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THEOSIS - DEIFICATION AS THE PURPOSE OF MAN'S LIFE
Greekorthodoxchurch.org ^ | 1995 | Archimandrite George Abbott of the Holy Monastery of St. Gregorios on Mount Athos

Posted on 08/28/2008 5:23:47 PM PDT by Kolokotronis

In the Orthodox Church of Christ man can achieve daification because, according to the teachings of the Holy Bible and the Fathers of the Church, the Grace of God is uncreated. God is not only essence, as the West thinks; He is also energy. If God was only essence, we could not unite with Him, could not commune with Him, because the essence of God is awesome and unapproachable for man, in accordance with: ‘Never will man see My face and live’ (Exod. 33:20).

Let us mention a somwhat relevant example from things human. If we grasp a bare electric wire, we will die. However, if we connect a lamp to that wire, we are illuminated. We see, enjoy, and are assisted by the energy of electric current, but we are not able to grasp its essence. Let us say that something similar happens with the uncreated energy of God.

If we were able to unite with the essence of God, we too would become gods in essence. In other words everything would become a god, and there would be confusion so that, nothing would be essentially a god. In a few words, this is what they believe in the Oriental religions, e.g. in Hinduism, where the god is not a personal existence but an indistinct power dispersed through all the world, in men, in animals, and in objects (Pantheism).

Again, if God had only the divine essence – of which we cannot partake – and did not have His energies, He would remain a self-sufficient god, closed within himself and unable to commune with his creatures.

God, according to the Orthodox theological view, is One in a Trinity and a Trinity in One. As St. Maximus the Confessor, St. Dionysius the Areopagite, and other holy Fathers repeatedly say, God is filled with a divine love, a divine eros for His creatures. Because of this infinite and ecstatic love of His, He comes out of Himself and seeks to unite with them. This is expressed and realised by means of His energy or, better, His energies.

With these, His uncreated energies, God created the world and continues to preserve it. He gives essence and substance to our world through His essence-creating energies. He is present in nature and preserves the universe with His preserving energies; He illuminates man with His illuminating energies; He sanctifies him with His sanctifying energies. Finally, He deifies him with His deifying energies. Thus, through his uncreated energies, holy God enters nature, the world, history, and men's lives.

The energies of God are divine energies. They too are God, but without being His essence. They are God, and therefore they can deify man. If the energies of God were not divine and uncreated, they would not be God and so they would not be able to deify us, to unite us with God. There would be an unbridgeable distance between God and men. But by virtue of God having divine energies, and by uniting with us by these energies, we are able to commune with Him and to unite with His Grace without becoming identical with God, as would happen if we united with His essence.

So, we unite with God through His uncreated energies, and not through His essence. This is the mystery of our Orthodox faith and life.

Western heretics cannot accept this. Being rationalist, they do not discern between the essence and the energy of God, so, they say that God is only essence. And for this reason they cannot speak about man's deification (gr. theosis). Because, according to them, how could man be deified when they do not accept that the divine energies are uncreated, but regard them as created? And how could something created, i.e., something outside God, deify created man?

In order not to fall into pantheism, they do not speak at all about deification (gr. theosis). What then, according to them, remains as the purpose of man's life? Simply moral improvement. In other words, since man cannot be deified by means of divine Grace, the divine energies, what purpose does his life have? Only that he becomes morally better. But moral perfection is not enough for man. It is not enough for us simply to become better than before, to perform moral deeds. We have as our final aim to unite with holy God Himself. This is the purpose of the creation of the universe. This is what we desire. This is our joy, our happiness, and our fulfillment.

The psyche of man, who is created in the image and likeness of God, yearns for God and desires union with Him. No matter how moral, how good man may be, no matter how many good deeds he may perform, if he does not find God, if he does not unite with Him, he finds no rest. Because holy God Himself placed within him this holy thirst, the divine eros, the desire for union with Him, for deification (gr. theosis). He has in himself the erotic power, which he receives from his Creator, in order to love truly, strongly, selflessly, just as his holy Creator falls in love with His world, with His creatures. This is so that with this holy erotic impetus and loving power, he falls in love with God. If man did not have the image of God in himself, he would not be able to seek its prototype. Each of us is an image of God, and God is our prototype. The image seeks the prototype, and only when it finds it does it find rest.

