VI. DIMENSIONS OF REDEMPTION
Cur Deus Homo? The Motive of the Incarnation 274
«I am the Alpha and the Omega.»
The Christian message was from the very beginning the message of Salvation, and accordingly our Lord was depicted primarily as the Saviour, Who has redeemed His people from bondage of sin and corruption. The very fact of the Incarnation was usually interpreted in early Christian theology in the perspective of Redemption. Erroneous conceptions of the Person of Christ with which the early Church had to wrestle were criticized and refuted precisely when they tended to undermine the reality of human Redemption. It was generally assumed that the very meaning of Salvation was that the intimate union between God and man had been restored, and it was inferred that the Redeemed had to belong Himself to both sides, i.e. to be at once both Divine and human, for otherwise the broken communion between God and man would not have been re-established. This was the main line of reasoning of St. Athanasius in his struggle with the Arians, of St. Gregory of Nazianzus in his refutation of Apollinarianism, and of other writers of the IVth and Vth centuries. «That is saved which is united with God,» says St. Gregory of Nazianzus.275 The redeeming aspect and impact of the Incarnation were emphatically stressed by the Fathers. The purpose and the effect of the Incarnation were defined precisely as the Redemption of man and his restoration to those original conditions which were destroyed by the fall and sin. The sin of the world was abrogated and taken away by the Incarnate One, and He only, being both Divine and human, could have done it. On the other hand, it would be unfair to claim that the Fathers regarded this redeeming purpose as the only reason for the Incarnation, so that the Incarnation would not have taken place at all, had not man sinned. In this form the question was never asked by the Fathers. The question about the ultimate motive of the Incarnation was never formally discussed in the Patristic Age. The problem of the relation between the mystery of the Incarnation and the original purpose of Creation was not touched upon by the Fathers; they never elaborated this point systematically. «It may perhaps be truly said that the thought of an Incarnation independent of the Fall harmonizes with the general tenor of Greek theology. Some patristic phrases seem to imply that the thought was distinctly realized here and there, and perhaps discussed.»276 These ‘patristic phrases’ were not collected and examined. In fact, the same Fathers could be quoted in favor of opposite opinions. It is not enough to accumulate quotations, taking them out of their context and ignoring the purpose, very often polemical, for which particular writings were composed. Many of these ‘patristic phrases’ were just ‘occasional’ statements, and they can be used only with utter care and caution. Their proper meaning can be ascertained only when they are read in the context, i.e. in the perspective of the thought of each particular writer.
Rupert of Deutz (d. 1135) seems to be the first among the medieval theologians who formally raised the question of the motive of the Incarnation, and his contention was that the Incarnation belonged to the original design of Creation and was therefore independent of the Fall. Incarnation was, in his interpretation, the consummation of the original creative purpose of God, an aim in itself, and not merely a redemptive remedy for human failure.277 Honorius of Autun (d. 1152) was of the same conviction.278 The great doctors of the XIIIth century, such as Alexander of Hales and Albert Magnus, admitted the idea of an Incarnation independent of the Fall as a most convenient solution of the problem.279 Duns Scotus (c. 1266–1308) elaborated the whole conception with great care and logical consistency. For him the Incarnation apart from the Fall was not merely a most convenient assumption, but rather an indispensable doctrinal presupposition. The Incarnation of the Son of God was for him the very reason of the whole Creation. Otherwise, he thought, this supreme action of God would have been something merely accidental or ‘occasional’. «Again, if the Fall were the cause of the predestination of Christ, it would follow that God’s greatest work was only occasional, for the glory of all will not be so intense as that of Christ, and it seems unreasonable to think that God would have foregone such a work because of Adam’s good work, if he had not sinned.» The whole question for Duns Scott was precisely that of the order of the Divine ‘predestination’ or purpose, i.e. of the order of thoughts in the Divine counsel of Creation. Christ, the Incarnate, was the first object of the creative will of God, and it was for Christ’s sake that anything else had been created at all. «The Incarnation of Christ was not foreseen occasionally, but was viewed as an immediate end by God from eternity; thus, in speaking about things which are predestined, Christ in human nature was predestined before others, since He is nearer to an end.» This order of ‘purposes’ or ‘previsions’ was, of course, just a logical one. The main emphasis of Duns Scotus was on the unconditional and primordial character of the Divine decree of the Incarnation, seen in the total perspective of Creation.280 Aquinas (1224–1274) also discussed the problem at considerable length. He saw the whole weight of the arguments in favor of the opinion that, even apart from the Fall, «nevertheless, God would have become incarnate,» and he quoted the phrase of St. Augustine: «in the Incarnation of Christ, other things must be considered besides absolution from sin.» (De Trinitate, XIII. 17). But Aquinas could not find, either in Scripture or in the Patristic writings, any definite witness to this Incarnation independent of the Fall, and therefore was inclined to believe that the Son of God would not have been incarnate if the first man did not sin: «Although God could have become incarnate without the existence of sin, it is nevertheless more appropriate to say that, if man had not sinned, God would not have become incarnate, since in Sacred Scripture the reason for the Incarnation is everywhere given as the sin of the first man.» The unfathomable mystery of the Divine will can be comprehended by man only in so far as it is plainly attested in Holy Scripture, «only to the extent that [these things] are transmitted in Sacred Scripture,» or, as Aquinas says in another place, «only in so far as we are informed by the authority of the saints, through whom God has revealed His will.» Christ alone knows the right answer to this question: «The truth of the matter only He can know, Who was born and Who was offerred up, because He so willed.»281 Bonaventura (1221–1274) suggested the same caution. Comparing the two opinions – one in favor of an Incarnation apart from the Fall and the other dependent on it, he concluded: «Both [opinions] excite the soul to devotion by different considerations: the first, however, more consonant with the judgment of reason; yet it appears that the second is more agreeable to the piety of faith.» One should rely rather on the direct testimony of the Scriptures than on the arguments of human logic.282 On the whole, Duns Scotus was followed by the majority of theologians of the Franciscan order, and also by not a few outside it, as, for instance, by Dionysius Carthusianus, by Gabriel Biel, by John Wessel, and, in the time of the Council of Trent, by Giacomo Nachianti, Bishop of Chiozza (Jacobus Naclantus), and also by some of the early Reformers, for instance, by Andreas Osiander.283 This opinion was strongly opposed by others, and not only by the strict Thomists, and the whole problem was much discussed both by Roman Catholic and by Protestant theologians in the XVIIth century.284 Among the Roman Catholic champions of the absolute decree of the Incarnation one should mention especially François de Sales and Malebranche. Malebranche strongly insisted on the metaphycical necessity of the Incarnation, quite apart from the Fall, for otherwise, he contended, there would have been no adequate reason or purpose for the act of Creation itself.285 The controversy is still going on among Roman Catholic theologians, sometimes with excessive heat and vigor, and the question is not settled.286 Among the Anglicans, in the last century, Bishop Wescott strongly pleaded for the ‘absolute motive’, in his admirable essay on «The Gospel of Creation.»287 The late Father Sergii Bulgakov was strongly in favor of the opinion that the Incarnation should be regarded as an absolute decree of God, prior to the catastrophe of the Fall.288
In the course of this age-long discussion a constant appeal has been made to the testimony of the Fathers. Strangely enough, the most important item has been overlooked in this anthology of quotations. Since the question of the motive of the Incarnation was never formally raised in the Patristic age, most of the texts used in the later discussions could not provide any direct guidance.289 St. Maximus the Confessor (580–662) seems to be the only Father who was directly concerned with the problem, although not in the same setting as the later theologians in the West. He stated plainly that the Incarnation should be regarded as an absolute and primary purpose of God in the act of Creation. The nature of the Incarnation, of this union of the Divine majesty with human frailty, is indeed an unfathomable mystery, but we can at least grasp the reason and the purpose of this supreme mystery, its logos and skopos. And this original reason, or the ultimate purpose, was, in the opinion of St. Maximus, precisely the Incarnation itself and then our own incorporation into the Body of the Incarnate One. The phrasing of St. Maximus is straight and clear. The 60th questio ad Thalassium, is a commentary on 1 Peter, 1:19–20: «[Christ was] like a blameless and spotless lamb, who was foreordained from the foundation of the world.» Now the question is: St. Maximus first briefly summarizes the true teaching about the Person of Christ, and then proceeds: «This is the blessed end, on account of which everything was created. This is the Divine purpose, which was thought of before the beginning of Creation, and which we call an intended fulfillment. All creation exists on account of this fulfillment and yet the fulfillment itself exists because of nothing that was created. Since God had this end in full view, he produced the natures of things. This is truly the fulfillment of Providence and of planning. Through this there is a recapitulation to God of those created by Him. This is the mystery circumscribing all ages, the awesome plan of God, super-infinite and infinitely pre-existing the ages. The Messenger, who is in essence Himself the Word of God, became man on account of this fulfillment. And it may be said that it was He Himself Who restored the manifest innermost depths of the goodness handed down by the Father; and He revealed the fulfillment in Himself, by which creation has won the beginning of true existence. For on account of Christ, that is to say the mystery concerning Christ, all time and that which is in time have found the beginning and the end of their existence in Christ. For before time there was secretly purposed a union of the ages, of the determined and the Indeterminate, of the measurable and the Immeasurable, of the finite and Infinity, of the creation and the Creator, of motion and rest – a union which was made manifest in Christ during these last times.» (M., P.G., XC, 621, A-B.) One has to distinguish most carefully between the eternal being of the Logos, in the bosom of the Holy Trinity, and the ‘economy’ of His Incarnation. ‘Prevision’ is related precisely to the Incarnation: «Therefore Christ was foreknown, not as He was according to His own nature, but as he later appeared incarnate for our sake in accordance with the final economy.» (M., P.G., XC, 624D). The ‘absolute predestination’ of Christ is alluded to with full clarity.290 This conviction was in full agreement with the general tenor of the theological system of St. Maximus, and he returns to the problem on many occasions, both in his answers to Thalassius and in his Ambigua. For instance, in connection with Ephesians 1:9, St. Maximus says: «[By this Incarnation and by our age] he has shown us for what purpose we were made and the greatest good will be of God towards us before the ages.» (M., P.G., 1097C). By his very constitution man anticipates in himself «the great mystery of the Divine purpose,» the ultimate consummation of all things in God. The whole history of Divine Providence is for St. Maximus divided into two great periods: the first culminates in the Incarnation of the Logos and is the story of Divine condescension («through the Incarnation»); the second is the story of human ascension into the glory of deification, an extension, as it were, of the Incarnation to the whole creation. «Therefore we may divide time into two parts according to its design, and we may distinguish both the ages pertaining to the mystery of the Incarnation of the Divine, and the ages concerning the deification of the human by grace… and to say it concisely: both those ages which concern the descent of God to men, and those which have begun the ascent of men to God… Or, to say it even better, the beginning, the middle, and the end of all the ages, those which have gone by, those of the present time, and those which are yet to come, is our Lord Jesus Christ.» (M., P.G., XC, 320, B-C). The ultimate consummation is linked in the vision of St. Maximus with the primordial creative will and purpose of God, and therefore his whole conception is strictly ‘theocentric’, and at the same time ‘Christocentric’. In no sense, however, does this obscure the sad reality of sin, of the utter misery of sinful existence. The great stress is always laid by St. Maximus on the conversion and cleansing of the human will, on the struggle with passions and with evil. But he views the tragedy of the Fall and the apostasy of the created in the wider perspective of the original plan of Creation.291
What is the actual weight of the witness of St. Maximus? Was it more than his ‘private opinion’, and what is the authority of such ‘opinions’? It is perfectly clear that to the question of the first or ultimate ‘motive’ of the Incarnation no more than a ‘hypothetical’ (or ‘convenient’) answer can be given. But many doctrinal statements are precisely such hypothetical statements or ‘theologoumena’.292 And it seems that the ‘hypothesis’ of an Incarnation apart from the Fall is at least permissible in the system of Orthodox theology and fits well enough into the mainstream of Patristic teaching. An adequate answer to the question of the ‘motive’ of the Incarnation can be given only in the context of the general doctrine of Creation.
The Ever-Virgin Mother of God293
The writer is fully aware of the inadequacy of his exposition. This is not a theological essay in the strict sense. It is only an occasional address written down in haste some time after it had been improvised. The only contention of the author was to suggest the way in which the subject should be approached and to open the discussion. The main concern in this paper was to prove that Mariology belongs to the very body of Christian doctrine or, if we allow the phrase, to that essential minimum of doctrinal agreement outside which no true unity of faith could even be claimed.
THE WHOLE DOGMATIC teaching about our Lady can be condensed into these two names of hers: the Mother of God and the Ever-Virgin, – θεοτόκος and ἀειπαρθένος. Both names have the formal authority of the Church Universal, an ecumenical authority indeed. The Virgin Birth is plainly attested in the New Testament and has been an integral part of the Catholic tradition ever since. «Incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary» (or «Born of the Virgin Mary») is a credal phrase. It is not merely a statement of the historical fact. It is precisely a credal statement, a solemn profession of faith. The term «Ever-Virgin» was formally endorsed by the Fifth Ecumenical Council (553). And Theotokos is more than a name or an honorific title. It is rather a doctrinal definition – in one word. It has been a touchstone of the true faith and a distinctive mark of Orthodoxy even before the Council of Ephesus (432). Already St. Gregory of Nazianzus warns Cledonius: «if one does not acknowledge Mary as Theotokos, he is estranged from God.» (Epist. 101). As a matter of fact, the name was widely used by the Fathers of the fourth century and possibly even in the third (by Origen, for instance, if we can trust Socrates, Hist. Eccl., VII, 32, and the texts preserved in catenas, e.g. In Lucam Hom. 6 and 7, ed. Rauer, 44. 10 and 50. 9). It was already traditional when it was contested and repudiated by Nestorius and his group. The word does not occur in Scripture, just as the term ὁμοούσιος does not occur. But surely, neither at Nicaea nor at Ephesus was the Church innovating or imposing a new article of faith. An «un-scriptural» word was chosen and used, precisely to voice and to safeguard the traditional belief and common conviction of ages. It is true, of course, that the Third Ecumenical Council was concerned primarily with the Christological dogma and did not formulate any special Mariological doctrine. But precisely for that very reason it was truly remarkable that a Mariological term should have been selected and put forward as the ultimate test of Christological orthodoxy, to be used, as it were, as a doctrinal shibboleth in the Christological discussion. It was really a key-word to the whole of Christology. «This name,» says St. John of Damascus, «contains the whole mystery of the Incarnation» (De Fide Orth., III. 12). As Petavius aptly puts it: Quem in Trinitatis explicando dogmate ὁμοουσίου vox, eumdem hoc in nostro Incarnationis usum ac principatum obtinet θεοτόκου nomen (De Incarnatione, lib. V, cap. 15). The motive and the purpose of such a choice are obvious. The Christological doctrine can never be accurately and adequately stated unless a very definite teaching about the Mother of Christ has been included. In fact, all the Mariological doubts and errors of modern times depend in the last resort precisely upon an utter Christological confusion. They reveal a hopeless «conflict in Christology.» There is no room for the Mother of God in a «reduced Christology.» Protestant theologians simply have nothing to say about her. Yet to ignore the Mother means to misinterpret the Son. On the other hand, the person of the Blessed Virgin can be properly understood and rightly described only in a Christological setting and context. Mariology is to be but a chapter in the treatise on the Incarnation, never to be extended into an independent «treatise.» Not, of course, an optional or occasional chapter, not an appendix. It belongs to the very body of doctrine. The Mystery of the Incarnation includes the Mother of the Incarnate. Sometimes, however, this Christological perspective has been obscured by a devotional exaggeration, by an unbalanced pietism. Piety must always be guided and checked by dogma. Again, there must be a Mariological chapter in the treatise on the Church. But the doctrine of the Church itself is but an «extended Christology,» the doctrine of the «total Christ,» totus Christus, caput et corpus.
The name Theotokos stresses the fact that the Child whom Mary bore was not a «simple man,» not a human person, but the only-begotten Son of God, «One of the Holy Trinity,» yet Incarnate. This is obviously the corner-stone of the Orthodox faith. Let us recall the formula of Chalcedon: «Following, then, the holy Fathers, we confess one and the same Son [ἕνα καὶ τὸν αὐτόν], our Lord Jesus Christ… before the ages begotten of the Father as to Godhead, but in the last days, for us and for our salvation, the selfsame [τὸν αὐτόν], born of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, as to Manhood» [the translation is by Dr.Bright]. The whole emphasis is on the absolute identity of the Person: the Same, the Self-same, unus idemque in St. Leo. This implies a twofold generation of the divine Word (but emphatically not a double Sonship; that would be precisely the Nestorian perversion). There is but one Son: the One born of the Virgin Mary is in the fullest possible sense the Son of God. As St. John of Damascus says, the Holy Virgin did not bear «a common man, but the true God» [οὐ γὰρ ἄνθρωπον ψιλόν… ἀλλὰ θεὸν ἀληθινόν], yet «not naked, but incarnate» [οὐ γυμνόν, ἀλλὰ σεσαρκωμένον]. The Same, who from all eternity is born of the Father, «in these last days» was born of the Virgin, «without any change» (De Fide Orth., III. 12). There is here no confusion of natures. The «second γέννησις» is just the Incarnation. No new person came into being when the Son of Mary was conceived and born, but the Eternal Son of God was made man. This constitutes the mystery of the divine Motherhood of the Virgin Mary. For indeed Motherhood is a personal relation, a relation between persons. Now, the Son of Mary was in very truth a divine Person. The name Theotokos is an inevitable sequel to the name Theanthropos, the God-Man. Both stand and fall together. The doctrine of the Hypostatic Union implies and demands the conception of the divine Motherhood. Most unfortunately, the mystery of the Incarnation has been treated in modern times too often in an utterly abstract manner, as if it were but a metaphysical problem or even a dialectical riddle. One indulges too easily in the dialectics of the Finite and the Infinite, of the Temporal and the Eternal, etc., as if they were but terms of a logical or metaphysical relation. One is then in danger of overlooking and missing the very point: the Incarnation was precisely a mighty deed of the Living God, his most personal intervention into the creaturely existence, indeed, the «coming down» of a divine Person, of God in person. Again, there is a subtle but real docetic flavor in many recent attempts to re-state the traditional faith in modern terms. There is a tendency to over-emphasize the divine initiative in the Incarnation to such an extent that the historic life of the Incarnate itself fades out into «the Incognito of the Son of God.» The direct identity» of the Jesus of history and the Son of God is explicitly denied. The whole impact of Incarnation is reduced to symbols: the Incarnate Lord is understood rather as an exponent of some august principle or idea (be it the Wrath of God or Love, Anger or Mercy, Judgement or Forgiveness), than as a living Person. In both cases the personal implications of the Incarnation are overlooked or neglected – I mean, our adoption into true sonship of God in the Incarnate Word. Now, something very real and ultimate happened with men and to men when the Word of God «was made flesh and dwelt among us,» or rather, «took his abode in our midst» – a very pictorial turn indeed: ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν (John 1:14).
