Sunday, June 3, 2012

Fr. John Romanides: Initiation Into The Life and Into All The Truth Of CHRIST By The SPIRIT Of Truth On Pentecost

All the distinctions developed and refined during the debates revolving around the First and Second Ecumenical Councils were carried through to all subsequent Ecumenical Councils, which in reality were extensions of the First. Their terminological expressions, however, must not be separated from their terminological presuppositions. There may be variety in terminological expressions but not in terminological presuppositions.

The terminological presuppositions of theological expression are to be found in the spiritual states of 1) the purification of the heart, 2) the illumination of the heart, and 3) the glorification or theosis of the heart and the whole being of the one to whom the Logos appears in His Spirit and in Himself reveals His Father. He who by the Spirit sees Christ in glory sees the Father. This experience is the cornerstone of the doctrinal formulations in the patristic tradition.

We have quoted some patristic passages which show clearly that the Fathers of the First and Second Ecumenical Councils took the inherited tradition for granted that in their experiences of glorification they, the prophets, apostles, and saints had a real vision of God in His uncreated Angel-Logos before and after His incarnation. Christ revealing the uncreated glory or rule (vasileia) of the Father as His own natural glory during His Transfiguration, e.g. to His three disciples in the presence of Moses and Elijah, is a repetition of the same appearances of Christ as Lord of Glory in the Old Testament but now through His human nature. St. Peter's blunder in offering to pitch tents for the event (one for Christ, one for Elijah, and one for Moses) in imitation of the tent of witness in which Moses communicated with God's glory was due to the fact that the human nature of Christ had itself replaced Moses's tent of witness and the temple of Solomon and made them redundant, and that Christ Himself is the one who reveals His glory which He has by nature from the Father.

According to the Fathers of the Church, the discourse and prayer of Christ recorded in john 13,31-17,26, including the promise that when the Spirit of Truth comes "He...will guide you to all the Truth" (16, 13) were fulfilled in Pentecost which became the continuous experience of those whο since have joined the communion of those glorified.

This does not mean that the prophets had not been led to the Truth, nor that the apostles had not been led to the Truth, some by illumination, others by glorification also, but that the apostles were about to be led to all the Truth in the Pentecostal revelation. In no way did this mean that a church would be led in stages to either a fuller understanding of all the truth or to the restoration or creation of unity among disunited churches. Christ's discourse about and prayer for unity is for the unity of the apostles and the faithful in the experience of glorification, i.e. vision of the uncreated glory of the Holy Trinity in the human nature of Christ (John 17, 24) bestowed in its fullness for now in the Pentecostal experience.

Pentecostal glorification followed the stages of purification and illumination of the disciples of Christ as clearly reflected in the Synoptic and Johannine gospel traditions. The state of illumination is that in which selfish love is transformed into selfless love and prepares the disciples to see in Christ the divinity of the Holy Trinity as glory and not as consuming fire. The acquisition of the gift of selfless love is a precondition of being led into all the truth by the Spirit of Christ. This means that doctrine and spirituality are inseparably united at the stages of purification and illumination. At the stage of glorification, however, doctrine or knowledge about God is replaced by the uncreated reality it serves to point to but cannot express.

St. Gregory the Theologian, who appeals to his own experience of glorification in refuting the Eunomian claim that man can conceive the essence of God ( Theological Oration II,3) makes this point very clearly. He points out that Plato claims that it is difficult to conceive God, but to express Him in words is an impossibility. Gregory disagrees emphasizing that "it is impossible to express Him, and yet, more impossible to conceive Him. For that which may be conceived may perhaps be made clear by language, if not fairly well, at any rate imperfectly", ( Theological Oration II, 4). This means that to conceive and express God is not only impossible to nonbelievers but even to the friends of God who have reached either illumination or glorification. God remains a mystery even when seen.

