Saturday, July 17, 2010

Perfection: Deification



Can we really be deified?  What does this mean?  This is a central doctrine in the Orthodox faith and is called Theosis.


Fr. Dimitru Staniloae defines deification as "God's perfect and full penetration of man."  It is something that never stops but continues to the infinite.  It is an experience that only mankind is capable.  It is the result of a growth of our receptive powers to receive and use the divine energies.  It is through deification that we reach towards our potential to become like God, made in His image as we learn from the book of Genesis.


Fr. Dimitru says,
Man becomes more and more like God without identifying with Him.  Man will continue to become like God forever, in an ever fuller union with Him, but never will he reach full identification with Him; he will be able to reflect God more and more, but he will not become what God is.
The Holy Fathers emphasize that deification is by grace and not by man's own effort or nature.  When deified man's nature remains the same.  He does not become a source of divine energy, like God.  He receives God's energies though grace.  Man only reflects God's energies.  He never assumes the role of the source.


We never receive the totality of God's energies.  Through our efforts in preparation we make an ascent and as we grow spiritually God's energies descend on us granting us increased powers.


Fr. Dimitru concludes his book with the following thoughts:
The divine energies are nothing but the rays of the divine essence, shining from the three divine Persons.  And from the time that the Word of Good too flesh, these rays have been shining through His human face.
It can also be said that the things of the world are images of the logoi of the divine Logos, which are at the same time energies.  By creation God put a part of His infinite possibility of thought and of energy into existence, in the form specifically at the level of the understanding of human creatures.  He did this to permit a dialog with God and towards union with Him.
The incarnation of the Word confirmed the value of man and of these images of reason and of energy measured by him.  But it also gave man the possibility to see in the face of the man of the Logos, concentrated anew, all the logoi and divine energies.  Thus final deification will consist of a contemplation and a living of all the divine values and energies conceived in and radiated from the face of Christ according to the supreme measure of man.  But by this, in the face of each man, by the logoi and the energies gathered in him, the logoi and the energies of the Logos will be reflected luminously.  Eternal bliss will be the contemplation of the face of Christ.
So all will be in God and we will see all things in Him, or God will be in all things and we will see Him in all things; and the unitary presence of God in all things will be real to the extent that all creatures gathered in Him remain real and unmingled in God
This is the eternal perspective of deification.


Reference: Orthodox Spirituality, pp 362 - 374 

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