For the past few weeks Indian Orthodox Churches across the globe celebrated the feast and 103rd memorial of the first declared saint of Malankara – St Gregorios of Parumala. We as youngsters have a lot to learn from the life of the saint and we should never forget that we too are called to be saints. The Orthodox Church describes the whole purpose of the Christian life on earth as the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. Prayer, fasting, vigils, and all other Christian practices, however good they may be in themselves, certainly do not constitute the aim of our Christian life: they are but the indispensable means of attaining that aim. For the true aim of the Christian life is acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. The prayer life of the faithful starts with the invocation of the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit carries on the redemption and sanctification of man. The Holy Spirit speaks to man’s heart and transforms him into a new creation, through repentance and Christ’s teachings. He enables us to become one with God.
The Holy Spirit’s power leads the human person to achieve the final aim of the Christian life, the theosis, or deification, of human nature. Theosis means life in God, the transformation of a human being into union with God. St Athanasius has expressed it in the classic words “God became man that man might become god.” The great theological quests of the fourth and fifth centuries ultimately resulted in the affirmation that salvation is the divinization of humanity and its eternal presence in God, the source of its life. Damnation is exactly the opposite, the deprivation of God’s presence in the life of humanity. The deification of the human has its beginnings here on earth, but it will reach its fulfillment in the life to come. It is the result of man’s response to the Holy Spirit in man’s life.
Man is a psychosomatic union, a concentrated union of body and soul, of spirit and matter. Both constitute a “most natural bond of harmony and coexistence… of a visible and invisible… nature… The creator of man “moulded the body from the earth” and “endowed it with the divine and life giving spirit,” as St. John the Damascene proclaims. These two components make man a person in imitation of the God-man, the person of Christ. It is a basic teaching of Christian Orthodoxy that man is an “image of God” with the potentiality of “likeness” and participation in the glory of God.
It is not possible to live without life and there is no life except by participation in God. Such participation consists in seeing God and rejoicing in his fullness. The glory of God is a living person and the life of humanity is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation already gives life to all living beings οn earth, how much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Son give life to those who see God? God is himself the life of those who participate in him.
Thus holiness is life in its fullness. And there is holiness in each human being who participates vigorously in life. There is holiness not only in the great ascetic but in the creator of beauty, in the seeker after truth who heeds the mystery of creation, both living and inanimate, in the deep love of a man and a woman, in the mother who knows how to console her child and how to bring it to spiritual birth. The saints are the living ones: and the living ones are the saints. Spiritual awareness teaches us that the soul has only one natural sense … shattered in consequence of Adam’s disobedience. But it is restored to unity by the Holy Spirit … Ιn those who are detached from the lusts of life, the spirit, because it is thus freed, acquires its full vigour, and can experience in an ineffable manner the divine fullness. It then imparts its joy to the body itself … ‘Ιn him,’ says the psalmist, ‘my flesh has blossomed afresh’.
The human being while remaining completely human is completely enlightened by glory. The deified person, while remaining completely human in nature, both in body and soul, becomes wholly divine in both body and soul, through grace and the divine brightness of the beatifying glory that permeates the whole person. God envelops in his fullness the person whom he deifies. And that person by the clinging power of love is united wholly to the divine energy. From nοw οn there is only one energy of God and the saints: God is ‘all in all’, ‘everything in everything’.
Just as the body of the Lord was glorified οn the mountain when it was transfigured in the glory of God and in infinite light, so the bodies of the saints will be glorified and shine like lightning … ‘The glory which thou hast given me Ι have given to them’ (John 17.22). As countless candles are lighted from a single flame, so the bodies of all Christ’s members will be what Christ is … Our human nature is transformed and becomes united with Christ’s; it becomes wholly fire and light. The fire that is hidden and as it were smothered under the ashes of this world … will blaze out and with its divinity burn up the husk of death. What is hidden within will cover up completely what is seen οn the outside.
Resurrection begins already here below. For the early Church a deeply spiritual man is one who is already ‘risen again’. The truest moments of our life, those lived in the invisible, have a resurrection flavour. Resurrection begins every time that a person, breaking free from conditionings, transfigures them. Resurrection begins every time that a person plunges this world’s opaque, divisive, death-riddled modality into its Christ-centred modality, into that ‘ineffable and marvellous fire hidden in the essence of things, as in the Burning Bush’. The saints are seeds of resurrection. Only they can steer the blind sufferings of history towards resurrection.