Nevertheless, those who reach illumination and glorification do use concepts and words in speaking about God. Indeed these words and concepts are inspired by the experience of glorification. Spiritual fathers use words and concepts to lead others via purification to illumination as the prophets, apostles, and Christ Himself had done. However, to use these words and concepts as mean of speculating philosophically about God is to misuse both, and automatically leads to error which cuts one off from the possibility of being purified in heart and reaching illumination. This misuse of concepts and words about God is the source of all heresy.

Pietistical or philosophical meditation on the Bible and biblical criticism conducted within such frames of reference are deadend streets which do not lead to the realities pointed to by Christ in both Old and New Testaments. The Bible is not revelation or the Word of God, but about these. Revelation and the Word of God are communicated to humans only via purification in the states of illumination and especially glorification or theosis, wherein Pentecost is carried from generation to generation as the foundation and pivotal point of apostolic tradition and succession.

In the Old Testament we have the appearances of God to the prophets in His Angel-Logos who continues in His incarnate state to appear in glory to certain of the apostles, e.g. during His Transfiguration. He explains to His disciples that in a little while they shall no longer see Him for He must go to the Father but in a little while they will again see Him (John 16, 11, 16-33). This was preliminarily fulfilled in the post-resurrection appearances of Christ to His disciples, appearances in which the world at large could not participate. Then we have His final disappearance In His Ascension and His reappearance in Pentecost in the Holy Spirit who since then forms all of Christ in each of the disciples and faithful who had become and become reconciled with Christ and friends of God (John 16, 27), having passed the state of being slaves (John 15, l4-15). The Pauline term for the Church as the Body of Christ is the result of the new manner in which Christ's human nature participates in the mystery of the presence of God in His Angel-Logos to the illumined and glorified by His multiplying Himself indivisibly in His glory. Thus since Pentecost the human nature of Christ is also multiplied indivisibly so that it is in toto present in each of the reconciled friends of God. This is exactly what Christ explained would happen in John 14, 23. Thus each friend of God becomes the bearer of the whole Body of Christ and at the same time all the friends of God are one Body of Christ gathered in the same place (epi to afto) sharing in one bread and one cup. This is the Mystery of the Church established in Pentecost and all the truth that Christ promised that the Paraclete will lead His friends to. Thus the Body of Christ is being built up by the addition of the illumined and glorified of each generation until the consummation.

Before the death and resurrection of Christ even those glorified, like the patriarchs and prophets, died both a physical and spiritual death and awaited their spiritual and physical resurrection - what the Fathers call first and second resurrections. Spiritual death is either not to see the glory of God or to see this same glory as the consuming fire and outer darkness of hell. The first resurrection is to have permanent and uninterrupted vision of creation in God's glory in Christ, as is the case with the communion of saints the other side of death ever since the death and resurrection of Christ. They have consummated their marriage to Christ which will be completed by the general resurrection and restoration of all. On this side of death the faithful are engaged to be united permanently with the glory of Christ. They have the αρραβώνα του Πνεύματος, the peldge of the Spirit in their hearts (2 Cor. l, 22, 5, 5; Eph. l, 14). There can be no reconciliation apart from the Mystery of the Cross which in turn is identical to glorification. No one can become a friend of God unless he voluntarily takes up his own cross and follows Christ. To be glorified means to be crucified, which in turn means to have the power of God transform selfish and self-centered love into the God-like love which does not seek its own. This reconciliation of man to God was operative in the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles before the crucifixion because they participated in the Mystery of the Cross. For this reason they became friends of God and received the gift of boldness to argue with God on behalf of the salvation of others.

The Mystery of the Cross is the uncreated reconciliatory power of God which cures the ills of those who are willing to undergo treatment in obedience unto death to the will of God the Logos, the giver of the law to Moses and of the beatitudes to the apostles. The voluntary crucifixion of the Lord of Glory is the complete but not the only manifestation in history of the power of the Mystery of the Cross. Each glorification of a friend of God both before and after the crucifixion of Christ is also a manifestation of the power of this Mystery. (On the Mystery of the Cross, justification, and reconciliation, see my "Original Sin" (in Greek). Athens, 1957, pp. 60-91, especially 82ff.) --Fr. John Romanides


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