Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. The death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:3-11 (Epistle Lesson read at the Sacrament of Baptism) Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council
Good morning Prayer Team!
The miracle of life is truly that, a miracle. We know that life is created with the biological matter of a male and female coming together, interwoven with a “soul” and this is what created the miracle of life. In the Orthodox theology, we do not believe in the concept of “original sin,” which is that the human being is born inherently sinful, having inherited the sin of Adam. (Believe me, I don’t need Adam’s sin, I have plenty of my own to answer for.) So, a person is not born “sinful.” However, once they come out of the womb and take their first breath of imperfect air, they are united with the “sinful nature” of the world, a world of polluted air and imperfect, polluted people.
In the sacrament of baptism, the person being baptized “dies” to sin and puts on the new life, that is Christ. In the ancient church, when baptizing adults and not babies was the norm, this made more sense. After all, how does an infant “die to sin” when it isn’t old enough to consciously commit sin? But even if a baby has lived only one minute, it has become united with the sinful nature, the sinful environment, which is why we “cleanse” our children through baptism and don’t wait for them to get older and accumulate sins to be cleansed.
Before Christ, there was no concept of dying and living again. Death was a finality. Christ raised people like Lazarus from the dead. He was raised from the dead. He can raise us from the dead after we die our earthly, physical death.
Dying, and living again, however, is not limited to physical death and eternal life. “Dying” is something we should do on a daily basis—We should “die” to sin, we should seek to “put to death” our sins, so that we can “live” in Christ. Now, this doesn’t mean “sin more” so one can “die more” and then “live more.” It means that we are focused on living in Christ, and the more we live in Christ, the less we are spiritually dying in our sins. Christ, through prayer, scripture, worship and charity, becomes the daily vitamin that keeps us healthy, that keeps us from falling spiritually sick. And at those times when we are spiritually sick, Christ becomes the medicine that heals us from our spiritual sickness.
Every day, and in many moments of the day, there are choices to be made. We have a choice to choose good and a choice to choose evil. We can choose Christ or we can choose sin. Choosing Christ means to put aside the impulse to sin. It means putting sin to death, squashing it, and then choosing Christ. Of course, no one wins this battle every time. Some days, even with the best of people with the best of intentions, evil wins, we choose wrong. That is the human condition. The challenge, and it is a daily challenge, is to DIE to sin, to put sin away; and to LIVE in Christ.
When a person loses weight, they shed pounds and are able to move faster and with more vitality. Dying to sin is like shedding the weight of sinful failures so that you can live with more Christian vitality. However, we know that “crash” diets don’t work. The choice to live a healthy lifestyle is a daily choice to “die” to sinful eating habits and live with healthy ones. It’s the same thing in the spiritual realm—we can’t succeed as “crash” Christians, shedding lots of sinful baggage only to put it back on. The healthy Christian lifestyle is the one where we choose to “die” to sinful life habits on a daily basis and to live with Christ at the center. The more we die materially, and the more we die to our own sense of self (ego), the more we are alive spiritually! That is what it means to die to sin and be alive in Christ.
The magnificence of the One who in flesh became poor clearly was higher than the heavens raised. Our fallen nature has now been honored by its session with the Father. Therefore let us celebrate and with one voice jubilantly cry aloud, and with gladness of heart let us clap our hands. (From the 9th Ode of Orthros of Ascension, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Die to sin and live in Christ today!
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