Tuesday, December 30, 2014

God Upon the Earth


By Basil Skiadas

With the Incarnation of God the pre-eternal divine plan for the salvation of the human race is realized. The Son and Word of God with His Incarnation managed to wipe out death from sin, but also to renew human nature and to guide it to true knowledge of God. So within the vast ocean of darkness and of the shadow of death, God came upon the earth to save man.


THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS 
TO THE WORK OF SALVATION

The fall of man into sin didn’t completely wipe man out of the capability of salvation. No one utilized this capability so much as the Most Holy Theotokos. She gave God the opportunity to reveal the pre-eternal and hidden mystery of the Divine Incarnation. “She was chosen from eternity to be the Mother;
and in time she was revealed as the Theotokos,” chants our Church in the Service of the Entrance of the Theotokos.

Truly the Theotokos who gave birth to the one and only theandric hypostasis of the Savior Christ, was always destined for this super-celestial work. So it followed “the One in essence Godhead would have striven to form in the best manner to adorn the Mother of the Son of God with all the goods” observes the great speaker about the Theotokos, Saint Nicholas Cabasilas. He furthermore reaches the point of stressing that the goal of the creation of man was none other, than to offer a “Mother” to God. It was not possible for God to have descended on the earth, if that suitable person had not been found, who would receive and worthily serve the work of salvation. The Most Holy Theotokos, according to the Fathers of the Church, comprised the peak of all the Old Testament and the worthy representation of all of humanity for the appearance of God upon the earth.

THE INCOMPREHENSIBLE MYSTERY OF THE DIVINE APPEARANCE

“You appeared in the world, You who made the world, to enlighten those sitting in darkness, O Philanthropic One, glory to thee,” chants our Church. In other words you came to the world, You who made the world, to enlighten with the light of the knowledge of God those who are in the darkness of the ignorance of God, O Philanthropic One, and for this reason we glorify You. This appearance of God to the world took place with the divine Incarnation. The hypostatic union of God and man in the person of the Savior Christ is the only new thing which ever took place under the sun.

“(Christ) being perfect God, becomes perfect man and the most new of all new mysteries is performed, the only new thing under the son."

“With the divine Incarnation” writes Saint Makarios the Egyptian, “the Son and Word of God is united hypostatically with all of men, in other words with the soul and physical portion of his personality." This incomprehensible mystery occurred with the good pleasure of the Father and the cooperation of the Holy Spirit. This union of God the Word with human nature did not deprive the Godhead of anything.

“He did not partake of anything of the body, but rather He sanctified the body also” writes Athanasios the Great. With this he wants to tell us that with His Incarnation God the Word did not participate in man’s sinfulness, but neither was He deprived of the Godhead in something. Other God-bearing holy Fathers also stress this thought.

In particular Saint Maximus the Confessor observes that the fire which fires up iron, not only does not partake of the rust and its other imperfections, but on the contrary imparts to it extra qualities: brilliance, warmth, elasticity etc. Thus also God the Word deified human nature, to the degree that it could be deified, without participating in its sinfulness.

Furthermore, God Himself had made “man thus from the beginning, so as to be able to receive God,” Saint Nicholas Cabasilas will tell us. In other words, God mad man thus, so that he could contain God.

RESULTS OF THE DIVINE INCARNATION

With His incarnation God the Word anointed humanity with the Godhead. He truly united the divine with the human nature and not just seemingly and superficially, as the Nestorian heresy taught. During this union, however, neither did the divine nature swallow up the human nature, as Monophysitism taught. The holy Fathers speak of the deification of human nature and not about a simple moral improvement.

This certifies the teaching of the Apostle Paul, who calls each person to be made “into a perfect man, in the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). In other words, the Apostle Paul does not urge people towards an external and formal moral improvement, but he calls everyone to a real Christification. This union and communion of man with the incarnated Son and Word of God in the Orthodox tradition is called “theosis”. Thus with faith and love, struggle and asceticism, and especially with the sanctifying grace of the Mysteries, man is deified, in other words he becomes a God by grace.

“He incarnated, so that we could be deified,” observes Athanasios the Great. In other words, the Son and Word of the Father became man, aside from sin, to make us God’s by grace.

With the Incarnation of the Son “the recalling of deceived man and his guidance to theosis was achieved,” observes Saint Gregory of Nyssa. Thus the chasm between God and man which could never be bridged, Jesus Christ bridged with His Incarnation. The potential completion of the human personality, as a psychosomatic being, was achieved with the Incarnation of the Savior. With it man was deemed worthy to the measure of his christification and deification.

FROM THE GREAT BREAK UP TO MAN’S RESTORATION

The whole psychosomatic organism of man after the fall was greatly broken up. His life from a spiritual being which it previously was, was changed now to a “biological” being. Materiality and corruption henceforth embraced all of man’s psychosomatic organism. With the Incarnation however of the Son and Word the restoration of the very broken up human personality was achieved. This was achieved with the personal intervention and action of one of the persons of the Trihypostatic Godhead, of the Son and Word. We should not forget that human nature is one, but in a myriad of hypostases and a myriad of persons. So the Lord took on all of human nature, because, according to the Fathers of the Church, “what is not assumed is also not healed”. In other words, if during the divine Incarnation some part of human nature remained outside of it, this part would also remain unhealed. Aside from this, however, the human personality would have suffered a break up, for the restoration of which God incarnated.

So the problem of the restoration of the very broken up human personality to its prefallen condition found its solution with the divine Incarnation, which we are called to live more during this Christmas period.

The divine Incarnation makes people able to partake fully in the life of incorruption in the “sight” of the Trihypostatic Godhead. Thus the real “hypostasis in Christ", in other words the true hypostasis in God is achieved. So with the divine Incarnation the capability of partaking from now in the life of the Godhead is given to us.


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