Introduction //  Contents  // Chapter 2

 

     "THE WAY"
     (An Introduction to the Orthodox Faith)
 
by Protopresbyter fr. George D. Metallinos
Professor Emeritus of the Athens University
 

CHAPTER 1 

THE REDEMPTIVE DIALOGUE BETWEEN CREATED AND UNCREATED IN HISTORY


History, according to one point of view, is the eternal “carriage of world reality”, which takes every man from the first moment of his life, and transports him to his eternal destination.  Man, as a persona, i.e. a God-created, free being, deposits his acts (RES GESTAE) in History and at the same time he self-actualizes in accordance with the purpose of his existence. Christianly speaking, however, History has a “mind”.  It is not just an arbitrary flow and interweaving of events and occurrences; it simultaneously offers itself to Man as a possibility for affirmation of his worth, for the fulfillment of his destiny.  That is, universal history is comprised of the personal histories of all men, as success or   failure to realize this common purpose of every man.

Theosis, on the other hand, as the unique goal and purpose of man within History, presupposes the presence and action not only of man, but also of God, in historical reality.  History, Christianly speaking, is one continuous revelation of God (Èåïöáíßá).  “CHRISTMAS”, God’s birth from a woman as God-man, is the manifested (2 Timothy 1:10) and confirmed self-actualization of History’s purpose, being as it is the realization of the Theanthropic union.  Eternity and Time, transcendence and materiality, supra-historicity and historicity are united in the person of Jesus Christ, in a perfect union. In becoming incarnate, God becomes “what He was not, for us”.  “He, whom nothing can contain, is contained in flesh”; “He, who is the bosom of the Father, is seen in His mother’s embrace”, confining Himself within the finite limits of what is historical and human.  This is the miracle of all the ages, “extraordinary” and “unique” in all of History.

God’s appearance in History makes the encounter of God and Man possible.  And this meeting is accomplished as a redemptive dialogue of the Creator and His creature, which leads to their union, that is, to the event of salvation as man’s self-actualization and the fulfillment of history’s purpose. This purpose of historical becoming is, Christianly speaking, God-given, and it emanates from divine love, which constitutes the singular presupposition for the existence of the world and of History.

1. God-given “communion”

As far as ancient Greek thought as a whole is concerned, our world is eternal.  The creation of the world and indeed “out of non-being” (from absolutely nothing) is unknown to it. Plato’s “Demiurge” (in Timaeus) uses pre-existent eternal matter; he is merely the one who “provides order to the world” (warden), but not its being. Consequently, for Greek thought, the universe exists eternally.

According to Aristotle, (Meta ta Physika VII, ch.7) :  “It is impossible for anything to come into being if it did not already pre-exist.” Only Holy Scripture speaks of creation out of nothing.  The concept of nothing as an Absolute, i.e., not connected with Being, is a Christian, Scriptural and Patristic one.

The world, according to Scripture and the experience in general of the deified Saints (Prophets, Apostles, Fathers and Mothers), is “creation”, i.e., a creature.  It was Paul who for the first time used the terms “creation” and “created” for the entire created universe.  Christ is called the “first-born of all Creation, for in Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth.” (Colossians 1:15-16).  Christianly speaking, then, the universe presupposes an absolute ontological principle: it does not exist of itself.

We know from divine revelation, i.e. from God’s manifestation of Himself in History, that creation, “visible and invisible”, is the work of the divine will and love.  This means that our world would not have existed if God had not wished to create it.  And this consciousness alone, that Creation is a free act of the divine will, orients the created being eucharistically and doxologically towards his uncreated Maker.  “To accept that your existence is a gift makes your heart overflow with gratitude, in every moment that you become conscious of your existence” (John, Metropolitan of Pergamus).

