- Reflection & Dialogue: Having a personal knowledge of Christ
In a poem in the Irish language, transmitted in folklore and in written tradition, in the course of an instruction to a young person beginning life’s course, among other matters the advice is given: “Before you grow too old, acquire a personal acquaintance with Christ”. There is not question of a knowledge about Christ, but knowledge of him, acquaintance with him. This agrees very much with what Paul has to say in his various letters, in that to the Philippians and others. It was part of the early Church’s catechetical preparation for baptism. It is put rather nicely in the Letter to the Ephesians, where the Old, pre-baptismal, Life as pagans is contrasted with the New Life in Christ, from baptism on. The Old Life is represented as having been alienated from the life of God, given to licentiousness and impurity. The Christian life is contrasted with this. They are told: “That is not the way you learned Christ” (Ephesians 4:18), for surely they had heard about him and were taught in him. They were to put away their old self and clothe themselves in the new self, in the true Christian existence in Christ. The teaching about Christ, and the baptism into Christ that accompanied it in the early Church, meant, and still means, a personal relationship with Christ. In a letter to the Colossians Paul directs the attention of the Christians to Christ enthroned in heaven, at the right hand of the Father, reminding them to pay attention to the things that are above. This, however, for him is not an escape from the realities of this life but a reminder to believers that they are to put to death all that is earthly, un-Christian, in themselves: impurity, passion, greed, and everything not in keeping with the Gospel. Christian life can be seen as the imitation of Christ, and all that flows from this. This imitation is no philosophical abstraction, but a living relationship with Christ, born of, and sustained by, faith and religious practice, prayer — an imitation that is in itself a free gift of God, to follow the path of his Son.