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Was/Is Christ a human being?


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#41 Phoebe K.

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 10:58 AM

I would just like to ask why understanding the fathers is not enough?

I may be a catacumin, but I cannot see how we can go further than the Spirit enlightened fathers of the Church who defined what we believe together under the gidence of the Holy Spirit. Shorely to go further would be opening the door to pride that we are better than the hornered saints and fathers of the faith. What is needful in faith as far as I can see is to believe as our forefathers did,through Prayer to repent of our past and plead for the grace to grow in our likeness to Christ. Should not our relationship with Christ our God come first and theological musings only if we are given grace to do so.

Phoebe

#42 IoanC

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 11:05 AM

I would just like to ask why understanding the fathers is not enough?

I may be a catacumin, but I cannot see how we can go further than the Spirit enlightened fathers of the Church who defined what we believe together under the gidence of the Holy Spirit. Shorely to go further would be opening the door to pride that we are better than the hornered saints and fathers of the faith. What is needful in faith as far as I can see is to believe as our forefathers did,through Prayer to repent of our past and plead for the grace to grow in our likeness to Christ. Should not our relationship with Christ our God come first and theological musings only if we are given grace to do so.

Phoebe


You need to be under the guidance of The Holy Spirit yourself to understand The Fathers. That's Church teaching.
The Fathers mean nothing if we ourselves do not acquire their Spirit.

#43 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 01:35 PM

Interesting posts!

Here is what St John of Damascus has to say about the soul:

Now, a soul is a living substance, simple and incorporeal, of its own nature invisible to bodily eyes, acitvating an organic body in which it is able to cause life, growth, sensation, and reproduction. It does not have the mind as something distinct from itself, but as its purest part, for, as the eye is to the body, so is the mind to the soul. It is free, endowed with will and the power to act, and subject to change, that is, subject to change of will, because it is created. And this it has received according to nature, through that grace of the Creator by which it has also received both its existence and its being naturally as it is.


I have underlined the part of this which seems to relate to this discussion. Indeed as others have said here, the soul is something that is part of the nature of what is created; it is its empowering, motivating force as it were, but which by nature is reliant (which is why by nature it is changable). Something which we could never say of God for He is self subsistent and not reliant on something else as we are for life. In other words although our soul is truly in the image of God; it is not at all the same life by nature as IS God. In turn then this points to Who Christ is. For as Pre-eternal Word he assumes all that is human including its limitations (though without sin). He indeed then is image for us of what deification means. For deification does not mean God replacing what is human in us with what He is. Rather it means fulfilling what we are by His grace. In other words all of this goes back to our original purpose in the first place as created by God. Which is fulillment of what we are and of that which is created in Him.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#44 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 01:48 PM

Please, do provide quotes, if you are able. I am interested of both in favor that Christ had a human soul, and in favor that His human soul was different that His Divine soul, or, if not the case, that He didn't have a Divine soul. And I am waiting for definitions of the word "soul", as well, from whomever can offer them. Thank you!


Although people do often use the English word soul to mean the underlying, individual, self-aware reality in each human being (the "I" in each of us), the Church has long understood the soul as a component part of human being. In chapter 12, book 2, of his Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, St. John of Damascus writes:

The soul, accordingly, is a living essence, simple, incorporeal, invisible in its proper nature to bodily eyes, immortal, reasoning and intelligent, formless, making use of an organized body, and being the source of its power of life, and growth, and senation, and generation, mind being but its purest part and not in any wise alien to it; (for as the eye to the body, so is the mind to the soul); further it enjoys freedom and volition and energy, and is mutable, that is, it is given to change, because it is created. All these qualities according to nature it has received by the grace of the Creator, of which grace it has received both its being and this particular kind of nature.


The soul is therefore not us but a part of us, for each of us is both soul and body. The human person is us. The person is not a thing added to a soul and body; it is rather the underlying, individual, self-aware reality that comes into existence at the creation of each human soul and body. Thus to be fully man, Christ had to have both a human soul and a human body, but the creation of His particular soul and body did not bring into existence a new human person because Christ was already a divine Person, who willingly "took flesh," which is to say, He willingly assumed both soul and body.

