Thursday, May 28, 2015

Theosis: Becoming God

Theosis (Greek for "making divine", Deification; to become gods by grace) leads to reconciliation and union with God achieved through a relationship or synergy between God and humanity. Union with God is not based on fusion (in a physical sense) but on free will. Since God created us with free will and all that is created by God is good, we have the potential to experience this union in all aspects of life (I.E. work, school, friendships, relationships, conversations, human interactions, prayers etc.).

Theosis should not be understood as a philosophical theory but is grounded in scripture, tradition and the writings of the early Christian writers.

The following scripture passages summarizes Theosis:

Psalm 82.6: I said, "You are gods"; you are all sons of the most high.

2 Peter 1:3–4: God’s “divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” through the knowledge of God, who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these things, He has given us His great promises so that we “may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

Romans 12:1–2: We are to present our bodies as a “living sacrifice,” doing so as part of our spiritual worship. And we are to “be transformed” by the renewing of our minds into the likeness of God.
1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:17: We are reminded that we are God’s “temple” and that “he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him”—union with God.

Galatians 2:20: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

Philippians 1:21: “For me, to live is Christ.”

Colossians 3:3: We have “died” and our lives are “hidden with Christ in God”—total participation in Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:23: May God “sanctify you completely”—complete conformity to the image and likeness of God.

2 Thessalonians 2:14: We were called by God “for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 John 4:17: “Because as He is, so are we in this world”—the possibility of deification, total participation in Christ this side of eternity.

John 17:22: In His high priestly prayer, Jesus says that He has given us the glory that the Father gave Him.

Revelation 21:7: At the beginning of the eschaton, Christ says of each of us, “I will be his God and he shall be My son.”

1 John 3:2: “We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

Philippians 3:21: Christ will “transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.”

The early Christian fathers bore witness to Theosis. More often it was the Alexandrian Fathers who preached and defended Theosis as being the aim of the Christian life. It was because of Christ's incarnation, death and resurrection that we as humans are able to achieve this union in God through Christ. Christ show's us what it is to be God in the way he lived and died as a human being. The following are a few quotations from the Fathers writing on Theosis:

St. Athanasius: "God became man so that men might become gods".

St. Gregory of Nazianzuz (who's liturgy is prayed in the Coptic Church): "Man has been ordered to become God"...and..."For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but what is united with God is also being saved".

St. Basil the Great (who's liturgy is prayed in the Coptic Church and Byzantine Church): “From the Holy Spirit is the likeness of God, and the highest thing to be desired, to become God.”

Origen noted that the spirit “is deified by that which it contemplates.”

St. Cyril of Alexandria commented that we are all called to take part in divinity, becoming the likeness of Christ and the image of the Father by “participation.”

St. Irenaeus noted, “If the Word is made man, it is that man might become gods.”

Theosis is a truly catholic understanding of the goal of our relationship with God in Christ. It is through Theosis that we can truly become human. St. Irenaeus reminds us that, "The glory of God is a living (alive) human being". In God we live and become life for others. The reason for our existence is made whole in God's existence (taking on human flesh) and the reason the Creator united with us was to complete, in its fullness, the bestowing of His grace on us because he gives abundantly. The best of gifts that God could have given us was His own self and it is because of this gift we are able to unite with Him. This is the first steps in achieving our potential in Christ!

Of the centrality of theosis and of theosis in Orthodox missiology, His Eminence Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Osthathiose (Indian Orthodox) writes: 
“Salvation is more than liberation of humanity or humanization, but divinization of the humanity and the cosmos. Finite salvation of the created is not infinite liberation, that is the infinite divinization as humanity is not created for one another alone, but for the Creator as well.
The aim of salvation is not restitution of the unfallen state and Adam and Eve, but elevation to the status and fulness of the Second Adam, which is called Christification or Trinitification.
The first Adam fell when tempted, but the Second Adam did not fall. Therefore our aim is not just humanization, but theosis. It is for this theosis that the Incarnation took place as "good news of a great joy which will come to all the people" (Lk 2:10)...
Ulltimately all the differences and separations between human beings will be dissolved in a mutual sharing of beingness (perichoresis) where 'thine and 'mine' are different in the case of property, purpose or will, but different only in different personal and group identities with full openness to penetrate each other...
The aim of mission can't be anything less than the deification, unification and reconciliation of all churches and the whole world into the unity of the measure and the stature of the fullness of Christ. It is not humanization or socialization but divinization, which is social transformation in the model of Holy Trinity, which may be called Trinification. The aim of mission is not only Theosis but along with it the establishment of the Kingdom of God.” 

+ Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Osthathiose . “Sharing God and a Sharing World” (India: ISPCK & CSS, 1995), 150-152.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Hymns of St. Ephrem: Nisibene Hymn-Christ's Victory over Death (Part 2)

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen! Continuing on our theme of the death and resurrection of Christ we will continue to look at poetry that explains to us what it is that Christ did through his death and resurrection. The following is a poem entitled, "Christ's Victory over Death" (part 2), which explains how Christ destroyed death!

This will be the last poem in this series on explaining the death and resurrection of Christ. If you would like more material please do not hesitate to contact me!

Blessed is Christ! He gave to us the dead, hope for life, and consoled our race. Although now we are subject to decay, we will be renewed. 

Listen, you mortals, to the mystery of the resurrection which is hidden now, but in the Last Days will be revealed in the Holy Church. 

Jesus a traveler [in the realm] of Death for three days, liberated his captives, robbed his camp, and renewed our race. 