This takes place during the Liturgy of St. John the Chrysostom:  “We give thanks unto Thee, o King invisible, who, by measureless power hast fashioned all things, and in the multitude of thy mercies has brought all things from non-existence into being….”.   In Orthodoxy, this awareness is the basis for the ascetic transcending of the EGO and therefore of individualism and the hunger for conquering.  It is also the basis for the voluntary offering of one’s own being for the sake of others (self-sacrifice).’

With the act of Creation, the Holy Trinity’s Love gives substance to the created YOU.  The uncreated eternal Communion of the Personae of the Holy Trinity brings into existence the created communion of the human personae, being as they are the culmination of all Creation.  But contrary to the myth of Deism, which accepts God as Creator, but outside of History (DEUS CREATOR, SED NON GUBERNATOR), uncreated God brings created man into existence in order to commune with Him, in a relationship that is Theanthropic, with uncreated God present in created man, transforming him by grace into his uncreated self.

However, this communion of Uncreated and created being, which the Uncreated freely willed and voluntarily initiated, is founded on certain very essential, fixed presuppositions. With Creation there comes into existence a being that is absolutely “foreign” to the Uncreated in essence (“not in place, but in nature”, according to St. John of Damascus).  The distance between Maker and creature is not spatial but ontological.  They are two completely different things.  God is the wholly other (das ganz Andere).  Plato may have conceived the fact that “to understand God is difficult, but to express Him is impossible”; but Gregory the Theologian, full of divine wisdom as he was, will admit that “to express God is impossible and to understand Him is even more impossible.”  There is no ontological relationship to be seen, no correlation, no analogy (ENTIS or FIDEI) between created and Uncreated.  The Uncreated is not subject to the rules of human logic or morals or psychology.  He is above and beyond all these. To force the Uncreated into logical and moral categories, which is what Hellenism does - and which is what bears heavily on mainly non-Patristic Greek religious thought -is not merely heresy: it is clearly mythology.  Imaginary conceptions corresponding to created nature (human and animal, cf. Romans 1:22) are applied to the Uncreated.  But in the Orthodox tradition, God remains an inconceivable mystery, even when He reveals Himself to His creatures.  It is impossible for human speculation to theologize, that is, to speak authoritatively about God, because discourse about God presupposes God’s revelation of Himself to man.  Metaphysics, as speculative theology, is, in an Orthodox manner of speaking, mythology. (Cf. the 14th century clash between Hesychasm and anti-Hesychasm (scholasticism).)

Thus, from the beginning of History, Uncreated God builds the bridges for His communion with created man within History.  God “did not leave himself without witness….” (Acts 14:17).  He provides for His communion with Creation, since in any event it is upon this communion that Creation’s future depends. Although God’s essence is completely unknown and man cannot participate in it, yet under certain conditions man can experience and participate in God’s uncreated energy.  St. Basil’s words are clear: “We say that we know our God from His energies, but we do not take it upon ourselves to approach His essence itself.  For His energies are what come down to us, while His essence remains unapproachable.” (PG 32, 869).  Uncreated God communes with created man by means of his natural energies.  Energy, light, grace, power, glory, kingdom (or rule): these are all theological-ecclesiastical terms that express the same thing.

The world, the created universe, was created in order to participate in the fullness of divine life.  A dynamic journey is taking place historically from the time of creation to the Pentecost, a journey which created man is called to make.  It is the movement from “the image” to “the likeness”, which is accompanied by human will’s synergy (cooperation) with the divine will.  It is man’s redemptive motion towards God, which, according to Basil the Great, “was planted in us when we were first created” (PG 31, 909).  In the words of the same Father, man “has been commanded to be a god”.  In other words, he carries within himself the mandate to become a god, “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). The journey upwards to theosis, towards the union of created and Uncreated, historically established the dialogue between them, as a process which sometimes expresses the tragedy and sometimes the glory of man, and through him, of all created being.