The idea that the divine Logos supplied the soul of the incarnate Christ is the basis of the Apollinarianism, which appeared the latter fourth century and was condemned by St. Basil the Great and the rest of the Church.

Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 28 August 2012 - 02:41 PM.


#45 IoanC

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 02:15 PM

Thank you, Father Raphael, for your post! It confirms many of my understandings.

Thank you, Father Patrick, also, for your post! It is informative, and I believe I now know what you meant by your opening post.

Sorry, for using the word "soul" rather carelessly. This has indeed helped me to see things in a different way. My main concern was that Christ's Human nature did not imply that He is sort of two persons, or that the limitations of human nature did not imply that we cannot become like God through His Grace.

I am now happy! :)

#46 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 02:40 PM

'Theanthropos' is known and is the expression the Church uses. We are safe if we stick with it. There is no need to go beyond it.


Theanthropos is an old term, first used by Origen, and it has been used by the Church, but it has not been used all that much, no doubt because it can easily be taken in a monophysite sense to mean one composite nature and being, especially when we emphasize the "uniqueness" of the God-man.

The Church has most often spoken of Christ as simply "God," and when the Church says more it usually says more in one of two ways: God who became man, as in the Gospel of John, and the man who is God, as in the Synoptic Gospels.

The identification of Christ as "the new Adam" depends on Christ actually being a man, and the Holy Apostle Paul does not shrink from calling Him one: "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead." (1 Cor. 15:21, KJV) This verse actually makes more sense with the insertion of indefinite articles: "For as by a man [Adam] came death, by a man [Christ] has come also the resurrection of the dead." (ESV) St. Paul also writes: "For if through the offense of one [man] many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many." (Rom. 5:15, KJV) He also writes: "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Tim. 2:5)

We know what the Apostle means, for elsewhere he makes plain that Jesus Christ is God (cf. Gal. 1:1, 1:12), but believing that Jesus Christ is God does not stop the Apostle or the Church from sometimes also speaking of Jesus Christ as a man. He was indeed a man, "the first perfect man," as St. Justin Popovich says, but He was not merely a man; He was also God.

#47 Olga

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 02:44 PM

and it has been used by the Church, but it has not been used all that much,


On the contrary. Theanthropos/Bog y Chelovek occurs quite frequently in Orthodox hymnography.

#48 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 03:02 PM

On the contrary. Theanthropos/Bog y Chelovek occurs quite frequently in Orthodox hymnography.


Not nearly as frequently as other ways of speaking.

Let me make this clear: I am not denying that Christ is the God-man or saying that we ought not use the term; I am pointing out that the term is not the only way we may speak of Christ, as some have seemed to say here, and that it is also not the most common way the Church speaks of Christ.

You can, if you like, list all of the uses of the term in the hymnography of the Church; my point will still stand. You can't go to church and not hear the Virgin Mary called the "Theotokos"; likewise you can't go to church and not hear Christ called "God"; but you can go to church very often and not hear Christ called the "God-man" or "Theanthropos."

#49 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 03:34 PM

I can't help but thinking that the apparent disagreement here about whether Jesus was/is a man is only an apparent disagreement. I seriously doubt that Fr Patrick and Rdr Andreas are really disagreeing with each other.

Once we have dogmatically excluded any and all forms of adoptionism and Nestorianism (God did not unite himself to an already constituted human person) and once we have affirmed that the hypostatic identity of the eternal Word and Jesus of Nazareth (the divine person of the Son has assumed human nature and become man) and once we have fully affirmed the integrity of Jesus' human nature, including a human soul, mind, and consciousness (Jesus is not God pretending to be human), may and indeed must we not speak of Jesus as being a man? He was, after all, a member of the human race. He was born of Mary in Bethlehem, given the name "Jesus" by his foster-father Joseph, raised in Nazareth and grew in wisdom and knowledge, trained to be a carpenter, baptized by John at the River Jordan, engaged in prophetic ministry and proclaimed the imminent arrival of the Kingdom, gathered around himself a group of disciples, one of whom eventually betrayed him, crucified by Pontius Pilate, died, and was buried--in other words, Jesus had a human history, some of which is recorded in the New Testament. In what sense is he not "a" man?

