The Antithesis to the Baptismal Life

“To be a Christian is to be part of the body of Christ. And when we think of ourselves collectively, we are not simply a collection of individuals, we are a very mysterious body… how can we become this body together – not simply by becoming ourselves more holy, more Christian, but by doing it in togetherness, by a concerted effort, consciously, and by doing it at the same time carried by the grace of God…The Church…as a body of people who are united to one another by a common Faith, by common sacraments, by a common hierarchy and by the common commandments of Christ” (Metropolitan Anthony Bloom).

In these current days, one of the great plagues, a cancer within the Church, is the idea of radical individualism or privatization. Such notions undermine the heart and core of the baptismal life, and such thinking and acting are antithetical to all of the Scriptures and the Apostolic Church. The baptized people are the New People of Israel, and similar to the People of the Old Covenant, you and I, as members of the New Covenant, are joined to a Body – Christ. Hence the Christian life is not an individual, private journey but rather a communal pilgrimage, the communal pilgrimage to become one in Christ. Saint Augustine aptly taught: “Thus the end (in heaven) will be one Christ, loving Himself; for the love of the members for one another is the love of the Body of Christ” (Homilies on 1 Jn 10,3).

Baptism commences you and me on the journey of transformation into the single Body of Christ, to become godly. Note, baptism is only the beginning, where the seed of eternal life is given to you and me; however, it must be actualized; it must be brought to maturity. Actualization occurs through formation within the heart of the Church by means of a common Faith, common mysteries (sacraments), a common hierarchy and common commandments. These mold and form us into the single Body of Christ. We traverse this journey of divinization together in order to participate in the one Christ.

Conclusion: It is not enough to have a personal prayer life, hidden away; and, the idea of a “me and God relationship” is detrimental to the baptismal life. If one hopes to experience divinization; if one hopes to experience the godly transformation; if one desires to actualize what St. Paul teaches: “…we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph 4:13); concretely, one must be an actual participant in the life of one’s parish, rightly called a liturgical family. Within a liturgical family a baptized person experiences divinization through the public prayer of the Church, united by a common faith, connected to one’s bishop who is in communion with all the other bishops of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Public prayer, i.e. Vespers, Othros and Divine Liturgy, in particular, actualizes the potential given to you and me at baptism – to become divinized or deified in order to reach “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”