2. The apostasy of the created

The created world, although “very good” (Genesis 1:31), was made in a potential state, a motion towards a particular “end”, which can only be fulfilled within the sphere of communion with God.  “King” and “Lord” over irrational creation (Genesis 1:28):  thus was Man ordained by the Creator to be, that he should lead Creation and himself to the perfection foreordained by the Creator, to transcend createdness and unite with God.  Man’s job was supposed to be to maintain this communion of the created with the Uncreated.  According to Saint Maximos the Confessor, with the creation (of the world) five divisions are effected:  that of uncreated and created, intelligible and perceptible, heaven and earth, Paradise and the inhabited world, male and female.  Man was called to transcend all these divisions freely, and to attain union with the Uncreated, and in so doing to raise up all Creation with himself.  Of course, the distinction between Uncreated and created can never be transcended “by nature”, but only “by grace”.  When the Uncreated dwells within the created, then the latter, by grace, becomes uncreated. This was the case, according to Saint Gregory Palamas, with Saint Paul:  “Paul was a created being as long as he lived the life that came into being from non-being by God’s command.  But when he no longer lived this life, but rather that which comes about with the indwelling of God, by grace he then became uncreated.”

However, created man’s journey in history bears the imprint of the fall, understood as failure (Greek, amartia=to miss the mark):  failure of man’s journey towards union with the Uncreated. The loving motion towards God and fellow man sidetracks towards the ego, communion veers towards individuality.  Communion with the Creator is ruptured on the part of the creature.  The fetus severs the umbilical cord that ties it to the life-giving maternal body.  Rupture of communion with Life itself brings death in all its forms (spiritual, biological, eternal, cf. Romans 5:12).  Thus is death introduced into history, and it becomes the “natural” condition, to the point that no-one wants to believe that it is “contrary to nature”.  The condition “contrary to nature” became in fallen man the condition “according to nature”.  Our everyday language bears witness to this.  We live the tragedy of death as if it were a natural condition.  The life of created being is bound up with death to such an extent, that every creature is born in order to die, thus introducing death into its existence.  This is what Orthodoxy commemorates on Cheese Fare Sunday, in the words of Adam:  “Woe is me! No more can I endure the shame.  I, who was once king of all God’s creatures upon earth, have now become a prisoner, led astray by evil counsel. I, who was once clothed in the glory of immortality must now, as one condemned to die, wrap myself miserably in the skins of mortality…»

The Fall constitutes the tragedy of man, because it means failure of the created to transcend its createdness and to self-actualize.  But what, essentially, was the Fall?  Beyond any moral or juridical meaning, the Fall, in an Orthodox manner of speaking, is understood as a sickness of human nature, that is, as the de-activation of a natural function of man.  In his natural (“traditional”) condition, man maintains three memory systems:  (1) cellular memory (DNA), (2) brain cell memory, seated in the brain and possessing reason as its organ, and (3) the noetic faculty which is seated in the heart and has the “nous”, or, according to Scripture, man’s spirit as its organ.  The nous is the organ necessary for the knowledge of God, i.e. the experiential communion with the Triune God.

In its natural condition, the nous is a dwelling place (temple) of the uncreated divine energy; it is by means of this noetic faculty that man “beholds Him who is, and is initiated into the knowledge of the Spirit” (Troparion, Canon of the Pentecost).  The Fall is the darkening of the nous and loss of its function, which occurs when the nous is confused with reason.  When one loses communion with God, he becomes subject to the passions and his environment.  “He worships creation instead of the Creator.”  Self-worship (“I became an idol to myself”, chant the Orthodox in the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete) is manifested as the free rein of the instinct of self-preservation and, parallel to this, as anxiety, fear, and a desperate search for success and security.  And thus the crucifixional, loving relationship with God and Creation as a whole is destroyed. Rather, fallen man uses God and neighbor to secure his own happiness and satisfy his ego.  One of the most beautiful passages in Holy Scripture is the part in Romans (8: 18-26) where it says how irrational nature was compelled by man to follow him into the Fall. Creation bears the stigmas of man’s rebellion against himself (“nature at strife and divided against itself” – Saint Maximos the Confessor), and hence together suffers and “groans in travail” with him.  Thus, all of Creation is enslaved to man’s corruption and mortality.