«But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman» (Gal. 4:4, R.V.). This is a scriptural statement of the same mystery with which the Fathers were wrestling at Chalcedon. Now, what is the full meaning and purpose of this phrase: «born of woman»? Motherhood, in general, is by no means exhausted by the mere fact of a physical procreation. It would be lamentable blindness if we ignored its spiritual aspect. In fact, procreation itself establishes an intimate spiritual relation between the mother and the child. This relation is unique and reciprocal, and its essence is affection or love. Are we entitled to ignore this implication of the fact that our Lord was «born of the Virgin Mary»? Surely, no docetic reduction is permissible in this case, just as it must be avoided anywhere else in Christology. Jesus was (and is) the Eternal God, and yet Incarnate, and Mary was his Mother in the fullest sense. Otherwise the Incarnation would not have been genuine. But this means precisely that for the Incarnate Lord there is one particular human person to whom he is in a very special relation, – in precise terms, one for whom he is not only the Lord and Saviour, but a Son. On the other hand, Mary was the true mother of her Child – the truth of her human maternity is of no less relevance and importance than the mystery of her divine motherhood. But the Child was divine. Yet the spiritual implications of her motherhood could not be diminished by the exceptional character of the case, nor could Jesus fail to be truly human in his filial response to the motherly affection of the one of whom he was born. This is not a vain speculation. It would be impertinent indeed to intrude upon the sacred field of this unparallelled intimacy between the Mother and the divine Child. But it would be even more impertinent to ignore the mystery. In any case, it would have been a very impoverished idea if we regarded the Virgin Mother merely as a physical instrument of our Lord’s taking flesh. Moreover, such a misinterpretation is formally excluded by the explicit teaching of the Church, attested from the earliest date: she was not just a «channel» through which the Heavenly Lord has come, but truly the mother of whom he took his humanity. St. John of Damascus precisely in these very words summarizes the Catholic teaching: he did not come «"as through a pipe» [ὡς διὰ σωλῆνος], but has assumed of her [ἐξ αὐτῆς], a human nature consubstantial to ours (De Fide Orth., III, 12).
Mary «has found favor with God» (Luke 1:30). She was chosen and ordained to serve in the Mystery of the Incarnation. And by this eternal election or predestination she was in a sense set apart and given an unique privilege and position in the whole of mankind, nay in the whole of creation. She was given a transcendent rank, as it were. She was at once a representative of the human race, and set apart. There is an antinomy here, implied in the divine election. She was set apart. She was put into a unique and unparallelled relation to God, to the Holy Trinity, even before the Incarnation, as the prospective Mother of the Incarnate Lord, just because it was not an ordinary historical happening, but an eventful consummation of the eternal decree of God. She has a unique position even in the divine plan of salvation. Through the Incarnation human nature was to be restored again into the fellowship with God which had been destroyed and abrogated by the Fall. The sacred humanity of Jesus was to be the bridge over the abyss of sin. Now, this humanity was to be taken of the Virgin Mary. The Incarnation itself was a new beginning in the destiny of man, a beginning of the new humanity. In the Incarnation the «new man» was born, the «Last Adam»; he was truly human, but he was more than a man: «The second man is the Lord from heaven» (1Cor. 15:47). As the Mother of this «Second Man,» Mary herself was participating in the mystery of the redeeming re-creation of the world. Surely, she is to be counted among the redeemed. She was most obviously in need of salvation. Her Son is her Redeemer and Saviour, just as he is the Redeemer of the world. Yet, she is the only human being for whom the Redeemer of the world is also a son, her own child whom she truly bore. Jesus indeed was born «not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God» (John 1:13 – this verse is related both to the Incarnation and to baptismal regeneration), and yet he is «the fruit of the womb» of Mary. His supernatural birth is the pattern and the font of the new existence, of the new and spiritual birth of all believers, which is nothing else than a participation in his sacred humanity, an adoption into the sonship of God – in the «second man,» in the «last Adam.» The Mother of the «second man» necessarily had her own and peculiar way into the new life. It is not too much to say that for her the Redemption was, in a sense, anticipated in the fact of the Incarnation itself, – and anticipated in a peculiar and personal manner. «The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee» (Luke 1:35). This was a true «theophanic presence» – in the fulness of grace and of the Spirit. The «shadow» is exactly a theophanic symbol. And Mary was truly «full of grace,» gratia plena, κεχαριτωμένη. The Annunciation was for her, as it were, an anticipated Pentecost. We are compelled to risk this daring parallelism by the inscrutable logic of the divine election. For indeed we cannot regard the Incarnation merely as a metaphysical miracle which would be unrelated to the personal destiny and existence of the persons involved. Man is never dealt with by God as if he was but a tool in the hands of a master. For man is a living person. By no means could it be merely an «instrumental» grace, when the Virgin was «overshadowed» with the power of the Highest. The unique position of the Virgin Mary is obviously not her own achievement, nor simply a «reward» for her «merits,» – nor even perhaps was the fulness of grace given to her in a «prevision» of her merits and virtue. It was supremely the free gift of God, in the strictest sense – gratia gratis data. It was an absolute and eternal election, although not unconditional – for it was conditioned by and related to the mystery of the Incarnation. Mary holds her unique position and has a «category of her own» not as a mere Virgin, but as the Virgin-Mother, παρθενομήτηρ, as the predestined Mother of the Lord. Her function in the Incarnation is twofold. On the one hand, she secures the continuity of the human race. Her Son is, in virtue of his «second nativity,» the Son of David, the Son of Abraham and of all the «forefathers» (this is emphasized by the genealogies of Jesus, in both versions). In the phrase of St. Irenaeus, he «recapitulated in himself the long roll of humanity» (Adv. Haeres., III, 18, 1: longam hominum expositionem in se ipso recapitulavit), «gathered up in himself all nations, dispersed as they were even from Adam» (III, 22, 3) and «took upon himself the old way of creation» (IV, 23, 4). But, on the other hand, he «exhibited a new sort of generation» (V, 1, 3). He was the New Adam. This was the most drastic break in the continuity, the true reversal of the previous process. And this «reversal» begins precisely with the Incarnation, with the Nativity of the «Second Man.» St. Irenaeus speaks of a recirculation – from Mary to Eve (III, 22, 4). As the Mother of the New Man Mary has her anticipated share in this very newness. Of course, Jesus the Christ is the only Lord and Saviour. But Mary is his mother. She is the morning star that announces the sunrise, the rise of the true Sol salutis: ἀστὴp ἐμϕαίνων τὸν Ἥλιον. She is «the dawn of the mystic day,» αὐγή μυστικής ἡμέρας (both phrases are from the Akathist hymn). And in a certain sense even the Nativity of our Lady itself belongs to the mystery of salvation. «Thy birth, О Mother of God and Virgin, hath declared joy to all the universe – for from thee arose the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God» (Troparion of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lady). Christian thought moves always in the dimension of personalities, not in the realm of general ideas. It apprehends the mystery of the Incarnation as a mystery of the Mother and the Child. This is the ultimate safeguard against any abstract docetism. It is a safeguard of the evangelical concreteness. The traditional ikon of the Blessed Virgin, in the Eastern tradition, is precisely an ikon of the Incarnation: the Virgin is always with the Babe. And surely no ikon, i.e. no image of the Incarnation, is ever possible without the Virgin Mother.
Again, the Annunciation is «the beginning of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery which is from eternity: the Son of God becometh the Son of the Virgin, and Gabriel proclaimeth good tidings of grace» (Troparion of the Feast of the Annunciation). The divine will has been declared and proclaimed by the archangel. But the Virgin was not silent. She responded to the divine call, responded in humility and faith. «Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.» Divine will is accepted and responded to. And this human response is highly relevant at this point. The obedience of Mary counterbalances the disobedience of Eve. In this sense the Virgin Mary is the Second Eve, as her Son is the Second Adam. This parallel was drawn quite early. The earliest witness is St. Justin (Dial., 100) and in St. Irenaeus we find already an elaborate conception, organically connected with his basic idea of the recapitulation. «As Eve by the speech of an angel was seduced, so as to flee God, transgressing his word, so also Mary received the good tidings by means of the angel’s speech, so as to bear God within her, being obedient to his word. And, though the one has disobeyed God, yet the other was drawn to obey God; that of the virgin Eve the Virgin Mary might become the advocate. And, as by a virgin the human race had been bound to death, by a virgin it is saved, the balance being preserved, a virgin’s disobedience by a virgin’s obedience» (V, 19, 1). And again: «And so the knot of Eve’s disobedience received its loosing through the obedience of Mary; for what Eve, a virgin, bound by incredulity, that Mary, a virgin, unloosed by faith» (III, 22, 34 – translation by Cardinal Newman). This conception was traditional, especially in the catechetical teaching, both in the East and in the West. «It is a great sacrament [magnum sacramentum] that, whereas through woman death became our portion, so life was born to us by woman,» says St. Augustine (De Agone Christ., 24, – in another place he is simply quoting Irenaeus). «Death by Eve, life by Mary,» declares St. Jerome (Epist. 22: mors per Evam, vita per Mariam). Let me quote also an admirable and concise passage from one of the sermons of the Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow (1782–1867). He was preaching on the day of the Annunciation. «During the days of the creation of the world, when God uttered his living and mighty words: Let there be…, the Creator’s words brought creatures into existence. But on the day, unique in the existence of the world, when Holy Mary uttered her humble and obedient Let it be, I would hardly dare to express what took place then – the word of the creature caused the Creator to descend into the world. God uttered his word here also: You will conceive in your womb and bear a son… he will be great… and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever. But again that which is divine and incomprehensible occurs – the word of God itself defers its action, allowing itself to be delayed by the word of Mary: How can this be? Her humble Let it be was necessary for the realization of God’s mighty Let it be. What secret power is thus contained in these simple words: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to yout will – that it produces an effect so extraordinary? This marvelous power is Mary’s pure and perfect self-dedication to God, a dedication of her will, of her thought, of her soul, of her entire being, of all her faculties, of all her actions, of all her hopes and expectations.» [Choix de Sermons et Discours de S. Em. Mgr. Philarète, Métropolite de Moscow, traduits par A. Serpinet (Paris, 1866, T. I, p. 187); the translation is by Dr. R. Haugh]. The Incarnation was indeed a sovereign act of God, but it was a revelation not only of his omnipotent might, but above all of his fatherly love and compassion. There was implied an appeal to human freedom once more, as an appeal to freedom was implied in the act of creation itself, namely in the creation of rational beings. The initiative was of course divine. Yet, as the means of salvation chosen by God was to be an assumption of true human nature by a divine Person, man had to have his active share in the mystery. Mary was voicing this obedient response of man to the redeeming decree of the love divine, and so she was representative of the whole race. She exemplified in her person, as it were, the whole of humanity. This obedient and joyful acceptance of the redeeming purpose of God, so beautifully expressed in the Magnificat, was an act of freedom. Indeed, it was freedom of obedience, not of initiative – and yet a true freedom, freedom of love and adoration, of humility and trust – and freedom of co-operation (cf. St. Irenaeus, Adv. Haeres, III, 21, 8: «Mary cooperating with the economy») – this is just what human freedom means. The grace of God can never be simply superadded, mechanically as it were. It has to be received in a free obedience and submission.
Mary was chosen and elected to become the Mother of the Incarnate Lord. We must assume that she was fit for that awful office, that she was prepared for her exceptional calling – prepared by God. Can we properly define the nature and character of this preparation? We are facing here the crucial antinomy (to which we have alluded above). The Blessed Virgin was representative of the race, i.e. of the fallen human race, of the «old Adam.» But she was also the second Eve; with her begins the «new generation.» She was set apart by the eternal counsel of God, but this «setting apart» was not to destroy her essential solidarity with the rest of mankind. Can we solve this antinomical mystery in any logical scheme? The Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary is a noble attempt to suggest such a solution. But this solution is valid only in the context of a particular and highly inadequate doctrine of original sin and does not hold outside this particular setting. Strictly speaking, this «dogma» is an unnecessary complication, and an unfortunate terminology only obscures the undisputable truth of the Catholic belief. The «privileges» of the divine Motherhood do not depend upon a «freedom from original sin.» The fulness of grace was truly bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin and her personal purity was preserved by the perpetual assistance of the Spirit. But this was not an abolition of the sin. The sin was destroyed only on the tree of the Cross, and no «exemption» was possible, since it was simply the common and general condition of the whole of human existence. It was not destroyed even by the Incarnation itself, although the Incarnation was the true inauguration of the New Creation. The Incarnation was but the basis and the starting-point of the redemptive work of our Lord. And the «Second Man» himself enters into his full glory through the gate of death. Redemption is a complex act, and we have to distinguish most carefully its moments, although they are supremely integrated in the unique and eternal counsel of God. Being integrated in the eternal plan, in the temporal display they are reflected in each other and the final consummation is already prefigured and anticipated in all the earlier stages. There was a real progress in the history of the Redemption. Mary had the grace of the Incarnation, as the Mother of the Incarnate, but this was not yet the complete grace, since the Redemption had not yet been accomplished. Yet, her personal purity was possible even in an unredeemed world, or rather in a world that was in process of Redemption. The true theological issue is that of the divine election. The Mother and the Child are inseparably linked in the unique decree of the Incarnation. As an event, the Incarnation is just the turning-point of history, – and the turning-point is inevitably antinomical: it belongs at once to the Old and to the New. The rest is silence. We have to stand in awe and trembling on the threshold of the mystery.
The intimate experience of the Mother of the Lord is hidden from us. And nobody was ever able to share this unique experience, by the very nature of the case. It is the mystery of the person. This accounts for the dogmatic reticence of the Church in Mariological doctrine. The Church speaks of her rather in the language of devotional poetry, in the language of antinomical metaphors and images. There is no need, and no reason, to assume that the Blessed Virgin realized at once all the fulness and all the implications of the unique privilege bestowed upon her by the grace of God. There is no need, and no reason, to interpret the «fulness» of grace in a literal sense as including all possible perfections and the whole variety of particular spiritual gifts. It was a fulness for her, she was full of grace. And yet it was a «specialized» fulness, the grace of the Mother of God, of the Virgin Mother, of the «Unwedded Spouse,» Νύμϕη ἀνύμϕευτη. Indeed, she had her own spiritual way, her own growth in grace. The full meaning of the mystery of salvation was apprehended by her gradually. And she had her own share in the sacrifice of the Cross: «Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also» (Luke 2:35). The full light shone forth only in the Resurrection. Up to that point Jesus himself was not yet glorified. And after the Ascension we find the Blessed Virgin among the Twelve, in the center of the growing Church. One point is beyond any doubt. The Blessed Virgin had been always impressed, if this word is suitable here, by the angelic salutation and announcement and by the startling mystery of the virgin birth. How could she not be impressed? Again, the mystery of her experience is hidden from us. But can we really avoid this pious guesswork without betraying the mystery itself? «But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart» (Luke 2:19). Her inner life had to be concentrated on this crucial event of her story. For indeed the mystery of the Incarnation was for her also the mystery of her own personal existence. Her existential situation was unique and peculiar. She had to be adequate to the unprecedented dignity of this situation. This is perhaps the very essence of her particular dignity, which is described as her «Ever-Virginity.» She is the Virgin. Now virginity is not simply a bodily status or a physical feature as such. Above all it is a spiritual and inner attitude, and apart from that a bodily status would be altogether meaningless. The title of Ever-Virgin means surely much more than merely a «physiological» statement. It does not refer only to the Virgin Birth. It does not imply only an exclusion of any later marital intercourse (which would be utterly inconceivable if we really believe in the Virgin Birth and in the Divinity of Jesus). It excludes first of all any «erotic» involvement, any sensual and selfish desires or passions, any dissipation of the heart and mind. The bodily integrity or incorruption is but an outward sign of the internal purity. The main point is precisely the purity of the heart, that indispensable condition of «seeing God.» This is the freedom from passions, the true ἀπάθεια, which has been commonly described as the essence of the spiritual life. Freedom from passions and «desires,» ἐπιθυμία – imperviability to evil thoughts, as St. John of Damascus puts it. Her soul was governed by God only [θεογυβέρνητον], it was supremely attached to him. All her desire was directed towards things worthy of desire and affection (St. John says: τεταμμένη, attracted, gravitating). She had no passion [θύμον]. She ever preserved virginity in mind, and soul, and body, – καὶ νῳ, καὶ ψυχῃ καὶ σώματι ἀειπαρθε-νεύουσαν (Homil. 1, in Nativitatem B.V. Mariae 9 and 5, Migne, Ser. Gr. XCVI, 676 A and 668 C). It was an undisturbed orientation of the whole personal life towards God, a complete self-dedication. To be truly a «handmaid of the Lord» means precisely to be ever-virgin, and not to have any fleshly preoccupations. Spiritual virginity is sinlessness, but not yet «perfection,» and not freedom from temptations. But even our Lord himself was in a sense liable to temptations and was actually tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Our Lady perhaps had her temptations too, but has overcome them in her steady faithfulness to God’s calling. Even an ordinary motherly love culminates in a spiritual identification with the child, which implies so often sacrifice and self-denial. Nothing less can be assumed in the case of Mary; her Child was to be great and to be called the Son of the Highest (cf. Luke 1:32). Obviously, he was one who «should have come,» the Messiah (cf. Luke 7:19). This is openly professed by Mary in the Magnificat, a song of Messianic praise and thanksgiving. Mary could not fail to realize all this, if only dimly for a time and gradually, as she pondered all the glorious promises in her heart. This was the only conceivable way for her. She had to be absorbed by this single thought, in an obedient faithfulness to the Lord who «hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden» and «hath done (for her) great things.» This is precisely the way in which St. Paul described the state and the privilege of virginity: «the unmarried woman, and the virgin, thinks about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy in body and in spirit» (1Cor. 7:34, Douay version: ἵνα ἦ ἁγία καὶ τω σώματι καὶ τω πνεύματι). The climax of this virginal aspiration is the holiness of the Virgin Mother all-pure and undefiled.
