Called a Christian? or Called to Be a Christian?

“Accordingly, if we make St. Paul our leader in these two undertakings, we shall have the safest guide to the plain truth of what we are seeking. For he, most of all, knew what Christ is, and he indicated by what he did the kind of person named for Him, imitating Him so brilliantly that he revealed his own Master in himself, his own soul being transformed through his accurate imitation of his prototype, so that Paul no longer seemed to be living and speaking, but Christ Himself seemed to be living in him. As this astute perceiver of particular goods says: ‘Do you seek a proof of the Christ who speaks in me?’ and: ‘It is now no longer I that live but Christ lives in me.’ This man knew the significance of the name of Christ for us, saying that

Christ is

‘the power of God and the wisdom of God.’

And he called Him ‘peace’ and ‘light inaccessible’ in whom God dwells,

and ‘sanctification and redemption’,

and ‘great high priest’, and ‘passover’, and ‘a propitiation of souls’,

‘the brightness of glory and the image of substance’,

and ‘maker of the world’,

and ‘spiritual food’ and ‘spiritual drink and spiritual rock’,

and ‘image of the invisible God’,

and ‘great God’,

and ‘head of the body of the Church’.

and ‘the firstborn of every creature’,

and ‘first fruits of those who have fallen asleep’, ‘

firstborn from the dead’, ‘firstborn among many brethren’,

and ‘mediator between God and men’,

and ‘only-begotten Son’,

and ‘crowned with glory and honor’,

and ‘lord of glory’,

and ‘beginning’ of being,

speaking thus of Him who is the beginning,

‘king of justice and king of peace’,

and ‘ineffable king of all, having the power of the kingdom’,

and many other such things that are not easily enumerated.

[…]  Therefore, since, thanks to our good Master, we are sharers of the greatest and the most divine and the first of name, those honored by the name of Christ being called Christians, it is necessary that there be seen in us also all of the connotations of this name, so that the title be not a misnomer in our case, but that our life be a testimony of it. Being something does not result from being called something. The underlying nature, whatever it happens to be, is discovered through the meaning attached to the name. What do I mean? If someone calls man a tree or a rock, will he, on this account be a plant or a stone? Of course not. It is necessary for him, first of all, to be a man, and, then, to be addressed thus in keeping with his nature. For titles based on similarities have no validity, as if one could say that a man is a statue of an imitation horse. If anything is named validly and not falsely, his nature completely reveals the form of address as a true one. Wood disguised in any way at all is still called wood, bronze is called bronze, stone is called stone, or any other such substance upon which art, shaping it contrary to expectation, imposes a form. It is necessary, then, for those calling themselves after Christ, first of all, to become what the name implies, and, then, to adapt themselves to the title.” (St. Gregory of Nyssa, Ascetical Works, pp 96-98)

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