The sickness of the noetic faculty is the essence of the original or ancestral sin.  “Our nature has been infected by sin”, observed Saint Cyril of Alexandria (PG 74, 789).  And since it is an “illness” that comes at the beginning of man’s journey in History, it is transmitted to his descendents as a disease of nature, not as legal guilt or moral co-responsibility.

Neither the darkening of the nous nor mortality (to the point indeed, of total disappearance and return to NON-BEING) can ever be overcome, except through the Uncreated.  The immortality of the soul is a gift of God’s love, and hence moral effort (pietism) as an attempt to save oneself is reminiscent of the drowning man who, according to the saying, “grabs hold of his own hair”!

“Death is inborn in creations and cannot be transcended through any effort or ability of the created being itself” (Prof. J. Zizioulas).  The cure of the diseased nous and the resulting quickening of the creature is due, once again, to the Creator’s unfailing care for man and loving initiative.  For although there may have been a rupture in communion with the Creator on the part of the fallen creature, however the same did not occur on the part of the Uncreated.  God keeps an eye on the creature in his Fall and does everything to maintain the bridges of communion with him.  And this is…..

3. The redemptive intervention of the Uncreated

….in the creature’s journey in History.  Because of the Fall, History should logically have become a journey towards destruction of man and creation.  But God’s stance in the face of man’s apostasy is expressed not as judgment and wrath, but as love, which also creates the conditions for the resolution of the human drama.  Thus, the process of History develops in the sphere of the divine plan, the “divine economy”; and God proves to be Lord of History.  In his Liturgy (prayer of the anaphora), Saint Basil describes how God’s saving intervention in History unfolded:  “Yet Thou didst not turn Thyself away until the end from Thy creature which Thou hadst made, O Good One, neither didst Thou forget the work of Thy hands, but Thou didst look upon him in divers manners, through Thy tenderhearted mercy. Thou didst send forth prophets; Thou hast wrought mighty works through the Saints who in every generation have been well-pleasing unto Thee; Thou didst speak to us by the mouths of Thy servants the prophets, who foretold to us the salvation which was to come; Thou didst give the Law as a help; Thou didst appoint guardian angels.  And when the fullness of time was come (Gal.4:4), Thou didst speak unto us through Thy Son Himself….”

In ancient Hellenic thought, as in every kind of humanism, what is good attracts, and what is evil, repels.  It is unthinkable that anyone would love the ugly, immoral, or sinful man, who militates against the harmony of the moral world.  God, however - comprehended in the Orthodox way - loves the sinner as much as the righteous man. That is why “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).  “It was not the coin that sought the householder, but He Himself bent down to earth and found the image”, says Saint Nicholas Kavasilas in reference to the related parable from the Gospel (Luke 15:8f).  The parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:12f) reveals this stance of God in relation to His creature.  God is outside of every moral and psychological limitation, and He does not alter dispositions like we do.  His love is permanent and unchanging.  God never hates.  He does not get passionately angry.  He does not punish. It is human wickedness that turns God’s love into hate and punishment.  As Saint John the Chrysostom testifies: “It is not He, but we who are hostile, for God never hates” (PG 61, 478).  God’s love is not affected by man’s unworthiness and does not change along with man.  God never ceases to be the Father who waits for man’s return (cf. parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11f). 

And this is precisely why it was necessary in Frankish scholasticism to legalize and adulterate the faith, in order to fabricate the clearly pagan theory “concerning the satisfaction of divine justice” with Christ’s death on the Cross.  Within the network of Frankish racial feudalism, the conceptions of justice and its administration were cloaked in the robe of Christian dogma.  “Western” man is not taught to strive to become a partaker of God’s love, but to be saved for God’s (nonexistent) wrath!  This perversion of Christian soteriology became the foundation upon which Western Christian civilization was built.

