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St Paul

The Gospel reading can be found here

The Epistle is St Paul to the Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11

Here, as Chrysostom reminds us, Paul goes on to describe the new life incumbent on those who have been baptised and raised to new life in Christ. We are to live under Christ, and for Christ as the one focus of our striving, manifesting this new life by our attention to heavenly things and to the practical work of love.

St Isaac the Syrian asks what this ‘resurrection of the soul’ is, and what it means to say we have been raised with Christ? He reminds us of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:6:

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ

where he shows this resurrection to be the exodus from the old state which in the likeness of Sheol incarcerates a man so that the light of the Gospel will not shine mystically upon him. This is a breath of life through hope in the resurrection, and by it the dawning of divine wisdom shines in his heart, so that a man should become new, having nothing of the old man. Then the image of Christ is formed in us through the Spirit of wisdom and revelation of the knowledge of him.

St Augustine reminds us that if we have risen with Christ, we have put off the old Adam, and we will seek the things that are above.

St Gregory of Nyssa comments that if reason assumes sway over our emotions, each of them is transmuted into a form of virtue. So, anger produces courage, terror caution, fear obedience, hatred aversion from vice, the power of love the desire for what is truly beautiful. High spirit in our character raises our thoughts above the passions and keeps it from bondage to what is base.

In remembering that out life is hid with Christ in God, Paul directs us to the fact he emphasises again and again, which is that in all things we are partakers with him. Through this type of love, St Augustine says, even though we dwell in this corruptible body, we die to this world and our real life in Christ is what matters to us. What we desire now is not present, but we do not alter in our desire for it, and that desire for the world to come should be part of our daily spiritual exercise. In this way we can put to death the carnal in us.

Moral choice rather than human nature is the determining feature in enabling us to put off the old nature and put on the new. St Basil tells us we should seek not the goods of this world, but should, instead, put on the ‘heart of mercy, kindness, humility, patience and meekness’.

On the Cross it was not the Godhead but our weakness that was brought into subjection, St Ambrose tells us, and so it is that the Son becomes subject to the Father in his participation in our nature. This is so that when the lusts of the flesh are brought into subjection the heart may have no concern for riches or ambition or pleasures. The intention is that God should be all in all to us, if we live after his image and likeness, as far as we can attain to it, through all. The benefit has passed, then, from the individual to the community; for in his flesh he has tamed the nature of all human flesh.

St Gregory of Nazianzus, quoting 1 Corinthians 15:28 that ‘God will be all in all’, explains that he will be just that in the time of restitution; not in the sense that the Father alone will be, and the Son be wholly resolved into him, like a torch into a great pyre, from which it was pulled away for a short time and then put back when we shall no longer be divided (as we are now by movements and passions) and containing nothing at all of God, or very little, but then we shall be entirely like God, ready to receive into our hearts the whole God and him alone. This is the perfection to which we are to press on.

 

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