In the fourteenth century, there was a great upheaval in the Church which was provoked by a Western monk, Barlaam. He heard that Athonite monks talked about deification (gr. theosis). He was informed that, after much struggle, cleansing of the passions, and much prayer, they became worthy to unite with God, to have experience of God, to see God. He heard that they saw the uncreated light which the holy Apostles had seen during the Transfiguration of our Saviour Christ on Mount Tabor.

But, having the Western, heretical, rationalistic spirit, Barlaam was unable to perceive the authenticity of these divine experiences of the humble monks, and so, he began to accuse the Athonite monks as though it was they who were deluded, heretical, and idolatrous. In other words he was saying that it was impossible for someone to see the Grace of God, because he knew nothing about the distinction between the essence and the uncreated energy of God.

Then, God's Grace brought out a great and enlightened teacher of our Church, the Athonite St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki. With much wisdom and enlightenment from God, but also from his personal experience, he said and wrote much which taught, in accordance with the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Tradition of the Church, that the light of God's Grace is uncreated; that it is a divine energy. That, in fact, deified men see this light as the ultimate, the highest experience of deification (gr. theosis), and that they are seen within this light of God. This is the glory of God, His splendour, the light of Mount Tabor, the light of Christ's Resurrection and of Pentecost, and the bright cloud of the Old Testament. It is the real uncreated light of God, and not symbolic as Barlaam, and others like him, believed in their delusion.

Subsequently, in three great Synods at Constantinople, the whole Church justified St. Gregory Palamas, declaring that life in Christ is not simply the moral edification of man, but deification (gr. theosis), and that this means participation in God’s glory, a vision of God, of His Grace and His uncreated light.

We owe great gratitude to Saint Gregory Palamas, because, with the illumination he received from God, with his experience and his theology, he bequethed to us the teaching and eternal experience of the Church concerning the deification (gr. theosis) of man. A Christian is not a Christian simply because he is able to talk about God. He is a Christian because he is able to have experience of God. And just as, when you really love someone and converse with him, you feel his presence, and you enjoy his presence, so it happens in man's communion with God: there exists not a simply external relationship, but a mystical union of God and man in the Holy Spirit.

Even now, Westerners consider the divine Grace, or the energy of God, as something created. Unfortunately, this also is one of the many differences which must be seriously taken into consideration in theological dialogue with the Roman Catholics. It is not only the filioque, the primacy of authority, and the ‘infallibility’ of the Pope which are basic differences between the Orthodox Church and the Papists. It is also the above. If the Roman Catholics do not accept that the Grace of God is uncreated, we cannot unite with them even if they accept all the other points. For who is able to effect deification (gr. theosis), if divine Grace is a creation and not an uncreated energy of the All-Holy Spirit?


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Orthodox Christian
KEYWORDS:
This is a piece by an Athonite Geronda. As such it is not, shall we say, irenic. I post it apropos of another discussion today here on FR.
1 posted on 08/28/2008 5:23:48 PM PDT by Kolokotronis
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To: crazykatz; JosephW; lambo; MoJoWork_n; newberger; The_Reader_David; jb6; wildandcrazyrussian; ...

Theosis Ping!


2 posted on 08/28/2008 5:24:57 PM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated)
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To: Kolokotronis
Even now, Westerners consider the divine Grace, or the energy of God, as something created.

Where does he get this idea? I enjoy reading Orthodox mystical theology but everytime the subject of Roman Catholic mysticism comes up the author gets it wrong.

