Lectionary Ravings and Word Study: To Be Crucified with Christ


 

Crucifixion Icon Sinai 13th century

 

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Crucified = Grk συσταυρόω systauroō — to crucify along with.

Does this mean that the Apostle Paul was also crucified, physically, with Christ? Not quite. He is speaking about “our sinful ‘passions and desires,'” says the Orthodox Study Bible, as referenced later in Galatians  “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (5:24-25)

Does this mean that the Apostle Paul was also crucified, physically, with Christ? Of course not! He is speaking about “our sinful ‘passions and desires,'” says the Orthodox Study Bible, as referenced later in Galatians 5:24 — “And they that are Christ’s So, all of us, really, are called to accomplish these things with Christ in us — that we are able to practice the “evangelic conversation” — this refers to Christian behavior. Many “evangelicals” believe that high-pressure sales tactics are what is meant by this, but if refers more to one’s behavior within a Christian, or suffering, context.

The concept of the crucifixion of one’s lusts and affections, our passions and desires, have far-reaching implications and applications. I stumbled across St. Basil the Great’s Admonition to the Young, which gives us a near-complete rendering of what it means to be crucified spiritually:

O Faithful man of solitary life, and practiser of true religion, learn the lessons of the evangelic conversation, of mastery over the body, of a meek spirit, of purity of mind, of destruction of pride. Pressed into the service, add to your gifts, for the Lord’s sake; robbed, never go to law; hated, love; persecuted, endure; slandered, entreat. Be dead to sin; be crucified to God. Cast all your care upon the Lord, that you may be found where are tens of thousands of angels, assemblies of the first-born, the thrones of prophets, sceptres of patriarchs, crowns of martyrs, praises of righteous men. Earnestly desire to be numbered with those righteous men in Christ Jesus our Lord. To Him be glory for ever. Amen.

This brings us to another interesting word: “evangelic.” An online Orthodox dictionary, at monachos.net, definites evangelism as “1) The proclamation of the evangelion, the ‘good news’ of redemption. 2) In Orthodox praxis this takes the form of proclamation of the gospel texts and the eucharistic mission of Communion in Christ. Of or pertaining to the missionary work of bringing the encounter with Christ to those yet to experience it, or in need of experiencing it more fully.”

The Orthodox conception of evangelism is perhaps best summed up by St. Seraphim of Sarov: “Acquire the spirit of peace and a thousand souls around you shall be saved.”

There is a chance of suffering in every step towards salvation, and a chance of salvation in every suffering. St. Nikolai Velimirovich wrote, “With bitter remedies He will cleanse the mind of the people, imbue them with the breath of the Holy Spirit, and make them once again radiant and mighty. He will return to them the heavenly mind… And your people will be liberated from the spirit of earth and hell, and will be qualified to think with the profound, lofty, lucid, spiritual thoughts of angels.”

So really, Christ, in His crucifixion, begins the process of salvation, which ends, metaphorically as well as literally on God’s own grandest and most ineffable time-scale, with His resurrection. The crucifixion is prefigured in our baptism, and the up-raising from the water is the continuing of one’s life. This new life post-figures, if you will, the resurrection, and includes our ongoing participation in the sacraments, including eucharist and confession.  Theodoret of Cyrus, wrote that the crucifixion hearkened back to one’s baptism, a metaphor that remains continuous in one’s living. “I am buried with him in baptism. I set aside the former life, I have changed to a different life, I live by him whose life I have put on.” Indeed, when we offer our selves to be hung on the tree with God, God offers our souls back to us, clean from all stains. This, I believe, permeates the entirety of the Christian life.

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About Pete Mladineo


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