[Previous reflections, including a brief historical context, are to be found here.]
These are the reflections of someone particularly ignorant about such deep matters, let alone of this specific Church Father. There are others who are much more knowledgeable than me. What I will attempt with these reflections is to bring together the deep theology they explicate and some thoughts of a more practical, hopefully somewhat ascetical, bent. That is to say, what I want to attempt is to reflect on these things as a way to better my living of the faith, and my prayers. I’m happy to be corrected by those who discern errors in my thoughts here.
The one thing that Orthodoxy has given to me, that I did not have in the Restoration Movement churches, or in the Anglican churches, was a means to, as St. Peter puts it, become a partaker of the divine nature. That is to say, my notion of salvation was that of being in a right relationship with God, with being declared righteous, with becoming able to consistently do good works. My understanding of union with God was one of externals: he had a favorable disposition towards me, I had been given the label of righteous, and through his Holy Spirit I was going to become more and more righteous in my actions. It was my conformity to God’s norm of holiness, a norm external to myself, however, that was the paradigm.
But through the Orthodox Church I was given back such Scriptures as 1 Corinthians 10:16-17–“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”–and 2 Peter 1:3-4–“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” I now understand that this transformation is radically deep within me, and not just external. True, there is that relational aspect, but more than that God, by grace, allows my participation in himself, my union with him. And from that union flows my transfiguration.
St. Gregory speaks about that transfiguration, that, as it is called, deification, in his Dialogue:
VII. . . . . [Orthodox] For God has created us for that purpose, he says, to make us partake in His own divinity [2 Peter 1:4] and for that purpose he came on earth. And as the divine Gregory of Nyssa says to Harmonius, Christ put on our nature for the reason that “He received the rejected into sonship and the enemies of God into partnership with His divinity.” [On Perfection 280B] And again, “the purity which we see in Christ and in the person who has part in Him is by nature one. But Christ is the source and he who takes part draws the water.” [ibid. 284D] And again, “Christ will bring each one to union with the divinity; if he carries nothing unworthy of the kinship with the divine.” [ibid. 277CD] For the divinity of him who has truly been divinized belongs to God to whom he has been united and by whom he has been divinized in grace; he has not thrown away his own nature but by that grace he has transcended nature. . . .
–St. Gregory Palamas, Dialogue between an Orthodox and a Barlaamite which Invalidates in Detail the Barlaamite Error, 7 (Global Publications/CEMERS, n.d.; tr. Rein Ferwerda).
Continue reading “Reflections on St. Gregory’s Dialogue II”