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Patristic view on the purpose of man


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#1 Sacha

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Posted 28 July 2015 - 06:49 PM

Hello,

What do the Fathers say regarding the purpose of man's creation, i.e., why did God create us in the first place?  The reformed, for example, answer pithily by saying "God created man to glorify Him". Others say "For his pleasure", or, "for fellowship". I think the Orthodox church would respond in one word with "theosis", but does this capture all aspects of the church's wisdom on the matter? If you know of patristic writing that directly addresses the question, could you kindly point me to it?

Thank you,
-S



#2 Panayotis

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 12:33 AM

The Lord created us so that we could participate is His divine life. After His Ascension, Christ deified our human nature, placing it at the right hand of the Father and gave us all that he has and nothing less. This is our high calling for which it is impossible to God enough. Christ commands us to be holy, to be perfect and to love God with all our being and our neighboor as ourselves. In keeping the commandments we experience the divine life. As St Mark the Ascetic says, "Christ is hidden in His commandments and He reveals Himself to us to the degree that we keep them. I'm sure that others can speak to this topic far better than I can but I wanted to recommend the books Man's Spiritual Evolution and Holiness: Man's Supreme Destiny by Constantine Cavarnos as excellent resources for for further study on the patristic teaching. Christopher Veniamin's essay Theosis in Saint Silouan the Athonite and Elder Sophrony of Essex in the book The Orthodox Understanding of Salvation is also excellent. The Lives of the Saints are also of immense value and inspiration in sensing our purpose. You may also be interested in the following online resources: Theosis: The True Purpose of Human Life, by Abbot George of Gregoriou Monastery: http://orthodoxinfo....al/theosis.aspx What Christ Accomplished on the Cross, by Hieromonk Damascene: http://orthodoxinfo....hristcross.aspx

#3 Anna Stickles

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Posted 02 August 2015 - 05:44 PM

Does the word Theosis capture all of the aspects of the Church's wisdom? Well I suppose it depends on what we ourselves understand by "theosis", undoubtedly our understanding falls short of the fullness of what we are called to. :) The Fathers actually talk about this in many different ways.

 

 

St Gregory of Nyssa's "The Making of Man" is one of them. In ch 4 he talks of this in terms of man's royal responsibility as being made king of creation and then ties this into how God created man in His own image. For St Gregory man finds his true purpose and fulfillment in partaking, as image, in the beauty, harmony, and fullness of the Archetype. This impulse is natural to man, but has been distorted by the Fall.

 

There is a lot about how man is a microcosm and that God's purpose for man was to bring into unity and harmony the diverse elements of this world. You can find this as a common theme in St Maximos the Confessor, but really any of the Christological theology. The ultimate purpose of man after all is to be found in Christ Himself.

 

Another place we can look to the answer of  the question of our ultimate purpose is found in the texts on the Theotokos as having reached that fullness of what we are made for. Certainly she glorified God, both verbally and in her very life and being, she pleased him and was pleasing to Him, she was in an intimate communion with God, and so much more.



#4 Lakis Papas

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Posted 02 August 2015 - 06:51 PM

While it is common to think that God has a plan and that man's life is based on a purpose, children enter into the Kingdom of God without following any plan. Also the thief on the cross followed Crist in Paradise just by saying a phrase.
Some Christians fell better if they are covered by a plan. They don't like a God that takes risks. But every human creature that comes in existence is about taking a huge risk, regarding God's plans.
God waits outside of man's heart and waits for man"s permission to enter, it seems like no plan can open the door for God.

Even in the case of most blessed Mother of God, she was asked to accept God's plan. She was free to reject it.

It is in the power of one human to overthrough God's plan. Actually it is in the the power of each one human being. And God just respect human's will and let His plan to fail so that human remain free, when the human being rejects God's plan.

It seems that God's planning has a parameter that is unpredictable: freedom of man.

We think that denial of God's plan has the result of punishment. And that acceptance has the result of paradise This simplistic schema frees God for taking any risks, and limits freedom of man in two options.

Fortunatelly, each human being is distinct and special risk for God, opening limiteless freedom paths for each man.

The blessed Theotokos followed the impossible path, by accepting to become a virgin mother of God. Her freedom reached the imposibble because God took the risk of respecting her freedom.

#5 Anna Stickles

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 10:59 PM

While it is common to think that God has a plan and that man's life is based on a purpose, children enter into the Kingdom of God without following any plan.

 

 

You have moved here from the universal to the personal, and bring up a good point. God's plan in real everyday terms is to be present with each one of us using circumstances, examples, words, or thoughts to restrain our will to sin and draw us on toward true good, but this doesn't exist as a ready made plan.



#6 Sacha

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Posted 05 August 2015 - 03:20 AM

Thank you all for the thoughts and recommendations, will look into them. Greatly appreciate it.

 






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