Archpriest George Florovsky (1893‑1979)
The function of tradition in the Ancient Church.
The Authority of the Ancient Councils and the Tradition of the Fathers.
Revelation, Philosophy and Theology.
“Ego vero Evangelio non crederem, ni si me catholicae Ecclesiae
commoveret auctoritas.” [Indeed, I should not have believed the
Gospel, if the authority of the Catholic Church had not moved me].
famous dictum of St. Vincent of Lerins was characteristic of the attitude of
the Gnostic mishandling of Scriptures, St. Irenaeus introduced a picturesque
simile. A skillful artist has made a beautiful image of a king, composed of
many precious jewels. Now, another man takes this mosaic image apart, re‑arranges
the stones in another pattern so as to produce the image of a dog or of a fox.
Then he starts claiming that this was the original picture, by the first
master, under the pretext that the gems (the ψηφιδες) were authentic. In fact,
however, the original design had been destroyed — λυσας την υποκειμενην του ανθρωπου ιδεαν.
This is precisely what the heretics do with the Scripture. They disregard and
disrupt “the order and connection” of the Holy Writ and “dismember the truth” —
λυοντες τα μελη της αληθειας.
Words, expressions, and images —ρηματα,
—are genuine, indeed, but the design, the υποθεσις (ipothesis), is arbitrary and
false (adv. haeres., 1. 8. 1). St.
Irenaeus suggested as well another analogy. There were in circulation at that
time certain Homerocentones, composed
of genuine verses of Homer, but taken at random and out of context, and re‑arranged
in arbitrary manner. All particular verses were truly Homeric, but the new
story, fabricated by the means of re‑arrangement, was not Homeric at all.
Yet, one could be easily deceived by the familiar sound of the Homeric idiom
(1.9.4). It is worth noticing that Tertullian also refers to these curious centones, made of Homeric or Virgilian
verses (de praescr., XXXIX).
Apparently, it was a common device in the polemical literature of that time.
Now, the point which St. Irenaeus endeavored to make is obvious. Scripture had
its own pattern or design, its internal structure and harmony. The heretics
ignore this pattern, or rather substitute their own instead. In other words,
they re‑arrange the Scriptural evidence on a pattern which is quite alien
to the Scripture itself. Now, contended St. Irenaeus, those who had kept
unbending that “canon of truth” which they had received at baptism, will have
no difficulty in “restoring each expression to its appropriate place.” Then
they are able to behold the true image. The actual phrase used by St. Irenaeus
is peculiar: προσαρμοσας τω της αληθειας σωματιω
(prosarmosas to tis alithias
somatio; which is clumsily rendered in the old Latin translation as corpusculum veritatis). But the meaning
of the phrase is quite clear. The somatio
is not necessarily a diminutive. It simply denotes a “corporate body.” In the
phrase of St. Irenaeus it denotes the corpus
of truth, the right context, the original design, the “true image,” the
original disposition of gems and verses [Cf. F.
Kattenbusch, Das Apostolische Symbol,
Bd. II (
was in the
situation did not change in the Fourth century. The dispute with the Arians was
centered again in the exegetical field — at least, in its early phase. The
Arians and their supporters have produced an impressive array of Scriptural
texts in the defense of their doctrinal position. They wanted to restrict
theological discussion to the Biblical ground alone. Their claims had to be met
precisely on this ground, first of all. And their exegetical method, the manner
in which they handled the text, was much the same as that of the earlier
dissenters. They were operating with selected proof‑texts, without much
concern for the total context of the Revelation. It was imperative for the
Orthodox to appeal to the mind of the Church, to that “Faith” which had been
once delivered and then faithfully kept. This was the main concern, and the
usual method, of St. Athanasius. The Arians quoted various passages from the
Scripture to substantiate their contention that the Saviour was a creature. In
reply St. Athanasius invoked the “rule of faith.” This was his usual argument.
“Let us, who possess τον σκοπον της πιστεως
[the scope of faith], restore the correct meaning (ορθην την διανοιαν)
of what they had wrongly interpreted” (c.
Arian. III. 35). St. Athanasius contended that the “correct” interpretation
of particular texts was only possible in the total perspective of faith. “What
they now allege from the Gospels they explain in an unsound sense, as we may
discover if we take in consideration τον σκοπον της καθ ημας τους Χριστιανοθς πιοτεως
[the scope of the faith according to us Christians], and read the Scripture
using it (τον σκοπον,
ton skopon) as the rule— ωσπερ κανονι χρησαμενοι”
(III. 28) On the other hand, close attention must be given also to the immediate
context and setting of every particular phrase and expression, and the exact
intention of the writer must be carefully identified (I. 54). Writing to Bishop
Serapion, on the Holy Spirit, St. Athanasius contends again that Arians ignored
or missed “the scope of the Divine Scripture” (ad Serap., II. 7; cf. ad
episc. Eg., 4). The (σκοπος)
skopos was, in the language of
St. Athanasius, a close equivalent of what St. Irenaeus used to denote as (υποθεσις)
ipothesis — the underlying
“idea,” the true design, the intended meaning (See
Guido Müller, Lexicon Athanasianum, sub
voce: id quod quis docendo, scribendo, credendo intendit). On the
other hand, the word σκοπος skopos was a
habitual term in the exegetical language of certain philosophical schools,
especially in Neoplatonism. Exegesis played a great role in the philosophical
endeavor of that time, and the question of hermeneutical principle had to be
raised. Jamblichos was, for one, quite formal at this point. One had to
discover the “main point,” or the basic theme, of the whole treatise under examination,
and to keep it all time in mind [See Karl
Prächter, Richtungen und Schulen im Neuplatonismus, in
"Genethalikon" (Carl Roberts zum 8. März 1910), (
Against the favorite Arian technique of pressing the grammatical meaning of a text without regard either to the immediate context or to the wider frame of reference in the teaching of the Bible as a whole, he urges the need to take the general drift of the Church’s Faith as a Canon of interpretation. The Arians are blind to the wide sweep of Biblical theology and therefore fail to take into sufficient account the context in which their proof-texts are set. The sense of Scripture must itself be taken as Scripture. This has been taken as a virtual abandonment of the appeal to Scripture and its replacement by an argument from Tradition. Certainly in less careful hands it might lead to the imposition of a strait‑jacket upon the Bible as the dogmatism of Arian and Gnostic had attempted to do. But this was certainly not the intention of St. Athanasius himself. For him it represents an appeal from exegesis drunk to exegesis sober, from a myopic insistence upon the grammatical letter to the meaning of intention (σκοπος skopos, χαρακτηρ haraktir) of the Bible” (H.E.W. Turner, The Pattern of Christian Truth, London, 1954, pp. 193‑194).
It seems, however, that Professor
Turner exaggerated the danger. The argument was still strictly scriptural, and,
in principle, St. Athanasius admitted the sufficiency of the Scripture, sacred
and inspired, for the defense of truth (c.
Gentes, I). Only Scripture had to be interpreted in the context of the
living credal tradition, under the guidance or control of the “rule of faith.” This
“rule,” however, was in no sense an “extraneous” authority which could be
“imposed” on the Holy Writ. It was the same “Apostolic preaching,” which was
written down in the books of the New Testament, but it was, as it were, this
preaching in epitome. St. Athanasius writes to Bishop Serapion: “Let us
look at that very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from
the very beginning, which the Lord gave (εδωκεν), the Apostles preached (εκηρυξαν),
and the Fathers preserved (εφυλαξαν).
Upon this the Church is founded” (ad
appeal to Tradition was actually an appeal to the mind of the Church. It was
assumed that the Church had the knowledge and the understanding of the truth,
of the truth and the “meaning” of the Revelation. Accordingly, the Church had
both the competence and the authority to proclaim the Gospel and to interpret
it. This did not imply that the Church was “above” the Scripture. She stood by
the Scripture, but on the other hand, was not bound by its “letter.” The
ultimate purpose of exegesis and interpretation was to elicit the meaning and
the intent of the Holy Writ, or rather the meaning of the Revelation, of the Heilsgeschichte. The Church had to
preach Christ, and not just “the Scripture.” The use of Tradition in the
Already St. Irenaeus used to refer to “faith” as it had been received at baptism. Liturgical arguments were used by Tertullian and St. Cyprian [See Federer, op. cit., s. 59 ff.; F. De Pauw, La justification des traditions non écrites chèz Tertullien, in ‘Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses,’ t. XIX, 1/2, 1942, pp. 5‑46. Cf. also Georg Kretschmar, Studien zur frühchristlichen Trinitätstheologie (Tübingen, 1956)]. St. Athanasius and the Cappadocians used the same argument. The full development of this argument from the liturgical tradition we find in St. Basil. In his contest with the later Arians, concerning the Holy Spirit, St. Basil built his major argument on the analysis of doxologies, as they were used in the Churches. The treatise of St. Basil, De Spiritu Sancto, was an occasional tract, written in the fire and heat of a desperate struggle, and addressed to a particular historic situation. But St. Basil was concerned here with the principles and methods of theological investigation. In his treatise St. Basil was arguing a particular point — indeed, the crucial point in the sound Trinitarian doctrine — the homotimia of the Holy Ghost. His main reference was to a liturgical witness: the doxology of a definite type (“with the Spirit”), which, as he could demonstrate, has been widely used in the Churches. The phrase, of course, was not in the Scripture. It was only attested by tradition. But his opponents would not admit any authority but that of the Scripture. It is in this situation that St. Basil endeavored to prove the legitimacy of an appeal to Tradition. He wanted to show that the omotimia (ομοτιμια) of the Spirit, that is, his Divinity, was always believed in the Church and was a part of the Baptismal profession of faith. Indeed, as Père Benoit Pruche has rightly observed, the omotimos (ομοτιμιος), was for St. Basil an equivalent of the omousios (ομοουσιος) [See his introduction to the edition of the treatise De Spiritu Sancto in ‘Sources Chrètiennes,’ (Paris, 1945), pp. 28 ss]. There was little new in this concept of Tradition, except consistency and precision.
phrasing, however, was rather peculiar. “Of the dogmata and kerygmata, which
are kept in the Church, we have some from the written teaching (εκ της εγγραφου διδασκαλιας),
and some we derive from the Apostolic paradosis, which had been handed down en mistirio (εν μυστηριω). And both have the same strength (την αυτην ισχυν)
in the matters of piety” (de Spir. S., 66). At first glance one
may get the impression that St. Basil introduces here a double authority and
double standard — Scripture and
Tradition. In fact he was very far from doing so. His use of terms is peculiar.
Kerygmata were for him what in the later idiom was usually denoted as “dogmas”
or “doctrines” — a formal and authoritative teaching and ruling in the matters
of faith, the open or public teaching. On the other hand, dogmata were for him the total complex of “unwritten habits” (τα αγραφα των εθνων),
or, in fact, the whole structure of liturgical and sacramental life. It must be
kept in mind that the concept, and the term itself, “dogma,” was not yet fixed
by that time, it was not yet a term with a strict and exact connotation [See the valuable study by August Deneffe, S.J., Dogma. Wort und Begriff, in the ‘Scholastik,’ Jg. VI (1931), ss. 381‑400
and 505‑538]. In any case, one should not be embarrassed by the
contention of St. Basil that dogmata
were delivered or handed down, by the Apostles en mistirio (εν μυστρηω). It would be a flagrant mistranslation
if we render it as “in secret.” The only accurate rendering is: “by the way of
mysteries,” that is — under the form of rites and (liturgical) usages, or
“habits.” In fact, it is precisely what St. Basil says himself: τα πλειτα των μυστικων αγραφως ημιν εμπολιτευεται
[Most of the mysteries are communicated to us by an unwritten way]. The term ta mistika (τα μυστικα)
refers here, obviously, to the rites of Baptism and Eucharist, which are,
for St. Basil, of “Apostolic” origin. He quotes at this point St. Paul’s own
reference to “traditions,” which the faithful have received (ειτε δια λογου ειτε δι επιστολης
2 Thess. ; 1 Cor.
11:2). The doxology in question is one of these “traditions” (71; cf. also 66)
— οι τα περι τας Εκκλησιας εξαρχης διαθεσμοθετησαντες αποστολοι και πατερες,
εν τω κεκρυμμενω και αφθεγκτω το σεμνον τοις μυστηριοις εφυλασσον
[The Apostles and Fathers who from the very beginning arranged everything in
the churches, preserved the sacred character of the mysteries in silence and
secrecy]. Indeed, all instances quoted by St. Basil in this connection are of
ritual or liturgical nature: the use of the sign of the Cross in the rite of
admission of Catechumens; the orientation toward East at prayer; the habit to
keep standing at worship on Sundays; the epiclesis in the Eucharistic
rite; the blessing of water and oil, the renunciation of Satan and his pomp,
the triple immersion, in the rite of Baptism. There are many other “unwritten
mysteries of the Church,” says St. Basil: τα αγραφα της εκκλησιας μυστηρια
(c. 66 and 67). They are not mentioned in the Scripture. But they are of great
authority and significance. They are indispensable for the preservation of
right faith. They are effective means of witness and communication. According
to St. Basil, they come from a “silent” and “private” tradition: απο της αδημοσιευτου και μυστικης παραδοσεως εκ της αδημοσιευτου ταυτης και απορρητου διδασκαλιας
[From the silent and mystical tradition, from the unpublic and ineffable
teaching]. This “silent” and “mystical” tradition, “which has not been made
public,” is not an esoteric doctrine, reserved for some particular elite. The
“elite” was the Church. In fact, “tradition” to which St. Basil appeals, is the
liturgical practice of the Church. St. Basil is referring here to what is now
denoted as disciplina arcani [The
discipline of secrecy]. In the fourth century this “discipline” was in wide
use, was formally imposed and advocated in the Church. It was related to the
institution of the Catechumenate and had primarily an educational and didactic
purpose. On the other hand, as St. Basil says himself, certain “traditions” had
to be kept “unwritten” in order to prevent profanation at the hands of the
infidel. This remark obviously refers to rites and usages. It may be recalled
at this point that, in the practice of the Fourth century, the Creed (and also
the Dominical Prayer) were a part of this “discipline of secrecy” and could not
be disclosed to the non‑initiated. The Creed was reserved for the
candidates for Baptism, at the last stage of their instruction, after they had
been solemnly enrolled and approved. The Creed was communicated, or
“traditioned,” to them by the bishop orally
and they had to recite it by memory before him: the ceremony of traditio and redditio symboli. [Transmission and Repetition (by the initiated)
of the Creed]. The Catechumens were strongly urged not to divulge the Creed to
outsiders and not to commit it to writing. It had to be inscribed in their
hearts. It is enough to quote there the Procatechesis
of St. Cyril of
Basil’s appeal to “unwritten tradition” was actually an appeal to the faith of
the Church, to her sensus catholicus,
to the (φρονιμα εκκλησιατικον)
[Ecclesiastical mind]. He had to break the deadlock created by the obstinate
and narrow‑minded pseudo‑biblicism
of his Arian opponents. And he pleaded that, apart from this “unwritten” rule
of faith, it was impossible to grasp the true intention and teaching of the
Scripture itself. St. Basil was strictly scriptural in his theology: Scripture
was for him the supreme criterion of doctrine (epist. 189.3). His exegesis was sober and reserved. Yet, Scripture
itself was a mystery, a mystery of Divine “economy” and of human salvation.