In moving towards His creature, God seeks “His own”, His distorted image, in order to renew it, to re-fashion it, to restore it to its “former beauty”, so that it may possibly continue its interrupted journey towards union with Him.

The re-connection of created and Uncreated and the continuation of their redemptive dialogue functions as a possibility, even after the Fall.  The Creator divine Logos is present in the Old Testament “without flesh” (without His human nature), and He Himself effects the union with the righteous of the period before Christ.  The religious tradition of Abraham’s race (i.e. the Hebrew people) is a continuation of that of Enoch and of Noah.  The Israelites are God’s “chosen people”, not because God shows partiality (Acts 10:34), but because the tradition of their Prophets preserves the method of restoring communion with God and hence, theosis and salvation.  Thus, they become the guides to genuine knowledge of God for the rest of the world.  This is what Israel’s opus in History should have been: like the opus of its Prophets and its saints.

The same will be true historically for the New Israel, the Christians, who will become God’s “chosen people”; this time, in the persons of their Saints.  Those who lived in the spiritual climate of the Prophets were taught the way of life that leads to the purification of the heart, illumination, and deification (theosis). The same is true about the spiritual children of the Apostles and Fathers throughout the centuries. 

Yet, the redemptive offering of the Uncreated to the created reaches its culmination in the Incarnation of God the Logos.  This event, in Christian terms is the absolute center and keystone of History.  History finds its true meaning and its final criterion in the Incarnation.  Christ as God-man becomes the absolute center and entelechy of History. He is the Alpha and the Omega of History.  Creation and the Second Coming, together with the Incarnation, constitute the chief moments in the History of all Creation, and they seal Time in its earthly dimension.  World and Time acquire meaning through Christ, because they move towards Him who is “the fullness of Time” (Galatians 4:4).  And this is why human wisdom is amazed throughout the course of History, and poses the question: CUR DEUS HOMO? And the deified Maximos the Confessor responds: The Incarnation is “the blessed end for which all things came to be”.  It was for the sake of the Incarnation of God the Logos, that is, for the appearance in History of the God-man as the perfect historical union of God and man, of the Uncreated and creation, that the world was created at all.

Moreover, the Incarnation is the foundation of salvation understood as theosis.  With the Incarnation, theosis becomes permanent.  For with His human nature, the incarnate Divine Logos becomes the “place”, where the communion of God and man, and also of human beings with each other, is.  In the holy Eucharist, the faithful commune the flesh, the humanity, of Christ, and thus become “members of the same body” with their God-man, the Lord. (Ephesians 3:6).  The Incarnation event is completed soteriologically at Pentecost.  Then Christ, who rose and ascended into the uncreated heavens of the Godhead, comes again in the Holy Spirit, to continue His redemptive presence in the world, but this time with a different manner of existence. For now He dwells within those who are united with Him, and they live “in Him” (cf. John 17:22-23; Romans 8:9 ff).

The Incarnation is God’s response to the universal cry of the debased image of God in man.  The God-man Jesus Christ brings man back to the starting point of his journey, and re-fashions him, bequeathing him not Adam’s fallen nature, but His own (sin-free) nature.  And thus He becomes the Head of a new human race.  And this is why He is called the “new” or “second” Adam, who, however, is not “made of dust” but is from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:47).  As Paul Evdokimov observes:  “God’s humanity corresponds to man’s being the image of God.  The image of God in man and of man in God is the third term that objectively governs the Incarnation:  the ontological potential for communion of the two worlds.”

