The Fathers and Theosis
20-08-2008, 12:36 PM
In the End, the Beginning?
I just want to thank you publicly for this thread. It is a blessing to me personally. I can't help but to think that these contributions do fill a' void' for others as they do for me. I don't know how it is in the BOC, but as I shared earlier, it seems as far as theosis is concerned from the pulpit in my experience . . . mums the word! Though the voices of the church fathers we are seeing clearly here what is said and taught within Orthodoxy about theosis. Sometimes I wonder if Christian Education is still alive within Orthodoxy. Sometimes I wonder if there is such a thing within Orthodoxy today as an Orthodox pedagogy namely on the part of the priests. Especially regarding theosis . . . one might think that there is a code of silence on this doctrine? The word 'pedagogy' comes from an ancient Greek word which means literally "to lead the child," sometimes it seems the shepherds and the fathers of today are too busy with festivals and fund raising to preach the Word. Yes, the kerygma of Paul as you have written above . . . I wonder what Paul would say about this today. Knowing how he spent his life/time and of his instructions to Timothy, it is not hard to imagine what he would say.
And, it occurs to me that while my background for contributing to this thread from a strictly patristic framework is very limited, this could be a perfect opportunity for the priests of the BOC to join in and offer some enlightenment on the teaching of the Church on theosis in this very worthwhile effort. And, John, especially, as you wrote in the close of your last post:
Quote:But the problem with Clement's view is that it is hard to see how the ordinary Christian can attain this state. For that, we need to turn to that most brilliant of the early Fathers, Origen.
there is one word that stands out as if in bold faced type to me when I read this. "How."
I am anxious to read Origen on this.
You see, theosis is taught in many other faith traditions and denominations, although it is not called theosis. And, believe it or not, it is expressed with more 'clarity' and more beautifully by those who have experienced it in other traditions/denominations than by any Orthodox writer that I have encountered. But, when it comes to the "How" these same writers of other traditions/denominations are completely mute--not even any hand gestures or grunting. So at the end of the day, what do you have but a travel brochure to a place with no directions how to get there. One has a carrot on a stick to chase for the rest of one's life . . . thanks but no thanks.
And, this is one huge reason why I was attracted to Orthodoxy initially. Because, in Orthodoxy, especially in the monastic writings the "How" is all spelled out. Boom-Boom-Boom! In my reading it is abundantly clear that the soul must go through three identifiable and distinct stages. This is the teaching of the Church, this is what we are to be obedient to as it is part of the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church. These three stages are:
1.) Catharsis (purification)
2.) Fotisis (enlightenment)
3.) Theosis (union with God)
On these "The Church" teaches that the last two stages are impossible to attain without having the soul first pass through the fires of catharsis from egotistical passions.
Isn't that great!/? There it is. There's the "How" of theosis right? Purificatiion, then enlightenment, and then one is positioned for theosis by the Grace of God, if He wills IT.
And, this is why I am so glad you are providing information here on the teaching of the church fathers about theosis . . .
Because, and here's the rub on this . . . within Orthodoxy today as the above three-fold way of Christianity is taught . . . examples are given to show that IT doesn't always work this way. It is explained that IT comes about for different souls in different ways. IT is explained as not being wrapped up in any nice neat tight package or system/formula. Past and present examples are given of some who just found themselves within a state of theosis with no struggling or even any strong desire. Examples are given of others who seemed to receive enlightenment and then went on to theosis from there (again without any focused attempts toward purification). Other examples are given of some who struggled for purification and then went through mini-cycles of mini-enlightenments and mini-experiences with theosis that were more of a moment-by-moment thing. But, as we consider the teaching of Orthodoxy today (when you read contemporary Orthodox writing theologians or press clergy and others who seem to be in a position to answer) you find out THERE IS NO ONE WAY.
So while the Orthodox Way(s) is more superior to that of the carrot on the stick found in even the best of the best renewal theologians and teachers in other faith traditions (viz. Holiness, Wesleyan, Keswick, etc.) what do we have here at the end of the day as it relates to the "How" of theosis on a personal level, in reality, where the rubber meets the road?