In one of his Pastoral Ponderings, which he later elaborated upon in his recent book The Jesus We Missed, Fr Patrick Henry Reardon comments on the difficulty many of us have in speaking about the humanity of Christ:

To concentrate on the "composition" of the Incarnation is [to] inquire, "Exactly what was present in the womb of the Virgin Mary at the instance of the Word's conception?" De facto, the ancient Christology of the Councils all examined some aspect of that very question. They asked, "How many persons were there in the Word incarnate?" Or, "How many wills were there in the Word incarnate?" Or, "How should we speak of the nature of the Word incarnate?"

In all such questions—the importance of which I certainly appreciate—we are treating the Incarnation according to static categories. These questions address the Incarnation as the "state" of the Word's becoming man. Indeed, we use the predicate "hypo-static" to speak of this mystery.

And here, I suggest, is the nub of a problem: The moment of the Incarnation was not static. The doctrine of the Incarnation does not refer solely to a state, but to a full human life. In the words of St. Irenaeus, Gloria Dei est vivens homo ["The glory of God is a living man"]. That is to say, the Word did not simply become human (as some misguided translations of the Creed have expressed it). Rather, the Word became a specific human being. This is why St. Cyril of Alexandria—manifestly the standard bearer of orthodox Christology—often spoke of Christ as "one of us" (heis ex hemon).

In other words, the Word assumed, not only our nature—considered abstractly and in general—but the concrete, historical circumstances of an individual human life. He made himself a subjective participant in human history, someone whose existence and experience were circumscribed by the limiting conditions of time and space.

The effect and influence of Jesus (what an embarrassing expression to use!) on history passed through those limiting conditions of time and space. He assumed, not only our flesh, but also a specific human body.

A more adequate Christology, then, should affirm that the Word's becoming flesh refers to more than the single instant of His becoming present in the Virgin's womb. He continued becoming flesh and dwelling among us, in the sense that His assumed body and soul developed and grew through the complex experiences of a particular human life.

It is noteworthy that the four gospels say relatively little about the Son's assumption of human nature (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35; John 1:14), whereas on page after page of those gospels we witness His complete assumption of a concrete human life.


Perhaps we might go further. What does it mean to say that Jesus is not a human "person"? Remember: we have all already agreed upon the Chalcedonian definition and have excluded adoptionism and Nestorianism. Why do we employ the language of "person" in this context? how does it function? Catholic theologian Herbert McCabe helpfully clarifies this question:

I can see what is meant by saying (as for example, Aquinas does) that the Word of God did not assume a human person (i.e. an already constituted human being) but not what would be meant by saying that the Incarnate Word is not a human person. A human person just is a person with a human nature and it makes absolutely no difference to the logic of this whether this same person does or does not exist from eternity as divine. Confusion arises about this from the muddled idea that a human nature ordinarily has a "human sort of person" to sustain it or in which it can inhere, and that this sort of "personality" is missing in Jesus and replaced by a divine kind--as though the proper and appropriate hypostasis for a human nature were replaced by a divine one. But this all comes from forgetting what we use "person" for; we use it to answer the question "Who?" not the question "What?" No meaning can be attached to the "the appropriate kind of hypostasis for a human nature"; there are no "kinds of hypostasis" except in so far as they have natures. In virtue of the incarnation, in virtue of assuming a human nature, the Son of God becomes a human person in exactly the same sense as I am a human person [emphasis added]. (God Matters, pp. 72-73)



When I first read this paragraph I was a bit taken aback by the statement that Jesus is a human person. I had to re-read it a couple of times before I got what McCabe is saying. If we are reluctant to speak of Jesus as a human person, and therefore as "a" man, perhaps it's because we are confusing "person" and "nature." "Person" is simply the subject in which a nature subsists. Precisely because God has assumed human nature, he is a human being and human person. To assert that Jesus is "a" man is not to deny that Jesus is the eternal Son of God; on the contrary, it is to assert that God has truly assumed human nature and entered into human history, living, dying, and rising as one of us.

