May 17, 2023

Paschal Pastoral Encyclical 2016 (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 Spiritual Adoption

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

We passed Holy and Great Lent with fasting and prayer, asceticism and repentance and we reached the great day of Christ's Resurrection. On the night of the Resurrection, the hymn of victory against death, sin and the devil is chanted triumphantly, the well-known: "Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life."

In addition, the catechisms of the Catechumens who were preparing for Holy Baptism, which took place on Great Saturday, took place during this holy period in the olden times. Thus, from the night of the Resurrection, the Gospel of John the Evangelist was read in the sacred temples, since they were found worthy to become members of the Body of Christ, members of the Church. This Gospel is called a "spiritual" Gospel, i.e. theological, since it brings the mind of man to the height of Orthodox theology.

The beginning of his Gospel, which is read during the Resurrection Divine Liturgy, speaks of the Son and Word of God, who is the true God, is the life and light of men. He was and is the true light, which illuminates every person who comes into the world, but unfortunately the world, when this light became human, did not recognize Him, "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him" (Jn. 1:1-11).

However, those who accepted Him and believed in Him "gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name." That is, those who believed in His name were given the right to become children of God, to obtain the gift of adoption. With our creation, all humans are creations, creatures of God, but with faith in Him, Baptism, Chrismation and the Divine Eucharist, we became members of the Church and children of God, we obtained the gift of adoption.

It is about spiritual adoption, birth according to God. Those who are members of the Church, became children of God not according to the usual biological way, that is "who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (Jn. 1:12-13). Biological birth presupposes carnal parents, but spiritual birth presupposes regeneration from God. This spiritual rebirth is adoption according to God.

The children of God, "the sons of light", received the gift of adoption according to God, through the Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation and Divine Communion, but also with deification according to Grace, which is a vision of God's glory. That is why the Evangelist John affirms triumphantly: "and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).

This assurance and confession is given by the sons of God who have been found worthy to receive the great gift of adoption. Thus, they ceased to be slaves of sin and became sons of God and His friends. This is confirmed in their texts by all those who have received the gift of adoption and glorify God.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes about the Resurrection of Christ: "The kingdom of life has risen and the authority of death has been overthrown and another birth has taken place, another life, another kind of life, this transmutation of our nature."

In this passage of Saint Gregory of Nyssa, there is talk of the birth by Grace, and the spiritual adoption of Christians who were united with the Risen Christ. For every man there is pregnancy, birth, nurturing, maturation of age, marriage, children, house, inheritance, wealth and death. In spiritual birth and spiritual adoption, things work differently, since pregnancy, according to Saint Gregory of Nyssa, is the conception of faith, birth is the Grace of baptism which leads man to the light, nurturing is the church, breastmilk are the teachings, food is the heavenly bread, maturation of age is the high state of being, marriage is the symbiosis with wisdom, children are the hopes, house is the kingdom, inheritance and riches are the treasures of Paradise and, finally, instead of death, eternal life in the blessedness that awaits the worthy.

Therefore, the Resurrection of Christ inaugurated another birth, another life, another kind of life, it is the change, the transmutation of nature.

The Resurrection of Christ is not a small festival or something external, a rest and respite from everyday life, but it is the feast of our spiritual and divine adoption.

We are children of biological parents, but at the same time with the Holy Mysteries we are children of God, we received the gift of adoption. We are happy for this gift, but we strive not to appear as unworthy children of the heavenly Father. As children of the Church we are also children of God. It is not enough to be God's creations, we must enjoy the Gift of God's adoption and let the Spirit of God cry out in our hearts, as the Apostle Paul writes: "you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8:15-16).

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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