Cardinal Newman in his admirable «Letter addressed to the Rev. Ε. Β. Pusey, D.D., on occasion of his Eirenicon» (1865) says very aptly: «Theology is occupied with supernatural matters, and is ever running into mysteries, which reason can neither explain nor adjust. Its lines of thought come to an abrupt termination, and to pursue them or to complete them is to plunge down the abyss. St. Augustine warns us that, if we attempt to find and to tie together the ends of lines which run into infinity, we shall only succeed in contradicting ourselves…» (Difficulties felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching, 5th ed., page 430). It is widely agreed that the ultimate considerations which determine a true estimate of all particular points of the Christian tradition are doctrinal. No purely historical arguments, whether from antiquity or from silence, are ever decisive. They are subject to a further theological scrutiny and revision in the perspective of the total Christian faith, taken as a whole. The ultimate question is simply this: does one really keep the faith of the Bible and of the Church, does one accept and recite the Catholic Creed exactly in that sense in which it had been drafted and supposed to be taken and understood, does one really believe in the truth of the Incarnation? Let me quote Newman once more. «I say then,» he proceeds, «when once we have mastered the idea, that Mary bore, suckled and handled the Eternal in the form of a child, what limit is conceivable to the rush and flood of thoughts which such a doctrine involves? What awe and surprise must attend upon the knowledge, that a creature has been brought so close to the Divine Essence?» (op. cit., page 431). Fortunately, a Catholic theologian is not left alone with logic and erudition. He is led by the faith; credo ut intelligam. Faith illuminates the reason. And erudition, the memory of the past, is quickened in the continuous experience of the Church. A Catholic theologian is guided by the teaching authority of the Church, by its living tradition. But above all, he himself lives in the Church, which is the Body of Christ. The mystery of the Incarnation is still, as it were, continuously enacted in the Church, and its «implications» are revealed and disclosed in devotional experience and in sacramental participation. In the Communion of Saints, which is the true Church Universal and Catholic, the mystery of the New Humanity is disclosed as a new existential situation. And in this perspective and living context of the Mystical Body of Christ the person of the Blessed Virgin Mother appears in full light and full glory. The Church now contemplates her in the state of perfection. She is now seen as inseparably united with her Son, who «sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.» For her the final consummation of life has already come – in an anticipation. «Thou art passed over into Life, who art the Mother of Life,» acknowledges the Church, «Neither grave nor death had power over the Mother of God… for the Mother of Life hath been brought into Life by him who dwelt in her ever-virgin womb» (Troparion and Kontakion for the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, κοίμησις). Again, it is not so much a heavenly reward for her purity and virtue, as an «implication» of her sublime office, of her being the Mother of God, the Theotokos. The Church Triumphant is above all the worshipping Church, her existence is a living participation in Christ’s office of intercession and his redeeming love. Incorporation into Christ, which is the essence of the Church and of the whole Christian existence, is first of all an incorporation into his sacrificial love for mankind. And here there is a special place for her who is united with the Redeemer in the unique intimacy of motherly affection and devotion. The Mother of God is truly the common mother of all living, of the whole Christian race, born or reborn in the Spirit and truth. An affectionate identification with the child, which is the spiritual essence of the motherhood, is here consummated in its ultimate perfection. The Church does not dogmatize much about these mysteries of her own existence. For the mystery of Mary is precisely the mystery of the Church. Mater Ecclesia and Virgo Mater, both are birthgivers of the New Life. And both are orantes. The Church invites the faithful and helps them to grow spiritually into these mysteries of faith which are as well the mysteries of their own existence and spiritual destiny. In the Church they learn to contemplate and to adore the living Christ together with the whole assembly and Church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven (cf. Heb. 12:23). And in this glorious assembly they discern the eminent person of the Virgin Mother of the Lord and Redeemer, full of grace and love, of charity and compassion – «More honorable than the cherubim, more glorious than the seraphim, who without spot didst bear the Eternal Word.» In the light of this contemplation and in the spirit of faith the theologian must fulfil his office of interpreting to believers and to those who seek the truth the overwhelming mystery of the Incarnation. This mystery is still symbolized, as it was in the age of the Fathers, by a single and glorious name: Mary – Theotokos, the Mother of God Incarnate.
The Sacrament of Pentecost294
THE CHURCH IS ONE. This does not merely mean that there is only one Church, but that the Church is a unity. In it mankind is translated into a new plane of existence so that it may perfect itself in unity in the image of the life of the Trinity. The Church is one in the Holy Spirit and the Spirit «construes» it into the complete and perfect Body of Christ. The Church is predominantly one in the fellowship of the sacraments. Putting it in another way, the Church is one in Pentecost, which was the day of the mysterious foundation and consecration of the Church when all the prophecies about her were fulfilled. In that «terrible and unknown celebration» the Spirit-Comforter descends and enters the world in which He was never present before in the same way as He now begins to dwell. Now He enters the world to abide in it and to become the all-powerful source of transfiguration and deification. The bestowal and the descent of the Spirit was a unique and unrepeatable Relevation. On that day, in a moment, an inexhaustible source of living water and Life Eternal was disclosed here on earth.
Pentecost, therefore, is the fulness and the source of all sacraments and sacramental actions, the one and inexhaustible spring of all the mysterious and spiritual life of the Church. To abide or to live in the Church implies a participation in Pentecost. Moreover, Pentecost becomes eternal in the Apostolic Succession, that is in the uninterruptibility of hierarchical ordinations in which every part of the Church is at every moment organically united with the primary source. The lines of power proceed from the Upper Room. Apostolic Succession is not merely, as it were, the canonical skeleton of the Church. Generally speaking, the hierarchy is primarily a charismatic principle, that is – a «ministry of the sacraments,» or «a divine economy.» And in this capacity precisely the hierarchy is an organ of the Catholic unity of the Church. It is the unity of grace. It is to the Church what the circulation of the blood is to the human body. Apostolic Succession is not so much the canonical as the mystical foundation of Church unity. It is associated with the divine rather than with the human side of the Church. Historically the Church remains actually one in its priesthood. It is precisely by this Apostolic uninterruptibility of successive ordinations that the whole Church is bound into a unity of the body from the unity of the Spirit. And there is only one way and one approach: to draw near and to drink from the one spring of life, once revealed.
The peculiar function of bishops is to be the organ of Apostolic Succession. The bishop differs from the priest in his power to ordain, and in this alone. Nor is this only a canonical privilege and only a power of jurisdiction. It is a power of sacramental action beyond that possessed by the priest. In the celebration of the Eucharist the bishop has no precedence over the priest and can never have it, for the priest has full power to celebrate, every priest being primarily appointed for the purpose of offering the Eucharistie Sacrifice. It is as the celebrator of the divine Eucharist that the priest is the minister and the builder of Church unity. The unity of the Body of Christ springs from unity in the Eucharistic meal. But in addition to this the bishop has his own particular duty in the building up of Church unity, not as the offerer of the Bloodless Sacrifice but as the ordainer. The Last Supper and Pentecost are inseparably bound up with one another. The Comforter descends when the Son has been glorified in His death on the Cross. But still they are two sacraments which cannot be merged the one into the other.
The same applies to the two degrees in orders: the bishop is above the priest and it is through the episcopate that Pentecost becomes universal and eternal. Moreover every particular Church through its bishop, or, to put it more exactly, in its bishop, is included in the Catholic fulness of the Church as a whole. Through its bishop it is linked up with the past and with antiquity. Through its bishop it forms a part of the living organism of the Body of the Church Universal. For every bishop is ordained by many bishops in the name of the undivided episcopate. In its bishop every single Church outgrows and transcends its own limits, and comes into contact with and merges into other Churches, not in the order of brotherly love and remembrance alone, but in the unity of mysterious and gracious life.
Every local Church therefore finds its center and its unity in the bishop, not so much because he is its local head and pastor, but because through him it is included in the mysterious «sobornost» ["catholicity«] of the Church-body for all times. «We affirm that the order of bishops is so necessary for the Church that without it the Church is not a Church and a Christian is not a Christian, and that they cannot be even so called. For the bishop is a successor of the Apostles through the laying on of hands and invocation of the Holy Spirit, having successively received the power bestowed from God to loose and to bind. He is a living image of God on earth, and owing to the divine activity and power of the Holy Spirit is the abundant source of all the sacraments of the Church Universal through which salvation is obtained. We consider that a bishop is as essential to a Church as breath is to man and the sun to the world» (the Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs to the Bishops of Great Britain, 1723, par. 10).
On the Day of Pentecost the Spirit descends not only on the Apostles, but also on those who were present with them; not only on the Twelve but on the entire multitude (compare Chrysostom’s Discourses and his interpretation of Acts). This means that the Spirit descends on the whole of the Primitive Church then present in Jerusalem. But though the Spirit is one, the gifts and ministrations in the Church are very varied, so that while in the sacrament of Pentecost the Spirit descends on all, it is on the Twelve alone that He bestows the power and the rank of priesthood promised to them by Our Lord in the days of His flesh. The distinctive features of priesthood do not become blurred in the all-embracing fulness of Pentecost. But the simultaneity of this Catholic outpouring of the Spirit on the entire Church witnesses to the fact that priesthood was founded within the sobornost of the Church.
It is with this that the direct prohibition of ordination in a «general» or «abstract» sense (viz., without a definite appointment to a Church or a congregation) is directly associated (IV. Oecum., Rule No. 6). Secret ordination is also prohibited. It must always be public and open, in the Church itself, before the people and with the people. Moreover, a participation of the «people» in the ordination itself is required, and not only as reverent spectators who follow the prayers. The binding «aksios» or «amen» is not merely an accompaniment, but also a witness, and an acceptance. The power to ordain is bestowed on bishops and on bishops alone. But it is given to them within the Church as to the pastors of a definite flock. And they can and should realize this power only in the sobornost of the Church and in agreement with the entire Body – namely, the priests and the people – and not in a «general» or «abstract» way. This means that the bishop should abide in the Church, and the Church in the bishop.
The ancient stipulation that a bishop should be ordained by two or three bishops is especially significant (Apost. I). The implication of this requirement is quite obvious (cf. Matt. 18:16, «that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may be established»). But to what do the bishops who ordain witness? In the ordination of a bishop no separate bishop can act for himself as a bishop of a definite and particular local Church for as such he remains an outsider so far as any other diocese or bishopric is concerned. He acts as a representative of the sobornost of the co-bishops, as a member and sharer of this sobornost. In addition to this it is implied that these bishops belong to a particular diocese and as ruling bishops are not separated and indeed are inseparable from their flocks. Every co-ordainer acts in the name of Catholic sobornost and fulness (cf. I. Oecum., rule 4: «it is most seemly for a bishop to be appointed by all the bishops of that region; but if this happens to be inconvenient either for some special reason or owing to the distance, let at least three of them assemble in one place, and let those who are absent signify their acquiescence in writing, and then let them proceed with ordination»).
Again, these are not only canonical, or administrative, or disciplinary measures. One feels that there is a mystical depth in them. No realization or extension of Apostolic Succession is otherwise possible, apart from the unbreakable sobornost of the whole Church. Apostolic Succession can never be severed or divorced from the organic context of the life of the entire Church, although it has its own divine root. In the Roman rite one bishop alone ordains, but the presence of «witnesses» or «assistants» is required, who thus confirm the fulness and the sobornost of the sacramental act. The main point lies here in the co-operation of the whole Church, even though it may be taken for granted and represented symbolically. Under normal conditions of Church life Apostolic Succession should never become reduced to an abstract enumeration of successive ordainers. In ancient times Apostolic Succession usually implied first of all a succession to a definite cathedra, again in a particular local sobornost. Apostolic Succession does not represent a self-sufficient chain or order of bishops. It is an organ and a system of Church oneness. Moreover, not only «holy orders» [ordo] but also the «priestly power» [jurisdictio] are congruent in grace. «Jurisdiction» signifies the concreteness of the bishop’s power and dignity, and it stands precisely for sobornost, viz. – organic unity with a particular body of Church people. Therefore apart from «jurisdiction,» that is in the mere self-sufficiency of the episcopal rank, the power to ordain cannot be practiced. If such an «abstract» ordination cannot be recognized as «valid» [valida], it is, nevertheless, not only «illegal» [illicita], but also mystically defective. For every rupture of canonical bonds simultaneously implies a certain loss of grace, namely – isolation, estrangement, neglect, mystical forgetfulness, limitation of Church outlook, and decrease of love. For Apostolic Succession has been established for the sake of unity and sobornost, and must never become the vehicle of exclusiveness and division.
The Apostolicity of the Church is not exhausted by the uninterruptibility of this priestly succession from the Apostles. Apostolic Succession must not be severed from Apostolic Tradition, and in fact never can be. Apostolic Tradition is not only a historical reminiscence, nor does faithfulness to Tradition mean simply an obstinate insistence on what is ancient, still less does it demand an archaic adaptation of the present to the manners or standards of the past. Tradition is not Church archeology but spiritual life. It is the memory of the Church. It is, firstly, an uninterrupted current of spiritual life proceeding from the Upper Room. Nor is faithfulness to Apostolic Tradition faithfulness to antiquity alone, but a living link with all the fulness of Church life. Faithfulness to Tradition is similarly a participation in Pentecost, and Tradition represents a fulfilment of Pentecost – «Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He shall guide you unto all truth» (John 16:13). Generally speaking, Tradition is not so much a safeguarding and conservative principle, as a progressive and adducible one – the beginning of life, renewal, and growth. Apostolic times are not only an external example for imitation or repetition, but an eternally renewed spring or experience and life in grace. Tradition is the power to teach, confess, witness, and proclaim out of the depth of the experience of the Church, which remains always the same and unimpaired. And this «power to teach» [potestas magisterii] is included in Apostolic Succession and based on it. The power to teach is conferred precisely on the episcopate – it is the most apostolic «power.»
But this «power» is a function of the Catholic fulness of the Church. «De omnium fidelium ore pendeamus, quia in omnem fidelem Spiritus Dei spirat.» The hierarchy in its teaching capacity represents, as it were, the lips of the Church. This does not mean that the hierarchy acquires its teaching credentials from the people of the Church, for it has them from the Holy Spirit, as an «anointing of truth» [charisma veritatis certum], according to the expression of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, in the sacrament of ordination. But this is the right or power to express and witness to the faith and experience of the Church. The hierarchy teaches as an organ of the Church. Therefore it is limited by the «consent of the Church» [e consensu ecclesiae], and again not so much in the order of canonics as of spiritual life and evidence. To the hierarchy alone is given the right to teach and witness in the Church. But the hierarchy is not a self-sufficient and complete «teaching body» in the Church. The hierarchy then only teaches in a Catholic way when it truly holds and contains the Church within itself. Every local Church has the right to a «teaching voice» only in the person of its bishop, which, however, does not exclude the right to freedom of opinion. On the other hand the bishop also has the «power to teach» only within the Church, only within the actual sobornost of his people and flock. The bishop receives this power and ability to teach, not from his flock, but from Christ Himself, in Whose ministry of teaching he participates through the grace of Apostolic Succession. But the power to be, as it were, the heart of his people is conferred on him, and therefore the people also have a right and duty to witness, to consent, and to refuse consent, in the search for full unanimity and the fulness of sobornost.
The power to teach is therefore based on a two-fold continuity. Firstly, the uninterruptibility of spiritual life in the Church as the «fulness of Him that filleth all in all» (Eph. 1:23). All the meaning and grandeur of the Christian life lies in the acquiring of the Spirit. We enter into communion with the Spirit in the sacraments, and we must strive to be filled with the Spirit in prayer and action. This constitutes the mystery of our inner life. But even in this it is assumed that we belong to the Church and are part of its very texture. Each individual way of life is also included in sobornost, and this means that it is conditioned and limited by Apostolic Succession. Secondly, a universal communion for all time or a union in the sacraments is only possible through the uninterruptibility of priestly succession. The historical development of the Church, its organic integrity in revealing the fundamental «depositum fidei» are alike based on Apostolic Succession. The Catholic fulness of the teaching of the Church is only possible for us through Apostolic Succession which supersedes the historical relativity of separate epochs, and which also acts as a check for an inner differentiation between what is varying and what is permanent. The freedom of theological investigation and opinion finds support and a foundation for itself in this hierarchical «anointing of the truth.» It is precisely Apostolic Succession which allows us in our theology to rise above and beyond the spirit of our times and enter into the fulness of truth.