There was an inscrutable depth in the Scripture, since it was an “inspired”
book, a book by the Spirit. For that reason the true exegesis must be also
spiritual and prophetic. A gift of spiritual discernment was necessary for the
right understanding of the Holy Word. “For the judge of the words ought to
start with the same preparation as the author … And I see that in the
utterances of the Spirit it is also impossible for everyone to undertake the
scrutiny of His word, but only for them who have the Spirit which grants the discernment”
(epist. 204). The Spirit is granted
in the sacraments of the Church. Scripture must be read in the light of faith,
and also in the community of the faithful. For that reason Tradition, the
tradition of faith as handed down through generations, was for St. Basil an
indispensable guide and companion in the study and interpretation of the Holy
Writ. At this point he was following in the steps of St. Irenaeus and St.
Athanasius. In the similar way Tradition, and especially the liturgical
witness, of the Church was used by
Church had the authority to interpret the Scripture, since she was the only
authentic depository of Apostolic kerygma.
This kerygma was unfailingly kept
alive in the Church, as she was endowed with the Spirit. The Church was still
teaching viva voce, commending and
furthering the Word of God. And viva vox
Evangelii [the living voice of the
Gospel] was indeed not just a recitation of the words of the Scripture. It was
a proclamation of the Word of God, as it was heard and preserved in the Church,
by the ever abiding power of the quickening Spirit. Apart from the Church and
her regular Ministry, “in succession” to the Apostles, there was no true
proclamation of the Gospel, no sound preaching, no real understanding of the
Word of God. And therefore it would be in vain to look for truth elsewhere,
outside of the Church, Catholic and Apostolic. This was the common assumption
Marcion and Basilides and other heretics … do not possess the Gospel of God, since they have no Holy Spirit, without which the Gospel so preached becomes human. We do not think that Gospel consists of the words of Scripture but in its meaning; not on the surface but in the marrow, not in the leaves of sermons but in the root of meaning. In this case Scripture is really useful for the hearers when it is not spoken without Christ, nor is presented without the Fathers, and those who are preaching do not introduce it without the Spirit … It is a great danger to speak in the Church, lest by a perverse interpretation of the Gospel of Christ, a gospel of man is made (in Galat., I, 1. II; M. L. XXVI, c. 386).
There is the same preoccupation
with the true understanding of the Word of God as in the days of St. Irenaeus,
Tertullian, and Origen.
the same sense we have to interpret the well known, and justly startling,
The scope of this essay is limited and restricted. It is no more than an introduction. Both subjects — the role of the Councils in the history of the Church and the function of Tradition — have been intensively studied in recent years. The purpose of the present essay is to offer some suggestions which may prove helpful in the further scrutiny of documentary evidence and in its theological assessment and interpretation. Indeed, the ultimate problem is ecclesiological. The Church historian is inevitably also a theologian. He is bound to bring in his personal options and commitments. On the other hand, it is imperative that theologians also should be aware of that wide historical perspective in which matters of faith and doctrine have been continuously discussed and comprehended. Anachronistic language must be carefully avoided. Each age must be discussed on its own terms.
student of the
situation changed with the Conversion of the Empire. Since
is no easy answer to this query. Indeed, there is a very simple answer — Christ is the Truth. The source and the
criterion of the Christian Truth is the Divine Revelation, in its twofold
structure, in its two dispensations. The source of the Truth is the Word of
God. Now, this simple answer was readily given and commonly accepted in the
has been rightly observed that appeal to “antiquity” was changing its function
and character with the course of time. The Apostolic past was still at hand,
and within the reach of human memory, in the times of St. Irenaeus or
Tertullian. Indeed, St. Irenaeus had heard in his youth the oral instruction of
St. Polycarp, the immediate disciple of
reference, or even a direct appeal, “to
the Fathers” was a distinctive and salient note of theological research and
discussion in the period of the great General or Ecumenical Councils, beginning
with that of Nicea. The term has never been formally defined. It was used,
occasionally and sporadically, already by early ecclesiastical writers. Often
it simply denoted Christian teachers and leaders of previous generations. It
was gradually becoming a title for the bishops, in so far as they were
appointed teachers and witnesses of faith. Later the title was applied specifically
to bishops in Councils. The common element in all these cases was the teaching
office or task. “Fathers” were those who transmitted and propagated the right
doctrine, the teaching of the Apostles, who were guides and masters in
Christian instruction and catechesis. In this sense it was emphatically
applied to great Christian writers. It must be kept in mind that the main, if
not also the only, manual of faith and doctrine was, in the
The creeds of the Church grew out of the teaching of the Church: the general effect of heresy was rather to force old creeds to be tightened up than to cause fresh creeds to be constructed. Thus the most famous and most crucial of all creeds, that of Nicea, was only a new edition of an existing Palestinian confession. And a further important fact always ought to be remembered. The real intellectual work, the vital interpretative thought, was not contributed by the Councils that promulgated the creeds, but by the theological teachers who supplied and explained the formulae which the Councils adopted. The teaching of Nicea, which finally commended itself, represented the views of intellectual giants working for a hundred years before and for fifty years after the actual meeting of the Council (G. L. Prestige, Fathers and Heretics (London, 1940), p. 8. Italics are mine).
The Fathers were true inspirers of
the Councils, while being present and in absentia, and also often after they
have gone to Eternal Rest. For that reason, and in this sense, the Councils
used to emphasize that they were “following the Holy Fathers” (επομενοι τοις αγιος πατρασιν),
[See my article “Offenbarung, Philosophie and Theologie,” Zwischen den Zeiten, IX (1931), pp. 463‑480. — Cf. Karl Adam, Christus unser Bruder (1926), p. 116 f.: Der konservative Traditionsgeist der Kirche fliesst unmittelbar aus ihrer christozentrischen Grundhaltung. Von dieser Grundstellung aus wandte sich die Kirche von jeher gegen die Tyrannie von Führerpersönlichkeiten, von Schulen und Richtungen. Da, wo durch diese Schulen das christliche Bewusstsein, die überlieferte Botschaft von Christus, getrübt oder bedroht schien, da zögerte sie nicht, selbst über ihre grössten Söhne hinwegzuschreiten, über einen Origenes, Augustin, ja — hier und dort — selbst über einen Thomas von Aquin. Und überall da, wo grundsätzlich nicht die Überlieferung, nicht das Feststehen auf dem Boden der Geschichte, der urchristlichen Gegebenheit, der lebendigen fortdauernden Gemeinschaft, sondern die eigene Spekulation and das eigene kleine Erlebnis and das eigene arme Ich zum Träger der Christusbotschaft gemacht werden sollte, da sprach sie umgehend ihr Anathema aus ... Die Geschichte der kirchlichen Verkündigung ist nichts anderes als ein zähes Festhalten an Christus, eine folgestrenge Durchführung des Gebotes Christi: Nur einer sei eurer Lehrer, Christus. — Actually, this pathetic passage is almost a paraphrase of the last chapter of the (first) Commonitorium of St. Vincent, in which he sharply discriminates between the common and universal mind of the Church and the privatae opiniunculae of individuals: quidquid vero, quamquis ille sanctus et doctus, quamvis episcopus, quamvis confessor et martyr, praeter omnes aut etam contra omnes senserit (cap. XXVII)].
The teaching authority of the Ecumenical Councils is grounded in the infallibility of the Church. The ultimate “authority” is vested in the Church which is for ever the Pillar and the Foundation of Truth. It is not primarily a canonical authority, in the formal and specific sense of the term, although canonical strictures or sanctions may be appended to conciliar decisions on matters of faith. It is a charismatic authority, grounded in the assistance of the Spirit: for it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us.
This article originally appeared as “Offenbarung, Philosophic und Theologie” in Zwischen den Zeiten, Heft 6 (München, 1931). Translated from the German by Richard Haugh.
There are two aspects of religious knowledge: Revelation and Experience. Revelation is the voice of God speaking to man. And man hears this voice, listens to it, accepts the Word of God and understands it. It is precisely for this purpose that God speaks; that man should hear him. By Revelation in the proper sense, we understand precisely this word of God as it is heard. Holy Scripture is the written record of the Revelation which has been heard. And however one may interpret the inspired character of Scripture, it must be acknowledged that Scripture preserves for us and presents to us the voice of God in the language of man. It presents to us the word of God just as it resounded in the receptive soul of man. Revelation is theophany. God descends to man and reveals himself to man. And man sees and beholds God. And he describes what he sees and hears; he testifies to what has been revealed to him. The greatest mystery and miracle of the Bible consists of the fact that it is the Word of God in the language of man.
Quite properly the early Christian exegetes saw in the Old Testamental Scriptures an anticipation and prototype of the coming Incarnation of God. Already in the Old Testament the Divine Word becomes human. God speaks to man in the language of man. This constitutes the authentic anthropomorphism of Revelation. This anthropomorphism however is not merely an accommodation. Human language in no way reduces the absolute character of Revelation nor limits the power of God's “Word.” The Word of God can be expressed precisely and adequately in the language of man. For man is created in the image of God. It is precisely for this reason that man is capable of perceiving God, of receiving God's Word and of preserving it. The Word of God is not diminished while it resounds in human language. On the contrary, the human word is transformed and, as it were, transfigured because of the fact that it pleased God to speak in human language. Man is able to hear God, to grasp, receive and preserve the word of God. In any case, Holy Scripture speaks to us not only of God, but also of man. Furthermore, God himself speaks in his Revelation not only about himself but also about man. Thus historical Revelation fulfills itself precisely in the appearance of the God-Man. Not only in the Old but also in the New Testament we see not only God, but also man. We apprehend God approaching and appearing to man; and we see human persons who encounter God and listen attentively to his Word — and, what is more, respond to his words.
We hear in Scripture also the voice of man, answering God in words of prayer or of thanksgiving or of praise. It is sufficent to mention the Psalms in this connection. And God desires, expects, and requires this response. God desires that man not only listens to his words but that man also responds to them. God wants to involve man in “conversation.” God descends to man — and he descends in order to elevate man to him. In Scripture one is astounded, above all, by this intimate nearness of God to man and of man to God, this sanctification of all human life by the presence of God, this overshadowing of the earth with Divine protection.
In Scripture we are astonished by the very fact of sacred history itself. In Scripture it is revealed that history itself becomes sacred, that history can be consecrated, that life can be sanctified. And, to be sure, not only in the sense of an external illumination of life — as if from outside — but also in the sense of its transfiguration. For Revelation is indeed completed with the founding of the Church and with the Holy Spirit's descent into the world. Since that time the Spirit of God abides in the world. Suddenly in the world itself the source of eternal life is established. And Revelation will be consummated with the appearance of the new heaven and the new earth, with a cosmic and universal transformation of all created existence. One can suggest that Revelation is the path of God in history — we see how God walks among the ranks of men. We behold God not only in the transcendent majesty of his glory and omnipotence but also in his loving nearness to his creation. God reveals himself to us not only as Lord and Pantocrator but, above all, as Father. And the main fact is that written Revelation is history, the history of the world as the creation of God. Scripture begins with the creation of the world and closes with the promise of a new creation. And one senses the dynamic tension between both these moments, between the first divine “fiat” and the coming one: “Behold, I make all things new” (idu, kena pio panda, ιδου καινα ποιω παντα Revelation 21:5).
This is not the place to treat in detail the basic questions of Biblical exegesis. Nevertheless one thing must be unconditionally stated. Scripture can be viewed from a double perspective: outside of history or — as history. In the first case the Bible is interpreted as a book of eternal and sacred images and symbols. And one must then unravel and interpret it precisely as a symbol, according to the rules of the symbolical or allegorical method. In the ancient Church the adherents of the allegorical method interpreted the Bible in this manner. The mystics of the Middle Ages and of the era of the Reformation understood the Bible also in this manner. Many contemporary theologians, especially Roman Catholic theologians, also lean toward such an understanding. The Bible appears then as a kind of Law Book, as a codex of divine commandments and ordinances, as a collection of texts or “theological loci,” as a compilation of pictures and illustrations. The Bible then becomes a self-sufficient and self-contained book — a book, so to speak, written for no one, a book with seven seals ...
One need not reject such an approach: there is a certain truth in such an interpretation. But the totality of the Spirit of the Bible contradicts such an interpretation; it contradicts the direct meaning of Scripture. And the basic error of such an understanding consists in the abstraction from man. Certainly the Word of God is eternal truth and God speaks in Revelation for all times. But if one admits the possibility of various meanings of Scripture and one recognizes in Scripture a kind of inner meaning which is abstracted and independent from time and history, one is in danger of destroying the realism of Revelation. It is as though God had so spoken that those to whom he first and directly spoke had not understood him — or, at least, had not understood as God had intended. Such an understanding reduces history to mythology. And finally Revelation is not only a system of divine words but also a system of divine acts; and precisely for this reason — it is, above all, history, sacred history or the history of salvation (Heilsgeschichte), the history of the covenant of God with man.
Only in such an historical perspective does the fulness of Scripture disclose itself to us. The texture of Scripture is an historical texture. The words of God are always, and above all, time-related — they have always, and above all, a direct meaning. God sees before him, as it were, the one to whom he speaks, and he speaks because of this in such a way that he can be heard and understood. For he always speaks for the sake of man, for man. There is a symbolism in Scripture — but it is rather a prophetic than an allegorical symbolism. There are images and allegories in Scripture, but in its totality Scripture is not image and allegory but history. One must distinguish between symbolism and typology. In symbolism one abstracts from history. Typology, however, is always historical; it is a kind of prophecy — when the events themselves prophesy. One can also say that prophecy is also a symbol — a sign which points to the future — but it is always an historical symbol which directs attention to future events. Scripture has an historical teleology: everything strives toward an historical boundary-point, upward toward the historical telos. For this reason there is such a tension of time in Holy Scripture. The Old Testament is the time of messianic expectation — this is the basic theme of the Old Testament. And the New Testament is, above all, history — the evangelical history of the Divine Word and the beginning of the history of the Church, which is directed anew to the expectation of Apocalyptic fulfillment. “Fulfillment” is in general the basic category of Revelation.