3 posted on 08/28/2008 5:33:00 PM PDT by Canticle_of_Deborah (Repentance is a contract with God for a second life - St. John Climacus)
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To: Kolokotronis

I’m not orthodox, I’m evangelical I suppose, but I don’t find anything in this piece to disagree with, other than the assumption that I probably wouldn’t agree. You might be surprised to find that we agree on quite a lot.

cheers


4 posted on 08/28/2008 5:33:58 PM PDT by marron
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To: Kolokotronis

I, too, wonder if his representation of the Western thought is accurate. I would like to see a doctrinal statement on created/uncreated energies from a Catholic source; what Barlaam thought for himself does not make it Catholic dogma. I suspect this is one instance where the Orthodox refine the dogma left unclarified by the Early Church and by the Roman Catholics of today. Usually it is the other way around, e.g. on the purgatory or the recent mariology.

It is a good explanation of the uncreated energies theology. How does this relate to grace?


5 posted on 08/28/2008 5:58:47 PM PDT by annalex (http://www.catecheticsonline.com/CatenaAurea.php)
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To: Canticle_of_Deborah

Deification? Well First John 3:2(b) says this of God: “...when He is revealed,we will be like Him,for we will see Him as He is.”

(an Evangelical Christian)


6 posted on 08/28/2008 6:41:42 PM PDT by pankot
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To: Canticle_of_Deborah

Deification? Well First John 3:2(b) says this of God: “...when He is revealed,we will be like Him,for we will see Him as He is.”

(an Evangelical Christian)


7 posted on 08/28/2008 6:42:28 PM PDT by pankot
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To: pankot; Canticle_of_Deborah
Deification? Well First John 3:2(b) says this of God: “...when He is revealed,we will be like Him,for we will see Him as He is.”  (an Evangelical Christian)

Oh, pleeeease....let's face it: the Bible is wishy-washy about seeing God.

God canot be seen in the very beginning of the Old testament and nin the New Testament...

Exodus 33:20
There shall no man see me, and live.

John 1:18
No man hath seen God at any time.

John 6:46
Not that any man hath seen the Father.

1 Timothy 1:17
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.

1 Timothy 6:16
Whom no man hath seen nor can see.

but in the Old testament God is seen all over the place...

Genesis 12:7
And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

Genesis 17:1
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him....

Genesis 18:1
And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre.

Genesis 26:2
And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of.

Genesis 26:24
And the LORD appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not.

Genesis 32:30
And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

Genesis 35:9
And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him.

Genesis 48:3
And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan.

Exodus 3:16
The LORD God ... appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you.

Exodus 4:5
That they may believe that the LORD God ... hath appeared unto thee.

Exodus 6:3
And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob....

Exodus 24:9-11
Then went up Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. And they saw the God of Israel ... They saw God, and did eat and drink.

Exodus 33:11
And the Lord spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend.

Exodus 33:23
And I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my backparts.

Numbers 14:14
For they have heard that thou Lord art among this people, that thou Lord art seen face to face.

Deuteronomy 5:4
The Lord talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire.

Deuteronomy 34:10
And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.

Judges 13:22
And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God.

1 Kings 22:19
I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.

Job 42:5
I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.

Psalm 63.2
To see thy power and they glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.

Isaiah 6:1
In the year that King Ussiah died, I saw, also, the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.

Isaiah 6:5
For mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

Ezekiel 1:27
And saw ... the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward....

Ezekiel 20:35
And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face.

Amos 7:7
The LORD stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand.

Amos 9:1
I saw the Lord standing upon the altar: and he said, smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake.

Habakkuk 3:3-5
God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran .... He had horns coming out of his hand.

Matthew 18:9
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

8 posted on 08/28/2008 10:51:01 PM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: Kolokotronis
Given the earlier thread Men Can Become Gods! (Guess Who? And no, it's not the LDS) and its quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I do not understand the purpose of this post. Archimandrite George clearly is not familiar with Western thought on this subject or is misrepresenting it. He states:
So, we unite with God through His uncreated energies, and not through His essence. This is the mystery of our Orthodox faith and life.

Western heretics cannot accept this. Being rationalist, they do not discern between the essence and the energy of God, so, they say that God is only essence. And for this reason they cannot speak about man's deification (gr. theosis). Because, according to them, how could man be deified when they do not accept that the divine energies are uncreated, but regard them as created? And how could something created, i.e., something outside God, deify created man?

