Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Contribution of the Theotokos to the Theosis of Man


So, the Lord Jesus gives us this possibility to unite with God and return to the primary purpose which God ordained for man.
Therefore He is described in Holy Scripture as the way, the door, the good shepherd, the life, the resurrection, the light. He is the new Adam who rights the wrong of the first Adam. 
The first Adam separated us from God with his disobedience and his egotism. With His love and His obedience to the Father, obedience unto death, to “death on the cross,” the second Adam, Christ, brings us back once more to God. Once
again He orients our freedom towards God, so that by offering Him our freedom, we unite with Him.

The work of the new Adam pre-supposes the work of the new Eve, the Panagia* who put right the wrong done by the old Eve. Eve drove Adam to disobedience.The  new  Eve, the Panagia,contributes to the incarnation of the new Adam who will guide the human race towards obedience to God. Therefore, as the first human person who achieved Theosis –in an exceptional and, of course unrepeatable, way– the Lady Theotokos* played a role in our salvation which was not only fundamental, but both necessary and irreplaceable.

According to St. Nicholas Cabasilas, the great
14th century theologian,* if the Panagia, in her obedience, had not offered her freedom to God–had she not said “yes” to God– God would not have been able to incarnate. Once God had given freedom to man, He would not have been able to violate His gift, so He would not have been able to incarnate if there had not been such a pure, all-holy, immaculate psyche as the Theotokos, who would offer her freedom, her will, all of herself totally to God so as to draw Him towards herself and towards us.
We owe so much to Panagia. This is why our
Church honours and venerates the Theotokos so much, so that St. Gregory Palamas, summarising Patristic theology, says that our Panagia holds the second place after the Holy Trinity;that she is god after God, the boundary between the created and the uncreated. “She leads those being saved,” according to another fine expression by a theologian of our Church. Recently St.Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, the steadfast luminary and teacher of the Church, pointed out that the angelic ranks themselves are illumined by the light they receive from the Panagia.

Therefore, she is praised by our Church as “more honourable than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim.”
The incarnation of the Logos and the Theosis
of man are the great mystery* of our Faith and Theology.
Our Orthodox Church lives this every day with its Mysteries, with its hymns, with its icons, with its whole life. Even the architecture of an Orthodox Church witnesses to this. The great dome of the churches, on which the Pantocrator is painted, symbolises the descent of Heaven to earth; it tells us that the Lord “bent down the Heavens and descended.” The Evangelist St.John writes that God became man “and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
So, we represent the Theotokos in the apse of the altar to show that God comes to earth and to men through her, because He became man through the Theotokos. She is “the bridge by which God descended,” and again, “she who conducts those of earth to Heaven,” the Platytera of the Heavens, the space of the uncontainable,who contained the uncontainable God within herself for our salvation.
To continue, our Churches show deified men; those who became gods by Grace because God became man. In our Orthodox Churches we can picture not only the incarnate God, Christ, and His immaculate Mother the Lady Theotokos,but we also show the saints around and below the Pantocrator; on all the walls of the Church we paint the results of God’s incarnation: sainted and deified men.

Thus, when we enter an Orthodox Church and see the beautiful holy icons, this is an immediate experience through which we learn
what God’s plan is for man; what is the purpose of our life.
Everything in the Church talks to us about the incarnation of God and the Theosis of man.


Understanding the Soul..

I remember many years ago a spiritual teacher asking me this simple question, "Can you describe your soul?"  This question haunted me for several years.  So, what is the nature of our soul? How do we get to know it? Knowing soul is something that requires stillness in the mind. Our mind is continually in motion distracting us from a deep inner knowledge.  Saint Theophan suggests that we divide the soul into different parts to know it –– intellectual, desiring and sensual.

Intellectual Aspect
: You intellect stands about your memory and imagination; this intellect, among with intellectual labor, obtains for you definite concepts or cognitions about things.... This leads to thoughts, opinions and suppositions. Its business is to reason, think things over, and reach necessary conclusions.
But, normally our mind is filled with thoughts of all kinds.  It is not still so we can make reasoned choices. We become driven by our passions.

Desirous Aspect
:  The faculty that operates here is the will... At its foundation lies zeal, or ardor––the thirst for something.... In a person who has lived for some time almost everything is done by habit.
Normally instead of using the will to do God's will we instead override it with our habits to meet the demands of our passions.  So, not only do we have the confusion with the scattering of our thoughts but we also have a distorted inconsistent use of our desiring aspect seeking selfish desires.

