Monday, February 25, 2008

Daily Lenten Meditation

Each day in Lent, I post a meditation from one of our parishioners. Their names are not listed to protect their privacy

Lessons for the day:  Acts 1:15-26;  Philippians 3:13-21;   John 15:6-16

The Orthodox churches have a concept, translated as "deification," which is the process, begun by the Resurrection, by which our human nature is taken up into the Godhead and made divine.  It is the complement of God's taking on our human nature in the Incarnation, and is surely the prize toward which Paul is "straining heavenward."

In the West, we refer to this concept as "holiness" and tend to see it more in terms of the individual rather than of the whole Body of Christ. Whatever word we choose to employ, however, it involves our being set apart and dedicated to God's use, turning our wills and our lives over to God's care.

It is a common temptation to see holiness as a matter of following rules, of obeying a list of do's and don'ts. This is a trap, because it leads us to think that holiness is a matter of exercising the proper amount of will power, whereas true holiness is more a matter of surrender and of educating the will to exert itself towards God's purposes and not our own. The value of the term "deification" is that, first of all, it emphasizes that this is an ongoing process, not a state of being; and secondly, it reminds us that the process operates not just on us individually, but on the whole Body of Christ of which we are members.

We know that we were made originally in the image of God.  The entrance of sin into the world implies that God's image in us has become flawed. Perhaps the purpose of holiness, or deification, is to remold us back into that image.  As Christ's disciples and members of his Body, we find our true purpose in consciously seeking God's will, not our own.  Perhaps this is what living in the Kingdom means:  our true home is not in this world, but elsewhere.

Such total identification with God that we want only what God wants is impossible to sustain, especially by ourselves.  Fortunately, holiness is a process operating on us as much as it is something that we do, and there are things we can do to help that process along.  Lent is the period of the Church year in which we join with our fellow-parishioners to make this process the primary focus of our discipleship.  All the abstinence and all the extra disciplines we take on are not-if we understand them correctly-punishments, but aids.  Like athletes preparing for a competition, we strip ourselves of hindrances, eat a special diet, and take on special exercises, all in order to let the new life work in us to achieve its goal of making us true members of Christ's Body, bearing fruit that will transform the world.