Well this is part of what is in question since a previous poster quoted St. John of Damascus on just this point. My comments were a speculation predicated provisionally on the truth of St. John's statements...or at least his statements as presented and interpreted by the poster.
I am not sure that we are getting the same message from St. John Damaskinos. In Book 2 of the Orthodox Faith
, St. John makes it clear that there is nothing unchangeable in their disposition. He says:
"So the angel, is of a nature which is rational, intelligent, free, and variable in judgment, that is, subject to voluntary change. It is only the Uncreated which is unchangeable." Emphasis is mine
In other words, if the fallen angels want to repent, there is nothing in their nature that can prevent them. As the saint says, their nature is subject to voluntary change. Hence, their incorporeity does not affect their return or their repentance; what prevents them is their choice stemming from pride.
If we accept such tenet, however, we might as well assume that the holy angels after the angelic fall, are still subject to voluntary change, i.e., they may choose evil too. While that is true, we know that due to their decision and stedfastness to God at the moment of fall, they received from God a unique grace, a consolidation in the good, that makes them infallible in the ages to come. (To my knowledge this unique grace is not mentioned by St. John of Damascus in The Orthodox Faith
While St. John speaks of angelic nature as subject to voluntary change
, further down in his book he compares - in what seems at first glance to be a contradiction - the fall of angels to what death is to men. He says:
"One should note that the fall is to the angels just what death is to men. For, just as there is no repentance for men after their death, so is there none for the angels after their fall."
In order to reconcile this "contradiction" one must realize that St. John is speaking rather prophetically about the destiny of the fallen angels. In their hypostasized nature they will always until the Second Coming, have the opportunity to repent. They could potentially use their ability of voluntary change at any time, if they want to. God is Infinitely Merciful and will receive everyone one with open arms. The Devil, however, out of free choice has embraced a second nature, not the full, hypostasized one given to him by God; and the fathers of the church prophetically know his ultimate choice. Again, he is doomed not by nature, but by choice. Our God is a Just God, and He would never create something that intrinsically lacks the ability (in our case due to incorporeity) for redemption.
I mentioned in my previous post that there are fathers of the church who believe that angels being spirits (although not purely spiritual as God) have an advantage in understanding spiritual virtues, whereas others believe that Man has the advantage for reasons I listed above.
Certainly, according to many holy fathers, Man still has a more privileged position overall, for God became human not angel, and He will sit on His throne in eternity having both the divine and human nature. Furthermore, angels were created to be ruled by the Creator, whereas Man was created to rule over the creation.
There is truth in both, but since in this thread the focus is more on the advatages of corporeity, I would like to say that it is true that having a corporeal body can be very beneficial. Every physical pain, illness or affliction does provide a softening of the soul, a spiritual awakening which prepares a background for repentance, something the angels can't experince in similar terms. Nonetheless, angels may commune with God through fascinating spiritual levels, due to their nature.
Originally posted by Robert Hegwood.
As for believing in a fallen angel needing to "possess" (with permission) someone in order to effect its own repentance...I do not believe this, but I have wondered about it especially in the light of what St. John says about repentance and incorporality and in light of the naked fact that in certain circumstances both men and beasts may be possess and wonder what this "capacity" both to possess or be possessed is. Granted when evil spirits are involved it is something perverse...but a thing perverted is only something created good put to an improper use....which raises the question what is the "right use" of the ability...why does it exist at all?
Dwelling happens in both case of good and evil angels, however, holy angels dwell only in good souls, whereas evil ones dwells only in evil souls.
In Book 2 of his The Experience of God - Orthodox Dogmatic Theology
, Dumitru Staniloae explains clearly:
"If it is true that good angels can dwell permanently in bodies kept under control and particularly in good souls with their pure minds, then evil spirits are even more solidly at home in bodies ravaged by impulses of the passions both in the lower parts and also in minds that are framing malign thoughts."
Edited by Kornelius, 25 February 2008 - 05:58 PM.