East and West In Christ

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Be You Therefore Perfect, as Also Your Heavenly Father is Perfect.

This article by Bishop Kallistos Ware again emphasizes theosis in a way that I have never found in the Western churches (yes, I know it's there, it's just not emphasized). In the same way, our rule speak about being "created anew", connecting to our baptismal vows, yet we do not mention the mystery of what we are becoming.

What I find interesting is that in being created anew, wanting nothing necessary to completeness , we become more human by becoming teleios! The fact that I avoid this path is a witness to my self-centeredness born of my pain and my looking to that pain for meaning rather than pointing to the Trinity.

Now there is a specific reason for this mysterious and indefinable character of human personhood. And this reason is given to us by St. Gregory of Nyssa, writing in the fourth century. "God," says he, "is a mystery beyond all understanding." We humans are formed in God’s image. The image should reproduce the characteristics of the archetype, of the original. So if God is beyond understanding, then the human person formed in God’s image is likewise beyond understanding. Precisely because God is a mystery, I too am a mystery.
Now in mentioning the image, we’ve come to the most important factor in our humanness. Who am I? As a human person, I am formed in the image of God. That is the most significant and basic fact about my personhood. We are God’s living icons. Each of us is a created expression of God’s infinite and uncreated self-expression. So this means it is impossible to understand the human person apart from God. Humans cut off from God are no longer authentically human. They are subhuman.


If we lose our sense of the divine, we lose equally our sense of the human. And that we can see very clearly from the story, for example, of Soviet communism in the 70 years which followed the revolution of 1917. Soviet communism sought to establish a society where the existence of God would be denied and the worship of God would be suppressed and eliminated. At the same time, Soviet communism showed an appalling disregard for the dignity of the human person.

I think those two things go together. Whoever affirms the human also affirms God. Whoever denies God also denies the human person. The human being cannot be properly understood except with reference to the divine. The human being is not autonomous, not self-contained. I do not contain my meaning within myself. As a person in God’s image, I point always beyond myself to the divine realm.
(Emphasis is mine)

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