Revelation is the Word of God and the Word about God. But, at the same time, in addition to this, Revelation is always a Word addressed to man, a summons and an appeal to man. And in Revelation the destiny of man is also revealed. In any case the Word of God is given to us in our human language. We know it only as it resounds through our receptiveness, in our consciousness, in our spirit. And the substance and objectivity of Revelation is apprehended not by man's abstracting himself from himself, nor by depersonalizing himself, nor by shrinking to a mathematical point, thereby transforming himself into a “transcendental subject.” It is precisely the opposite: a “transcendental subject” can neither perceive nor understand the voice of God. It is not to a “transcendental subject,” not to any “consciousness-in-general” that God speaks. The “God of the Living,” the God of Revelation speaks to living persons, to empirical subjects. The face of God reveals itself only to living personalities. And the better, the fuller and the clearer that man sees the face of God, so much the more distinct and living is his own face, so much the fuller and clearer has the “image of God” exhibited and realized itself in him. The highest objectivity in the hearing and understanding of Revelation is achieved through the greatest exertion of the creative personality, through spiritual growth, through the transfiguration of the personality, which overcomes in itself “The wisdom of flesh,” ascending to “The measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (εις μετρον ηλικιας του πληρωματος του Χριστου Ephesians ). From man it is not self-abnegation which is demanded but a victorious forward movement, not self-destruction but a rebirth or transformation, indeed a theosis (θεωσις). Without man Revelation would be impossible — because no one would be there to hear and God would then not speak. And God created man so that man would hear his words, receive them, and grow in them and through them become a participator of “eternal life.” The Fall of man did not alter the original intention of God. Man has not lost completely the capacity of hearing God and praising him. And finally — the dominion and power of sin has ceased. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us ... and we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The way of life and light is open. And the human spirit has anew become capable of hearing God completely and of receiving his words.
But God spoke to man not only so that he would remember and call to mind His words. One can not just keep the “Word of God in his memory. One must preserve the Word of God, above all, in a living and burning heart. The Word of God is preserved in the human spirit as a seed which sprouts and brings forth fruit. This means that the truth of divine Revelation must unfold within human thought, must develop into an entire system of believing confession, into a system of religious perspective — one may say, into a system of religious philosophy and a philosophy of Revelation.
There is no subjectivism in this. Religious knowledge always remains in its essence heteronomous, since it is a vision and a description of divine reality which was and is revealed to man by the entrance of the Divine into the world. God descends into the world — and unveils not only his countenance to man but actually appears to him. Revelation is comprehended by faith and faith is vision and perception. God appears to man and man beholds God. The truths of faith are truths of experience, truths of a face. It is precisely this which is the foundation of the apodictic certainty of faith. Faith is a descriptive confirmation of certain facts — “thus it is,” “thus it was,” or “thus it will be.” Precisely for this reason faith is also undemonstrable — faith is the evidence of experience.
One must distinguish clearly between the epochs of Revelation. And one ought not ascertain the essence of the Christian faith on the basis of Old Testamental precedents. The Old Testament was the time of expectation; the entire pathos of Old Testamental man was directed toward the “future” — the “future” was the basic category of its religious experience and life. The faith of Old Testamental man was expectation — the expectation of that which was not yet, of that which had not yet come to pass, of that which was also “invisible.” Indeed the time of expectation came to an end. The prophecies are fulfilled. The Lord has come. And he has come in order to remain with those who believe on him “Always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He has given man “the power to become children of God” (John ). He has sent the Holy Spirit into the world to lead believers “Into all truth” (John ), and bring to remembrance all that the Lord has said (John 14:26: εκεινος υμας διδαξει παντα και υπομνησει υμας παντα α ειπον υμιν εγω). For this reason the believers have “the anointing by the Holy Spirit, and know all ... and have no need that any one should teach them” (1 John , 27). They have the “unction of truth,” charisma veritatis, as St. Irenaeus states. In Christ the possibility and the path of spiritual life opens itself to man. And the height of spiritual life is knowledge and vision, gnosis (γνοσις) and theoria (θεωρια). This alters the meaning of faith. The Christian faith is not directed primarily toward “the future,” but rather toward that which was already fulfilled — more properly expressed, toward that Eternal Present, toward the divine fulness which has been and is being revealed by Christ. In a certain sense one can say that Christ made religious knowledge possible for the first time; that is, the knowledge of God. And this he accomplished not as preacher or as prophet, but as the “Prince of Life” and as the High Priest of the New Covenant. Knowledge of God has become possible through that renewal of human nature which Christ accomplished in his death and resurrection. This renewal was also a renewal of human reason and of the human spirit. That meant again the renewal of man's vision.
And the knowledge of God has become possible in the Church, in the Body of Christ as the unity of the life of grace. In the Church Revelation becomes an inner Revelation. In a certain sense Revelation becomes the confession of the Church. It is very important to remember that the New Testamental writings are younger than the Church. These writings are a book written in the Church. They are a written record of the faith of the Church, of the faith which is preserved in the Church. And the Church confirms the truth of Scripture, confirms its authenticity — verifies it by the authority of the Holy Spirit who dwells in the Church. One should not forget this with regard to the Gospel. In the written Gospels the image of the Saviour is held firm, that same image which lived from the very beginning in the living memory of the Church, in the experience of faith — not just in the historical memory but in the very memory of faith. This is an essential distinction. Because we know Christ not just from memories and accounts. Not only is his image living in the memory of believers — he himself abides among them, standing always before the door of each soul. It is precisely in this experience of the living community with Christ that the Gospel becomes alive as a holy book. Divine Revelation lives in the Church — how else should it be able to preserve itself? It is sketched and strengthened by the words of Scripture. To be sure, it is sketched — but these words do not exhaust the entire fulness of Revelation, do not exhaust the entire fulness of Christian experience. And the possibility of new and other words are not excluded. Scripture, in any case, calls for interpretation.
And the unalterable truths of experience can be expressed in different ways. Divine reality can be described in images and parables, in the language of devotional poetry and of religious art. Such was the language of the prophets in the Old Testament, in such a manner the Evangelists often speak, in such a way the Apostles preached, and in such a manner the Church preaches even now in her liturgical hymns and in the symbolism of her sacramental acts. That is the language of proclamation and of good tidings, the language of prayer and of mystical experience, the language of “Kerygmatic” theology. And there is another language, the language of comprehending thought, the language of dogma. Dogma is a witness of experience. The entire pathos of dogma lies in the fact that it points to Divine reality; in this the witness of dogma is symbolic. Dogma is the testimony of thought about what has been seen and revealed, about what has been contemplated in the experience of faith — and this testimony is expressed in concepts and definitions. Dogma is an “intellectual vision,” a truth of perception. One can say: it is the logical image, a “logical icon” of divine reality. And at the same time a dogma is a definition — that is why its logical form is so important for dogma, that “inner word” which acquires force in its external expression. This is why the external aspect of dogma — its wording — is so essential.
Dogma is by no means a new Revelation. Dogma is only a witness. The whole meaning of dogmatic definition consists of testifying to unchanging truth, truth which was revealed and has been preserved from the beginning. Thus it is a total misunderstanding to speak of “the development of dogma.” Dogmas do not develop; they are unchanging and inviolable, even in their external aspect — their wording. Least of all is it possible to change dogmatic language or terminology. As strange as it may appear, one can indeed say: dogmas arise, dogmas are established, but they do not develop. And once established, a dogma is perennial and already an immutable “rule of faith (“regula fidei;” o kanon tis pisteos, ο κανων της πιστεως). Dogma is an intuitive truth, not a discursive axiom which is accessible to logical development. The whole meaning of dogma lies in the fact that it is expressed truth. Revelation discloses itself and is received in the silence of faith, in silent vision — this is the first and apophatic step of the knowledge of God. The entire fulness of truth is already contained in this apophatic vision, but truth must be expressed. Man, however, is called not only to be silent but also to speak, to communicate. The silentium mysticum does not exhaust the entire fulness of the religious vocation of man. There is also room for the expression of praise. In her dogmatic confession the Church expresses herself and proclaims the apophatic truth which she preserves. The quest for dogmatic definitions is therefore, above all, a quest for terms. Precisely because of this the doctrinal controversies were a dispute over terms. One had to find accurate and clear words which could describe and express the experience of the Church. One had to express that “spiritual Vision” which presents itself to the believing spirit in experience and contemplation.
This is necessary because the truth of faith is also the truth for reason and for thought — this does not mean, however, that it is the truth of thought, the truth of pure reason. The truth of faith is fact, reality — that which is. In this “quest for words” human thought changes, the essence of thought itself is transformed and sanctified. The Church indirectly testified to this in rejecting the heresy of Apollinarius. Apollinarianism is, in its deepest sense, a false anthropology, it is a false teaching about man and therefore it is also a false teaching about the God-Man Christ. Apollinarianism is the negation of human reason, the fear of thought — “it is impossible that there be no sin in human thoughts” (“αδυνατον δε εστιν εν λογισμοις ανθρωπινοις αμαρτιαν” Gregory of Nyssa, Contra Apollin. II, 6, 8; I, 2). And that means that human reason is incurable — atherapevton esti, αθεραπευτον εστι — that is, it must be cut off. The rejection of Apollinarianism meant therefore, at the time, the fundamental justification of reason and thought. Not in the sense, of course, that “natural reason” is sinless and right by itself but in the sense that it is open to transformation, that it can be healed, that it can be renewed. And not only can but also must be healed and renewed. Reason is summoned to the knowledge of God. The “philosophizing” about God is not just a feature of inquisitiveness or a kind of audacious curiosity. On the contrary, it is the fulfillment of man's religious calling and duty. Not an extra-achievement, not a kind of opus supererogatorium — but a necessary and organic moment of religious behavior. And for this reason the Church “philosophized” about God — “formulated dogmas which fishermen had earlier expounded in simple words” (from the service in honor of the Three Hierarchs), The “dogmas of the Fathers” present again the unchanging content of “apostolic preaching” in intellectual categories. The experience of truth does not change and does not even grow; indeed, thought penetrates into the “understanding of truth” and transforms itself through the process.
One can simply say: in establishing dogmas the Church expressed Revelation in the language of Greek philosophy — or, if preferable: translated Revelation from the Hebraic, poetic and prophetic language into Greek. That meant, in a certain sense, a “Hellenization” of Revelation. In reality, however, it was a “Churchification” (“Verkirchlichung”) of Hellenism. One can speak at length about this theme — indeed, much and often has this theme been taken up and discussed — indeed, it has been discussed and disputed too much and too often. It is essential here to raise only one issue.
Old Covenant has passed.
When divine truth is expressed in human language, the words themselves are transformed. And the fact that the truths of the faith are veiled in logical images and concepts testifies to the transformation of word and thought — words become sanctified through this usage. The words of dogmatic definitions are not “simple words,” they are not “accidental” words which one can replace by other words. They are eternal words, incapable of being replaced. This means that certain words — certain concepts — are eternalized by the very fact that they express divine truth. This means that there is a so-called philosophia perennis — that there is something eternal and absolute in thought. But this does not at all mean there is an “eternalization” of one specific philosophical “system.”
To state it more correctly — Christian dogmatics itself is the only true philosophical “system.” One recalls that dogmas are expressed in philosophical language — indeed, in a specific philosophical language — but not at all in the language of a specific philosophical school. Rather, one can speak of a philosophical “eclecticism” of Christian dogmatics. And this “eclecticism” has a much deeper meaning than one usually assumes. Its entire meaning consists of the fact that particular themes of Hellenic philosophy are received and, through this reception, they change essentially; they change and are no longer recognizable. Because now, in the terminology of Greek philosophy, a new, a totally new experience is expressed. Although themes and motives of Greek thought are retained, the answers to the problems are quite different; they are given out of a new experience. Hellenism, for this reason, received Christianity as something foreign and alien, and the Christian Gospel was “foolishness” to the Greeks (εθνεσιν δε μωιαν 1 Corinthians ).
Hellenism, forged in the fire of a new experience and a new faith, is renewed; Hellenic thought is transformed. Usually we do not sufficiently perceive the entire significance of this transformation which Christianity introduced into the realm of thought. This is so, partially because we too often remain ancient Greeks philosophically, not yet having experienced the baptism of thought by fire. And in part, on the contrary, because we are too accustomed to the new world-view, retaining it as an “innate truth” when, in actuality, it was given to us only through Revelation. It is sufficient to point out just a few examples: the idea of the creaturehood of the world, not only in its transitory and perishable aspect but also in its primordial principles. For Greek thought the concept of “created ideas” was impossible and offensive. And bound up with this was the Christian intuition of history as a unique — once-occurring — creative fulfillment, the sense of a movement from an actual “beginning” up to a final end, a feeling for history which in no way at all allows itself to be linked with the static pathos of ancient Greek thought. And the understanding of man as person, the concept of personality, was entirely inaccessible to Hellenism which considered only the mask as person. And finally there is the message of Resurrection in glorified but real flesh, a thought which could only frighten the Greeks who lived in the hope of a future dematerialization of the Spirit.
These are some of the new vistas disclosed in the new experience, out of Revelation. They are the presuppositions and categories of a new Christian philosophy. This new philosophy is enclosed in Church dogmatics. In the experience of faith the world reveals itself differently than in the experience of “natural man.” Revelation is not only Revelation about God but also about the world. For the fulness of Revelation is in the image of the God-Man; that is, in the fact of the ineffable union of God and Man, of the Divine and the human, of the Creator and the creature — in the indivisible and unmerged union forever. It is precisely the Chalcedonian dogma of the unity of the God-Man which is the true, decisive point of Revelation, and of the experience of faith and of Christian vision.
Strictly speaking, a clear knowledge of God is impossible for man, if he is committed to vague and false conceptions of the world and of himself. There is nothing surprising about this. For the world is the creation of God and therefore, if one has a false understanding of the world, one attributes to God a work which he did not produce; one therefore casts a distorted judgment on God's activity and will. In this respect a true philosophy is necessary for faith. And, on the other hand, faith is committed to specific metaphysical presuppositions. Dogmatic theology, as the exposition and explanation of divinely revealed truth in the realm of thought, is precisely the basis of a Christian philosophy, of a sacred philosophy, of a philosophy of the Holy Spirit.
Once again it must be stressed: dogma presupposes experience, and only in the experience of vision and faith does dogma reach its fulness and come to life. And again: dogmas do not exhaust this experience, just as Revelation is not exhausted in “words” or in the “letter” of Scripture. The experience and knowledge of the Church are more comprehensive and fuller than her dogmatic pronouncement. The Church witnesses to many things which are not in “dogmatic” statements but rather in images and symbols. In other words, “dogmatic” theology can neither dismiss nor replace “Kerygmatic” theology. In the Church the fulness of knowledge and understanding is given, but this fulness is only gradually and partially disclosed and professed — and, in general, the knowledge in this world is always only a “partial” knowledge, and the fulness will be revealed only in the Parousia. “Now I know in part” — (“αρτι γινωσκω εκ μερους...” 1 Corinthians ).
