OUR GREATEST GOAL IN LIFE
We all enter this world through the door of birth, opened to us by our fathers and mothers, and we begin as helpless infants needing constant loving care which our fathers and mothers provide. In a short time we begin to talk and walk, are taken to Church, and eventually go to school, graduate and go to work. We may marry and bring our own children through the door of birth into this world, repeating the process or we may become a monastic if we so choose.
However, as Orthodox Christians, we are the most blessed of all people on earth, for we have obtained the greatest gift which many do not receive, usually when we are infants. Shortly after our physical birth from our mother, we were taken to our mother the Church, where we were born from above (Christ told Nicodemus:“Unless a man is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”). This birth takes place in the sanctified waters of the font in Baptism. We are taken to the Church and baptized by three complete immersions in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Being immersed under water typifies His death, and rising up out of the water typifies His Resurrection. After Baptism, we are anointed with holy chrism all over our bodies, and the Priest repeats: “The seal of the gift of Holy Spirit.” With this we are spiritually enlivened with the divine gift of Holy Spirit ,as promised by our Lord Jesus Christ, who said that“the Father will give you another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not. Neither knows Him, for He dwells with you and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you” (John 14:16-17).
Then we become members of the kingdom of heaven wherein reigns Christ our King. Why are we so blessed that we receive these gifts? Because our parents were believers in Jesus Christ and followed His instructions: “Whoever is baptized shall be saved.” This is our priceless inheritance, which is more valuable and precious than anything and everything in the world. What could be more desirable, what could be more secure and permanent than to live eternally in the kingdom of heaven to which we are destined? It is good to bring to mind the promise and advice given to us, when we were baptized in the epistle of St. Paul to the Romans:
“Brethren, do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will never die again. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Baptism and Chrismation, or Rebirth, are a beginning. Below is the entire process of our lives.
BIRTH – REBIRTH – SANCTIFICATION – DEIFICATION
When the process of rebirth is completed, the next phase of our life is to become holy as the Lord commands: “Be holy for I am holy.” This is the only path to human happiness, for without it man degrades himself to become like the mindless animals. How much better to seek the kingdom of heaven and become like the living God Creator of heaven and earth!
This life was not given to us just to eat and drink and be merry, for such is the life of unbelievers and pagans. We must live in this world but not be a part of it. We must live in this world, work and perhaps raise a family, or become a monastic, but we must work also for our sanctification, by all the methods offered in the Church, but especially, cleansing ourselves of evil and vices, always seeking to improve and acquire virtues to become more like God or deified. Nourished on the Divine Mysteries we will blot out all our sins and receive the strength to do good and flee from evil.
This is an impossible task without assistance from the Lord who wants us to do whatever we are can and He will supply the rest, for He is good and the only Lover of mankind. We must draw closer to Jesus Christ, not as our Judge, but as our friend and guide, as the one who loves us to death. He went to the Cross after suffering His Passion out of great desire and love for each and every man and woman. He taught us to love and have peace and gives us this brief life so that we may struggle and attain to everlasting life, and He thirsts for our salvation. “How can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”