Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Christian Dogmatics

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So far,. we have examined Christology as related to the overall dogma on Creation, because, as Athanasius the Great had likewise done in his work “On the Incarnation of the Logos”, the whole logic behind the incarnation of the Logos stems from the fact that God created the world in order to render it a participant of His own blissful state.  Therefore, in order for the world to be able to be in a personal relationship with Him, and within the framework of such an intention, this purpose of God’s, He created Man as a link (by freely giving him self-government like God has) between God and the material world -or animal world in general- which has no self-government, no liberty. In this way, Man would have been that point through which all of Nature would have been able to participate in God’s life

The fact that in his liberty, Man chose to relate the world to himself instead of to God, thus overthrowing God’s original plan, did not induce God to say “I will leave things the way they are”; instead, it made Him adhere to His original plan - His original objective – except now the course of this plan had to be slightly changed, by taking into account all the new facts and the new situations that had appeared.

The new situations that had appeared were that with this choice that Man had made freely (i.e., to focus Nature on himself and not on God), he caused Nature and himself to thenceforth be subject to the laws and the servitude of the laws that govern created beings, and to be unable to overcome the consequences that the status of a created being has.  These consequences are summarized mainly as death and deterioration, given that this status of being created originates from nil and therefore nil permeates everything created.  Thus, nil dissolves the unity of a created being; which is called deterioration, and it is that which renders the created being susceptible to nil – or in other words, death.

This was therefore the new reality that Man – i.e., Adam, with his liberal choice - had introduced.  God could not ignore this reality.  God’s original plan did not include this reality.  God had not scheduled (so to speak) this entire situation, which Man had wrought on His original plan, with the Fall. This was the earth-shaking mystery of liberty: that Man, while possessing this God-given liberty of his, was able to overturn God’s entire plan – as far as the method was concerned.  As for the final objective however, he was not able to alter it, as God did not allow this to happen.

Christology took on a form different to the one it would have taken if Adam hadn’t fallen.  If Adam hadn’t fallen, we would again have spoken of Christology, only it would have been in the following form, the way that Saint Maximus had envisaged it:  Having been placed within time and space, and having exercised his liberty in an affirmative manner – i.e., by willingly uniting the created with the Uncreated - Adam would have eventually led all of Creation into this union via his person; a union that would have ensured the transcending of the boundaries of a created being, i.e. of death.  Christology would then have taken on the form of Adam transformed into a Christ.   The Christ –as Saint Maximus tells us- would still have existed; Christ would have been a reality, even if Adam had not fallen.  He would have had the form that we just mentioned, i.e., one that would have existed in time and space; however, by Man’s exercising his liberty affirmatively, the world would have been transformed into an existence that would not have been subject to the consequences of a created entity (i.e., deterioration and death), as it would have been united to the Uncreated.

This was God’s initial plan, and this is what would have transpired, and this would have been the Christology that we would have spoken of, if Adam hadn’t fallen.  The fact thaté he fell created a new reality, which obliged God to alter His original plan because, as we said, it was no longer possible for this union between the created and the Uncreated to be attained through Man, without it passing through Man’s fallen state, that is, through deterioration and death. Consequently, Christology in this form is the entrance of God, the realization of the matter of Christ, from within the fallen state of Man; from within deterioration and death, because human liberty no longer exists in the affirmative way as originally foreseen by God; it now exists in a negative way. And in this situation, which all of Creation found itself on account of its severing its communication with God –with the Uncreated– Christology now took on the form of a tragic event that was not pleasing to God but was nevertheless unavoidable.

In this new situation – this Christology – which is replete with Adam’s fall, God still acts in a manner that shows His continuing respect for Man’s liberty. It was God’s desire that this union of created and Uncreated again be undertaken by Man freely; and this is the reason that He chose the Virgin Mary (as we mentioned in the previous lesson) as a human being who had the option to say “No”, but, in the event that She would say “Yes”, She would be helping to make God’s plan a reality through Her free consent. And indeed, Mary’s “Yes” facilitated matters. However, from the very first moment – from the first moment that God’s entering mankind was materialized through this “Yes” – it was accompanied by the experience of deterioration and of death, into which God Himself had now fallen.  Before analyzing this unpleasant experience that the Incarnation entailed, we need to clear up a very important detail:

This plan, this entrance of God’s into the world, into Creation – this penetration of the Uncreated into the created state for the purpose of uniting the two – is performed only by the one Person of the Holy Trinity; this is an “entry” in the form of a union; an undertaking to act as a bridge. However, given that the Persons of the Holy Trinity are never separated between themselves, nor are the other two Persons ever absent from this action of the one person,  it means that every Person of the Holy Trinity participates in this event of Christology. You should note here, that Christology is not something that pertains to only one Person of the Holy Trinity, but to all three of them, the only difference being that each Person undertakes a particular role, which is not undertaken by the other two Persons; the role undertaken by the Son being precisely His identifying Himself with the fallen reality of the created.  In other words, He took unto Himself the elements of deterioration and of death and all the other consequences such as pain, sorrow, etc..  But the Son would not have done this, if the Father had not condescended; consequently, Christology does not have its beginning in the Son, but in the Father.

The Father desires. He is the one who desires first. Everything springs from the Father. Just as He is the cause of the Holy Trinity Persons’ existence, and everything springs from the free will of the Father – God’s very existence – it is in the exact same way in Providence that the plan of Christology springs from the free will of the Father.  The Father therefore condescends.  He wants this plan to materialize.  The Son concurs; He says “Yes” to the Father’s will and so it is He who enters the reality of the fallen creature, not the Father.  Therefore, although the Father participates in this Christological event with His condescension, He does participate in the same way that the Son participates.  The difference is, that it is the Son only Who becomes incarnate; in other words, only the Son takes it upon Himself – only the Son undertakes – to amend the fate of fallen Mankind.  The Father condescends, the Son concurs and undertakes this fate of mankind’s upon Himself.  The Father does not undertake this fate upon Himself. The Holy Spirit also collaborates in this entire plan, without undertaking the fate of the created upon Himself, and without becoming incarnate, as only the Son becomes incarnate. What does the Spirit do? The Spirit stands in support of the Son during this painful experience that He is undergoing (during the “interfacing” union, the undertaking of the creation’s fate, the fallen state of the created, deterioration and death).  The Holy Spirit contributes as the Person of the Holy Trinity that liberates the Son from the consequences of His “self-evacuation” and His undertaking the fate of the fallen creation.

The Spirit is the Person that stands alongside the major decisions that Christ takes while exercising His liberty; it is the Spirit of freedom, Who ensures that every major event in Christology is a free choice and not a natural necessity. We cannot therefore look upon Christology without any reference to the Father, or without any reference to the Spirit.  And it was a mistake of Dogmatics in the past, to have separated Christology from the other two – Triadology (the study of the Trinity) and Pneumatology (the study of the Spirit).  The Spirit is the Spirit of freedom, therefore, wherever it moves to, all restrictions and necessities of nature are withdrawn, and the being is liberated from those necessities.  However, the being is also liberated as a person,  so that it can free itself of necessities, of its on free will, i.e., with its consent, and not because it was imposed upon it.

Thus, the Spirit is present at all the critical points that determine the entire course of Christology – the event of Christ: During the birth and the “Yes” of Mary, which led to the conception of the Son –the Logos– by the Most Holy Mother, the Virgin Mary. The Spirit is ever present.  The Holy Virgin conceives through the Holy Spirit.  The Logos could have inhabited the Holy Virgin on His own. If it were merely a matter of divine intervention, there was no need for the conception to have occurred the way it did.  What was the need for the Spirit? Well, that was not the issue.  All these details are very significant. The Spirit was present, and the Holy Virgin conceived in the Holy Spirit, which means that whatever took place at that moment, took place in liberty. It was not an intrusion into the created by the Uncreated, because if every intrusion by God inside the created does not take place freely, it will necessarily signify the crushing of the created, given that if we have two forces, where one of them is infinitely greater than the other, the greater one will crush the smaller one. We should not see Christology in the context of an Uncreated that merely permeates a created being with His power alone. A miracle is not that which takes place as a show of power on the part of God; the fact that the Spirit is present – that all of this story becomes a reality in the Spirit – implies that we have an incident of freedom.

The contribution therefore of the Holy Spirit is of great importance. And if we continue to the pursuant events of Christology, we will again see that the Spirit is present during those critical moments of liberty.  The Spirit accompanies Christ into the desert, in view of His testing by Satan. This incident is not a coincidence, because it puts us inside Christology – because the Spirit enters during such critical moments. Because, at the moment of his testing, Christ –as a human– will freely say “Yes” to God, and it will be done in the Spirit.  Jesus, as the Christ –and as the name implies, is anointed by he Spirit– in other words, He has the Spirit with Him forever. We could not have a Christology without Pneumatology. Even the word “Christology” contains an inference to the Spirit, because the name “Christ” means “anointed by the Spirit”.

So, Christ has the Spirit with Him throughout His entire existence, but it is characteristic, that during the important moments, where the progress of this plan of God’s for the salvation of the world is determined freely, the Spirit is present.  The Spirit is also present at Gethsemane, where another decision had to be made: to drink of the cup which, as a human, He did not want to drink. Even at that moment –as the Evangelists tell us – the Spirit accompanied Christ, and the Spirit assuredly played some role; He is not a mere supporter. Christ’s tremendous decision to be nailed to a cross is also made in the Spirit.  And when we examine the Resurrection, which is indeed the transcending of deterioration and death, again we shouldn’t forget (what we unfortunately do forget and are not told by Dogmatics but by the Holy Bible in the New Testament), that “God raised Christ from the dead, by the Spirit”.  The miracle however of the Resurrection, just like the miracle of the conception, the birth, the incarnation, are not miracles that were realized without the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

Christ could have risen from the dead, on the fact alone that He was God; His nature was, after all, divine. So, why the need for a reference to the Holy Spirit? Why is Christ resurrected through the Holy Spirit?  This is a detail that one could almost assert as being suppressed. Who of the faithful, who of us has paid attention to this truth?  To us, the Resurrection is a miracle, which took place because Christ was God and because He had divine powers and was thus able to conquer death. Then –as Paul said- there would have been no significance to the words “in the Spirit”, “through the Spirit”.  Christology cannot be understood as lacking any reference to the role of the Father and to the role of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit therefore not only resides within Christ and renders him “Christ” (the One anointed by the Spirit), but also, by passing through those crucial points in the course of Christology – which are the major decisions, the major steps that were taken, i.e., the conception, the testing by Satan, the Cross, the Resurrection – all render Christology an expression of liberty, in which Man now participates freely because Christ – as a human and not only as God – makes all these decisions freely, in order to implement God’s plan with all the consequences that it entailed. The result of this, was that the Spirit, Who liberates the created from trials and temptations such as deterioration and death, has hereafter passed into human nature, through Christ. And since deterioration and death are transcended in the Person of Christ, through the energy of the Holy Spirit – since these things are happening to Christ – the Person of Christ is thereafter rendered a Body, on which all of mankind becomes a partaker of the Holy Spirit.  Thus, Christ ceases to be an individual; He becomes a universal existence, which took upon it the fate of fallen Creation and is now taking upon it the fate of redeemed Creation – of Creation which is now liberated from its limits (because that is what liberation implies: a liberation from its former boundaries). This redemption, this liberation from the boundaries of the created status, is the work of the Holy Spirit, which manifested itself firstly in the Person of Christ –because the Spirit resurrected Christ- and thereafter passed on, into mankind, again as a gift and an energy of the Holy Spirit.  This is why Christ – that universal being in Whom the boundaries of the created are transcended – this Christ is the One who imparts or realizes the transcending of the created’s boundaries for all of mankind, not as the person Christ alone, but through the Holy Spirit, by imparting the Holy Spirit.

Thus, it is the Holy Spirit Who makes Christ the Christ (=the One anointed by the Holy Spirit).  It is the Spirit Who liberates Him from the boundaries of the created through the Resurrection; however, the Spirit also renders Christ the source of the gift of the Holy Spirit and for all of mankind, so that all of mankind might acquire the potentials that were manifested in the person of Christ.  Thus, Christology is not solely about the person of Christ, Who receives the Holy Spirit; it is also about the person of Christ Who imparts the Holy Spirit. This, finally, leads to the meaning of Ecclesiology.

Christology cannot be imagined without Triadology.  Triadology begins with the consent of the Father; it continues with the Son’s undertaking of the fate of fallen Creation and ends in a Christ who embraces all of us, all of Creation, in the form which “exudes” the Holy Spirit as a gift imparted by Christ.  Therefore, while the Holy Spirit acts (in a manner of speaking) upon Christ and with Christ, (without acting through Christ after His Resurrection and His Ascension), the Spirit always acts through Christ, because He is the point where all of mankind and all of Creation is assumed, and is united with the Uncreated.

What I want to stress with all the above, is that we should not perceive salvation – that union of created and Uncreated – as a magical, mechanical union of natures.  Christology is not about the union of two natures in the manner of a chemical synthesis (i.e., this much divine nature plus this much human nature produces salvation). Consequently, the role of the Holy Spirit, the role of the Father, are very significant; furthermore, we do not exhaust the role of the Father, because the mystery of Christology always begins with the Father and finishes with the Father, as that is where the Son and the Holy Spirit must bring all this reality of the union between the created and the Uncreated, i.e., to the Father.  Thus Christology overall is a movement from the Father to the Father, with a permanent and perpetual presence and energy of the Holy Spirit.  It is a case of freely-acting persons, and not natures that perform miracles by somehow becoming united in a mechanical manner.

I have tried to place Christology in the framework of personal, not physical relations, because this is a detail with immense significance, and a point that is not discussed. They have accustomed us to a Christology of natures only.  The consequences of Christ – the Son of God – taking unto Himself the fallen nature of Man are very significant, because this fact in Christology poses a huge problem:  How is it possible for the impassionate God to be subject to the consequences of the Fall (i.e., the passions that He underwent), in other words, for God to suffer, and how should we comprehend this entire aspect of Christology, which is not glorification, but humiliation, “self-evacuation” and death?

So, one of the Persons of the Holy Trinity – the Son – “evacuates” Himself, i.e., He does not interrupt His personal association with the Father and the Holy Spirit (because that is inconceivable), but He alone undertakes the fate of the created as though it were His personal fate.  The fact that He doesn’t draw the other two Persons of the Holy Trinity into this act, this energy of His, is attributed to the fact that the Persons of the Holy Trinity are complete and free-acting Beings.  Each Person has an entity; it has an ontological fullness, and that is why the things we stressed in the dogma on God are so important.

The Cappadocians had stressed that the Persons of the Holy Trinity exist in freedom, because it is that precise freedom which makes possible the distinction of each Person’s work. This is attributed to the fact that there exists a personal freedom in the Persons of the Holy Trinity, otherwise it would have been impossible for the Son not to draw the other two Persons along with Him, into His personal “evacuation”; indeed, He does not draw them along, He “evacuates” Himself only.  This is attributed to these two things, which signify the same thing in the ontological self-inclusiveness and fullness of each of the Persons, and in the liberty of each person.

The Son, as a complete person,  a complete hypostasis, freely said: “I will take upon Myself the fate of the created, in its fallen form, and in that way, I shall fulfil that (plan) which the Father consented to.”  Furthermore, the Spirit likewise freely consented to collaborate.  Thus, while all three Persons participated – each one in its own way – the Son participated in a special way, through His “self-evacuation”, or, in other words, through His undertaking the fate of the fallen created upon Himself.  Once this “self-evacuation” – this entry of the Logos into the fallen reality of the world’s existence - was materialized, the Son freely took upon Himself all the consequences of this act.  At this point, we should remember what those consequences were.

The consequences were mainly deterioration and death, because the created had ceased to have any reference, unity and communion with the Uncreated; it became subjugated to its own boundaries, which included deterioration and death on account of nil.  Thus, by the Logos becoming incarnate, becoming a human, He became subject to hunger and thirst; He could feel tired, He could feel suffering and He was susceptible to death.  All of these facets were real and not apparent.  Christology went through this crisis; through the temptation at first to consider all these things as apparent only. It would have been extremely painful for man (and especially for the devout man) to accept that God truly suffered all those things, as it was an established principle that God is impassionate; that God is not subject to pain, sorrow and death. Consequently, it was scandalous to say that the Son, being a God in full, underwent all those things, hence the reason that Christology passed through the temptation called “Docetism”.  Docetism was a form of escape from this truth; in other words, it asserted that Christ suffered all those things apparently and not actually.

The Church therefore reached the decision that all of those sufferings were real and not apparent.  But from the moment that She made this decision, She created a problem. How could we reconcile God’s apathy (impassionate status) with the passion contained in Christology?  More recent Christology, (which is inclined to impart to the eternal status of God the situations that we observe in Providence), reached the point of asserting that the passion was not unrelated to the nature of God, i.e., to God Himself; that it was not something contrary to God, but that God – on account of the love that He has – is eternally in suffering; that He is familiar with sorrow, and pain, and above all, that He is in suffering from the moment that He sees mankind suffering.  Because of the love that He feels towards mankind, He supposedly has the Cross within His eternal existence, hence the Cross of Christ is nothing new to God, nor does it supposedly conflict with God’s nature.

This Christology has many followers nowadays. It has touched many people, chiefly Moltmann, but, we must state here that it cannot be reconciled with Orthodoxy and the Patristic view, which wants God the way that He is in His eternal existence, i.e., impassioned – free of every limitation that the created has – because that is what it means to be Uncreated. Consequently, this Christology wants whatever happened to Christ (from this aspect of being subjected to pain, sorrow and death) to be regarded as an extreme and incomprehensible humiliation and condescension. In other words, an Orthodox stands in awe before Christology, before this mystery, and he wonders, “How is it possible for a God to suffer?” as he is incapable of explaining how Christ can suffer.  But this is not a simple awe of admiration; it is also an awe of gratitude, because it is translated into such a love and philanthropy on the part of God, that it renders us grateful towards Him. Consequently, it is extremely important for us to preserve this principle, i.e., that Christ does not suffer because it is in accordance with His nature, but that He suffers, despite His nature; He suffers, despite His divine nature, because He freely wished to undergo all those things for our sake.  This therefore was the first basic point: In suffering all those things for our sake, Christ supposedly ceases to be God.

When saying that He ceases to be God, we are basically implying if He has interrupted His personal association with the Father. His personal association with the Father is not interrupted. His nature, therefore, which joins Him to the Father and is a nature common to both, continues to exist.  The fact that He suffered as a human is also attributed to the fact that He had assumed human nature, and therefore the consequences of human nature; thus, we arrive at the position where in Christ we have a complete God, i.e., nothing of Christ’s godhood had receded on account of the Incarnation; indeed, He was also complete as a human.  We therefore have a mystery which we cannot explain logically; we can only explain it in light of the liberty of God, Who, being free, is not only free to display, to exercise His power, but is also free to exercise weakness.  Thus, the Council of Chalcedon – the 4th Ecumenical Council – dogmatized that in Christ, we acknowledge a complete godhood and a complete human status; in other words, nothing was missing from either aspect of Christ. The Council clarified even further, adding the following:

Firstly, that the union of these two aspects – divinity and humanity – is so complete, that it is indivisible; in other words, Christ’s divine and human natures are indivisibly united.  The other clarification is that, despite this complete and indivisible union, the two natures did not become a synthesis to a degree that there would be a confusion between the two of them, so that the one could not be discerned from the other. This was defined as “discernibly” by the Council. So, we have two natures, joined indivisibly yet discernibly. The third point that was clarified, was that the union of these two natures took place in the person of the Son and Logos of God; there was no creation of a new, human person – we do not have two persons and two hypostases, but one person and one hypostasis, which is that of the Logos of God and consequently, that which united the two natures and fused them into one, was the Person of the Son and Logos of God.  We have here a personal union of the two natures. This is very important, because it signifies that we are dealing with persons and not with natures.

The stressing of the one person instead of two, i.e., that we have only a divine person and not a human one, was presented as an opposition to Nestorius’ and the Nestorians’ position, who focused on the person of Christ; who wanted to preserve the person of Christ in full with its human attributes and were afraid that if one were to say that there is no human person in Christ, there would be a diminished presence of the human element.  The Church’s position in this instance was that we are not dealing with a human person; there is only a divine person.  How can we comprehend this, without underestimating, without demoting the presence of a complete humanity? We mentioned that Christ is a complete God and a complete human. Could He be a complete human, if He didn’t have any person whatsoever?  Here we have a huge problem, on which very many dogmaticians in the West stumble.

We must comprehend fully what a “person” is.   A “person” is an identity that is formed through a relationship.  We are all persons, on account of our relationships.  We each have attained our personal identity through our various relationships, i.e., the biological ones from our parents, the natural ones from the environment, from the food we eat, from our social relations. All of these elements are necessary, in order for us to be called a person; however, it is the person that transubstantiates these relationships, and makes them its own.  You breathe this air, so you have a relationship with it, just as I do, but this air becomes mine, yours – it becomes “personal” - when it filters through each one of us as persons.  Thus, the person can similarly assume natures; but, that which defines my personal identity is not the air that I assume. It is dependent on that which is the most significant, the most decisive, which will make me be me and not someone else.  In the same way, it is up to our liberty to choose which of all our relationships is the most definitive for our personal identities.  If, for example, I decide that my relationship with my parents is the definitive one, then all of my other natural, social relationships will be coupled to this relationship with my parents, thus proving that this is where I have drawn my personal identity from.  In other words, the decisive relationship becomes the criterion that makes me be what I am.

If I do not desire to make the personal relationship with my parents the decisive element for my personal identity, then I transpose the relationship. And this is something that indeed occurs.  The young child has a personal relationship with its mother.  Gradually, it transposes its decisive relationship to either its social relationships or, later on, to its biological relationships which will remove it from the others. Thus, its personal identity no longer relates to the parental relationship, but to the other relationships.  This extends into our entire existence. If, for example, one were to imagine a person hinging his personal hypostasis on what he eats – i.e., a relationship with food – then indeed, if he persisted in this relationship, his entire personal identity would be dependent on this relationship.

Our personal identity is a matter of relationships - whatever those relationships may be.  Depending on how decisive a relationship is, that will eventually be one that will judge and subject all the other relationships, and will incorporate them therein.  It is quite obvious, that when a person is in love with someone, that will be the prevalent relationship at that moment of time, as he will be seeing everything through that prism.  The personal relationship, which gives us our identity, is always the one that makes us a person. To return to the issue of Christology : what makes Christ a person,  in other words, the relationship through which all the other relationships pass and which finally determines His identity, is His relationship with the Father.

With the Incarnation, Christ took on other relationships; He had a relationship with the Holy Virgin, with His disciples, with the natural environment; He partook of sustenance; He was Jewish – He had relationships with the entire Jewish community.  All of these are relationships that belong to His personal relationships.  In other words, all of the humanity that He takes unto Himself, all of the created, is not foreign to His person.   Mankind therefore is not lesser, by belonging in that relationship of His with the Father.

When we say that Christ (and I am trying to interpret the dogma of Chalcedon here) has only one Person but also Has two natures, this implies that His divine and His human natures (and anything else that these natures might include) all fall under the one personal relationship that determines Christ’s identity, which is His Filial relationship with the Father.  Thus, despite the new relationships that He embraces (as a Person) with His incarnation, He is, and He remains, the Son of the Father.  This is a very important point, because He could –for example- have taken on new relationships as I said before.  When we embrace new relationships, we tend to shift the center of our identity.  I will digress briefly at this point.  In his work “In search of lost time”, Proust ponders very intensely over death, and he makes several very important observations such as : when a person whom we love dies, what matters in the long run is that we will replace him with someone else. If we dont replace him, our identity is endangered because it is indeed impossible for us to connect, to relate to something that does not exist unless we transfer that person into an existent sphere; but death strikes the person at this point. As long as we maintain our relationship with that person, that person will be giving us with our identity.  The “I” changes, when the “you” changes.”

So, when Christ says “I”, what does He mean?  Where does He draw that consciousness of “I”?  An entire discussion took place during our century – chiefly in Roman Catholic theological circles - as to whether Christ had two kinds of consciousness; a divine one and a human one. Many theologians had reached the conclusion that He had two.  The problem is, that in order to have a conscience of one’s “I”, in order to be an “I”, to be your self, it is impossible without a relationship.  Either I am me because I am not -for example- this table here (hence I am me when related to this table, but, if this table ceases to exist I can no longer be me), or, I am me when related to someone else.  We always are what we are (as a personal identity), when related to someone else.  You cannot say “me”, if there is no “you”.  After many centuries, philosophy in our day and age has reached that simple truth: that the “I” without the “you” is a myth; it is incomprehensible.

When Christ says “I”, where does He draw His consciousness of that “I”?  He draws it inevitably from His relationship with the Father. This is why the Person of Christ is only one, i.e., that of the Son.  If He drew His relationship from Mary also – from the Holy Virgin, as a child from its mother – then we would have had two persons, and Nestorius’ position would have been valid : we would have had one human with two persons : one relationship from here, and another relationship from there – both of which would have given Him His identity.  But, to be given two determining relationships for your identity is something that doesn’t eventually stand to reason, because only one of the two relationships will be the determining one.

This becomes evident in iconography also.  In a Western icon of Christ and the Holy Mother, the person of Christ is portrayed as a beautiful baby with a maternal relationship, which, however, limits the identity of the depicted baby.  If we take a Byzantine icon, we will notice that the hagiographer strives to give the impression that the One held in the Holy Virgin’s embrace is God, despite the maternal relationship between them.  This maternal relationship is not the baby’s determining relationship for the baby’s identity. The child seems to be stating that “yes, I may have a relationship with the mother, but My identity, my “I”, is governed by another relationship – the relationship that I have with the Father.

By what, therefore, are our personal identities judged? They are judged by how we place ourselves existentially.  In other words, if the Father were to ask the Son to go on the Cross and the Holy Mother –as a mother- were to say “Don’t go, my child”, or, if the Son were to stop and consider His mother and decide that His relationship with the mother was the determinant of His identity, thus deciding He would not go on the Cross, then indeed His Person would not be defined by His relationship with the Father, but a relationship with another person,  the Holy Mother.

This is what we do all the time, when verifying our personal identity.  The one who finally determines our personal identity is the one to whom we offer our existence.  The Martyrs, the Saints, all verify this fact; Why does theosis exist?  Why does the Martyr acquire theosis What doestheosis mean This is not Platonic mysticism. These are existential, basic things.  A Martyr acquires theosis, because at that moment (of his martyrdom), he relates himself as a person to Christ. He has put aside all other relationships. When a mother tosses her children into the lions’ mouths for them to become martyrs, what exactly happens at that moment?  Her personal relationship is transposed, and consequently, that mother is judged by that specific moment.  Those Martyrs had chosen the relationship with God, just as Christ had, to be the determining relationship of their identity.  Thus, God saw in their persons the person of His Son.  They had done as the Son had done, hence were acknowledged by God as sons, and they had accordingly acknowledged God as Father, and with this relationship, they had sealed their lives forever, i.e., they had attained theosis. 

Christ, however, did not attain theosis by making this kind of a decision while being a human, i.e., while having previously chosen the human relationship as the definitive relationship and afterwards transposing it to His relationship with God.  Because, in Christ’s case, the relationship with the Father was precedent. What Christ did, was to persist in acknowledging His relationship with the Father as being the determinant relationship, hence the reason we do not have theosis in the case of Christ; we do not have an embracing, a transposing of the existing relationship and the projection of a new person; what we have, is simply a confirmation of the identity that had always existed.

Christ does not assume an identity from Himself, because there also exists that –par excellence demonic--  relationship, where one places his own will and his own interests as the supreme criterion of his decisions, like Adam had done when he put himself in God’s place and determined his identity from his own self.  Christ does not acquire an identity from a created being, despite the fact that the created element is embodied within His identity.  He subsumes all of His other relationships in His predominant relationship with the Father, and, being thus engulfed in this relationship with the Father, all of those other relationships are liberated from the restrictions that they were subject to; they are set free and are engulfed in His Body, as a part of His identity.

It is important to persist on that which the Council of Chalcedon decided; i.e., that the person is one, and that the said person is the Son and Logos of God.  Besides, even the word “Son” is a word that implies a relationship - the filial relationship – because it is only within this relationship that mankind is fulfilled; only then can we speak of the fulfilment of mankind.

If mankind had a person of its own – in the way that speculating Western theologians want it – then it would not have been fulfilled, because it would eventually have been restricted; its identity would have been governed by the limitations of the created, which determine the boundaries of Man.

Consequently, by accepting one person in Christology – and that person is the Son – we are actually allowing mankind infinite possibilities. This is an anthropological maximalism, and not a minimalism. We do not have here a demoting of mankind.

The Chalcedon dogma is of major existential significance, provided we comprehend it with the significance that has been given to the meaning of “person”.


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Transcript by N. R.

Translation by A. N.

Article published in English on: 22-12-2006.

Last update: 4-1-2007.