The Fall

25 December, 2009

God is life, all life. There is no life apart from God because to believe so is to limit God. What lives lives in God and by God, even though it is other than God that is of a different essence. It lives by participation of his energies. He sustains it and gives it life. What is separate from God is separate from life and so heads to death. Only united to God and participating in his life can one live.

Man was created in union with God, although not yet perfect, as such he was maintained in life and free of death. Man was also sustained in virtue, the way to live correctly. However, once man disobeyed God he then separated his will from that of God and so separated his whole being from God, which meant that he would die because he is no longer united to life. God does not create death. Death is the only possible result for those who freely reject life, that is reject God, especially his will and sovereignty.

God is simple and not compounded of parts thus we cannot be partially united with Him rather we must be united in all aspects of our being. Our existence is compounded of various aspects which are united without confusion in the One but known distinctly in our created nature. Each other these aspects must be united to him because they are united in him. Even matter is united with God in Christ without dividing him.

God sustains us though even in our sin and separation because he, in his great love, waits for our repentance but he cannot forbear with us forever otherwise he would then deny himself, who must be all in all. Eventually, those who are not united to him must be left to death so that those who are united to him may experience the fullness of his life as he completely becomes all in all. However, he will not deny his own image in those separated from him and it will be preserved forever in him, although the person will suffer the torments of death forever. God is eternal and life is eternal. He cannot deny himself and become temporal. We must accept that we too must share in eternity, either united in the joy of life or separated in the anguish of death.

After the Fall man, being separated from God and so life, cannot of his own strength live nor persevere in virtue. He decays into death and sin. However, man has not lost the image of God so retains the ability for virtue but disconnected from the source it becomes clouded with sin and unable without God to be perfect. His mind not knowing God becomes fixed on the temporal existence of this world and he forgets that existence is eternal, that life is in God and is mainfested in virtue. But man is capable of repentance through faith and if he is willing to be reunited with God and accept God’s help by submitting to God’s will and sovereignty.

Baptism in the Church is the means of uniting man to God through Christ, it restores the original union of Adam with God and permits us to share in life and persevere in virtue. It allows us to become perfect in virtue and life because we have the life of God to enable us through the grace of the Holy Spirit. However, our body remains subject to death because the resurrection is not yet and to show that it remains our body united to but not confused with the body of Christ. It can be cut off from him again also. Nevertheless, because bodies of the baptised share in the union with Christ, the bodies of saints, those who maintain the union all their life, become holy reliques full of grace and even remain incorrupt because they are united to living body of Christ.

Without baptism of the Church, the body of Christ, man remains separate from God and unable to partake of his life. Our union with God must take place both spiritually and physically. The whole man, body and soul, needs to be united with God. Faith without works is dead as are works without faith and baptism.


Love and Knowledge

30 November, 2009

Now concerning the things offered to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he has come to know nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one has been known by Him. (1 Corinthians 8:1-3)

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)

Knowledge as an end in itself is empty, it does nothing other than puff one up. As a means of finding the True God and of helping others to do so, it can be very helpful but only once it becomes fulfilled in the love of God. Only love and relationship have any real eternal value. It is only in sharing our life with others that we truly live and the core of sharing our life is love, without which we cannot truly bond with the other in communion. Why God? Because only God has life and love eternally and only in Him can we also participate of this life and love in a permanent and meaningful manner because human love is temporary and partial.