Generally speaking, the efficacy and the reality of the sacraments does not depend on the faith of those who partake of them. For the sacraments are accomplished by the power of God, and not of man, and the frailty and imperfection of an individual priest is made good by the mysterious participation of the entire Church in his actions – the Church which has appointed him and authorized him to fulfil the «ministry of the Sacraments.» However, in spite of this, it is hardly possible to isolate completely the objectively-gracious moment of the sacraments. For example, how can Apostolic Succession be preserved when Apostolic Tradition has been broken together with the continuity of the spiritual life? In any case an injury to faith cannot but be reflected in one way or another in the hierarchy of such communities in which the Apostolic «deposit of faith» has not been safeguarded, and where the fullness of Tradition has been diminished by breaches in historical continuity. Especially does this apply to cases where the injury affects the basic motives of the «succession» itself, when Eucharistic faith becomes dimmed, and when the idea of priesthood becomes vague. One might add that in such cases the empirical link with the fulness of Church life both past and present is usually severed, and the community becomes self-contained and isolated, so that an empirical separation or schism takes place. Such a will to isolation and, as it were, solitude cannot but affect that ministry of the Church the whole meaning of which lies in the preservation and expression of unity. Again this is not only a question of legality or «jurisdiction.» Not so much canonically as mystically every priest acts on behalf of and in the name of the whole Church – and only thus is his Divine ministry full of mystical value. The Eucharist is one and undivided and can only be celebrated within the mystical limits of the Catholic Church. How can a «dissenter» celebrate the Eucharist?
Still more equivocal is the continuity of the Apostolic Succession in schismatic bodies, particularly if it has been continued, or even «re-established» precisely for the sake of making the separation permanent. How can hierarchical chain persist in division, when its very raison d’être is unity? And how can schismatic hierarchs act on behalf of and in the name of the Catholic Church? Yet Church life in practice witnesses to the fact that this is possible, and that the life in grace in schismatical bodies is not extinguished and exhausted, at any rate, to be sure, not immediately. However, we cannot think it possible that it should go on unimpaired, precisely for the reason that one cannot sharply isolate different aspects of the organic whole of Church life. Human and historical isolation even if they do not altogether lead to the severing of Apostolic Succession must at any rate weaken it mystically. For the unity in grace can only come to be revealed in the «mystery of freedom,» and only through a return to Catholic fulness and communion can every separated hierarchical body recover its full mystical significance. Simultaneously with this return there is the acceptance of the Apostolic «deposit of faith» in all its completeness. Apostolic Succession is only strengthened by faithfulness to and fulfilment of Apostolic Tradition. In their inseparableness lies the fullness of Pentecost.
CONSENSUS ECCLESIAE NOV. 24, 1934
[Two explanatory notes to Professor Florovsky’s article on
«The Sacrament of Pentecost.«]
I. »To the hierarchy alone is given the right to teach and witness in the Church.» This does not mean that the clergy and laity are merely destined to an unconditional and formal obedience to the episcopate. It does not similarly imply that «the right to teach» is conferred on the bishops apart from the people. On the contrary, there should be no room for exclusiveness in the Church. In this way the sharp contrast which exists in the Roman Church between the «teaching» and the «learning» Church is relinquished; It is more correct to speak of the co-ordination between all the strata, or elements, within the Church. I emphasize again «the bishop also has the «power to teach» only within the Church, only within the actual sobornost of his people and flock.» Everyone in the Church is called not only to obedience but also to understanding. Precisely in questions of faith and dogma everyone is constrained by personal responsibility. It is preferable not to speak of «responsibility» – the term is too formal – it is better to say that everyone should dwell in truth. The flock must not only listen but also acquiesce. It is not authority that decides so much as an inner evidence of spiritual life. Within the boundaries of unbroken sobornost there exists an allocation of activities and tasks. At any rate everyone is called to be a living example and witness to his faith and trust, to teach and help everyone. This is not the question at issue. Nor is it even one of theological research, which formally cannot be delimited by any position in the Church. The question is one of the right of dogmatic witness on behalf of the Church.
Again, the power of the hierarchy does not assume that truth, as it were, is revealed automatically to the bishop, by force of his ordination and dignity, or that he can discover it without consultation and communion with that Church outside of which he loses all «power,» generally speaking. However, only to him, and to him alone, is given the right to speak in a Catholic way. It is not only a canonical privilege or right. It is bound up with the fact that the bishop as such is a mystical center of his flock, which unites in him in the oneness of sacramental fellowship. The fact that not infrequently bishops are not sufficiently good theologians does not contradict this statement. In such a case they are forced to find support in other priests who are more learned than they. This has been the case from the most ancient times: we have merely to recall Eusebius of Caesarea, whose chief councillor was Basil the Great. This is no greater contradiction than the simple fact that there do exist unworthy bishops and even unworthy Christians, generally speaking. Even laymen can and must study, discuss, preach, write, and argue; they can similarly disagree with bishops. But to witness on behalf of the Church is given only to the bishop. One can also put it thus: the right of an opinion and of advice is given to all, but the «power to teach» is bestowed on the hierarchy alone – of course, in the unbreakableness of soborny fellowship. The scarcity of learned bishops in the Orthodox Church in recent times is to be greatly regretted, but it is in no way linked with this main postulate.
As regards "lay theologians« in Russia, it can be hardly said that they have the power to teach on behalf of the whole Church – which does not in any way limit their great historical significance. For the voice of laymen must be heard in the Orthodox choir. The leader of the choir, however, can only be a bishop. There are various gifts, and all gifts are necessary. Only one, however, is appointed shepherd and the staff is entrusted to him. «And the sheep follow Him: for they know His voice» (John 10:4).
II. The disunity within the Christian world implies, of course, its mystical weakness, and here nothing is clear. I would only like to emphasize one point. The very fact of the division in the Church is a paradox and an antinomy. A falling away from the Church is more comprehensible than division in the Church, while the very efficacy of the sacraments in schism [raskol] does not in itself do away with the undoubted fact that even the spirit of division is an unhealthy symptom. It is not easy to develop this point of view, for it is precisely a paradox. However, I think that the West separated itself from the East, and that the guilt of the West is greater. All the history of Roman deviations witnesses to this, and they continue to burden the Anglican Church as well. However, this brings us to a new and very complicated theme, namely, that of the division of the Churches, and it will be wiser to return to it separately on another occasion.
On the Veneration of the Saints295
CHRIST HAS CONQUERED THE WORLD. This victory is further unveiled and fulfilled in the fact that He built His Church. In Christ and through Christ the unity of mankind was brought about truly for the first time, for those who believed in His Name become the Body of Christ. And through uniting with Christ they unite likewise with each other in a most sincere concord of love. In this great unity all empirical distinctions and barriers are done away with: differences of birth in the flesh are effaced within the unity of a spiritual birth. The Church is a new people filled with grace, which does not coincide with any physical boundaries or any earthly nation – neither Greeks nor Jews, and a struggle of faith, through the «Mystery of water,» through a union with Christ in the «Mysterious font,» through the «grace of becoming sons»; i.e. «sons of God» for Whom «were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth.» In Holy Christening the one to be enlightened leaves «this world» and forsakes its vanity, as if freeing himself and stepping out of the natural order of things; from the order of «flesh and blood» one enters an order of grace. All inherited ties and all ties of blood are severed. But man is not left solitary or alone. For according to the expression of the Apostle «by one Spirit are we all baptized,» neither Scythians nor Barbarians – and this nation does not spring through a relationship of blood but through freedom into one Body. The whole meaning of Holy Christening consists in the fact that it is a mysterious acceptance into the Church, into the City of God, into the Kingdom of Grace. Through Christening the believer becomes a member of the Church, enters the «one Church of angels and men,» becomes a «co-citizen of the saints and ever with God,» according to the mysterious and solemn words of St. Paul – one comes «to mount Zion, and to the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.» And in this great throng he is united unto Christ. For, «unus Christianus – nullus Christianus."
The essence of the Church is in its unity, for the Church is the Mansion of the One Spirit. This is not an external and empirical unity or catholicity. The Ecumenical character of the Church is not something external, quantitative, spacial, not even any geographical quality, and does not at all depend on the universal dispersal of believers. The visible unity of the Church is merely a result but not a foundation for the catholicity of the Church. Geographical «universality» is a derivative and not an essential necessity. The catholicity of the Church was not diminished in the first ages of Christianity when communities of the faithful were scattered like small islands, almost lost in the immense world of unbelief and resistance. It is likewise not diminished now when the majority of the mankind is not with Christ. «Though a town or even a province fall away from the Ecumenical Church,» says Metropolitan Philaret, «the Ecumenical Church will always remain a complete and incorruptible body.» Likewise the Church will remain Ecumenical in the «last days» when it will be compressed into the «little flock,» when the mystery of «retreat» will be revealed and when faith will hardly be found on earth. For the Church is Catholic according to its nature.
If one seeks for external definitions, then perhaps the Ecumenical nature of the Church is best expressed by the feature of its «all-timeness» (of its running through all times). For believers of all ages and all generations, who are alive now, who lived, and who will be born, belong to it in the same way. They all form one body, and through the same prayer are united into one before the one throne of the Lord of Glory. The experience of this unity through all times is revealed and sealed in the whole cycle of Divine worship. In the Church time is mysteriously overcome. The outpouring of grace seems to stop time, to stop the run of minutes and seasons, to overcome even the general order of consecutiveness and the disconnectedness of those things which took place at different times. In a unity with Christ through grace, in the gift of communion with the One Spirit, men of different epochs and generations become our living contemporaries. Christ reigns equally in the Church – among the departed and among the living, for God is not God of the dead but of the living.
The Church is a Kingdom not of this world but an eternal Kingdom, for it has an eternal King – Christ. The Church is a kind of mysterious image of eternity and a foretaste of the Resurrection of all. For Christ the Head of the Body is «the life and the resurrection» of His servants and brothers. The measure of births has not yet been filled and the stream of time still flows. The Church is still in its historical wanderings but even now time has no power and no strength in it. It is as if the Apocalyptic moment is forestalled – when there shall be no more time and all time shall cease. Earthly death, the separation of the soul from the body, does not sever the tie between those who have faith, does not part and does not separate co-members in Christ, does not exclude the deceased from the limits and composition of the Church. In the prayer for the departed and in the order for burial we pray Christ «our immortal King and God» to send the souls of the departed «to the habitations of the holy,» «to the abodes of the righteous,» «to the bosom of Abraham,» where all the righteous are at rest. And with special expressiveness in these parting prayers we remember and call on the hosts of the righteous, and on the Mother of God, and on the powers of heaven, and on the holy martyrs and on all the saints as on our heavenly co-citizens in the Church. With powerful emphasis the all- timely and catholic consciousness of the Church is disclosed in the order of burial. The faithful who attain to a genuine union with Christ Himself in their struggle and in the saving «mysteries» cannot be parted from Him even by death. «Blessed are they who die in the Lord – their souls shall abide with the blessed.» And the prayers for the departed are a witness and measure of the catholic consciousness of the Church.
Reverently the Church watches for any signs of grace which witness and confirm the earthly struggle of the departed. By an inner sight the Church recognizes both the righteous living and departed, and the feeling of the Church is sealed by the witness of the priesthood of the Church. In this recognition of its brothers and members who have «attained to perfection» consists the mystical essence of that which in the Christian West is termed the «canonization of saints,» and which is understood by the Orthodox East as their glorification, magnification and blessedness. And firstly it is a glorification of God «Wonderous is the Lord in His saints.» «God’s saints,» said St. John of Damascus, «reigned over and mastered their passions and kept uninjured the likeness unto the image of God, according to which they were created; they of their own free will united themselves with God and received Him into the habitation of their heart, and having thus received Him in communion, through grace, they became in their very nature like unto Him.» In them God rests – they became «the treasures and the pure habitations of God.» In this the mystery was accomplished. For as the ancient fathers said – the Son of God became man so that men could be deified, so that sons of men should become sons of God. And in the righteous who attain to love this measure of growth and «likening» unto Christ is fulfilled. «The Saints in their lifetime already were filled with the Holy Spirit,» continues St. John of Damascus, «and when they died the grace of the Holy Spirit was still present with their souls and with their bodies in the graves, and with their images and with their holy ikons not because of their nature but because of grace and its activity… the saints are alive and with daring they stand before the Lord; they are not dead… the death of saints is more like falling asleep than death,» for they «abide in the hand of God»; that is, in life and in light… and «after He Who is Life itself and the source of life was ranked among the dead, we consider no more as dead those who depart with a hope of resurrection and with faith in Him.» And it is not only to get help and intercession that the Holy Spirit teaches every believer to pray to the glorified saints but also because this calling on them, through communion in prayer, deepens the consciousness of the catholic unity of the Church. In our invocation of the saints our measure of Christian love is exhibited, a living feeling of unanimity and of the power of Church unity is expressed; and, conversely, doubt or inability to feel the intercession of grace and the intervention of saints on our behalf before God witnesses not only to a weakening of love and of the brotherly and Church ties and relationships but also to a decrease in the fulness of faith in the Ecumenical value and power of the Incarnation and Resurrection.
One of the most mysterious anticipations of the Orthodox Church is the contemplation of the «Protecting Veil of the Mother of God,» of Her constant standing in prayer for the world, surrounded by all the saints, before the throne of God. «Today the Virgin stands in the Church and with hosts of saints invisibly prays to God for us all; angels and high priests worship; apostles and prophets embrace each other – it is for us that the Mother of God prays unto the Eternal God!» Thus the Church remembers the vision which was once seen by St. Andrew, the fool for Christ’s sake. And that which was then visibly revealed remains now and will stand for all ages. The «Contemplation of the Protecting Veil» of the Mother of God is a vision of the celestial Church, a vision of the unbreakable and ever-existent unity of the heavenly and the earthly Church. And it is also a foreseeing that all existence beyond the grave, of the righteous and the saints, is one untiring prayer, one ceaseless intercession and mediation. For love is the «union of all perfection.» And the blessedness of the righteous is an abiding in love. The Great Eastern saint St. Isaac the Syrian, with incomparable daring, bore witness to the all-embracing power which crowns a Christian’s struggles. According to his words this struggle for God acquires fulness and completeness and attains its aim in purity – and purity is «a heart which is merciful to every created being.» And what is a heart that has its mercy? asks the saint, and answers: «A burning of the heart for all creation for men, birds, beasts, demons and all creatures. And from remembrance of them and contemplation of them such a man’s eyes shed tears: because of a great and strong compassion which possesses his heart and its great constancy, he is overwhelmed with tender pity and he cannot bear, or hear of, or see any harm or any even small sorrow which creatures suffer. And therefore he prays hourly with tears for the dumb animals, and for the enemies of Truth and for those who harm him that they should be guarded and that they should be shown mercy; and also for all the reptiles he prays, from this great compassion which is constantly aroused in his heart in likeness to God.» And if even on earth so fiery is the prayer of saints, even with a more fiery flame it burns «there» in the «embrace of the Father» on the bosom of Divine Love, close to God, Whose Name is Love, Whose care about the World is Love. And in the Church Triumphant prayers for the whole Catholic Church do not cease. As St. Cyprian said – Christian prayer is for all the world; everyone prays not only for himself but for all people, for all form one, and so we pray not with a particular individual prayer but with one common to all, with one soul in all. The whole deed of prayer must be determined by an ecumenical consciousness and unanimous love, which includes likewise those whose names are known to God alone. It is not characteristic of a Christian to feel himself alone and separated from all, for he is saved only in the unity of the Church. And the crown of all prayer is that flaming love which was expressed in the prayer of Moses: «Forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written… » The center of Church worship is Eucharistic worship. Here the whole Church is united also. Here a sacrifice is made and prayers are offered «for all and for all things,» here the whole Church is remembered the militant and the triumphant. In the mystery-action of the Liturgy «the powers of heaven invisibly celebrate with us,» they are present and celebrate with the celebrating priest. And unto great saints it was granted sometimes by God’s grace to contemplate in visible form that which is hidden from the sight of the sinful – the co-celebration of the angels. Thus it is known that St. Seraphim of Sarov on one occasion was granted to see the triumphant entrance of the Lord of Glory surrounded by hosts of angels. Such an entrance of the Lord of Glory is often represented in ikon form on the walls of the holy Altar, and not only as a symbol but likewise as an indication that invisibly all this actually takes place. And all the ikon decoration of the Church generally speaks of the mysterious unity, of the actual presence of the saints with us. «We picture Christ, the King and the Lord, without separating Him from His army, for the Army of the Lord are the saints» – said St. John of Damascus. Holy ikons are not only images of remembrance, «images of the past and of righteousness,» not only pictures, but are actually sacred things with which, as the fathers explained, the Lord is «present» and by grace is «in communion» with them. There exists some mysterious objective tie between the «image» and the «Prototype,» between the likeness and the one who is represented, which is specially marked in miracle-working ikons which show God’s power. «A venerating worship» of holy ikons clearly expresses the idea of the Church’s conception of the past: it is not only a remembrance directed to something gone, but a vision by grace of something fixed in eternity, a vision of something mysterious, a presence by grace of those who are dead and parted from us, «a joyful vision of a unity of all creation.»