“incompleteness” of knowledge depends upon the fact that the Church is still
“in pilgrimage,” still in the process of becoming; she witnesses to the
mystical essence of time in which the growth of mankind is being accomplished
according to the measure of the image of Christ. And furthermore: the Church
does not endeavor at all to express and declare everything. The Church does not
endeavor to crystallize her experience in a closed system of words and
concepts. Nevertheless, this “incompleteness” of our knowledge here and now
does not weaken its authentic and apodictic character, A Russian theologian
described this situation in the following way: “The Church gives no fixed plan
of the City of
Revelation is preserved in the Church. It was given by God to the Church, not to separate individuals. Just as in the Old Testament “the words of God” (“τα λογια του Θεου,” ta logia tu Theu — Romans 3:2) were entrusted not to individuals but to the People of God. Revelation is given, and is accessible, only in the Church; that is, only through life in the Church, through a living and actual belonging to the mystical organism of the Body of Christ. This means that genuine knowledge is only possible in the element of Tradition.
Tradition is a very important concept, one which is usually understood too narrowly: as oral Tradition in contrast to Scripture. This understanding not only narrows but also distorts the meaning of Tradition. Sacred Tradition as the “tradition of truth,” — traditio veritatis, as St. Irenaeus stated — is not only historical memory, not simply an appeal to antiquity and to empirical unchangingness. Tradition is the inner, mystical memory of the Church. It is, above all, the “unity of the Spirit,” the unity and continuity of the spiritual experience and the life of grace. It is the living connection with the day of Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit descended into the world as the “Spirit of Truth.” The faithfulness to Tradition is not a loyalty to antiquity but rather the living relationship with the fulness of the Christian life.
appeal to Tradition is not so much the appeal to earlier patterns as it is an
appeal to the “catholic” experience
of the Church, to the fulness of her knowledge. As the well-known formula of
St. Vincent of Lerins states: quod
semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditum est — in this formula, to
which one so often appeals, there is an essential ambiguity. “Semper” and “ubique” must not be understood literally and empirically. And “omnes” does not include all who claim
to be Christian but only the “true” Christians who preserve the right doctrine
and interpret it correctly. Those, however, who are “heretics,” who are misled,
and those who are weak in faith are not included in the concept of “all.” The formula of
The term “catholic” is often understood wrongly and imprecisely. The katholikos (καθολικος) of kath olu (καθ ολου) does not at all mean an external universality — it is not a quantative but rather a qualitative criterion. “Catholic” does not mean “universal;” katholikos is not identical with ikumenikos (οικουμενικος). The “Catholic Church” can also historically turn out to be the “small flock.” There are probably more “heretics” than “Orthodox believers” in the actual world and it can turn out that “heretics” are “everywhere” — ubique — and the true Church is pushed into the background of history, into the “desert.” This was often the case and it may happen again. But this empirical limitation and situation does not in any way destroy the “catholic” nature of the Church. The Church is catholic because she is the Body of Christ, and in the unity of this Body the reciprocal co-growth of individual members takes place; mutual seclusion and isolation is overcome, and the true “community” or the “common life” — kinonia or kinovia — is realized. And that concerns thought also. In the unity of the Church the catholicity of consciousness is realized. In this the true mystery of the Church is contained: “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us...so that they may become perfectly one...” (“ινα παντες εν ωσιν—ινα ωσιν τετελειωμενοι εις εν” John 17:21, 23).
This “fulness of unity” in the image of the Trinity is precisely the catholicity of the Church. In explaining the High Priestly prayer of our Lord, the late Metropolitan Anthony of Kiev stated: “This prayer concerns nothing else other than the establishment of a new, united existence of the Church on earth. This reality has its image not on earth, where there is no unity but only division, but rather its image is in heaven where the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit unites Three Persons in one Being. Thus there are not three Gods but One God who lives One life. The Church is the completely new, particular, unique existence on earth, a unique existence which one cannot define clearly by certain concepts taken from profane life. The Church is an image of Trinitarian existence, an image in which many persons become one being. Why is such an existence, as also the existence of the Holy Trinity, new and, for ancient man, inaccessible? For this reason; because in the natural self-consciousness a person is enclosed within himself and is radically opposed to every other person” (Archbishop Anthony Khrapovitskti, Collected, Works, II, 2; St. Petersburg, 1911, — “The Moral Idea of the Dogma of the Church,” pp. 17 and 18; in Russian). Elsewhere Metropolitan Anthony states: “The Christian therefore must free himself, in the measure of his spiritual perfection, from the direct opposition of “I” and “non-I" — to transform from its very foundation the structure of human self-consciousness” (Ibid., p. 65).
Such a transformation of “human self-consciousness” also takes place in the Church, in the “catholic” or “communal” consciousness of the Church. “Catholic” consciousness is not a collective-consciousness, not a universal or profane community-consciousness — neither is it a conglomerate of single conscious individuals; it is not an impersonal “consciousness-in-general.” “Catholicity” is the concrete “unity of thoughts” and “community of persons.” “Catholicity” is structure and style, “the determination of personal consciousness,” which overcomes its limitation and isolation and matures to a “catholic” height — “catholicity” is the ideal standard or boundary-point, the “telos,” (τελος) of personal consciousness which is realized in the affirmation, not in the abolition, of personality. And the measure of “catholicity” can only be fulfilled through life in Christ. And not because we realize in our consciousness an abstract “consciousness-in-general” or an impersonal nature of logical thought, but rather “catholicity” is realized by concrete experience or by the Vision of the Truth. Unity is realized through participation in the one truth; it realized itself in the truth, in Christ. And therefore consciousness transforms itself. As the clearest expression of this transformation one must recognize that mysterious overcoming of time which takes place in the Church.
In Christ the believers of all eras and generations unify and unite themselves — meeting each other, as it were, as mystically united contemporaries. In this consists precisely the religious and metaphysical meaning of “the communion of the saints” — communio sanctorum. And therefore the memory of the Church is oriented not to the past which has passed away but rather to what has been achieved or “completed” — the memory of the Church is turned toward those of the past as contemporaries in the fulness of the Church of the Body of Christ, which embraces all times. Tradition is the symbol of this “all-time-ness.”
To know or perceive through Tradition means to know or perceive from the fulness of this experience of “all-time-ness.” And this can be known within the Church by each person in his personal experience, according to the measure of his spiritual maturity. To turn oneself toward Tradition means to turn oneself toward this fulness. The “Catholic transformation” of consciousness makes it possible for each person to know — not in fact for himself only but for all; it makes the fulness of experience possible. And this knowledge is free from every restriction. In the catholic nature of the Church there is the possibility of theological knowledge and not just something founded upon theological “opinions.” I maintain that each person can realize the catholic standard in himself. I do not say that each person does realize it. That depends upon the measure of one's spiritual maturity. Each person is, however, called. And those who realize it we call Fathers and Teachers of the Church, for we hear from them not simply their personal opinions but the very witness of the Church — because they speak out of the Catholic fulness. This fulness is unexhausted and inexhaustible. And we are summoned to testify about this and in this the vocation of man is fulfilled. God revealed and reveals himself to man. And we are called to testify to that which we have seen and see.
Translated from the German by
“Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands, and thy walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:16).
world is created. That means: the world came out of nothing. That means there
was no world before it sprang up and came into being. It sprang up and came
into being together with time. Because when there was no world, there was no
time. Because “time is reckoned from the creation of the heavens and the
earth,” as St. Maximus the Confessor said.1 Only the world exists in time — in change,
succession, duration. Without the world there is no time. And the genesis of
the world is the beginning of time.2 This beginning, as St. Basil
the Great explains, is not yet time, nor even a fraction of time, just as the
beginning of a road is not yet the road itself. It is simple and uncomposite.3
There was no time; and suddenly, all at once, it began. Creation springs, comes into being, passes from out of
non-being into being. It begins to
be. As St. Gregory of Nyssa says, “The very subsistence of creation owed its beginning
to change,”4 “the very transition from non-entity to existence is a
change, non-existence being changed by the Divine power into being.”5
This primordial genesis and beginning of change and duration, this “transition”
from void to existence, is inaccessible to human thought. But it becomes
comprehensible and imaginable from its opposite. We always calculate time in an
inverse order, back from the present, retreating into the depths of time, going
backwards in the temporal sequence; and only secondarily do we think in terms
of consecutive reckoning. And going backwards into the past, we stop at some
determinate link, one which is calculated and calculable from within the
series, with a clear consciousness that we have to stop. The very notion of the
beginning of time is this necessity of stopping, is the very impossibility of
an infinite regression into the past. It makes no difference whether we can or
cannot compute this limit of retreat in terms of centuries or of days. The
prohibition itself remains in full force. A first unit is absolutely postulated
in the temporal series, before which there are no other links, no other moments
of time, because there was no change, and no sequence whatever. It is not time
that precedes time, but “the height of ever-present eternity” transcending
duration — celsitudo semper praesentis aeternitatis, as
The world exists. But it began to exist. And that means; the world could have not existed. There is no necessity whatsoever for the existence of the world. Creaturely existence is not self-sufficient and is not independent. In the created world itself there is no foundation, no basis for genesis and being. Creation by its very existence witnesses to and proclaims its creaturehood, it proclaims that it has been produced. Speaking in the words of Augustine, “[It] cries out that it has been created — it cries out that it did not create itself: [I] exist because I am created; and I was not before I came to be, and I could not issue from myself...” — clamant quod facta sunt. Clamant etiam quod seipsa non fecerint: ideo sumus, quia facta sumus; non eramus ante quam essemus, ut fieri possemus a nobis...10
By its very existence creation points beyond its own limits. The cause and foundation of the world is outside the world. The world's being is possible only through the supra-mundane will of the merciful and Almighty God, “Who calls the things that be not, to be” (Rom. ). But, unexpectedly it is precisely in its creaturehood and createdness that the stability and substantiality of the world is rooted. Because the origin from out of nothing determines the otherness, the “non-consubstantiality” of the world and of God. It is insufficient and inexact to say that things are created and placed outside of God. The “outside” itself is posited only in creation, and creation “from out of nothing” [ex nihilo] is precisely such a positing of the “outside,” the positing of an “other” side by side with God. Certainly not in the sense of any kind of limitation to the Divine fullness, but in the sense that side by side with God there springs up an other, a heterogeneous substance or nature, one different from Him, and in a certain sense an independent and autonomous subject. That which did not exist springs now up and comes forth. In creation something absolutely new, an extra-divine reality is posited and built up. It is precisely in this that the supremely great and incomprehensible miracle of creation consists — that an “other” springs up, that heterogeneous drops of creation exist side by side with “the illimitable and infinite Ocean of being,” as St. Gregory of Nazianzus says of God.11 There is an infinite distance between God and creation, and this is a distance of natures. All is distant from God, and is remote from Him not by place but by nature — u topo alla physi (ου τοπω αλλα φυσει)— as St. John Damascene explains.12 And this distance is never removed, but is only, as it were, overlapped by immeasurable Divine love. As St. Augustine said, in creation “there is nothing related to the Trinity, except the fact that the Trinity has created it” — nihilique in ea esse quod ad Trinitatem pertineat, nisi quod Trinitas condidit...13 Even on the most exalted heights of prayerful ascent and intimacy there is always an impassable limit, there can always be perceived and revealed the living duality of God and creation. “He is God, and she is non-God,” said Macarius “the Great” of the soul. “He is the Lord, and she the handmaid; He the Creator, and she the creation; He the Architect, and she the fabric; and there is nothing in common between Him and her nature.”14 Any transubstantiation of creaturely nature into the Divine is as impossible as the changing of God into creation, and any “coalescence” and “fusion” of natures is excluded. In the one and only hypostasis and person of Christ — the God-Man — in spite of the completeness of the mutual interpenetration of the two natures, the two natures remain with their unchanged, immutable difference; “without the distinction of natures being taken away by such union, but rather the specific property of each nature being preserved” (“Ουδαμου της των φυσεων διαφορας ανηρημενες δια τυν ενωσιν σωζομενης δε μαλλον της ιδιοτητος εκατερας φυσεως” the Oros [ορος] of Chalcedon). The vague “out of two natures” the Fathers of Chalcedon replaced by the strong and clear “in two natures,” and by the confession of the double and bilateral consubstantiality of the God-Man they established an unshakeable and indisputable criterion and rule of faith. The real existence of a created human nature, that is, of an other and second nature outside of God and side by side with Him, is an indispensable prerequisite for the accomplishment of the Incarnation without any change in or transmutation of the Divine nature.
is created is outside of God, but is united with Him. The Fathers of the fourth
century, moved by the Arian controversy to define the concept of creation in a
clear and precise manner, stressed above all else the heterogeneity of the
created and Creator in counter distinction to the “consubstantiality” of
generation; and they corrected this heterogeneity with the dependence of
creation upon the will and volition. Everything created, wrote St. Athanasius
the Great, “is not in the least like its Creator in substance, but is outside of Him,” and therefore also
could have not existed.15
Creation “comes into being, made up from outside.”16 And there is no
similarity between that which bursts forth from nothing and the Creator Who
verily is, Who brings creatures out
of nothing.17 Will and volition precede creating. Creating is an act of will [ek vulimatos, εκ
therefore is sharply distinguished from the Divine generation, which is an act of nature [genna kata physin, γεννα κατα
φυσιν].18 A similar interpretation
was given by St. Cyril of
is not a phenomenon but a “substance.” The reality and substantiality of
created nature is manifested first of all in creaturely freedom. Freedom is not exhausted by the possibility of
choice, but presupposes it and starts with it. And creaturely freedom is
disclosed first of all in the equal possibility of two ways: to God and away
from God. This duality of ways is not a mere formal or logical possibility, but
a real possibility, dependent on the effectual presence of powers and
capacities not only for a choice between, but also for the following of, the
two ways. Freedom consists not only in the possibility, but also in the
necessity of autonomous choice, the resolution and resoluteness of choice.
