Jesus Wedding: A peak int the Inner World shrouded behind the Mystical Veil
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Since man could not come to God, God came to man. Many eastern writers, looking at the Incarnation from this point of view, have argued that even if man had never fallen, God in His love for humanity would still have become man: the Incarnation must be seen as part of the eternal purpose of God, and not simply as an answer to the fall. Such was the view of Maximus the Confessor and of Isaac the Syrian; such has also been the view of certain western writers, most notably Duns Scotus But because man fell, the Incarnation is not only an act of love but an act of salvation.
Jesus Christ, by uniting man and God in His own person, reopened for man the path to union with God. The essential elements in the Orthodox doctrine of Christ have already been outlined in Chapter 2:true God and true man, one person in two natures, without separation and without confusion: a single person, but endowed with two wills and two energies. In Orthodox worship and spirituality tremendous emphasis is placed on both these events. As for the Resurrection, its spirit fills the whole life of the Orthodox Church: Through all the vicissitudes of her history the Greek Church has been enabled to preserve something of the very spirit of the first age of Christianity.
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Her liturgy still enshrines that element of sheer joy in the Resurrection of the Lord that we find in so many of the early Christian writings P. Hammond, The Waters of Marah , p. The theme of the Resurrection of Christ binds together all theological concepts and realities in eastern Christianity and unites them in a harmonious whole O. However great their devotion to the divine glory of Our Lord, Orthodox do not overlook His humanity.
Consider for example the Orthodox love of the Holy Land: nothing could exceed the vivid reverence of Russian peasants for the exact places where the Incarnate Christ lived as a man, where as a man He ate, taught, suffered, and died.
Nor does the sense of Resurrection joy lead Orthodoxy to minimize the importance of the Cross. Representations of the Crucifixion are no less prominent in Orthodox than in non-Orthodox churches, while the veneration of the Cross is more developed in Byzantine than in Latin worship. One must therefore reject as misleading the common assertion that the east concentrates on the Risen Christ, the west on Christ Crucified.
If we are going to draw a contrast, it would be more exact to say that east and west think of the Crucifixion in slightly different ways. The Orthodox attitude to the Crucifixion is best seen in the hymns sung on Good Friday, such as the following:. Orthodox see not just the suffering humanity of Christ, but a suffering God:. The Crucifixion is not separated from the Resurrection, for both are but a single action. Calvary is seen always in the light of the empty tomb; the Cross is an emblem of victory. When Orthodox think of Christ Crucified, they think not only of His suffering and desolation; they think of Him as Christ the Victor, Christ the King, reigning in triumph from the Tree: The Lord came into the world and dwelt among men, that he might destroy the tyranny of the Devil and set men free.
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On the Tree he triumphed over the powers which opposed him, when the sun was darkened and the earth was shaken, when the graves were opened and the bodies of the saints arose. By death he destroyed death, and brought to nought him who had the power of death From the First Exorcism before Holy Baptism. Between this approach to the Crucifixion and that of the medieval and post-medieval west, there are of course many points of contact; yet in the western approach there are also certain things which make Orthodox feel uneasy.
The west, so it seems to them, tends to think of the Crucifixion in isolation, separating it too sharply from the Resurrection. Orthodox feel thoroughly at home in the language of the great Latin hymn by Venantius Fortunatus , Pange lingua , which hails the Cross as an emblem of victory:. They feel equally at home in that other hymn by Fortunatus, Vexilla regis :. It is significant that Stabat Mater , in the course of its sixty lines, makes not a single reference to the Resurrection.
Where Orthodoxy sees chiefly Christ the Victor, the late medieval and post-medieval west sees chiefly Christ the Victim. While Orthodoxy interprets the Crucifixion primarily as an act of triumphant victory over the powers of evil, the west particularly since the time of Anselm of Canterbury? Yet these contrasts must not be pressed too far. Eastern writers, as well as western, have applied juridical and penal language to the Crucifixion; western writers, as well as eastern, have never ceased to think of Good Friday as a moment of victory.
In the west during recent years there has been a revival of the Patristic idea of Christus Victor , alike in theology, in spirituality, and in art; and Orthodox are naturally very happy that this should be so. In their activity among men the second and the third persons of the Trinity are complementary and reciprocal. The Orthodox Church lays great stress upon the work of the Holy Spirit. As we have seen, one of the reasons why Orthodox object to the filioque is because they see in it a tendency to subordinate and neglect the Spirit.
For the true aim of the Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, vigils, prayer, and almsgiving, and other good works done in the name of Christ, they are only the means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. Note well that it is only good works done in the name of Christ that bring us the fruits of the Spirit.
