Sunday 4th of December
Galatians 3:23-29; 4:1-5
In today’s Epistle reading, St Paul reminds us of the goal and purpose of our existence: “that we might receive adoption as sons”, and furthermore he shows us how all things find their meaning and fulfilment in this adoption. All of the promises, symbols and prophecies of the Old Testament Law, which had been mankind’s tutor and guardian during our spiritual immaturity, are fulfilled and realised.
Even the darkness of idolatry is brought into the light of Christ, and the irrational practices of the pagan are given meaning through his union with Christ in baptism. In other words, the fruitless and godless attempts to quench man’s thirst for the truth of his existence find purpose in Christ. Human philosophy is replaced by the doctrines of divine revelation, sacrifices are replaced by the Eucharist, ancestor worship meets the conquest of death and the promise of eternal life, the invocation of spirits is replaced by the worship of God’s Holy Spirit, the making of idols in an attempt to confine the divine to material forms meets the incarnation of the Word of God, who “is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).
Thus, we can see how all things are being led to and brought together in Jesus Christ, where all earthly division and inequality is also done away with: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.
And when Paul says that we are all one in Christ, he does not just mean that we are all equal, but he is speaking about the ontological unity of humankind. We all share one and the same human nature, and share one existence. This is why St Sophrony of Essex says that, humanity as a whole, “the whole Adam is not an abstraction but the most concrete fulness of the human being,” because when we engage with an individual we never see the whole human being.
This is how we explain the paradox of monasticism. The monastic withdraws from the world and reduces his interaction with individuals, not in order to reject others but in order to embrace the entire human being in his prayer. Likewise, the monastic who withdraws in order to focus on the healing of his heart is not being egocentric, but on the contrary has understood that he is part of a greater whole and that his sin does not only damage him, but the whole of humanity. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
This is why we have the sacrament of Confession, as an acknowledgement that the effects of sin and of repentance are not individual but affect the whole body. Therefore, the greatest gift we can offer to the world is the healing of our own soul and our union with God.
St Sophrony explains that, “The ontological unity of humanity is such that every separate individual overcoming evil in himself inflicts such a defeat on cosmic evil that its consequences have a beneficial effect on the destiny of the whole world. On the other hand, the nature of cosmic evil is such that, vanquished in certain human hypostases it suffers a defeat the significance and extent of which are quite disproportionate to the number of individuals concerned. A single saint is an extraordinarily precious phenomenon for all mankind. By the mere fact of their existence…the saints draw down on the world, on all of humanity, a great benediction from God.”
Let us therefore do whatever we can to fix our own little piece of the world, namely our own soul. We can do no greater work than this. Amen.
Fr Kristian Akselberg