Knowing God is participating in His life. His life becomes our life and our life becomes His life. God is not an object that we behold from outside in some form of beatific vision, there is no outside of God from which to behold Him, but a subject within Whom we participate in relationships in love. We know God from experiencing this love and these relationships that is why to love God is to obey his commandments, the greatest of which is love. It is by living as He lives in all purity and virtue that we get to know Him as He is, not through some external knowledge about Him. We participate in Him by sharing His energies/operations and not by beholding His essence. This is impossible because to know His essence is not a matter of something to see or to grasp intellectually but something that can only be known by being. Yet, only God is God, only the hypostases of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit are God in essence. It is impossible for anyone else, any creature, to have this essence otherwise they would be one of the hypostases of God and hence not a creature. The essence is not an object to be considered but the substance of a being and only that being can know its essence. This is why we partake of the energies of God, that is the operations/energies of His life. We know God because we will live like Him not in a partial limited reflection of His life, such as knowing someone in a mirror, but by truly partaking of His own life, such as knowing someone face to face but much more deeply than this analogy allows.

Some thoughts on time

2 September, 2009

These thoughts were made some time ago before I was Orthodox. They don’t necessarily represent the Fathers or the Tradition of the Church but they are a take on the issue that I think may be within the Tradition. Any thoughts or critiques?

I will begin by defining time as a measure of change. Things that change have a past, present and future. Things that do not change are said to be timeless because the past, present and future are indistinct and also there is no change to measure. Also, I understand that the future does not exist, expect as a potential, the present is an instant and lacks any permanence and the past also does not exist except as a memory. (Only timeless things truly exist in permanence.)

God is unchanging hence He exists without time. Creation has time because it is changing. Time began with Creation and will continue until Creation ceases to change; before Creation there was no time. We cannot think of what happened before because there was no change and we cannot say why did not God create earlier because there is no earlier. The first moment of Creation is the earliest time.

Time does not, therefore, have an eternal existence. It came into being with Creation. Like the rest of Creation it only existed in potential before the beginning of Creation. God’s existence cannot be referenced to Time; He lives beyond time and is unaffected by it. Time only has consequence to His creatures.

God being immutable cannot change with the events of time. Hence, He must know all future potentialities as if they were actual before Creation. When those potentials become present for the creature, this cannot affect God and they also do not make a change for God when they become past memories. His knowledge of things does not know any such difference.

Being omniscient God knows the future because the future potentials are knowable when they become present to the creature. If a creature knows something then so must God. Being Immutable the knowledge cannot come to God over time; He must know all things eternally.

God has given mankind free will. This means that man is free to make his own decision about things. Therefore, man is able to freely change some aspect or action of his. Because the future exists only in potential and not in actuality then the free choice of a man can make one potential actual for the man while others remain not so. Another choice will make a different potential actual for the man. This does not affect God because His knowledge is unchanged by potentials becoming actual for a man and His knowledge of potentials as actuals. Man’s free will is therefore consistent with God’s immutability and omniscience.

What about predicting the future? God is omnipotent so he can affect all things as He wills. If He determines that such an event should take place then He can make it happen; He is free. This is God’s providence in Creation. Note: all determinations of God were made before time and He does not change His mind. An apparent change of mind can occur because free choices actions of an individual can “trigger” a predetermined decision of God. Hence, a man prays for God’s mercy and then God “changes His mind” and relents from the threatened punishment. God had already determined to do so before time when the man actualised the future potential for prayer for himself and meet the “requirements” for God’s relenting. God can predict the future trials of a man because these things are brought to a man through God’s providence. However, God cannot necessarily predict a man’s salvation because the man’s free will actualises for himself salvation or damnation. It does not affect God whether a man is saved or not because He knows all future potentials including salvation of the man. The choices of men only affect themselves and those of limited knowledge. If Saints are to share the energies of God, including omniscience then they also will know the future potential of everyone being saved as if they were actually saved and they also will not be affected by the loss of sinners.

Because God’s decisions are all predetermined before time then all things He does are predetermined including the call, justification and glorification of man. He foreknows the potential salvation of all men and He has willed that all be saved. He has also determined the means for all to be saved. However, man must choose the triggers for these predetermined actions of God. If man chooses not to then God cannot and will not force them upon a man because God has given us free will.

