St. Paul, Enlightener of the Nations

The Orthodox Church honors the memory of the the Holy Leaders of the Apostles, Peter and Paul on June 29 of each year.  This also is the patronal feast of our parish, St. Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church, Dayton, Ohio.   You can read an excerpt from a sermon St. John Chrysostom gave around 400AD, In Praise of St. Paul.   Here is an Orthodox hymn honoring St. Paul:

O Blessed and Holy Paul the Apostle,

Enlightener of the Nations;

Your preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,

has brought salvation to the ends of the earth.

Never cease to intercede for us your children,

that within us the Love of God may abide,

bringing great joy to our neighbors

and for us the salvation of our souls!

New Testament scholar Morna D. Hooker writes concerning St. Paul’s encounter with Christ on the Damascus road which resulted in his becoming a disciple of the Lord, His apostle:

“The argument of Romans is in many ways similar to the one Paul used in his earlier letter to the Galatians. Unusually there, however, in Galatians 1:15, Paul refers to his conversion/call. He describes it in this way: God ‘was pleased…to reveal his Son in me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles’. Here too, therefore, as in Romans, Paul begins his argument from the reminder that the gospel is about God’s Son. Because what we know as Paul’s experience on the Damascus road is normally thought of as a conversion, rather than as a call, Paul’s account of what it pleased God to do is normally translated as ‘to reveal his Son to me’. Translators assume that Paul is referring to his vision of the Risen Christ. But the Greek preposition en, which is used here, means primarily ‘in’ or ‘by, rather than ‘to’, and perhaps that is what he meant! If so, then, it would seem that he is thinking, not simply of what God revealed to him , but of what God was to reveal in him – both by means of the message that he was to preach to the Gentiles and, just as important, through his manner of life as a Christian. In other words, God chose to reveal his Son to the Gentiles, not only in the gospel Paul proclaimed but also in what he himself became at this conversion – an adopted son of God, whose way of life was being conformed, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to become like the Son of God himself (Rom. 8:15,9, 29). What Paul understood by ‘the gospel of God’ was not simply something to be proclaimed, but something to be lived. The message of that gospel – love for others, and life through death – is, as it were, stamped upon him.”   (Paul: A Beginners Guide, p 61)

Biblical scholar Michael J. Gorman says of St. Paul’s theology:

“There is no completely neat, clean way to divide up the various dimensions of Paul’s spirituality, because they are all intimately interrelated. Our discussion follows a Trinitarian structure because the God Paul experiences is, so to speak, ‘multidimensional’ – known as Father, Son, and Spirit. The distinctive character of Paul’s spirituality is that it is covenantal (in relation to God the Father, the God of Israel), cruciform (shaped in accord with the cross of Christ), charismatic (empowered by the Spirit), communal (lived out in the company of other believers), and therefore countercultural (formed in contrast to the dominant socio-political values of the pagan Hellenistic world). Furthermore, since Paul’s experience of God in Christ, by the power of the Spirit in the countercultural community, takes place within the larger work of the creator God redeeming the entire creation, his spirituality is also a creational, or better, newcreational, spirituality (experienced as part of God’s reconciliation of the cosmos to himself). Finally, this spirituality, like Paul’s gospel, letters, and (as we will see in chap. 6) theology, has a narrative shape to it. Paul and his churches are called to tell a story with their individual and corporate lives, a story of self-giving faith, hope, and love as the means to embody the story of God renewing covenant and redeeming the world through the crucified Christ.”  (Apostle of the Crucified Lord, pg. 116)

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