You have died. And your life is hidden with Christ in God. Isn’t that an odd thing for Saint Paul to say to us in his letter to the Colossians? After all, the only time we could ordinarily say “You have died,” is when we are speaking to a corpse. And how often does that happen?
But you see, from a theological point of view, it makes perfectly good sense. We human beings are intended by God to live two lives at the same time. We live the natural, human life—the life of the material body and the intelligent soul, each of them seeking its own good. The body wants food, protection, comfort, and the pleasure of mating. The soul wants economic, social and political security, entertainment, learning, control over its own environment, and the intellectual pleasures of things like music, art, travel, leisure, sports, and the like. All those wants and needs come from our nature as human beings, that is, rational animals.
In addition to that, God intends us to live another kind of life, at a higher level. We call it the supernatural life, simply because in Latin “super” means “above” and “natural” means pertaining to our nature. It is natural for us to want to eat. It is supernatural for us to fast and abstain for the good of the soul. It is natural for us to want sexual pleasure. It is supernatural for us to exercise our sexuality only within the confines of marriage and then only according to the divine plan which intends human sexuality to be unitive and procreative. It is natural for us to gather those things that we need to live in dignity and comfort. It is supernatural to be careful always to treat others with strict justice and even love in our seeking to gather material things in this life.
These two levels of human life—the natural and the supernatural—are what Saint Paul is referring to when he says “You have died.” He means that we who have become Christian through the sacrament of Baptism have died to the purely natural life and are now alive by means of the SUPER-natural life which was given to us in Baptism.
When Our Lord used water as the matter for the first of his sacraments, he did so for several very good reasons. Water is required for life; all plants and animals need water in order to live. And we, of course, are animals. Water is the universal solvent, and so we use it constantly to CLEAN—our bodies, our clothes, our homes, our possessions. We bathe; we mop the floors, wash the dog, wash the car, etc. In addition to these things, Baptism was originally conferred by submerging the applicant for Christianity into a body of water: a river, lake, pool. As the catechumen goes down into the water, he dies to the purely natural way of life and, like the dead Christ, is “buried.” Jesus was buried in a tomb; the catechumen is buried in water for a few moments. Then he comes up out of the water, like Jesus rising from the tomb on Easter morning, possessing a new life.
Following this train of thought, Saint Paul goes on: “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another.” What he means here is that we cannot live like a pagan, even an enlightened pagan, and a Christian at the same time. If our baptism is to mean anything, it must introduce us into a new life. We have died to the natural life, and have been raised with the risen Christ. “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” Our new life—the risen life with the risen Christ—is not oriented to this world, but to the next. We are only passing through here; this is not our home nor our ultimate destiny. Therefore we are to live like heavenly people, not like earthly people. If we have died to our ordinary human nature, then let us live to our SUPER-nature. Let us live in Christ, and allow Christ to live in us. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.