ORTHODOX CATECHISM TOPICS
By: Fr. Anthony Alevizopoulos
PhD. of Theology, PhD. of Philosophy
The Orthodox Church relates Holy Baptism to the sacred Mystery of Chrism, with which our induction into the body of the Church is completed, and the faithful, armed wtih the charismata of God can now grow spiritually, and conscientiously live the life in Christ; the life of the entire body.
With Holy Baptism the neophyte is "edified" and "planted" into the Body of Christ, the Church, and becomes "one in Christ". This means a return to the "one man", i.e. man's rebirth into the one integral human nature from which he was cut off through the fall (Jn 3-6). The faithful, however, after Baptism is on the one hand sanctified and justified in Christ, yet he finds himself in the spiritual condition of a child. He has to be protected from external threats and to grow spiritually "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the full stature of Christ" (Eph. 4,13).
This does not mean that his personality is confused or done away with through his union "in Christ"; he continues to constitute a separate personality. For this reason the neophyte who enters the spiritual palaestra in order to struggle and grow in virtue, needs his personal spiritual armor. This is given him through Holy Chrism, which in the ancient Church was transmitted through the laying on of hands by the Apostles. (Acts 8, 15-17) and constituted the engagement or earnest of our inheritance (Eph. 1, 13-14; cmp also II Cor. 1,22 and I Jn 2,20).
Through Holy Chrism the Church receives and accepts the entire man and sustains the human person; it is for this reason that the entire person is anointed, sanctified and armed in order to progress victoriously in his spiritual struggles, in which he participates with all his being. In this way the personal character of the gift of the Holy Spirit shows us that the human personality is not done away with by the induction of each and every believer into the Body of Christ. This union takes place without confusion of the various persons, who remain distinct and different; their unity in the one Body of Christ does not abrogate them, but to the contrary, shows them forth and elevates them.
All the members of the body of the newly-illuminated are anointed and sealed with the "seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit" and with the visible sign of Holy myrrh, and the entire man becomes God's property "God's dwelling-place" and "temple of the Holy Spirit" (I Cor. 3,16-17; 6, 19). The gifts of the Holy Spirit are transmitted to the newly-illuminated and he becomes in his entirety charismatic, putting on the the panoply of God, ready for spiritual battle (Eph. 6,10-18).
This struggle can become very arduous (Eph. 6. 10-13). A Christian must labor in order to acquire the evangelical virtues. God accepts man's efforts and pains, He sanctifies him and offers him His Grace and mercy abundantly, showing him forth to be a victor (Rom. 9,16; I Cor. 3,7; Eph. 2,8).
THE ORTHODOX CHURCH Its Faith, Worship and Life
Rev. Antonios Alevisopoulos, Th.D., Ph.D
Translated by Rev. Stephen Avramides
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