All creation has a Head in Christ. And through His Incarnation the Son of God, according to the wonderful expression of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, «again commenced a long row of human beings.» The Church is the spiritual posterity of the Second Adam and in its history His redemptive work is fulfilled and completed, while His love blossoms and flames in it. The Church is a fulfillment of Christ and His Body. According to the bold words of St. John Chrysostom, «only then is the Fulfiller the Head when a perfect body shall be formed.» There is some mysterious movement – which started from the awe-filled day of Pentecost, when in the face of the first chosen few it was as if all creation received a fiery christening by the Spirit towards that last aim, when in all its glory the New Jerusalem shall appear and the Bridal Feast of the Lamb shall begin. In the stretch of ages the guests and the chosen are being collected. The people of the eternal Kingdom are being assembled. The Kingdom is being selected and set aside beyond the limits of time. The fulfillment shall be accomplished in the last resurrection – then the complete fulness and glory and the whole meaning of Church catholicity shall be revealed.
Holy Ikons 296
THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT is Orthodox Sunday. It was established as a special memorial day of the Council at Constantinople in 843. It commemorates first of all victory of the Church over the heresy of the Iconoclasts: The use and veneration of Holy Ikons was restored. On this day we continue to sing the troparion of the Holy Image of Christ: «We reverence Thy sacred Image O Christ… "
At first glance, it may seem to be an unsuitable occasion to commemorate the glory of the Church and all the heroes and martyrs of the Orthodox Faith. Would it not be more reasonable to do so rather on the days dedicated to the memory of the great Ecumenical Councils or of the Fathers of the Church? Is not the veneration of Ikons rather a piece of an external ritual and ceremonial? Is not Ikon-painting rather just a decoration, very beautiful indeed, and in many ways instructive, but hardly an article of Faith? Such is the current opinion, unfortunately widely spread even among the Orthodox themselves. And it accounts for a sore decay of our religious art. We usually mistake Icons for «religious pictures,» and therefore have no difficulty in using the most unsuitable pictures as Ikons, even in our churches. Too often we simply miss the religious significance of Holy Ikons. We have forgotten the true and ultimate purpose of Ikons.
Let us turn to the witness of St. John of Damascus – one of the first and greatest defenders of Holy Ikons in the period of struggle – the great theologian and devotional poet of our Church. In one of his sermons in the defense of Ikons he says: «I have seen the human image of God, and my soul is saved.» It is a strong and moving statement. God is invisible, He lives in light unapproachable. How can a frail man see or behold Him? Now, God has been manifested in the flesh. The Son of God, Who is in the bosom of the Father, «came down from heaven» and «became man.» He dwelt among men. This was the great move of Love Divine. The Heavenly Father was moved by the misery of man and sent His Son because He loved the world. «No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.» John 1:18. The Ikon of Christ, God Incarnate, is a continuous witness of the Church to that mystery of the Holy Incarnation, which is the basis and· the substance of our faith and hope. Christ Jesus, Our blessed Lord, is God Incarnate. It means that since the Incarnation, God is visible. One can now have a true image of God.
The Incarnation is an intimate and personal identification of God with man, with the needs and misery of man. The Son of God «was made man,» as it is stated in the Creed, «for us man and for our salvation.» He took upon Himself the sins of the world, and died for us sinners on the tree of the Cross, and thereby He made the Cross the new tree of life for believers. He became the new and Last Adam, the Head of the new and redeemed Humanity. The Incarnation means a personal intervention of God into the life of man, an intervention of Love and Mercy. The Holy Ikon of Christ is a symbol of this, but much more than a mere symbol or sign. It is also an efficient sign and token of Christ’s abiding presence in the Church, which is His Body. Even in an ordinary portrait there is always something of the person represented. A portrait not only reminds us of the person, but somehow conveys something of him, i.e. represents the person, i.e. «makes present again.» It is even more true of the sacred Image of Christ. As the teachers of the Church have taught us – and especially St. Theodore of Studium, another great confessor and defender of Holy Ikons – an Ikon, in a sense, belongs to Christ’s personality itself. The Lord is there, in His «Holy Images.»
Therefore not everyone is permitted to make or paint Ikons, if they are to be true Ikons. The Ikon-painter must be a faithful member of the Church, and he must prepare himself for his sacred task by fasting and prayer. It is not just a matter of art, of artistic or technical skill. It is a kind of witness, a profession of faith. For the same reason, the art itself must be wholeheartedly subordinate to the rule of faith. There are limits of the artistic imagination. There are certain established patterns to be followed. In any case, the Ikon of Christ must be so executed as to convey the true conception of His person, i.e. to witness to His Divinity, yet Incarnate. All these rules were strictly kept for centuries in the Church, and then they were forgotten. Even unbelievers were permitted to paint Christ’s ikons in the churches, and therefore certain modern «ikons» are no more than pictures, showing us just a man. These pictures fail to be «Ikons» in any proper and true sense, and cease to be witnesses of the Incarnation. In such cases, we just «decorate» our churches.
The use of Holy Ikons has always been one of the most distinctive features of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Christian West, even before the Schism, had little understanding for this dogmatic and devotional substance of Ikon-painting. In the West it meant just decoration. And it was under Western influence that Ikon-painting has also deteriorated in the Orthodox East in modern times. The decay of Ikon-painting was a symptom of a weakening of faith. The art of Holy Ikons is not a neutral matter. It appertains to Faith.
There should be no hazard, and no «improvisation,» in the painting of our churches. Christ is never alone, St. John of Damascus contended. He is always with His saints, who are His friends for ever. Christ is the Head, and true believers are the Body. In the old churches the whole state of the Church Triumphant would be pictorially represented on the walls. Again, this was not just a decoration, nor was it simply a story told in lines and colors for the ignorant and illiterate. It was rather an insight into the invisible reality of the Church. The whole company of Heaven was represented on the walls because it was present there, though invisibly. We always pray at Divine Liturgy, during the Little Entrance, that «Holy Angels may enter with us to serve with us.» And our prayer is, no doubt, granted. We do not see Angels, indeed. Our sight is weak. But it is told of St. Seraphim that he used to see them, for they were there indeed. The elect of the Lord do see them and the Church Triumphant. Ikons are signs of this presence. «When we stay in the temple of Thy glory, we seem to stand in the Heavens.»
Thus, it is quite natural that on the Sunday of Orthodoxy we should not only celebrate the restoration of Ikon-veneration, but also commemorate that glorious body of witnesses and believers who did profess their faith, even at the cost of their worldly security, prosperity, and life itself. It is a great day of the Church. In fact, on this Sunday we do celebrate the Church of the Incarnate Word: we celebrate the redeeming Love of the Father, the Love Crucified of the Son, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit, made visible in the whole company of the faithful, who did already enter into Heavenly Rest, into the Joy Everlasting of their Lord and Master. Holy Ikons are our witness to the glory of the Kingdom to come, and already present.
The «Immortality» of the Soul297
ARE CHRISTIANS, AS CHRISTIANS, necessarily committed to the belief in the Immortality of human soul? And what does Immortality actually mean in the Christian universe of discourse? These questions are by no means just rhetorical ones. Etienne Gilson, in his Gifford lectures, felt himself compelled to make the following startling statement: «On the whole,» he said, «Christianity without Immortality of the soul is not altogether inconceivable, – the proof is that it has been so conceived. What is, on the contrary, absolutely inconceivable, is Christianity without a Resurrection of Man.»298 The striking feature of the early history of the Christian doctrine of Man was that many of the leading writers of the second century seem to have emphatically denied the (natural) immortality of the soul. And this does not seem to be an exceptional or extravagant opinion of certain writers only, but rather the common teaching of the age. Nor was this conviction completely abandoned in a later age. Bishop Anders Nygren, in his famous book, Den kristna karlekstanken genom tiderna, praises the Apologists of the second century precisely for this courageous statement and sees in it an expression of the true Evangelical spirit. The main emphasis was then, as in Nygren’s opinion it should ever be, rather on the «Resurrection of the body» than on the «Immortality of the soul."299 An Anglican erudite of the XVIIth century, Henry Dodwell (1641–1711, one-time Camden «Praelector» of History in the University of Oxford), published in London a curious book, under a rather bewildering title:
An Epistolary Discourse, proving, from the Scriptures and the First Fathers, that the Soul is a Principle naturally Mortal; but immortalized actually by the Pleasure of God, to Punishment; or to Reward, by its Union with the Divine Baptismal Spirit. Wherein is proved, that None have the Power of giving this Divine Immortalizing Spirit, since the Apostles, but only the Bishops (1706).
Dodwell’s argument was often confused and involved. The main value of the book, however, was in its immense erudition. Dodwell, probably for the first time, collected an enormous mass of information on the early Christian doctrine of Man, even if he could not use it properly himself. And he was quite right in his contention that Christianity was not concerned with a natural «Immortality,» but rather with the soul’s supernatural Communion with God, «Who only hath immortality» (1Tim. 6:16). No wonder that Dodwell’s book provoked a violent controversy. A formal charge of heresy was brought against the author. Yet, he found some fervent supporters. And an anonymous writer, «a Presbyter of the Church of England,» published two books on the subject, presenting a careful study of the Patristic evidence that «the Holy Spirit (was) the Author of Immortality, or Immortality (was) a Peculiar Grace of the Gospel, (and) no Natural Ingredient of the soul,» and that «Immortality (was) preternatural to Human Souls, the Gift of Jesus Christ, collated by the Holy Spirit in Baptism.»300 What was of special interest in that controversy was that Dodwell’s thesis was opposed chiefly by the «liberals» of that day, and his greatest literary opponent was the famous Samuel Clarke, of St. James, Westminster, a follower of Newton and a correspondent of Leibniz, notorious for his unorthodox beliefs and ideas, a typical man of the age of Latitudinarianism and Enlightenment. It was an unusual sight: «Immortality» contested by an «Orthodox» and defended by a Latitudinarian. In fact, it was rather what one should have expected. The belief in a natural Immortality was one of the few basic «dogmas» of the enlightened Deism of that time. A man of the Enlightenment could easily dismiss the doctrines of Revelation, but could not afford any doubt on the «truth» of Reason. Gilson suggested that «what is known under the name of the ‘Moralist’ doctrine of the XVIIth century was originally a return to the position of the Early Fathers and not, as seems to be usually believed, a manifestation of a libertine spirit.»301 As a general statement, it is untenable. The whole situation in the XVIIth century was much more complex and mixed up than Gilson apparently surmised. Yet, in the case of Dodwell (and some others) Gilson’s guess is fully vindicated. There was an obvious «return to the positions of the First Fathers.»
II. The Soul as a ‘Creature’
St. Justin, in his Dialogue with Trypho, tells the story of his conversion. In his quest for truth he went first to Philosophers, and for a time was fully satisfied with the teaching of Platonists. «The perception of incorporeal things quite overwhelmed me, and the Platonic theory of ideas added wing to my mind.» Then he met a Christian teacher, an elderly and respectable man. Among the questions raised in the course of their conversation was that of the nature of the soul. We should not call the soul immortal, contended the Christian. «For, if it were, we would certainly have to call it unbegotten also,» εἰ ἀϑάνατός ἐστι καὶ ἀγέννητος δηλαδή. This was, of course, the thesis of the Platonists. Now, God alone is «unbegotten» and immortal, and it is for that very reason that He is Divine. The world, on the other hand, is «begotten,» and the souls make part of it. «Perhaps, there was a time when they were not in existence.» And therefore they are not immortal, «since the world has appeared to us to be begotten.» The soul is not life by itself, but only «partakes» of life. God alone is life, the soul can but have life. «For the power to live is not an attribute of the soul, as it is of God.» Moreover, God gives life to souls, «as He pleases.» All created things «have the nature of decay, and are such as may be blotted out and cease to exist.» Creatures as such are «corruptible» (Dial., 5 and 6). The main classical proofs of immortality, derived from Phaedo and Phaedrus, are disavowed and declined, and their basic presuppositions openly rejected. As Professor A. E. Taylor pointed out, «to the Greek mind ἀϑανασία or ἀϕθαρσία regularly signified much the same things as ‘divinity’ and included the conception of ingenerability as well as of indestructibility.»302 To say «the soul is immortal» would be for a Greek the same as to say «it is uncreated,» i.e., eternal and «divine.» Everything that had a beginning was bound to have an end. In other words, for a Greek, «immortality» of the soul would immediately imply its «eternity,» i.e., an eternal «pre-existence.» Only that which had no beginning could last for ever. Christians could not comply with this «philosophical» assumption, as they believed in Creation, and therefore they had to deny «immortality» (in the Greek meaning of the word). The soul is not an independent or self-governing being, but precisely a creature, and its very existence it owes to God, the Creator. Accordingly, it cannot be «immortal» by nature, i.e. by itself, but only by «God’s pleasure,» i.e. by grace. The «philosophical» argument for (natural) «immortality» was based on the «necessity» of existence. On the contrary, to say that the world is created is to emphasize, first of all, its radical contingency, and precisely – a contingency in the order of existence. In other words, a created world is a world which might not have existed at all. That is to say that the world is, utterly and entirely, ab alio, and in no sense a se.303 As Gilson puts it, «there are some beings that are radically different from God at least in this that, unlike Him, they might not have existed, and still may, at a certain time, cease to exist.»304 "May cease« however, does not mean necessarily »will (actually) cease.» St. Justin was not a «conditionalist,» and his name has been invoked by the defenders of a «conditional immortality» quite in vain. «I do not say, indeed, that all souls die…» The whole argument was polemical, and its purpose was to stress belief in Creation. We find the same reasoning in other writings of the second century. St. Theophilus of Antioch insisted on the «neutral» character of Man. «By nature,» Man is neither «immortal» nor «mortal,» but rather «capable of both,» δεκτικὸν ἀμϕοτέρων. «For if God had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God.» If Man from the beginning had chosen things immortal, in obedience to God’s commandments, he would have been rewarded with immortality and have become God, «an adoptive God,» deus assumptus, Θεὸς ἀναδειχϑεὶς (Ad Autolycum II, 24 and 27). Tatian went even further. «The soul is not in itself immortal, О Greeks, but mortal. Yet it is possible for it not to die» (Oratio ad Graecos, 13). The thought of the early Apologists was not free from contradictions, nor was it always accurately expressed. But the main contention was always clear: the problem of human immortality had to be faced in the context of the doctrine of Creation. One may say also: not as a metaphysical problem only, but as a religious one, first of all. «Immortality» is not an attribute of the soul, but something that ultimately depends upon man’s actual relationship with God, his Master and Creator. Not only the ultimate destiny of Man can be achieved only in Communion with God, but even Man’s existence itself and his «survival» or endurance depend upon God’s will. St. Irenaeus continued the same tradition. In his struggle against the Gnostics he had a special motive to emphasize the creaturely character of the soul. It does not come from «another world,» exempt from corruption; it belongs precisely to this created world. It has been contended, says St. Irenaeus, that in order to stay in existence souls had to be «"unbegotten» (sed oportere eas aut innascibiles esse ut sint immortales), for otherwise they would have to die with the body (vel si generationis initium acceperint, cum corpore mori). He declines this argument. As creatures, the souls «endure as long as God wills them to endure» (perseverant autem quoadusque eas Deus et esse, et perseverare voluerit). Perseverantia here obviously corresponds to the Greek: διαμονή. St. Irenaeus uses almost the same phrases as St. Justin. The soul is not life by itself; it partakes of life, by the grant of God (sic et апіта quidem non est vita, participatur autem a Deo sibi praestitam vitam). God alone is Life and the only Giver of Life (Adversus haereses, II, 34.). Even Clement of Alexandria, in spite of his Platonism, would occasionally recall that the soul was not immortal «by nature» (Adumbrationes in 1 Petri 1:9: hinc apparet quoniam non est naturaliter anima incorruptibilis, sed gartia Dei… perficitur incorruptibilis).305 St. Athanasius would demonstrate the immortality of the soul by arguments which can be traced back to Plato (Adv. Gentes, 33), and yet he insisted very strongly that everything created is «by nature» unstable and exposed to destruction (ibidem, 41: ϕύσιν ρευστὴν οὗσαν καὶ διαλυομένην). Even St. Augustine was aware of the necessity to qualify the immortality of the soul: Anima hominis immortalis est secundum quendam modum suum; non enim omni modo sicut Deus (Epist. VFF, ad Hieronymum). «According to the mutability of this life, it may be said to be mortal.» (In Jo., tr. 23, 9; cf. De Trinitate, I.9.15, and De Civ. Dei, 19.3: mortalis in quantum mutabilis). St. John of Damascus says that even Angels are immortal not by nature, but only by grace (De fide orth. II,3: oὐ ϕύσει ἀλλὰ χάριτι), and proves it more or less in the same way as the Apologists (Dial. c. Manich., 21). We find the same emphatic statement in the «synodical» letter of St. Sophronius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem (634), which was read and favorably received at the Sixth Ecumenical Council (681). In the latter part of his letter Sophronius condemns the errors of the Origenists, the pre-existence of the soul and apokatastasis, and states plainly that «intellectual beings» (τὰ νοητά), though they do not die (θνήσκει δὲ οὐδαμῶς), nevertheless «are not immortal by nature» but only by the grace of God (Mansi, XI, 490–492; Migne, LXXXVII. 3, 3181). It may be added that even in the XVIIth century this early tradition was not forgotten in the East, and we have an interesting contemporary record of a dispute between two Greek bishops of Crete exactly on this question: whether the soul was immortal «by nature» or «by grace.»306 We may conclude: When we discuss the problem of Immortality from a Christian point of view, we must keep in mind the creaturely nature of the soul. The very existence of the soul is contingent, i.e., as it were, «conditional.» It is conditioned by the creative fiat of God. Yet, a given existence, i.e., an existence which is not necessarily implied in the «essence,» is not necessarily a transient one. The creative fiat is a free but ultimate act of God. God has created the world simply for existence: ἔκτισε γὰρ εἰς τὸ εἶναι τὰ πάντα (Wis. 1:14). There is no provision for revoking this creative decree. The sting of the antinomy is exactly here: the world has a contingent beginning, yet no end. It stands by the immutable will of God.307
