Dr. Nos’hi Abdel-Shaheed
The first stage: The Baptizing Christ.
The stage of purification and
The beginning of the process of spiritual renewal for man
2-The Forgiving and Healing Christ (Part 3)
3- Baptism Prayer for consecrating monks:
The true monastic life is considered a sincere attempt to actualize the new life obtained in baptism. There is a strong connection between baptism and monastic life. The monk seeks to live according to the Spirit consecrating himself and all his life to Christ, rejecting the world and its desires; this is considered a continuation of the attitude of catechumen as he approached baptism, and the Christian who truly repented and adopted the condition of the catechumen in baptism in true understanding and freedom to personally choose to live for Christ and “live according to His commandments”, i.e. living the true Gospel as he crucifies the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24).
It is noticeable in the prayers of consecrating monks and nuns, that they speaks about forgiveness from all sins, renewal of life, and the new birth. The Gospel of John, chapter 3, which talks about the birth from the water and the Spirit, is read during the ordination to monasticism. Thus, the prayers that accompany the monastic rites concentrate on renewal of the inner life, i.e. renewal of the baptismal grace. Therefore monasticism is considered an extension of the baptismal grace during which the Holy Spirit is called to dwell in the beginner monk and his “eskeme” (the little “eskeme”, which is different from the great “eskeme” of the elderly monk who lives in solitude, and has his own rules that differ from the ordinary monk living in the congregation.
It is important to notice that the consecration of a monk is a personal spiritual consecration of his life to God and it is different from ordination of a priest. Therefore the one who prays for him to become a monk does not have to be a bishop, as in the different degrees of priesthood, but it could be his monastic father. In early times, monastic fathers did not have any priestly degrees, such as St. Anthony and St. Pachomios … etc., for a monk is an ordinary believer who consecrated himself to live completely for Christ, and is not of the clergy. The confusion for people at present is because monks wear similar clothes like the priests when they run errands outside their monastery. Also, a monk becomes consecrated basically not to become a priest or a bishop, but to be dedicated to the worship of God and to live for Him spiritually and bodily, and it is not fit for his call to desire any chief position or glory from people, even if it is in an ecclesiastic field. The monk is consecrated to practice real death to himself and to the world, so that he will attain resurrection of life and thus achieve baptism to the utmost, and to build the church internally and make it grow through prayer, and also to pray for the salvation of the world through a spiritual struggle appropriate to the call and goal of monasticism.
Not only the monastic consecration but every consecration of heart and life, such as consecrating virginity for Christ’s sake and dedicating the whole life to Christ by serving Him among people, is the continuation of the baptismal grace. Also, the married person if he consecrates his life to Christ in his marital life and in his home, not live in the worldly spirit, he will be renewing the grace of baptism in himself, practicing death to the old life, and living the new life originally given to him in baptism. Christian life in general, whether in monasticism, virginity or marriage, must be characterized by self chosen poverty, self emptying, chastity, obedience and self denial, even if these are practiced to different degrees in the different ways of life, yet the basics are the same because life in Christ is also basically one. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). Also, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13).
4- Prayer of the second marriage:
The Orthodox Church does not give the crowning blessing in the second wedding as she does in the first, rather the church prays asking for forgiveness and freedom to the twice married as he did not tolerate abstinence. The liturgical texts for the second marriage includes the psalm of forgiveness “psalm 50”, while during the first wedding they pray the prayer of thanksgiving followed by reading the letter to the Ephesians that talks about the union of man to woman as similar to the union of Christ to the church. The prayers for the second marriage are predominantly characterized by repentance and asking for forgiveness for the twice married person after the death of his wife, and therefore the second marriage goes under the category of repentance and purification. It is for this reason that the church in early generations deprived those who married for the second time from communion for a period of two years making this time a period of repentance. This deprivation came in the fourth rule of the rules of St. Basil saying “the second or third marriage requires a specific repentance because it is not considered a marriage like the first one”. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, in his talk about divorce (Sermon on Matthew chapter 19), says, “The first marriage is law, but the second one is loosening and permission, the third one is transgression, and anymore marriages are living the life of pigs.”
The third marriage was deprived of communion for five years as a period for repentance. For this reason the church did not give the wedding (crowning) blessing to widows or widowers getting married the second time because the wedding blessing is given only one time as in the Church laws. “If the married are widows they don’t get the blessing of a wedding because this is done only once, in the first time, and stays with them forever, but the priest’s prayers for them is asking for forgiveness; and if one of the married couple is a virgin that person gets the blessing alone. This law applies for all men and women.” (Law collection B-24, chapter 5:78)
But regarding the first marriage (crowning), it is the image of Christ’s union with the church because it is tied to the Eucharist, which is the mystery uniting Christ with the church, the foretaste of the wedding of the sacrificial Lamb and His wife the church, which will be fulfilled at the second coming of Christ from heaven in His glory to take His bride and be completely united with her forever. Now, we will not talk about the first marriage because we will talk about it in the third stage (of spiritual life), which is the stage of union, the Eucharist. Now we discussed only the second marriage because it is related to the stage of repentance and purification in order to return to communion in the Eucharist.
3-The Re-creating Christ (Part1)
Baptismal grace takes away original sin, and penitential grace, the extension of Baptism, blots out actual sin. But the baptizing Christ performs yet another work. He restores the primitive order abolished by sin, and creates a new man: “Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24). St Irenaeus, St Basil, St Gregory of Nyssa, and St Cyril of Alexandria teach that the Lord Jesus – the new Adam – gives us back the state of integrity possessed by the first Adam before his fall. This is also what we hear in the beginning of the prayer of reconciliation in the Liturgy of St. Basil: “O Lord the great and eternal who formed man in incorruption and death which entered into the world by the envy of the devil you have destroyed by the life giving manifestation of your only begotten Son our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ”. Thus, through Christ we receive renewal of our creation and participate in incorruption and immortality (Death is not only a separation of soul from the body but is an inner state of corruption and disintegration of human nature with weakness, sickness, and darkness, with which man is separated from God with a corrupt and decaying nature, a condition that ends with death of the body). (To be continued)