Now I'm somewhat embarrassed to hit the 'submit' button on this one as I reread it and see the low caliber contribution in light of your above works. But, possibly, it can at least serve as an encouragement to keep going with this effort that we might see what the church fathers as found in the Beginning have to say on this. Actually, what could matter more? As we consider something like trying to unclog a drain in the sink, we can get advice and hear from others that we should pour some drain cleaner down the drain because "That works for me" . . . or we might hear from another, that we should definitely get a plunger with a special end on it because "That's what works for most people." Do you see what I mean? But, we are not talking about clogged drains here, we are talking about our souls.
Yes, the "how" of the Orthodox teaching on theosis--according to the fathers.
Here's what I would really like to understand about the teaching of the fathers about theosis.
1.) Is there a more "active" way presented?
2.) Or, is there a more "passive" way presented?
3.) Or, is there something akin to a passive-activity or an active-passivity that is taught?
Possibly, the fathers teach that there are different ways, and in this sense different paths for different folks (not unlike the expression 'each as is appropriate for oneself). But, then if this is the case what have we said about the Orthodox way as regarding theosis?
And, lets be for real here . . . if for one it is deemed that there is to be a predominantly "active" approach in terms of ascetic practices, then this active-active-active, this do-do-do approach is diametrically opposed to a passive-passive-passive approach, whereby such things as absolute surrender and dependence on God are expressed as be-be-be (regardless of whether on has had two nights sleep and only a dried herring to eat in the past three years).
So, even though it may not be obvious right now, I am very open to learning here and I would move to celebration mode if I could learn more about what the church fathers taught about theosis.
BECUASE . . . either there is one size that fits all or there is not one size that fits all. And, I normally am not a fan of either/or propositions with a clear dispostion toward dialectical thinking . . . BUT, either The Orthodox Way as it relates to the "How" of theosis is 'each as is appropriate for oneself' or it is not.
And, this matters. Because, just as some drains will never become clear even if one plunges on them until hell freezes over . . . if there are some who are determined to spend their entire life in struggle-struggle-struggle or active-active-active or suffering-suffering-suffering mode because that's what they understand as the "How" of the Orthodox life in spite of the fact that they are among those whom an experienced spiritual guide would discern the need to walk the path of surrender-surrender-surrender or passive-passive-passive or the opposite of do-do-do . . . then this same one is the one who is walking on the wrong path. Even though this is what he/she read or heard somewhere--which is the Orthodox Way is struggling/suffering--but in reality, it is appropriate for this one to live more of a passive life characterized more by such things as peace . . . and a sweet resignation to the Providence of God . . . and in this sense more of a 'being' initially than a 'doing' then this same one is headed for a lifetime of plunging and increasing frustration and dissapointment and grief the whole time thinking this will work if I just stay with it long enough and if it is God's will.
And, I think I am rambling now and possibly not being too clear here.
So I will stop with the hope that we might see through the fathers of the church the "How" of theosis. That we might see there is something called the Orthodox Way, or we might see that there is no one single way but there are different ways that souls walk the path to theosis in the End. I do not know what the fathers say about this, but I hope to learn here over the course of time. I would love to 'know.' Actually, with your writing from the other day in mind, John, about a simple faith and a more intellectual faith . . . as it relates to 'knowing' how can there be any real harmony between our 'knowing' and our 'being' if we really don't know what our beliefs are . . . if we really don't know what the father's taught in this case. How can there be any genuineness or authenticity at all? How can there be any grounding, centering, or real trust/faith? We can have the best of intentions, but if all we know is what we are told (which often is little or nothing) we can be sincerely wrong or simply ignorant.
Again, with my limited knowledge of what the fathers say about theosis I hope I have not provided an obstacle in this thread, because my intent was to say thank you and keep going, as well as to invite others to help bring this question into view (especially the preists of the BOC, the OO). Where are our teachers to be found within Orthodoxy today? What are they doing?
I know you are a very busy man John, but once again I find myself in debt of the Good Doctor from the UK.
In the End, the Beginning?
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In the End, the Beginning? - Rick Henry - 20-08-2008 12:36 PM