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First Greek Life of Pachomius, In the next chapter we shall have occasion to note the place of the Spirit in the Orthodox doctrine of the Church; and in later chapters something will be said of the Holy Spirit in Orthodox worship. In every sacramental action of the Church, and most notably at the climax of the Eucharistic Prayer, the Spirit is solemnly invoked. In his private prayers at the start of each day, an Orthodox Christian places himself under the protection of the Spirit, saying these words:.
O heavenly king, O Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who art everywhere and fillest all things, the treasury of blessings and giver of life, come and abide in us. Cleanse us from all impurity, and of thy goodness save our souls This same prayer is used at the beginning of most liturgical services. The aim of the Christian life, which Seraphim described as the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God, can equally well be defined in terms of deification.
Basil described man as a creature who has received the order to become a god; and Athanasius, as we know, said that God became man that man might become god. Behind the doctrine of deification there lies the idea of man made according to the image and likeness of God the Holy Trinity. Christ prays that we may share in the life of the Trinity, in the movement of love which passes between the divine persons; He prays that we may be taken up into the Godhead.
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The saints, as Maximus the Confessor put it, are those who express the Holy Trinity in themselves. It is important to keep this New Testament background in mind. The Orthodox doctrine of deification, so far from being unscriptural as is sometimes thought , has a solid Biblical basis, not only in 2 Peter, but in Paul and the Fourth Gospel. Union with God means union with the divine energies, not the divine essence: the Orthodox Church, while speaking of deification and union, rejects all forms of pantheism. Closely related to this is another point of equal importance.
The mystical union between God and man is a true union, yet in this union Creator and creature do not become fused into a single being. Unlike the eastern religions which teach that man is swallowed up in the deity, Orthodox mystical theology has always insisted that man, however closely linked to God, retains his full personal integrity. Man, when deified, remains distinct though not separate from God. Deification is something that involves the body.
In that divine likeness which man is called to realize in himself, the body has its place.
The full deification of the body must wait, however, until the Last Day, for in this present life the glory of the saints is as a rule an inward splendour, a splendour of the soul alone; but when the righteous rise from the dead and are clothed with a spiritual body, then their sanctity will be outwardly manifest.
But even in this present life some saints have experienced the first fruits of this visible and bodily glorification. Saint Seraphim is the best known, but by no means the only instance of this. Compare Apophthegmata , Sisoes 14 and Silouanus It is sometimes said, and with a certain truth, that bodily transfiguration by divine light corresponds, among Orthodox saints, to the receiving of the stigmata among western saints. We must not, however, draw too absolute a contrast in this matter. Instances of bodily glorification are found in the west, for example, in the case of an Englishwoman, Evelyn Underhill : a friend records how on one occasion her face could be seen transfigured with light the whole account recalls Saint Seraphim: see The Letters of Evelyn Underhill , edited by Charles Williams, London, , p.
Because Orthodox are convinced that the body is sanctified and transfigured together with the soul, they have an immense reverence for the relics of the saints. In some cases the bodies of saints have been miraculously preserved from corruption, but even where this has not happened, Orthodox show just as great a veneration towards their bones.
This reverence for relics is not the fruit of ignorance and superstition, but springs from a highly developed theology of the body. Redeemed man is not to be snatched away from the rest of creation, but creation is to be saved and glorified along with him icons, as we have seen, are the first fruits of this redemption of matter. This idea of cosmic redemption is based, like the Orthodox doctrine of the human body and the Orthodox doctrine of icons, upon a right understanding of the Incarnation: Christ took flesh — something from the material order — and so has made possible the redemption and metamorphosis of all creation — not merely the immaterial, but the physical.
This talk of deification and union, of the transfiguration of the body and of cosmic redemption, may sound very remote from the experience of ordinary Christians; but anyone who draws such a conclusion has entirely misunderstood the Orthodox conception of theosis.
To prevent any such misinterpretation, six points must be made. First, deification is not something reserved for a few select initiates, but something intended for all alike.
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The Orthodox Church believes that it is the normal goal for every Christian without exception. Certainly, we shall only be fully deified at the Last Day; but for each of us the process of divinization must begin here and now in this present life. It is true that in this present life very few indeed attain full mystical union with God.
But every true Christian tries to love God and to fulfil His commandments; and so long as a man sincerely seeks to do that, then however weak his attempts may be and however often he may fall, he is already in some degree deified. Secondly, the fact that a man is being deified does not mean that he ceases to be conscious of sin. On the contrary, deification always presupposes a continued act of repentance.
In the third place, there is nothing esoteric or extraordinary about the methods which we must follow in order to be deified. Orthodoxy, no less than western Christianity, firmly rejects the kind of mysticism that seeks to dispense with moral rules. The two forms of love are inseparable.