What’s in a name?
St Gregory of Nyssa once asked a friend, “What does it mean to call yourself a Christian?”
St Gregory says a name or title needs to have substance to it. If I call someone a rock or a tree does that make them a rock or a tree?
Gregory argues that we name something because it has the characteristics of the things named. The name has real substance to it. So if we want to say we are a Christian, then there should be real substance to that claim.
What then makes a person a Christian? Having the same characteristics as Christ – love, obedience, discipleship, truth, faith, mercy, charity, peace, meek, humble, struggling against sin and evil, pure in heart, Kingdom oriented.
Whatever are Christ’s characteristics, are to be our characteristics – both individually and collectively. We are to be the Body of Christ.
Being a Christian means that something deep inside us is Christ like. Being a Christian means being transfigured, shining with the Light of Christ. It is precisely today in the Gospel of the transfiguration that we see Christ clearly, and we know that being a Christian means that our very being, our soul is transfigured, filled with light and joy, revealing God to the world, united to the Holy Trinity. St Paul tells us this:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. . . . But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:12-21)
Being a Christian means more than just coming to church on Sundays when it is convenient, or following the 10 Commandments, or believing in God. It means transfiguration, new creation, rebirth, life in the Holy Trinity, it means that you are trying to have all the same characteristics of Christ. It means living the transfigured life.