Friday, March 20, 2015

Christian Perfection and the Mystery of the Cross (3 of 3)

5. The Distinction Between Direct and Indirect Knowledge of God

There is also a distinction between the immediate knowledge of God and of the spiritual life of the Prophets, Apostles and Saints who partake of the power of the Cross and the Resurrection, and the mediated knowledge of the believers who partake of the energy of revelation, salvation, sanctification, illumination and theosis of the Cross and the Resurrection granted in the Sacraments through the acceptance of the eyewitness testimony of the Prophets, Apostles and Saints. Infallibility, divine inspiration and theosis in the Old and New Testaments and in the Church does not belong indiscriminately to the whole people of God. It reaches the people and dwells in them by the energy of the Holy Spirit through the Prophets, Apostles and Saints in a state of theosis as well as through the Clergy who have Apostolic Succession (i.e. the ordination and true teaching of those who are in a state of theosis in Christ). Neither in the Old Testament nor in the New Testament nor in the Church is there a spiritual democracy. Nor is there any order of wise theologians in a worldly sense, who have been called to their positions by themselves, and who place under the knife of criticism the teaching and catechetical method of those in a state of theosis in order to decide themselves which of the fruits of the Mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection they are going to keep, which they will throw away, and which they are going to add.

According to the Biblical witness, there are: 1) those who are taught about the kingdom in parables, "because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand;" 2) those to whom "it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven;" and 3) those who see through theosis the Kingdom and Glory of Christ (the Baptism of Christ, the Transfiguration, Pentecost, Stephen before the council, Paul on the way to Damascus). The Mysteries of the kingdom, which they saw, are the Mysteries of the Church, namely those of the Cross and the Resurrection. These are known because of the testimonies of the eyewitnesses, who are believers, who have the betrothal of the Spirit, who have been catechized by spiritual fathers, who possess the charism of the discernment of spirits or have been eyewitnesses of the Glory of Christ. The believers and the persons in a state of theosis include only those who willingly take up their cross through the Mystery of the Cross and, thus, follow after Christ.

Those who wish to live according to Christ place themselves under the guidance of a father who has the charism of the discernment of spirits and, consequently, is able to teach the manner through which one becomes a participant in the Mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection. Those who wish to have Christ without the narrow and sorrowful path or the need of crucifixion of the self, find spiritual fathers of their liking who possess secular theology.

6. Apostolic Succession and Christ's Presence in the Sacraments

In the center, therefore, of the apostolic teaching, we see not only the unceasing succession of ordination from the Apostles, but also the true teaching and spiritual life, which is the fruit of the Mystery of the Cross and of the Resurrection and which is manifested to the world in the Saints and friends of God who are in theosis. The interruption of the tradition of theosis implies a separation from Apostolic Succession, namely, from communion of the Mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection and incurs falling away from the truth. A conspicuous indication of this interruption of the Apostolic Succession is the absence of the veneration of the Saints and of their holy icons and relics, and also the absence of miracles wrought through them.

As God is divided undividedly in His energies, and is partitioned without being reduced to parts, and entirely enters and dwells without being contained in each of His energies, likewise the human nature of the Word, on account of the hypostatic union and the exchange of properties, dwells in His entirety in each uncreated energy of God. For this reason, Christ the Word is in His entirety present and active with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments and ceremonies of the synaxis of the faithful at the appointed place, as He is entirely present in each particle of the consecrated Bread and Wine for the communion of the faithful (because each particle that is cut off is changed into the entire human nature of the Word), and also entirely present and active in every believer who has their candle burning, since in every believer who has love, Christ has prepared together with the Father in the Holy Spirit an abode and a place of indwelling or cohabiting. This abode and place is the glory, kingdom and grace in which the Holy Trinity dwells and the power of the Mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection through which the people of God experience theosis and union with God.

This means that especially in the Sacraments of the Church, which are celebrated in the appointed place, the whole catholic Church is present, namely, Christ with the Theotokos, the Prophets, the Apostles and the Saints. Consequently, every parish is the entirety of the catholic Church, and the catholic Church is entirely present and identical with every parish. The Church's life in Christ is centered in the divine Eucharist and is fed by Christ in it, while through this Sacrament the faithful continue their crucifixion and resurrection with Christ at Baptism. In other words, through the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the human nature of the Word, which was born from the Theotokos, the faithful become communicants of the Mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection and of the sacrifice of Christ on Golgotha, which abolished the power of the devil through the resurrection of those who had previously fallen asleep and of those who have been baptized and are being perfected in Christ.

From An Outline of Orthodox Patristic Dogmatics by Protopresbyter John Romanides, translated by Protopresbyter George Dion. Dragas (Orthodox Research Institute, 2004) pp. 103-123.

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