Sensual Aspect: the Heart.
Everything which enters the soul from the outside, and which is shaped by the intellectual and desirous aspects , falls to the heart; everything which the soul observes on the outside also passes through the heart, That is why its called the center of life... It constantly and persistently senses the condition of the soul and body, and along with this the various impressions from the individual actions of the soul and body... compelling and forcing man to furnish everything which is pleasant to its.
But it is most commonly tormented by the passions and it does not operate in peace.  It then leads us to emotions and attachments that may not lead us to unity with God.

We can now begin to understand the nature of our spiritual life which is for our soul to regain its proper place so we can center our life on the will of God instead of the passions of our body.  Of course it still needs to care for the body but as a secondary effort.  The soul longs to be reunited with God, a unity broken by Adam and Eve, and a brokenness that Christ showed us how to heal, establishing His Church to help us in this effort.

Source: The Spiritual Life, pp 48 - 60

The Proper Understanding and Use of Antidoron


Traditional View and Practice According to Akrivia (Strictness)

  Please help me to understand the significance of antidoron. How should one receive it and handle it? If one takes it home during the week for daily "communion" is this wrong? Is there a proper way of doing it—before a prayer, before a meal, etc.? When can you or should you take prosphora to Church? Should you also take wine and oil? Do you bring the names of people to be commemorated with these gifts? (G.M., IL) 


This is a subject of great importance which we have several times addressed in the pages of Orthodox Tradition. When we do not commune at Liturgy, we receive antidoron (an-dee-tho-ron, with a hard "d" and a soft "d," as in "the") at the end of Liturgy (that is, blessed bread which substitutes for the Gifts; thus, antidoron, "instead of the Gifts"). Those who commune during the Liturgy receive antidoron or antidoron and wine immediately after communing and should not take it again at the end of Liturgy. Since it is blessed, the antidoron should be carefully handled and no particles of it should be allowed to fall on the ground. This means that children must be carefully watched while consuming antidoron and taught to treat it with pious reverence. It should be received from the Priest at the end of Liturgy and immediately consumed. Since antidoron is given in place of the Gifts, it is also received on an empty stomach, for which reason Orthodox Christians do not eat or drink anything from the midnight before the Divine Liturgy, whether communing or not.
Antidoron may also be taken home for use during the week. It is a pious custom for Orthodox Christians to begin the day, after their morning prayers and before eating, by consuming a particle of antidoron and drinking agiasmos, or blessed water.
Prosforo(n), the word for the bread which we offer at the Divine Liturgy, comes from the Greek word for an offering, prosfora. It is customarily baked in the home with prayers and taken to Church, where it is offered for the Divine Liturgy. (Incidentally, women, out of piety, should not prepare prosforon during their monthly periods.) One may also give oil and wine along with prosforon—other "offerings"—so as to provide for the oil lamps and the remaining element of the Eucharist, though this is not mandatory. This can be done for any Liturgy. It is also customary to offer the names of Orthodox Christian family members, of friends, and of relatives with the prosforon, so that the Priest may commemorate them at the Service of Preparation (Proskomide).

 Most Orthodox Christians are aware that one should keep a strict and complete fast from midnight before receiving the Holy Mysteries, but one should also receive holy water and the antidoron (the blessed bread given out at the end of the Liturgy) fasting. If, as many do, you keep a supply at home, use a little each day to break your fast, when you have said your morning prayers and before eating anything else. If you are attending the Divine Liturgy, then keep a fast until the service is over (as in any case one should) and you receive your antidoron from the priest. If for some reason, you have eaten when you attend the Liturgy, then take the antidoron home as a blessing and consume it on another day, thus showing reverence for the things of God and the blessing which this bread has received.

It is a pious custom to keep some holy bread and holy water in one's icon corner—to consume, breaking the night's fast, with one's morning prayers.
“O Lord my God, may Thy holy gift and Thy Holy Water be unto forgiveness of my sins, unto enlightenment of my mind, unto strengthening of my spiritual and bodily powers, unto health of my soul and body, unto vanquishing of my passions and weaknesses, by Thy boundless merciful kindness, through the prayers of Thy Most-pure Mother and all Thy Saints. Amen.”
Taken from the Parish Newsletter of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St John the Baptist (May 2011).


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