Many Evangelical Christians can name the date in which they were “Born Again.” The day in which they made Christ a priority in their life. Many of us, as Orthodox Christians, make that commitment on the day of our Baptism and Christmation, as infants. Are we transformed by the love of Christ? Do we allow ourselves to be transformed by Christ? There is a common theme in the Sunday Gospel readings following Pascha (Easter). Each of these five Sunday Gospels after Pascha distinguish a person (or persons) transformed by Christ.
The Sunday following Pascha we hear of “Doubting” Thomas. Thomas is skeptical about the encounter his brother disciples have with the risen Lord and make a bold proclamation, “Unless I see and touch!” The Lord reveals himself to Thomas and Thomas is immediately transformed. Without having to touch, he exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas encounter’s Christ and his faith is renewed.
The second Sunday after Pascha, we learn of the Myrrh-Bearing Women. These brave women approach the tomb of Christ and find it empty. Having encountered Christ, they return and share the good news with the disciples. Then on the third Sunday after our Lord’s Resurrection the Church shares the story of the paralytic. Although this happens before the Lord’s crucifixion, it holds fast to the theme of “Encountering Christ.” The man has suffered with an infirmity for 38 years- a full generation! When he meets Christ, our Lord transforms him and makes him complete. No longer does the bed confine him, but with Christ’s help, he can lift the bed and glorify Christ!
The Samaritan woman finds the Lord on the fourth Sunday after Pascha. Having to go to the well at the hottest time of the day, because she is embarrassed of her lifestyle, she meets Christ. Relieving her soul of her past transgressions she finds acceptance and love from Christ. She hurries to the city and shares the GOOD NEWS of Christ and “Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony. ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So, when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days." (John 5:39-40)
On the fifth Sunday, the Blind man receives his sight. After explaining to His disciples that sin does not lead to physical ailment and that God does not seek justice through punishment, Christ restores the sight of the man born blind. Our Lord explains that challenges in our lives are opportunities for Christ to be glorified through that struggle. The man receives his sight, and in exchange declares, “Lord I believe!” (John 9:38)
Subsequently, these encounters lead to the reception of the Holy Spirit, the Sunday of Pentecost. The gift of the Holy Spirit descends on the Disciples as fiery flames. The Disciples are transformed, the fisherman become Fishers of men! All that meet Christ leave differently than they approached. Thomas, the Myrrh-Bearers, the Paralytic, the Samaritan Woman, the Blind man, all lead changed lives after encountering Christ.
Have we encountered Christ? How can we prepare ourselves for this encounter? How are we transformed by this encounter? We must trans-form ourselves by the love of Christ! To encounter Christ we live by His commandments to, “Love God with all our mind, soul and heart, and love our neighbors as we ourselves.”
To encounter Christ we must worship regularly, privately in our daily lives and corporately at Church. In each of the Sunday liturgies following Pascha we sing, “In our Churches we Glorify Christ!” To encounter Christ we must find him in our service to those less fortunate than ourselves, in our giving and aid. To encounter Christ we must offer forgiveness, and have a change of heart. To encounter Christ, we must imitate Him! Yes, we Orthodox Christians are “Born Again,” EVERYDAY! Our lives are to be filled with encounters with Christ. By allowing Him into our lives again, into our hearts, our lives will never be the same.
In Christ’s Service,
Fr. Gary Kyriacou