III. Man Is Mortal
In current thinking nowadays, the «immortality of the soul» is usually overemphasized to such an extent that the basic «mortality of man» is almost overlooked. Only in the recent «existentialist» philosophies are we again strongly reminded that man’s existence stands intrinsically sub specie mortis. Death is a catastrophe for man. It is his «last (or rather, ultimate) enemy» ἔσχατος ἐχϑρὸς (1Cor. 15:26). «Immortality» is obviously a negative term; it is correlative with the term «death.» And here again we find Christianity in an open and radical conflict with «Hellenism,» with Platonism first of all. W. H. V. Reade, in his recent book, The Christian Challenge to Philosophy,308 very aptly confronts two quotations: «And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us» (John 1:14) and «Plotinus, the philosopher of our time, was like one ashamed of being in the flesh (Porphyry, Life of Plotinus, I). Reade then proceeds: «When the message of Christmas Day and Porphyry’s brief summary of his master’s creed are thus brought into direct comparison, it should be plain enough that they are totally incompatible: that no Christian can possibly be a Platonist, nor any Platonist a Christian; and of this elementary fact the Platonists, to do them justice, were perfectly aware.»309 I would only add that, unfortunately, Christians did not seem to be aware «of this elementary fact.» Through centuries, down to our own age, Platonism has been the favorite philosophy of Christian wise men. It is not our purpose now to explain how it could and did happen. But this unfortunate misunderstanding (not to say more) has resulted in an utter confusion in modern thinking about death and immortality. We may still use the old definition of death: it is a separation of soul from body, ψυχῆς χωρισμὸς ἀπὸ σώματος (Nemesius, De natura hominis, 2; he quotes Chrysippus). For a Greek it was a liberation, a «return» to the native sphere of spirits. For a Christian it was the catastrophe, a frustration of human existence. The Greek doctrine of Immortality could never solve the Christian problem. The only adequate solution has been offered by the message of Christ’s Resurrection and by the promise of the General Resurrection of the dead. If we turn again to Christian antiquity, we find this point clearly made at an early date. St. Justin was quite emphatic on the point. People «who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven are not Christian at all» (Dial., 80). The unknown author of the treatise On Resurrection (traditionally ascribed to St. Justin) states the problem very accurately. «For what is man but a reasonable animal composed of body and soul? Is the soul by itself man? No, but the soul of man. Would the body be called man? No, but it is called the body of man. If neither of these is by itself man, but that which is made up of the two together is called man, and God has called man to life and resurrection, He has called not a part, but the whole, which is the soul and the body» (De resurr., 8). Athenagoras of Athens develops the same argument in his admirable treatise On the Resurrection of the Dead. Man was created by God for a definite purpose, for perpetual existence. Now, «God gave independent being and life neither to the nature of the soul by itself, nor to the nature of the body separately, but rather to men, composed of soul and body, so that with these same parts of which they are composed, when they are born and live, they should attain after the termination of this life their common end; soul and body compose in man one living entity.» There would no longer be a man, Athenagoras argues, if the completeness of this structure were broken, for then the identity of the individual would be broken also. The stability of the body, its continuity in its proper nature, must correspond to the immortality of the soul. «The entity which receives intellect and reason is man, and not the soul alone. Consequently man must for ever remain composed of soul and tody.» Otherwise there would be no man, but only parts of man. «And this is impossible, if there is no resurrection. For if there is no resurrection, the nature of men as men would not continue» (15). The basic presupposition of the whole argument is that the body intrinsically belongs to the fullness of human existence. And therefore man, as man, would cease to exist, if the soul had to remain for ever «disembodied.» It is precisely the opposite of what the Platonists contended. The Greeks dreamt rather of a complete and ultimate disincarnation. An embodiment was just the bondage of the soul. For Christians, on the other hand, death was not a normal end of human existence. Man’s death is abnormal, is a failure. The death of man is «the wages of sin» (Rom. 6:23). It is a loss and corruption. And since the Fall the mystery of life is displaced by the mystery of death. Mysterious as the «union» of soul and body indeed is, the immediate consciousness of man witnesses to the organic wholeness of his psycho-physical structure. Anima autem et spiritus pars hominis esse possunt, homo autem nequaquam, said St. Irenaeus (Adv. haereses V, 6.1). A body without a soul is but a corpse, and a soul without body is a ghost. Man is not a ghost without body, and corpse is not a part of man. Man is not a «bodiless demon,» simply confined in the prison of the body. That is why the «separation» of soul and body is the death of man himself, the discontinuation of his existence, of his existence as a man. Consequently death and the corruption of the body are a sort of fading away of the «image of God» in man. A dead man is not fully human. St. John of Damascus, in one of his glorious anthems in the Burial Service, says of this: «I weep and I lament, when I contemplate death, and see our beauty, fashioned after the image of God, lying in the grave disfigured, dishonored, bereft of form.» St. John speaks not of man’s body, but of man himself. «Our beauty in the image of God» is not the body, but man. He is indeed an «"image of the unfathomable glory of God,» even when «wounded by sin.» And in death it is disclosed that man, this «reasonable statue» fashioned by God, – to use the phrase of St. Methodius (De resurrectione I, 34.4: τὸ ἄγαλμα τὸ λογικόν), is but a corpse. «Man is but dry bones, a stench and the food of worms.»310 One may speak of man as being «one hypostasis in two natures,» and not only of, but precisely in two natures. And in death this one human hypostasis is broken up. And there is no man any more. And therefore man longs for «the redemption of his body» (Rom. 8:23: τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν του σώματος ἡμῶν). As St. Paul says elsewhere, «not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed, that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life» (2Cor. 5:4). The sting of death is precisely in that it is «the wages of sin,» i.e., the consequence of a distorted relationship with God. It is not only a natural imperfection, nor is it just a metaphysical deadlock. Man’s mortality reflects man’s estrangement from God, Who is the only Giver of Life. And, in this estrangement tom God, Man simply cannot «endure» as man, cannot stay fully human. The status of mortality is essentially «subhuman.» To stress human mortality does not mean to offer a «naturalistic» interpretation of human tragedy, but, on the contrary, it means to trace the human predicament to its ultimate religious root. The strength of Patristic theology was precisely in its interest in human mortality, and accordingly in the message of the Resurrection. The misery of sinful existence was by no means underestimated, but it was interpreted not only in ethical or moral categories, but in theological ones. The burden of sin consisted not only in self-accusations of human conscience, not only in the consciousness of guilt, but in an utter disintegration of the whole fabric of human nature. The fallen man was no man any more, he was existentially «degraded.» And the sign of this «degradation» was Man’s mortality, Man’s death. In separation from God human nature becomes unsettled, goes out of tune, as it were. The very structure of man becomes unstable. The «union» of the soul and the body becomes insecure. The soul loses its vital power, is no more able to quicken the body. The body is turned into the tomb and prison of the soul. And physical death becomes inevitable. The body and the soul are no longer, as it were, secured or adjusted to each other. The transgression of the Divine commandment «reinstated man in the state of nature,» as St. Athanasius puts it, – εἰς τὸ κατὰ ϕύσιν ἐπέστρεψεν. «That as he was made out of nothing, so also in his very existence he suffered in due time corruption, according to all justice.» For, being made out of nothing, the creature also exists over an abyss of nothingness, ever ready to fall into it (De incarnatione, 4 and 5). «For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again» (2 Samuel 14:14). «The state of nature,» of which St. Athanasius speaks, is the cyclical motion of Cosmos, in which fallen man is hopelessly entangled, and this entanglement signifies man’s degradation. He loses his privileged position in the order of Creation. But this metaphysical catastrophe is just a manifestation of the broken relationship with God.
III. «I am the Resurrection, and the Life»
The Incarnation of the Word was an absolute manifestation of God. And above all it was a revelation of Life. Christ is the Word of Life, ὁ λόγος της ζωῆς (1 John 1:1). The Incarnation itself was, in a sense, the quickening of man, as it were the resurrection of human nature. In the Incarnation human nature was not merely anointed with a superabundant overflowing of Grace, but was assumed into an intimate and «hypostatical» unity with Divinity itself. In that lifting up of human nature into an everlasting communion with the Divine Life, the Fathers of the early Church unanimously saw the very essence of salvation: «That is saved which is united with God,» says St. Gregory of Nazianzus. And what was not so united could not be saved at all (Epist. 101, ad Cledonium). This was the fundamental motive in the whole of early theology, – in St. Irenaeus, St. Athanasius, the Cappadocians, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Maximus the Confessor. Yet, the climax of the Incarnate Life was the Cross, the death of the Incarnate Lord. Life has been revealed in full through death. This is the paradoxical mystery of the Christian faith: life through death, life from the grave and out of the grave, the Mystery of the life-bearing grave. And Christians are born again to real and everlasting life only through their baptismal death and burial in Christ; they are regenerated with Christ in the baptismal font (cf. Rom. 6:3–5). Such is the invariable law of true life. «That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die» (1Cor. 15:36). Salvation was completed on Golgotha, not on Tabor, and the Cross of Jesus was spoken of even on Tabor (cf. Luke 9:31). Christ had to die, in order to bestow an abundant life upon the whole of mankind. It was not the necessity of this world. This was, as it were, the necessity of Love Divine, a necessity of a Divine order. And we fail to comprehend the mystery. Why had the true life to be revealed through the death of One, Who was Himself «the Resurrection and the Life»? The only answer is that Salvation had to be a victory over death and man’s mortality. The ultimate enemy of man was precisely death. Redemption was not just the forgiveness of sins, nor was it man’s reconciliation with God. It was the deliverance from sin and death. «Penitence does not deliver from the state of nature (into which man has relapsed through sin), it only discontinues the sin,» says St. Athanasius. For man not only sinned but «fell into corruption.» Now, the mercy of God could not permit «that creatures once made rational, and having partaken of the Word, should go to ruin and turn again to non-existence by the way of corruption.» Consequently the Word of God descended and became man, assumed our body, «that, whereas man turned towards corruption, He might turn them again towards incorruption, and quicken them from death by the appropriation of his body and by the grace of the Resurrection, banishing death from them like a straw from the fire» (De incarnatione, 6–8). Thus, according to St. Athanasius, the Word became flesh in order to abolish «corruption» in human nature. However, death is vanquished, not by the appearance of Life in the mortal body, but rather by the voluntary death of the Incarnate Life. The Word became incarnate on account of death in flesh, St. Athanasius emphasizes. «In order to accept death He had a body» (c. 44). Or, to quote Tertullian, forma moriendi causa nascendi est (De carne Christi, 6). The ultimate reason for Christ’s death must be seen in the mortality of Man. Christ suffered death, but passed through it and overcame mortality and corruption. He quickened death itself. «By death He destroyed death.» The death of Christ is therefore, as it were, an extension of the Incarnation. The death on the Cross was effective, not as the death of an Innocent One, but as the death of the Incarnate Lord. «We needed an Incarnate God, God put to death, that we might live,» to use a bold and startling phrase of St. Gregory of Nazianzus (Orat. 45, in S. Pascha, 28: ἐδεήϑημεν ϑεοῦ σαρκομένου καὶ νεκρουμένου). It was not a man that died on the Cross. In Christ there is no human hypostasis. His personality was Divine, yet incarnate. «For He who suffered was not common man, but God made man, and fighting the contest of endurance,» says St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech. 13, 6). It may be properly said that God died on the Cross, but in His own humanity (which was, however, «consubstantial» with ours). This was the voluntary death of One Who was Himself Life Eternal. A human death indeed, death «according to humanity,» and yet death within the hypostasis of the Word, of the Incarnate Word. And thence a resurrecting death. «I have a baptism to be baptized with» (Luke 12:50). It was the death on the Cross, and the shedding of blood, – «the baptism of martyrdom and blood, with which Christ Himself also was baptized,» as St. Gregory of Nazianzus suggested (Orat. 37, 17). The death on the Cross as a baptism of blood, this is the very essence of the redeeming mystery of the Cross. Baptism is a cleansing. And the Baptism of the Cross was, as it were, the cleansing of the human nature, which was travelling the path of restoration in the Hypostasis of the Incarnate Word. This was, as it were, a washing of human nature in the outpoured sacrificial blood of the Divine Lamb, and first of all a washing of the body: not only a washing away of sins, but a washing away of human infirmities and of mortality itself. It was the cleansing in preparation for the coming resurrection: a cleansing of all human nature, a cleansing of all humanity in the person of its new and mystical First-born, in the «Last Adam.» This was the baptism by blood of the whole Church, and indeed of the whole world. «A purification not for a small part of man’s world, not for a short time, but for the whole Universe and through eternity,» to quote St. Gregory of Nazianzus once more (Orat. 45, 13). The Lord died on the Cross. This was a true death. Yet not wholly like ours, simply because this was the death of the Incarnate Word, death within the indivisible Hypostasis of the Word made man, the death of the «enhypostatized» humanity. This does not alter the ontological character of death, but changes its meaning. The «Hypostatic Union» was not broken or destroyed by death, and therefore the soul and the body, though separated from each other, remained still united through the Divinity of the Word, from which neither was ever estranged. This was an «incorrupt death,» and therefore «corruption» and «mortality» were overcome in it, and in it begins the resurrection. The very death of the Incarnate reveals the resurrection of human nature (St. John of Damascus, De fide orth., 3.27; cf. homil. in Magn. Sabbat., 29). «Today we keep the feast, for our Lord is nailed upon the Cross,» in the sharp phrase of St. John Chrysostom (In crucem et latronem, hom. 1). The death on the Cross is a victory over death not only because it was followed by the Resurrection. It is itself the victory. The Resurrection only reveals and sets forth the victory achieved on the Cross. It is already accomplished in the very falling asleep of the God-man. «Thou diest and quickenest me.» …As St. Gregory of Nazianzus puts it: «He lays down His life, but He has the power to take it again; and the veil is rent, for the mysterious doors of Heaven are opened; the rocks are cleft, the dead arise… He dies, but He gives life, and by His death destroys death. He is buried, but He rises again. He goes down into Hades, but He brings up the souls» (Orat. 41). This mystery of the resurrecting Cross is commemorated especially on Good Saturday. It is the day of the Descent into Hell (Hades). And the Descent into Hades is already the Resurrection of the dead. By the very fact of His death Christ joins the company of the departed. It is the new extension of the Incarnation. Hades is just the darkness and shadow of death, rather a place of mortal anguish than a place of penal torments, a dark «sheol,» a place of hopeless disembodiment and disincarnation, which was only scantily and dimly fore-illuminated by the slanting rays of the not-yet-risen Sun, by the hope and expectation yet unfulfilled. It was, as it were, a kind of ontological infirmity of the soul, which, in the separation of death, had lost the faculty of being the true entelechia of its own body, – the helplessness of fallen and wounded nature. Not a «place» at all, but rather a spiritual state: «the spirits in prison» (1 Peter 3:19). It was into this prison, into this «Hell,» that the Lord and Savior descended. Amid the darkness of pale death shone the unquenchable light of Life, the Life Divine. The «Descent into Hell» is the manifestation of Life amid the hopelessness of mortal dissolution, it is victory over death. «It was not from any natural weakness of the Word that dwelt in it that the body had died, but in order that in it death might be done away by the power of the Savior,» says St. Athanasius (De inc., 26). Good Saturday is more than Easter-Eve. It is the «Blessed Sabbath,» «Sanctum Sabbatum,» – requies Sabbati magni,» in the phrase of St. Ambrose. «This is the Blessed Sabbath, this is the day of rest, whereon the Only-Begotten Son of God has rested from all His deeds» (Anthem, Vespers of Good Saturday, according to the Eastern rite). «I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead: and behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen. And I have the keys of death and of Hades» (Rev. 1:17–18). The Christian «hope of immortality» is rooted in and secured by this victory of Christ, and not by any «natural» endowment. And it means also that this hope is rooted in a historical event, i.e., in a historical self-revelation of God, and not in any static disposition or constitution of human nature.
