Orthodox Observer - July-August 1998



By His Eminence, Archbishop Spyridon

Beloved in the Lord:

The days of summer are now well upon us, and I know that many of our families will be enjoying their vacations. This time of family togetherness and relaxation is important, not only for our physical lives, but for our spiritual life as well. While we are partaking of various forms of recreation, I would encourage all of us to consider our re-creation as well.

The Holy Apostle Paul writes in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians: "If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (5:17). In this sublime and poetic exhortation, St. Paul gives the most simple explanation of the reality of our Christian experience. Even though our lives may seem mundane, repetitive, busy and sometimes consumed with the things of this world, "old things are passed away." The limitations with which we were all born: a certain span of life, the circumstances of our birth, family and heritage, the exigencies of the world around us; nevertheless, we are new creations in Christ Jesus and He has promised that if "we are buried with Him by baptism into death, that just as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of God the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4).

What then is this newness of life? What is the life and experience of the new creation? We try to articulate this newness in a symbolic way every time we baptize a person. The newly-illuminated Christian must be dressed in completely new clothing, which is white in color. The whiteness of the garments represents the purity which comes from the baptismal cleansing. Although the human eye cannot perceive the washing away of sin, we know by faith that God is true to His word, and that each and every sin is washed away through the waters of baptism. Even in the case of small and innocent child, there is the mark of sin, although there may be as yet no conscious act. For each and every person is born into the world to live only for a certain length of days. This inheritance of a limited time of life is what we call "original sin" or the "sin of the Propatori," the progenitors of the human race, Adam and Eve.

This spiritual reality of death, and the antidote for it, is summed up by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (6:23). This may the most powerful affirmation of our faith; that even though we know in our minds that each of us must pass through death, yet we believe with all our hearts that God has given to us the gift of eternal life, a life after death, a life of resurrection. And that life begins in the here and now!

When St. Paul reminds us that we are "new creations," he is speaking in the present; he is speaking of a reality that exists right now, even if we are not aware of it. It is the capability to live a life that loves others truthfully, that forgives those who have done us wrong, to do good without expecting anything in return -- all of these and more -- that demonstrates the "newness" of our existence as creations of God. For we are not only created by God, but through our participation in the Sacraments of the Church, we are re-created by the Holy Spirit.

During these summer months, when we all try to refresh our lives through vaca- tions, entertainments, family outings and the rest, may we also direct our energies to re-creating our hearts, minds and souls, that we may not only be refreshed ourselves, but be refreshing to others as well.

[ Orthodox Observer - July-August 1998 - p. 10 ]