With the Incarnation of God the Word, those five divisions we spoke about earlier are transcended. Christ as God-man becomes “our peace” incarnate (Ephesians 2:14f), as He re-connects man with God and reconciles men with one another.  In His body, the Church, all those differences and conflicts that sin had introduced into life are removed; and by His grace, which overcomes death and our division, all of us, Jews and Hellenes, slaves and freemen, men and women, acquire the potential to become “ONE in Christ”; a new man: the man of grace, new in Christ.  Hence it is necessary to assemble the created into a Church, because with the victory in Christ over every form of death, all men are “potentially” brothers, and all those antitheses that sin caused in the created sphere can be removed.  With His Incarnation, Christ does not simply improve human society.  He offers the new society of His body, and He invites all to join it, so that the re-creation and re-formation of man and society be accomplished in a new manner of existence, namely His own life, Christ-life.  Saint Paul proclaims: “If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), which means re-creation of all things in a dynamic relationship with the creative Logos; that is, a relationship not only with God, but also with nature which is His creation.  Thus the Incarnation affirms the worth of the created world as a whole and negates any philosophical dualism in the anthropological sphere.  By becoming a temple of the Holy Spirit, man with his entire being lives the unity of Creation and is a stranger to every idea of exploiting, polluting or destroying the environment which is an extension of his own nature.

 This transformation of the created into Holy-Spiritual society and classless fraternity is accomplished within Christ’.  The “Church”, in the Orthodox understanding, is the deified humanity of Christ, the tangible and specific “place” of our union in Christ.  This is what Saint Cyprian of Carthage meant when he said that: “outside of the Church there is no salvation” (EXTRA ECCLESIAM NULLA SALUS). That is, there is no possibility of theosis-salvation and of transforming self-interest into selfless love, which is the quintessence of society genuinely in Christ.  The Church as the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:23) is the “inn” of the parable of the Good Samaritan  (Luke 10:25f).  (In Greek, the word for “inn” is pan-docheion, which means a receptacle for all kinds of people.)  Similarly, the Church accepts “all people”, in order to guide them to this transformation.  Everything is ready at this inn-Church, as far as the Uncreated is concerned, ready to cure and save the created and to restore wholeness once again.

4. The way to union

Christ, “by uniting created and uncreated (through His Incarnation), conquered death, (but) with a victory that is not something mandatory for existence, but a potential that is won only through freedom and love” (John Zizioulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon).  Our nature was saved in Christ, but not our person.  In becoming incarnate, God the Logos assumed an “individual” nature, which is, nevertheless, the start of what we are made of.  The theosis of each one of us is possible because of the oneness of human nature as a whole. Salvation in Christ is offered to all men, but for it to be activated requires our response.  This response is manifested as “synergy”, cooperation with divine grace. 

The “banquet” of the (so-called) kingdom is ready (Luke 14:16) and God awaits the creation’s response to His invitation.  According to Saint John the Chrysostom (PG 55, 322): “God does virtually everything; He left something minimal for us to do.”  This “something minimal” is man’s response.  Patristic Orthodoxy is authentic Christianity and the ONE (and only) Church, precisely because it preserves the manner of attaining theosis, that is, union in Christ with Uncreated God.  The heresies are not Orthodoxy, because in making Orthodoxy a religion with their ritualism, or making Christianity out to be an ideology through their rationalism and legalism, they reject, or are unaware of, the method that leads to theosis, and consequently they do not offer it as a possibility.  Besides, Religions do not have – and hence do not offer – the giver of theosis, namely Christ, which is why they result in demon worship (cf. “all the gods of the Gentiles are demons” Psalms 95:5).

The creation’s response to the divine invitation is, in Orthodoxy, effected though the voluntary (free) acceptance of the cure of the human being that Orthodoxy offers.  The cure (or therapy) consists of a process divided into three stages: (1) purification of the heart from passions, and of the nous from thoughts (good and bad); (2) illumination – the Holy Spirit’s visitation of the heart; and (3) theosis, that is, the restoration of the human being, with its glorification in the uncreated grace of the Holy Trinity.  This is the process of salvation that the Saints follow (cf. the prayer before Holy Communion by Saint Simeon the New Theologian:  “and You purify and brighten them and render them participants in Light…”).  In Orthodoxy, mystery-sacraments and ascetic effort go hand-in-hand in a complementary relationship:  ascetic effort, as the “returning from a condition contrary to nature, to one according to nature” (Saint John of Damascus); and sacraments as means by which grace is transmitted.

