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  • Writer's pictureMark Whitten

Nuclear Shadows and the Eucharistic Power of Baptismal Renewal

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.

~Romans 6:1-6

If the old man is dead, why then do I appear to myself, as Brennan Manning says, “a bundle of paradoxes"?

"I believe and I doubt, I hope and I get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious,. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.” (Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 26)

Though I champion the victory of Christ over sin and death, and though I firmly believe that the old man has been put to death in the burial waters of baptism (and the repentance that leads to those waters), I still battle with lust, greed, pride, discontentment, rage and resentment. I am often unloving, lacking gentleness, irritable, and angry with those closest to me.

And while I embrace my true identity as a new creation and one positionally enthroned with Christ in Heavenly places, I must also take ownership for my weakness, my poor decisions, and my utter need apart from Christ's divine empowerment called grace.

In the aftermath of the atomic explosion in Hiroshima, Japan, during World War 2, nuclear shadows were etched into concrete remains scattered throughout the city.

A 10,000 degree explosion of heat and light left behind shadowy imprints of people and objects that had been incinerated in an instant before. These haunting imprints, served as gruesome reminders of what (or who) once was, yet no longer remained.

Likewise, the shadows of our old man, though completely dead and destroyed by the brightness of His coming (for those who are truly born again by water and by Spirit) may still remain imprinted upon the genetic memory of our flesh and soul (that is, those parts of our being that make up our mind, will, emotions, and physiology). Thus, we are not only vulnerable to its occasional influence, (if we do not exercise care to wage war against it), we can easily be lulled into the belief that our old nature is still alive and come under an illegal subjugation framed-up by a false identity.

"Making no provision for the flesh" and "being transformed by the renewing of our minds", suddenly takes on new meaning...

In essence, as those reborn, we are exhorted by Scripture to recognize and “respect” the shadow of the old man so that it does not become an archetype that we begin to embrace as part of our true selves, as many Christian psychologists have suggested, to the peril of countless, naïve believers.

In having a healthy “respect” for the shadow of the old man, I am not suggesting that we ally or align with it as some befriending or nostalgic agent connecting us to our life before Christ. Rather, we must respect the shadow as one respects his enemy and does not underestimate his strength or ability to deceive us. Respect in the sense that we are not ignoring its existence and potential impact on the new creation as something that the enemy often deploys as a tactic to bring us into a pseudo bondage.

It is wise to know our shadow. Those areas of imprint on our mind, will, emotions and physical body. Areas not yet fully renewed in the sense of the scrubbing/removal of the shadow and learning the new ways of spiritually inherited thought, infusing them into the council of our being by the washing of the water of the word.

If we are keen in our awareness of the shadow-self (as some call it), we can more effectively combat its influence and recognize it as alien, thus releasing the “antibodies” of the Word and Spirit to guard against its intrusion. We do this by:

  1. Taking up a respectful position against the shadow-self (primarily through recognition of its existence as a shadow and not the old man itself rising from the dead) and the enemy who desires to convince us that the shadow is indeed incarnate in us, yea an inseparable part of our identity.

  2. Employing vigilance against it, in that while we respect its function to remind us of a life that no longer exists in us, we understand it and are able to recognize its appearance and effectively contrast it with the new man that Christ has formed in us as we clothed ourselves with Him through baptism. And not only are we vigilant to point it out to ourselves, we are swift to cast these shadows down as mere vain imaginations, a reactionary deeds of the flesh and yea, a mechanisms often employed by devils to convince us that we aren’t who we truly are in Christ.

Hence, we come to the ultimate counter-measure given to us by our Lord and Savior, that is the anti-shadow device of the Eucharist as our Baptismal renewal. The Eucharist, therefore becomes not only one of our chief weapons against the siege works of the shadow self, it proves necessary for our victory over it and the full reconciliation and realization of our new life.

The Eucharist (also known as communion and/or the Lord’s supper) is the Greek word for “having given thanks” and also adopted by Orthodox Christians as a headliner or title for the climax of the liturgical celebration of the feast of the Lamb.