Previously Death had prided himself and boasted, saying: “Priests and Kings are enchained in my dwellings.” 

But the glorious Warrior suddenly broke into the realm of Death; as a thief his voice stole therein and put an end to his glory. 

The dead in Sheol perceived the fragrance of life and began preaching to each other that their hopes come to fulfillment. 

Death reigned over mortals from the beginning, until the one Sovereign shone over and destroyed his pride. 

His voice, like peals of mighty thunder, readied the dead and heralded to them that they were liberated from bondage.

The following hymn is found in Metropolitan Hilarion, Christ the Conqueror of Hell: The Descent into Hades from an Orthodox Perspective, 131.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Hymns of St. Ephrem: Nisibene Hymn-Christ's Victory over Death (Part 1)

Christ is Risen. Indeed He is Risen! Continuing on our theme of the death and resurrection of Christ we will continue to look at poetry that explains to us what it is that Christ did through his death and resurrection. The following is a poem entitled, "Christ's Victory over Death", which explains how Christ destroyed Death!

Another poem, "Christ's Victory over Death," presents the story of Christ's descent into Hades, victory over Satan, and the devastation of Shoel:

This whole region is the region of the dead; terrifying darkness is the keeper of its treasures; its lord, Death, roars as a lion every day...

Who can imagine the terrors of this region? Who will describe by what horrors it is surrounded? Everyone who enters it, shudders...

Death rejoices and makes merry, Sheol jubilates but keeps silent.

With gladness she opens its gates and gulps down ages and

And as this fierce tyrant is accustomed to swallowing up the beautiful ones, so he has swallowed up and stolen the most Beautiful and the Most Holy One.

He ushered him in into his halls and concealed the Giant. But the Strong One arose in glory, bound Death in his own dwelling, enchained and deposed the Tormentor, who boasted o f his power over humanity.

Finally he plundered the insatiable Sheol who gulped down and tormented even the bodies of the righteous; he cried out and the demons trembled, and darkness shrank from his voice.

He put to terror the hordes and retinue of Death; that moans in his fetters; loudly howls Sheol in her

Death has been put to shame, the head of this rebel, who willed to become God, has drooped. The voice of Christ resounds in the realm of perdition, and the rebel, besieged, has surrendered.

Christ has cried out to Adam in the darkness, into which he had been plunged, and said: “Where are you beautiful Adam, once seduced by the counsel of a wife?

Rise up now, O splendid one, rise up, you majestic and corrupt image! The head of the dragon has been crushed, Death and Satan are put to death.”...

Adam rose up, bowed down to the Lord who had come in search of him, and said: “Together with my own children I bow down to you, my Lord, who has come to restore us, the fallen ones.”

The following hymn is found in Metropolitan Hilarion, Christ the Conqueror of Hell: The Descent into Hades from an Orthodox Perspective, 130-131.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hymns of St. Ephrem: Nisibene Hymn-A Dialogue between Death and Satan

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen. Continuing on our theme of the death and resurrection of Christ we will continue to look at poetry that explains to us what it is that Christ did through his death and Resurrection. The following is hymn 52 which serves as a dialogue between death and Satan!

Hymns 52-68 present a collection of dramatic dialogues in verse between Satan and Death, interspersed with the poet’s remarks. Satan and Death, who have “never prevailed and will never prevail,” argue with each other about which side the victory is on. In the course of this argument Satan and Death do no more than prove their helplessness in the face of God; they talk about Christ’s death on the cross as the source of their own torment and defeat. Each stanza is accompanied by a refrain that bears the central message: “Praise to you, O Son of the Shepherd of all, who has saved his flock from the hidden wolves, the Evil One and Death, whom he has swallowed up," “Praise to you, who has prevailed over the Evil One and through your resurrection has triumphed over Death.” In a condensed form the refrains contain the principal theological idea, which the reader would otherwise have to derive from the dialogues between Satan and Death. This particular way of presenting the material serves a didactic purpose and enables the reader to grasp the core idea of the poem in greater depth. The dialogue between Death and Satan in Hymn 52 demonstrates this.


I heard Death and Satan loudly disputing which was the stronger of the two amongst men.

Death has shown his power in that he conquers all men, Satan has shown his guile in that he makes all men sin.

Death: “Only those who want to, O Evil One, listen to you, but to me they come, whether they will or not.”

Satan: “You just employ brute force, O Death, whereas I use traps and cunning snares.”

Death: “Listen, Evil One, a cunning man can break your yoke, but there is none who can escape from mine.”

Satan: “You, O Death, exercise your strength on the sick, but I am the stronger with those who are well...”

Satan: “Sheol is hated for there is no chance of remorse there: it is a pit which swallows up and suppresses every impulse.”

Death: “Sheol is a whirlpool, and everyone who falls in it is resurrected, but sin is hated because it cuts off a man’s hope.”

Satan: “Although it grieves me, I allow for repentance; you cut off a sinner’s hopes if he dies in his sins.”

Death: “With you his hope was cut off long ago; if you had never made him sin, he would have made a good end.”

Chorus: “Blessed is he who set the accursed slaves against each other so that w e can laugh at them just as they laughed at us.” 

Our laughing at them now, my brethren, is a pledge that we shall again be enabled to laugh, at the resurrection.

The following hymn is found in Metropolitan Hilarion, Christ the Conqueror of Hell: The Descent into Hades from an Orthodox Perspective, 126-128.