My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"THE EARTHLY TENT" (2 Corinthians 1:1-5)
"For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, WE
HAVE A BUILDING FROM GOD, A HOUSE NOT MADE WITH HANDS,
ETERNAL IN THE HEAVENS. Here indeed we groan, and long to
put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be
found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety;
not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further
clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who
has prepared us for this very thing is God, Who has given us the
Spirit as a guarantee."
The holy Apostle Paul instructed the Corinthian faithful of human mortality and on "our heavenly dwelling" and eternal life. Once this body, our earthly home is left behind, the soul will enter the heavenly realm. It will receive its body back, transformed "into a heavenly body." We do not look toward being delivered from a body but only from the corruption that is in it according to Saint John Chrysostom. Saint John continues in his instruction by saying, "Some will rise to honor and others to dishonor." The holy Fathers of the Church state that "our groanings are like those of a woman in labor, awaiting a new birth." Since God the Creator foresaw the sin of Adam, He prepared a remedy for it. The Almighty and Life-Giving God has given us the Spirit as a guarantee so that we might know that He will not allow the TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (OUR BODY) to perish. Therefore any abuse or deliberate corruption or destruction of the body by us is a desecration of the "Temple of the Holy Spirit."
Everyone understands that our present body is our temporary earthly home. Our resurrection body is, we believe, our heavenly one. Our earthly home has a definite purpose and everyone must take care of it not only physically but spiritually. It is the only home that we have here on earth. There are different ways that we can harm and injure our body i.e., gluttony, drugs, alcohol, immoral acts, abuse, evil habits, neglect, uncleanness, extreme conditions, and misuse, depriving it of spiritual nourishment and sacramental life, life of communion with its Creator and Fashioner. Everyone will be resurrected according to the holy Apostle and Evangelist Saint John when he says, "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which ALL WHO ARE IN THE GRAVES WILL HEAR His VOICE AND COME FORTH–THOSE WHO HAVE DONE GOOD, TO THE RESURRECTION OF LIFE, AND THOSE WHO HAVE DONE EVIL, TO THE RESURRECTION OF CONDEMNATION" (John 5:28-29).
The above scriptural passage is read at the Orthodox Christian funeral service. These verses refer, of course, to the General resurrection of the dead at the end of days. However, that "hour" is already present and "now is" (v. 25) in that an encounter with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ results IN LIFE OR JUDGMENT AS A PRESENT REALITY, depending upon ONE’S RESPONSE. Those WHO BELIEVE IN CHRIST HAVE ALREADY "PASSED FROM DEATH INTO LIFE" (v. 24). The holy Apostle Paul is talking here about two different worlds. One is the earthly, made with hands and visible. The other is invisible, MADE WITHOUT HANDS AND HEAVENLY. On earth, our soul is clothed in flesh and blood, which is the visible and organic body. But once this body is left behind, THE SOUL WILL MOVE TO THE HEAVENLY REALM, WHERE IT WILL RECEIVE ITS BODY BACK, BUT ONE THAT HAS BEEN TRANSFORMED INTO A HEAVENLY BODY according to the Holy Fathers of the Church.
What witness here is Saint Paul offering Christian catechism to the faithful in Corinth Greece. He is attempting to impress upon the Greek Christians of our two different homes and how they are used. He is comparing it with the house we live in. He, of course, is not trying to make an exact contrast between the earthly and the heavenly but rather to exalt the latter in every possible way.
Everyone must face reality at one or another and see that our bodies are decaying before us no matter what means we employ to keep them in good health and form. As all of us grow older see that we have absolutely no control over the deterioration of our bodies. Notice that the holy Apostle Paul who, in discussing the corruptible body, had used the words "even though our outer man is decaying," goes on, a little further, to say: "For we know that if the earthly house in which we dwell be destroyed, we have "a building from God, a house NOT MADE BY HUMAN HANDS, ETERNAL IN THE HEAVENS." Our attention ought to be, however, not so much on the earthly body’s corruption but rather to be, hopefully, clothed with its immorality. In immortal life, we believe, we shall have a body, but it will no longer be a burden on our soul since our body will no longer be corruptible. How wonderful and awesome is that?
In the Divine Liturgy, two of the petitions offered we implore our Lord: "Christian ends of our life, painless, blameless, peaceful, and of good defense before the fearful Judgment Seat of Christ." Also, "To complete the remaining time of our life in peace and repentance." No Orthodox Christian should take either this life or the heavenly one for granted. Everything points to the necessity of using this earthly life wisely and as a preparation for the life to come. Generally, Christians are earnest in their prayers that they should not be excluded from the glory which is promised. Because when the soul is clothed in a body, it must also be clothed with the glory by which is transformed into brightness. Saint John Chrysostom states the following: "The resurrection is COMMON TO ALL, but the glory IS NOT. Some will rise to honor and others to dishonor, some to a Kingdom and others to punishment."
Saint John Chrysostom writes: "God DID NOT CREATE THE FIRST MAN IN ORDER THAT HE SHOULD DIE BUT IN ORDER TO MAKE HIM IMMORTAL. To prove this, Saint Paul adds that we have been given the Spirit as a guarantee. God is presented as having made a commitment to us to fulfill His promise. We, as the followers of Christ, must also make a very important and serious promise to remain faithful to Him and to live good and godly lives adhering to His Divine Commandments. What comes immediately to mind is that we all must be OBEDIENT TO HIM. Through disobedience we severe our relationship with Him and punishment upon our souls. Let us, therefore, walk in the Light of God and always with faith and courage. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God