Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why is Theosis important?

Most of us who see ourselves as serious Orthodox Christians are content with regular participation in the Divine Liturgy and the Sacraments.  Between services we tend to not think much about religious things.  Our life goes on with all the demands of raising a family and earning a living.  Then, we stop periodically, normally on a Sunday, to go to Church and pray and sometime partake of Holy Communion.  Some, will say a short prayer every morning or evening and others will even follow some of the fasting guidelines.  Unfortunately, many follow this practice in a routine manner.  As a result, we find that our life is not much different from others. It is filled with moments of anger and, mostly, we like those around us engage primarily in self-centered activities. We do not consider ourselves to be sinful, but, instead, good citizens, employees, bosses or parents just doing the best we know how. Our faith is at best lukewarm.

How often do we think about our relationship with God? How seriously do we work at deepening this relationship so it becomes like the kind the saints and apostles have with God––one that is intimate and continuous with our hearts filled with zeal and the fire of the Holy Spirit––A relationship that permeates all our actions?

We must remember that we are creatures that were made in the image of God and yet we have fallen away from a way of life that is lived in union with God.  This condition we inherit from our parents and they from their parents. Because of this we struggle in our lives to keep God as our primary focus.  Our main effort must become to restore the union that Adam enjoyed at the time of his creation. This reunion we must seek is what we call Theosis.

Saint Theophan says,
We have fallen away from God; what is required is to be reunited with Him. We have fallen away, doubting God's word; we must reestablish complete faith in this Word.  ...It is necessary to destroy that "I myself." ...authority must be restored to the Spirit.
Saint Theophan reminds that we cannot do this on our own.
It is especially impossible for us to hope to rectify this matter of utmost importance to us on our own, because we have not established the primary point, without which there is no starting anything else, namely, reunion with God, which can in no way be in our power.
 For the restoration of our spirit and its reunion with God, it is necessary that the that the Divine Spirit descend to it and revise it. In order to open the way to the dissent of the Divine Spirit, the Only-Begotten Son of God came to earth, was incarnated, suffered, died on the cross, was resurrected, and ascended into heaven.
When we have this Christian faith and embrace the lessons from the Gospel, and participate in the sacrament of baptism, we are reborn, revised, and re-united with God. This makes us believers and children of God through grace.  It is in this reunion, and then through our ongoing efforts to live in the Spirit according to the will of God, that we can find eternal life in Paradise. However, we must continually keep our focus on this effort and become full participants in the Traditions and Sacraments of the Church that Christ established and is His body on earth.  This is more than a routine task. It requires our continual attention and effort. 

Seek continuously the Holy Spirit.

Reference:  The Spiritual Life, pp a106-110


  1. Thanks Fr Dn Charles for this and all your posts. As a Catholic who really does love his church, but find myself on a journey towards Orthodoxy, I see in Orthodox teaching so many ways that helps us in the process of theosis. I was unaware of most of these until I started reading Orthodox materials and your blog. I feel so blessed that the Lord has guided me this direction. Peace be with you.

  2. what I don't get is this.
    Is theosis a requirement for salvation?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Union with God is our aim. Salvation is union with God. Theosis is union with God. Theosis is salvation.

    Here is definition from OrthodoxWiki:
    Theosis ("deification," "divinization") is the process of a worshiper becoming free of hamartía ("missing the mark"), being united with God, beginning in this life and later consummated in bodily resurrection. For Orthodox Christians, Théōsis (see 2 Pet. 1:4) is salvation. Théōsis assumes that humans from the beginning are made to share in the Life or Nature of the all-Holy Trinity. Therefore, an infant or an adult worshiper is saved from the state of unholiness (hamartía — which is not to be confused with hamártēma “sin”) for participation in the Life (zōé, not simply bíos) of the Trinity — which is everlasting.

    My comments:
    Remember our salvation at the time of the final Judgement is due to God's grace only. This cannot be earned by works of merit or determined by the human mind. If we love God with our whole heart and dedicate our lives to doing His will, we will know our loving God out of our love for Him and His unbounded love for us. We cannot think of salvation in any legalistic way.

  5. From Orthodox Wiki:

    The statement by St. Athanasius of Alexandria, "The Son of God became man, that we might become god", [the second g is always lowercase since man can never become a God] indicates the concept beautifully. II Peter 1:4 says that we have become " . . . partakers of divine nature." Athanasius amplifies the meaning of this verse when he says theosis is "becoming by grace what God is by nature" (De Incarnatione, I). What would otherwise seem absurd, that fallen, sinful man may become holy as God is holy, has been made possible through Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate. Naturally, the crucial Christian assertion, that God is One, sets an absolute limit on the meaning of theosis - it is not possible for any created being to become, ontologically, God or even another god.
    Through theoria, the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ, human beings come to know and experience what it means to be fully human (the created image of God); through their communion with Jesus Christ God shares Himself with the human race, in order to conform them to all that God is in knowledge, righteousness and holiness. Theosis also asserts the complete restoration of all people (and of the entire creation), in principle. This is built upon the understanding of the atonement put forward by Irenaeus of Lyons, called "recapitulation."
    For many fathers, theosis goes beyond simply restoring people to their state before the Fall of Adam and Eve, teaching that because Christ united the human and divine natures in his person, it is now possible for someone to experience closer fellowship with God than Adam and Eve initially experienced in the Garden of Eden, and that people can become more like God than Adam and Eve were at that time. Some Orthodox theologians go so far as to say that Jesus would have become incarnate for this reason alone, even if Adam and Eve had never sinned.
    All of humanity is fully restored to the full potential of humanity because the Son of God took to Himself a human nature to be born of a woman, and takes to Himself also the sufferings due to sin (yet is not Himself a sinful man, and is God unchanged in His being). In Christ, the two natures of God and human are not two persons but one; thus, a union is effected in Christ, between all of humanity and God. So, the holy God and sinful humanity are reconciled in principle, in the one sinless man, Jesus Christ. (See Jesus's prayer as recorded in John 17.)
    This reconciliation is made actual through the struggle (podvig in Russian) to conform to the image of Christ. Without the struggle, the praxis, there is no real faith; faith leads to action, without which it is dead. One must unite will, thought and action to God's will, His thoughts and His actions. A person must fashion his life to be a mirror, a true likeness of God. More than that, since God and humanity are more than a similarity in Christ but rather a true union, Christians' lives are more than mere imitation and are rather a union with the life of God Himself: so that, the one who is working out salvation, is united with God working within the penitent both to will and to do that which pleases God. Gregory Palamas affirmed the possibility of humanity's union with God in His energies, while also affirming that because of God's transcendence and utter otherness, it is impossible for any person or other creature to know or to be united with God's essence. Yet through faith we can attain phronema, an understanding of the faith of the Church.
    The journey towards theosis includes many forms of praxis. Living in the community of the church and partaking regularly of the sacraments, and especially the Eucharist, is taken for granted. Also important is cultivating "prayer of the heart", and prayer that never ceases, as Paul exhorts the Thessalonians (1 and 2). This unceasing prayer of the heart is a dominant theme in the writings of the Fathers, especially in those collected in the Philokalia.


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