Without this autonomy, nothing happens in creation. As St. Gregory the
Theologian says, “God legislates human self-determination.”21 “He
honored man with freedom that good might belong no less to him who chose it
than to Him Who planted its seed.”22 Creation must ascend to and
unite with God by its own efforts and achievements. And if the way of union
requires and presupposes a responsive prevenient movement of Divine Mercy, “the
ancient law of human freedom,” as St. Irenaeus once put it, is not undermined
by this. The way of disunion is not closed to creatures, the way of destruction
and death. There is no irresistible grace, creatures can and may lose
themselves, are capable, as it were, of “metaphysical suicide.” In her primordial
and ultimate vocation, creation is destined for union with God, for communion
and participation in His life. But this is not a binding necessity of
creaturely nature. Of course, outside of God there is no life for creation. But
as Augustine happily phrased it, being
and life do not coincide in creation.23 And therefore existence in death is possible. Of
course, creation can realize and establish herself fully only by overcoming her
self-isolation, only in God. But even without realizing her true vocation, and
even opposing it, thus undoing and losing herself, creation does not cease to
exist. The possibility of metaphysical suicide is open to her. But the power of
self-annihilation is not given. Creation is indestructible — and not only that
creation which is rooted in God as in the source of true being and eternal
life, but also that creation which has set herself against God. “For the fashion of this world passeth
away” (1 Cor. ),
and shall pass. But the world itself shall not pass. Because it was created
“that it might have being.” Its qualities and properties are changeable and
mutable, and do change; but its “elements” are immutable. And immutable above
all is the microcosm man, and immutable are men's hypostases, sealed as they are and brought out of nothing by the
creative will of God. Indeed, the way of rebellion and apostasy is the way of
destruction and perdition. But it leads not towards non-being, but to death;
and death is not the end of existence, but a separation — the separation of soul and body, the separation of
creation from God. In fact, evil “is not an entity.”24 Evil has no
“substance” — it is anusion (ανουσιον)
according to St. John Damascene.25 Evil has a negative and privative
character, it is the absence and privation of true being. And at the same time,
as St. Gregory of Nyssa says, “in its very non-being it has its being.”
(εν τω μη ειναι
εχει)26 The root and character of evil is
delusion and error. Evil, in the incisive phrase of one German theologian, is
“a mythopoeic lie” [“eine dichtende Lüge” — F. Staudenmeier]. It is a kind of
fiction, but a fiction loaded with enigmatic energy and power. Evil is active
in the world, and in this actuality is real. Evil introduces new qualities into
the world, as it were, adding something to the reality created by God, a
something not willed and not created by God, although tolerated by Him. And
this innovation, in a certain sense “non-being,” is in an enigmatic fashion
real and powerful, “For God made not
The idea of creation is alien to the “natural” consciousness. Classical, Hellenistic thought did not know it. Modern philosophy has forgotten it. Given in the Bible, it is disclosed and manifested in the living experience of the Church. In the idea of creation are juxtaposed the motif of the immutable, intransitory reality of the world as a free and active subject (more precisely, as a totality of interacting subjects) and the motif of its total non-self-sufficiency, of its ultimate dependence upon Another higher principle. And therefore any supposition of the world's beginninglessness, the necessity of its existence, and any admission of its elimination are excluded. Creation is neither self-existent being, nor transitory becoming; neither eternal “substance,” nor illusory “appearance.” In creaturehood a great wonder is revealed. The world also might not have existed at all. And that which might not have existed, for which there are no inevitable causes or bases, does exist. This is a riddle, a “foolishness” for “natural” thought. And hence comes the temptation to attenuate and blunt the idea of creation, to replace it by other notions. Only by the contrary approach can the mystery of creation be clarified, by the exclusion and suspension of all evasive speculation and conjecture.
God creates in perfect freedom. This proposition is framed with remarkable precision by the “Subtle Doctor” of the Western middle ages, Duns Scotus: Procedit autem rerum creatio a Deo, non aliqua necessitate, vel essentiae, vel scientiae, vel voluntatis, sed ex mera libertate, quae non movetir et multo minus necessitatur ab aliquo extra se ad causandum. “The creation of things is executed by God not out of any necessity, whether of essence or of knowledge or of will, but out of a sheer freedom which is not moved — much less constrained — by anything external that it should have to be a cause.”27 Even so, in defining God's freedom in creation it is not enough to do away with crude conceptions of compulsion, of external necessity. It is obvious that we cannot even speak of any kind of external compulsion, because the very “outside” itself is first posited only in creation. In creation God is determined only by Himself. But it is not so easy to demonstrate the absence of any internal “necessity” in this self-determination, in the revelation of God ad extra. Here, the thought is beset by alluring temptations. The question may be put in this manner: Is the attribute of Creator and Sustainer to be considered as belonging to the essential and formative properties of the Divine Being? The thought of the Divine immutability may prevent us from giving a negative answer. Precisely so did Origen reason in his time. “It is alike impious and absurd to say that God's nature is to be at ease and never to move, or to suppose that there was a time when Goodness did not do good and Omnipotence did not exercise its power.”28 From the perfect extra-temporality and immutability of the Divine Being, Origen, in the words of Bolotov, draws the conclusion “that all His properties and predicates always belong to God in a strict sense — in actu, in statu quo.”29 Here, “always” for Origen has the meaning of “extra-temporal eternity,” and not only “the whole of temporality.” — “Just as nobody can be a father without having a son, nor a lord without holding a possession or a slave,” reasons Origen, “so too we cannot even call God Almighty — Pantocrator if there are no creatures over whom he can exercise His power. For if anyone would have it that certain ages, or periods of time, or of Divine Omnipotence — whatever he cares to call them — elapsed during which the present creation did not exist, he would undoubtedly prove that in those ages or periods God was not Almighty but that He became Pantocrator afterward, that He became Almighty from the time when he began to have creatures over whom he could exercise power. Thus God will apparently have experienced a kind of progress, for there can be no doubt that it is better for Him to be Almighty than not to be so. Now how is it anything but absurd that God should at first not possess something that is appropriate to Him and then should come to possess it? But if there was no time when God was not Almighty, there must always have existed the things in virtue of which He is Almighty; and there must always have existed things under his rule, over which He is their Ruler.”30 In view of the perfect Divine immutability, “it is necessary that the creatures of God should have been created from the beginning, and that there should be no time when they were not.” Because it is inadmissible to think that, in time, God “would pass from inaction to action.” Hence it is necessary to recognize “that with God all things are without beginning and are co-eternal.”31
It is not simple or easy to escape from Origen's dialectical nets. In this very problematic there lies an incontestable difficulty. “When I think what God was Lord of from eternity, if creation be not from always,” exclaimed Augustine, “I fear to affirm anything.” Cum cogito cuius rei dominus semper fuit, si semper creatura non fuit, affirmare aliquid pertimesco...32 Origen complicated his question by his inability to extricate himself completely from time as change.
Together with the sempiternal and immobile eternity of the Divine Being, he imagined an endless flow of ages which had to be filled. Furthermore, any sequence in the Divine predicates appeared to him under the form of real temporal change; and therefore, having excluded change, he was inclined to deny any sequence at all to, or interdependence among, those predicates taken as a whole; he asserted more than the mere “co-eternity” of the world with God; he asserted the necessity of the Divine self-disclosure ad extra, the necessity of the revelation and out-pouring of Divine goodness upon the “other” from all eternity, the necessity of the eternal realization of the fulness and of all the potentialities of Divine power. In other words, in order to comply with the notion of the Divine immutability, Origen had to admit the necessity of a conjointly ever-existent and beginningless “not-I” as a corresponding prerequisite to and correlative of the Divine completeness and life. And here is the ultimate sting of the question. It was also possible that the world might not have existed at all — possible in the full sense of the word only granted that God can also not create. If, on the other hand. God creates out of necessity, for sake of the completeness of His Being, then the world must exist; then it is not possible that the world might not have existed. Even if one rejects the Origenistic notion of the infinitude of real past time and recognizes the beginning of time, the question remains: Does not at least the thought of the world belong to the absolute necessity of the Divine Being?
We may assume that the real world came into being together with time, and that “there was when it was not,” when there was no temporal change. But the image of the world, does not this remain eternal and everlasting in the Divine knowledge and will, participating immutably and ineluctably in the fulness of the Divine self-knowledge and self-determination? On this point St. Methodius of Olympus had already put his finger, against Origen, stressing that the Divine All-Perfectness cannot depend on anything except God Himself, except on His own nature.33 Indeed, God creates solely out of His goodness, and in this Divine goodness lies the only basis of His revelation to the “other,” the only basis of the very being of that “other” as recipient and object of this goodness. But should we not think of this revelation as eternal? And if we should — since God lives in eternity and in unchangeable completeness — would not this mean that in the final analysis “the image of the world” was present, and conjointly present, with God unchangingly in eternity, and moreover in the unalterable completeness of all its particular predicates? Is there not a “necessity of knowledge or will?” Does not this mean that God in His eternal self-contemplation also necessarily contemplates even what He is not, that which is not He, but other? Is God not bound in His sempiternal self-awareness by the image of His “Non-I” at least as a kind of possibility? And in His self-awareness is He not forced to think of and to contemplate Himself as a creative principle and as the source of the world, and of the world as an object of and participant in His good pleasure? And on the other hand, over the whole world there lies imprinted the Divine seal, a seal of permanence, a reflection of the Divine glory. The Divine economy of the world, the unchanging and immutable Providence of God, conveys — to our vision — perfect stability and wise harmony — and also a kind of necessity. This vision hinders our understanding and apprehension of the claim that the world also might not have existed. It seems we cannot conceive the world as non-existing without introducing a kind of impious fortuitousness or arbitrariness in its existence and genesis, either of which is contradictory and derogatory to the Divine Wisdom. Is it not obvious that there must be some kind of sufficient cause for the world, cur sit potius quam non sit? And that this cause must consist of the unchangeable and sempiternal will and command of God? Does it not follow that once the world is impossible without God, God also is impossible without the world? Thus the difficulty is only shelved, but not solved, if we limit ourselves to the chronological beginnings of the actual existence of the world, since, in this case, the possibility of the world, the idea of the world. God's design and will concerning it, still remains eternal and as though con-jointly everlasting with God.
And it must be said at once that any such admission means introducing the world into the ultra-Trinitarian life of the Godhead as a co-determinant principle. And we must firmly and uncompromisingly reject any such notion. The idea of the world, God's design and will concerning the world, is obviously eternal, but in some sense not co-eternal, and not conjointly everlasting with Him, because “distinct and separated,” as it were, from His “essence” by His volition. One should say rather that the Divine idea of the world is eternal by another kind of eternity than the Divine essence. Although paradoxical, this distinction of types and kinds of eternity is necessary for the expression of the incontestable distinction between the essence (nature) of God and the will of God. This distinction would not introduce any kind of separation or split into the Divine Being, but by analogy expresses the distinction between will and nature, the fundamental distinction made so strikingly explicit by the Fathers of the fourth century. The idea of the world has its basis not in the essence, but in the will of God. God does not so much have as “think up” the idea of creation.34 And He “thinks it up” in perfect freedom; and it is only by virtue of this wholly free “thinking up” and good pleasure of His that He as it were “becomes” Creator, even though from everlasting. But nevertheless He could also not have created. And any such “refraining” from creation would in no way alter or impoverish the Divine nature, would mean no diminution, Just as the very creation of the world does not enrich the Divine Being. Thus by way of opposites we can come close to an understanding of God's creative freedom. In a sense, it would be “indifferent” to God whether the world exists or not — herein consists the absolute “all-sufficiency” of God, the Divine autarchy. The absence of the world would mean a kind of subtraction of what is finite from the Infinite, which would not affect Divine fulness. And conversely, the creation of the world would mean the addition of what is finite to the Infinite, which in no way affects Divine plenitude. The might of God and the freedom of God must be defined not only as the power to create and to produce but also as the absolute freedom not to create.
All these words and presuppositions, obviously, are insufficient and inexact. They all have the character of negations and prohibitions, and not of direct and positive definitions; but they are necessary for the testimony to that experience of faith in which the mystery of Divine freedom is revealed. With a tolerable inexactitude, one could say that God is able to permit and tolerate the absence of anything outside of Himself. By such a presumption the whole immeasurability of the Divine love is not diminished, but on the contrary is thrown into relief. God creates out of the absolute superabundance of His mercies and goodness, and herein His good pleasure and freedom are manifest. And in this sense, one could say that the world is a kind of a surplus. And further, it is a surplus which in no way enriches the Divine fulness; it is, as it were, something “supererogatory” and superadded, something which also could not have existed, and which exists only through the sovereign and all-perfect freedom and unspeakable good pleasure and love of God. This means that the world is created and is “the work of” God's will, theliseos ergon (θελησεως εργον). No outward revelation whatever belongs to the “necessity” of the Divine nature, to the necessary structure of the intra-Divine life. And creative revelation is not something imposed upon God by His goodness. It is executed in perfect freedom, though in eternity also. Therefore it cannot be said that God began to create, or “became” Creator, even though “to be Creator” does not belong to those definitions of Divine nature which includes the Trinity of Hypostases. In the everlasting immutability of God's Being there is no origination whatsoever, nor any becoming, nor any sequence. And nevertheless there is a kind of all-perfect harmonic order which is partially knowable and expressible on the level of the Divine names. In this sense St. Athanasius the Great used to say that “to create, for God, is secondary; and to beget, primary,” that “what is of nature [essence]” is antecedent to “what is of volition.”35 One has to admit distinctions within the very co-eternity and immutability of the Divine Being. In the wholly simple Divine life there is an absolute rational or logical order [taxis, ταξις] of Hypostases, which is irreversible and inexchangeable for the simple reason that there is a “first principle” or “source” of Godhead, and that there is the enumeration of First, Second, and Third Persons.36 And likewise it is possible to say that the Trinitarian structure is antecedent to the will and thought of God, because the Divine will is the common and undivided will of the All-Holy Trinity, as it is also antecedent to all the Divine acts and “energies.” But even more than this, the Trinity is the internal, self-revelation of the Divine nature. The properties of God are also revelations of the same sort, but in their particular disclosure God is free. The unchanging will of God freely postulates creation, and even the very idea of creation. It would be a tempting mistake to regard the “thinking up” of the world by God as an “ideal creation,” because the idea of the world and the world of ideas are totally in God, εν τω Θεω, and in God there is not, and there cannot be, anything of the created. But this ambiguous notion of an “ideal creation” defines with great clarity the complete distinction between the necessity of the Trinitarian Being on the one hand and the freedom of God's design — His good pleasure concerning creation — on the other. There remains an absolute and irremoveable distinction, the denial of which leads to picturing the whole created economy as made up of essential acts and conditions which disclose the Divine nature as though of necessity, and this leads to raising the world, at least the “intelligible world” [kosmos noitos, κοσμος νοητος] to an improper height. One might, with permissible boldness, say that in the Divine idea of creation there is a kind of contingency, and that if it is eternal, it is not an eternity of essence, but a free eternity. We could clarify the freedom of God's design — His good pleasure — for ourselves by the hypothesis that this idea need not have been postulated at all. Certainly, it is a casus irrealis, but there is no inherent contradiction in it. Certainly, once God “thought up” or postulated such an idea, He had sufficient reason for doing so. However, one thinks that Augustine was right in prohibiting any search for “the cause of God's will.”37 But it is bound by nothing and preordained by nothing. The Divine will is not constrained by anything to “think up” the world. From eternity, the Divine Mind, rhapsodized St. Gregory the Theologian, “contemplated the desirable light of His own beauty, the equal and equally-perfect splendor of the triple-rayed Divinity... The world-creating Mind in His vast thoughts also mused upon the patterns of the world which He made up, upon the cosmos which was produced only afterwards, but which for God even then was present. All, with God, lies before His eyes, both what shall be, and what was, and what is now... For God, all flows into one, and all is held by the arms of the great Divinity.”38
“The desirable light” of the Divine beauty would not be enhanced by these “patterns of the world,” and the Mind “makes them up” only out of the superabundance of love. They do not belong to the splendor of the Trinity; they are postulated by His will and good pleasure. And these very “patterns of the world” are themselves a surplus and super-added gift or “bonus” of Him Who is All-Blessed Love. In this very good pleasure of His will to create the world the infinite freedom of God is manifest.
