The Greek-speaking communities of Calabria, Italy (called the Grecanici) preserve an ancient Byzantine way of addressing anyone they meet: all are greeted and referred to as “Christiano,” a Christian. This is said of a person without regard to his or her faith or lack thereof. The Grecanici are fully aware that not all whom they meet are believing Christians. Some are agnostic, or even atheist. It does not matter to them. They hold the Early Church’s intense awareness that each person is made in the Image of God, and in spite of whatever has happened, is potentially capable of shining with the Light of Christ. It is up to the each of us to bear witness to the Gospel by uncovering the buried Image of God in the other – holding a deep reverence for the fundamental holiness of God, neighbor, and creation.
Such integrity! Such vision! Such faith, so serenely secure in the triumph of Christ! Contemporary Christianity, so scarred by divisions and scandals, and so bent on institutionalizing, commercializing, and intellectualizing the Gospel, hardly seems capable of such clear and radical vision. However, each renewal of the Church begins when disciples reclaim their calling to serve Christ in “spirit and in truth,” seeing the world through the eyes of Christ. That is what St. Timothy’s is called to be.
During the Great 50 days of Holy Eastertide, we are challenged to take what we have learned through repentance in Lent and see the world as God sees it: through the lens of the Resurrection. Rather than seeing only the limitations, the grumpiness, the half-heartedness of ourselves and others we are called to have that “Resurrection Vision” wherein the potential of each person, the potential of all created matter, is revealed. This is how God sees us: through the atonement of Christ on the Cross and in the light of his glorious Resurrection, God sees us as his unique children, reconciled to him and called to enter into his marvelous light. This is the message we share with all the Christianos we meeting – actual or potential.
But this is not for the faint of heart. It is profoundly difficult to see everyone – everyone – this way. We will wrestle with our own hard-heartedness, our own preferences and prejudices; and, we will fail often. Yet, as the Baptismal liturgy reminds us, whenever we “fall into sin” – in this case, seeing people as anonymous objects disconnected from us or God’s creating and redeeming work – we are to “repent and return to the Lord.” As we do this again and again in holy perseverance, the Lord gradually confronts us with the fact that our inability to see the inherent holiness of the other comes from a lack of seeing this holiness in our selves. We are told by Christ that we must love our neighbor as our self, but if we do not know the value of our own self, how can we love the neighbor aright?
It is a long-standing custom when we begin our daily prayers, to say “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” while making the Sign of the Cross. We invoke the Trinity in whose Name we have been baptized, and we sign ourselves with the life-giving Cross through which Eternal Life has come to us. Having some holy water available for this is very helpful. It’s application reminds us we are baptized persons, infinitely precious to God and capable of seeing the world through the eyes of Christ by his grace – if we will.
When we see the world with Resurrection Vision, we not only are able to be Christ’s eyes, hands, and feet – we proclaim the Resurrection as a living reality rather than an historical artifact. We become less anxious, less demanding, less judging. We are more and more open to the opportunities God gives to share New Life in the ordinary events of each day. We become more like Christ, more truly Christiano - Christians. When this happens, we are natural evangelists, inviting others into the Gospel life in ways beyondwords, ways which radiate from our very being.
When we meet people we don’t know, or people we feel we know all too well, we can ask ourselves this: “What do I see, in the very depths of this person? Another set of issues, another individual quite apart from me, or, a fellow-human in the Image of God, whom when I serve, Christ is served and glorified?”