An anthropology which embraces an [Orthodox Christian] notion of sin will deal with good and evil in terms not of moral value, but of being and non-being, life and death, communion and separation, disease and healing. And the Church addresses us in the same terms: we are to be grafted by baptism on to the living Body of the Risen Christ, and thus enabled to receive the power of the resurrection by which our life can be plucked from death, death in all its forms. So it is with Lazarus as we see him depicted in the icons: in response to the royal summons of the one who can say, ‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ he bursts from the tomb; he is still bound with grave clothes, but already they are falling away.
By the grace of the life giving cross, we receive power to transform every state of death into a state of resurrection. By baptism in Christ, in the Holy Spirit, in the Father’s house the Church, we are restored to the likeness of God, sharing in the divine life as the image becomes clearer. Then we can experience the great baptismal initiation, dying and descending into hell with Christ in order to be born in him to a new life made fruitful by eternity. Then we can try to die to our own death, our non-existence, on which the loss of our freedom confers a paradoxical kind of existence. We die to sadistic love, to the master-slave relationship, to the despair concealed by pride, so that we can be reborn in the infinite space of the Body of Christ where the Spirit breathes, where we are ‘members one of another’, where every face is enlightened from within an everlasting Pentecost.
Christian life entails, at its main stages, indeed at every moment, an ‘Easter’, a gradual metamorphosis of our whole being. In the light of the death-and-resurrection of baptism we understand significant moments in our lives – of parting, suffering, forsakenness when we ‘descend into hell’, fervor, intoxication, bedazzlement when we ‘return to paradise’ – as moments of initiation. Passing from successive partial deaths to foreshadowed resurrections, we come at last to the final ‘passover’ of death which, since we have already left death behind us, becomes a peaceful ‘dormition’, the entrance into the more perfect light and life of the communion of saints.
For human beings today, so deeply influenced by the great reductionists of the 19th and early 20th centuries, this anthropology is a possible means to freedom.
~Adapted from Olivier Clement, On Human Being: A Spiritual Anthropology