So St. Athanasius says, “The Father creates all, by the Word, in the Spirit,”39 — Creation is a common and indivisible act of the All-Holy Trinity. And God creates by thought, and the thought becomes deed (κτζει δε ενοων και το εννοημα εργου υφισταται), says St. John Damascene.40 “He contemplated everything from before its being, from eternity pondering it in His mind; hence each thing receives its being at a determinate time according to His timeless and decisive thought, which is predestination, and image, and pattern” (κατα την θελητικην αυτου αχρονον εννοιαν ητις εστι προορισμος και παραδειγμα).41 These patterns and prototypes of things that are to be constitute the “pre-temporal and unchangeable counsel” of God, in which everything is given its distinctive character [echarakterizo, εχαρακτειριζετο] before its being, everything which is preordained by God in advance and then brought to existence (η βουλη αυτου η προαιωνιος και αει ωσαυτως εχουσα).42 This “counsel” of God is eternal and unchanging, pre-temporal and without beginning — [anarhos, αναρχος] — since everything Divine is immutable. And this is the image of God, the second form of the image, the image turned towards the creation.43 St. John Damascene is referring to Pseudo-Dionysius. These creative patterns, says the Areopagite, “are creative foundations pre-existent together in God, and together compose the powers that make being into entities, powers which theology calls ‘predestinations,’ Divine and ‘beneficient,’ decisions which are determinative and creative of all things extant, according to which He Who is above being has preordained and produced all that exists” (Παραδειματα δε φαμεν ειναι τους εν Θεω των οντων ουσιοποιους και ενιαιως προυφεστωτας λογους, ους η Θεολογια προορισμους καλει, και Θεια και αγαθα θεληματα, των οντων αφοριστικα και ποιητκα καθ ους ο Υπερουσιος τα οντα παντα και προωρισε και παρηγαγεν).44 According to St. Maximus the Confessor these types and ideas are the Divine all-perfect and everlasting thoughts of the everlasting God (νοησεις αυτοτελεις αιδιοι του αιδιου Θεου).45 This eternal counsel is God's design and decision concerning the world. It must be rigorously distinguished from the world itself. The Divine idea of creation is not creation itself; it is not the substance of creation; it is not the bearer of the cosmic-process; and the “transition” from “design” [ennoima, εννοημα] to “deed” [ergon, εργον] is not a process within the Divine idea, but the appearance, formation, and the realization of another substratum, of a multiplicity of created subjects. The Divine idea remains unchangeable and unchanged, it is not involved in the process of formation. It remains always outside the created world, transcending it. The world is created according to the idea, in accordance with the pattern — it is the realization of the pattern — but this pattern is not the subject of becoming. The pattern is a norm and a goal established in God. This distinction and distance is never abolished, and therefore the eternity of the pattern, which is fixed and is never involved in temporal change, is compatible with temporal beginning, with the entering-into-being of the bearers of the external decrees. “Things before their becoming are as though non-existent,” said Augustine, utiquae non erant. And he explains himself: they both were and were not before they originated; “they were in God's knowledge: but were not in their own nature” — erant in Dei scientia, non erant in sua natura.46 According to St. Maximus, created beings “are images and similes of the Divine ideas,”47 in which they are “participants.”48 In creation, the Creator realizes, “makes substantial” and “discloses” His knowledge, pre-existent everlastingly in Himself.49 In creation there is projected from out of nothing a new reality which becomes the bearer of the Divine idea, and must realize this idea in its own becoming. In this context the pantheistic tendency of Platonic ideology and of the Stoic theory of “seminal reasons” [spermatiki logi, σπερματικοι λογοι] is altogether overcome and avoided. For Platonism the identification of the “essence” of each thing with its Divine idea is characteristic, the endowment of substances with absolute and eternal (beginningless) properties and predicates, as well as the introduction of the “idea” into real things. On the contrary, the created nucleus of things must be rigorously distinguished from the Divine idea about things. Only in this way is even the most sequacious logical realism freed from a “pantheistic flavor; the reality of the whole will nevertheless be but a created reality. Together with this, pan-logism is also overcome: The thought of a thing and the Divine thought-design concerning a thing are not its “essence” or nucleus, even though the essence itself is characterized by logos λογος, [logikos, λογικος]. The Divine pattern in things is not their “substance” or “hypostasis;” it is not the vehicle of their qualities and conditions. Rather, it might be called the truth of a thing, its transcendental entelechy. But the truth of a thing and the substance of a thing are not identical.50
The acceptance of the absolute creatureliness and non-self-sufficiency of the world leads to the distinguishing of two kinds of predicates and acts in God. Indeed, at this point we reach the limit of our understanding, all words become, as it were, mute and inexact, receiving an apophatic, prohibitive, not a cataphatic, indicative sense. Nevertheless, the example of the holy Fathers encourages a speculative confession of faith. As Metropolitan Philaret once said, “We must by no means consider wisdom, even that hidden in a mystery, as alien and beyond us, but with humility should edify our mind towards the contemplation of divine things.”51 Only, in our speculation we must not overstep the boundaries of positive revelation, and must limit ourselves to the interpretation of the experience of faith and of the rule of faith, presuming to do no more than discern and clarify those inherent presuppositions through which the confession of dogmas as intelligible truths becomes possible. And it must be said that the whole structure of the doctrine of faith encourages these distinctions. In essence, they are already given in the ancient and primary distinction between “theology” and “economy.” From the very beginning of Christian history, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church endeavored to distinguish clearly and sharply those definitions and names which referred to God on the “theological” plane and those used on the “economical.” Behind this stands the distinction between “nature” and “will.” And bound up with it is the distinction in God between “essence” [usia, ουσια] and “that which surrounds the essence,” “that which is related to the nature.” A distinction, but not a separation.
we say about God affirmatively shows us,” as St. John Damascene explains, “not His nature, hut only what is related to
His nature” (ου
τυν φυσιν, αλλα
τα περι τυν
φυσιν),52 “something which
accompanies His nature” [u physin,
alla ta para physin, τι των
την φυσει].53 And
“what He is by essence and nature, this is unattainable and unknowable.” 54
doctrine of the energies of God received its final formulation in the Byzantine
theology of the fourteenth century, and above all in St. Gregory Palamas. He
bases himself on the distinction between Grace and Essence, “the divine and
deifying radiance and grace is not the essence, but the energy of God” (η
Θεου)77 The notion of the Divine energy received
explicit definition in the series of Synods held in the fourteenth century in
Constantinople. There is a real distinction, but no separation, between the essence or entity of God and His energies.
This distinction is manifest above all in the fact that the Entity is
absolutely incommunicable and inaccessible to creatures. The creatures have
access to and communicate with the Divine Energies only. But with this participation
they enter into a genuine and perfect communion and union with God; they
receive “deification.”78 Because this is “the natural and
indivisible energy and power of God,” (φυσικη
δυναμις του Θεου)79
“it is the common and Divine energy and power of the Tri-Hypostatic God.”80
The active Divine power does not separate itself from the Essence. This
προιεναι] expresses an “ineffable
distinction,” which in no way disturbs the unity “that surpasses essence.”81
The active Power of God is not the very “substance” of God, but neither is it
an “accident” [symvevikos,
it is immutable and coeternal with God, it exists before creation and it
reveals the creative will of God. In God there is not only essence, but also
that which is not the essence, although it is not accident — the Divine will
and power — His real, existential, essence-producing providence and authority.82
St. Gregory Palamas emphasizes that any refusal to make a real distinction
between the “essence” and “energy” erases and blurs the boundary between
generation and creation — both the former and the latter then appear to be acts
of essence. And as St. Mark of
From eternity God “thinks up” the image of the world, and this free good pleasure of His is an immutable, unchangeable counsel. But this immutability of the accomplished will does not in the least imply its necessity. The immutability of God's will is rooted in His supreme freedom. And therefore it does not bind His freedom in creation, either. It would be very appropriate here to recall the scholastic distinction between potentia absoluta and potentia ordinata.
And in conformity with the design — the good pleasure of God — creation, together with time, is “built up” from out of nothing. Through temporal becoming, creation must advance by its own free ascent according to the standard of the Divine economy respecting it, according to the standard of the pre-temporal image of and predestination for it. The Divine image of the world always remains above and beyond creation by nature. Creation is bound by it unchangeably and inseparably, is bound even in its very resistance to it. Because this “image” or “idea” of creation is simultaneously the will of God [thelitiki ennia, θελητικη εννοια] and the power of God by which creation is made and sustained; and the beneficent counsel of the Creator is not made void by the resistance of creation, but through this resistance turns out to be, for rebels, a Judgment, the force of wrath, a consuming fire. In the Divine image and counsel, each creature — i.e., every created hypostasis in its imperishable and irreproducible form — is contained. Out of eternity God sees and wills, by His good pleasure, each and every being in the completeness of its particular destiny and features, even regarding its future and sin. And if, according to the mystical insight of St. Symeon the New Theologian, in the age to come “Christ will behold all the numberless myriads of Saints, turning His glance away from none, so that to each one of them it will seem that He is looking at him, talking with him, and greeting him,” and yet “while remaining unchanged. He will seem different to one and different to another”93 — so likewise out of eternity, God in the counsel of His good pleasure, beholds all the innumerable myriads of created hypostases, wills them, and to each one of them manifests Himself in a different way. And herein consists the “inseparable distribution” of His grace or energy, “myriadfold hypostatic” in the bold phrase of St. Gregory Palamas,94 because this grace or energy is beneficently imparted to thousands upon myriads of thousands of hypostases. Each hypostasis, in its own being and existence, is sealed by a particular ray of the good pleasure of God's love and will. And in this sense, all things are in God — in “image” [en idea ke paradigmati, εν ιδεα και παραδειγματι] but not by nature, the created “all” being infinitely remote from Uncreated Nature. This remoteness is bridged by Divine love, its impenetrability done away by the Incarnation of the Divine Word. Yet this remoteness remains. The image of creation in God transcends created nature and does not coincide with “the image of God” in creation. “Whatever description may be given to the “image of God” in man, it is a characteristic moment of his created nature — it is created. It is a “likeness,” a mirroring.95 But above the image the Proto-Image always shines, sometimes with a gladenning, sometimes with a threatening, light. It shines as a call and a norm. There is in creation a supra-natural challenging goal set above its own nature — the challenging goal, founded on freedom, of a free participation in and union with God. This challenge transcends created nature, but only by responding to it is this nature itself revealed in its completeness. This challenging goal is an aim, an aim that can be realized only through the self-determination and efforts of the creature. Therefore the process of created becoming is real in its freedom, and free in its reality, and it is by this becoming that what-was-not reaches fulfilment and is achieved. Because it is guided by the challenging goal. In it is room for creation, construction, for re-construction — not only in the sense of recovering, but also in the sense of generating what is new. The scope of the constructiveness is defined by the contradiction between the nature and the goal. In a certain sense, this goal itself is “natural” and proper to the one who does the constructive acts, so that the attainment of this goal is somehow also the subject's realization of himself. And nevertheless this “I” which is realized and realizable through constructiveness is not the “natural” and empiric “I,” inasmuch as any such realization of one's self” is a rupture — a leap from the plane of nature onto the plane of grace, because this realization is the acquisition of the Spirit, is participation in God. Only in this “communion” with God does a man become “himself;” in separation from God and in self-isolation, on the contrary, he falls to a plane lower than himself. But at the same time, he does not realize himself merely out of himself. Because the goal lies beyond nature, it is an invitation to a living and free encounter and union with God. The world is substantially different from God. And therefore God's plan for the world can be realized only by created becoming — because this plan is not a substratum or substantia that comes into being and completes itself, but is the standard and crown of the “other's” becoming. On the other hand, the created process is not therefore a development, or not only a development; its meaning does not consist in the mere unfolding and manifestation of innate “natural” ends, or not only in this. Rather, the ultimate and supreme self-determination of created nature emerges in its zealous impulse to outstrip itself in a kinisis yper physin κινησις υτερ φυσιν, as St. Maximus says.96 And an anointing shower of grace responds to this inclination, crowning the efforts of the creatures.
