I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice (thusian zosan), holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service (logike latreia). And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed (metamorphousthe) by the renewing of your mind (anakaiosieton nous), that you may prove what is that good and acceptable andperfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought tothink, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans12:1-3
The epistle for Saturday inthe 6th week of Pentecost is one of the densest portions of the entire New Testament. In these three sentences there appear four phrases that are extremely difficult to translate when using word for word equivalent terms.
First; thusian zosan; this is usually translated as “living sacrifice.” The term strives to convey an image of athing that is offered wholly and completely. Its goal is to present a selfsacrifice of life by relinquishing life as an offering of love to another in a two-foldway. One way is as a burnt offering placed on the fire while it is still alive, and the other is as an offering that does not die in the process of offering, but lives as a continuous offering. Another way to convey this might be to say “present your bodies as an offering unto your death, yet live.” Or perhaps more simply, “die to your self and live in God.” It seems that
Second: logike latreia, translated as reasonable service. This term strives to present the reader with a kind of work or action that is done out very logical and reasonable motivation. It may be stated as a “acting with reason,” or, “labor with all your intellect and know how”.
Third: metamorphousthe, this is obviously the root word from which we get the English word metamorphosis. This refers to a particular kind of transformation; it is the transformation of something lesser to something greater, of something immature to mature, from ugly to beautiful. Perhaps a helpful term here might be “beautifully transformed”.
Fourth: anakaiosie ton nous, this phrase is perhaps the most challenging. It speaks of a making or remaking of something old into something new. The thing made new is the “Nous”. Most often translated mind, however, that doesn’t really help us English speakers because we only have one word for mind. This particular aspect addressed by the Greek with the word nous is "the eye of the soul". This is the part of a human that is capable of understanding spiritual things, particularly God.
So then, let’s put this together:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living offering of yourself unto death; this is holy and acceptable to God when your labor is driven by your whole intellect and know how. And in this way do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed into a new and beautiful being by the renewing of the eye of the soul, so that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For this reason I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
In other words, the apostolic command here is for all Christians to offer themselves to God by giving up their own reason, and to do so in a very specific way: by submitting our “actions” to the reasoning of the gospel. By way of this submission is the offering itself will purify the eye of our soul, the nous. Once the nous is made clear and able to see God, we will be beautifully transformed into new living creatures.
The realities presented in today’s epistle are central to the Orthodox faith. Many Orthodox saints have echoed this truth throughout the centuries. One of my favorites comes from the "The Arena". Consider its restatment of the above verses:
The person who fulfills the commandments of the gospel will not only be saved, but will also enter into the most intimate union with God, and become the divinely built
. The Lord reveals himself to the doer of the commandments spiritually, and allows himself to be seen with the spiritual eye (nous). The person then sees the Lord in himself and in doing so is transfigured by the Holy Spirit. temple of God
The Arena- St. Ignatius Brianchaninov
The point of the passage is this, our own transfiguration into Christ-likeness is directly intertwined with the gospel actions that make up our offering. Gospel actions done out of love, create a soul that can see God.