23 January 2011
The body is not a sin:
First of all the body or the flesh is not a sin by itself, for many reasons:
1. Had the body been evil, God would not have created it, for after creating it, God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good (Gen 1: 31).
2. Had the body been evil, the Lord Christ would not have taken for Himself a human body, “The Word became flesh.” (Jn 1: 14)
3. Had the body been evil, the Scripture would not have said, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you.” (1 Cor 6: 19) “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” (1 Cor 6: 15)
4. If the body were evil, God would not raise it! It would be enough to bear it on the earth, not in eternity as well!
5. If the body were evil, God would not glorify it in the resurrection, by raising it a spiritual and heavenly body, (1 Cor 15: 44, 49), in power, glory, and immortality (1 Cor 15: 43, 53), even to be transformed to conform to His glorious body (Phil 3: 21).
6. If the body were evil, we would not honor the bodies and relics of the saints, preserving them in churches for blessing, working wonders!
7. If the body were evil, the Scripture would not say, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy …” (Rom 12: 1) “Glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor 6: 20)
Yet the Scripture speaks much against the flesh (Rom 8) and the works of the flesh (Gal 5: 19), and about walking according to the flesh (Rom 8: 1- 9).
What body does the apostle mean? Not the body in general, but rather the sinful body.
The sinful body:
• The sinful body is that which resists the Spirit, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” (Gal 5: 17) Many examples of the acts of the sinful body are mentioned in (Gal 5: 19- 21).
• The sinful body is the lustful body, which lusts things like adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness (Gal 5: 19), or the lust for food and drink, or sensual matters that may turn into a dominating habit or addiction like smoking and drugs. That is why the apostle says, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Gal 5: 16)
• The sinful body is that which cares about material and lets it have dominion, which is enmity against God, leading to death, for the apostle says, “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Rom 8: 7, 6) The Lord likewise says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.” (Mt 6: 25) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth … but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Mt 6: 19)
• A sinful body is that which leads the spirit and soul to wrongdoing. The spirit and the soul take part in the sins which the senses commit, by which the whole person is defiled. Therefore, the Lord says, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5: 28) This reveals the communion between the body with its looks, the soul with its lusts, and the spirit represented by the heart.
Solomon sinned when he submitted to the lusts of the flesh.
He said, “I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. I made myself gardens and orchards … I also gathered for myself silver and gold … I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men … Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.” (Eccl 2: 4- 10) The end was, “His wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.” (1 Kgs 11: 4) His body brought down his spirit to the depth of sin, and he did not glorify God with his spirit or with his body. He fell completely! How deep are the words of St. Paul in this context: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7: 24)
Sinful body members:
• When a certain member of the body sins, it defiles the whole body and the spirit also.
The tongue is an example: which St. James the Apostle describes with the words, “The tongue is a little member and boasts great things … The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.” (Jas 3: 5, 6) So many are the sins of the tongue that cause man to fall, as the Scripture says, “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Mt 12: 37) What comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man (Mt 15: 11).
• The eye likewise may defile the body. Friendship with the world is enmity with God (Jas 4: 4) and, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 Jn 2: 15, 16) Our mother Eve fell in this lust of the eyes when she saw that the tree was good for food and pleasant to the eyes (Gen 3: 6).
So many are the sins in which the eye may fall.
There may be a lustful look, an angry or malicious look, an envious, avenging, or a boasting look, a disdainful look, a cunning, or a cruel look … etc. The various sins usually appear clearly in the eye.
• The hand likewise may sin, as when it rushes into beating, killing, theft or many other similar sins.
• The foot may be sinful, when it runs to the places of sin.
• The features may be sinful, as in case of pride, anger, or cruelty, all of which are due to the body lusts, emotions, and whims.
Subjection of the body:
Biblical verses on:
• “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Cor 9: 27) How fearful are these words from the saint who was caught up to the third heaven (2 Cor 12: 2), and labored more abundantly than they all (1 Cor 15: 10)!
• “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal 5: 24) They never let such passions and desires move within them.
• Fasting is an important means for subjecting the body, by abstaining from food and enduring hunger, or abstaining from desired foods, as Daniel the Prophet said, “I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth.” (Da 10: 3) If one cannot abstain completely, at least take less, and abstain from other lusts.
• Control over senses, tongue, and looks, are means of subjecting the body, for the Lord says in the Sermon on the Mount, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you … And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you.” (Mt 5: 29, 30) At least cut out their lusts.
• Watching in worship and prayer is another way, for the Lord says, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” (Mt 26: 41) One of the holy fathers once said, ##Force yourself to pray the Midnight Prayer, and pray more psalms.##
• Asceticism and abstention are means of subjecting the body.
A person should at least avoid worldly entertainment, and exaggerated adornment, for the apostle focuses on “The incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” (1 Pet 3: 4) A spirit should be adorned with virtues, in order to be as the Song says, “Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the merchant’s fragrant powders.” (Song 3: 6) Would that everybody knows that the body is not for enjoyment and entertainment, but rather for glorifying God, for the apostle says, “Glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor 6: 20)
How can we glorify God with our bodies?
1. By participation of the body with the spirit in its works. When the spirit prays, for instance, the body takes part by standing with awe, lifting up the hands, keeping the senses, kneeling down or prostrating. Some wrongly think that God looks only to the hearts, and therefore they may pray while sitting down or lying on bed! Some foreigners do not put off their shoes when going into the sanctuary, forgetting the words of the Scripture, “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” (Ex 3: 5; Jos 5: 15)
2. By labor in ministry, as the apostle said about his ministry, “… in labors more abundant … in journeys often … in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea … in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” (2 Cor 11: 23- 27; 6: 5)
Our fathers were candles melting to give light to the others. That is why we light candles before the icons of the saints, because their lives were lights, and because they sacrifice themselves in the ministry and in worship.
3. By our bodies, as our father martyrs did. The church therefore puts hem in a higher rank above the other saints, because they suffered much for God##s sake. Actually, as the Scripture says, “We suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Rom 8: 17)
4. Let us glorify Him at least with labor. Abba Paula suffered much in his asceticism and spiritual struggling, until the Lord appeared to him, saying, ##Suffice this suffering, My beloved Paula.## But the saint answered Him, saying, ##What is my suffering if compared to what You have sacrificed for our sake, O Lord?##
5. Bodily chastity is another means for glorifying God, so that His Spirit may find rest within us and take our bodies as holy temples for Him. By the chastity of our bodies we present to the others the divine image. We also shall be able to partake of the Holy Sacraments, which sanctify us too. Chastity appears in continence and modesty.
Bodies of the saints:
As those saints glorified God in their bodies, He likewise glorified their bodies. An example is the body of the Holy Virgin, which God lifted up into heaven. God granted those bodies or relics honor and glory, as He did to the bones of Elisha, “When the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.” (2 Kgs 13: 21)
God glorified the bodies of the saints even during their life. Moses## face, for instance, shone after he met the Lord on the mount, to the extent that the people were afraid to come near him. He had to put a veil on his face, so that they might be able to speak with him (Ex 34: 30- 35)!
Stephen the deacon, likewise, “All who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.” (Acts 6: 15) Among the other examples are the handkerchiefs and aprons that were brought from the bodies of the saints and which had power to heal the sick and cast out the evil spirits (Acts 19: 12).