One can thus understand why the antithesis of asceticism and moralism is unbridgeable in Orthodoxy.  Moralism regulates the ethos, imposing the rules of a given moral system, based on men’s natural powers.  It inevitably ends in pharisaism, that is, in “self-justification” and “salvation based on works”.  On the contrary, asceticism with the God-given means at its disposal aims at the purification of the heart for man to become – by means of God’s uncreated energy – a temple of the Holy Spirit, so that he might produce the fruit thereof (Galatians 5:22).  Orthodox asceticism restores the redemptive dialogue of created and Uncreated, in the form of communion between them and potential for theosis of the creature, understanding, of course, that theosis is not a reward but grace (a gift).  Ascetic endeavor simply renders man receptive to salvation.  The Church functions in History as an eschatological society, that is, as a society of theosis.

The cure of the human being, i.e. his liberation from mortality and corruption, brings with it the freedom of all Creation, i.e. of nature, “from its bondage to decay” (Romans 8:21).  “For this, perishable nature must don the imperishable, and this mortal nature must don immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53).

Orthodoxy’s experience shows that this passage refers to the states - not of the age to come, but of the present- a fact unknown to non-Orthodoxy.  The transcending of corruption by the created is, for Orthodoxy, a reality that is accomplished in historical time, as shown by the relics of the Saints with the suspension of the natural corruption and physical decay of their cell system.  Holy relics, like that of Saint Spyridon (†348) on the island of Corfu, are for Orthodoxy tangible proof of the fact of theosis, of the communion of created with the Uncreated.  And at the same time, they are Orthodoxy’s self-verification.  The same can be said about the transcending of corruption in inanimate nature itself, as in the case of holy water that does not become stale with time.  It is by these divinely wrought events that Orthodoxy is safeguarded throughout time, and not by the metaphysical soaring and speculative fancy talk by us professional theologians.

In positive thought, the meaning of life is found in the span of time between man’s biological beginning and end. In Orthodoxy, life’s meaning goes beyond the limits of the present world.  Man as a theanthropic being is inside History.  The expected Second Coming of Christ is illumination and the judgment of the history of each person and of the whole world, as factors of History.  But what is important is that according to Orthodox belief, we do not await the destruction of the world and the end of History, but the transfiguration of Creation:  “For the form of this world is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31), and we await “new heavens and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:13), in a meta-historical continuation.  What will take place is a transformation of the world and of Time.  Consequently, History will not terminate, but will continue in another form.  Eternity is a continuation of History, or, rather, History is a segment of eternity.  The history of Saints, of those who attained theosis, continues after death and after Christ’s Second Coming, as History after History.  This was expressed by the historian Eusebius of Caesarea:  “He does not say that the heavens will perish, but will be formed anew for a better end…. For in the same way that our bodies, when they dissolve, do not pass into nonexistence, but rather are renewed for incorruption…..likewise, the heavenly bodies are renewed by the said fire; for they too are freed from the bondage to decay”.

This permanent transcendence over decay, and consequently the continuing transition from historicity to meta-historicity, is what the Church attains as a body of Christ.  This is the purpose of the Church’s existence. In the life of the Church’s body, the grace of the Holy Trinity continually sanctifies the created.  Through the man who is being sanctified, material nature surrounding him is also offered to God as water and oil, bread and wine, flowers and fruits or offspring of animals, which are brought to the holy altar to be hallowed and blessed.  Man and creation thus journey together towards the final meeting with the Creator, and they give themselves over to Him, “that God may be everything, in everyone” (1 Corinthians 15:28).

 


Introduction //  Contents  // Chapter 2

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