish two fundamental meanings of this concept. First, by the Grace of God, the Grace of Christ, is to be understood the whole economy of our salvation, performed by the Coming of the Son of God to earth, by His earthly life, His death on the Cross, His Resurrection, and His Ascension into heaven: "For by Grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Secondly, Grace is the name applied to the gifts of the Holy Spirit which have been sent down and being sent down to the Church of Christ for the sanctification of its members, for their spiritual growth, and for the attainment by them of the Kingdom of Heaven.
"Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word". Also, "Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11).
In the Mystery (Sacrament) of Repentance/Confession the spiritual afflictions of a man are treated, impurities of soul are removed, and a Christian, having received forgiveness of sins, again becomes innocent and sanctified, just as he came out the waters of Baptism. Therefore, the Mystery (Sacrament) of Repentance is called a "spiritual medicine."
In the Orthodox Christian spirituality the life's journey is a continuous dedication of self to the Lord. It starts with the pre-baptismal prayers for infants and it ends with the funeral service at church. The Holy Mysteries (Sacraments), prayers, and the ascetic efforts and struggle (fasting, charity, and marital faithfulness) are means of sanctification that give us a taste of God's Heavenly Kingdom while still on this earth.
"Sanctification is being set apart for God. It involves us in the process of being cleansed and made holy by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. We are called to be saints and to grow into the likeness of God. Having been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, we actively participate in sanctification. We cooperate (Synergy) with God, we work with Him, that we may know Him, becoming by grace what He is by nature."
By participating in the Mysteries, we grow closer to the Almighty God and receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. This process of deification, or theosis, as it is known by Orthodox Christianity, takes place not in isolation from others, but within the context of a believing community. Although the Mysteries (Sacraments) are addressed to each of us by name, they are experiences which involve the entire Church.
The Holy Eucharist, which is known as the Divine Liturgy, is the central and most important worship experience of the Orthodox Christian Church. Often referred to as the "Sacrament or Sacraments", it is the Church's celebration of the Death and Resurrection of Christ offered every Sunday and Holy day. It is by receiving Holy Communion that we are united with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and with one another and become the body of Christ, the Church. All of the other Mysteries of the Church lead toward and flow from the Divine Eucharist, which is at the center of the life of our Holy Church.
We cannot, as Christian believers, unite with God unless we are first cleansed of all sin. In other words, unless we are sanctified.
I pray, that you all understand by now, that your attendance and participation in the divine services and sacraments of our Church, have a greater purpose then that of worship. The greater purpose is to be sanctified by the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is therefore necessary that all faithful prepare themselves for the reception of the sacraments with "the fear of God, with faith and with love." Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God