November 18, 2015

Purification, Illumination and Glorification Are EVERYTHING in Orthodoxy (3 of 3)

...continued from part two.

By Protopresbyter Fr. John Romanides

Definition of Glorification

Man was created to be in a state of illumination or glorification. Glorification is an empirical state. It has nothing to do with metaphysics. The glorification of man means union with God, or theosis. It is divine theoria, divine vision. Man becomes god by grace during the vision of God, if he reaches this point. The aim of Holy Scripture is to lead man to divine vision, to glorification, that he might see Christ in glory.

When man is glorified it means he sees the glory in which he stands. Only someone who is within the uncreated Light sees the uncreated Light. One must be in God to see God. Man sees God through God.

The experience of glorification fills the pages of the Old Testament and the New Testament. Theosis is not there, but glorification is. The Apostle Paul uses the word "glorified" to describe theosis (cf. 1 Cor. 12:26; 2 Cor. 12:1-6). Theosis, or glorification, is man's sanctification, his participation in glory. When the Fathers of the Church say "theosis" or "glorification" they are referring to divine vision, which is the vision of God's glory, His uncreated Light. The Prophets in the Old Testament saw the glory of Christ, which means they reached glorification. The same can be said about those who saw Christ in glory in the New Testament. Man cannot see God unless he has been glorified. The difference is that the Prophets experienced glorification before the incarnation and salvation, while the Apostles experienced glorification after the incarnation and salvation.

Glorification is the surest knowledge of God. Glorification transcends understanding, which is why St. Gregory the Theologian says, "It is impossible to conceive God." Even the glorified cannot conceive God. The glorified know God without knowledge, and conceive without understanding, and hear without hearing, and see invisibly, and so on. One has reached glorification when one sees what is uncreated. The vision of something created comes from demonic energies, even if we think we are seeing God.

Glorification is a repetition of Pentecost. Those who reach glorification have equal grace with the Apostles at Pentecost. There is no difference, at least from the patristic point of view. The Fathers say Pentecost is the highest experience of glorification prior to the Second Coming. This is because it is the glorification that existed in the Old Testament with the addition of the incarnation and salvation.

In the state of glorification, prayer ceases. Divine vision takes the place of prayer, so one does not pray but has the vision of God. When the experience of glorification comes to an end, one returns to prayer. The state of glorification is not a permanent state. Anyone who reaches glorification comes back to illumination. It could last a minute, an hour, a day, a week, 40 days, or a year; God determines the duration. However, there are those in the state of illumination who never reach glorification, because there is no spiritual need. Glorification is given by God, not just to meet personal needs, but usually to meet the needs of others.

In the state of glorification knowledge of God vanishes, theology is no more, because one sees Christ now "face to face." Knowledge of created things is not abolished, because we still have our senses. The Apostle Paul was blinded by the Light, but he spoke and heard while in this state. He did not eat and drink for three days, because this natural function ceases. When this state of glorification ceases, prayer and prophecy begin again, and one preaches and teaches and so on.

Noetic prayer also ceases in the experience of glorification. When glorification, divine vision, ceases, noetic prayer starts up again. Glorification is a direct knowledge and experience of God. However, someone in a state of glorification is able to celebrate the Liturgy and to say the prayers of the Church as usual.

We know from the experience of Moses on Sinai and the experience of the saints, who like Moses reached theoria before their bodily death, that during this experience of glorification the natural and blameless passions are suspended in such a way that there is no hunger, thirst, tiredness, fear, uneasiness or sleep. The state of perfection is such that the devil becomes for the most part, if not completely, powerless. This is why we have stylites who endured the extreme elements they were fully exposed to, and ascetics who endured extreme hunger and thirst, extreme frost and heat.

The theology of the Church is an expression of the experience of theosis, man's glorification, when he attains to the revelation. Theology comes from the divine vision of the Prophets, Apostles, saints and all those who have been glorified. Noetic prayer is the foundation of theology and theologizing, according to the Fathers. In the early Church someone was allowed to theologize only when he had reached illumination. He was called a theologian when he reached glorification. This is the historical usage of these terms.

Orthodox theology means that someone sees, and on the basis of the experience of divine vision and glorification, he theologizes. What does he see in the state of glorification? He sees all the dogmas. The one who prays theologizes, and the one who theologizes prays. Theology and prayer are the same thing. When the Fathers theologize they do not theologize only from Holy Scripture, but from their own experience. Expressions about God are therefore symbolic. This is why we have the term "symbolic theology", because we use symbols to talk about God.

According to the Fathers of the Church, glorification is perfect freedom, and purification and illumination are the beginning of freedom. Holy relics are the result of glorification, as one who has reached glorification is suspended between immortality and corruption; there is some decay, but the identity of the cells is preserved to a great extent. When the glorified depart to the Lord, they remain glorified. They do not cease to be glorified and to share in the glory of God, in the divine vision. That is why we pray to these people and call upon them to intercede for us.

These are the living sermons of Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is always based on the lives of the saints. The calendar of saints is the backbone of Orthodox theology.

Excerpted from Empirical Dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church According to the Spoken Teaching of Father John Romanides, vol. 2, pp. 260-329.