“ Saul Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”.
“I am not persecuting you I am persecuting the people of the WAY (The Christians)” St Paul might have thought
Saint Paul learnt the lesson that when he persecutes Christians he is persecuting Christ Himself.
There is a strange element in this story, that Christ is in these people and these people are in Christ.
When I persecute the people of Christ, I persecuted Him. They are united with Him. There is an everlasting union.
So Saint Paul then ponders on what it means to be in Christ. He did not learn this from anyone but it was revealed to Him in the apparition.
After his conversion when he learned that they partake of His body and blood then he understood what it means to be in Christ. They are his members from his flesh and bones
Any persecution that happens to them, will fall on the Lord Himself. This is the first and most important theological lesson that Saint Paul learnt from God Himself.
After that, Saint Paul asked, “ Who are You Lord or Kyrios in Greek”. From the beginning, He knew that the person that was speaking with him, was the Lord Himself. It was no ordinary person. He learnt this second theological lesson- being the mystery of Jesus Christ.
What is this mystery of Christ?
He learnt that the Lord gives these people His body and His Blood. These people, men and women are in Christ. Father Abraham yesterday talked about our union with the Father through the Eucharist. We taste Christ and God through the Eucharist. So without the Eucharist, there is no Christianity. All things that the Lord did on the cross, is passed on to us through the Eucharist.
We are baptised to become Christian. But this is not enough. We need to be feed by having the Eucharist, to eat His Body and drink His blood in order to grow spiritually. We become in Christ through this sacrament. So any persecution that Saint Paul did to the Christians, was committed to God Himself.
Saint Paul was revealed this truth over and over. The truth of Christians being in Christ and the truth that Christ is also residing in us. The Holy Spirit helped Saint Paul to understand these two mysteries until he finally believed them for himself.
St Paul was deeply affected by this truth. When he wrote his 14 epistles. He used the phrase “in Christ” and “Christ is within us”, in many of his epistles. In all 14 epistles that he wrote, the words “in Christ” is repeated 175 times. In the epistle to the Ephesians for example, the words “in Christ” is mentioned 14 times in the first chapter alone.
There is a difference between being “in Christ” and “for Christ”. Saint Paul talked about being “in Christ”, this is not an idea St Paul came up with but he experienced it during the vision of the Lord on the road to Damascus. But before that, the Lord himself taught this truth.
When Saint Philip asked the Lord Jesus Christ “Show us the Father and that will be enough”. So Jesus answered “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?” The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work”.
So our Lord taught His disciples that He is in the Lord and the Lord is in Him.
So after that, he said, “You will know that I am in the Father and you are in Me and I in you”. So the teaching that we are in Christ and He is in us we receive from Christ not only from St Paul.
He took us in this journey from the top. He is in the Father and the Father is in Me and you in me and I in you and wherever Christ dwells the Father dwells also. So our unity is not only with our Lord Jesus Christ but with the Holy Trinity!
Furthermore, in Christ’s last prayer (John 17) Jesus says “I in them (Talking to the Father) and you in Me, that they may be brought to complete unity and that the world may know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me”.
We are in Him. Any persecution that happens to us, happens against Him.
Saint John said “I have made you known to them and will continue to make you known that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them”
So the teaching that we are in the Lord Jesus Christ was first taught by the Lord himself not St Paul. And the apostles have taught it after the Lord’s teaches.
St John in his epistle says
Who believes in Jesus Christ as the son of God, God will be in Him and He is in God”. We know that God loves us … God is love. And we who abide in Love, abide in God and God in Him.
We are not worshipping a God far away from us. This is not our Orthodox faith. As Orthodox, we believe that God is in us. He humbled himself and took flesh and became incarnate. He gave up Himself on the altar and we take him inside us. We are united to Him in baptism and gave us his body in the Eucharist.
This is a very vital teaching that our believe in Christ is not an intellectual endeavor, if we are convinced about the message of the gospel then we believe in Him. This is not Christianity.
The anointing you received from him remains in you… so He is in us and the Father is in us and now he is saying about the Holy Spirit.
So we are in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
All these lessons learnt from Saint Paul on his way to Damascus when he was surrounded by the divine light of Christ and he was in the middle of this divine light.