#50 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 04:48 PM

Bingo, Fr. Aidan. This is just what I've been saying since the objection to "a divine human being" was raised on the "Women priests" thread. Here's a quote:

That's why I said "a human person in the sense of an individual human being." People do sometimes say "human person" and mean "a human being," and one could easily understand "human person" as a person possessing a human nature, which Christ did.



#51 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 05:04 PM

Dear Fr Aidan,

I think that much in this second quote, Father, is very problematic. In a way I'm just repeating what you've already noted. But surely it is crucial to maintain the theological reality that the subject of the incarnate Christ is precisely the pre-eternal Word. Here I'm only guessing that Nestorianism wasn't the theological schema that McCabe had in mind. Rather what he portrays appears to be very similar to later Roman Catholic Christology where in humbly assuming humanity, the Son of God in a real sense puts aside His divinity. He is God- but via His incarnation He becomes a man of suffering, or in modern terms, a human being.

In Chrst
-Fr Raphael

#52 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 05:41 PM

But surely it is crucial to maintain the theological reality that the subject of the incarnate Christ is precisely the pre-eternal Word. Here I'm only guessing that Nestorianism wasn't the theological schema that McCabe had in mind. Rather what he portrays appears to be very similar to later Roman Catholic Christology where in humbly assuming humanity, the Son of God in a real sense puts aside His divinity. He is God- but via His incarnation He becomes a man of suffering, or in modern terms, a human being.


But He was and is a human being as a Person animating/hypostasizing human nature, with a particular human soul and a particular human body, yet without laying aside His divine nature and being.

#53 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 07:02 PM

But He was and is a human being as a Person animating/hypostasizing human nature, with a particular human soul and a particular human body, yet without laying aside His divine nature and being.


I understand your intent Father about the reality of Christ's humanity. But I don't know why we would add to this that 'Christ is a human being'. Doesn't this mean that in Christ we end up with two beings? Maybe if you explain this.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#54 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 08:31 PM

Doesn't this mean that in Christ we end up with two beings?


By "two beings" you must mean "two entities" and indeed "two persons." That's not the only way to understand "being," and it's certainly not how we understand divine "being." There is only one "being" of the Trinity, one essence, one ousia, and thus one God; yet there are three Persons of that one God.

In Christ, it's the other way around: one Person but two essences, two beings: His human essence/being and His divine essence/being. After all, "being" means existence. Does Christ not have a human existence as well as a divine existence? Is He not human as well as divine?

Remember: being isn't just a noun; it is a gerund — a noun formed from a verb. It means something that is. Whatever is human is human being, and whatever is fully human is a human being among many human beings, which in the case of Christ does not prevent Him from also being fully God.

#55 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 08:37 PM

Since the Holy Fathers used the Greek terms ‘prosopon’, ‘anthropos’ and ‘hypostasis’ in relation to man, but ‘ousia’ in relation to human nature, where does the English word ‘being’ fit in with this patristic language? What is the equivalent Greek term? According to Metropolitan Hierotheos, ‘ousia’ is identified with ‘being’: “Essence (ousia) gets its name from being.” If that is right, ‘human nature’ and ‘human being’ mean the same thing.

The difficulty I have with saying ‘a human being’ is that unless it is made clear that this is the same as ‘human nature’, especially because of the use of the indefinite article, the expression ‘a human being’ may suggest – even if this is not meant – that Christ had/has a human hypostasis in addition to His divine nature and His human nature (and that, of course, we cannot say).

Translations of the writings of the Holy Fathers, of the Councils and of the services invariably (I think!) use the expression ‘human nature’. That is why we should stay with that expression.