IV. The Last Adam
The reality of death is not yet abolished, but its powerlessness has been revealed. «It is true, we still die as before,» says St. John Chrysostom, «but we do not remain in death, and this is not to die… the power and very reality of death is just this, that a dead man has no possibility of returning to life; but if after death he is to be quickened and moreover to be given a better life, then this is no longer death, but a falling sleep» (In Hebr., hom. 17, 2: οὐ ϑάνατος τουτό ἐστιν, ἀλλὰ κοίμησις). Or in the phrase of St. Athanasius, «like seed cast on the earth, we do not perish when we die, but having been sown, we rise’’ (De inc., 21). This was a healing and renewal of human «nature,» and therefore all will rise, all will be raised and restored to the fullness of their natural being, yet transformed. From henceforth every disembodiment is but temporary. The dark vale of Hades is abolished by the power of the life-giving Cross. In the first Adam the inherent potentiality of death by disobedience was disclosed and actualized. In the second Adam the potentiality of immortality by purity and obedience was sublimated and actualized into the impossibility of death. This parallel was drawn already by St. Irenaeus. Apart from the hope of the General Resurrection, belief in Christ would be vain and to no purpose. «But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruit of them that slept» (1Cor. 15:20). The Resurrection of Christ is а new beginning. It is a "new creation,» ἡ καινὴ κτίσις. One may say even, an eschatological beginning, an ultimate step in the history of Salvation.311 And yet, we have to make a clear distinction between the healing of nature and the healing of the will. «Nature» is healed and restored with a certain compulsion, by the mighty power of God’s omnipotent and invincible grace. The wholeness is as it were, «forced» upon human nature. For in Christ all human nature (the «seed of Adam») is fully and completely cured from unwholeness and mortality. This restoration will be actualized and revealed to its full extent in due time, in the General Resurrection, in the Resurrection of all, both of the righteous and the wicked. And no one, so far as nature is concerned, can escape Christ’s kingly rule, or alienate himself from the invincible power of resurrection. But the will of man cannot be cured in the same invincible manner. The will of man must turn itself to God. There must be a free and spontaneous response of love and adoration, a «free conversion.» The will of man can be cured only in the «mystery of freedom.» Only by this free effort does man enter into that new and eternal life which is revealed in Christ Jesus. A spiritual regeneration can be wrought only in perfect freedom, in an obedience of love, by a self-consecration and self-dedication to God, in Christ. This distinction was made with great insistence by Nicolas Cabasilas in his remarkable treatise on The Life in Christ. Resurrection is a «rectification of nature» (ἡ ἀνάστασις ϕύσεώς ἐστιν ἐπανόρϑωσις) and this God grants freely. But the Kingdom of Heaven, and the beatific vision, and union with Christ, presuppose the desire (τροϕή ἐστιν της θελήσεως), and therefore are available only for those who have longed for them, and loved, and desired. And immortality will be given to all, just as all can enjoy Divine providence. It does not depend upon our will whether we shall rise after death or not, just as it is not by our will that we are born. The death and resurrection of Christ bring immortality and incorruption to all in the same manner, because all have the same nature as the Man Christ Jesus. But nobody can be compelled to desire. Thus Resurrection is a gift common to all, but the blessedness will be given only to some (De vita in Christo II, 86–96). And again, the path of life is the path of renunciation, of mortification, of self-sacrifice and self-oblation. One has to die to oneself in order to live in Christ. Each one must personally and freely associate himself with Christ, the Lord, the Savior, and the Redeemer, in the confession of faith, in the choice of love, in the mystical oath of allegiance. He who does not die with Christ cannot live with Him. «Unless of our own free choice we accept to die unto His passion, His life is not in us» (St. Ignatius, Magnes., 5; the phraseology is Pauline). This is no mere ascetical or moral rule, no mere discipline. This is the ontological law of spiritual existence, even the law of life itself. For only in communion with God and through life in Christ does the restoration of human wholeness gain meaning. To those in total darkness, who have deliberately confined themselves «outside God,» the Resurrection itself must seem rather unnecessary and unmotivated. But it will come, as a «resurrection to judgement» (John 5:29 ἀνάστασις της κρίσεως). And in this will be completed the tragedy of human freedom. Here indeed we are on the threshold of the inconceivable and incomprehensible. The apokatastasis of nature does not abolish free will, and the will must be moved from within by love. St. Gregory of Nyssa had a clear understanding of this. He anticipated a kind of universal conversion of souls in the after-life, when the Truth of God will be revealed and manifested with some ultimate and compelling evidence. Just at this point the limitations of the Hellenistic mind are obvious. Evidence seemed to it to be the decisive reason or motive for the will, as if «sin» were merely «ignorance.» The Hellenistic mind had to pass through its long and hard experience of asceticism, of ascetical self-examination and self-control, in order to free itself from this intellectualistic naïveté and illusion, and discover a dark abyss in the fallen soul. Only in St. Maximus, after some centuries of ascetic preparation, do we find a new, remodeled and deepened interpretation of the apokatastasis. St. Maximus did not believe in the inevitable conversion of obstinate souls. He taught an apokatastasis of nature, i.e., a restitution of all beings to an integrity of nature, of a universal manifestation of the Divine Life, which will be evident to every one. But those who have deliberately spent their lives on earth in fleshly desires, «against nature,» will be unable to enjoy this eternal bliss. The Light is the Word, that illuminates the natural minds of the faithful; but as a burning fire of the judgement (τη καύσει της κρίσεως), He punishes those who, through love of the flesh, cling to the nocturnal darkness of this life. The distinction is between an ἐπίγνωσις and a μέθεξις. «Acknowledgment» is not the same as «Participation.» God will be in all indeed, but only in the Saints will He be present «with grace» (διὰ τὴν χάριν); in the reprobate He will be present «without grace» (παρὰ τὴν χάριν). And the wicked will be estranged from God by their lack of a resolute purpose of good.312 We have here the same duality of nature and will. In the resurrection the whole of creation will be restored, i.e., brought to perfection and ultimate stability. But sin and evil are rooted in the will. The Hellenistic mind concluded therefrom that evil is unstable and by itself must disappear inevitably. For nothing can be perpetual, unless it be rooted in a Divine decree. The Christian inference is exactly the opposite. There is the inertia and obstinacy of the will, and this obstinacy may remain uncured even in the «universal Restoration.» God never does any violence to man, and communion with God cannot be forced upon the obstinate. In the phrase of St. Maximus, «the Spirit does not produce an undesired resolve but it transforms the chosen purpose into theosis» (Quaest. ad Thalass., 6). We live in a changed world: it has been changed by Christ’s redeeming Resurrection. Life has been given, and it will prevail. The Incarnate Lord is in very truth the Second Adam and in Him the new humanity has been inaugurated. Not only an ultimate «survival» is assured, but also the fulfillment of God’s creative purpose. Man is made «immortal.» He cannot commit an ultimate «metaphysical suicide» and strike himself out of existence. Yet even the victory of Christ does not force «Eternal Life» upon the «closed» beings. As St. Augustine says, for the creature «being is not the same thing as living» (De Genesi ad litt. I, 5).
V. «And Life Everlasting»
There is an inevitable tension in the Christian conception between «the given» and «the expected». Christians look «for the Life of the world to come» but they are no less aware of the Life that had already come: »for the Life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal Life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us» (1 John 1:2). This is not only a tension in time, – between the past, and the present, and the future. It is a tension between destiny and decision. Or perhaps one may say: Life Eternal is offered to Man, but he has to receive it. For individuals, fulfillment of «destiny» depends upon the «decision of faith,» which is not an «acknowledgement» only, but a willing «participation.» The Christian life is initiated with a new birth, by water and Spirit. And first, «repentance» is required, ἡ μετάνοια, an inner change, intimate and resolute. The symbolism of Holy Baptism is complex and manifold. But above all it is a symbolism of death and resurrection, of Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3–4). It is a sacramental resurrection with Christ, by the participation in His death, a rising up with Him and in Him to a new and eternal life (Col. 2:12; Phil. 3:10). Christians are corresurrected with Christ precisely through burial: «for if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him» (2Tim. 2:11). Christ is the Second Adam, but men must be born anew and be incorporated into Him, in order to partake of that new life which is His. St. Paul spoke of a «likeness» unto the death of Christ (Rom. 6:5 σύμϕυτοι… τω ὁμοιώματι του ϑανάτου αὐτοῦ). But this «likeness» means much more than a resemblance. It is more than a mere sign or recollection. The meaning of this likeness for St. Paul himself was that in each of us Christ can and must be «formed» (Gal. 4:19). Christ is the Head, all believers are His members, and His life is actualized in them. This is the mystery of the Whole Christ, – totus Christus, Caput et Corpus. All are called and every one is capable of believing, and of being quickened by faith and baptism so as to live in Him. Baptism is therefore a «regeneration,» an ἀναγέννησις, a new, spiritual and charismatic birth. As Cabasilas says, Baptism is the cause of a beatific life in Christ, not merely of life (De vita in Christo II, 95). St. Cyril of Jerusalem in a lucid manner explains the true reality of all baptismal symbolism. It is true, he says, that in the baptismal font we die (and are buried) only «in imitation,» only, as it were, «symbolically,» διὰ συμϐόλου, and we do not rise from a real grave. And yet, «if the imitation is in an image, the salvation is in very truth.» For Christ was really crucified and buried, and actually rose from the grave. The Greek word is ὄντως. It is even stronger than simply ἀληϑῶς, «in very truth.» It emphasizes the ultimate meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection. It was a new achievement. Hence He gave us the chance, by «imitative» sharing of His Passion (τη μιμήσει… κοινωνήσαντες), to acquire salvation «in reality.» It is not only an «imitation,» but a «similitude,» τὸ ὁμοίωμα. «"Christ was crucified and buried in reality, but to you it is given to be crucified, buried, and raised with Him in similitude.» In other words, in baptism man descends «sacramentally» into the darkness of death, and yet with the Risen Lord he rises again and crosses over from death to life. «And the image is completed all upon you, for you are an image of Christ,» concludes St. Cyril. In other words, all are held together by and in Christ; hence the very possibility of a sacramental «resemblance» (Mystag. 2.4–5, 7; 3.1). St. Gregory of Nyssa dwells on the same point. There are two aspects in baptism. Baptism is a birth and a death. Natural birth is the beginning of a mortal existence, which begins and ends in corruption. Another, a new birth, had to be discovered, which would initiate into everlasting life. In baptism «the presence of a Divine power transforms what is born with a corruptible nature into a state of incorruption» (Orat. cat., 33). It is transformed through following and imitating; and thus what was foreshown by the Lord is realized. Only by following after Christ can one pass through the labyrinth of life and come out of it. «For I call the inescapable guard of death, in which sorrowing mankind is imprisoned, a labyrinth.» Christ escaped from this after the three days of death. In the baptismal font «the imitation of all that He has done is accomplished.» Death is «represented» in the element of water. And as Christ rose again to life, so also the newly-baptized, united with Him in bodily nature, «does imitate the resurrection on the third day.» This is just an «imitation,» μίμησις, and not «identity.» In baptism man is not actually raised, but only freed from natural evil and the inescapability of death. In him the «continuity of vice» is cut off. He is not resurrected for he does not die, but remains still in this life. Baptism only foreshadows the resurrection; in baptism one anticipates the grace of the final resurrection. Baptism is the start, ἀρχή, and the resurrection is the end and consummation, πέρας; and all that takes place in the great Resurrection already has its beginnings and causes in baptism. One may say, baptism is an «Homiomatic resurrection» (Orat. cat., 35). It must be pointed out that St. Gregory specially emphasized the need of keeping and holding fast the baptismal grace. For in baptism it is not nature only, but the will as well, that is transformed and transfigured, remaining free throughout. And if the soul is not cleansed and purified in the free exercise of will, baptism proves to be fruitless. The transfiguration is not actualized, the new life is not yet consummated. This does not subordinate baptismal grace to human license; Grace does indeed descend. Yet it can never be forced upon any one who is free and made in the image of God: it must be responded to and corroborated by the synergism of love and will. Grace does not quicken and enliven the closed and obstinate souls, the really «dead souls.» Response and cooperation are required (c. 40). That is just because baptism is sacramental dying with Christ, a participation in His voluntary death, in His sacrificial Love; and this can be accomplished only in freedom. Thus in baptism the death of Christ on the Cross is reflected or portrayed as in a living and sacramental image. Baptism is at once a death and a birth, a burial and a «bath of regeneration,» λουτρὴν της παλιγγενεσίας: «a time of death and a time of birth,» to quote St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Mystag. II, 4). The same is true of all sacraments. All sacraments are instituted just in order to enable the faithful «to participate» in Christ’s redeeming death and to gain thereby the grace of His resurrection. In sacraments the uniqueness and universality of Christ’s victory and sacrifice are brought forward and emphasized. This was the main idea of Nicolas Cabasilas in his treatise On the Life in Christ, in which the whole sacramental doctrine of the Eastern Church was admirably summarized. «We are baptized just in order to die by His death and to rise by His resurrection. We are anointed with the chrism that we may partake of His kingly anointment of deification (theosis). And when we are fed with the most sacred Bread and do drink the most Divine Cup, we do partake of the same flesh and the same blood our Lord has assumed, and so we are united with Him, Who was for us incarnate, and died, and rose again… Baptism is a birth, and Chrism is the cause of acts and movements, and the Bread of life and the Cup of thanksgivings are the true food and the true drink» (De vita II, 3, 4, 6, etc.). In the whole sacramental life of the Church the Cross and the Resurrection are «imitated» and reflected in manifold symbols. All that symbolism is realistic. The symbols do not merely remind us of something in the past, something which has passed away. That which took place «in the past» was a beginning of «the Everlasting.» Under all these sacred «symbols,» and in them, the ultimate Reality is in very truth disclosed and conveyed. This hieratic symbolism culminates in the august Mystery of the Holy Altar. The Eucharist is the heart of the Church, the Sacrament of Redemption in an eminent sense. It is more than an «imitation,» or mere «commemoration.» It is Reality itself, at once veiled and disclosed in the Sacrament. It is «the perfect and ultimate Sacrament» (τὸ τελευταῖον μυστήριον), as Cabasilas says, «and one cannot go further, and there is nothing to be added.» It is the «limit of life,» ζωῆς τὸ πέρας.» After the Eucharist there is nothing more to long for, but we have to stay here and learn how we can preserve this treasure up to the end» (De vita IV, i, 4, 15). The Eucharist is the Last Supper itself, enacted, as it were, again and again, and yet not repeated. For every new celebration does not only «represent,» but truly is the same «Mystical Supper» which was celebrated for the first time (and for ever) by the Divine High Priest Himself, as a voluntary anticipation and initiation of the Sacrifice of the Cross. And the true Celebrant of each Eucharist is always Christ Himself. St. John Chrysostom was quite emphatic on this point. «Believe, therefore, that even now it is that Supper, at which He Himself sat down. For this one is in no respect different from that one» (In Matt., hom. 50, 3). «He that then did these things at that Supper, this same now also works them. We hold the rank of ministers. He who sanctifieth and changeth them is the Same. This table is the same as that, and hath nothing less. For it is not that Christ wrought that, and man this, but He doth this too. This is that Upper Chamber, where they were then» (Ibid., hom. 82, 5). All this is of primary importance. The Last Supper was an offering of the sacrifice, of the sacrifice of the Cross. The offering is still continued. Christ is still acting as the High Priest in His Church. The Mystery is all the same, and the Priest is the same, and the Table is one. To quote Cabasilas once more: «In offering and sacrificing Himself once for all, He did not cease from His Priesthood, but He exercises this perpetual ministry for us, in which He is our advocate with God for ever» (Explan. div. liturg., c.23). And the resurrecting power and significance of Christ’s death are in the Eucharist made manifest in full. It is «the medicine of immortality and an antidote that we should not die but live for ever in Jesus Christ,» to quote the famous phrase of St. Ignatius (Ephes., 20.2: ϕάρμακον ἀϑανασίας, ἀντίδωτος του μη ἀποϑανεῖν, ἀλλὰ ζῆν ἐν Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ). It is «the heavenly Bread and the Cup of life.» This tremendous Sacrament is for the faithful the very «Betrothal of the Life Eternal,» just because Christ’s death itself was the Victory and the Resurrection. In the Eucharist the beginning and the end are linked together: the memories of the Gospel and the prophecies of the Revelation. It is a sacramentum futuri because it is an anamnesis of the Cross. The Eucharist is a sacramental anticipation, a foretaste of the Resurrection, an «image of the Resurrection» (ὁ τύπος της ἀναστάσεως, – the phrase is from the consecration prayer of St. Basil). It is but an «image,» not because it is a mere sign, but because the history of Salvation is still going on, and one has to look forward, «to look for the life of the age to come."
Christians, as Christians, are not committed to any philosophical doctrine of immortality. But they are committed to the belief in the General Resurrection. Man is a creature. His very existence is the grant of God. His very existence is contingent. He exists by the grace of God. But God created Man for existence, i.e., for an eternal destiny. This destiny can be achieved and consummated only in communion with God. A broken communion frustrates human existence, and yet Man does not cease to exist. Man’s death and mortality is the sign of the broken communion, the sign of Man’s isolation, of his estrangement from the source and the goal of his existence. And yet the creative fiat continues to operate. In the Incarnation communion is restored. Life is manifested afresh in the shadow of death. The Incarnate is the Life and the Resurrection. The Incarnate is the Conqueror of death and Hades. And He is the First-fruit of the New Creation, the First-fruit of all those who slept. The physical death of men is not just an irrelevant «natural phenomenon,» but rather an ominous sign of the original tragedy. An «immortality» of disembodied «souls» would not solve the human problem. And «immortality» in a Godless world, an «immortality» without God or «outside God,» would be an eternal doom. Christians, as Christians, aspire to something greater than a «natural» immortality. They aspire to an everlasting communion with God, or, to use the startling phrase of the early Fathers, to a theosis. There is nothing «naturalistic» or pantheistic about the term. Theosis means no more than an intimate communion of human persons with the Living God. To be with God means to dwell in Him and to share His perfection. «Then the Son of God became the son of man, that man also might become the son of God» (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. III, 10.2). In Him man is forever united with God. In Him we have Life Eternal. «But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord» (2Cor. 3:18). And, at the close, for the whole creation the «Blessed Sabbath,» the very «Day of rest,» the mysterious «Seventh day of creation,» will be inaugurated, in the General Resurrection and in «the World to come.»
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() "Cur Deus Homo? The Motive of the Incarnation» appeared in Evharisterion: Hamilcar Alivisatos (Athens, 1957), 70–79. Reprinted by permission. The translations from Latin were done by Raymond German Ciuba; those from Greek, by Stephen N. Scott.
Epist. 101, ad Cledonium (M., P.G., 37, col. 118).
Bishop B. F. Westcott, «The Gospel of Creation,» in The Epistles of St. John, The Greek Text with notes and essays, Third Edition. (Macmillan, 1892), p. 288.
