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The 'infinity' of man

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#1 Mina Soliman

Mina Soliman

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Posted 16 May 2010 - 02:46 AM

I read this article by Panayiotis Christou, "The Infinity of Man."


I think this is a well-written article, but also still essentially confusing to me. I personally understand the dogma of theosis, and I personally adhere to it, in probably the same way St. Gregory Palamas does. Nevertheless, I wonder about St. Maximus the Confessor's idea on man's infinity by grace. One thing that stuck out to me that confused me, the idea that we are "by essence ever-being":

God, in bringing into existence the rational and intellectual beings, communicated four of tlιe divine attributes, in order to suppοrt, to guard and to preserve beings: being, ever-being, goodness and wisdom.

Two of these, being and ever-being, were offered to essence. The otlιer two, goodness and wisdom, were offered to the gnomic capacity, so tlιat creation became by participation that which God is by essence. That is the reason why it is said that man has been made in the image and likeness of God: In the image as being of the being and as ever-being of the ever-being, if not without beginning certainly without end, and in the likeness, as good of the good and as wise of the wise, one by grace of the one by nature. Every rational nature is in the image of God, while only the good and the wise are in the likeness.

I understand that St. Athanasius that we came into being from non-existence, and we have the propensity to be non-existent, or as he puts it, we're "essentially impermanent". Essentially then, how can ever-being be essential according to St. Maximus if we receive such by grace according to St. Athanasius? Perhaps, I'm misunderstanding something, or perhaps I'm wrong about something, of which I am without a doubt ignorant about.

But more importantly, the idea that we become "infinite by grace." I think the imagery is nice, and I understand what the author (explaining Maximus the Confessor) is rationally trying to do, but this makes me wonder. I've always thought as grace as an uncreated stream of water from a vast infinite source of which I can never partake of. Therefore, grace really becomes a "finite" form of God's nature that my finite self may be able to partake of. To be infinite by grace therefore seems to contradict that analogy in my mind.

In addition, consequentially, if anything, there seems to be no end in sight to what else we can be "by grace." Can we be "Pantocrator" by grace, "worshippable" by grace, "ineffable" by grace, "omniscient" by grace etc.? This is why I find it hard in my mind to grasp that we can become "Infinite" by grace, as I would consider "Infinite" as only something that is in Divine essence, and grace as finite, and so putting the two together (grace of being infinite) a contradiction if you will, an oxymoron.

Anyone else who read this article or know much about Maximus the Confessor, can someone help me with this dilemma?

And for the sake of discussion, I find that St. John Chrysostom interprets Hebrews 7 differently than St. Maximus the Confessor. He's saying that Melchizedek had no father, no mother, neither beginning nor end of days because it wasn't even known. Melchizedek literally had a father, mother, birth and death, but it wasn't known, which is why St. Paul wrote what he wrote.

Thank you.


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