#56 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 08:54 PM

I'm still following you I think Fr Dn. But to me this then ends up with a Christ that is two beings; to use your correlation of this: two natures. What is the place though of Him as Person, as Pre-eternal Logos? The Word after all is always the acting subject of the union; only in Him is His humanity active, not as a being but as nature.

I wonder if you're coming at this from a soft Antiochene position which from my reading seems to find its best expression in someone like Theodoret of Cyrus. It's sad that most of this expression was lost in the dogmatic disputes of the time. After all a canonical reconciliation did occur between those basically of this softer view and St Cyril. And the question they raised (again I mean in the specifically Antiochene tradition), has hardly been taken up since then.


In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#57 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 09:17 PM

I'm still following you I think Fr Dn. But to me this then ends up with a Christ that is two beings; to use your correlation of this: two natures. What is the place though of Him as Person, as Pre-eternal Logos? The Word after all is always the acting subject of the union; only in Him is His humanity active, not as a being but as nature.


I admit the common sense of "being" as thing, entity, or person is a problem in English that I can't completely overcome. I can only argue for understanding the term more as an action than as a thing, to wit, human being means being human. Inasmuch as Christ is one among many persons being human, He is a human being.

Can we do any better by denying that Christ was "a human being"? That has led others here to deny that He was a man, an anthropos, as if He could somehow be human but not a human. How is that possible, and do we really want to say that? Surely He was a man. St. Paul says so, and that's what the Gospels are all about — this man who is God.

The concrete historicity of the Incarnation is important to emphasize. Christ was a particular man who lived in a particular time and place, as Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon says in the passage quoted by Fr. Alvin. He did not merely assume the platonic form of man; He became a carpenter named Jesus from a hole-in-the-wall called Nazareth. It's that very human reality that so scandalized the Greeks.

#58 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 10:22 PM

Fr Dn Patrick wrote:

The concrete historicity of the Incarnation is important to emphasize. Christ was a particular man who lived in a particular time and place, as Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon says in the passage quoted by Fr. Alvin. He did not merely assume the platonic form of man; He became a carpenter named Jesus from a hole-in-the-wall called Nazareth. It's that very human reality that so scandalized the Greeks.


Sometimes the mystery of our own personality effects these issues. Considering that my favourite hobby is the reading of history, it's ironic that in temperament I'm much more an Alexandrian than an Antiochene. The theme of the 'historical Jesus' always makes me uneasy and I rarely refer to Christ in that way even in sermons.

Yeah Origen!... (well, at least Clement of Alexandria).

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#59 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 08:14 PM

Dear Fr Aidan,But surely it is crucial to maintain the theological reality that the subject of the incarnate Christ is precisely the pre-eternal Word. Here I'm only guessing that Nestorianism wasn't the theological schema that McCabe had in mind. Rather what he portrays appears to be very similar to later Roman Catholic Christology where in humbly assuming humanity, the Son of God in a real sense puts aside His divinity. He is God- but via His incarnation He becomes a man of suffering, or in modern terms, a human being.


Unfortunately Fr McCabe only left us a few occasional essays where he addresses Christological concerns, but I think I can allay your worries, at least partly. He most certainly believes, as he states two pages earlier in the same article, that "part of the doctrine of the incarnation is that the person of Jesus is uncreated" (God Matters, p. 70).

But re-read the passage I quoted. Note how McCabe defines his terms. What is a divine person? A subject with a divine nature. What is a human person? A subject with a human nature. What therefore distinguishes Jesus from other human beings? Jesus also has a divine nature. There is only one subject, one agent, namely, the eternal Son of God who has assumed human nature and thus become, by McCabe's definitions, a human person, i.e., a subject with a human nature. All suggestions of Nestorianism or adoptionism (or 19th century Lutheran kenoticism, for that matter) are excluded. Does this not sound like the grammar of Chalcedon? McCabe was trained in St Thomas Aquinas and analytic philosophy, with a large dose of Wittgenstein. He sought to clarify theology's use, and misuse, of language. Like many contemporary Western theologians, I suppose McCabe might be described as leaning toward the Antiochene school, with its emphasis on the full humanity of Jesus Christ; but his intention is to faithfully speak about the Lord within the boundaries set by the Council of Chalcedon. No doubt Eastern theologians will want to pose questions to McCabe about the union and coinherence of the divine and human natures in the one person of Christ. I do not know how he would respond.

