This writing was prepared by Father Vladimir as a theme for a retreat which was held at St. Nicholas Church in Philadelphia in November 1964. Everyone who experienced one of Father Vladimir's retreats was deeply affected and even changed by the experience. The Sanctified Life of Redeemed Man and Creation is a wonderful summary of the Christian Faith, revealing that profound simplicity of _expression which was always a hallmark of Father Vladimir's teaching.
The Sanctified Life of Redeemed Man and Creation
Today we are urged to search for the success of the average life in things spiritual. There have been numerous studies made of the political, ethical, social, economic, and even religious views of men. With modem means of tabulating the opinions of men on religious and ethical teachings, we can expect sooner or later the presentation of a new gospel for the average man. This escape into the anonymity of mediocrity is reflected in the buying habits of the average consumer. He is urged to buy a particular car because it is the best, the fastest, the most economical, and the best working one on the market and then discovers that he and a half million others are the owners of this "unique" car. Thus uniqueness is synonymous with conformity. Nor is one brand name different from any other. There is the same deadly sameness and mediocrity in the "sales pitch" as there is in the product itself.
The Christian Faith calls us out of the sameness and mediocrity of this world. We are called to be a "unique" people. The Prophet Isaiah foretold:
'Behold your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him and his recompense before him.' And they shall be called the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord. (Isaiah 62: 11-12)
The promise is of Redemption and Sanctification -- of the Sanctification of the Redeemed, the Holy People. The Holy People are called out of this world . . . this is the meaning of the name "laity" (_______) the "people of God" who have been called out, to become separated from this world. The Church is a movement of the laity, of those consecrated to the Church which includes all the "People of God;" the Bishop, the Priest, and the flock.
Every member of the Church has been consecrated to begin this New Life in Christ. In the words of the Baptismal Litany,
. . . that he (the baptized) may be manifested as a son of light, and an inheritor of eternal good things.
and in the prayer that follows the Priest who is about to baptize prays:
Form the Image of Christ in him who is about to be born again through my humility; and build him upon the foundation of Thine Apostles and Prophets; and cast him not down, but plant him as a plant of truth in Thy Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
Having been baptized in the Holy Trinity, "in the Name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit," the new member of the People of God is anointed with the Holy Chrism. In this Mystery he is sanctified and sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.
Keep him in Thy Sanctification;
Confirm him in the Orthodox Faith;
Deliver him from the Evil One and all his desires; and
Preserve his soul, through Thy Saving Fear and in purity and righteousness, that
In every work and word, being acceptable unto Thee,
He may become a son and heir of Thy Heavenly Kingdom.
Here are enumerated the precepts of the Way of the Sanctified Life.
1. To keep the way of Sanctification
This is not a negative holding on to what one has received. The wicked servant in the Parable of the Talents, (Matt. 25: 14-30) one of the parables of the Kingdom, of the New Life, is adjudged as wicked and slothful because he did not actively maintain that which was given him. We must maintain our sanctification by perfecting our holiness. "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt. 5:48) We do this by keeping His Word.
By this we may be sure that we know Him if we keep His commandments. He who says, 'I know Him' but disobeys His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His Word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in Him; he who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked. (I John 2: 3-6)
Jesus Christ our Lord said, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by me. If you would have known me, you would have known my Father also." (John 14: 6-7)
To keep in His Sanctification is to keep ever in the Way of Holiness of Jesus Christ the Son of God. Thus we can maintain that which has been given to us.
2. To he confirmed in the Orthodox Faith
The Mystery of Confirmation is like the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost and is the beginning of the process of transformation of the "Child of God." This process is described thus:
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, that through these we may escape the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of divine nature. (2 Peter 1: 3-4)In order to achieve the life of Sanctification in its fullness we must "escape the corruption that is in the world because of passion." It is through the Sacrament of Penance that this is made possible. Confession of one's sins and true repentance are necessary for a continual renewal and perfecting of the Sanctified life. "From His Fullness have we all received, grace upon grace" (John 1: 16) in order to attain to the perfection of life and to say with the Apostle Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God." (Gal.2: 20)
The very foundation on which this New Life is built is "faith in the Son of God." This immediately reminds us that the life in the Church and of the New People of God is communion with the Life of the Kingdom. This life is revealed to us that we may partake in it. In the Holy Eucharist we partake of the Very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. In and through this Mystery we do indeed become partakers of divine nature.
