Feast of St Irene the Great Martyr
THE LIFE IN Christ originates in this life and arises from it. It is perfected, however, in the life to come, when we shall have reached that last day. If the life to come were to admit those who lack the faculties and senses necessary for it, it would avail nothing for their happiness, but they would be dead and miserable living in that blessed and immortal world. The reason is that the light would appear and the sun shine with its pure rays with no eye having been formed to see it. The Spirit’s fragrance would be abundantly diffused and pervading all, but one would not know it without already having the sense of smell.
Now it is possible for the Son of God to make His friends to share in His Mysteries in preparation for that day, and for them to learn from Him what He has heard from the Father (Jn. 15.15). But they must come as His friends who “have ears to hear” (Mt. 11.15). Then it is impossible to begin the friendship and to open the ear, to prepare the wedding garment and to make ready the other requisites for that bridechamber; it is this life which is the workshop for all these things. Those, then, who have not acquired these things before they departed have nothing in common with that life. To this the five foolish virgins and the man invited to the wedding feast are witnesses, since they came without either the oil or the wedding garment and were not able to buy them.
In short, it is this world which is in travail with that new inner man which is “created after the likeness of God” (Eph. 4.24). When he has been shaped and formed here he is thus born perfect into that perfect world which grows not old. As nature prepares the foetus, while it is in its dark and fluid life, for that life which is in the light, and shapes it, as though according to a model, for the life which it is about to receive, so likewise it happens to the saints. This is what the apostle Paul said when he wrote to the Galatians, “my little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4.19).
However, while the unborn have no perception whatever of this life, the blessed ones have many hints in this present life of things to come. This is the reason. The unborn do not yet possess this life, but it is wholly in the future. In that condition there is no ray of light nor anything else which sustains this life. In our case this is not so, but the future life is, as it were, infused into this present life and mingled with it. For us too that Sun has graciously risen, the heavenly fragrance has been poured forth into the malodorous places, and the Bread of angels has been given even to men.
In this present world, therefore, it is possible for the saints not only to be disposed and prepared for that life, but also even now to live and act in accordance with it. Paul writes, “lay hold on eternal life” (Tim. 6.12), and “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2.20). The divine Ignatius says, “there is water living and speaking in me” (To the Romans, 7.2). Scripture is full of such passages!
—St Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