BROTHERS AND SISTERS, when Christ, Who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things - anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have stripped off the old man with his practices and have clothed yourselves with the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of his Creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free, but Christ is all and in all.
If you are on the New Calendar, Merry Christmas! Christ is born! Glorify Him!
For those of us on the Old Calendar, we still have 13 days of preparation and contemplation. Therefore, let us look at what Saint Paul has to say about our preparation for the Nativity of the Lord this week.
First of all, Christ is our life.
He becomes our life when we dedicate our life to Him. The beginning of this dedication is our baptism, where we "strip off the old man," as Paul says above, and "clothe [ourselves] with the new man, who is being renewed." Recall that when God kicked out Adam and Eve from Eden, He "made garments of skins for the man and his wife, and clothed them" (Genesis 3:21).
There are many ways to understand what these skins are. One of them is that the skins are our fallen, sinful, human nature. We are fallen and sinful not because of these garments of skins, but because of our actions. When we are baptized, these garments are stripped off and we are offered new ones that are light and bright, we are clothed in Christ Himself. As we sing at baptism (quoting from Saint Pau's Epistle to the Galatians), "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Galatians 3:27). We literally put on Christ, we get the new garments, we are "being renewed in the knowledge according to the image of [our] Creator," Who, once again, is Christ. If the old garments were our fallen human nature, then the new garments are our saved human nature.
Just like the old garments did not make us fallen, so the new ones do not make us saved on their own. Our co-operation and participation in the salvation count. This is the reason I question parents who come to baptize their children in our church. I always ask why they want to baptize the child. I also try to explain what the whole process of baptism and Christian life entails. I do not try to discourage the parents from baptizing their child, but at the same time they need to know that it's not just a cute thing to do. Christian life is serious, the decision to enter into this life must also be seriously considered.
If we are serious about our new way of life, the life of salvation, the life in the new garments, then we "put to death whatever in [us] is earthly." The old garments of skins were earthly, carnal, base, therefore, we acted as base animals sometimes. In the new garments, we are to throw away this earthly behavior. What exactly are we to "put to death"? Saint Paul says, "Fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry."
Fornication was all but universal in the ancient pagan world. And I would argue that it has returned with a vengeance in our times. Impurity is any form of sexual sin, such as pornography, for example. Passion is any overwhelming, consuming compulsion, not necessarily sexual. Evil desire indicates appetites and insatiable craving for evil things. And greed, which Saint Paul likens to idolatry, is anything that possesses us. Our possessions can possess us, our desires can possess us, making us their slaves, becoming our idols.
"These are the ways [we] also once followed, when [we] were living that life." These are the ways of the fallen human nature, the one that is still clothed in the garments of skins. Since we are clothed in the new garments, in Christ Himself, we not only "put to death" these earthly things, they in fact disgust us, we don't even contemplate them.
And when Christ is revealed at His Second Coming, we will also be revealed with Him because we are His and He is our life.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest