As God, He was the motivating principle of His own humanity, and as man He was the revelatory principle of His own divinity. One could say then, that He experienced suffering in a divine way, since it was voluntary (and He was not mere man); and that He worked miracles in a human way, since they were accomplished through the flesh (for He was not naked God). Therefore His sufferings are wondrous, for they have been renewed by the natural divine power of the One Who suffered. So too are His wonders wedded to passibility, for they were completed by the naturally passible power of the flesh of the One Who worked them. (Ambiguum 5, 18)
St. Theodore the Studite
…[G]ive a proper obedience. Priesthood, liturgy and divinization really consist in this. For numerous priests and liturgical celebrants, hierarchs, prophets and wonderworker shall perhaps be destined to torment without end. We have indeed heard the Lord say: “Many will say to me, ‘have we not done this or that in Your name,’ and they will hear: ‘I do not know you; depart from Me, you damned, to the fire outside prepared for the devil and his angels’.” [Will] you be my sacrifice? My celebrant? My initiator? My mystic? My god? For this discourse dares to go that far, even if it seems strange to you: “I have said, you are gods and you are all sons of the Most High.” (Great Catechesis 17)
Let us rejoice, then, and give thanks that we are made not only Christians, but Christ. Do ye understand, brethren, and apprehend the grace of God upon us? Marvel, be glad, we are made Christ. For if He is the Head, we are the Members: the whole Man is — He and we — the fullness of Christ, then, is Head and Members. Head and Members, what is that? Christ and the Church. (Homilies on the Gospel of St. John, XXI.8 (PL 75, 1568 A)
For this is, in my view, most assuredly, the Gospel of God: God’s mission and calling of man through the Begotten Son, by whom we as believers in Him, as the achievement of reconciliation with the Father, are given uncreated deification. (Q. Thal. 61, PG 90, 637D. 2013-01-01. “Knowing the Purpose of Creation through the Resurrection”.(Contemporary Christian Thought Series, number 20 [Kindle Locations 290-292]. Sebastian Press Publishing House & The Faculty of Orthodox Theology of the University of Belgrade. Kindle Edition.)
[T]he distinction between “grace” and “essence”: he theia kai theopoios ellampsis kai charis ouk ousia, all’ energeia esti Theou [the Divine and Divinizing illumination and grace is not the essence, but the energy of God; St. Gregory Palamas Capita Phys., Theol., etc., 68-9]. This basic distinction was formally accepted and elaborated at the Great Councils in Constantinople, 1341 and 1351. Those who would deny this distinction were anathematized and excommunicated. The anathematisms of the council of 1351 were included in the Rite for the Sunday of Orthodoxy in the Triodion. Orthodox theologians are bound by this decision. (St. Gregory Palamas and the Tradition of the Fathers)
All those who have their mind on high, all those who forget the things of the earth, all those who give no care to the flesh… who, to be sure, have mortified their earthly members, having a pure mind and an acute mind’s eye, being yet on earth, these see the sufferings that are in hell, the eternal torments, the everlasting fire, the outer darkness, the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. But they also see the heavenly gifts that God has presented to the Saints: the royal attire, the shining inner chambers, the inexpressible delights and eternal life. What more can I say? Indeed, the greatest wonder of all is that he who has a pure mind also perceives with his inner eyes even God Himself. (Constantine Cavarnos, The Future Life According to Orthodox Teaching, p. 38)
St. Maximus the Confessor 580-662
The mystery of the Incarnation of the Logos is the key to all the inner symbolism and typology in the Scriptures, and in addition gives us knowledge of created things, both visible and intelligible. He who apprehends the mystery of the Cross and the Burial apprehends the inward essences of created things; while he who is initiated into the inexpressible power of the Resurrection apprehends the purpose for which God first established everything. (Centuries on Theology and Economy, 1.66)
Today is also the Second Sunday of Lent, when we celebrate the memory of Saint Gregory Palamas. He was the son of a Byzantine nobleman, but renounced the world and became a monk, persuading his mother, siblings, and servants also to be tonsured and enter monasteries and convents. Every day he drank only a little water and ate only a little bread. He avoided sleep as much as he could, because it robbed him of precious hours for prayer, which for him was communion with God. For a three-month period, he slept only for a short interval around mid-day, after consuming a small amount of bread. He was a “heavenly man and an earthly angel”. For five days of the week he remained secluded in his cell, leaving it only on Saturdays and Sundays in order to attend the Divine Liturgy. There he sought the face of God, an experience essential for his assimilation to the divine, for his growth in likeness to God. Like the Psalmist, his constant wish was to be with God, to be united with Him. As he was dying, he appeared to be speaking, although his voice was little more than a whisper. One of his disciples drew near and heard him say the following words: “The things of heaven are destined for heaven”. And this he repeated, his biographer tells us, in a rhythmic fashion until the moment when his “heavenly soul was released from its natural union with the earth, and joined the company of the angels, with whom he had long consorted.” Saint Gregory could not imagine himself to be merely a creature of the earth, because all his thoughts, his heart, his desires, and his whole being were of heaven. He was completely united with God. (Psalms and the Life of Faith, On Psalm 63. pp. 16-18)
Father Sophrony also makes another very interesting and important observation concerning the example given by Christ and our own theosis or deification. He points to the fact that even though the deification of Christ’s human nature was, as Saint John Damascene says, effected from the very moment in which He assumed our nature, nevertheless Christ as Man shied away from anything which might give the impression of auto-theosis, that is to say, self-deification or self-divinization. That is why we see the action of the Holy Spirit underlined at His Holy Birth: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee… therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35); also, the Holy Spirit descends upon Christ at His Baptism in the Jordan (Matt. 3:15); and concerning the Resurrection, the Scriptures speak thus: “God, that raised Him up form the dead, and gave Him glory” (1 Pet. 1:21); and finally, Christ Himself, teaching us the way of humility and how always to ascribe glory to Our Heavenly Father, says: “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is Another that beareth witness of Me; and I know that the witness which He witnesseth of me is true” (John 5:31-32).
The same movement may be observed in the Divine Liturgy. The Words of Institution — “Take eat, this is My Body”, “Drink of this all of You, this is My Blood” — by themselves are not regarded as sufficient to effect the consecration of the Holy Gifts; they must be accompanied by the Epiklesis, the invocation of the Holy Spirit, precisely in order to avoid any notion of self-deification, to avoid, that is, giving the impression that simply by speaking the words which Christ spoke, we are able to transform the Holy Gifts into the precious Body and Blood of Christ. (Veniamin, ‘The Orthodox Understanding of Salvation: “Theosis” in Scripture and Tradition’ pp. 20-21. The Orthodox Understanding of Salvation: “Theosis” in Saint Silouan the Athonite and Elder Sophrony of Essex)
Whoever asserts that the perfect union with God is accomplished without the deifying grace of the Spirit, but is only a relative thing and accomplished by imitation, in a way similar to people who are fond of each other and grow alike in their ways; and, moreover, who says that the deifying grace of God is a condition inherent in our rational nature which becomes active merely by virtue of this moral imitation, but that it is not a supernatural and inexpressible illumination and divine activity which is seen invisibly by those made worthy of it and comprehended incomprehensibly: this person should know that he has tumbled unaware into the error of the Messalians. For, if deification be a potential inherent in nature and so included within the definition of nature, then he who is deified must necessarily be himself God by nature. Such a person should not attempt to smear those who stand fast with his own rebellion and try to blame the faith of the blameless. Instead, putting aside his own opinion, let him learn from those who are experienced or who have been taught by those with experience that the grace or divinity is not related to anything else whatever, nor does there exist any potential in nature capable of receiving it, since it would otherwise not be grace but merely the manifestation of an activity proper to our being. Deification would not be miraculous if it should occur as the result of some potential for its reception, for in that case it would clearly be a work of our nature instead of God’s gift, and the person deified would then in fact be able to become God by nature and acquire the title of “Lord”! For the natural potential of everything that exists is comprised of nothing other than the unswerving impetus of nature toward its proper activity. How in that case could deification be said to take the one deified outside of himself? If it were still take place within the bounds of nature, then this [traditional] expression would be meaningless. The grace of deification is therefore beyond nature, beyond virtue and knowledge, and, according to Saint Maximus, all these things fall infinitely short of it. While every virtue, including that imitation of God that is within our power, prepares a capacity in the recipient for divine union, it is still grace that accomplishes the unutterable union itself. It is by means of grace that all of God co-indwells with all those who are worthy, and that the whole of the saints co-inheres wholly with the whole of God. Thus they receive into themselves God entire and, as a kind of reward for their struggles in ascending to Him, they possess Him, Himself alone, Who has made them worthy of becoming His members, and He indwells them as a soul is entwined with its own body. (Tomos of Mount Athos in Defense of the Hesychasts)
If one takes upon himself the name of Christ but does not practice the way of life associated with it, he falsely bears this name. Such a person is like a soulless mask with human features superimposed on a monkey. For just as Christ cannot be if He is not justice, purity, the Truth, and the estrangement from all evil, so cannot he who does not demonstrate the characterisitics associated with this name be a Christian. Thus, if it were necessary for someone to express the meaning of the word “Christianity” in a definition, we would say that it is the imitation of the Divine Nature. (To Harmonius)
It is therefore for the promotion of us, the assumed humanity that God shall be all in all. He Who was found in the form of a servant, though He was in the form of God, is now again to be confessed in the glory of God the Father: that is, without doubt He dwells in the form of God, in Whose glory He is to be confessed. All is therefore a dispensation only, and not a change of His nature; for He abides still in Him, in Whom He ever was. But there intervenes a new nature, which began in Him with His human birth, and so all that He obtains is on behalf of that nature which before was not God, since after the Mystery of the Dispensation God is all in all. It is, therefore, we who are the gainers, we who are promoted, for we shall be conformed to the glory of the body of God. Further the Only-begotten God, despite His human birth, is nothing less than God, Who is all in all. That subjection of the body, by which all that is fleshly in Him, is swallowed up into the spiritual nature, will make Him to be God and all in all, since He is Man also as well as God; and His humanity which advances towards this goal is ours also. We shall be promoted to a glory conformable to that of Him Who became Man for us, being renewed unto the knowledge of God, and created again in the image of the Creator, as the Apostle says, Having put off the old man with his doings, and put on the new man, which is being renewed unto the knowledge of God, after the image of Him that created him. (Col. 3:9-10) Thus is man made the perfect image of God. For, being conformed to the glory of the body of God, he is exalted to the image of the Creator, after the pattern assigned to the first man. Leaving sin and the old man behind, he is made a new man unto the knowledge of God, and arrives at the perfection of his constitution, since through the knowledge of his God he becomes the perfect image of God. Through godliness he is promoted to immortality, through immortality he shall live forever as the image of his Creator. (On the Trinity, Bk. 11.49)
For He is present in every commandment through His grace-filled power (“The Lord is hidden in His commandments,” writes St. Mark the Ascetic), and He helps every struggler to keep the commandments. At the same time, the evangelic principle of theanthropic cooperation is kept; the God-man collaborates with man, while man remains an independent person, even though his entire being is in the Lord Christ, even though he dwelleth in Him. In the same way, the Lord Christ dwelleth in man, and does not lose the fullness of His person. …This means the Christian is never alone; he is the dwelling place and workshop of the Thrice-Holy Godhead. Everything leads to this. Keeping the commandments Trinitizes man, because this Christianizes and Spiritualizes him. A Christian’s life is one unceasing podvig of Christianization, Spiritualization, Divinization – i.e. Trinitization. The entire Christian life is one unceasing, and indivisible struggle to become like Christ, to establish the Spirit in man: theosis = establishing the Trinity within oneself. (Commentary on the Epistles of St. John the Theologian)
We shall never cease to advance in love, either in the present or in the future life, continually adding light to light. And however strange what I say will seem to many, nevertheless it shall be said. According to the testimonies we have given, I would say that even the spiritual beings (i.e. the angels) do not lack in progress; on the contrary, they will ever receive more and more glory, more and more knowledge. (The Divine Ladder: Step 26. cited from Cavarnos “The Future Life According to Orthodox Teaching” pg. 46)
(This is) a reply against the Jews, who blaspheme the people gathered from among the Gentiles… they bring forward as an argument, that God said:—
I am God and there is none else beside Me. Deut. 32:39 And again he said:—
You shall not worship another God. Exo. 34:14. Therefore, (say they), you are opposing God in that you call a man, God.
For the venerated name of Godhead has been applied also to righteous men, and they have been held worthy to be called by it. And the men with whom God was well pleased, them He called, My sons, and My friends. When He chose Moses His friend and His beloved and made him chief and teacher and priest unto his people he called him God. For He said to him:— I have made you a God unto Pharaoh. Exo. 6:1 And He gave him His priest for a prophet, And Aaron your brother shall speak for you unto Pharaoh, and you shall be unto him as a God, and he shall be unto you an interpreter. Exo. 7:1 Thus not alone to the evil Pharaoh did He make Moses God, but also unto Aaron, the holy priest, He made Moses God.
Again, hear concerning the title Son of God, by which we have called Him. They say that
though God has no son, you make that crucified Jesus, the firstborn son of God. Yet He called Israel
first-born, when He sent to Pharaoh through Moses and said to him, Israel is My first-born; I have said unto you, let My Son go to serve Me, and if you are not willing to let (him) go, lo! I will slay your son, your firstborn. Exo. 4:22-23 And also through the Prophet Hos. 11:1-2 He testified concerning this, and reproved them and said to the people, Out of Egypt have I called My son. As I called them, so they went and worshipped Baal and offered incense to the graven images. And Isaiah said Isa. 1:2 concerning them, Children have I reared and brought up, and they have rebelled against Me. And again it is written, You are the children of the Lord your God. Deut. 14:1 And about Solomon He said, He shall be to Me a son, and I will be to him a Father. 2 Sam. 8:14 So also we call the Christ, the Son of God, for through Him we have gained the knowledge of God; even as He called Israel My firstborn son, and as He said concerning Solomon, He shall be to Me a son. And we call Him God, even as He surnamed Moses by His own Name. And also David said concerning them:— You are Gods and children of the Highest, all of you. And when they amended not themselves, therefore He said concerning them:— As men shall you die, and as one of the princes shall you fall (Psa. 82:6-7).
For the name of Divinity is given for the highest honor in the world, and with whomsoever God is well pleased, He applies it to him. But however, the names of God are many and are venerable, as He delivered His names to Moses, saying to him:— I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. This is My Name for ever, and this is My memorial unto generations. Exo. 3:6, 15 And He called His name Ahiyah ashar Ahiyah, El Shaddai and Adonai Sabaoth. By these names is God called. The great and honorable name of Godhead He withheld not from His righteous ones; even as, though He is the great King, without grudging He applied the great and honorable name of Kingship to men who are His creatures.
For by the mouth of His prophet God called the heathen King Nebuchadnezzar, King of Kings. For Jeremiah said:— Every people and kingdom that shall not put his neck into the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Kings, My servant, with famine and with sword and with pestilence will I visit that people. Though He is the great King, He grudges not the name of Kingship to men. And (so), though He is the great God, yet He grudged not the name of Godhead to the sons of flesh. And though all fatherhood is His, He has called men also fathers. For He said to the congregation:— Instead of your fathers, shall be your children. And though authority is His, He has given men authority one over another. And while worship is His unto honor, He has yet allowed it in the world, that one man should honor another. For even though a man should do worship before the wicked and the heathen and them that refuse grace, yet is he not censured by God. And concerning worship He commanded His people, You shall not worship the sun or the moon or all the hosts of heaven; and also you shall not desire to worship any creature that is upon the earth. Deut. 4:17 Behold the grace and the love of our good Maker, that He did not grudge to men the name of Godhead and the name of worship, and the name of Kingship, and the name of authority; because He is the Father of the created things that are over the face of the world, and He has honoured and exalted and glorified men above all creatures. For with His holy hands He fashioned them; and of His Spirit He breathed into them, and a dwelling-place did He become unto them from of old. In them does He abide and among them does He walk. (Demonstration 17.1-6)
Consider the man in whom there dwelt a legion of all kinds of devils (Mk. 5:9): they were there though they were not recognized, for their army is of stuff finer and more subtle than the soul itself. That whole army dwelt in a single body.
A hundred times finer and more subtle is the body of the just when they are risen at the resurrection: it resembles a thought that is able, if it wills, to stretch out and expand, or, should it wish, to contract and shrink; if it shrinks, it is somewhere, if it expands, it is everywhere.
The spiritual beings [in Paradise]…are so refined in substance that even thoughts cannot touch them! (The Harp of the Spirit: Eighteen Poems of Saint Ephrem)
The cleansing of the soul and the illumination of the mind, aimed at union and contact between man and God, are aided and effected by frequent partaking and communion of the holy, immaculate, immortal and life-giving mysteries. (Manna from Athos pg. 90)
Christianity requires a humble awareness. My forefather, Adam, was perfect, but I, mankind, introduced only sin and corruption. The Church calls us to humility when it calls Adam our ancestor. But evolution? Descent from the ape? No matter how modestly we rate ourselves, it is impossible not to think with a certain pride: “After all, I am not an ape; after all, progress is manifest in me.” Thus, by calling the ape our ancestor, evolution feeds human pride. If we compare ourselves to the ape we can be proud of our progress, but if we think of sinless Adam, outward progress losses its value. The progress is external, but it is also a sophisticated sin. If mankind is steadily progressing forward, then we can hope in ourselves. We create ourselves. But the Church says the opposite: “We could not become incorrupt and immortal had not the Incorrupt and Immortal One first become the same as we are.” Believing in the incarnation means confessing that without God, all of mankind is nothing.
Throughout the ages, the Church carries the ideal of deification. This ideal is very high, but it demands very much from man. It is unthinkable without the incarnation; it demands first of all that man be humble. Mankind is renouncing this high ideal, and has no need of the incarnation of the Son of God. An infinitely depreciated ideal of life allows man to talk of progress, and gives him the opportunity to be proud of his accomplishments. These two series of ideas make up two different worldviews: that of the Church, and that which is not of the Church. The worldview that is not of the Church—descent from the ape, progress, having no need of and denying the incarnation—is pride. Accepting the incarnation is inseparably bound with humility. Pride wars with the incarnation, as with something unneeded. (Hieromartyr Hilarion [Troitsky], Works in Three Volumes [Moscow: Sretensky Monastery, 2004], 3:294)
Rev. 3:21 He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I Myself have conquered and taken My seat with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
St. Andrew of Caesarea ca. 563-637
The Kingdom and the repose of the future age are indicated by the throne. Therefore He says that “those who have conquered the enemy will be co-glorified” (Rom. 8:17) with Me and will “co-reign” (2 Tim. 2:12). The as I Myself conquered is said in human terms to refer to the assumption [of the flesh]. For God the Logos did not acquire the Kingdom as a reward for virtue, for this He possesses eternally as part of His essence. For if this were not the case, He would not have been able to share it [the Kingdom] with others; but according to the Theologian and “Son of Thunder,” (Mk. 3:17) He has imparted this to all the saints from How own fullness (cf. Jn. 1:16). Therefore He has promised the Holy Apostles that they will “sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt. 19:28; Lk. 22:30) of the future. Since He became human for our sake, being God and King before the ages, He had partaken of everything that is our own except sin (cf. Heb. 4:15), and imparted all that is His to those victorious over the devil, as much as possible for people to receive. Therefore, having made the cloud a vehicle for the rise heavenward of His Ascension (Acts 1:9), He also says through the Apostle that the saints will be “caught up in the clouds to meet Him (1 Thess. 4:17), and He will come [as] Judge, as Creator and Master of creation, handing over to the saints to judge those who opposed the truly divine and blessed slavery, as the Apostle says, “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” (1 Cor. 6:3) that is, the “rulers of darkness” (Eph. 6:12). Since we have such a lover of humanity as Judge, let us hurry to gain His favor, fulfilling endlessly Solomon’s saying “At all times my garments have been white,” (Eccl. 9:8) not being stained by evil deeds. For this way, having decorated our beloved souls as for a wedding (cf. Mt. 22:11-12), we will present to the King for a union, and we will gain eternal blessings in Him, Christ our God, the Supplier of these, to Who is due glory, honor, worship with the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages. Amen. (Commentary on the Apocalypse)
The name of God would for the faithful be amply sufficient to denote the glory of His Divinity, but by adding
over all, God blessed, he excludes a blasphemous and perverse interpretation of it, for fear that some evil-disposed person to depreciate His absolute Divinity might quote the fact that the word God is sometimes applied by grace in the Divine economy temporarily to men, and thus apply it to God by unworthy comparisons, as where God says to Moses:
I have given you as a God to Pharaoh, Exo. 7:1 or in this passage:
I said you are Gods, where it clearly has the force of a title given by condescension. For as it says
I said, it is not a name showing power, so much as a title given by the speaker. But that passage also, where it says:
I have given you as a God to Pharaoh, shows the power of the giver rather than the Divinity of him who receives the title. For when it says:
I have given, it thereby certainly indicates the power of God, who gave, and not the Divine nature, in the person of the recipient. But when it is said of our God and Lord Jesus Christ,
who is over all, God blessed for ever, the fact is at once proved by the words, and the meaning of the words shown by the name given: because in the case of the Son of God the name of God does not denote an adoption by favour, but what is truly and really His nature. (On the Incarnation Bk. 3.2)
St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979
Our communion with the Savior establishes the salvation; communion with Him, as Sanctifier, is the sanctification; communion with Him, as God, is the divinization; communion with Him, as Immortal, is the immortality; communion with Him, as Risen, is the resurrection; communion with Him, as Ascended, is the ascension and in the right place of God the Father (cf. 1 Cor. 1:9). (Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ pp. 211-212)
Psa 82:1, 6 A Psalm of Asaph. God stands in the assembly of gods; and in the midst of them will judge gods…I have said, You are gods; and all of you children of the Most High.
Jn. 10:34-35 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came–and Scripture cannot be broken…
St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202
…I have proved, in a variety of ways, that the Son of God accomplished the whole dispensation [of mercy], and have shown that there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption.
Since, therefore, this is sure and steadfast, that no other God or Lord was announced by the Spirit, except Him who, as God, rules over all, together with His Word, and those who receive the Spirit of adoption, that is, those who believe in the one and true God, and in Jesus Christ the Son of God; and likewise that the Apostles did of themselves term no one else as God, or name [no other] as Lord; and, what is much more important, [since it is true] that our Lord [acted likewise], who did also command us to confess no one as Father, except Him who is in the heavens, who is the one God and the one Father. (Against Heresies Bk. 4: Preface – Chap. 1.1)
Prayer is proof of the existence of my reasoning personality, of my God-image; it is the pledge of my future divinity and beatitude. I was created out of nothing; I am nothing before God, having nothing of my own. But I, by His grace, am a personality, possess intelligence, a heart and a free will, and in my intelligence and freedom I am able to by approaching Him in my heart to gradually increase His eternal kingdomwithin me; to, gradually, still further increase His gifts within me; to draw from Him — as out of an everflowing and inexhaustible Source — every spiritual and material good, especially the spiritual. Prayer suggests to me that I am the image of God; that through humble and grateful disposition of my soul before God, with my free will, I, by infinitely multiplying God’s spiritual gifts, am thus able to infinitely perfect myself and to enhance my God-image, my heavenly beatitude — for which I have been predetermined — to infinity. Oh, prayer is the sign of my great dignity, with which my Creator has honored me. At one and the same time, however, prayer reminds me of my own nonentity (I came from nothing and have nothing of my own, for which reason I beseech God for everything), as well as of my greatest dignity (I am God’s image; I am divine; I may be called God’s friend, just as was Abraham, the father of believers — if only I would but believe unquestionably in the existence of my God, in His goodness and almighty power; and become assimilated to Him in this life through deeds of love and mercy).
The Holy Spirit, as Person, remains unmanifested, hidden, concealing Himself in His very appearing…The Holy Spirit is the sovereign unction upon Christ, and upon all the Christians called to reign with Him in the Age to come. It is then that this divine Person, now unknown, not having His image in another member of the Trinity, will manifest Himself in deified persons; for the multitude of the saints will be His image. (The Orthodox Church by Fr. John McGuckin pp. 127-128)
Psa 8:3-4 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395
Man, who among the things that exist is reckoned as nothing, as ashes, as grass, as vanity, is made the familiar of such and so great a Majesty as can neither be seen, nor heard, nor reckoned. Man is received and accounted as son by the God of the universe. Who can discover a way of giving thanks worthily for such a gift? With what voice, with what thought, what movement of the heart, can a man sing the praises of this superlative gift? Man transcends his own nature: from mortal he is made immortal, from brazen, unalloyed, from ephemeral, eternal, and in short, from man, a god. For if he is made worthy of becoming a son of God he will have entirely in himself the dignity of the Father, and will be heir to all the paternal goods. O, the liberality of that wealthy Master! (The Beatitudes 7)
St. Macarius the Great ca. 4th cent.
If, then, anyone loves God, God also shares His love with him. Once a person believes in Him, God bestows on such a one a heavenly faith and so he becomes twofold. As you offer God any part of yourself, He Himself shares with your soul similar aspects of His own being, so that all you do, you may do sincerely and purely, lovong and praying in this same way. For great is the dignity of humanity. See how great are heavens and the earth, the suna and the moon. But the Lord was not pleased to find His rest in them but in humanity alone. Man, therefore, is of greater value than all other creatures, and perhaps, I will not hesitate to say, not only visible creatures, but also those invisible, namely, “the ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:14). For it was not Michael or Gabriel, the archangels, that God said: “Let Us make according to Our image and likeness” (Gen. 1:26), but He said it concerning the spiritual makeup of the human, I mean, the immortal soul. (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 15.22)
It is like this in Christianity for anyone who tastes the grace of God. For it says: “Taste and see how sweet the Lord is” (Ps. 34:8). Such a taste is this power of the Spirit working to effect full certainty in faith which operates in the heart. For as many as are sons of light and in the service of the New Covenant through the Holy Spirit have nothing to learn from men. For they are taught by God. His very grace writes in their hearts the laws of the Spirit. They should not put all their trusting hope solely in the Scriptures written in ink. For divine grace writes on the “tables of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:3) the laws of the Spirit and the heavenly mysteries. For the heart directs and governs all the other organs of the body. (Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 15.20)
Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430
And thus a man who is resting upon faith, hope and love, and who keeps a firm hold upon these, does not need the Scriptures except for the purpose of instructing others. Accordingly, many live without copies of the Scriptures, even in solitude, on the strength of these three graces. So that in their case, I think, the saying is already fulfilled:
Whether there be prophecies they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 1 Cor. 13:8 Yet by means of these instruments (as they may be called), so great an edifice of faith and love has been built up in them, that, holding to what is perfect, they do not seek for what is only in part perfect— of course, I mean, so far as is possible in this life; for, in comparison with the future life, the life of no just and holy man is perfect here. Therefore the apostle says:
Now abides faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity: 1 Cor. 13:13 because, when a man shall have reached the eternal world, while the other two graces will fail, love will remain greater and more assured. (Christian Doctrine Bk. 1.39.43)
St. Sophronius of Jerusalem ca. 560-638
St. Mary of Egypt: I am fed and clothed by the all-powerful Word of God, the Lord of all. For it is not by bread alone that man lives. And those who have stripped off the rags of sin have no refuge, hiding themselves in the clefts of the rocks.
Hearing that she cited words Scripture, from Moses and Job, Zosimas asked her: “And so you have read the psalms and other books?”
St. Mary smiled at this and said to the elder: “Believe me, I have not seen a human face ever since I crossed the Jordan, except yours today. I have not seen a beast or a living being ever since I came into the desert. I never learned from books. I have never even heard anyone who sang and read from them. But the word of God which is alive and active, by itself teaches a man knowledge. (The Life of St. Mary of Egypt)
St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662
So long as we only see the Logos of God as embodied multifariously in symbols in the letter of Holy Scripture, we have not yet achieved spiritual insight into the incorporeal, simple, single and unique Father as He exists in the incorporeal, simple, single and unique Son, according to the saying, ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father… and I am in the Father and the Father in Me’ (John 14:9-10). We need much knowledge so that, having first penetrated the veils of the sayings which cover the Logos, we may with a naked intellect see – in so far as men can – the pure Logos, as He exists in Himself, clearly showing us the Father in Himself. Hence a person who seeks God with true devotion should not be dominated by the literal text, lest he unwittingly receives not God but things appertaining to God; that is, lest he feel a dangerous affection for the words of Scripture instead of for the Logos. For the Logos eludes the intellect which supposes that it has grasped the incorporeal Logos by means of His outer garments, like the Egyptian woman who seized hold of Joseph’s garments instead of Joseph himself (cf. Gen. 39:7-13), or like the ancients who were content merely with the beauty of visible things and mistakenly worshipped the creation instead of the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:25). (Two Hundred Texts on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God: Second Century 73)
St. Isaac of Syria died ca. 700
Until a man has received the Comforter, he requires inscriptions in ink to imprint the memory of good in his heart, to keep his striving for good constantly renewed by continual reading, and to preserve his soul from the subtelties of the ways of sin; for he has not yet acquired the power of the Spirit that drives away delusion which takes soul-profiting recollections captive and makes a man cold through the distraction of the intellect. When the power of the Spirit has penetrated the noetic powers of the active soul, then in place of the laws written in ink, the commandments of the Spirit take root in his heart and a man is secretly taught by the Spirit and needs no help from sensory matter. (The Spiritual World of St. Isaac the Syrian by Hilarion Alfeyev pg. 183)
St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022
Just as the more comprehensive commandments contain within themselves all the more particular commandments, so the more comprehensive virtues contain in themselves the more particular virtues. For he who sells what he has and distributes it to the poor (cf. Matt. 19:21), and who once and for all becomes poor himself, has fulfilled at once all the more particular commandments: he no longer has to give alms to the person who asks him for them, nor does he have to-refrain from rejecting the man who wishes to borrow from him (cf. Matt. 5:42). So, too, someone who prays continuously (cf. 1 Thess. 5:17) has in this act included everything and is no longer obliged to praise the Lord seven times a day (cf. Ps. 119:164), or in the evening, in the morning, and at noonday (cf. Ps. 55:17): he has already done all that we do by way of prayer and psalmody according to the regulations and at specific times and hours. Similarly, he who has acquired consciously within himself the Teacher of spiritual knowledge (cf. Ps. 94:10) has gone through all Scripture, has gained all that is to be gained from reading, and will no longer have need to resort to books. How is this? The person who is in communion with Him who inspired those who wrote the Divine Scriptures, and is initiated by Him into the undivulged secrets of the hidden mysteries, will himself be an inspired book to others – a book containing old and new mysteries and written by the hand of God; for he has accomplished all things and in God, the principle of perfection, he rests from all his labors. (One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts 118)
But while he (St. Symeon’s elder, St. Symeon of Studion) was still alive he said that he had God wholly within himself, and after his death he shouted aloud that which he wrote with his own hand, “Gain God as your friend and you will not need the help of man…”, and again, “Gain God for yourself and you will not need a book.” This he showed by his deeds, as he wrote a book by his own efforts, or rather by the Spirit that dwelled within him (Rom. 8:11), though he had no literary education. (The Discourses Chap. VI, The Example and Spirit of Symeon the Pious)
If, dearly beloved, we comprehend faithfully and wisely the beginning of our creation, we shall find that man was made in God’s image, to the end that he might imitate his Creator, and that our race attains its highest natural dignity, by the form of the Divine goodness being reflected in us, as in a mirror. And assuredly to this form the Saviour’s grace is daily restoring us, so long as that which, in the first Adam fell, is raised up again in the second. And the cause of our restoration is naught else but the mercy of God, Whom we should not have loved, unless He had first loved us, and dispelled the darkness of our ignorance by the light of His truth. And the Lord foretelling this by the holy Isaiah says,
I will bring the blind into a way that they knew not, and will make them walk in paths which they were ignorant of. I will turn darkness into light for them, and the crooked into the straight. These words will I do for them, and not forsake them. And again he says,
I was found by them that sought Me not, and openly appeared to them that asked not for Me. And the Apostle John teaches us how this has been fulfilled, when he says,
We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and may be in Him that is true, even His Son , and again,
let us therefore love God, because He first loved us. Thus it is that God, by loving us, restores us to His image, and, in order that He may find in us the form of His goodness, He gives us that whereby we ourselves too may do the work that He does, kindling that is the lamps of our minds, and inflaming us with the fire of His love, that we may love not only Himself, but also whatever He loves. For if between men that is the lasting friendship which is based upon similarity of character notwithstanding that such identity of wills is often directed to wicked ends, how ought we to yearn and strive to differ in nothing from what is pleasing to God. Of which the prophet speaks,
for wrath is in His indignation, and life in His pleasure , because we shall not otherwise attain the dignity of the Divine Majesty, unless we imitate His will. (Sermon 12.1)
When you hear speak of the deifying energy of God and theurgic grace of the Spirit, do not busy yourself or seek to know why it is this or that and not something else; for without it you cannot be united to God, according to those Fathers who have spoken about it. Attend rather to those works which will allow you to attain to it, for thus you will know it according to your capacities; for, as St. Basil tells us, he alone knows the energies of the Spirit who has learnt of them through experience. As for the man who seeks knowledge before works, if he trusts in those who have had the experience, he obtains a certain image of truth. But if he tries to conceive of it by himself, he finds himself deprived even of the image of truth. He then puffs himself up with pride as if he discovered it, and breathes forth his anger against the men of experience as if they were in error. Do not be overcurious threrefore, but follow the men of experience in your works, or at least in your words, remaining content in the exterior manifestations of grace.
Deification is in fact beyond every name. This is why we, who have written much about hesychia (sometimes at the urging of fathers, sometimes in response to the questions of the brothers) have never dared hitherto to write about deification. But now, since there is a necessity to speak, we will speak words of piety (by the grace of the Lord), but words inadequate to describe it. For even when spoken about, deification remains ineffable, and (as the Fathers teach us) can be given a name only by those who have received it. (The Triads E. The Uncreated Glory 32)
But give me now your best attention, I pray you, for I wish to go back to the fountain of life, and to view the fountain that gushes with healing. The Father of immortality sent the immortal Son and Word into the world, who came to man in order to wash him with water and the Spirit; and He, begetting us again to incorruption of soul and body, breathed into us the breath (spirit) of life, and endued us with an incorruptible panoply. If, therefore, man has become immortal, he will also be god. And if he is made god by water and the Holy Spirit after the regeneration of the laver he is found to be also joint-heir with Christ after the resurrection from the dead. Wherefore I preach to this effect: Come, all you kindreds of the nations, to the immortality of the baptism. I bring good tidings of life to you who tarry in the darkness of ignorance. Come into liberty from slavery, into a kingdom from tyranny, into incorruption from corruption. And how, says one, shall we come? How? By water and the Holy Ghost. This is the water in conjunction with the Spirit, by which paradise is watered, by which the earth is enriched, by which plants grow, by which animals multiply, and (to sum up the whole in a single word) by which man is begotten again and endued with life, in which also Christ was baptized, and in which the Spirit descended in the form of a dove. (Discourse on the Holy Theophany 8)
As the sun, though it is itself always in the heavens, but by its rays, as if by innumerable hands, reaches the earth and its entire surface, and communicates itself to all organic bodies, entering into them (the sun enters into bodies by its rays), warming them, giving them life and growth through its warmth, passing through transparent ones, or reflecting in them by its whole circle (there are as many images of the sun as there are transparent bodies), and warming the opaque, solid, and inorganic bodies–so the spiritual Sun, God, although Himself pre-eminently in the heavens, but by His Life-giving Spirit, as though by His rays, communicates Himself to all reasonable creatures, angels and men, penetrating into their spiritual being, sanctifying them, giving them life, strength, and growth, in the same manner as the rays of the sun penetrate into organic and vegetable bodies, giving them life and growth. As the sun, though it is itself in the heavens, lights the whole earth, communicating life to every creature and thing, however insignificant, so likewise the Lord, by the Light of the Trinity, enlightens all men, for He is the true Light, “which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” St. John i. 9.
My Life In Christ, p. 85m, Jordanville 2000
There are four forms of wisdom: first, moral judgment, or the knowledge of what should and should not be done, combined with watchfulness of the intellect; second, self-restraint, whereby our moral purpose is safeguarded and kept free from all acts, thoughts and words that do not accord with God; third, courage, or strength and endurance in sufferings, trials and temptations encountered on the spiritual path; and fourth, justice, which consists in maintaining a proper balance between the first three. These four general virtues arise from the three powers of the soul in the following manner: from the intelligence, or intellect, comes moral judgment and justice, or discrimination; from the desiring power comes self-restraint; and from the soul’s heart comes courage. Book 1, A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Four Virtues of the Soul
Of the many things which impede our salvation the greatest of all is that when we commit any transgression we do not at once turn back to God and ask forgiveness. Because we feel shame and fear we think that the way back to God is difficult, and that He is angry and ill-tempered towards us, and that there is need of great preparation if we wish to approach Him. But the loving-kindness of God utterly banishes this thought from the soul. What can prevent anyone who clearly knows how kind He is and that, as it is said, “While you are yet speaking, He will say, ‘Here I am'” (Isa. 58:9), from approaching Him at once for the pardon of the sins which he has committed?
This is a scheme and device against us on the part of our common enemy, that he moves him whom he leads into sin with rashness and daring, but inspires men with shame and groundless fear once they have ventured on the most terrible deeds. Thus in the former case he prepares their fall, in the latter he does not permit them to rise anew, but rather both leads them away from God and prevents them from returning to Him. So he leads to the same ruin by opposite paths.
– St. Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ
True repentance demands that a man turn away from sins and from the vanity of this world and turn toward God with all his heart, that he be changed within, and that he become different from what he was before, and so work out his salvation with fear and trembling (cf. Phil. 2:12), and so endeavor to do nothing else but only to please God and so be saved. For if you wish to be in true repentance and so be saved, change yourself and be renewed, and become different from what you were before, and take care for nothing else but only to please God and be saved, and so shall you be a new creature in Christ. For every Christian that wishes to be a true Christian, and not false, ought to be a new or renewed man or a new creature. Do not, then, indulge your flesh, and do not do everything it may desire. It must be crucified with its affections and lusts (Gal. 5:24) when you wish to be a Christian, that is, Christ’s. Much effort and labor is needed, for a man to be changed and to be the good tree that brings forth good fruit. Strive, then, for nothing else but to change, renew, and correct yourself. And pray for this, and sigh often and with all zeal to Christ the Lord, that He Himself might renew you and make you good, for without Him our renewal and correction cannot take place. And when you are renewed inwardly and good, then your outward life and works shall also be good.
– St. Tikhon the Wonderworker of Voronezh and Zadonsk (1724-1783), Journey to Heaven
St. Tikhon the Wonderworker of Voronezh and Zadonsk 1724-1783
This is the ladder by which Christians ascend toward perfection, that is toward love of enemies. What, then, Christian? When you are commanded to love your enemies, and to do good to those that hate you– commanded by Him Who created you and redeemed the lost by His blood and death, and Who holds your death and life in His hand– will you consent and forgive him who offended you? If an earthly king had commanded you not only to forgive your neighbor his offense, but also to serve him, or else be put to death, which had you better choose? To die or to forgive your neighbor? I hope that you would rather wish to forgive and serve your neighbor than to die. The Heavenly King commands you not only to forgive him that offended you, but also to love your enemies, and to do good to those that hate you. Otherwise eternal death will follow those that do not hear the commandment of the Heavenly King. Not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven (Mt. 7:21).
Just as the Lord is solicitous about our salvation, so too the murderer of men, the devil, strives to lead a man into despair.
A lofty and sound soul does not despair over misfortunes, of whatever sort they may be. Our life is as it were a house of temptations and trails; but we will not renounce the Lord for as long as He allows the tempter to remain with us and for as long as we must wait to be revived through patience and secure passionlessness!
Judas the betrayer was fainthearted and unskilled in battle, and so the enemy, seeing his despair, attacked him and persuaded him to hang himself; but Peter, a firm rock, when he fell into great sin, like one skilled in battle did not despair nor lose heart, but shed bitter tears from a burning heart, and the enemy, seeing these tears, his eyes scorched as by fire, fled from him wailing in pain. And so, brothers, St Antioch teaches, when despair attacks us let us not yield to it, but being strengthened and protected by the light of faith, with great courage let us say to the evil spirit: “What are you to us, estranged from God, a fugitive from Heaven and evil servant? You dare do nothing to us. Christ, the Son of God, has authority both over us and over everything. It is against Him that we have sinned, and before Him that we will be justified. And you, destroyer, leave us. Strengthened by His venerable Cross, we trample under foot your serpent’s head.(St. Antioch, Discourse 27).
St. Seraphim of Sarov (Spiritual Instructions no. 14, Little Russian Philokalia Vol. 1
This is the knowledge of the perfect saints: (it is not as some people explain it, but it has its own special power) to put it simply, one must confess that even when one is at the heavenly height of virtue, it is possible– if God abandons him– for him to fall into the abyss of corruption and debauchery! It is not a matter of just saying this with empty words, but one must really feel this way. But one cannot say this with conviction if one does not first pass through the Babylonian furnace of temptations, and if one’s human nature does not slip by God’s permission, so that he realizes his weak constitution. He then sees with whom he has to wrestle, what the wickedness and malice of his adversary (the devil) is, and how difficult it is to rise after a fall! In brief, this is what “know thyself” means.
– Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, (Counsels from the Holy Mountain)
The true goal of our Christian life consists of acquiring God’s Holy Spirit. Fasting and vigil, prayer, mercy, and every other good deed performed for Christ — are means for acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. Only deeds performed for Christ give us the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Some say that the foolish virgins lacking enough oil in their lamps is meant to be understood as a lack of good deeds (see Mt. 25:1-12). Such an understanding is not completely correct. How could there have been a lack of good deeds when they, though foolish, are still called virgins? For virginity is the highest virtue, as a state equal to the angels, and could by itself serve in place of all other virtues. I, the wretched, think that they did not have enough of the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God. These virgins, because of their spiritual injudiciousness, supposed in performing good deeds that it is only necessary to do good works to be a Christian: “We performed a good deed and thus did God’s will.” Whether or not they had received the grace of the Holy Spirit, whether they had attained it, they did not even bother to find out … But, this acquiring of the Holy Spirit is in fact that oil which the foolish virgins lacked. They are called foolish because they forgot about the essential fruit of virtue — the grace of the Holy Spirit — without which there is no salvation for anyone and cannot be. For “through the Holy Spirit every soul is quickened, and through its purification, it is exalted and illumined by the Triune Unity in a Holy mystery.” The Holy Spirit Himself settles in our souls, and this occupation of our souls by Him, the All-Ruling, and this coexistence of our spirit with His One Trinity, is granted only through the diligent acquiring, on our part, of the Holy Spirit, which prepares, in our soul and body, the throne for the coexistence of God the All-Creator with our spirit, by the immutable word of God: “And I will walk among you and will be your God, and ye shall be my people” (Lev. 26:12).
This is the very oil in the lamps of the wise virgins, which burned brightly and steadily; the virgins with these burning lamps could await the Groom coming at midnight, and enter the chamber of joy with him. The foolish ones, seeing their lamps going out, though they went to the market to buy oil, did not manage to return in time, for the doors were already locked. The market is our life; the doors of the bridal chamber — locked and not permitting entrance to the Groom — human death, the virgins wise and foolish, Christian souls; the oil, not deeds, but the grace of the All Holy Spirit of God received through them, transforming from decay to incorruption, from emotional death into spiritual life, from darkness to light, from the manger of our existence, where our passions are tied like beasts and animals, into a church of God, into the all-lighted chamber of eternal joy in Jesus Christ.”
– St. Seraphim of Sarov (emphasis mine)
“Think nothing and do nothing without a purpose directed to God. For to journey without direction is wasted effort.”
“He who chooses maltreatment and dishonor for the sake of truth is walking on the apostolic path; he has taken up the cross and is bound in chains (cf. Mt. 16:24; Acts 28:20). But when he tries to concentrate his attention on the heart without accepting these two, his intellect wanders from the path and he falls into the temptations and snares of the devil.”
The Philokalia Vol. 1
The Psalm of David is this:
The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and all that dwell therein. He has rounded it upon the seas, and prepared it upon the floods. Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He that is clean of hands and pure of heart: who has not received his soul in vain, and has not sworn guilefully to his neighbour: he shall receive blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God his Saviour. This is the generation of them that seek the Lord, that seek the face of the God of Jacob. Lift up your gates, you rulers; and be lifted up, you everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty in battle. Lift up your gates, you rulers; and be lifted up, you everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.
Accordingly, it is shown that Solomon is not the Lord of hosts; but when our Christ rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, the rulers in heaven, under appointment of God, are commanded to open the gates of heaven, that He who is King of glory may enter in, and having ascended, may sit on the right hand of the Father until He make the enemies His footstool, as has been made manifest by another Psalm. For when the rulers of heaven saw Him of uncomely and dishonoured appearance, and inglorious, not recognising Him, they inquired, ‘Who is this King of glory?’ And the Holy Spirit, either from the person of His Father, or from His own person, answers them, ‘The Lord of hosts, He is this King of glory.’ (Dialogue with Trypho 36)
St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202
And the same says David again: Lift up your gates, ye rulers; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting gates, and the King of glory shall come in. For the everlasting gates are the heavens. But because the Word descended invisible to created things, He was not made known in His descent to them. Because the Word was made flesh, He was visible in His ascension; and, when the powers saw Him, the angels below cried out to those who were on the firmament: Lift up your gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting gates, that the King of glory may come in. And when they marvelled and said: Who is this? those who had already seen Him testified a second time: The Lord strong and mighty, he is the King of glory. (Proof of Apostolic Preaching 84)
St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235
He comes to the heavenly gates: angels accompany Him: and the gates of heaven were closed. For He has not yet ascended into heaven. Now first does He appear to the powers of heaven as flesh ascending. Therefore to these powers it is said by the angels, who are the couriers of the Saviour and Lord: <!–
–>Lift up your gates, you princes; and be lifted up, you everlasting doors: and the King of glory shall come in. (On Psalm 23)
Eusebius of Caesarea ca. 263-339
The Virtues of Heaven, seeing Him begin to rise, surrounded Him to form His escort, proclaiming His Ascension as they cried, “Rise up, gates everlasting and the King of Glory will enter.” These things were accomplished in what the book of Acts record for us: ‘And when He had said these things He was lifted up before their eyes.’” (Comm. In Ps. 17)
It was fitting that the angels who had served Him during His life on earth should precede the Son of God in His Ascension into Heaven, fling wide the gates of Heaven and breaking forth into the angelic words that the psalmist calls jubilation and sound of triumph: ‘God is ascended with jubilee, and the Lord with the sound of trumpet.’” (Comm. In Ps. 23)
St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373
The angels of the Lord who followed Him upon earth, seeing Him arise, announced His coming to the Virtues of Heaven, so that they might open their gates. The Powers were filled with amazement at seeing Him in the flesh. That is why they cried, ‘Who is this?’ – astounded by this mysterious order of salvation. And the angels rising with Christ answered them, ‘The Lord of Powers, He is the King of Glory who teaches the great mystery to those who are in heaven: that the King of Glory has won victory of the spiritual enemy.’ (Exp. In Ps. 23)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386
The Mount of Olives bears witness, that holy mount from which He ascended to the Father: the rain-bearing clouds are His witnesses, having received their Lord: yea, and the gates of heaven bear witness [having received their Lord ], concerning which the Psalmist said, Lift up your doors, O you Princes, and be lifted up you everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. (Catechetical Lectures 10.19)
St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389
And if He ascend up into Heaven, Lk. 24:51 ascend with Him. Be one of those angels who escort Him, or one of those who receive Him. Bid the gates be lifted up, or be made higher, that they may receive Him, exalted after His Passion. Answer to those who are in doubt because He bears up with Him His body and the tokens of His Passion, which He had not when He came down, and who therefore inquire,
Who is this King of Glory? that it is the Lord strong and mighty, as in all things that He has done from time to time and does, so now in His battle and triumph for the sake of Mankind. And give to the doubting of the question the twofold answer. And if they marvel and say as in Isaiah’s drama Who is this that comes from Edom and from the things of earth? Or How are the garments red of Him that is without blood or body, as of one that treads in the full wine-press? Isa. 63:1 set forth the beauty of the array of the Body that suffered, adorned by the Passion, and made splendid by the Godhead, than which nothing can be more lovely or more beautiful. (Oration 45.25)
St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 339-397
The angels, too, were in doubt when Christ arose; the powers of heaven were in doubt when they saw that flesh was ascending into heaven. Then they said:
Who is this King of glory? And while some said
Lift up your gates, O princes, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in. In Isaiah, too, we find that the powers of heaven doubted and said:
Who is this that comes up from Edom, the redness of His garments is from Bosor, He who is glorious in white apparel? Isa. 63:1 (On the Mysteries 7.36)
Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430
Take away your gates, you princes Psalm 23:7. All you, that seek rule among men, remove, that they hinder not, the entrances which you have made, of desire and fear.
And be lifted up, you everlasting gates. And be lifted up, you entrances of eternal life, of renunciation of the world, and conversion to God.
And the King of glory shall come in. And the King, in whom we may glory without pride, shall come in: who having overcome the gates of death, and having opened for Himself the heavenly places, fulfilled that which He said,
Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world. Jn. 16:33
Who is this King of glory? Mortal nature is awe-struck in wonder, and asks,
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty. He whom you deemed weak and overwhelmed.
The Lord mighty in battle Ps. 23:8. Handle the scars, and you will find them made whole, and human weakness restored to immortality. The glorifying of the Lord, which was owing to earth, where It warred with death, has been paid.
Take away your gates, you princes. Let us go hence straightway into heaven. Again, let the Prophet’s trumpet cry aloud,
Take away too, you princes of the air, the gates, which you have in the minds of men who ‘worship the host of heaven.’ 2 Kgs. 17:16
And be lifted up, you everlasting gates. And be lifted up, you doors of everlasting righteousness, of love, and chastity, through which the soul loves the One True God, and goes not a-whoring with the many that are called gods.
And the King of glory shall come in Ps. 23:9.
And the King of glory shall come in, that He may at the right hand of the Father intercede for us.
Who is this King of glory? What! Do you too, prince of the power of this air, Eph. 2:2 marvel and ask,
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of powers, He is the King of glory Ps. 23:10. Yea, His Body now quickened, He who was tempted marches above you; He who was tempted by the angel, the deceiver, goes above all angels. Let none of you put himself before us and stop our way, that he may be worshipped as a god by us: neither principality, nor angel, nor power, separates us from the love of Christ. Rom. 8:39 It is good to trust in the Lord, rather than to trust in a prince; that he who glories, should glory in the Lord. 1 Cor. 1:31 These indeed are powers in the administration of this world, but
the Lord of powers, He is the King of glory.
(Exposition on Psalm 24)
St. Cyril of Alexandriaca. 376-444
[T]he Psalmist, though he speaks mysteries by the Spirit, says, Clap your hands, all ye people: then he explained the occasion of the festival, and introduced the Ascension of the Saviour into heaven, saying, God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trump: meaning by the shout and the trump the piercing and clear voice of the Spirit, when He bade the powers above open the gates, and named Him Lord of Hosts, as we said just now. On the same occasion moreover, we shall find the choir of the Saints rejoicing with great joy of heart. Then too he said in one place, The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice; and in another, The Lord reigneth: the Lord hath put on glorious apparel, the Lord hath put on and girded Himself with might. For He that was with us as a man before His resurrection from the dead, when He ascended to His Father in the heavens, then put on His own glorious apparel, and girded Himself with the might that was His from the beginning, for He sat and reigneth with the Father. (Commentary on the Gospel of John Bk. 10, Chap. 1)
“Self-indulgence takes many forms. A man may be self-indulgent in speech, in touch, in sight. From self-indulgence a man comes to idle speech and worldly talk, to buffoonery and cracking indecent jokes. There is self-indulgence in touching without necessity, making mocking signs with the hands, pushing for a place, snatching up something for oneself, approaching someone else shamelessly. All these things come from not having the fear of God in the soul and from these a man comes little by little to perfect contempt.” Discourses and Sayings; Cistercian Publications pg.114
Afflications, illnesses, ill health and the pains that our bodies experience…are counted for the remission of our trespasses…[They are the] furnace in which we are purified.”
Homily on the Paralytic 2.
Saint Cyprian (200-258)
What makes us different from those who do not know God is that they grumble and complain about their misfortunes, whereas for us tribulation, far from turning us from true courage and authentic faith, fortifies us through suffering. Thus whether we are exhausted from the tearing of our innards, or a violent interior burning consumes us from the stomach to the throat, or our strength is constantly sapped because of vomiting, or our eyses are shot through with blood, or we are eaten by gangrene and forced to amputate a member of our body, or some infirmity suddenly deprives us of the use of our legs, our sight or our hearing: all of these afflictions are just so many opportunities to deepen our faith.
On Death 13-14
Saint Diadochus of Photike (400-486?)
AS long as the athlete in the realm of piety is at the mid-stage of spiritual experience, it is the infirmities of the body that lead him to develop humility.
One Hundred Chapters 95; cf. St. Nicetas Stehatos, Centuries I.87
Saint Nicetas Stethatos (1000-1090)
Illnesses are useful to those who are taking their first steps in the virtuous life. They help them exhaust and humble the burning desires of the flesh. For they weaken the vigor of the flesh and lessen the earthly temptations of the soul.
“When God recedes in order to educate us, this brings great sadness, humility and even some measure of despair to the soul. The purpose of this is to humble the soul’s tendency to vanity and self-glory, for the heart at once is filled with fear of God, tears of thankfulness, and great longing for the beauty of silence. But the receding due to God’s complete withdrawl fills the soul with despair, unbelief, anger and pride. We who have experienced both kinds of receding should approach God in each case in the appropriate way. In the first case we should offer Him thanks as we plead in our own defence, understanding that He is disciplining our unruly character by concealing His presence, so as to teach us, like a good father, the difference between virtue and vice. In the second case, we should offer Him ceaseless confession of our sins and incessant tears, and practise a greater seclusion from the world, so that by adding to our labours we may eventually induce Him to reveal His presence in our hearts as before. Yet we must realize that when there is a direct struggle between Satan and the soul- and I am speaking here of the struggle that takes place when God recedes in order to educate us- then grace conceals itself a little, as I have said, but nevertheless supports the soul in a hidden way, so that in the eyes of its enemies the victory appears to be due to the soul alone.” On Spiritual Knowledge and Discernment (AD 451)
We cannot know God in His nature, since this is unknowable and beyond the reach of mind or of reason. But we know Him from the arrangement of everything, because everything is, in a sense, projected out from Him, and this order possesses certain images and semblances of His divine paradigms. We therefore approach that which is beyond all as far as our capacities allow us and we pass by way of the denial and the transcendence of all things and by way of the cause of all things. God is therefore known in all things and as distinct from all things. He is known through knowledge and through unknowing. Of Him there is conception, reason, understanding, touch, perception, opinion, imagination, name, and many other things. On the other hand He cannot be understood, words cannot contain Him, and no name can lay hold of Him. He is not one of the things that are and He is no thing among things. He is known to all from all things and He is known to no one from anything… the most divine knowledge of God, that which comes through unknowing, is achieved in a union far beyond mind, when mind turns away from all things, even from itself, and when it is made one with the dazzling rays, being then and there enlightened by the inscrutable depth of Wisdom.
St. Dionysius (The Divine Names, Chapter Seven sect. 3, Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works; Paulist Press pgs. 108-109).
“No one doubts that unclean spirits can influence the character of our thoughts, but this is by affecting them from without by sensible influences, that is, either from our dispositions or from our words and from those pursuits to which they see we are inclined with a greater propensity. But they cannot approach at all to that which has not yet come forth from the inner recesses of our soul.” ~ CONFERENCES [inter A. D. 420-428]
As Saint James says in James 1:13-15, we cannot blame God for our temptations/circumstances. We are tempted by our own thoughts! Some how, some way, what we conjure up inside our hearts leads us to sinful circumstances. But this does not mean that any time there is sinful circumstance in our midst, it is due to our hearts. Some sinful circumstances will not even penetrate our hearts. For instance, if there is a greedy situation at hand, before your eyes, and you have no desire to partake, then your heart has not lead you there, you are simply passing through someone else’s problem and you may be called as a witness to them! But if there is an immediate pull on your passions when the sinful circumstance arrives, you can be sure that your heart lead you there…not necessarily to that particular geography, but possibly! But more likely and certainly, your heart caused you to notice that sinful circumstance in a way that either causes you to judge/condemn the person or join with them in their sinful and provocative state.
“When you are sick, you feel weak and feeble, and your face is pale; you are incapable of performing your normal tasks, and people remark how ill you appear. So you go to the doctor. What do you want from him? You say you want some medicine to cure your sickness. But if the cause of your sickness was cured, and you remained feeble and pale, would you be satisfied? Of course not. The truth is, a person goes to the doctor for relief of the symptoms of disease, not disease itself. The doctor, on the other hand, knows that the symptoms cannot be relieved unless their cause is overcome. Similarly, when we declare ourselves to be disciples of Christ, we claim that we want him to cure our spiritual and moral disease. Yet in truth we want him to relieve the symptoms, such as misery, discontent, despair, and so on. Jesus, by contrast, knows that he cannot relieve these symptoms unless he overcomes their deep, inner cause. And this is where the problems arise. While we would like to be rid of the symptoms, we stubbornly resist the efforts of Jesus to penetrate our souls. We do not want our deep-set feelings and attitudes to be changed. But only when we truly open our souls to the transforming grace of God will the symptoms of spiritual disease begin to disappear.”
~ On Living Simply
The same Athanasios also told us this concerning the same Bishop Adelphios, which he heard from Amma Joanna, his sister:
When John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, was exiled to Coucouson, he stayed at our house; from which we drew much boldness and love towards God. My brother, Adelphios, said that when the blessed John died in exile, it was an unbearable pain to him that such a man, the universal teacher of christendom who made glad the church of God with his words, should have fallen asleep away from his [episcopal] seat. I prayed to God with many tears to show me his present state of existence and whether he was ranged among the patriarchs. I prayed like that for a long time and then, one day, I fell into a trance and saw a very fine-looking man. Taking me by the right hand, he led me into a bright and glorious place where he showed me the proclaimers of piety and the doctors of the church. For my part, I looked around for him whom I so greatly desired to see, the great John, my beloved. He showed me them all and spoke the name of each one of them; then he took my hand again, and led me out. I followed, lamenting that I had not seen the saintly John among the fathers. As we were coming out, he who stood at the door said to me: ‘Nobody who comes here goes forth sorrowing.’ Then I said to him: ‘This grief is upon me because I have not seen my most dear John, Bishop of Constantinople, among the doctors.’ Again he spoke to me: ‘Do you mean John [the prince] of repentance? A man in the flesh cannot see him, for he stands in the presence of the Lord’s throne.’ (The Spiritual Meadow, 128.)
St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373
Far more glorious than the body is the soul, and more glorious still than the soul is the spirit, but more hidden than the spirit is the Godhead. At the end the body will put on the beauty of the soul, the soul will put on that of the spirit, while the spirit shall put on the very likeness of God’s majesty.
For bodies shall be raised to the level of souls, and the soul to that of the spirit, while the spirit will be raised to the height of God’s majesty; clinging to both awe and love, it neither circles too high, nor holds back too much, it discerns when to hold back, so that its flight is beneficial. (The Hymns on Paradise, Hymn IX 20-21)
One first and basic mistake that one can make when studying theology, or the Bible in general, is to assume that the Fall of man in the Garden has left us without any inclination at all to live for God, and that we are born with a completely depraved heart. There are many problems with this type of language, the first being that it does not give glory to God and His creative order. We know that after the Fall man lost a very special communion with God, but Chapter Four of Genesis shows that after the Fall, Adam’s children, Cain and Abel, gave offerings to the Lord! As we proclaim in the Creeds and Councils, Christ is begotten and not made. He has been there from the beginning of creation and has not left us because we were somehow unworthy of Him. As the 13th century icon of Christ with Adam and Eve shows, He has always loved us!
We are created in the very image of God and it is important to note that our natural way of living is to live within the oneness of Christ. The Fall does not make our natural state depraved to where we have no desire for God. We are not destined to sin and the sin that we do acquire is literally able to be diminished through Christ.
It is a modern notion to understand that sin is only forgiven in a legal manner (so-called “justification”) and that we must simply prevent it from manifesting outwardly. It is the heart that God changes through our sanctification, which means that our souls actually become freed from these sinful properties. Sin is acquired by our senses, which is why we embrace the ascetic life of fasting, meditation, prayer, and service. Our “passions” are brought on by our own foolishness, so let us plead to God for Wisdom!
“Passion was not planted by God in nature, for he is not the Creator of passions…God is not the cause of evil. Those who teach that passions are natural to the soul are wrong, not realizing that it is we who have turned natural things into passions. For example, by nature we have within us the seed necessary for child-bearing – but we have perverted this into fornication. Nature gave us the feeling of anger, which we are supposed to use against the Evil One – instead we use it against our neighbor…We have been given a longing for pleasure – but we use it for dissipation.” (St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent).
Wherefore it is necessary to understand the marvel of the Mysteries, what it is, why it was given, and what is the profit of the action. We become one Body, and
members of His flesh and of His bones. Ephesians 5:30 Let the initiated follow what I say. In order then that we may become this not by love only, but in very deed, let us be blended into that flesh. This is effected by the food which He has freely given us, desiring to show the love which He has for us. On this account He has mixed up Himself with us; He has kneaded up His body with ours, that we might be a certain One Thing, like a body joined to a head. For this belongs to them who love strongly; this, for instance, Job implied, speaking of his servants, by whom he was beloved so exceedingly, that they desired to cleave unto his flesh. For they said, to show the strong love which they felt,
Who would give us to be satisfied with his flesh? Job 31:31 Wherefore this also Christ has done, to lead us to a closer friendship, and to show His love for us; He has given to those who desire Him not only to see Him, but even to touch, and eat Him, and fix their teeth in His flesh, and to embrace Him, and satisfy all their love. Let us then return from that table like lions breathing fire, having become terrible to the devil; thinking on our Head, and on the love which He has shown for us. (Homily 46 On the Gospel of John, 3)
Beloved, see how we are honored! Yet some are so unreasonable and so ungrateful as to say,
Why are we endowed with free will? But how in all the particulars which we have mentioned could we have imitated God, if there had been no free will? I rule Angels, He says, and so do you, through Him who is the First-fruits. 1 Cor. 15:23 I sit on a royal throne, and you are seated with Me in Him who is the First-fruits. As it is said,
He has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Eph. 2:6 Through Him who is the First-fruits, Cherubim and Seraphim adore you, with all the heavenly host, principalities and powers, thrones and dominions. Disparage not your body, to which such high honors appertain, that the unbodied Powers tremble at it.
But what shall I say? It is not in this way only that I have shown My love to you, but by what I have suffered. For you I was spit upon, I was scourged. I emptied myself of glory, I left My Father and came to you, who dost hate Me, and turn from Me, and art loath to hear My Name. I pursued you, I ran after you, that I might overtake you. I united and joined you to myself,
eat Me, drink Me, I said. Above I hold you, and below I embrace you. Is it not enough for you that I have your First-fruits above? Does not this satisfy your affection? I descended below: I not only am mingled with you, I am entwined in you. I am masticated, broken into minute particles, that the interspersion, and commixture, and union may be more complete. Things united remain yet in their own limits, but I am interwoven with you. I would have no more any division between us. I will that we both be one. (Homily 15 On 1st Timothy)
Moses: “When I went up into the mountain to receive the tablets of stone…I was in the mountain forty days and forty nights, I ate no bread and drank no water.” Deuteronomy 9:9
Prophet Jonah: “It was by fasting and other things that the people of Nineveh were saved from his prediction of peril.” Jonah 3:7
Prophet Joel: “Now, says the Lord your God, turn to Me, with all your heart, with fasting and with wailing, and with mourning.” Joel 2:12
Prophet Daniel: “And I set my face toward the Lord god, to seek him diligently by prayer and supplication, with fastings and sackcloth. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and confessed…” Daniel 9:34
Christ the Lord was Himself anointed, not by receiving chrism poured on the head, but by receivng the Holy Spirit. For the sake of the flesh which He had assumed He became the treasury of all spiritual energy. He is not only Christ [the Anointed One] but also Chrism [anointing], for it says, “Your name is ointment poured forth” (Cant. 1:3) The latter He is from the beginning, the other He became afterwards. As long as that by which God would impart His own did not exist, He was the Chrism and remained in Himself. Afterwards the blessed flesh was created which received the entire fulness of the Godhead (Col. 1:19). To it, as John says, “God did not give the Spirit by measure” (Jn. 3:34), but He infused into Him His entire living riches. It was then that the Chrism was poured forth into that flesh, so it is now called the Christ. By being imparted to the flesh the divine Chrism Himself was poured forth.
He did not change place, nor did He penetrate or pass over a wall, but as He Himself showed, He left no barrier standing which could seperate us from Him. Since God occupies every place He was not seperated from man by place, but by man’s variance with Him. Our nature seperated itself from God by being contrary to Him in everything that it possessed and by having nothing in common with Him. God remained Himself alone; our nature was man, and no more.
When, however, flesh was deified and human nature gained possession of God Himself by hypostatic union, the former barrier opposed to God became joined to the Chrism. The difference gave way when God became man, thus removing the seperation between Godhead and manhood. So chrism represents Christ as the point of contact between both natures; there could be no point of contact were they still seperate. (The Life in Christ, The Third Book 2)
Let them then, who of their folly have not yet admitted the faith in Christ, hear, Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you. For wholly destitute of all share and taste of that life which is in sanctification and bliss, do they abide who do not through the mystical Blessing receive Jesus. For He is Life by Nature, inasmuch as He was begotten of a Living Father: no less quickening is His Holy Body also, being in a manner gathered and ineffably united with the all-quickening Word. Wherefore It is accounted His, and is conceived of as One with Him. For, since the Incarnation, it is inseparable; except as regards the knowledge that the Word Which came from God the Father, and the temple from the Virgin, are not indeed the same in nature (for the Body is not consubstantial with the Word from God), yet are they One by that coming-together and ineffable concurrence. And since the Flesh of the Saviour hath become life-giving (as being united to That which is by Nature Life, the Word from God), when we taste It, then have we life in ourselves, we too united to It, as It to the indwelling Word. For this cause also, when He raised the dead, the Saviour is found to have operated, not by word only, or God-befitting commands, but He laid a stress on employing His Holy Flesh as a sort of co-operator unto this, that He might shew that It had the power to give life, and was already made one with Him. For it was in truth His Own Body, and not another’s. And verily when He was raising the little daughter of the chief of the Synagogue saying, Maid, arise, He laid hold of her hand, as it is written, giving life, as God, by His All-Powerful command, and again, giving life through the touch of His Holy Flesh, He shews that there was one kindred operation through both. Yea and when He went into the city called Nain, and one was being carried out dead, the only son of his mother, again He touched the bier, saying, Young man, to thee I say, Arise. And not only to His Word gives He power to give life to the dead, but that He might shew that His Own Body was life-giving (as I have said already), He touches the dead, thereby also infusing life into those already decayed. And if by the touch alone of His Holy Flesh, He giveth life to that which is decayed, how shall we not profit yet more richly by the life-giving Blessing when we also taste It? For It will surely transform into Its own good, i. e., immortality, those who partake of It. (Commentary on John Bk. 4 Chap. II)
For we are made one with each other after the manner already indicated, and we are also made one with God. And in what sense we are made one with Him, the Lord very clearly explained, and to make the benefit of His teaching plain, added the words: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfected into one. For the Son dwells in us in a corporeal sense as Man, commingled and united with us by the mystery of the Eucharist; and also in a spiritual sense as God, by the effectual working and grace of His own Spirit, building up our spirit into newness of life, and making us partakers of His Divine Nature. Christ, then, is seen to be the bond of union between us and God the Father; as Man making us, as it were, His branches, and as God by Nature inherent in His own Father. For no otherwise could that nature which is subject to corruption be uplifted into incorruption, but by the coming down to it of That Nature Which is high above all corruption and variableness, lightening the burthen of ever sinking humanity, so that it can attain its own good; and by drawing it into fellowship and intercourse with Itself, well-nigh extricating it from the limitations which suit the creature, and fashioning into conformity with Itself that which is of itself contrary to It. We have, therefore, been made perfect in unity with God the Father, through the mediation of Christ. For by receiving in ourselves, both in a corporeal and spiritual sense, as I said just now, Him that is the Son by Nature, and Who has essential union with the Father, we have been glorified and become partakers in the Nature of the Most High. (ibid., Bk. 10 Chap. XII)
So, when the saints contemplate this divine light within themselves, seeing it by the divinising communion of the Holy Spirit, through the mysterious visitation of perfecting illuminations – then they behold the garment of their deification, their mind being glorified and filled by the grace of the Word, beautiful beyond measure in His splendour; just a the divinity of the Word on the mountain glorified with divine light the body conjoined to it. For “the glory which the Father gave Him”, He Himself has given to those obedient to Him, a the Gospel says, and “He willed that they should be with Him and contemplate His glory”. (Jn. 17:22,24)
How can this be accomplished corporeally, now that He Himself is no longer corporeally present after His ascension to the heavens? It is necessarily carried out in a spiritual fashion, for the mind becomes supercelestial, and as it were the companion of Him who passed beyond the heavens for our sake, since it is manifestly yet mysteriously united to God, and contemplates supernatural and ineffable visions, being filled with all the immaterial knowledge of a higher light. Then it is no longer the sacred symbols accessible to the senses that it contemplates, nor yet the variety of Sacred Scripture that it knows; it is made beautiful by the creative and primordial Beauty, and illumined by the radiance of God. (The Triads, B.5)
This is the foundation of the road to God, in much patience, in hope, in humility, in poverty of spirit, in gentleness to travel along the road of life. By such means one can possess justification for himself. We mean by justification the Lord Himself. These commandments, which so enjoin us, are like milestones and signposts along the royal highway that leads a journeyer to the heavenly city. For it says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are the meek; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the peacemaker” (Mt. 5:3). Call this Christianity. If anyone does not pass along this road, he has wandered off along a roadless way. He used a bad foundation. Glory to the mercies of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit forever. Amen. (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 27.23)
St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359
So the Fathers tell us that the divine grace of the suprasensible light is God. But God in His nature does not simply identify Himself with this grace, because He is able not only to illumine and deify the mind, but also to bring forth from nonbeing every intellectual essence. (The Triads, B.23)
Let us cleave, then, to those to whom grace has been given by God. Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words. (Epistle to the Corinthians, XXX)
All, therefore, were glorified and magnified, not through themselves or their own works or the righteous actions which they did, but through his will. And so we, having been called through his will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves or through our own wisdom or understanding or piety or works which we have done in holiness of heart, but through faith, by which the almighty God has justified all who have existed from the beginning; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. (ibid., XXXII)
The good worker receives the bread of his labor confidently, but the lazy and careless dares not look his employer in the face. It is, therefore, necessary that we should be zealous to do good, for all
things come from him. For he forewarns us: “Behold, the Lord comes, and his reward is with him, to pay each one according to his work.” He exhorts us, therefore, who believe in him with our whole heart, not to be idle or careless about any good work. (ibid., XXXIV)
Let us reckon that it is better to hate the things present, since they are trifling, and transient, and corruptible; and to love those [which are to come,] as being good and incorruptible. For if we do the will of Christ, we shall find rest; otherwise, nothing shall deliver us from eternal punishment, if we disobey His commandments. For thus also says the Scripture in Ezekiel, If Noah, Job, and Daniel should rise up, they should not deliver their children in captivity. Now, if men so eminently righteous are not able by their righteousness to deliver their children, how can we hope to enter into the royal residence of God unless we keep our baptism holy and undefiled? Or who shall be our advocate, unless we be found possessed of works of holiness and righteousness? (2nd Clement, Chap. 6)
Hermas ca. 95
They only who fear the Lord and keep His commandments have life with God; but as to those who keep not His commandments, there is no life in them. (The Shepherd of Hermas, 2 Comm 7)
St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 50-117
None of these things escapes your notice, if you hold fast perfectly your faith and love in Jesus Christ, for these are the beginning and the end of life. The beginning is faith, the end is love. And the two blending in unity are God, and all else follows on these, ending in perfect goodness. No man who professes faith lives in sin, nor if he possesses love, does he live in hatred. The tree is manifest by its fruit. In like manner they who profess to be Christ’s, shall be apparent by their deeds. For at this time the work is no mere matter of profession, but is seen only when a man is found living in the power of faith unto the end. (Letter to the Ephesians, 14:2; Lightfoot/Harmer/Holmes, 91)
Pay attention to the bishop, in order that God may pay attention to you. I am a ransom on behalf of those who are obedient to the bishop, presbyters, and deacons; may it be granted to me to have a place among them in the presence of God! Train together with one another: struggle together, run together, suffer together, rest together, get up together, as God’s managers, assistants, and servants. Please him whom you serve as soldiers, from whom you receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism serve as your shield, faith as a helmet, love as a spear, endurance as armor. Let your deeds be your deposits, in order that you may eventually receive the savings that are due you. (Letter to Polycarp, 6: 1-2; Lightfoot/Harmer/Holmes, 117)
St. Polycarp of Smyrna ca. 69-155
I rejoice also that your firmly rooted faith, which was famous in past years, still flourishes and bears fruit unto our Lord Jesus Christ, who endured for our sins, even to the suffering of death, “whom God raised up, having loosed the pangs of Hades, in whom, though you did not see him, you believed in unspeakable and glorified joy,” — into which joy many desire to come, knowing that “by grace ye are saved, not by works” but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.
…Now “he who raised him” from the dead “will also raise us up” if we do his will, and walk in his commandments and love the things which he loved, refraining from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness, “rendering not evil for evil, or railing for railing,” or blow for blow, or curse for curse, but remembering what the Lord taught when he said, “Judge not that ye be not judged, forgive and it shall be forgiven unto you, be merciful that ye may obtain mercy, with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again,” and, “Blessed are the poor, and they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of God
…Stand fast therefore in these things and follow the example of the Lord, “firm and unchangeable in faith, loving the brotherhood, affectionate to one another,” joined together in the truth, forestalling one another in the gentleness of the Lord, despising no man. When you can do good defer it not, “for almsgiving sets free from death; be ye all subject one to the other, having your conversation blameless among the Gentiles,” that you may receive praise “for your good works” and that the Lord be not blasphemed in you. “But woe to him through whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed.” Therefore teach sobriety to all and show it forth in your own lives. (Epistle to the Philippians)
St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165
And let those who are not found living as He taught, be understood to be no Christians, even though they profess with the lip the precepts of Christ; for not those who make profession, but those who do the works, shall be saved, according to His word: “Not every one who saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. For whosoever heareth Me, and doeth My sayings, heareth Him that sent Me. And many will say unto Me, Lord, Lord, have we not eaten and drunk in Thy name, and done wonders? And then will I say unto them, Depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity. Then shall there be wailing and gnashing of teeth, when the righteous shall shine as the sun, and the wicked are sent into everlasting fire. For many shall come in My name, clothed outwardly in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly being ravening wolves. By their works ye shall know them. And every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire.
(First Apology, Chapter XVI)
…all who wish for it can obtain mercy from God: and the Scripture foretells that they shall be blessed, saying, ‘Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes not sin;’ that is, having repented of his sins, that he may receive remission of them from God; and not as you deceive yourselves, and some others who resemble you in this, who say, that even though they be sinners, but know God, the Lord will not impute sin to them. We have as proof of this the one fall of David, which happened through his boasting, which was forgiven then when he so mourned and wept, as it is written. But if even to such a man no remission was granted before repentance, and only when this great king, and anointed one, and prophet, mourned and conducted himself so, how can the impure and utterly abandoned, if they weep not, and mourn not, and repent not, entertain the hope that the Lord will not impute to them sin? (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, 141)
Theophilus of Antioch ca. 2nd cent.
But do you also, if you please, give reverential attention to the prophetic Scriptures, and they will make your way plainer for escaping the eternal punishments, and obtaining the eternal prizes of God. For He who gave the mouth for speech, and formed the ear to hear, and made the eye to see, will examine all things, and will judge righteous judgment, rendering merited awards to each. To those who by patient continuance in well-doing [Romans 2:7] seek immortality, He will give life everlasting, joy, peace, rest, and abundance of good things, which neither has eye seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to conceive. [1 Corinthians 2:9] But to the unbelieving and despisers, who obey not the truth, but are obedient to unrighteousness, when they shall have been filled with adulteries and fornications, and filthiness, and covetousness, and unlawful idolatries, there shall be anger and wrath, tribulation and anguish, [Romans 2:8-9] and at the last everlasting fire shall possess such men. Since you said, “Show me your God,” this is my God, and I counsel you to fear Him and to trust Him. (
To Autolycus, 14)
Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215
And other sheep there are also, says the Lord, which are not of this fold Jn. 10:16 — deemed worthy of another fold and mansion, in proportion to their faith. But My sheep hear My voice, Jn. 10:27 understanding gnostically the commandments. And this is to be taken in a magnanimous and worthy acceptation, along with also the recompense and accompaniment of works. So that when we hear, Your faith has saved you, we do not understand Him to say absolutely that those who have believed in any way whatever shall be saved, unless also works follow. But it was to the Jews alone that He spoke this utterance, who kept the law and lived blamelessly, who wanted only faith in the Lord. No one, then, can be a believer and at the same time be licentious; but though he quit the flesh, he must put off the passions, so as to be capable of reaching his own mansion. (Stromata, Bk. VI, 14)
St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-236
And in like manner, the Gentiles by faith in Christ prepare for themselves eternal life through good works. (Commentary on Proverbs; ANF, Vol. V, 174)
Origen of Alexandria ca. 185-254
Whoever dies in his sins, even if he profess to believe in Christ, does not truly believe in Him, and even if that which exists without works be called faith, such faith is dead in itself, as we read in the Epistle bearing the name of James. (Commentary on John,19:6)
Cyprian of Carthage +258
From which an example is given us to avoid the way of the old man, to stand in the footsteps of a conquering Christ, that we may not again be incautiously turned back into the nets of death, but, foreseeing our danger, may possess the immortality that we have received. But how can we possess immortality, unless we keep those commands of Christ whereby death is driven out and overcome, when He Himself warns us, and says, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments?” And again: “If ye do the things that I command you, henceforth I call you not servants, but friends.” Finally, these persons He calls strong and stedfast; these He declares to be founded in robust security upon the rock, established with immoveable and unshaken firmness, in opposition to all the tempests and hurricanes of the world. “Whosoever,” says He, “heareth my words, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, that built his house upon a rock: the rain descended, the floods came, the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” We ought therefore to stand fast on His words, to learn and do whatever He both taught and did. But how can a man say that he believes in Christ, who does not do what Christ commanded him to do? Or whence shall he attain to the reward of faith, who will not keep the faith of the commandment? He must of necessity waver and wander, and, caught away by a spirit of error, like dust which is shaken by the wind, be blown about; and he will make no advance in his walk towards salvation, because he does not keep the truth of the way of salvation. (On the Unity of the Church, 2)
St. Aphraates the Persian ca. 270-345
For great is the gift which He that is good has given to us. While not forcing us, and in spite of our sins, He want us to be justified; and while He is in no way aided by our good works, He heals us that we may be pleasing in His sight. When we do not wish to ask of Him, He is angry with us. He calls out to us constantly: “Ask and receive; and when you seek, you shall find.” (Treatises 23,48)
St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373
For it is not productive of virtue, nor is it any token of goodness. For none of us is judged for what he knows not, and no one is called blessed because he hath learning and knowledge. But each one will be called to judgment in these points–whether he have kept the faith and truly observed the commandments. (Life of Antony, 33)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386
For the name of Faith is in the form of speech one, but has two distinct senses. For there is one kind of faith, the dogmatic, involving an assent of the soul on some particular point: and it is profitable to the soul, as the Lord says: He that hears My words, and believes Him that sent Me, has everlasting life, and comes not into judgment Jn. 5:24: and again, He that believes in the Son is not judged, but has passed from death unto life. Oh the great loving-kindness of God! For the righteous were many years in pleasing Him: but what they succeeded in gaining by many years of well-pleasing , this Jesus now bestows on you in a single hour. For if you shall believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved, and shall be transported into Paradise by Him who brought in there the robber. And doubt not whether it is possible; for He who on this sacred Golgotha saved the robber after one single hour of belief, the same shall save you also on your believing.
But there is a second kind of faith, which is bestowed by Christ as a gift of grace. For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit: to another faith, by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing. 1 Cor. 12:8-9 This faith then which is given of grace from the Spirit is not merely doctrinal, but also works things above man’s power. For whosoever has this faith, shall say to this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove. Mk. 11:23 For whenever any one shall say this in faith, believing that it comes to pass, and shall not doubt in his heart, then receives he the grace. (Catechetical Lectures, 5.10-11)
St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-390
Then, in the tenth place, work that which is good upon this foundation of dogma; for faith without works is dead, even as are works apart from faith. This is all that may be divulged of the Sacrament, and that is not forbidden to the ear of the many. The rest yon shall learn within the Church by the grace of the Holy Trinity; and those matters you shall conceal within yourself, sealed and secure. (Oration on Holy Baptism,45)
St. Gregory Nyssa ca. 335-394
Paul, joining righteousness to faith and weaving them together, constructs of them the breastplates for the infantryman, armoring the soldier properly and safely on both sides. A soldier cannot be considered safely armored when either shield is disjoined from the other. For faith without works of justice is not sufficient for salvation; neither, however, is righteous living secure in itself for salvation, if it is disjoined from faith. (Homilies on Ecclesiastes, 8; Jurgens, II, 45-46)
St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 339-397
Finally Scripture teaches us how far from common are these stones, inasmuch as, whilst some brought one kind, and others another, of less precious offerings, these the devout princes brought, wearing them upon their shoulders, and made of them the ‘breastplate of judgment,’ that is, a piece of woven work. Now we have a woven work, when faith and action go together. Let none suppose me to be misguided, in that I made at first a threefold division, each part containing four, and afterwards a fourfold division, each part containing three terms. The beauty of a good thing pleases the more, if it be shown under various aspects. For those are good things, whereof the texture of the priestly robe was the token, that is to say, either the Law, or the Church, which latter hath made two garments for her spouse, as it is written’–the one of action, the other of spirit, weaving together the threads of faith and works…. Faith is profitable, therefore, when her brow is bright with a fair crown of good works. This faith–that I may set the matter forth shortly–is contained in the following principles, which cannot be overthrown.(On the Christian Faith,II:11,13)
Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420
You had a wife, the apostle says, when you believed. Do not fancy your faith in Christ to be a reason for parting from her. For ‘God hath called us in peace.’ ‘Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing but the keeping of the commandments of God.’ Neither celibacy nor wedlock is of the slightest use without works, since even faith, the distinguishing mark of Christians, if it have not works, is said to be dead, and on such terms as these the virgins of Vesta or of Juno, who was constant to one husband, might claim to be numbered among the saints. (To Pammachius, Epistle 48)
But since in the Law no one is justified before God, it is evident that the just man lives by faith (Gal. 3:11)…It should be noted that he does not say that a man, a person, lives by faith, lest it be thought that he is contemning good works. Rather, he says the just man live by faith. He implies thereby that whoever would be faithful and would conduct his life according to the faith can in no other way arrive at the faith or live in it except first he be a just man of pure life, coming up to the faith as it were by certain degrees. (Commentaries on Galatians: 2,3,11)
St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407
Is it then enough,” saith one, “to believe on the Son, that one may have eternal life?” By no means. And hear Christ Himself declaring this, and saying, “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. vii. 21); and the blasphemy against the Spirit is enough of itself to cast a man into hell. But why speak I of a portion of doctrine? Though a man believe rightly on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, yet if he lead not a right life, his faith will avail nothing towards his salvation. Therefore when He saith, “This is life eternal, that they may know Thee the only true God” (c. xvii. 3), let us not suppose that the (knowledge) spoken of is sufficient for our salvation; we need besides this a most exact life and conversation. Since though he has said here, “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life,” and in the same place something even stronger, (for he weaves his discourse not of blessings only, but of their contraries also, speaking thus: “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him”;) yet not even from this do we assert that faith alone is sufficient to salvation. And the directions for living given in many places of the Gospels show this. Therefore he did not say, “This by itself is eternal life,” nor, “He that doth but believe on the Son hath eternal life,” but by both expressions he declared this, that the thing doth contain life, yet that if a right conversation follow not, there will follow a heavy punishment. And he did not say, “awaiteth him,” but, “abideth on him,” that is, “shall never remove from him.” For that thou mayest not think that the “shall not see life,” is a temporary death, but mayest believe that the punishment is continual, he hath put this expression to show that it rests upon him continually. (Homily 31:1, On John 3:35-36)
Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430
Unintelligent persons, however, with regard to the apostle’s statement: “We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law,” have thought him to mean that faith suffices to a man, even if he lead a bad life, and has no good works. Impossible is it that such a character should be deemed “a vessel of election” by the apostle, who, after declaring that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision,” adds at once, “but faith which worketh by love.” It is such faith which severs God’s faithful from unclean demons,- for even these “believe and tremble,” as the Apostle James says; but they do not do well. Therefore they possess not the faith by
which the just man lives,–the faith which works by love in such wise, that God recompenses it according to its works with eternal life. But inasmuch as we have even our good works from God, from whom likewise comes our faith and our love, therefore the selfsame great teacher of the Gentiles has designated “eternal life” itself as His gracious “gift.”
And hence there arises no small question, which must be solved by the Lord’s gift. If eternal life is rendered to good works, as the Scripture most openly declares: “Then He shall reward every man according to his works:” how can eternal life be a matter of grace, seeing that grace is not rendered to works, but is given gratuitously, as the apostle himself tells us: “To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt;” and again: “There is a remnant saved according to the election of grace;” with these words immediately subjoined: “And if of grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace”? How, then, is eternal life by grace, when it is received from works?
Does the apostle perchance not say that eternal life is a grace? Nay, he has so called it, with a clearness which none can possibly gainsay. It requires no acute intellect, but only an attentive reader, to discover this. For after saying, “The wages of sin is death,” he at once added, “The grace of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
This question, then, seems to me to be by no means capable of solution, unless we understand that even those good works of ours, which are recompensed with eternal life, belong to the grace of God, because of what is said by the Lord Jesus: “Without me ye can do nothing.” And the apostle himself, after saying, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast;” saw, of course, the possibility that men would think from this statement that good works are not necessary to those who believe, but that faith alone suffices for them; and again, the possibility of men’s boasting of their good works, as if they were of themselves capable of performing them. To meet, therefore, these opinions on both sides, he immediately added, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” What is the purport of his saying, “Not of works, lest any man should boast,” while commending the grace of God? And then why does he afterwards, when giving a reason for using such words, say, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works”? Why, therefore, does it run, “Not of works, lest any man should boast”? Now, hear and understand. “Not of works” is spoken of the works which you suppose have their origin in yourself alone; but you have to think of works for which God has moulded (that is, has formed and created) you. For of these he says, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Now he does not here speak of that creation which made us human beings, but of that in reference to which one said who was already in full manhood, “Create in me a clean heart, O God;” concerning which also the apostle says, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God.” We are framed, therefore, that is, formed and created, “in the good works which” we have not ourselves prepared, but “God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” It follows, then, dearly beloved, beyond all doubt, that as your good life is nothing else than God’s grace, so also the eternal life which is the recompense of a good life is the grace of God; moreover it is given gratuitously, even as that is given gratuitously to which it is given. But that to which it is given is solely and simply grace; this therefore is also that which is given to it, because it is its reward;–grace is for grace, as if remuneration for righteousness; in order that it may be true, because it is true, that God “shall reward every man according to his works.” (A Treatise on Grace and Free Will; chapters 18-20)
St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444
This, then, He says, is eternal life, that they should know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent. Then one of those who are never weary of hearkening to the Scripture, and seriously pursue the study of Divine doctrines, will ask: Do we say that knowledge is eternal life; and that to know the one true and living God will suffice to give us complete security of expectation, and nothing else be lacking? Then how is faith apart from works dead? And when we speak of faith, we mean the true knowledge of God, and nothing else; for by faith comes knowledge: and the prophet Isaiah bears us witness, who said to some: If ye do not believe neither shall ye understand. And that the writings of the holy men are referring to the knowledge which consists in barren speculations, a thing wholly profitless, I think you will perceive from what follows. For one of the holy disciples said: Thou believest that God is one; thou doest well: the devils also believe and shudder. What then shall we say to this? How does Christ speak truth, when He says that eternal life is the knowledge of God the Father, the One true God, and (with Him) of the Son? I think, indeed, we must answer that the saying of the Saviour is wholly true. For this knowledge is life, travailing as it were in birth of the whole meaning of the mystery, and vouchsafing unto us participation in the mystery of the Eucharist, whereby we are joined unto the living and life-giving Word. And for this reason, I think, Paul says that the Gentiles are made fellow-members of the body and fellow-partakers of Christ; inasmuch as they partake in His blessed Body and Blood; and our members may in this sense be conceived of, as being members of Christ. This knowledge, then, which also brings to us the Eucharist by the Spirit, is life. For it dwells in our hearts, shaping anew those who receive it into sonship with Him, and moulding them into incorruption and piety towards God, through life according to the Gospel. Our Lord Jesus Christ, then, knowing that the knowledge of the One true God brings unto us, and, so to speak, promotes our union with, the blessings of which we have spoken, says that it is eternal life; insomuch as it is the mother and nurso of eternal life, being in its own power and nature pregnant with those things which cause life, and lead unto it. (Commentary on the Gospel of John, Book XI, Chap. V)
Blessed Theodoret of Cyr ca. 393-457
For all men, even if they are adorned with deeds of virtue, are in need of divine grace. The Apostle too, on this account, cries out: ‘By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves it is the gift of God.’ (Interpretation of the Psalms, On Ps. 31(32):10)
St. Macarius ca. 4th cent.
Take, for example, the five prudent and vigilant virgins (Mt. 25:1ff). They enthusiastically had taken in the vessels of their heart the oil of the supernatural grace of the Spirit – a thing not conformable to their nature. For this reason they were able to enter together with the Bridegroom into the heavenly bridal chamber. The other foolish ones, however, content with their own nature, did not watch nor did they betake themselves to receive “the oil of gladness” (Ps. 45:7) in their vessels. But still in the flesh, they fell into a deep sleep through negligence, inattentiveness, laziness, and ignorance or even through considering themselves justified. Because of this they were excluded from the bridal chamber of the kingdom because they were unable to please the heavenly Bridegroom. Bound by ties of the world and by earthly love, they did not offer all their love and devotion to the heavenly Spouse nor did they carry with them the oil. But the souls who seek sanctification of the Spirit, which is a thing that lies beyond natural power, are completely bound with their whole love to the Lord. There they walk; there they pray; there they focus their thoughts, ignoring all other things. For this reason they are considered worthy to receive the oil of divine grace and without any failure they succeed in passing to life for they have been accepted by and found greatly pleasing to the spiritual Brideroom. But other souls, who remain on the level of their own nature, crawl along the ground with their earthly thoughts. They think only in a human way. Their mind lives only on an eartly level. And still they are convinced in their own thought that they look to the Bridegroom and that they are adorned with the perfections of a carnal justification. But in reality they have not been born of the Spirit from above (Jn. 3:3) and have not accepted the oil of gladness. (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 4.6)
This is the sign of Christianity. However much man should do and how many justifying works he should perform, he should feel that he has accomplished nothing. And when he fasts, he should say, “I have not fasted.” When he prays, let him think, “I have not prayed.” Perservering in prayer he should say, “I have not perservered. I have only begun to practice asceticism and to labor.” And even if he is righteous before God, he must say: “I am not righteous. I am not working, but I begin each day.” He ought every day to have hope and joy and confidence in the future kingdom and in redemption and say: “If today I have not been delivered, tomorrow I will be.” (ibid., Homily, 26.11)
Indeed, it is not immediately upon hearing the word of God that a person is ranked among the good. If the mere hearing brought him into the ranks of the good, there would no longer be any struggles or times of war or any race. But without any labor, if one merely heard the word, he would come into complete rest and perfection. But things are not quite like that. For you deprive a man of his free will in saying this and you also deny the opposing power that is struggling against the mind. This is what we say, that one who hears the word comes to repentance, and after this, through God’s providence withdraws for the development of the man. He enters into training and tactics of war. He enters into the struggle and conflict against Satan. And after a long race and struggle, he carries off the victory and becomes a Christian. If anyone, by merely hearing the word, without any work, would be numbered among the good, then also actors and all prostitutes would enter into the kingdom and the life. But no one will give them this without effort and struggle because the road is straight and narrow (Mt. 7:14). Along this bumpy road we must travel and patiently endure afflictions and thus enter into life. For if it were possible to succeed without effort, Christianity would not be “a stumbling stone and a rock of scandal” (Rom. 9:33). There would be no faith or disbelief. You would in fact make man into a bound creature of necessity, unable to turn toward good or evil… (ibid., Homily 27.20-21)
This is the foundation of the road to God, in much patience, in hope, in humility, in poverty of spirit, in gentleness to travel along the road of life. By such means one can possess justification for himself. We mean by justification the Lord Himself. These commandments, which so enjoin us, are like milestones and signposts along the royal highway that leads a journeyer to the heavenly city. For it says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are the meek; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the peacemaker” (Mt. 5:3). Call this Christianity. If anyone does not pass along this road, he has wandered off along a roadless way. He used a bad foundation. Glory to the mercies of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit forever. Amen. (ibid., Homily 27.23)
St. Diadochus of Photiki ca. 400-480
Spiritual discourse fully satisfies our intellectual perception, because it comes from God through the energy of love. It is on account of this that the intellect continues undisturbed in its concentration on theology. It does not suffer then from the emptiness which produces a state of anxiety, since in its contemplation it is filled to the degree that the energy of love desires. So it is right always to wait, with a faith energized by love, for the illumination which will enable us to speak. For nothing is so destitute as a mind philosophizing about God when it is without Him. (The Philokalia, Vol. 1. On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination: One Hundred Texts, 7)
Faith without works and works without faith will both alike be condemned, for he who has faith must offer to the Lord the faith which shows itself in actions. Our father Abraham would not have been counted righteous because of his faith had he not offered its fruit, his son (cf. Jas. 2:21; Rom. 4:3). (ibid., 20)
St. Mark the Ascetic ca. 5th cent.
He who relies on theoretical knowledge alone is not yet a faithful servant: a faithful servant is one who expresses his faith in Christ through obedience to His commandments. (The Philokalia: Vol. 1. On Those who Think That They are Made Righteous by Works: Two Hundred and Twenty Six Texts, 5)
Even though knowledge is true, it is still not firmly established if unaccompanied by works. For everything is established by being put into practice. (ibid., 12)
Some without fulfilling the commandments think that they possess true faith. Others fulfil the commandments and then expect the kingdom as a reward due to them. Both are mistaken. (ibid., 18)
When Scripture says, ‘He will reward every man according to his works.’ (Mat. 16:27), do not imagine that works n themselves merit either hell or the kingdom. On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself; and He is not a dealer bound by contract, but God our Creator and Redeemer. (ibid., 22)
Philosophize through your works about man’s will and God’s retribution. For your words are only as wise and profitable as your works. (ibid., 53)
One alone is righteous in works, words and thoughts. But many are made righteous in faith, grace and repentance. (ibid., 109)
St. Columbanus of Ireland ca. 540-615
Whatever virtue God sowed in us our primal state, therefore, He has commanded us to return to Him. This is the first, to love the Lord with the whole of the heart (cf. Mt. 22:37), since He first loved us from the beginning (cf. 1 Jn. 4:10). For to love God is to restore His image. But they loved God who follows His commands, for He said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15). This is His commandment, a mutual love, according to the saying: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I also have loved you” (Jn. 15:12). But true love is not in word only but also in action and truth. And so let us restore to God our Father His own image undefiled in holiness since He is holy, according to the words: “Be holy since I am holy” (Lv. 11:44); in love, since He is love, according to the words of St. John, “God is love (1 Jn. 4:8), in righteousness and truth, since He is righteous and true. (Sermons, Sermon 11)
St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662
As the memory of fire does not warm the body, so faith without love does not bring about the illumination of knowledge in the soul. (Four Hundred Chapters on Love, 1st Century: 31)
Do not say, as the divine Jeremiah tells us, that you are the Lord’s temple. And do not say that ‘mere faith in our Lord Jesus Christ can save me.’ For this is impossible unless you acquire love for him through works. For in what concerns mere believing, ‘even the devils believe and tremble.’ (ibid., 1st Century: 39)
Indeed, as the Scripture has it, “faith without works is dead”. Now no reasonable person would ever presume to say that anything dead or without activity should be counted among the finer things. But when by means of faith it arrives at the good which is its term, the reason ends its proper activities because its potency, habit, and act are now concluded. (The Church’s Mystagogy, Chap. 5)
St. Isaac the Syrian ca. 7th cent.
The power of nature attests that it behooves man to believe in Him Who brings forth all thing in His creation, to believe the words of His commandments, and to do them. For from this belief is born the fear of God. When a man joins righteous works to the fear of God and makes a little progress in this activity, the fear of God gives birth to spiritual knowledge, which we said is born of faith. (The Ascetical Homilies, Homily 47)
Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735
Jas 2:24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. What he says, from works, means from the works of faith, because no one can have perfect works without faith but many faith without works if they lack the time for works. Of them it has been said, He was taken away lest wickedness change his understanding or craftiness deceive his mind. (Wis. 4:11)
1 Pet. 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing to ours
…For it is not legal circumcision but gospel faith alone that joins the peoples of the gentiles to the ancient people of God. Yet, because the same faith without works is not able to save, there is properly appended: In the righteousness of our Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ.
I Jn. 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we are lying and not telling the truth. He is calling sins heresies and hatred darkness. Therefore, the confession of faith alone is not all sufficient for salvation when it lacks the witness of good works. But neither is the uprightness of works of any avail without faith and the simplicity of love. (Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles)
St. John Damascene ca. 676-749
The remission of sins, therefore, is granted alike to all through baptism: but the grace of the Spirit is proportional to the faith and previous purification. Now, indeed, we receive the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit through baptism, and the second birth is for us the beginning and seal and security and illuminations of another life. It behoves as, then, with all our strength to steadfastly keep ourselves pure from filthy works, that we may not, like the dog returning to his vomit, make ourselves again the slaves of sin. For faith apart from works is dead, and so likewise are works apart from faith. For the true faith is attested by works. (An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 9)
St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022
These, then, are the divine mysteries of Christians. This is the hidden power of our faith, which unbelievers, or those who believe with difficulty, or rather believe in part, do not see nor are able at all to see (cf. 1 Tim. 6:16). Unbelievers, those who believe with difficulty, or believe in part, are those who do not show their faith through works. Apart from works the demons also believe (Jas. 2:19) and confess Christ to be God and Master. “We know who you are” (Mk. 1:24), they say, “You are the Son of God” (Mat. 8:29), and elsewhere, “These men are the servants of the Most High God” (Acts 16:17). Yet such faith will not benefit the demons, nor even the humans. This faith is of no use, for it is dead, as says the divine Apostle, “Faith apart from works is dead” (Jas. 2:26), just like the works without faith. How is it dead? Because it has not in itself God who gives life (1 Tim. 6:13). It has not laid hold of Him who said, “He who loves Me will keep my commandments, and I and the Father will come and make Our home with him” (Jn. 14:21, 23), so that by His coming He may raise from the dead him who has attained faith and give him life, and grant him to see Him who has risen in him and who has raised him up. For this reason such faith is dead, or, rather, they are dead who have faith apart from works. Faith in God is always alive, and since it is living it gives life to those who come with a good intention to receive it. Even before they have practiced the commandments it has brought many out of death into life and has shown them Christ our God. Had they perservered in his commandments and kept them until death they too would have been preserved by them – that is, in the state to which faith alone had brought them. But since they “turned aside like a bent bow” (Ps. 78:57) and speared themselves on their former actions, they inevitably at once made shipwreck of their faith (1 Tim. 1:19) and miserably deprived themselves of the true riches, who is Christ our God.
So I urge you, let us keep God’s commandments with all our might, so that we may not share in their fate, but enjoy both present and future blessings, that is, the very vision of Christ. To this may we all attain through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (The Discourses, Chap. XIII Of Christ’s Resurrection: pp. 184-185)
St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359
…but of the glory of His nature, which the Saviour has bestowed on His diciples, and through them, on all who believe in Him and have manifested their faith through their works. This glory He clearly desired them to see, For He says to the Father, “I will that they contemplate the glory You have given Me, for you have loved Me since the foundation of the world.”
Let us not the, then, turn aside incredulous before the superabundance of these blessings; but let us have faith in Him who has participated in our nature and granted it in return the glory of His own nature, and let us seek how to acquire this glory and see it. How? By keeping the divine commandments. For the Lord has promised to manifest Himself to the man who keeps them, a manifestation He calls His own indwelling and that of the Father, saying, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and will make Our abode with him”, and “I will manifest Myself to him.” And it is clear that in mentioning His “word”, He means His commandments, since earlier He speaks of “commandments” in place of “word”: “He who possessess and keeps My commandments, that is the man who loves Me.” (The Triads D.15,17)
The teaching of the Orthodox faith regarding atonement of Christ is that Christ was ransomed by Satan. The so called “payment” that was given was not to God but to Satan. This was no compromise on God’s part. He was not giving power and authority to Satan. Satan had no idea what he was getting. God did not reveal to Satan that Jesus was God until he entered Hades. He had no idea that after the death of Jesus, Jesus would enter into Hades and destroy its bond, taking his people with him.
St. Chrysostom ca. 347-407
It took a body and, face to face, met God! It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen! “O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?” (Paschal Homily)
St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-394
”As the ruler of darkness could not approach the presence of the Light unimpeded, had he not seen in Him something of flesh, then, as soon as he saw the God-bearing flesh and saw the miracle performed through it by the Deity, he hoped that… if he came to take hold of the flesh through death, then he would take hold of all the power contained in it. Therefore, having swallowed the bait of the flesh, he was pierced by the hook of the Deity and thus the dragon was transfixed by the hook.” (The Great Catechetical Oration 22-24)
St. Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430
The devil was conquered by his own trophy of victory. The devil jumped for joy, when he seduced the first man and cast him down to death. By seducing the first man, he slew him; by slaying the last man, he lost the first from his snare. The victory of our Lord Jesus Christ came when he rose, and ascended into heaven; then was fulfilled what you have heard when the Apocalypse was being read, ‘The Lion of the tribe of Judah has won the day’ [Rev. 5:5]. . . . The devil jumped for joy when Christ died; and by the very death of Christ the devil was overcome: he took, as it were, the bait in the mousetrap. He rejoiced at the death, thinking himself death’s commander. But that which caused his joy dangled the bait before him. The Lord’s cross was the devil’s mousetrap: the bait which caught him was the death of the Lord. (St. Augustine, Sermons, 261; trans. by Henry Bettenson, ed., The Later Christian Fathers: A Selection From the Writings of the Fathers from St. Cyril of Jerusalem to St. Leo the Great (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970, 1977), p. 222.)
Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461
And in order that He might set the human race free from the bonds of deadly transgression, He hid the power of His majesty from the raging devil, and opposed him with our frail and humble nature. For if the cruel and proud foe could have known the counsel of God’s mercy, he would have aimed at soothing the Jews’ minds into gentleness rather than at firing them with unrighteous hatred, lest he should lose the thraldom of all his captives in assailing the liberty of One Who owed him nought. Thus he was foiled by his malice: he inflicted a punishment on the Son of God, which was turned to the healing of all the sons of men. He shed righteous Blood, which became the ransom and the drink for the world’s atonement. The Lord undertook that which He chose according to the purpose of His own will. He permitted madmen to lay their wicked hands upon Him: hands which, in ministering to their own doom, were of service to the Redeemer’s work. And yet so great was His loving compassion for even His murderers, that He prayed to the Father on the cross, and begged not for His own vengeance but for their forgiveness, saying, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do Luke 23:34 . And such was the power of that prayer, that the hearts of many of those who had said, His blood be on us and on our sons Matthew 27:25, were turned to penitence by the Apostle Peter’s preaching, and on one day there were baptized about 3,000 Jews: and they all were of one heart and of one soul Acts 4:32, being ready now to die for Him, Whose crucifixion they had demanded. (Sermon 62)
The Venerable Bede ca. 673-735
A certain person has interpreted this passage as follows, that the saints resting in the lower world longed for that consolation about which the Lord say to His Apostles, Many prophets and righteous persons have longed to see what you see and did not see it and to hear what you hear and did not hear it (Mt. 13:17), about which the psalmist also says, My eyes have failed at your message, saying, ‘When will you comfort me,” (Ps. 119 (118):82) and that this consolation and encouragement was preached by the Lord when He went down into the lower world even to those who were in prison and were once in the days of Noah unbelievers. He may have aid this. But the Catholic faith holds that when the Lord went down into the lower world and brought his own from there, it was the faithful alone and not unbelievers whom He took with Him to the heavenly kingdom… (Commentary on 1st Peter)
“Communion with the Lord through the sacrament of flesh and blood is possible only at definite times, according to one’s possibilities and zeal, but never more than once a day. But inner communion with the Lord, in the spirit, is possible every hour and every minute; that is, through His grace, it is possible to be in constant intercou…rse with Him, and to be aware, when He so wishes, of this intercourse in one’s heart. According to the Lord’s promise, by partaking of His flesh and blood we receive Him Himself, and He enters and dwells in us with all His blessings, allowing the heart, that is prepared for it, to be aware of this. True communicants are always in a palpably blessed state after communion. Then the heart partakes of the Lord in spirit.
But since we are constrained by our body and surrounded by external activities and relationships, in which duty forces us to take part, so, by the splitting of our attention and feeling day by day, the spiritual partaking of the Lord is weakened and becomes overlaid and hidden. The sense of partaking of the Lord becomes hidden; but intercourse with the Lord is not broken, unless unfortunately some sin enters and destroys the state of grace. Nothing can compare with the delight of partaking of the Lord; therefore the diligent, when they feel it weaken, hasten to restore its full power, and, when they have restored it, they feel themselves again partaking of the Lord. This is spiritual communion with the Lord.
It is in this way that it takes place in the times between making communion with Him through the Holy Mysteries. But it can also be unceasing – in a man who always keeps his heart pure and his attention and feeling constantly directed towards the Lord. All the same, this is a gift of grace, granted to a man struggling on the path of the Lord, if he is diligent and pitiless to himself.
Even if a man partakes of the Lord in spirit only from time to time, this partaking is still a gift of grace. All that we can bring is thirst and hunger for this gift, and diligent striving to obtain it. There are, however, works, which open the way to this communion with the Lord and help to obtain it, although it always seems to come as it were unexpectedly. These works are pure prayer, with child-like crying of the heart, and special acts of self-denial in the practice of virtues. When no sin pollutes the soul, when no sinful thoughts or feelings are tolerated, that is, when the soul is pure and cries to God, what can keep the Lord, Who is present, from letting the soul taste Him, or the soul from awareness of this taste? And so it happens thus, unless the Lord deems it better, for the good of the soul, to prolong its thirst and hunger for Him before satisfying it. Amongst acts of self-denial the most powerful of all for this purpose is humble obedience and casting oneself under the feet of all men, stripping oneself of acquisitiveness and suffering injustice with a good heart, all this in the spirit of complete surrender to the will of God. Such actions liken a man to the Lord more than any others, and the Lord, present in him, allows his soul to taste Him. Also pure and diligent fulfillment of all God’s commandments bears fruit in the abiding of the Lord in the heart, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit (John 14:23).
Spiritual communion with the Lord should not be confused with mental memory of communion with Him in the Mysteries of flesh and blood, even if this memory is accompanied by strong spiritual sensations and an ardent longing for actual communion with Him in the Holy Mysteries. Neither must it be confused with what the worshipers present in the church receive when the Eucharist is celebrated. They receive divine sanctification and benevolence, as participants in the bloodless sacrifice through faith, contrition and readiness to sacrifice themselves to the glory of God; and they receive in the measure of these dispositions. But it is not the same as communion, although communion can also take place here.”
+ St. Theophan the Recluse +
The Eastern Orthodox Church has retained theosis as a concept for theological reflection, while the Western churches, seperated by time, language, and philosophy from Greek thinkers of the early church, have dropped it. In fact, theosis simply does not exist for most contemporary Western theologians…The near disappearance in Western Christendom of an idea that was widely accepted for over a thousand years (including by Latin theologians like Augustine), is a serious loss for the Christian thought and hope. (Stephen Finlan and Vladimir Kharlamov, Theosis/Deification in Christian Theology: Introduction, pg. 8)
St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165
But far be such a thought concerning the gods from every well-conditioned soul, as to believe that Jupiter himself, the governor and creator of all things, was both a parricide and the son of a parricide, and that being overcome by the love of base and shameful pleasures, he came in to Ganymede and those many women whom he had violated and that his sons did like actions. But, as we said above, wicked devils perpetrated these things. And we have learned that those only are deified who have lived near to God in holiness and virtue; and we believe that those who live wickedly and do not repent are punished in everlasting fire. (First Apology 21)
And when I saw that they were perturbed because I said that we are the sons of God, I anticipated their questioning:
Justin: Listen, sirs, how the Holy Ghost speaks of this people, saying that they are all sons of the Highest; and how this very Christ will be present in their assembly, rendering judgment to all men. The words are spoken by David, and are, according to your version of them, thus: ‘God stands in the congregation of gods; He judges among the gods. How long do you judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Judge for the orphan and the poor, and do justice to the humble and needy. Deliver the needy, and save the poor out of the hand of the wicked. They know not, neither have they understood; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth shall be shaken. I said, You are gods, and are all children of the Most High. But you die like men, and fall like one of the princes. Arise, O God! judge the earth, for You shall inherit all nations.’ But in the version of the Seventy it is written, ‘Behold, you die like men, and fall like one of the princes,’ in order to manifest the disobedience of men—I mean of Adam and Eve—and the fall of one of the princes, i.e., of him who was called the serpent, who fell with a great overthrow, because he deceived Eve. But as my discourse is not intended to touch on this point, but to prove to you that the Holy Ghost reproaches men because they were made like God, free from suffering and death, provided that they kept His commandments, and were deemed deserving of the name of His sons, and yet they, becoming like Adam and Eve, work out death for themselves; let the interpretation of the Psalm be held just as you wish, yet thereby it is demonstrated that all men are deemed worthy of becoming gods, and of having power to become sons of the Highest; and shall be each by himself judged and condemned like Adam and Eve. Now I have proved at length that Christ is called God. (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 124)
The end contemplated by a philosopher is likeness to God, so far as that is possible. (Fragments of St. Justin the Martyr: from the writings of Antonius Melissa)
Mathetes ca. 130
And if you love Him, you will be an imitator of His kindness. And do not wonder that a man may become an imitator of God. He can, if he is willing. For it is not by ruling over his neighbours, or by seeking to hold the supremacy over those that are weaker, or by being rich, and showing violence towards those that are inferior, that happiness is found; nor can any one by these things become an imitator of God. But these things do not at all constitute His majesty. On the contrary he who takes upon himself the burden of his neighbour; he who, in whatsoever respect he may be superior, is ready to benefit another who is deficient; he who, whatsoever things he has received from God, by distributing these to the needy, becomes a god to those who receive [his benefits]: he is an imitator of God. (To Diognetus, 10)
St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202
For who else is there who can reign uninterruptedly over the house of Jacob for ever, except Jesus Christ our Lord, the Son of the Most High God, who promised by the law and the prophets that He would make His salvation visible to all flesh; so that He would become the Son of man for this purpose, that man also might become the son of God? (Against Heresies, Book III:2)
For it is thus that you will both controvert them in a legitimate manner, and will be prepared to receive the proofs brought forward against them, casting away their doctrines as filth by means of the celestial faith; but following the only true and steadfast Teacher, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself. (Against Heresies Book V, Preface)
Since the Lord thus has redeemed us through His own blood, giving His soul for our souls, and His flesh for our flesh, and has also poured out the Spirit of the Father for the union and communion of God and man, imparting indeed God to men by means of the Spirit, and, on the other hand, attaching man to God by His own incarnation, and bestowing upon us at His coming immortality durably and truly, by means of communion with God—all the doctrines of the heretics fall to ruin. (Against Heresies, Book V.1)
Theophilus of Antioch died ca. 185
And God having placed man in Paradise, as has been said, to till and keep it, commanded him to eat of all the trees,–manifestly of the tree of life also; but only of the tree of knowledge He commanded him not to taste. And God transferred him from the earth, out of which he had been produced, into Paradise, giving him means of advancement, in order that, maturing and becoming perfect, and being even declared a god, he might thus ascend into heaven in possession of immortality. For man had been made a middle nature, neither wholly mortal, nor altogether immortal, but capable of either; so also the place, Paradise, was made in respect of beauty intermediate between earth and heaven. And by the expression, “till it,” no other kind of labour is implied than the observance of God’s command, lest, disobeying, he should destroy himself, as indeed he did destroy himself, by sin. (To Autolycus Book 2.24)
Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215
But such a good conscience preserves sanctity towards God and justice towards men; keeping the soul pure with grave thoughts, and pure words, and just deeds. By thus receiving the Lord’s power, the soul studies to be God; regarding nothing bad but ignorance, and action contrary to right reason. And giving thanks always for all things to God, by righteous hearing and divine reading, by true investigation, by holy oblation, by blessed prayer; lauding, hymning, blessing, praising, such a soul is never at any time separated from God. Rightly then is it said, And they who trust in Him shall understand the truth, and those faithful in love shall abide by Him. Wisdom 3:9 …To the likeness of God, then, he that is introduced into adoption and the friendship of God, to the just inheritance of the lords and gods is brought; if he be perfected, according to the Gospel, as the Lord Himself taught. (Stromata, Book VI, 14)
Tertullian ca. 160-220
Truth, however, maintains the unity of God in such a way as to insist that whatever belongs to God Himself belongs to Him alone. For so will it belong to Himself if it belong to Him alone; and therefore it will be impossible that another god should be admitted, when it is permitted to no other being to possess anything of God. Well, then, you say, we ourselves at that rate possess nothing of God. But indeed we do, and shall continue to do— only it is from Him that we receive it, and not from ourselves. For we shall be even gods, if we, shall deserve to be among those of whom He declared, I have said, You are gods, and, God stands in the congregation of the gods. But this comes of His own grace, not from any property in us, because it is He alone who can make gods. The property of Matter, however, he makes to be that which it has in common with God. Otherwise, if it received from God the property which belongs to God—I mean its attribute of eternity— one might then even suppose that it both possesses an attribute in common with God, and yet at the same time is not God. (Against Hermogenes V)
St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-236
And in like manner God commanded, that from earth should arise reptiles and beasts, as well males and females of all sorts of animals; for so the nature of the things produced admitted. For as many things as He willed, God made from time to time. These things He created through the Logos, it not being possible for things to be generated otherwise than as they were produced. But when, according as He willed, He also formed (objects), He called them by names, and thus notified His creative effort. And making these, He formed the ruler of all, and fashioned him out of all composite substances. The Creator did not wish to make him a god, and failed in His aim; nor an angel—be not deceived,— but a man. For if He had willed to make you a god, He could have done so. You have the example of the Logos. His will, however, was, that you should be a man, and He has made you a man. But if you are desirous of also becoming a god, obey Him that has created you, and resist not now, in order that, being found faithful in that which is small, you may be enabled to have entrusted to you also that which is great. (Refutation of All Heresies, Book X.29)
You shall escape the boiling flood of hell’s eternal lake of fire and the eye ever fixed in menacing glare of fallen angels chained in Tartarus as punishment for their sins; and you shall escape the worm that ceaselessly coils for food around the body whose scum has bred it. Now such (torments) as these shall you avoid by being instructed in a knowledge of the true God. And you shall possess an immortal body, even one placed beyond the possibility of corruption, just like the soul. And you shall receive the kingdom of heaven, you who, while you sojourned in this life, knew the Celestial King. And you shall be a companion of the Deity, and a co-heir with Christ, no longer enslaved by lusts or passions, and never again wasted by disease. For you have become god: for whatever sufferings you underwent while being a man, these He gave to you, because you were of mortal mould, but whatever it is consistent with God to impart, these God has promised to bestow upon you, because you have been deified, and begotten unto immortality. This constitutes the import of the proverb, Know yourself; i.e., discover God within yourself, for He has formed you after His own image. For with the knowledge of self is conjoined the being an object of God’s knowledge, for you are called by the Deity Himself. Be not therefore inflamed, O you men, with enmity one towards another, nor hesitate to retrace with all speed your steps. For Christ is the God above all, and He has arranged to wash away sin from human beings, rendering regenerate the old man. And God called man His likeness from the beginning, and has evinced in a figure His love towards you. And provided you obey His solemn injunctions, and becomest a faithful follower of Him who is good, you shall resemble Him, inasmuch as you shall have honour conferred upon you by Him. For the Deity, (by condescension,) does not diminish anything of the divinity of His divine perfection; having made you even god unto His glory! (ibid., Book X.30)
St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258
This is our God, this is Christ, who, as the mediator of the two, puts on man that He may lead them to the Father. What man is, Christ was willing to be, that man also may be what Christ is. (Treatise VI, On the Vanity of Idols 11)
And that the proof might not be the less substantial, and the confession of Christ might not be a matter of pleasure, they are tried by tortures, by crucifixions, by many kinds of punishments. Pain, which is the test of truth, is brought to bear, that Christ the Son of God, who is trusted in as given to men for their life, might not only be announced by the heralding of the voice, but by the testimony of suffering. Therefore we accompany Him, we follow Him, we have Him as the Guide of our way, the Source of light, the Author of salvation, promising as well the Father as heaven to those who seek and believe. What Christ is, we Christians shall be, if we imitate Christ. (ibid., 15)
Origen of Alexandria ca. 185-254
Either they deny that the Son has a distinct nature of His own besides that of the Father, and make Him whom they call the Son to be God all but the name, or they deny the divinity of the Son, giving Him a separate existence of His own, and making His sphere of essence fall outside that of the Father, so that they are separable from each other. To such persons we have to say that God on the one hand is Very God (Autotheos, God of Himself); and so the Saviour says in His prayer to the Father, John 17:3 That they may know You the only true God; but that all beyond the Very God is made God by participation in His divinity, and is not to be called simply God (with the article), but rather God (without article). And thus the first-born of all creation, who is the first to be with God, and to attract to Himself divinity, is a being of more exalted rank than the other gods beside Him, of whom God is the God, as it is written, The God of gods, the Lord, has spoken and called the earth. It was by the offices of the first-born that they became gods, for He drew from God in generous measure that they should be made gods, and He communicated it to them according to His own bounty. The true God, then, is The God, and those who are formed after Him are gods, images, as it were, of Him the prototype. But the archetypal image, again, of all these images is the Word of God, who was in the beginning, and who by being with God is at all times God…Now it is possible that some may dislike what we have said representing the Father as the one true God, but admitting other beings besides the true God, who have become gods by having a share of God. They may fear that the glory of Him who surpasses all creation may be lowered to the level of those other beings called gods. We drew this distinction between Him and them that we showed God the Word to be to all the other gods the minister of their divinity. To this we must add, in order to obviate objections, that the reason which is in every reasonable creature occupied the same relation to the reason who was in the beginning with God, and is God the Word, as God the Word occupies to God. As the Father who is Very God and the True God is to His image and to the images of His image— men are said to be according to the image, not to be images of God— so He, the Word, is to the reason (word) in every man. Each fills the place of a fountain— the Father is the fountain of divinity, the Son of reason. As, then, there are many gods, but to us there is but one God the Father, and many Lords, but to us there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, so there are many Λόγοι, but we, for our part, pray that that one Λόγος may be with us who was in the beginning and was with God, God the Logos. For whoever does not receive this Logos who was in the beginning with God, or attach himself to Him as He appeared in flesh, or take part in some of those who had part in this Logos, or whoever having had part in Him falls away from Him again, he will have his portion in what is called most opposite to reason. (Commentary on the Gospel of John Book II, 2-3)
St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373
He became man so that we might be made god; and He manifested Himself in the flesh, so that we might grasp the idea of the uneen Father; and He endured the insolence of men, so that we might receive the inheritence of immortality. (On the Incarnation of the Word, 54:3)
For what the human Body of the Word suffered, this the Word, dwelling in the body, ascribed to Himself, in order that we might be enabled to be partakers of the Godhead of the Word. And verily it is strange that He it was Who suffered and yet suffered not. Suffered, because His own Body suffered, and He was in it, which thus suffered; suffered not, because the Word, being by Nature God, is impassible. And while He, the incorporeal, was in the passible Body, the Body had in it the impassible Word, which was destroying the infirmities inherent in the Body. But this He did, and so it was, in order that Himself taking what was ours and offering it as a sacrifice, He might do away with it, and conversely might invest us with what was His… (Epistle to Epicetus, 6)
St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368
But the Incarnation is summed up in this, that the whole Son, that is, His manhood as well as His divinity, was permitted by the Father’s gracious favour to continue in the unity of the Father’s nature, and retained not only the powers of the divine nature, but also that nature’s self. For the object to be gained was that man might become god. But the assumed manhood could not in any wise abide in the unity of God, unless, through unity with God, it attained to unity with the nature of God. Then, since God the Word was in the nature of God, the Word made flesh would in its turn also be in the nature of God. Thus, if the flesh were united to the glory of the Word, the man Jesus Christ could abide in the glory of God the Father, and the Word made flesh could be restored to the unity of the Father’s nature, even as regards His manhood, since the assumed flesh had obtained the glory of the Word. Therefore the Father must reinstate the Word in His unity, that the offspring of His nature might again return to be glorified in Himself: for the unity had been infringed by the new dispensation, and could only be restored perfect as before if the Father glorified with Himself the flesh assumed by the Son. (On the Trinity, Book IX.38)
St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373
…had the serpent been rejected, along with the sin, they would have eaten of the Tree of Life, and the Tree of Knowledge would not have been withheld from them any longer; from the one they would have acquired infallible knowledge, and from the other they would have acquired divinity (allahutha) in humanity; and had they thus acquired infallible knowledge and immortal life, they would have done so in this body. (Commentary on Genesis II.23)
The Most High knew that Adam wanted to become a god, so He sent His Son who put him on in order to grant him his desire. (Nisibene Hymns LXIX. 12)
He gave us divinity, we gave Him humanity. (Hymn on Faith V.17)
Sebastian Brock, Introduction to Hymns on Paradise pg. 73: It has sometimes been said that the concept of the divinization, or theois, of humanity is something that crept into Christianity, and especially under Eastern Christianity, under Hellenic influence. It is clear, however, that St. Ephrem, whom Theodoret described as “unacquainted with the language of the Greeks” (Eccles. History IV.29), and whose thought patterns are essentially Semitic and Biblical in character, is nonetheless an important witness to this teaching. Moreover in this context it should be recalled that, since the term “son of” implies “belonging to the category of,” the title “children of God” to which Christians attain at Baptism would suggest to the Semitic mind that they had, potentially, the characteristics of divine beings, in other words, immortality.
St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 329-379
Now the Spirit is not brought into intimate association with the soul by local approximation. How indeed could there be a corporeal approach to the incorporeal? This association results from the withdrawal of the passions which, coming afterwards gradually on the soul from its friendship to the flesh, have alienated it from its close relationship with God. Only then after a man is purified from the shame whose stain he took through his wickedness, and has come back again to his natural beauty, and as it were cleaning the Royal Image and restoring its ancient form, only thus is it possible for him to draw near to the Paraclete. And He, like the sun, will by the aid of your purified eye show you in Himself the image of the invisible, and in the blessed spectacle of the image you shall behold the unspeakable beauty of the archetype. Through His aid hearts are lifted up, the weak are held by the hand, and they who are advancing are brought to perfection. Shining upon those that are cleansed from every spot, He makes them spiritual by fellowship with Himself. Just as when a sunbeam falls on bright and transparent bodies, they themselves become brilliant too, and shed forth a fresh brightness from themselves, so souls wherein the Spirit dwells, illuminated by the Spirit, themselves become spiritual, and send forth their grace to others. Hence comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of what is hidden, distribution of good gifts, the heavenly citizenship, a place in the chorus of angels, joy without end, abiding in God, the being made like to God, and, highest of all, the being made god. Such, then, to instance a few out of many, are the conceptions concerning the Holy Spirit, which we have been taught to hold concerning His greatness, His dignity, and His operations, by the oracles of the Spirit themselves. (On the Holy Spirit, 9.23)
St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389
Stephen Finlan and Vladimir Kharlamov, Introduction to Theosis/ Deification in Christian Theology, pg. 1: Deification was an important idea in the early church, though it took a long time for θεωσις (theosis) to emerge as the standard label for the process. The term was coined by the great fourth century theologian, Gregory of Nazianzus.
Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. Let us become gods(*) for His sake, since He for ours became Man. He assumed the worse that He might give us the better; He became poor that we through His poverty might be rich; 2 Cor. 8:9 He took upon Him the form of a servant that we might receive back our liberty; He came down that we might be exalted; He was tempted that we might conquer; He was dishonoured that He might glorify us; He died that He might save us; He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were lying low in the Fall of sin. Let us give all, offer all, to Him Who gave Himself a Ransom and a Reconciliation for us. But one can give nothing like oneself, understanding the Mystery, and becoming for His sake all that He became for ours. (Oration 1, On Easter and His Reluctance V)
(*) Excerpted from the footnotes Ch. V of Scripture and Tradition (Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1994 ), 67-75: We cannot overemphasize the deep spiritual reality of the nature of theosis. This is not to belabor the point needlessly. Being alien to a Western theological outlook, the spiritual sense of theosis, as found in the Patristic literature, is often even distorted as witnessed by various indefensibly mistranslated passages from the Greek. An egregious example of this tendency is found in Schaff and Wace’s English presentation of St. Gregory Nazianzus’ first oration, “On Easter and His Reluctance” (Fathers, VII, pp. 203-204). St. Gregory is quoted as exhorting us to “become God’s for His sake, since He for ours became man” [p. 203]. This incredible translation is a rendering of the Greek, “genometha theoi di’ auton, epeide kakeinos di’ emas anthropos” (PG. XXXV, col. 397). We find the following the only suitable translation: “Let us become gods for Him [His sake], since He for us [our sake] became man.” It is simply impossible to find in the words “genometha theoi di’ auton” genitive expression “become God’s [emphasis ours] for His sake.” We can only presume that the theological sensibilities of the translator prevailed over good scholarship, resulting in a fraudulent translation.
For He Whom you now treat with contempt was once above you. He Who is now Man was once the Uncompounded. What He was He continued to be; what He was not He took to Himself. In the beginning He was, uncaused; for what is the Cause of God? But afterwards for a cause He was born. And that came was that you might be saved, who insult Him and despise His Godhead, because of this, that He took upon Him your denser nature, having converse with Flesh by means of Mind. While His inferior Nature, the Humanity, became God, because it was united to God, and became One Person because the Higher Nature prevailed in order that I too might be made god so far as He is made Man.(Oration 29, 19)
For there is One God, and One Mediator between God and Man, the Man Christ Jesus. For He still pleads even now as Man for my salvation; for He continues to wear the Body which He assumed, until He make me god by the power of His Incarnation; although He is no longer known after the flesh -I mean, the passions of the flesh, the same, except sin, as ours. (Oration 30, 14)
Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430
It is evident, therefore, that He called men gods because they were deified by His grace, and not because they were born of His substance. For He justifies, being just of Himself and not from another; and He deifies, being God of Himself and not by participation in another. But He that justifies does also deify, because by justifying He makes sons of God. For, “He has given them the power to become sons of God.” If we are made sons of God, we are also made gods; but this is by grace adopting, and not by nature begetting. (Enarrationes in Psalmos 49, 2)
Great might is needed to raise up the lowly, to deify a mere mortal, to make the weak perfect, to grant glory through abasement and victory through suffering. (ibid., 117:11)
And there He stood in front of the eyes of a servant, in the form of a servant, saving the form of God for deifed eyes, and He said to him, Am I with you all this time, and you do not know me? (Sermons 126.14)
God, you see, wants to make you a god; not by nature of course, like the One whom He begot; but by His gift and by adoption. (Sermons 166.4)
And being thence warned to return to myself, I entered into my inward self, Thou leading me on; and I was able to do it, for You had become my helper. And I entered, and with the eye of my soul (such as it was) saw above the same eye of my soul, above my mind, the Unchangeable Light. Not this common light, which all flesh may look upon, nor, as it were, a greater one of the same kind, as though the brightness of this should be much more resplendent, and with its greatness fill up all things. Not like this was that light, but different, yea, very different from all these. Nor was it above my mind as oil is above water, nor as heaven above earth; but above it was, because it made me, and I below it, because I was made by it. He who knows the Truth knows that Light; and he that knows it knows eternity. Love knows it. O Eternal Truth, and true Love, and loved Eternity! You are my God; to You do I sigh both night and day. When I first knew You, You lifted me up, that I might see there was that which I might see, and that yet it was not I that did see. And Thou beat back the infirmity of my sight, pouring forth upon me most strongly Your beams of light, and I trembled with love and fear; and I found myself to be far off from You, in the region of dissimilarity, as if I heard this voice of Yours from on high: I am the food of strong men; grow, and you shall feed upon me; nor shall you convert me, like the food of your flesh, into you, but you shall be converted into me. And I learned that You correct man for iniquity, and You make my soul consume away like a spider. And I said, Is Truth, therefore, nothing because it is neither diffused through space, finite, nor infinite? And You cried to me from afar, Yea, verily, ‘I Am that I Am.’ And I heard this, as things are heard in the heart, nor was there room for doubt; and I should more readily doubt that I live than that Truth is not, which is clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. Romans 1:20 (Confessions Book VII.10)
St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444
For since they received the Son through faith, they receive the power to be ranked among the sons of God. For the Son gives what is His alone and specially and of nature to be in their power, setting it forth as common, making this a sort of image of the love for man that is inherent to Him, and of His love for the world. For in none other way could we who bore the image of the earthy escape corruption, unless the beauty of the image of the heavenly were impressed upon us, through our being called to sonship. For being partakers of Him through the Spirit, we were sealed unto likeness with Him and mount up to the primal character of the Image after which the Divine Scripture says we were made. For thus hardly recovering the pristine beauty of our nature, and re-formed unto that Divine Nature, shall we be superior to the ills that have befallen us through the transgression. Therefore we mount up unto dignity above our nature for Christ’s sake, and we too shall be sons of God, not like Him in exactitude, but by grace in imitation of Him. For He is Very Son, existing from the Father; we adopted by His Kindness, through grace receiving I have said, Ye are gods and all of you are children of the Most High. For the created and subject nature is called to what is above nature by the mere nod and will of the Father: but the Son and God and Lord will not possess this being God and Son, by the will of God the Father, nor in that He wills it only, but beaming forth of the Very Essence of the Father, He receives to Himself by Nature what is Its own Good. And again He is clearly seen to be Very Son, proved by comparison with ourselves. For since that which is by Nature has another mode of being from that which is by adoption, and that which is in truth from that which is by imitation, and we are called sons of God by adoption and imitation: hence He is Son by Nature and in truth, to Whom we made sons too are compared, gaining the good by grace instead of by natural endowments. (Commentary on the Gospel of John, Bk. I Chap. 9)
St. Patrick of Ireland ca. 387-493
And if at any time I managed anything of good for the sake of my God whom I love, I beg of him that he grant it to me to shed my blood for His name with proselytes and captives, even should I be left unburied, or even were my wretched body to be torn limb from limb by dogs or savage beasts, or were it to be devoured by the birds of the air, I think, most surely, were this to have happened to me, I had saved both my soul and my body. For beyond any doubt on that day we shall rise again in the brightness of the sun (cf. Isa. 30.26), that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer (cf. 1 Cor. 15:43, Phil. 3:20-21), as “sons of the living” God (Rom. 9:26) and “co-heirs of Christ” (Rom. 8.17), “conformed to his image” (cf. Rom. 8.29); for we shall reign “through him and for him and in him” (Rom. 11.36). (St. Patrick’s Confessio)
St. Macarius the Great ca. 4th cent.
And just as in the case of a beautiful garden where there are fruit-bearing trees and the air is saturated with sweet odors and there are many beautiful and refreshing places to delight in and put at rest those who go there, so also are those persons who reach the kingdom. They are all in joy and happiness and peace. They are kings and lords and gods. For it is written: “King of kings and Lord of lords”. (1 Tim. 6:15) (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 27.3)
Abba Alonius ca. 5th cent.
He also said, ‘If only a man desired it for a single day from morning till night, he would be able to come to measure of God.’ (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection, Saying 3)
St. Dionysius the Areopagite ca. 5th cent.
The source of this hierarchy is the font of life, the being of goodness, the one cause of everything, namely, the Trinity which in goodness bestow’s being and well-being on everything. Now this blessed Deity, which transcends everything and which is one and also triune has resolved, for reasons unclear to us but obvious to itself, to ensure the salvation of rational beings, both ourselves and those beings who are our superiors. This can only happen with the divinization of the saved. And divinization consists of being as much as possible like and in union with God. (The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy I.3)
The hierarch, “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4) by taking on a likeness to God, proclaims the good news to all that God out of his own natural goodness is merciful to the inhabits of earth, that because of His love for humanity He has deigned to come down to us and that, like a fire, He has made one with Himself all those capable of being divinized. “For to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave the power to become the children of God; who were born not of blood nor the will of the flesh but of God.” (Jn. 1:12) (ibid., Chap. II.2.1)
St. Benedict of Nursia ca. 480-547
Let us arise, then, at last, for the Scripture stirs us up, saying, “Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep” (Rom. 13:11). Let us open our eyes to the deifying light, let us hear with attentive ears the warning which the divine voice cries daily to us… (The Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue)
St. Barsanuphius ca. 6th cent.
…[B]eing in this state they [the saints] have reached the measure above distraction and high-mindedness — having become wholly mind, wholly eye, wholly light, wholly perfect, wholly gods. Having labored, they became magnified, glorified, enlightened, alive again, because they died to everything. They are now rejoicing and cause joy to all; they are rejoicing over the undivided Trinity, and give joy to the angelic powers. (Answer 120)
St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662
Age, time, and place belong in the category of the relative. Without them nothing of what is included in them exists. God is not of the category of the relative because He does not have anything at all included in Him. If, then, the inheritance of those who are worthy is God Himself, the one who is rendered worthy of this grace will be above age, time, and place. He will have God Himself as a place, according to what is written, “Be for me a protecting God, a strong place which saves me.” (Ps. 71:3) (Chapters on Knowledge, First Century 68)
[W]hen what is partial ceases with the appearance of what is perfect, all mirrors and hidden meanings pass away; once the truth arrives face to face, the one who is saved will be above all worlds, ages, and places in which he was once nurtured as a child, and will reach his end in God. (ibid., First Century 70)
Which exactly the great apostle teaches mystically and says that in the ages to come the superabundant wealth of God’s goodness will be revealed. Therefore, let us too divide the ages in our mind and appoint the one part of them to the mystery of the divine incarnation, and the other part to the grace of the human deification, and we will find the first part to have been completed accordingly, and the other part not yet arrived. And to speak shortly, the first part of the ages belongs to the descent of God to men, and the other part to the ascent of men to God. (To Thalassius, Q.22)
Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735
We know that when he appears we shall be like him. And Paul also explains this in other words, saying, When Christ, your life, appears, then you will appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:4) We shall be like him, he says, because when we shall enjoy with attentive regard (Lat. contemplatio) his unchangeable and eternal divinity, we also shall be immortal and like him indeed, because we shall be happy. And yet, we shall not be like our Creator, because we are creatures. For who among the children of God shall be like God? (Ps. 89:6) Although this can also seem to be said about the immortality of the body and in this we shall indeed be like God, but [in fact we will be] only like the Son who alone among the persons of the Trinity received a body, in which he died, rose and brought it to the heavenly heights. (Commentary on Jn. 3:1-3:2)
St Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022
And how is it that one made god by grace and by adoption will not be god in awareness and knowledge and contemplation, he who has put on the Son of God? (Introduction to the Discourses, pg. 36)
Display a worthy penitence by means of all sorts of deeds and words, that you may draw yourselves the grace of the all-holy Spirit. For this Spirit, when He descends on you, becomes like a pool of light to you, which encompasses you completely in a inutterable manner. As it regenerates you, it changes you from corruptible to incorruptible, from mortal to immortal, from sons of men into Son of God and gods by adoption and grace… (Discourses, XXXIII)
St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359
The splendour granted by the grace of God is light, as you may learn from this text: “The splendour for those who who have been purified is light, for the just will shine like the sun; God will stand in the midst of them, distributing and determining the dignities of blessedness, for they are gods and kings.” (The Triads, E. The Uncreated Glory)
“I wish you to be fully informed about delusion, so that you can guard yourself against it and not do great harm to yourself through ignorance and lose your soul. For our free will easily veers towards keeping company with the demons, especially when we are inexperienced and still under their sway. Around beginners and those who rely o…n their own counsel the demons spread the nets of destructive thoughts and images, and open pits into which such people fall; for their city is still in the hands of the workers of iniquity, and in their impetuosity they are easily slain by them. It is not surprising that they are deceived, or lose their wits, or have been and still are deluded, or heed what is contrary to truth, or from inexperience and ignorance say things that should not be said. Often some witless person will speak about truth and will hold forth at length without being aware of what he is saying or in a position to give a correct account of things. In this way he troubles many who hear him and by his inept behavior he brings abuse and ridicule on the heads of hesychasts. It is not in the least strange that beginners should be deceived even after making great efforts, for this has happened to many who have sought God, both now and in the past.
Mindfulness of God, or noetic prayer, is superior to all other activities. Indeed, being love for God, it is the chief virtue. But a person who is brazen and shameless in his approach to God, and who is overzealous in his efforts to converse with Him in purity and to possess Him inwardly, is easily destroyed by the demons if they are given license to attack him; for in rashly and presumptuously striving prematurely to attain what is beyond his present capacity, he becomes a victim of his own arrogance. The Lord in His compassion often prevents us from succumbing to temptation when He sees us aspiring over-confidently to attain what is still beyond our powers, for in this way He gives each of us the opportunity of discovering his own presumption and so of repenting of his own accord before making himself the butt of demons as well as of other people’s ridicule or pity. Especially is this the case when we try to accomplish this task with patience and contrition; for we stand in need of much sorrow and humility, and – most important of all for its marvelous effects – of guidance and obedience, for otherwise we might unknowingly reap thorns instead of wheat, gall instead of sweetness, ruin instead of salvation. Only the strong and the perfect can continuously fight alone with the demons, wielding against them the sword of the Spirit, which is the teaching of God (cf. Eph. 6:17). The weak and beginners escape death by taking refuge in flight, reverently and with fear withdrawing from the battle rather than risking their life prematurely.
For your part, if you are rightly cultivating stillness and aspiring to be with God, and you see something either sensory or noetic, within or without, be it even an image of Christ or of an angel or of some saint, or you imagine you see a light in your intellect and give it a specific form, you should never entertain it. For the intellect itself naturally possesses an imaginative power and in those who do not keep a strict watch over it it can easily produce, to its own hurt, whatever forms and images it wants to. In this way the recollection of things good or evil can suddenly imprint images on the intellect’s perceptive faculty and so induce it to entertain fantasies, thus making whoever this happens to a daydreamer rather than a hesychast.
Be careful, therefore, not to entertain and readily give assent to anything even if it be good, before questioning those with spiritual experience and investigating it thoroughly, so as not to come to any harm. Always be suspicious of it and keep your intellect free from colors, forms, and images. For it has often happened that things sent by God to test our free will, to see which way it inclines and to act as a spur to our efforts, have in fact had bad consequences. For when we see something, whether with mind or senses – even if this thing be from God – and then readily entertain it without consulting those experienced in such matters, we are easily deceived, or will be in the future, because of our gullibility. A novice should pay close attention solely to the activity of his heart, because this is not led astray. Everything else he must reject until the passions are quietened. For God does not censure those who out of fear of being deluded pay strict attention to themselves, even though this means that they refuse to entertain what He sends them until they have questioned others and made careful inquiry. Indeed, He is more likely to praise their prudence, even though in some cases He is grieved.
Yet you should not question everyone. You should go only to one, to someone who has been entrusted with the guidance of others as well, who is radiant alike in his life and in his words, and who although poor makes many rich (cf. 2 Cor. 6:10). For people lacking spiritual experience have often done harm to foolish questioners, and for this they will be judged after death. Not everyone is qualified to guide others: only those can do so who have been granted divine discrimination – what St. Paul calls the “discrimination of spirits” (1 Cor. 12:10) ~ enabling them to distinguish between bad and good with the sword of God’s teaching (cf. Eph. 6:17). Everyone possesses his own private knowledge and discrimination, whether inborn, pragmatic or scientific, but not all possess spiritual knowledge and discrimination. That is why Sirach said, “Be at peace with many, but let your counselors be one in a thousand” (Eccles. 6:6). It is hard to find a guide who in all he does, says or things is free from delusion. You can tell that a person is undeluded when his actions and judgement are founded on the testimony of divine Scripture, and when he is humble in whatever he has to give his mind to. No little effort is needed to attain a clear understanding of the truth and to be cleansed from whatever is contrary to grace, for the devil – especially in the case of beginners – is liable to present his delusions in the forms of truth, thus giving his deceit a spiritual guise.
If then you are striving in stillness to attain a state of pure prayer, you must journey with great trepidation and inward grief, questioning those with spiritual experience, accepting their guidance, always lamenting your sins, and full of distress and fear lest you should be chastised or should fall away from God and be divorced from Him in this life or the next. For when the devil sees someone leading a penitent life, he retreats, frightened of the humility that such inward grief engenders. But if, with a longing that is satanic rather than authentic, you are presumptuous enough to imagine that you have attained a lofty state, the devil will easily trap you in his nets and make you his slave. Thus the surest guard against falling from the joy of prayer into a state of conceit is to persevere in prayer and inward grief, for by embracing a solace filled grief you keep yourself safe from harm. Authentic prayer – the warmth that accompanies the Jesus Prayer, for it is Jesus who enkindles fire on the earth of our hearts (cf. Luke 12:49) – consumes the passions like thorns and fills the soul with delight and joyfulness. Such prayer comes neither from right or left, nor from above, but wells up in the heart like a spring of water from the life-quickening Spirit. It is this prayer alone that you should aspire to realize and possess in your heart, always keeping your intellect free from images, concepts and thoughts. And do not be afraid, for He who says, “Take heart; it is I; be not afraid” (Matt. 14:27), is with us – He whom we seek and who protects us always. When we invoke God we must be neither timid nor hesitant.”
+ St. Gregory of Sinai +
In the Orthodox faith salvation is likened to a journey which God has set before us to travel. And although it is somewhat of a dangerous journey, with many snares and pitfalls of the enemy, it does not leave us in despair. There is always renewal and rejuvenation through God’s Holy Trinity, via His Church and even creation itself. The loving kindness of God manifests both spiritually as well as existentially, through both the invisible as well as the visible!
In order to truly understand our salvation in Christ we must travel back to the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve made a choice to separate themselves from God. As Bishop Kallistos Ware says in his book The Orthodox Church(p.222), “Instead of continuing along the path marked out for him by God, he turned aside and disobeyed God. Adam’s fall consisted essentially in his disobedience of the will of God; he set up his own will against the divine will…” Bishop Ware goes on to say that because of this disobedience, a new form of existence manifested on the earth, one of disease and death.
When St. Paul spoke of the “New Adam” in Romans, he was not merely referring to a new covenant in a legal/juridical sense but was referring to a new covenant through a new nature, a nature that we can inherit through Christ.
St. Ephrim the Syrian wrote:
“All these changes did the Merciful One make,
Stripping off glory and putting on a body (Philippians 2:5-7);
For He had devised a way to reclothe Adam
In that glory which he had stripped off.
He was wrapped in swaddling clothes,
Corresponding to Adam’s leaves,
He put on clothes
In place of Adam’s skins;
He was baptized for Adam’s sin,
He was embalmed for Adam’s death,
He rose and raised Adam up in His glory.
Blessed is He who descended, put on Adam and ascended!”
What was first meant to be through Adam we can now have through Christ! We can now become a part of God’s entire creative order in the natural sense. We can now become natural! This is a huge help with the very basics of theology and growth in Christ for a number of reasons.
Many times when a Christian makes reference to some thing or some action that is not natural many non-patristic Christians immediately put their guard up, assuming that nature is bad due to the fall in the Garden. This thinking is not within the realm of the new covenant, rather it is without the victory of the incarnation itself and the glory that follows it in the crucifixion and resurrection.
In the everyday complications of life it is hard to make black and white ethical distinctions through the specific legality and even general equity of the Law. But a Christian can much more easily say to themselves’ “this is not natural.”
I would refrain from placing this theology within the more common category of what is known as “natural law,” since that is more of a modern thought from the West. It has generally referred to how all people, even non-believers, have the Law written on their hearts to some extent. I take issue with this modern category of thought since it many times misrepresents New Testament thought. Jeremiah and Hebrews says that God writes His Law on the hearts of the believers, not the non-believers, yet so-called natural law theology rarely makes this important distinction: that people who are in Christ have an entirely different (more powerful) sense of the Law of God.
To be natural is to live in Christ! Living naturally means walking by the Spirit, who is one with the creative order in which we live in. ‘Creative Order’ can be said to be everything that God represents, from the air that we breath to the conversations that we embark on, to the choices that we make. We live not in a spirit-only world but in a world that has both Spirit as well as matter; a world that Christ makes whole through His Incarnation.
“He takes on my flesh, to bring salvation to the image, immortality to the flesh. He enters into a second union with us, a union far more wonderful than the first.” – St. Gregory Nazianzen