Sunday, December 25, 2011

Conversion of the Heart

by Sr. Teresa Forcades (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Un Manament Nou

This centrality of baptism in terms of the inauguration of the 'new life' does not authorize us to anachronistically separate 'sacramental efficacy' from conversion. In St. Basil's text, it's clear that the sacrament is not complete without a conversion of the heart:

"As a result, with three immersions and as many invocations the great mystery of baptism is performed, so that death is represented and, through the tradition of the knowledge of God, the souls of those who are baptized are enlightened. So that, if there is any grace in the water, it comes not from the nature of the latter, but from the presence of the Spirit. Because baptism 'is not the elimination of bodily impurity, but a commitment to a good conscience with God' (1 Peter 3:21)" (15:35).

The baptized person must come to view herself only in terms of the dynamics of God's love. It is of utmost interest to the subject of the analogy between 'being a person' of God and of ourselves that St. Basil speaks openly of the 'new nature' of the baptized one and that he identifies it (as anticipated by grace) with the same nature that in the resurrection will allow us to participate in the life of the Trinity:

"To prepare us for the life of the resurrection, God offers us the whole gospel way of behaving, prescribing that we are to be gentle, tolerant, purified of the love of pleasure, and uninterested in wealth, such that the future life is by nature the same, as we proceed deliberately, maintaining ourselves appropriately. And if anyone, therefore, were to say by way of definition that the gospel is like a foreshadowing of the life that comes from the resurrection, I wouldn't think he were mistaken" (15:35).

'The life that comes from the resurrection' is the 'spiritual life' (1 Corinthians 15:44) and, as such, cannot be captured in formulas, concepts or words. It necessarily lies beyond our ability to speak of it, but we can experience it (in advance):

"Just as the sea represents Baptism because it tore [the people] away from Pharaoh, so the baptismal bath also separates us from the tyranny of the devil. That sea itself slew the enemy; here and now our enmity with God dies. From the former, the people came out unharmed, and from the water, we return to life from the dead, saved by the grace of Him who called us" (14:31).

Knowing oneself to be 'saved by grace', knowing onself to be totally and freely loved by God (up to the giving of life) is to find the truth about one's being, to behave according to this truth, to love (to the extent of one's own strength) as one is loved (up to the giving of life), is to 'be a person', is to 'be like God'.

(This is another excerpt from Sr. Teresa's new book, Ser persona, avui: estudi del concepte de ‘persona’ en la teologia trinitària clàssica i de la seva relació amb la noció moderna de llibertat ["Being a person today: a study in the concept of 'person' in classic Trinitarian theology and its relationship to the modern notion of freedom"] published in 2011 by the Abadía de Montserrat. As I work on these texts, I'm finding that I like Sr. Teresa's translation of St. Basil better than a lot of the standard English translations out there...)

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