Today’s first reading comes from the very beginning of the Letter to the Colossians. So today’s post seemed as though a good place to re-introduce you to this Pauline Letter. Paul wrote the Letter to the Colossians while in prison, but his several imprisonments leave the specific place and date of composition uncertain. This letter is addressed to a congregation at Colossae in the Lycus Valley in Asia Minor, east of Ephesus. At the time of writing, Paul had not visited there but the community had apparently been established by Epaphras of Colossae.
Like many of Paul’s letters, we know he has heard a report the contents of which are not known to us and he wants to address the problems raised in the report. Most infer that the problems are brought on by teachers who emphasized Christ’s relation to the cosmos, their teachings apparently having an emphasis on angels (“principalities and powers”), which were connected with astral powers and cultic practices of local pagan religions – as were rules about food and drink and ascetical disciplines. These teachings, Paul insists, detract from the person and work of Christ for salvation as set forth magnificently in
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross (through him), whether those on earth or those in heaven. (Col 1:15-20)
Paul, without entering into debate over the existence of angelic spirits or their function, simply affirms that Christ possesses the sum total of redemptive power (Col 1:19) and that the spiritual renewal of the human person occurs through contact in baptism with the person of Christ, who died and rose again (Col 2:9–14). It is unnecessary for the Christian to be concerned about placating spirits (Col 2:15) or avoiding imagined defilement through ascetical practices in regard to food and drink (Col 2:20–23). True Christian asceticism consists in the conquering of personal sins (Col 3:5–10) and the practice of love of neighbor in accordance with the standard set by Christ (Col 3:12–16). It is in the final section of the letter that Paul describes the ideal Christian life.
If you would like to go deeper, take 9 minutes and watch The Bible Project’s overview video of the Letter to the Colossians. If you would like to support this non-for-profit evangelizing ministry you can give online and support their work!