God wants us to share in his eternal life and shows us how to attain eternal life by following his will.
The path the Lord shows us to eternal life is revealed in the commandments.
Psalm 118, called the Blessed, speaks of the necessity of knowing and living the Lord’s commandments.
The psalm teaches us that we are to ponder the commandments, meditate on them, delight in them, not forget them, seek to know and understand them, desire them, and believe in them.
The Commandments and God’s Will
The commandments of the Lord guide us and teach us to know God’s will.
Psalm 118 begins with these words:
“Blessed are the blameless in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.
Blessed are they that search out his testimonies; with their whole heart shall they seek after Him.”
We learn later in the psalm that those who follow the way of the commandments come to understand that: “The law of Thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver.”
Although it is the longest of the psalms, Psalm 118 is considered so important a guide in the Greek tradition that it is prayed every day of the week as part of the Divine Praises.
St. John Chrysostom speaks of the importance of our aligning our will with God’s will:
“... the soul, if it has not the beam of its own thoughts fixed, and firmly riveted to the law of God, being carried round and drawn down, will not be able to judge aright of its actions.”
We pray that God’s will be done in the Our Father, which Our Lord gave to us through the apostles.
St. Paul tells us in Romans 8:17 that we do the will of the Father when we follow his commandments.
The Sacrament of Repentance
Through the sacrament of Repentance, a necessity for all Orthodox Catholics, we confess the ways we have failed to follow the Lord’s commandments and receive the grace to build up our virtues and endure in our battle against vice and sin.
A good practice is to receive the sacrament of Repentance at least once a month. Some receive the sacrament more frequently.
The priest also can offer spiritual direction in the sacrament of Repentance to help us grow in our faith.
The sacrament of Repentance is where most members of the Church receive spiritual direction. Spiritual direction also is offered outside the sacrament.
The virtues help us become like Jesus Christ. God has placed these virtues in the soul. They give us the strength to cooperate with his grace and to become perfected, or divinized.
Christ Our Pascha explains:
“Virtue is the power and capacity of a person, created in God’s image, to become like God and attain deification.”
The three theological virtues – faith, hope, and love – help us attain eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky writes that “a living and strong faith .... gives eternal life ... saves ... leads from death to life ... grants the ‘power to become children of God’ (Jn 1:12)."
When we have such a “living and strong faith,” we enter into union with Jesus Christ and are open to the actions of the Holy Spirit in our life.
We become new persons. We have the the ability to live a moral and virtuous life and the power to keep the first three of the Ten Commandments: To know God, to honor God’s name, and to worship God.
Faith leads us to the virtue of hope.
With hope, a Christian believes without doubt the teachings and promises of Jesus Christ. Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky writes:
“Hope is certain because it is grounded in God’s testimony, in his promise, in his goodness, in the fact that it is simply impossible for God to fail to keep his promise. No one and no thing can weaken this certainty; it grows to the extent that we grow closer to the Lord our God, that is, as we progress in God’s grace or simply how we live Christian lives.”
Love is the most important virtue.
The Father is the source of love, who reveals his love through the Son and gives his love to us through the Holy Spirit.
Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky writes: “Without love everything in the soul is dead.”
We express our love through love of God and neighbor. Christ Our Pascha teaches that such love for neighbor “is selfless and sacrificial.”
Through God’s love for us, we become his adopted children. With such love, we love our enemies and become Christ to sinners, who are saved, as we are, through God’s love.
Divinization or Theosis
Our primary goal in life is union with God, or divinization (also called theosis).
We become divinized when we accept and cooperate with God’s love and become transfigured through the Holy Spirit.
Christ Our Pascha teaches: “The grace of transfiguration is granted to those who have completed the path of ascetic purification and live a virtuous life.”
St. Irenaeus of Lyon (130-202), a disciple of St. Polycarp, who was a disciple of St. John the Theologian, writes in Against Heresies that Jesus Christ became man so: “...that he might bring us to be even what he is himself.”
St. Hippolytus of Rome (170-235), a disciple of Irenaeus, tells Christians that: “...you shall be a companion of the Deity, and a co-heir with Christ....”
St. Athanasius the Great (ca. 296/298-373) writes in On the Incarnation of the Word that: “God became man that man might become God.”
Christ Our Pascha teaches: “Interior purification, a virtuous life, and life in holiness are the primary conditions for divinization, for union with him who is the Source of Holiness, Purity, and Perfection.”
St. Maximus the Confessor writes that through God’s love the Christian becomes “a partaker of divine love.”
Through God’s love, Christ Our Pascha states, the transfigured Christian “becomes a god by grace.”
[Notes to our talk on “An Ascesis which Purifies,” pages 264-272 in Christ Our Pascha; psalm quotations are from the The Psalter According to the Seventy, Holy Transfiguration Monastery.]