For many catholic believers, the Eucharist is much more than a symbol (as most Evangelicals ascribe it); it is a remembrance, yea, a re-entering into the very drama of the Passion of Christ, in which we also were crucified and buried with Him through baptism into death, that we might also be raised up with Him into newness of life.

This divine recollection, through the partaking of His body and blood, not only reminds us of the burial of our old man, and the birth of our new life, it recalibrates our thoughts by gathering the scattered and often forgotten realities of the resurrection life that we now possess in Him.

This divine supper of anamnesis (the Greek word for remembrance) joins together the members of His corporate body in celebration, bringing even more clarity to the command to re-member. It is at this table that we are brought into a corporate oneness to recall and reconnect with our baptism into Christ.

Faithful participation in this sacrament, empowers us to recognize and resist the shadow of our former selves and more confidently embrace our new creation identity. For here we are not only re-membered with other parts of His body, more importantly, we are re-connected to the Head!

"For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord as we wait for His coming.”

~1 Corinthians 11:26

By faith, we reenact dying and rising with Christ. In essence, it is a renewal of our baptism.

We remind ourselves that we are no longer slaves to sin and that the old man has been thoroughly judged on the cross and executed in the waters of baptism. It is here that we say to the shadow self that he has no place at the table of our hearts.

If we sin after baptism, we are not to be re-baptized, for there is only “one baptism” in water that is necessary, if indeed our baptism was genuinely entered into with repentance toward God.

Therefore, in the Eucharistic participation, we re-enter the baptismal waters mystically through obedience to His command “…this do, in remembrance of me.”

Partaking of the Lord’s supper is a gateway, or spiritual portal, into the musterion of God, yea, even the death and resurrection of our Christ.

As we enter that portal by faith and obedience to the command, w, in a sense, re-propitiate the power of our baptism unto strength, health and vitality of life. Whereas if we enter into it in an unworthy manner or haphazardly, we drink judgment upon ourselves, in that we treat what is holy in a casual or “religious” manner.

This is what those in Jerusalem, who stood by, unengaged and apathetic to the passion of our Christ were guilty of in their day, and rightly received the condemnation of Peter and John who said of them in Acts 3, “…[Jesus] whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate…and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead…” Those timid, indecisive, and apathetic souls in Jerusalem who “…did it in ignorance…” invited judgment upon themselves for not knowing the times and seasons in which they lived.

Likewise, if the Lord’s supper is entered into casually, without examination or self-judgment and reflection(1 Corinthians 26:31), he enters into a spiritual mystery and the presence of divine power unprepared, not knowing that the glory and holiness of God are bringing chastisement and judgment to those who have not judged themselves.

This often manifests itself in bodily weakness, infirmity and even death (1 Corinthians 26:30). However, the opposite is true when entered into with faith, obedience, care for our brothers and sisters, self-examination, and repentance toward God.

Just as authentic baptism is entered into through repentance towards God (Acts 20:21) and results in the remission of sins, so also must the Lord’s supper must be entered into so that we may be made clean again if we have sinned after our baptism (1 John 1:9, 2:1-2).

So let a man examine himself before he eats the bread and drinks the cup so that he can properly discern (or distinguish) between the Lord’s body and a common meal (1 Corinthians 26:28-29).

When we participate in the Eucharist with faith and reverence, we reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ. Therefore, if anyone does sin, he does not need to re-enter the waters, for Christ, having been raised from the dead dies no more, yea death no longer has dominion over Him, for He died to sin once for all and we are now in Him who dies no more (Romans 6:9-11).

Rather, through the great remembrance and thanksgiving feast, our minds are renewed unto belief that our old man is still dead (though a shadow may still remain) and that we have been empowered by the Spirit of grace to walk worthy of our new identity in Him.

The Eucharist opens that divine portal of remembrance wherein we rencounter not only that which happened in the Lord’s passion, but also that which happened in our own passion, when we chose to obey God unto repentance and death through baptism, ie: the burial of the old man.

In the Eucharist, the shadow-self fades, for it is here that we are transformed by the renewing of our mind; it is here that we are washed again by the water of the word Himself; and it is here that we are cleansed from all unrighteousness as we eat the flesh and drink the blood of He who invites us to the table set by love.

~By Mark Whitten

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