Filioque essay

18 April, 2008

I have attached a paper written for my Master’s Degree entitled: “Discuss the filioque in the background of Orthodox ecclesiology, the theology of deification and the Orthodox Biblical exegetical methodology.” It received a good mark but there were questions as to how well is represents the Orthodox view on things. Feel free to raise any critiques of it.
Themes in Orthodox Theology

God within

27 January, 2008

One aspect of Orthodox Theology is the understanding of salvation as theosis, which is the participation in the very Life of God, participating in God. God is not related to externally, as over there but internally within. Although, He is not encompassed by us, nevertheless, He is to be found within our hearts and not by looking for Him externally. That is why it is hopeless to ask to see God because that is not how one knows God. When God is within then we are also in Him and He in us. We participate in His Life, which becomes our life.

Our worship consists not of outward raising of arms and clapping of hands with joyful songs but with a broken and humbled heart that is softened and open to His entry within to make us what He is. Not that we are lost in Him but that we become ourselves in Him; He gives us a new name that we are known as ourselves and being so known remain as ourselves forever in Him and He in us in unity. External modes of worship have their place but they are to bring the heart to the right place before the Lord, so that He may freely enter.

The Tradition of worship in the Orthodox Church reflects and reinforces this true worship. The Church buildings, music, icons, structure and form of participation are all there to provide the correct environment for this.

The music using the Church monophonic chants sung by properly appointed male chanters, excepting convents, provide the right tone and spirit of music to raise the heart to divine thoughts. The tone in contrite and deep yet laced with joy. Nothing light and frivolous, affecting the emotions or passion, nor merely pleasing to the ear and mind but something that moves the heart in a spiritual manner. Instruments have no place because they focus the mind on the sounds as an end in themselves and on material things rather than on the words that enlighten and edify the mind and heart lifting them to heaven.

Icons also present the same spiritual environment. They do not express emotion, passion nor physical movement but in calm, sober reflection lift ones mind and heart to God. They radiate a passionless joy and interior contemplation, knowing God within Who radiates His light from the Saints face, as He did for Moses.

The structure of the Church within also develops the right relationship between man and God. The Altar area or rather the throne room of God, Bema, is the centre of God’s reign. It is here that Christ brings man and lifts him by His sacrifice, resurrection and ascension. The centre of this area is the Throne, the High place. The altar is set before this but should not replace it because the focus is coming into God and not on the sacrifice as an end in itself. It reminds us of God’s presence in man and man’s in heaven. The nave of the Church, properly surrounded by the icons of the Saints and Angelic hosts, forms the place where man meets God. It is separated from the Throne because man has yet to ascend into eternal life yet it is in God because God reigns in us now. It is a holy place for the royal priesthood and not those of the world who do not belong here. The narthex is the place where man seeks God but does not yet have Him reigning within through Baptism and repentance. The Throne room is reserved for the Priesthood who as Christ bring man before God. Laymen remain outside reminding us that we have not yet completed the struggle and reached the final goal.

Worship is largely clerical in form and mostly done in one voice whether it is the Bishop speaking, or a chanter. This reflects that we speak with one voice in the same mind and this is the mind and voice of Christ. We worship in Christ, we come to the Father in Him not of ourselves. He it is who leads the worship in the Spirit. Worship is not of man but of God. It is participation in the Life of God as the Son relates to the Father, so to must we also. God does not force our participation and we too relate in the Son as ourselves so the laity respond as if with one voice to the petitions of the priest or deacon or own the hymns of the chanters for themselves by participating in the refrains. Worship is orderly with each keeping to ones proper rank and place because God is a God of order and has arranged His creation and angelic hosts in appropriate order as He sees fit. Men and women stand separated to remind us that our real unity comes not with earthly bonds but with each one uniting to Christ in oneself but also with all. It also helps to remind us to lift our minds from earthly pleasures to those true pleasures in heaven.

