Saint Basil on Rupture

Today’s Office of Readings offers a reflection from Saint Basil on Christ’s agency in our salvation. In prefacing my remarks on rupture, I want to be clear on some things.

I am sure that Catholics, especially prelates, who apply their critique to rupture would acknowledge the virtues of conversion and commitment to new ways of life, be it baptism, marriage, religious life, or the clerical state. Indeed, the most honored stories of saints involve people who made wholesale, significant, and sometimes wrenching changes from a previous way of life.

There are also times in the spiritual life–and this usually applies to a Christian well on the way in the practice of the faith–when calm and continuity is to be discerned. A human being just isn’t built for constant change. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be challenged to move out of our rut. Even saints would acknowledge that conversion and commitment is an ongoing process, something that requires vigilance and discernment.

And so we get to Saint Basil:

To attain holiness, then, we must not only pattern our lives on Christ’s by being gentle, humble and patient, we must also imitate him in his death. Taking Christ for his model, Paul said that he wanted to become like him in his death in the hope that he too would be raised from death to life.

The imitation of Christ is daunting. Certainly difficult. But it is truly one of the best and most fruitful ways of living the Gospel life. An allusion to Romans 6:3ff, Easter Vigil:

We imitate Christ’s death by being buried with him in baptism. If we ask what this kind of burial means and what benefit we may hope to derive from it, it means first of all making a complete break with our former way of life, and our Lord himself said that this cannot be done unless a (person) is born again. In other words, we have to begin a new life, and we cannot do so until our previous life has been brought to an end. When runners reach the turning point on a racecourse, they have to pause briefly before they can go back in the opposite direction. So also when we wish to reverse the direction of our lives there must be a pause, or a death, to mark the end of one life and the beginning of another.

Death is something to be grieved and respected. Even when the death is the end of an unchristian life, we can lament the people who might be left behind. Then we look ahead. For the joy.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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