In order not to fall into pantheism, they do not speak at all about deification (gr. theosis).

Compare this to the following:

In the Roman Rite the prayer during the Mass for the mixing of the water and wine:

O God, Who in creating the human nature didst marvelously enoble it, and hast still more marvelously renewed it: grant that by the mystery of this water and wine, we may be made partakers of His Divinity Who vouchsafed to become partaker of our humanity, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
From the Catechism of the Council of Trent:
For the blessed always see God present and by this greatest and most exalted of gifts, being made partakers of the divine nature, they enjoy true and solid happiness.
Again, St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Th. Ia IIae, Q. 111 Art 2):
And thus there is a twofold grace:—one whereby man himself is united to God, and this is called sanctifying grace
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1999):
The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the word of sanctification.

9 posted on 08/28/2008 11:09:48 PM PDT by Petrosius
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To: Petrosius; kosta50

With all due respect, P, I think you’ve made the geronda’s point.


10 posted on 08/29/2008 3:54:52 AM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated)
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To: Kolokotronis; Petrosius
With all due respect, P, I think you’ve made the geronda’s point

Ditto. Petrosius wrote "Archimandrite George clearly is not familiar with Western thought on this subject or is misrepresenting it."

Petrosius' examples show that Achimadrite George not only knows the mindset of the West but portrayed it accurately. The West teaches that men become God the way God became man.

Petrosis: does the Catholic Church doctrine teach that humans become God by hypostatic union the way Word became flesh?

If not, what does "partakers of divine nature" mean in the West? Again, from the exmaples you give ity is either a gross misinterpretation of 2 Pet 1:4, which merely states that we become sharers of divine character of God, but do not become God in essence, or it is a just a poor choice of words.

11 posted on 08/29/2008 6:05:06 AM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: Kolokotronis; Petrosius
With all due respect, P, I think you’ve made the geronda’s point

Ditto. Petrosius wrote "Archimandrite George clearly is not familiar with Western thought on this subject or is misrepresenting it."

Petrosius' examples show that Achimadrite George not only knows the mindset of the West but portrayed it accurately. The West teaches that men become God the way God became man.

Petrosis: does the Catholic Church doctrine teach that humans become God by hypostatic union the way Word became flesh?

If not, what does "partakers of divine nature" mean in the West? Again, from the exmaples you give ity is either a gross misinterpretation of 2 Pet 1:4, which merely states that we become sharers of divine character of God, but do not become God in essence, or it is a just a poor choice of words.

12 posted on 08/29/2008 6:05:58 AM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: kosta50

apologies for double post


13 posted on 08/29/2008 6:13:09 AM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: Kolokotronis

***The psyche of man, who is created in the image and likeness of God, yearns for God and desires union with Him.***

We are at war with God and desire no such thing, until regenerated by the Holy Ghost that is...


14 posted on 08/29/2008 6:26:44 AM PDT by Gamecock (1000!)
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To: Gamecock; HarleyD

I posted this from +Symeon the New Theologian on the other thread on this subject:

“Can a man take fire into his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?’says the wise Solomon. And I say: can he, who has in his heart the Divine fire of the Holy Spirit burning naked, not be set on fire, not shine and glitter and not take on the radiance of the Deity in the degree of his purification and penetration by fire? For penetration by fire follows upon purification of the heart, and again purification of the heart follows upon penetration by fire, that is, inasmuch as the heart is purified, so it receives Divine grace, and again inasmuch as it receives grace, so it is purified. When this is completed (that is, purification of heart and acquisition of grace have attained their fullness and perfection), through grace a man becomes wholly a god.”

Does that complicate or explain things? Of course, as Harleyd points out we Orthodox are synergists while you Calvinists are monergists.


15 posted on 08/29/2008 1:22:53 PM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated)
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To: Kolokotronis

From my reading, the Archimandrite George’s point was that the Western Church does not hold to the idea of Theosis/Sanctification, i.e, the”participation in God’s glory, a vision of God, of His Grace and His uncreated light”. This is clearly wrong.