The limit and goal of creaturely striving and becoming is divinisation [theosis, θεωσις] or deification [theopiisis, θεοποιησις]. But even in this, the immutable, unchangeable gap between natures will remain: any “transubstantiation” of the creature is excluded. It is true that according to a phrase of St. Basil the Great preserved by St. Gregory the Theologian, creation “has been ordered to become God.” 97 But this “deification” is only communion with God, participation [metusis, μετουσια] in His life and gifts, and thereby a kind of acquisition of certain similitude to the Divine Reality. Anointed and sealed by the Spirit, men become conformed to the Divine image or prototype of themselves; and through this they become “conformed to God” [symmorphi Theo, συμμορφοι Θεω].98 With the Incarnation of the Word the first fruit of human nature is unalterably grafted into the Divine Life, and hence to all creatures the way to communion with this Life is open, the way of adoption by God. In the phrase of St. Athanasius, the Word “became man in order to deify [theopiisi, θεοποιηση] us in Himself,”99 in order that “the sons of men might become the sons of God.” 100 But this “divinization” is acquired because Christ, the Incarnate Word, has made us “receptive to the Spirit,” that He has prepared for us both the ascension and resurrection as well as the indwelling and appropriation of the Holy Spirit.”101 Through the “flesh-bearing God” we have become “Spirit-bearing men”; we have become sons “by grace,” “sons of God in the likeness of the Son of God.”102 And thus is recovered what had been lost since the original sin, when “the transgression of the commandment turned man into what he was by nature,”103 over which he had been elevated in his very first adoption or birth from God, coinciding with his initial creation.104 The expression so dear to St. Athanasius and to St. Gregory the Theologian, Theon genesthe (Θεον γενεσθαι),105 finds its complementary explanation in a saying of two other Cappadocian Saints: omiosis pros ton Theon (ομοιωσις προς τον Θεον).106 If Macarius the Egyptian dare speak of the “changing” of Spirit-bearing souls “into the Divine nature,” of “participation in the Divine nature,”107 he nevertheless understands this participation as a krasis di olon κρασις δι ολον, i.e., as a certain “mingling” of the two, preserving the properties and entities of each in particular.108 But he also stresses that “the Divine Trinity comes to dwell in that soul which, by the cooperation of Divine Grace, keeps herself pure — He comes to dwell not as He is in Himself, because He is incontainable by any creature — but according to the measure of the capacity and receptivity of man.109 Explicit formulae concerning this were not established all at once, but from the very beginning the impassable gulf between the natures was rigorously marked, and the distinction between the notions kata usian, κατ ουσιαν (or κατα φυσιν) and kata metusian, κατα μετουσιαν was rigorously observed and kept. The concept of “divinization” was crystallized only when the doctrine of God's “energies” had been explicated once and for all. In this regard the teaching of St. Maximus is significant. “The salvation of those who are saved is accomplished by grace and not by nature,”110 and if “in Christ the entire fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily according to essence then in us, on the contrary, there is not the fulness of the Godhead according to grace.”111 The longed-for “divinization” which is to come is a likeness by grace (και φανωμεν αυτω ομοιοι κατα την εκ χαριτος θεωσιν).112 And even by becoming partakers of Divine Life, “in the unity of love,” “by co-inhering totally and entirely with the whole of God,” (ολος ολω περιχωρησας ολικως τω Θεω) by appropriating all that is Divine, the creature “nevertheless remains outside the essence of God.”113 And what is most remarkable in this is the fact that St. Maximus directly identifies the deifying grace with the Divine good pleasure as regards creation, with the creative fiat.114 In its efforts to acquire the Spirit, the human hypostasis becomes a vehicle and vessel of Grace; it is in a manner imbued with it, so that by it God's creative will is accomplished — the will which has summoned that-which-is-not into being in order to receive those that will come into His communion. And the creative good pleasure itself concerning each and every particular is already by itself a descending stream of Grace-but not everyone opens to the Creator and God Who knocks. Human nature must be freely discovered through a responsive movement, by overcoming the self-isolation of its own nature; and by denying the self, as one might say, receive this mysterious, and terrifying, and unspeakable double-naturedness for sake of which the world was made. For it was made to be and to become the Church, the Body of Christ.
The meaning of history consists in this — that the freedom of creation should respond by accepting the pre-temporal counsel of God, that it should respond both in word and in deed. In the promised double-naturedness of the Church the reality of created nature is affirmed at the outset. Creation is the other, another nature willed by God's good pleasure and brought forth from nothing by the Divine freedom for creation's own freedom's sake. It must conform itself freely to that creative standard by which it lives and moves and has its being. Creation is not this standard, and this standard is not creation. In some mysterious way, human freedom becomes a kind of “limitation” on the Divine omnipotence, because it pleased God to save creation not by compulsion, but by freedom alone. Creation is “other,” and therefore the process of ascent to God must be accomplished by her own powers — with God's help, to be sure. Through the Church creaturely efforts are crowned and saved. And creation is restored to its fulness and reality. And the Church follows, or, rather, portrays the mystery and miracle of the two natures. As the Body of Christ, the Church is a kind of “plenitude” of Christ — as Theophan the Recluse says — “Just as the tree is the ‘plenitude’ of the seed.”115 And the Church is united to Her Head. “Just as we do not ordinarily see iron when it is red-hot, because the iron's qualities are completely concealed by the fire,” says Nicholas Cabasilas in his Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, “so, if you could see the Church of Christ in Her true form, as She is united to Christ and participates in His Flesh, then you would see Her as none other than the Lord's Body alone.”116 In the Church creation is forever confirmed and established, unto all ages, in union with Christ, in the Holy Spirit.
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Missionary Leaflet # E95j
Copyright © 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
William Swan, articles 1 & 2
Edited by Donald Shufran
1. Maximimus the Confessor in Lib. de div. nomin. schol., in V. 8,. PG iv, 336.
relationship is vividly elucidated by Augustine, De Genesi ad lit. V.
5, PL xxxiv, 325: factae itaque
creaturae motibus coeperunt currere tempora: unde ante creaturura frustra
tempora requiruntur, quasi possint inveniri ante tempora tempora ... potius
ergo tempora a creatura, quam creatura coepit a tempore; utrumque autem ex Deo;
cf. de Genesi c. manich. I. 2 PL
xxiv, 174, 175; de Civ. Dei, XI, t, PL xli, 321; quis non
videat quod tempora non fuissent, nisi creatura fieret, quae aliquid aliqua
mutatione mutaret; c. 322: procul dubio non est mundus factus in tempore, sed
cum tempore; Confess. XI, 13, PL
xxxii, 815-816 et passim. Cf. P. Duhem, Le
Système du Monde, II (
3. St. Basil the Great in Hexam. h. 1, n. 6, PG xxix, c. 16.
4. St. Gregory of Nyssa Or. cath. m., с. 6, PG xlv, c. 28; cf. St. John Damascene, De fide orth. I, 3, PG xciv, 796: “for things whose being originated with a change [απω τροπης] are definitely subject to change, whether it be by corruption or by voluntary alteration.”
5. Gregory of Nyssa De opif. hom. c. XVI, PG xliv, 184; rf. Or. cath. m., c. 21, PG xlv, c. 57: [“The very transition from nonentity to existence is a change, non-existence being changed by the Divine power in being”] (Srawley's translation). Since the origin of man comes about “through change,” he necessarily has a changeable nature.
7. St. Gregory of Nazianzos, Or. 29, PG xxxi, 89-81: και ηρκται ου παυτεται.
Works of Philaret, Metropolitan of
11. St. Gregory of Nazianzos, Or. 38, In Theoph., n. 7, PG xxxvi, c. 317.
12. St. John Damascene, De fide Orth. I, 13, PG xcvi, c. 583 [Russian, I, 183].
14. St. Macarius of
15. St. Athanasius, C. arian, Or. 1, n. 20, PG xxvi, c. 53.
16. St. Athanasius, C. arian. Or. 2, п. 2, PG xxvi, c. 152.
17. Ibid., C. arian. Or. I, n. 21, c. 56.
18. Ibid., C. arian. Or. 3, nfl 60ss., c. 448 squ.
19. St. Cyril of
21. St. Gregory of Nazianzos, Or. 45 in S. Pascha, a. 28, PG xxxvi, 661.
22. Ibid., n. 8, col. 632.
24. St. Gregory of Nazianzos, Or. XL in S. Baptism, PG xxxvi, 424.
25. St. John Damascene, C. Manich n. 14, PG xciv, c. 1597.
26. St. Gregory of Nyssa, De anima et resurr., PG XLVI, 93 В.
27. ...Waddingi, IV,
28. Origen, De princ. III, 5, 3. PG 327, English translation of G. W. Butterworth.
29. V. V. Bolotov, Origen's
Doctrine of the Holy Trinity,
30. Origen, De princ. I, 2, 10, PG 138-9.
31. Ibid., Nota ex Methodic Ol. apud Phot. Bibl. cod., 235, sub linea, n. (40).
33. St. Methodius, De creatis, apud Phot. Bibl. col. 235, PG cii, c. 1141.
34. St. Gregory of Nazianzos, Or. 45, n. 5, PG xxxvi, c. 629: εννοει; Саrт. 4, theol. IV, De mundo, c. 67-68, PG xxxv II, 421.
35. St. Athanasius, C. arian. Or. 2, п. 2, PG xxvi, c. 152 — δευτερον εστι το δημιουργειν του Θεον, — πολλω προτερον, — το υπερκειμενον της βουλησεως.
36. Of. V. V. Bolotov, “On the Filioque Question, III: The significance of the sequence of the Hypostases of the Holy Trinity according to the view of the Eastern Fathers,” Christian Readings [(Khristianskoe Chtenie) Russian], 1913, Sept., pp. 1046-1059.
38. St. Gregory of Nazianzos, Carm. theol. IV — De mundo, v. 67-68, PG xxxvii, 421: κοσμοι τυπους...
39. St. Athanasius, Ad Serap. Ep. III, n. 5, PG xxvi, c. 632.
40. St. John Damascene, De fide orth. I, 2, PG xciv, c. 865; St. Gregory of Nazianzos, Or. 45 in S. Pascha, n. 5, PG xxxvi, c. 629.
41. St. John Damascene, De fide orth., I, 9, PG xciv, c. 837.
42. St. John Damascene De imagin., I, 10, PG xciv, c. 1240-1241.
43. Ibid; c. 1340: “The second aspect of the image is the thought of God on the subject of that which He will create, that is, His pre-eternal counsel, which always remains equal to itself; for the Divinity remains unchangeable and His counsel is without beginning” [δευτερος τροπος εικονος, η εν το Θεω των υπ αυτου επομενων εννοια, τουτεστιν η προαιωνιος αυτου βουλησις, η αει ωσαυτως εχουσα].
44. Dionysius the Areopagite, De divin. nomin. V, n. 8, PG III, c. 824; cf. c. VII, n. 2, c. 868-869.
45. St. Maximus the Confessor, Scholia in liberus de divine nominitus in cap. V 5, — PG iv, c. 31; cfr. n. 7... Cf. n. 7, с. 324А: “In the cause of all things, everything is preconstituted [προυρεστηκεν], as in an idea or prototype;” n. 8, с. 329A-B: οτι ποιησιν αυτοτελη αιδιον του αιδιου Θεου την ιδεαν, ητοι το παραδειγμα φηοι. In contrast to Plato, who separated the ideas or God, Dionysius speaks of “images” and “logoi” in God. Cf. A. Brilliantov, The Influence of Eastern Theology on Western Theology in the Works of Eriugene (St. Petersburg, 1898), pp. 157 ff, 192 ff.
46. St. Augustine, De Genesi: ad l.t., I, V, c. 18, PL xxxiv, c. 334; cf. De Trin., I, IX, с. 6 vel s. n. 9, PL XLII, c. 965: alia notitia rei in ipsa se, alia in ipsa aeterna veritate; cf. ibid., I, VIII, c. 4 vel s. n. 7, c. 951-952. See also De div. qu., 83, qu. 46, n. 2., PL XL, c. 30: ideae igitur latine possumus vel formas vel species dicere . . . Sunt namque ideae principales formae quaedam, vel rationes rerum stabiles atque incommutabiles, quae ipsae formatae non sunt, ac per hoc aeternae ac semper eodem modo sese habentes, quia in divina mente continentur. Et cum ipsae neque oriantur, neque intereant; secundum cas tamen formari dicitur omne quod oriri et interire potest, et omne quod oritur et interit.
47. St. Maximus the Confessor. Lib. de div. nom. shol., vii, 3, PG iv, 352: τα γαρ οντα ... εικονες εισι και ομοιωματα των δειων ιδεων ... εικονες τα της κτισεως αποτελεσματα.
48. St. Maximus the Confessor, Lib. de div. nom. schol., V, 5, PG iv, 317; ων μετεχουσιν.
49. St. Maximus the Confessor. De charit., c. iv, c. 4, PG xc, c. 1148: την εξ
αιδιον εν αυτω
των οντων προυπαρχουσαν
πρεβαλετο; Lib. de div. nom. schol; IV, 14, PG, iv, 265. One must also take into
consideration different aspects of the image as described by St. John
Damascene, De imag. II, 19, PG xciv, 1340-1341: The first aspect of
the image is natural, φυσικος — the Son. The
second image is the pre-eternal counsel — εν τω
Θεω. The third aspect is man, who is an image by imitation: —
ο κατα μιμησιν
γενομενος —since one who is
created cannot have the same nature as He who is not created. In this passage
St. John Damascene perceives the likeness of man to God in the fact that the
soul of every man consists of three parts; cf. Fragm., PG xcv, 574. By
indicating difference of natures in God and in man, the divine nature of the
eternal ideas of His counsel is emphasized. The notion of “image” received its
final definition only during the Iconoclastic period, especially in the
writings of St. Theodore the Studite. He connects the possibility of having
icons with the creation of man according to the image of God. “The fact that
man is created according to the image and likeness of God indicates that making
icons is to some extent a divine occupation” (St. Theod. Stud. Antirrh.
50. A penetrating and thorough investigation of the problem of ideas is given by a noted Roman Catholic theologian, F. A. Staudenmaier, Die Philosophic des Christentums, Bd. I (the only published), “Die Lehre von der Idee” (Gieszen, 1840), and also in his monumental work Die Christliche Dogmatik, Bd. Ill, Freiburg im Breisgau 1848 (recently reprinted, 1967).
51. Discourses and Speeches of a Member of the Holy Synod, Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow, part 11, Moscow, 1844, p. 87: “Address on the Occasion of the Recovery of the Relics of Patriarch Alexey” (Russian).
52. St. John Damascene, De fide orth., I, 4, PG xciv, 800.
53. Ibid., I, 9, c. 836.
54. Ibid., I, 4, c. 797.
55. For a survey of this question
56. In the words of Athenagoras, Legat. c. 10, PG vi, c. 908: εν ιδεα και ενεργεια. Cf. Popov, pp. 339-41; Bolotov, pp. 41 ff.; A Puech, Les apologistes grecs du IIe siècle de notre ère (Paris, 1912). On Origen, see Bolotov, pp. 191 ff. From the formal aspect, the distinction between “essence” and “energies” goes back to Philo and Plotinus. Nevertheless, in their view God receives his own character, even for Himself, only through His inner and necessary self-revelation in the world of ideas, and this “cosmological sphere” in God they named “Word” or “Mind.” For a long time the cosmological concepts of Philo and Plotinus retarded the speculative formulation of the Trinitarian mystery. In fact cosmoiogical concepts have no relation to the mystery of God and Trinity. If Cosmological concepts must be discarded, then another problem appears, that of the relationship of God to the world, indeed of a free relationship. The problem is relationship in the conception of the “pre-eternal counsel of God.” On Philo see M. D. Muretov, The Philosophy of Philo of Alexandria in its Relation to the Doctrine of St. John the Theologian on the Logos, Vol. I (Moscow, 1885); N. N. Gloubokovsky, St. Paul the Apostle's Preaching of the Glad Tidings in its Origin and Essence, Vol. IΙ (St. Petersburg, 1910), pp. 23-425; V. Ivanitzky, Philo of Alexandria (Kiev, 1911); P. J. Lebreton, Les origines du dogme de la Trinité (Paris, 1924), pp. 166-239, 570-581, 590-598; cf. excurus A, “On the Energies,” pp. 503-506. Cf. also F. Dölger, “Sphragis,” Studien zur Geschichte und Kultur des Alterhums, Bd. V, Hf. 3-4 (1911), pp. 65-69.
