For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.
Ephesians 5:8-19(Epistle of the 26th Sunday)
One of the things that is constant about life is that it changes. Each age, each stage, each event, has the potential to change us in some way. For instance, if going to college doesn’t change how life was before we went to college, there was no point in going to college. If getting married doesn’t change how life was before we got married, there was no point in getting married. We eagerly go to college and get married, and get new jobs and lots of other new things, in the hopes that they will change us.
Christianity is supposed to change us. According to St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, now that we are “children of light” and no longer in darkness, we are “to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” and take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5:10-12) Saint Paul warns us against doing three specific things—First, we are to walk wisely, using our time wisely. Second, we are not to act foolish but instead understand the will of the Lord for our lives. And we are not to get drunk, in the sense of debasing ourselves, but instead we are to be filled with the Spirit.
One systemic challenge to Orthodox Christianity is that most people are baptized Orthodox as infants. They don’t consciously choose to be children of God. At least, they don’t initially choose. In the early days of the church, especially in the time of St. Paul, people were coming to the Christian faith as adults, making a conscious choice to leave being a pagan or an atheist or Judaism and become a Christian. Saint Paul was reminding the early Christians, and still reminds us in modern times, that the choice to follow Christ changes us. If it doesn’t we aren’t really sincere in our faith.
As for the person who was an Orthodox Christian from infancy, there comes a time when such person chooses whether to continue to belong to the church as an adult. And with the choice to continue comes an impetus to change.
The challenge, and perhaps our reality, is that there are plenty of people who call themselves Christians who aren’t walking in the light, who aren’t doing things that are pleasing to the Lord, who take part in unfruitful works of darkness, act foolishly, get drunk and debase themselves. Many Christians “compartmentalize” Christianity into a couple of hours on Sunday morning, rather than understanding that Christianity is a way of life, it is our identity. It’s not just what we do, it’s who we are. Many Christians do not let choose to let Christ “transform” their lives. Rather He is kept as a medallion worn around the neck or an icon that hangs on the wall.
Saint Paul’s message to us, both in his time and ours, is that Christianity, like college, like marriage and like so many other things, is supposed to change us. If we aren’t open to change, there is little point in participating. And if we aren’t changing, we’ve got to ask ourselves why.
You stripped Hades of plunder, and humanity You resurrected by Your resurrection, O Christ. Do therefore now account us worthy with a pure heart to praise You and glorify. (Third Resurrectional Praise, 1st Tone, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Set some small spiritual goals for this coming week!