Rupertus Tuitensis, De Gloria et honore Filii hominis super Matthaeum, lib. 13, (M., P.L., 148, col. 1628): «Here it is first proper to ask whether or not the Son of God, Whom this discourse concerns, would have become man, even if sin, on account of which all die, had not intervened. There is no doubt that He would not have become mortal and assumed a mortal body if sin had not occurred and caused man to become mortal; only an infidel could be ignorant as to this. The question is: would this have occurred, and would it somehow have been necessary for mankind that God become man, the Head and King of all, as He now is? What will be the answer?» Rupert then quotes from St. Augustine about the eternal predestination of the saints (De Civitate Dei, 14. 23.) and continues: «Since, with regard to the saints and all the elect there is no doubt but that they will all be found, up to the number appointed in God’s plan, about which He says in blessing, before sin, ‘Increase and multiply,’ and it is absurd to think that sin was necessary in order to obtain that number, what must be thought about the very Head and King of all the elect, angels and men, but that He had indeed no necessary cause for becoming man, but that His love’s delights were to be with the children of men.’[Proverbs 8:31]» Cf. also De Glorificatione Trinitatis, lib. 3. 20 (M., P.L., 169, col. 72): «Therefore, we say quite probably, not so much that man [was made] to make up the number of the angels [i.e., for those who had fallen], but that both angels and men were made because of one man, Jesus Christ, so that, as He Himself was begotten God from God, and was to be found a man, He would have a family prepared on both sides… From the beginning, before God made anything, it was in His plan that the Word [Logos] of God, God the Word [Logos], would be made flesh, and dwell among men with great love and the deepest humility, which are His true delights.» (Allusion again to Proverbs 8:31).
Honorius of Autun, Libellus octo quaestionum de angelis et homine, cap. 2 (M., V.L., 172, col. 72): «And therefore the first man’s sin was not the cause of Christ’s Incarnation; rather, it was the cause of death and damnation. The cause of Christ’s Incarnation was the predestination of human deification. It was indeed predestined by God from all eternity that man would be deified, for the Lord said, ‘Father, Thou hast loved them⃰ before the creation of the world,’ [cf. John 17:24] those, that is, who are deified through Me… It was necessary, therefore, for Him to become incarnate, so that man could be deified, and thus it does not follow that sin was the cause of His Incarnation, but it follows all the more logically that sin could not alter God’s plan for deifying man; since in fact both the authority of Sacred Scripture and clear reason declare that God would have assumed man even had man never sinned. [⃰ S. Script., Jn. 17:24, reads ‘me’ for ‘them’."]
Alexander Halensis, Summa theologica, ed. ad. Claras Aquas, dist. 3, qu. 3, m. 3; Albertus Magnus, In 3, 1. Sententiarum, dist. 20, art. 4, ed. Borgnet, t. 28, 361: «On this question it must be said that the solution is uncertain, but insofar as I can express an opinion, I believe that the Son of God would have been made man, even if sin had never been.»
Duns Scotus, Opus Oxoniense, 3, dist. 19, ed. Wadding, t. 7, p. 415. Cf. Reportata Parisiensia, lib. 3, dist. 7, qu. 4, schol. 2, ed. Wadding, t. 11.1, p. 451. «I say, nevertheless, that the Fall is not the cause of Christ’s predestination. Indeed, even if one angel had not fallen, or one man, Christ would still have been predestined thus – even if others had not been created, but only Christ. This I demonstrate thus: anyone who wills methodically first wills an end, and then more immediately, those things which are more immediate to the end. But God wills most methodically; therefore, He wills thus: first He wills Himself, and everything intrinsic to Himself; more directly, so far as concerns things extrinsic, is the soul of Christ. Therefore, in relation to whatever merit and before whatever demerit was foreseen, He foresees that Christ must be united to Him in a substantial union… The disposition and predestination is first complete concerning the elect, and then something is done concerning the reprobate, as a secondary act, lest anyone rejoice as if the loss of another was a reward for himself; therefore, before the foreseen Fall, and before any demerit, the whole process concerning Christ was foreseen… Therefore, I say thus: first, God loves Himself; second, He loves Himself by others, and this love of His is pure; third, He wills that He be loved by another, one who can love Him to the highest degree (in speaking about the love of someone extrinsic); fourth, He foresees the union of that nature which ought to love Him to the highest degree, although none had fallen [i.e., even if no one had fallen] … and, therefore, in the fifth instance, He sees a coming mediator who will suffer and redeem His people; He would not have come as a mediator, to suffer and to redeem, unless someone had first sinned, unless the glory of the flesh had become swelled with pride, unless something needed to be redeemed; otherwise, He would have immediately been the whole Christ glorified.» The same reasoning is in the Opus Oxoniense, dist. 7, qu. 3, scholium 3, Wadding 202. See P. Raymond, «Duns Scot,» in Dictionnaire de la Théologie Catholique, t.4, col. 1890–1891, and his article, «Le Motif de l’Incarnation: Duns Scot et l’École scotiste,» in Études Franciscaines (1912); also R. Geeberg, Die Theologie des Johannes Duns Scotus (Leipzig, 1900), s. 250.
Summa theol., 3a, qu. 1, art. 3; in 3 Sentent., dist. 1, qu. 1, art. 3.
Bonaventura, in 3 Sentent., dist. 1, qu.2, ed. Lugduni (1668), pp. 10–12.
Cf. A. Michelé, «Incarnation,» in Dictionnaire de la Théologie Catholique, t. 7, col. 1495 ss. John Wessel, De causis Incarnationis, lib. 2, c. 7, quoted by G. Ullman, Die Reformatoren vor der Reformation, Bd. 2 (Gotha, 1866), s. 398 ff. On Naclantus see Westcott, op. cit., p. 312 ff. Andreas Osiander, An Filius Dei fuit incarnatus, si peccatum non intervenisset in mundum? Item de imagine Dei quid sit? Ex certis et evidentibus S. Scripturae testimoniis et non ex philosophicis et humanae rationis cogitationibus derompta explicatio (Monte Regia Prussiae, 1550); see I. A. Dorner, Entwicklungsgeschichte der Lehre von der Person Christi, 2 Aufl. (1853), Bd. 2, s. 438 ff. and 584; Otto Ritschl, Dogmengeschichte des Protestantismus, Bd. 2 (Leipzig, 1912), s. 462. Osiander was vigorously criticized by Calvin, Institutio, lib. 2, cap. 12, 4–7, ed. Tholuck, 1, s. 304–309.
See for instance the long discussion in «Dogmata Theologica» of L. Thomassin (1619–1695) in tomus 3, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, 2, cap 5 to 11, ed. nova (Parisiis, 1866), pp. 189–249. Thomassin dismisses the Scotist theory as just a «hallucination,» contradicted openly by the evidence of Scripture and the teaching of the Fathers. He gives a long list of Patristic passages, mainly from St. Augustine. Bellarmin (1542–1621) dismisses this idea in one phrase: «For if Adam had remained in that innocence wherein he had been created, doubtless the Son of God would not have suffered; He probably would not even have assumed human flesh, as even Calvin himself teaches»; De Christo, lib. 5, cap. 10, editio prima Romana (Romae, 1832), t. 1, p. 432. Petavius (1583–1652) was little interested in the controversy: «This question is widely and very contentiously disputed in the schools, but, being removed from the controversy, we will explain it in a few words.» There is no evidence for this conception in Tradition, and Petavius gives some few quotations to the opposite effect. «Opus de Theologicis Dogmatibus,» tomus 4, De Incarnatione, lib. 2, cap. 17, 7–12, ed. (Venetiis, 1757), pp. 95–96. On the Protestant side see a brief discussion in John Gerhard, Loci Theologici, Locus Quartus, «De Persona et Officio Christi,» cap. 7, with valuable references to the earlier literature and an interesting set of Patristic quotations; ed. Sd. Preuss (Berolini, 1863), t. 1, pp. 513–514, and a longer one in J. A. Quenstedt, Theologia Didactico – Polemica, sive Systema Theologicum (Wittebergae, 1961), Pars 3 & 4, Pars 3, Cap. 3, Membrum 1, Sectio 1, Quaestio 1, pp. 108–116. On the other hand, Suarez (1548–1617) advocated a reconciliatory view in which both conflicting opinions could be kept together. See his comments on Summa, 3a, Disput. 4, sectio 12, and the whole Disp. 5a, Opera Omnia, ed. Berton (Parisiis, I860), pp. 186–266.
François de Sales, Traité de l’amour de Dieu, livre 2, ch. 4 and 5, in Oeuvres, édition complète, t. 4 (Annecy, 1894), pp. 99ss. and 102ss. Malebranche, Entretiens sur la Métaphysique et sur la Religion, édition critique par Armand Cuvillier (Paris, 1948), tome 2, Entretien 9, 6, p. 14: «Oui assurement l’Incarnation du Verbe est le premier et le principal des desseins de Dieu; c’est ce qui justifie sa conduite»; Traité de la Nature et de la Grâce (Rotterdam, 1712), Discours 1, 1, p. 2. Seconde Éclaircissement, p. 302ss.; Réflexions sur la Prémotion Physique (Paris, 1715), p. 300: «Il suit évidemment, ce me semble, de ce que je viens de dire, que le premier et le principal dessein de Dieu dans la création, est l’Incarnation du Verbe: puisque Jesus Christ est le premier en toutes choses… et qu’ainsi, quand l’homme n’aurait point péché, le Verbe se serait incarné»; cf. p. 211 and passim. See for further information: J. Vidgrain, Le Christianisme dans la philosophie de Maleranche (Paris, 1923), pp. 99ss. and 112ss; H. Gouhier, La Philosophie de Malebranche et son Expérience Religieuse (Paris, 1926), p. 22ss.; J. Maydieu, «La Création du Monde et l’Incarnation du Verbe dans la Philosophie de Malebranche,» in Bulletin de Littérature Ecclésiastique (Toulouse, 1935). It is of interest to mention that Leibniz also regarded the Incarnation as an absolute purpose in creation; see quotations from his unpublished papers in J. Baruzi, Leibniz et l’Organization religieuse de la Terre (Paris, 1907), pp. 273–274.
The Scotist point of view has been presented by a Franciscan, Father Chrysostome, in his two books: Christus Alpha et Omega, seu de Christi universali regno (Lille, 1910, published without the name of the author) and Le Motif de l’Incarnation et les principaux thomistes contemporains (Tours, 1921). The latter was a reply to the critics in which he assembled an impressive array of Patristic texts. The Thomist point of view was taken by Father E. Hogon, Le Mystère de l’Incarnation (Paris, 1913), p. 63ss., and Father Paul Galtier, S. J. De Incarnatione et Redemptione (Parisiis, 1926): see also Father Hilair de Paris, Cur Deus Homo? Dissertario de motivo Incarnationis (Lyons, 1867) [includes an analysis of Patristic texts from the Thomist point of view]. Cf. also the introduction in the book of Dr. Aloysius Spindler, Cur Verbum, caro factum? Das Motiv der Menschwerdung und das Verhältnis der Erlösung zur Menschwerdung in den christologischen Glaubenskämpfen des vierten und fünten christlichen Jahrhunderts (Paderborn, 1938) ["Forschungen zur christlichen Literatur – und Dogmengeschichte,» hsgg. von A. Ehrhard und Dr. J. P. Kirsch, Bd. 18, 2 Heft].
See note 1 above.
Fr. Sergii Bulgakov, Agnets Bozhii (Paris, 1933), p. 191 ff. (in Russian). French translation, Du Verbe Incarné (Paris, 1943).
Dr. Spindler was the only student of the problem using the proper historical method in handling the texts.
Cf. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Liturgie Cosmique: Maxime le Confesseur (Paris, Aubier, 1947), pp. 204–205; Father Balthasar quotes Qu. ad Talass. 60 and adds that St. Maximus would have taken the Scotist side in the scholastic controversy, yet with an important qualification: «Maxime de reste est totalement étranger au postulat de ce débat scholastique qui imagine la possibilité d’un autre ordre du monde sans péché et totalement irréel. Pour lui la ‘volonté préexistante’ de Dieu est identique au monde des ‘idées’ et des ‘possibles’: l’ordre des essences et l’ordre des faits coincident en ce point suprème» (in the German edition, Kosmische Liturgie, s. 267–268). See also Dom Polycarp Sherwood, O.S.B., «The Earlier Ambigua of Saint Maximus the Confessor» in Studia Anselmiana (Romae, 1955), fasc. 36, ch. 4, pp. 155ff.
The best exposition of the theology of St. Maximus is by S. L. Epifanovich, St. Maximus the Confessor and Byzantine Theology (Kiev, 1915; in Russian); cf. also the chapter on St. Maximus in my book, The Byzantine Fathers (Paris, 1933), pp. 200–227 (in Russian). In addition to the book of Father von Balthasar, quoted above, one may consult with profit the «Introduction» of Dom Polycarp Sherwood to his translation of The Four Centuries on Charity of St. Maximus, Ancient Christian Writers, No. 21 (London and Westminster, Md., 1955). See also Lars Thunberg, Microcosm and Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor (Lund, 1965).
See the definition of «theologoumena» by Bolotov, Thesen über das «Filioque,» first published without the name of the author («von einem russischen Theologen») in Revue Internationale de Théologie, No. 24 (Oct.-Dec., 1898), p. 682: «Man kann fragen, was ich unter Theologoumenon verstehe? Seinem Wesen nach ist es auch eine theologische Meinung, aber eine theologische Meinung derer, welche für einen jeden ‘Katholiken’ mehr bedeuten als gewöhnliche Theologen; es sind die theologische Meinungen der hl. Väter der einen ungeteilten Kirche; es sind die Meinungen der Männer, unter denen auch die mit Recht hoi didaskaloi tês oikoumenes genannten sich befinden.» No «theologoumenon» can claim more than «probability,» and no «theologoumenon» should be accepted if it has been clearly disavowed by an authoritative or «dogmatic» pronouncement of the Church.
() «The Ever-Virgin Mother of God» originally appeared in The Mother of God, edited by E.L. Mascall (London: Dacre Press, 1949), pp. 51–63. Reprinted by permission.
() «The Sacrament of Pentecost» originally appeared in The Journal of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, No. 23 (London, 1934), 29–35. Reprinted by permission of the author. «Consensus Ecclesiae» appeared in No. 24 of the same.
() «On the Veneration of the Saints» originally appeared in the Journal of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius (No. 2). Reprinted by permission.
() «Holy Ikons» originally appeared as an editorial in St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 2. No. 3 (Spring, 1954), 3–5. Reprinted by permission of the author.
() «The ‘Immortality’ of the Soul first appeared as «The Resurrection of Life» in the Bulletin of Harvard University Divinity School, XLIX, No. 8 (April, 1952), 5–26. Reprinted by permission of the author.
L’Esprit de la Philosophie Médiévale (2 ed., Paris, 1944), p. 179.
Agape and Eros: The History of the Christian Idea of Love (London, 1938), II:1, pp. 64 ff.
The author is usually identified as Joseph (or John) Pitts, but nothing is known about the man. The name is given in old catalogues (e.g., of the British Museum, etc.) and bibliographies. The book-titles are too long to be given here in full. Both books were published in 1706. Dodwell defended his position in a book: A Preliminary Defence of the Epistolary Discourse, Concerning the Distinction between Soul and Spirit (London, 1707). Dodwell’s starting point seems to be St. Irenaeus; s. Dissertation es in Irenaeum, auctore Henrico Dodwello, A.M., etc., Oxoniae, 1689, p. 469 ff. – I am dealing with the whole controversy in another essay of mine, The problem of Man in English theology and philosophy of the XVIIth century, to be published shortly.
Gilson, 179, n. I.
A. E. Taylor, Plato: The man and his work, p. 176; cf. J. Lebreton, Histoire du Dogme de la Trinité, t. II (Paris, 1928), p. 635 ff.
Cf. my article: «The Idea of Creation in Christian Philosophy,» The Eastern Churches Quarterly, VIII, Supplementary issue: Nature and Grace, 1949; s. also Gilson, op. cit., Ch. IV: «Les êtres et leur contingence,» p. 63 ff.
Gilson, God and Philosophy, 1941, p. 52.
It may be argued, however, that the translation (by Cassiodorus) is not reliable.
The record of the disputation between Athanasius Caravella, Bishop of Hiera, and Neophytus Patellarius, Metropolitan of Crete, with the participation of Panagiotis Nicousius, the famous dragoman of Porta, who was instrumental in the publication of the «Orthodox Confession» of Peter Moghila in Holland and of the Acts of the Synod of Jerusalem in 1672, was published by Archimandrite Arsenius (Ivascenko). «Description of a Manuscript, once in the Library of the Monastery of Mount Sinai,» Khristianskoe Chtenie, 1884, July – August, pp. 181–229.
This point was very well worked out by Hermann Schultz in his valuable book: Die Voraussetzungen der christlichen Lehre von der Unsterblichkeit (Göttingen, 1861).
London: S.P.C.K., 1951.
Op. cit., ρ. 70. In the Eastern rite John 1:1–17 is the lesson for Easter, and not for Christmas (as in the West).
The Order for the Burial of the Dead, in Hapgood, Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church, etc., Revised edition (New York, Association Press, 1922), pp. 386, 389–390.
The word καινὸς in the New Testament use does not mean only anything new, but rather something final, «that belongs to the final consummation.» The word seems to have throughout an eschatological accent. Cf. Behm’ article sub voce, in Kittel’s Wörterbuch, III, 451 ff.
St. Maximus, Quaest. ad Thalassium, qu. 39, sch. 3; Capit. quinquies cent. II. 39. Urs von Balthasar, Kosmische Liturgie: Maximus der Bekenner (Freiburg i/Br., 1941), 367 ff. (or French edition, Paris, 1947, pp. 265 ff.). Unfortunately, Balthasar’s interpretation is, at least, incomplete.