57. St. Basil the Great, C. Eun., Ι, ΙI, 32, PG xxix, 648; cf, St. Athanasius, De decret., n. II, PG xxv, c. 441: “God is in all by His goodness and power; and He is outside of all in His own nature” [κατα την ιδιαν φυσιν].
58. St. Basil the Great, Ad Amphil., PG xxxii, 869, А-В.
59. St. Basil the Great, C. Eun., I, I, n, 14, PG xxix, 544-5; cf. St. Gregory of Nazianzos, Or. 28, 3, PG xxxvi, 29; Or. 29, col. 88B.
60. St. Gregory Nazianzos, Or. 38, in Theoph., n. 7, PG xxxvi, 317.
61. St. Gregory of Nyssa, Cant. cant. h. xi, PG xlix, 1013 В; In Phalm.
II, 14, PG xliv, 585; cf. V.
Nesmelov, The Dogmatic System of St. Gregory of Nyssa (
62. St. Gregory of Nyssa, Quod non sint tres dii, PG xlv, 121B: “We have come to know that the essence of God has no name and it is inexpressible, and we assert that any name, whether it has come to be known through human nature or whether it was handed to us through the Scriptures, is an interpretation of something to be understood of the nature of God, but that it does not contain in itself the meaning of His nature itself… On the contrary, no matter what name we give to the very essence of God, this predicate shows something that has relation to the essence” [τι των περι αυτην]. Cf. С. Eunom. Л, PG xlv, с. 524-5; De beatitud., Or. 6, PG xliv, 1268: “The entity of God in itself, in its substance, is above any thought that can comprehend it, being inaccessible to ingenious conjectures, and does not even come close to them. But being such by nature, He who is above all nature and who is unseen and indescribable, can be seen and known in other respects. But no knowledge will be a knowledge of the essence;” In Ecclesiasten, h. VII, PG xliv, 732: “and the great men speak of the works [εργα] of God, but not of God.” St. John Chrysostom Incompreh. Dei natura, h. III, 3, PG xlviii, 722: in the vision of Isaiah (vi, 1-2), the angelic hosts contemplated not the “inaccessible essence” but some of the divine “condescension,” — “The dogma of the unfathomability of God in His nature and the possibility of knowing Him through His relations towards the world” is presented thoroughly and with penetration in the book of Bishop Sylvester, Essay on Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Vol. I, (Kiev, 1892-3), pp. 245 ff.; Vol. II (Kiev, 1892-3), pp. 4 ff. Cf. the chapter on negative theology in Father Bulgakov's book, The Unwaning Light (Moscow, 1917), pp. 103 ff.
63. St. John Damascene, De fide orth., I, 14, PG xciv, 860.
64. Bishop Sylvester, II, 6.
65. Cf. ibid., II, 131.
67. St. John Damascene, De fide orth., I, 13, PG xciv, 852.
68. The Eastern patristic distinction between the essence and energies
of God has always remained foreign to Western theology. In Eastern theology it
is the basis of the distinction between apophatic and cataphatic theology.
69. Dionysius Areopagite, De div. nom., II, 5, PG iii, 641.
70. Cf., for example, De coel. hier., II, 3, с. 141.
71. Ep. I, ad Caium, с. 1065А.
72. De div, nom; xi, 6, с. 956.
73. Dionysius Areopagite, De div. nom., I, 4, PG iii, 589; St. Max. Schol. in V 1; PG iv, 309: προοδον δε την Θειαν ενερεια λεγει, ητις πασαν ουσιαν παρηγαγε; is contrasted here with αυτος ο Θεος.
74. De div. nom., IV, 13, PG iii, 712.
75. De div. nom., V, 8, PG iii, 824; V, 5-6, с. 820; XI, 6, с. 953, ss. Cf. Brilliantov's whole chapter on the Areopagitica, pp. 142-178; Popov, pp. 349-52. The pseudo-epigraphic character of the Areopagtiica and their close relationship with Neo-Platonism does not belittle their theological significance, which was acknowledged and testified to by the authority of the Church Fathers. Certainly there is need for a new historical and theological investigation and appraisal of them.
76. Dionysius Areopagite, De div. nom; IX, PG iii, c. 909.
77. St. Gregory Palamas, Capit. phys., theol. etc., PG cl, c. 1169.
78. Ibid., cap. 75, PG cl, 1173: St. Gregory proceeds from a
threefold distinction in God: that of the essence, that of the energy,
and that of the Trinity of the Hypostases. The union with God
κατ ουσιαν is impossible, for,
according to the general opinion of the theologians, in entity, or in His
essence. God is “imparticipable”
[αμεθεκτον]. The union according
to hypostasis [καθ
υποστασιν] is unique to the
Incarnate Word: cap. 78, 1176: the creatures who have made progress are united
to God according to His energy; they partake not of His essence but of His energy
cap. 92, 1168; through the partaking of “God given grace” they are united to
God Himself (cap. 93). The radiance of God and the God-given energy, partakers
of which become deified, is the grace of God [χαρις]
but not the essence of God [φυσις]: cap. 141, 1220;
cap. 144, 1221; Theoph. col. 912: 928D: cf- 921, 941. Cf. the Synodikon of the
council of 1452 in Bishop Porphyrius [Uspensky]'s book. History of Mt. Athos, III, 2 (St. Petersburg, 1902), supplements,
p. 784, and in the Triodion (
79. Bishop Porphyrios, 783.
80. St. Gregory Palamas, Theoph., PG cl, 94l.
81. Ibid., 940: ει και διενηνοχε της φυσεως, ου διασπαται ταυτης. Cf. Triodion, p. 170; and Porphyrius, 784: “Of those who confess one God Almighty, having three Hypostases, in Whom not only the essence and the hypostases are not created, but the very energy also, and of those who say that the divine energy proceeds from the essence of God and proceeds undividedly, and who through the procession designate its unspeakable difference, and who through the undivided procession show its supernatural unity. .. eternal be the memory.” Cf. ibid., p. 169, Porphyrius, 782 — ενωσις Θειας ουσιας και ενεργειας ασυγχυτον ... και διαφορα αδιαστατη. See St. Mark Eugen. Ephes. Cap. Syllog., apud W. Gasz, Die Mystik des N. Cabasilas (Greiszwald, 1849), App. II, c. 15, p. 221: επομενην ... αει και συνδρομον.
82. St. Gregory Palamas, Cap., 127, PG cl, 1209: ουτε γαρ ουσια εστιν ουτε συμβεβηκος; p. 135, 1216: το γαρ μη μονον ουκ απογινομενον, αλλ ουδ ευξησιν η μειωσιν ηντιναουν επιδεχομενον, η εμποιουν, ουκ εσθ οπως αν συναριθμοιτο τοις συμβεβηκοσιν ... αλλ εστι και ως αληθως εστιν, ου των καθ εαυτο υφεστηκοτων εστιν; ... εχει αρα ο Θεος, και ο ουσια, και ο μη ουσια καν ειμη συμβεβηκος καλειτο, την Θειαν δηλονοτι βολην και ενεργειαν; Theoph. p. 298: την δε θεατικην δυναμιν τε και ενεργειαν του παντα πριν γενεσεως ειδοτος και την αυτου εξουσιαν και την προνοιαν; c.f. p. 937, 956.
83. St. Gregory Palamas, Cap. 96, PG cl, 1181: ει ...
Θειας ουσιας η
και το ποιειν, ο
εστι κατ ουδεν
της ματος και
προβληματος; cf. Cap. 97, 98, 100, 102; Cap. 103, 1192: ουδε
μονον; c. 135, 1216: ει τω
ποιει ο Θεος,
αλλα ουχ απλως
αλλο αρα το
ετερον το πεφυκεναι.
S. Mark of
84. St. Gregory Palamas, Cap. 125, PG cl, 1209; St. Mark of Ephesus, apud Gasz., c. 14, s. 220; c. 9, 219: с. 22, 225: ει πολυποικιλος μεν η του Θεου σοφια λεγεται τε και εστι πολυποικιλος δε αυτου η ουσια εστιν, ετερον αρα η αυτου ουσια και ετερον η σοφια; c. 10, 209.
85. St. Gregory Palamas, Theoph., PG cl, 929; 936; 941; St. Mark of Ephesus, apud Gasz., c. 21, s. 223.
86. Byzantine theology concerning the powers and energies of God still awaits monographic treatment, much the more so since the greater part of the works of St. Gregory Palamas are still in MSS. For the general characteristics and theological movements of the times, see Bishop Porphyry's book, First Journey into the Athonite Monasteries and Sketes, part II, pp. 358 ff., and by the same author, History of Mt. Athos, part III, section 2, pp. 234 ff.; Archimandrite Modestus, St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica (Kiev, 1860), pp. 58-70, 113-130; Bishop Alexey, Byzantine Church Mystics of the XIV Century (Kazan, 1906), and in the Greek of G. H. Papamichael, St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica (St. Petersburg-Alexandria, 1911); cf. the Review of the book by J. Sokolov in the Journal of the Ministry of Public Education, 1913, April-July issues. The Eastern distinction between essence and energy met with severe censure from Roman Catholic thelogy. Petavius speaks of it at great length and most harshly, Petavius, Opus de theologicis, ed. Thomas, Barri-Ducis (1864), tomus I, I, I, c. 12-13, 145-160; III, 5, 273-6.
87. St. Athanasius, C. arian. Or. III, c. 62-63, PG xxvi.
88. St. Maximus the Confessor, Ambigu., PG xci, c. 1261-4.
89. St. Athanasius, C. arian., II, 31, PG xxvi, c. 212: “It was not for our sake that the Word of God received His being; on the contrary, it is for His sake that we received ours; and all things were created... for Him (Col. i.16). It was not because of our infirmity that He, being powerful, received His being from the One God, that through Him as by some instrument we were created for the Father. Far be it. Such is not the teaching of the truth. Had it been pleasing not to create creatures, nevertheless the Word was with God, and in Him was the Father. The creatures could not receive their being without the Word, and that is why they received their being through Him, which is only right. Inasmuch as the Word is, by the nature of His essence, Son of God; inasmuch as the Word is from God and is God, as He Himself has said, even so the creatures could not receive their being but through him.”
90. St. Methodius of
91. St. John Damascene, C. Jacobitas, n. 52, PG xciv, 144.
92. Ibid., De fide orth., I, 8, c. 812.
93. St. Symeon, Βιβλος των ηθικων, III—St. Symeon le Nouveau Theologien, Traités théologiques et Ethiques “Sources Chrétiennes,” No. 122 (Paris, 1966), p. 414: Ενθεν τοι και βλεπομενος παρα παντων και πασας βλεπων αυτος τας αναριθμητους μυριαδας και το εαυτου ομμα εχων αει ατενιζον και αμετακιντων ισταμενον, εκαστος αυτων δοκει βλεπεσθαι παρ αυτου και της εκεινου απολαυειν ομιλιας και κατασπαζεσθαι υπ αυτου ... αλλος αλλο τι δεικνυμενος ειναι και διαρων εαυτον κατ αξιαν εκαστω, καθα τις εστιν αξιος ...
94. St. Gregory Palamas, Theoph., PG cl. 941.
απεικονισμα in St.
Gregory of Nyssa, De hom. opif., PG xliv, 137.
96. St. Maximus the Confessor, Ambigu., PG xci, c. 1093.
97. St. Gregory of Nazianzos, Or. 43, In laudem Basil. Magni, PG xxxvi, c. 560.
98. St. Amphilochius, Or. I In Christi natalem, 4.
99. St. Athanasius, Ad Adelph., 4, PG xxvi, 1077.
100. Ibid., De incarn. et с. аrian., 8, с. 996.
101. Ibid., С. arian., Ι, 46. 47, с. 108-109.
102. Ibid., De incarn. et c. arian., 8, с. 998.
103. Ibid., De incarn; 4, с. PG xxv, 104: εις το κατα φυσιν επεστρεπεν.
104. Ibid; С. arian., II, 58-59, с. 272-3. Cf. N. V. Popov, The Religious Ideal of Sl. Athanasius, Sergiev Posad, 1903.
105. For a summary of citations from St. Gregory see K. Holl, Amphilochius von Ikonium in seinem Verhältniss zu den grossen Kappa-doziern (Tübingen and Leipzig, 1904), p. 166; cf. Also N. Popov, “The Idea of Deification in the Ancient Eastern Church” in the journal Questions in Philosophy and Psychology (1909, II-97), pp. 165-213.
106. Cf. Holl, 124-125, 203 ff.
107. St. Macarius of
108. Cf. Stoffels, Die mystische Theologie Makarius des Aegyptars
109. St. Macarius of
110. St. Maximus the Confessor, Cap, theol. et. oecon. cent., I, 67, PG xci, 1108: κατα χαριν γαρ, αλλ ου κατα φυσιν εστιν η των σωζωμενων σωτηρια.
111. Ibid., Cent, II, 21, col. 1133.
112. Ibid., Ad Ioannem cubic., ep., XLII, c. 639; cf. Div. cap., I, 42, PG xc, 1193; De charit., c. III, 25, c. 1024: κατα μετουσιαν, ου κατ ουσιαν, κατα χαριν, ου κατα φυσιν, Ambigu., 127a: “being deified by the grace of the Incarnate God;” PG xci, 1088, 1092.
113. St. Maximus the Confessor, Ambigu. 222: The goal of the creature's ascension consists in this—that, having united the created nature with the uncreated by love, in order to show them in their unity and identity — εν και ταυτον δειξειε — after having acquired grace and integrally and wholly compenetrating with the whole of God to become all that is God — παν ει τι περ σετιν ο Θεος — PG xci, 1038; cf. also Anastasius of Sinai Οδηγος, c. 2, PG lxxxix, c. 77: “Deification is an ascension towards the better, but it is not an increase or change in nature — ου μην φυσεως μειωσις, η μεταστασις —neither is it a change of one's own nature.”
114. St. Maximus the Confessor, 43 Ad Ioann. cubic; PG xci, 639; “He has created us for this purpose, that we might become participants of the Divine nature and partakers of eternity's very self, and that we might appear to Him in His likeness, by deification through grace, through which is brought about the coming-into-being [η ουσιωσις] of all that exists, and the bringing-into-being and genesis of what does not exist — και η των μη ορτων παραγωγη και γενεισις.
115. Bishop Theophan (the Recluse), Commentary
on the Epistles of Sf. Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians (
116. Nicholas Cabasilas, Stae
liturgiae expositio, cap., 38, PG
cl., c. 452. (Russian version — Writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the
Church concerning the Divine Services of the Orthodox Church [
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