The Church building, temple, whether the ancient basilica or the domed “Byzantine”, focuses the eye and mind on its interior. It does not lift ones mind out of the temple and skywards with spires and height to an external God “up there” but brings the mind within itself, into the heart. Heaven is within the Orthodox temple and is manifest with the presence of frescos and icons of the Saints building up to Christ Himself in the interior of the dome. The temples, although sometimes large, are humble on the exterior but within the true glory shines forth as it does with the Saints.

So, all things bring the mind into the heart where God dwells in His Spirit. Here it is that man knows God and participates in the very life of God, in God and God all in all.

Remember me O Lord in Thy Kingdom

14 September, 2007

Not to be taken too literally, it can be said that the Son, begotten of the Father, is as Word begotten from thought. This adds substance to the constantly repeated prayer for God to remember us.

God, of course, never forgets us so the idea of remembering on a human level is not applicable to God. Something more must be meant with this prayer. One aspect is that we remember God and, in our prayer, it is our remembrance of Him that appears to remind Him of us with the synergetic assistance He then provides. Along with this aspect, is, I believe, another aspect of the prayer. This is that in God remembering us, thinking of us, He begets us, as words in the Word so that we become sons of God, albeit by adoption rather than nature. While, all people are remembered and all live forever, only the faithful will be remembered in “Thy Kingdom” that is they will reign with Christ and in Christ as sons.

So, God remembering us is not merely a mental note about us but the establishing of our very being and existence; without this we would cease to exist. This also applies to the Liturgy, which we do in remembrance of Him. This again is not merely the recalling of past events but the making real of the Life of Christ in which we truly participate. The Liturgy is not only the transformation and eating of the Body and Blood of Christ but a complete union with His entire life, that which is past, that which is now and that which is too come. It is completely realised in the Liturgy through remembrance of Him, in the Spirit. The Liturgy is a Divine action in which we participate; it is not of ourselves or our own work, although we also bring our own bodies to the Altar and share in the Life of Christ, which becomes ours.

The Liturgical Centre of Life

8 June, 2007

I was just reflecting on some comments by Photios Jones on Energetic Procession about Tradition and Liturgy with other thoughts about theology based on Liturgy and I wondered why this is so. The following thoughts came to mind.

Christ is our Life. He is the centre of it and all of it. We live in Him and He in us. The Liturgy is the ultimate manifestation of the Life of Christ. It is the Mystery of His life in which we participate and at the pinnacle is the very participation in this life of our whole life, in body and soul. The rest of life a continuation of this Mystery. That is why we feel most alive and natural in the Liturgy because we are living the fullness of our life.

Holy Tradition is the body of faith and practice that manifest the life of Christ. It was taught to Apostles by Christ and transmitted orally and in writing. These teachings provide a rule of life in all its aspects so that we may live the life of Christ in its fullness. Because the Liturgy is the centre of this life the Liturgy is also the centre of Tradition. The Liturgy encompasses the fullness of the Tradition and is its fullest manifestation. Thus to understand the Tradition, to understand the Scripture one must see it in context of the Liturgy. When one interprets Scripture they must do so in context of the Liturgy, which is the life of Christ to which the Scriptures bear witness. When one walks away from the teaching or practice of the Church, it is the Liturgy from which they are excluded, from the centre of the Tradition.

Because the Liturgy is the centre of our life in Christ, its whole way must manifest the life in Christ. It is not merely the breaking of bread but encompasses the whole process, including its setting. Architecture, icons, music and rites as well as words all reflect the life of Christ, they are all Holy and Divine. Although there are exceptions due to circumstance that do not affect the heart of the Liturgy, nevertheless, the wrong architecture, the wrong music, the wrong icons, and especially the wrong rites and words can all distort the full manifestation of the life of Christ. Tradition, although transcending material limits, also incorporates material detail and makes it part of the process. Yes, there is a variety of detail in the Liturgy but there is also a uniformity of detail. Although not bound by detail the Liturgy is not divorced from detail.