3. To he delivered from the Evil One and all his devices
Sanctification is given in the Mystery of the Church in which the Pentecostal Gifts are acquired by those who receive and live the life in Christ as members of the Body of Christ. In order to keep the Sanctification and to perfect it, one must "be delivered from the Evil One and all his devices." The Evil One does not cease his work of temptation that may lead to sin and destruction. We, too, must not cease to fight against the Evil One and to "confess [our] sins one to another." (James 5: 16) This is the means given by the Church to root out the festering wound of sin and to expose it to the healing light of Christ. The forgiveness of sins precedes the consecration, and it is a part of the continuing process of renewal and of the transfiguration of the person.
4. To preserve the soul in Righteousness
The living of the Sanctified life is a continuous warfare against the forces of evil. The Mystery of Penance gives us the means of cleansing the soul. But now we must concern ourselves with maintaining its purity and righteousness. This is accomplished by the doing of God's work, of living the life of Christ. The life of Christ is marked by all the Divine Virtues -- natural to God but attainable by man by the Grace of God. He came to the world and humbled Himself -- and became man. Paul admonishes us thus,
Having this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the Cross. (Phil. 2: 5-8)
Humility is a mark of the Sanctified life. Humility is not an undignified cowardice -- it is a willingness to bend, to set aside that which is ours by right in order to help another. It is an act of pure love as was Jesus Christ's Self-Humiliation in which God bent down to man in order to lift man up to the exalted places. Participation "in the divine nature" is not something man could expect as a right. He had lost all rights in his disobedience in the garden. God in His Infinite Goodness and Love manifests His love in His Son who lifts man up by the Cross with Himself and there crucifies; the disobedient man; the man called to perfection who loses the first opportunity because he disobeys the Will of God. But He resurrects the New Man in Himself, the man created in the Image and Likeness of God, now redeemed and restored through the Death and Resurrection of the Son of God. Paul completes this admonition in words of exaltation,
Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name which is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2: 9-11)
The act of self-humiliation is followed by our reaction -- adoration; we adore Him who is Very God of Very God, and we witness to His Name before all creation. The Redeemed man is the crown of creation and as he brought down with him all of creation entrusted to his stewardship, so now his restoration is preceded and followed by the restoration and redemption of all creation through man. Sanctification is a mark of the Redeemed man and Creation. The working out of the redemption to which all of nature was restored on the day of Epiphany when Christ entered the waters of the Jordan and sanctified nature is the work of Redeemed man. Paul exhorts the Christian thus,
As you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2: 12-13)
The working out of our salvation is a tremendous task and St. Paul is very much aware of it as he strives to encourage the Philippians, "that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain." (Phil. 2: 15-18)
The call is to holiness under the most difficult circumstances. Paul calls the Philippians to a life of true renunciation and of pure sacrifice. He himself knows that his own life may soon be sacrificed. "Even if I am to be poured as a libation upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all." (Phil. 2: 17) The price is high but so is the prize. How little is the sacrifice if one is to attain unto the perfection of holiness. Paul is aware that he strives in hope alone for he writes,
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own; because Christ Jesus has made me His own. (Phil. 3: 12)
We, too, must desire perfection even as we fail to grasp it.
I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3: 13-14)
Paul writing to the Philippians exhorts them to run the race with him, looking only toward one goal . . . "that I may know Him and the power of His Resurrection, and may share His Sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that if possible I may attain the Resurrection from the dead." (Phil. 3: 10-11) The example of Christ is ever before Paul as it must be ever before us, for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life -- He is Holiness and Perfection. But Paul is ever the realist. He knows the way of the world which lays its snares and temptations enticingly in the path of the Faithful. He writes:
Many . . . live as enemies of the Cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Phil. 2: 18-19)
Is not this a description of many Christians today who are committed to Christ in name but to the world in spirit? Their end is that of the world which is doomed to destruction.
But our commonwealth is in Heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like His Glorious Body, by the power which enables Him even to subject all things to Himself. (Phil. 3: 20-21)