Why might it be important to speak of Jesus as "a" man? One reason immediately comes to mind: to keep our preaching and teaching about Jesus firmly grounded in the scandalous particularities of the biblical narrative--in other words, to keep it honest. Jesus really was a human being who lived within and endured the limitations, privations, and sufferings of historical life. The story of Christ is not mythology. It is the story of the eternal Creator who lived, loved, suffered, and died as one of us; it is the story of true incarnation. This is why books like The Jesus We Missed are important. They take the incarnation seriously and challenge our functional monophysitism.

Fr Raphael, I understand your concerns about biblical criticism and the "historical Christ," but I am equally concerned about the flight from history that one sometimes finds within Orthodoxy. One sometimes gets impression that we can simply bypass the Jesus of the gospels and jump immediately to the glorified Christ known in the immediacy of hesychastic experience. This is one solution to the challenges of modernity and historical consciousness; but I do not find it to be a satisfactory solution. Ultimately it represents a divorce between theologia and economia that cuts at the heart of Trinitarian theology (see, e.g., Christopher Beeley's discussion of the relationship between theologia and economy in his Gregory of Nazianzus on the Trinity and the Knowledge of God, pp. 194-201). I see this even in one of my favorite contemporary Eastern theologians, Met John Zizioulas. Would it be unfair to Zizioulas to suggest that in his theology the doctrine of the Trinity functionally replaces the biblical narrative? As far as I can tell, the historical exegesis of Scripture is irrelevant to his theological reflection. Of course, Zizioulas himself would dismiss the concern about history as a Western preoccupation. But how can there be an economy of salvation apart from history? How can there be a gospel apart from Jesus of Nazareth? As Fr Patrick Reardon writes, "It is the living gospel--the narrative!--that transmits the faith" (The Jesus We Missed, p. xix).

#60 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 08:47 PM

Fr Raphael wrote: Thus the suggested answer as to why it is so rare to see history from tradition in the west even in Orthodoxy, is I think because of an ingrained prejudice against the mystical.


This is, if I may say so, crucially important. The west long ago lost the sense of the mysterious. But Christ IS a mystery as well as existent in history: ‘the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest’ – Col. 1:26.

Yet, ‘manifestly’, the hypostatic union between Christ’s divinity and humanity is mysterious, ineffable, and incomprehensible. Yet this union was foreknown and conceived ‘before the ages’ as St Andrei Rublev’s Trinity icon shows.

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever: Hebrews 13:8.


If we consider what Christ assumed and saved, it must follow that He assumed human nature, but not a human hypostasis or ‘being’ in the sense of having the peculiar characteristics of an individual human hypostasis. In the services for the Ascension, we find these verses:

God the beginningless . . . Who took man’s nature on Himself

Today the hosts on high beholding our nature in the Heavens

[He] hath seated us together with Himself at the right hand of the Father

Thou didst raise up human nature which had fallen into corruption

Thou, being clothed with Adam’s nature, didst ascend and sit at the right hand of the Father


Thus we see that it is human nature and human flesh which is saved. These are what Christ assumed to save. This is quite different from assuming an individual human ‘being’ or hypostasis: Christ re-created human nature or, as St Maximos the Confessor says, ‘created our nature anew’. Christ did not assume an individual human ‘being’ because though human nature has been freed from corruption, this cannot mean that each and every human being is saved, but rather each human hypostasis must yet work out his salvation in co-operation – synergy – with Christ.

Edited by Andreas Moran, 29 August 2012 - 09:11 PM.





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