Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Theosis as Evangelism

theosis - deification - divinizationSt. Seraphim of Sarov, who shone with unearthly light, turned away people, more and more as he moved into theosis. Eventually, he forbade women to come to his cell. Then he obtained permission to forbid all visitors, and God answered his prayers by tumbling giant trees across the entrances. He said, “Save thyself, and thousands around you shall be saved.” This is a firmly Orthodox method of evangelism and sense of mission work. To save yourself, which is the only true encouragement for others to save themselves. It is the same as if to say, let the Word take root in your heart, and become a shining icon of the Word, and others will find the Word because of it. How unlike burying a light under a bushel.

St. Seraphim sought theosis as his chief aim – sought to save himself – and others desired earnestly therefore to do what he was doing, and save themselves, and the Spirit gave them what they need, leading them into all things. Likewise with charity. What thing can the Orthodox do that is not to save himself, that is not for theosis. If there is any such thing, let us follow the fathers in utterly failing to do it.

The theosis of humans, their perfect union with God made possible by grace, will be realized completely in the future age after the resurrection of the dead. However, beginning in this life, this union which divinizes people can be made more and more real. Our corrupt and weakened nature ought to be transformed little by little and adapted to eternal life….Fasting, vigils, prayers, alms, and other good works which are done in the name of Christ are means which help us reach that goal which always remains the same: the reception of the Holy Spirit and the making it our own, i.e., theosis….In accordance with the Tradition and teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church, grace and human freedom are expressed concurrently and may not be understood one without the other. There are not two separate moments….Each human being realizes the work of salvation in his or her life with the help of divine grace, which must be freely received….Equally irreplaceable is our free will and the cooperation of each human being with divine grace in the whole task of theosis.— Archimandrite Christoforos Stravropoulos. Partakers of Divine Nature. [Source for image and quotation: JN1034 ]

The economy of the Incarnation of Our Lord teaches us that all things should be for our salvation – to pursue union with God in all things. That is its meaning, for God became man that man might become God. For this cause – union – we love the poor. Did not St. Paul say that he looked earnestly for his reward, namely union with God – to see God. When we see the poor, we see Christ, who said, “in as much…” and we desire union with him, and that is precisely why we reach out to the poor in whom we see Christ – for union. The union of man and god brings also the union of all men, and peace, and love, and compassion. This is the great truth of the Incarnation of Christ. That love is shed abroad in our hearts through union with the Lover.

We cannot love, say the fathers, but with Christ’s love. Only the mistakes are mine, the fathers teach us to say. Our Faith calls men to the height of deification of all creation, beginning with man, beginning with each of us personally. By Christ are all things divinized.

Glory to His Condescension!


February 20, 2008 - Posted by | -- Evangelism, Western Rite Issues | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Thank you for the inspiration. I am far far far away and just beginning…

    Comment by publican123 | May 6, 2008 | Reply

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