Saturday, July 17, 2010

Theosis: Man, Creation, and Synergy - Part 3 (by Clint)

This is part 3. The previous entries can be read here.

Yet, man must not neglect his relationship with other men. In Ephesians 2, St. Paul prayed that Christians would be filled with Christ, becoming grounded in love, comprehending “with all the saints” the love of Christ, thereby being filled with the fullness of God. Not only is the theological concept of deification present in these words, but also the relational nature of Christianity. Each Christian works together “with all the saints.” In the next chapter of the Ephesian letter, St. Paul directs his readers to work out this reality in a practical way.

Therefore, putting away lying, “ Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

By these words, we see that the life focused upon God is lived out amongst other people. The deified life loves others, just as Christ loved the world. When controlled by God, man receives the Godly virtues. When man’s desire is to have those things according to his true nature (as originally created before the fall), then the “passion of deification” is given by grace the man is brought into a state of rest. By showing love to one another, Christians demonstrate that they have internalized the divine life (1 John 2:10). They have overcome the passions and have taken on a higher calling (1 John 2:14). While it is true that Christians continue to struggle with sin and temptation, they are given the means by which to overcome their passions. It is hoped that as they continue to struggle against evil, they will be moving closer to a true deified state.

Some people attempt to divide the theologies of works and grace. However, the Orthodox Church teaches that these two things work together, concurrently. They cannot be separated one from another. So it should not be thought that deification (by grace) is some reward for a man’s good works. In the same way, the virtuous life should not be considered as the result of a previous manifestation of grace. Rather, these two things work in harmony (synergy). The Christian Life is accomplished by the help of divine grace which must be freely received. The reality of the grace is made manifest by the virtuous life, but is neither the cause nor the result of it. These two elements are not fully understandable separately.

Communion with God causes a transformation within a man. This can be clearly seen both in the scriptures and in subsequent Christian writings. Moses was very close to God. God said that Moses was like a friend to Him. Because of this continual communion, Moses’ face glowed with the reflection of the divine (Exodus 34:29). St. Seraphim, St. Aresenius the Great and others have also shown physical manifestations of this closeness with God. These uncommon physical attributes demonstrate the reality that man is physically altered, as well as spiritually, when united to God.

For this reason, the Orthodox Church holds the physical world to be very important. Because of the sanctification of the physical world, the relics of saints are honored. Just as the Body and Blood of Christ in an avenue of receiving Divine Power, so also these relics, as they have been redeemed. In fact, Orthodox teaching tells us that not only are humans redeemed, but eventually all of the physical world will ultimately be saved and glorified, which is a logical extrapolation of the theology of deification.

to be continued...


charlene said...

Thank you for another beautiful and helpful piece. We wake up, pray, go to church, receive the precious gift of the body and blood of Christ, and feel close to God. Then BOOM - that very same day the sin of selfishness creeps in, caring more about ourselves than others, and we hurt a dear friend's feelings. We know God can forgive us, but we are not sure about our friend, and we hang there in limbo, wanting both God and our friend back. Until we can mend the rift with our friend, we feel estranged from God. For me, your article helps me understand how inexplicably bound are our relationships with God and man. We must be right with God to live the life of selflessness and compassion toward our fellow man, but we must make things right with our treatment of others to reach out for God. Thank you, and please keep writingfor us.

Fr. James Early said...

Yes, Clint, please keep writing for us...that makes less work for me! (Plus you do it so well!)