Dr. Nos’hi Abdel-Shaheed
Part Twenty One
The first stage: The Baptizing Christ.
The stage of purification and
The beginning of the process of spiritual renewal for man
3-The Re-creating Christ (Part 2)
The coming of Christ to us, and our communion with Him, return to us the state which was meant by God for us since the beginning. We were not born in this state, but rather in a state of corruption or darkness, i.e. a condition of spiritual sickness.
Isaias the Younger (a father from the wilderness of Scetes in the 5th Century) says: “When God created man, He put Him in Paradise, having his senses whole and set in nature” (i.e. in the state wherein the reason given by God dominates the will), “and when man heard the one who had met him “(i.e. the Tempter) “all his senses turned against nature.” The state of nature is not the state of man as he comes into the world - man at his birth; the true state of nature, "physis", is the paradisal state. Sins are conditions alien to nature, "paraphyseis". What Christ does, is to give man the power to separate sin from his inner heart, thought, and feeling. This is the power of the new life which expels sin, the foreign intruder to man. It is imperative for us to understand and be assured that sin is an intruder to man, although it dominates him because of his enslavement by Satan's power.
The normal nature of man is to be “after the nature of Adam (before sin)”, or better still,” after the nature of Jesus.” These are the very words of Abbot Isaias. Again, he says: If man doesn’t reach what is according to the nature of the Son of God, all his labors are in vain. The renewal of man's nature means re-creation of his nature into the original image in which he was created before its corruption by sin. This original incorrupt image of human nature is the image of the person of Christ. That is why the Lord Jesus Himself came to re-create man in His own image. Thus, re-creation of man begins by forming the image of Christ inside him, and this image becomes the seed or the embryo of the new man. Even as St Paul said in Gal. 4:19: “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you”, meaning that the image of Christ inside man is like the new baby inside a mother’s womb; it also means that the Holy Spirit, inside us, forms the image of Christ, the new creation, and origin of the new man. The human soul is remodeled according to the image of Christ who originally created man according to His own image. Now, man can see Christ inside him so that his transformation to the original image can be accomplished, becoming more and more Christ-like as he becomes more united with Him.
This is the new life that starts as a seed or an embryo inside man by faith in Christ, baptism, and repentance. This life must grow by continuing in the relationship with the Origin … the true divine picture inside man, i.e. Christ. The continuing relationship is achieved by prayer, reading in the scripture, and obeying Christ's commandments. Through prayer and obedience to Christ’s teachings, the heart is cleansed and the new nature grows inside man and the old nature dies and continues to wither. The growth of the new life is the work of the Holy Spirit inside us, making us get closer to Christ and allowing more change inside us to become more like His image that we have inside us.
4- New life and the spiritual Struggle (part 1)
A- As the new life starts, a struggle with the old man's nature also starts inside man. The old man is not another person but it is the same person in the state of corruption according to the deceitful lusts as the apostle says: "... the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22). The real cause of this corruption is the deceit of vainglory, the separation from God, and the living of man according to his own lusts. This is the state before renewal, the state of failure and corruption. But, the new person is the one that has changed from the state of darkness and corruption through the presence of Christ in him; i.e. he is the same person that has started changing through Christ. Now his outward behavior changed, his inner being changed, his direction and goals changed, and the way he sees change; also all his senses and feelings return to the condition of harmony and health without any sickness, even as St. Isaias said, describing the human nature, “because she got sick when she was seduced by the tempter”. That is why sin is foreign to man’s nature; and we should not imagine that when man fights against sin he is fighting against his nature. Fight against sin in the Christian life is not a fight against nature but it is only a struggle to obtain the strength he needs to live in a state of purity, i.e. that he may obtain the strength of purity from Christ, which enables him to extract away the corruption that affected human nature. The Holy Spirit cuts out this corrupt part from inside and dismisses it by His strength, creating the image of Christ in man. Man continues to conform to this image day after day until the likeness to it becomes almost perfect (but the perfect picture is completely fulfilled only when the carnal nature itself is changed, meaning that this body becomes in a state of glory and incorruption, in the second coming of Christ).
Therefore, through Christ we can live, while on earth, in an inner state of paradise by the renewal of the Holy Spirit and consecration of the heart, so that our heart is pure and clear as our state was in the paradise. But, concerning the flesh, it still carries the remnants of the corruption of which it will be liberated by death (and resurrection) when it is changed into the likeness of the glorified body of Christ in heaven. So Christ brings us back to paradise and much more; He lifts us up to be seated in the heavens by the right side of the Father. This is our place, given to us by the Holy Spirit, and for which we strive to live as children of God, looking forward to the complete change of which we received a foretaste in baptism.
In the Bible, new life is called life according to the Spirit, i.e. the Holy Spirit, the life that the Holy Spirit directs inside man so that he will live and behave with the power of Christ in him. Christ will be ruling over man’s heart and inner being; man will not be living for himself but for Christ. Life according to the Spirit does not mean according to the spirit of man or his soul because his spirit is corrupt, and sin starts in his spirit before it becomes obvious in his carnal actions. So, according to the Spirit, means according to the Spirit of God that works in the human soul, mind, conscience and body. This means that the Spirit of God creates in him new directions so that his main center is not himself but his center and goal is God. But life according to the old man (or old nature) is called in the Bible "life according to the flesh". The flesh here doesn’t mean the body, but what is meant is that man is under control of his own desires and lusts, even if these desires arise in the soul (rather than the body) such as love of money, gluttony, jealousy, and envy, as St Paul said (Gal. 5:19-21): “ Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, ... , hatred, contentions, jealousies, wrath, strife, ..." Some of these acts are done by the body like adultery ... etc. but their source is the evil heart. Others like hatred, contentions ... etc. are feelings or emotions of the soul rather than body, but still they were called "works of the flesh".
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, ... etc. (Gal. 5:22-23). (To be continued)
To see all previous parts of this study of Orthodox Spirituality go to:
 - 29 Logoi Of Isaias the Younger, P.G. LX, 1105-1206.