16 posted on 08/29/2008 5:39:41 PM PDT by Petrosius
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To: kosta50
[D]oes the Catholic Church doctrine teach that humans become God by hypostatic union the way Word became flesh?

No. The hypostatic union is unique to the Son.

If not, what does "partakers of divine nature" mean in the West? Again, from the exmaples you give ity is either a gross misinterpretation of 2 Pet 1:4, which merely states that we become sharers of divine character of God, but do not become God in essence, or it is a just a poor choice of words.

Where does the West say that that we become God in essence?

17 posted on 08/29/2008 6:21:22 PM PDT by Petrosius
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To: Petrosius
The hypostatic union is unique to the Son

Good. Then how can we be partakers/receivers in/of the divine nature, as 2 Pet 1:4 translation, and Latin Rite statements suggest?

I am asking agian: What does it mean in the West that we are "partakers of the divine nature/essence?" Perhpas it's semantics, but it sounds raher as a conceptual divide with what the East teaches, and has taught through hasychastic fathers, the Cappadocian Fathers and tghe Desert Fathers.

Where does the West say that that we become God in essence?

In the way the Bible is translated and in Laitn Rite prayers you provided. Are we imbued with God's essence or with His creative energies?

18 posted on 08/29/2008 8:15:57 PM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: kosta50

In general I would say that in the West we have not explored the nature of this sharing of the divine nature as much as has been done in the East. One problem I perceive is that you are transferring the debate between Gregory Palamas and Barlaam of Calabria to the West, assuming that because the latter was charged with Latinization that his views must reflect those of the West. In the West we would rather pass over this debate and leave it as a mystery. But before I comment further, I would like you to discuss more in depth the concept of God’s energies. This is a terminology that we generally do not use, although it could just be a different term for some concept we hold in common.


19 posted on 08/29/2008 9:20:45 PM PDT by Petrosius
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To: kosta50

I guess I’ll just have to cut that passage out of my New Testament. And return my M.Div to the Seminary.


20 posted on 08/29/2008 11:31:34 PM PDT by pankot
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To: Petrosius

As a student of John Wesley I suggest reading his sermon on “Christian Perfection”. Unfortunately, many people have mis-interpreted it to mean if we are just “good” enough we can be perfect in this life and thus see God. The whole point is that Perfection is a long process that after death puts us in the presence of God which is achieved thru sanctifying grace which is available to all humanity by God thru the mediation of the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 12:14(b) “..and holiness the holiness without which no one will SEE the Lord.” (My emphasis)


21 posted on 08/29/2008 11:58:59 PM PDT by pankot
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To: pankot
I guess I’ll just have to cut that passage out of my New Testament. And return my M.Div to the Seminary

That's all you can come up with? I give you bible quotes and you give me this? Maybe you should do exactly as you say.

22 posted on 08/30/2008 11:16:21 AM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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To: Petrosius
But before I comment further, I would like you to discuss more in depth the concept of God’s energies. This is a terminology that we generally do not use, although it could just be a different term for some concept we hold in common.

Simply put, God's energies are what God does, not what He is, i.e. His nature (ousia, essence). Thus, God's love is God's uncreated energy which we can partake in. We cannot partake in His ousia.

The Catholic position on this is clear (or at least it used to be for seven hundred years). According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (New Advent), which I understand is not an official Vatican source, states that Palamite theology is heresy.

Thus, the Archimandrite's position on the West was anything but lack of understanding of Catholic teaching.

My understanidng is that some Catholic theologicans (i.e. Michael Liccione in particular) now argue that canonized Orthodox Palamite teachings are not at odds with Catholic doctrine.

Maybe you can explain to me how can two Catholic sources come to such opposite conclusions, and also state what is Vatican's official teaching on this subject which also concerns Grace.

23 posted on 08/30/2008 8:46:50 PM PDT by kosta50 (Eastern Orthodoxy is pure Christianity)
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