That we should conduct ourselves in newness of life

just as we promised through the holy Schema.[1]

Theodore the Studite: Catcehesis 40

Brethren and Fathers, just as the hungry long to eat and the thirsty to drink, so we should be enthusiastic to listen to the word of God. For by listening we gain the greatest benefits. If we are slothful, we put away sloth; if we are eager, we become even more eager; and from both the outcome is good. What then is the present word? For,  says Scripture, this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life[2]. Nor did he simply give him, but even to death, death on a cross[3]. How? We were enslaved to the devil through Adam’s transgression, we were under the reign of death, sold under sin[4], guilty and captive, subject to corruption. Therefore the only Son of God came, giving himself as a ransom for all. He not only delivered us from death’s possession, but also, having washed us from our sins by his own blood, he made us a kingdom (of heaven) and priests to his God and Father.[5] Have you seen the mighty love of his strength? Have you seen the measureless mercy of his love for humanity? How unsearchable are his mercies and inscrutable his acts of compassion[6], which he has poured out on us through Jesus Christ our Saviour![7] What may we, poor wretches, say to all this? What may we think? Shall we willingly return to sin? Shall we long for dishonour? Shall we choose corruption and condemnation? By no means, says the Apostle, we have died to sin, how shall we continue to live in it? Or are you ignorant that as many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death. We were buried then with him through baptism to death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.[8] So, brothers, let us walk in newness of life, just as we promised when we took the habit. Let us conduct ourselves with righteousness and holiness, as befits saints[9] with peace and harmony, with reverence and piety, with holiness and dispassion, not being led away in ignorance by our former[10] deceits, but fleeing our former notions like fire and standing fast on the rock of our faith. This is newness. And what is ‘oldness’? Indulgence, by which Adam our forefather was caught and became an outcast from Paradise and underwent a life of much grief. Envy, by which Cain was inflamed and murdered his brother Abel because his gifts were preferred, and as a result he passed his whole life in fear and groaning. From these two sins ten thousand evils surfaced in the world. Because of these the Flood utterly wiped out all the high ground of the earth. Because of these Sodom and Gomorra were reduced to ashes by fire and brimstone as a warning to the impious. Do you see what sin has brought about and the desire of the eyes and pride in one’s way of life.[11] But nevertheless, as has been said before, we have been called by God’s mercy, we have gained freedom, we have run to be adopted as sons. Let us then stand with the freedom with which Christ has freed us, and let us be guarded by the glory with which Christ has glorified us, spitting on everything that belongs to empty vanity, reckoning them all secondary for the sake Christ: dishonour as honour, affliction as joy, blows as pleasures, persecution as happiness, death as life, just as our holy fathers and brothers,  whose names are in the book of life,[12] whom we have remembered today, chose to do. For if we too live like this, we shall appear here like beacons in the world, holding on to the word of life,[13] while in the age to come we shall inherit the kingdom of heaven in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever , and to the ages of ages.

Translated by Father Ephraim Lash+

[1] The manuscripts give no particular date for this Instruction, but its place, between Theophany and Lent, and the reference in the last paragraph to ‘our holy fathers and brothers, who have been commemorated by us today’ strongly suggest that it was given on the Saturday before Cheese Sunday. The references to Adam and his banishment from Paradise, the theme of the next day’s services, support this.

[2] John 3:16

[3] Phil. 2:8.

[4] Cf. Romans 7:14, which is alluded to in the Anaphora of St Basil in a similar context in the first person plural. It may be that St Theodore has the Anaphora in mind here, rather than Romans.

[5] Apocalypse 1:5-6. St Theodore is probably quoting from memory The word ‘heaven’ is not in the text of the Apocalypse. The standard Byzantine text has ‘kings’, rather than ‘kingdom’, which is the accepted reading in modern critical editions. It is also that underlying the Vulgate’s ‘regnum’. The Latin in Migne does not include the word.

[6] Cf. Romans 11:33.

[7] Titus 3:6.

[8] Romans 6:2-4.

[9] Ephesians 5:3.

[10] 1 Peter 1:14. St Theodore replaces ‘desires’ by ‘deceits’.

[11] 1 John 2:16. The Greek bios is not easy to translate here. Some translators go so far as to put ‘riches’. Perhaps ‘style of life’, ‘standard of living’.

[12] Philippians 4;3.

[13] Philippians 2:15-16.

Our Local Saints
Copyright © 2024