My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True Lord, God, and Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE DEIFICATION [THEOSIS] AS THE PURPOSE OF MAN’S LIFE
By Archimandrite George, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Saint
Gregorios of Mount Athos.
Aim and means of Christian life
The aim of man’s life is UNION (henosis) with God and deification (theosis). The Greek Holy Fathers have used the term “deification” (“theosis”) to a greater extent than the Latin West. What is meant is not, of course, a pantheistic identity, but a sharing, through grace, in the divine life: “… Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature…” (2 Peter 1:4). This participation takes man within the life of the three Divine Persons themselves, in the incessant circulation and overflowing of love which courses between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and which expresses the very nature of God. Here is the true and eternal bliss of man.
Union with God is the perfect fulfillment of the “Kingdom” announced by the Gospel, and of that charity or love which sums up all the Law and the Prophets. Only in union with the life of the Three Persons is man enabled to love God with his whole heart, soul and mind, and his neighbor as himself. Union between God and Man cannot be achieved without a Mediator, Who is the Logos/Word made Flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ: “I am the Way… no man cometh unto the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). In the Son we become sons, “We are made sons of God” says Saint Athanasius. Incorporation into Christ is the only means to reach our supernatural end.
The Holy Spirit operates and perfects this incorporation. Saint Ireaneus writes: “Through the Spirit one ascends to the Son and through the Son to the Father.” From as early as the first chapter of the Holy Bible, our life’s purpose is revealed, when the holy writer says that God created man “according to His image and likeness”. Thus we ascertain the great love of the Triune God has formed man. He does not want him to be simply a creature with certain gifts (charismata), certain qualities, a certain superiority over the rest of creation, but He wants him to be a god by Grace.
Man outwardly seems to be merely a biological being, like the other living creatures, the animals. Of course, man is an animal, but, as Saint Gregory the Theologian characteristically says, “Man is the only creature that stands apart from all creation, the only one that can become a god” (Homily on the Epiphany).
“According to His image” refers to the gifts (charismata) God gave to man alone unlike all His other creatures, so that he is God’s image. These gifts (charismata) are: A RATIONAL MIND, A CONSCIENCE, FREE WILL (FREEDOM), CREATIVITY, EROS AND A YEARNING FOR THE ABSOLUTE AND FOR GOD, A PERSONA SELF-AWARENESS AND EVERYTHING WHICH MAKES MAN STAND ABOVE THE REST OF THE CREATION OF LIVING CREATURES AND MAKES HIM A PERSON AND A PERSONALITY. In other words, whatever makes man a person are the gifts “according to His image.”
Endowed with “the image”, man is called TO ACQUIRE “THE LIKENESS”, to attain DEIFICATION (THEOSIS). The Creator, God by nature, calls man to become god by Grace. God endowed man with the gifts (charismata) “according to His image”, so he may ASCEND VERY HIGH, so he may acquire with them A LIKENESS TO HIS GOD AND MAKER: to have, not an external, moral relationship with Him, BUT A PERSONAL UNION WITH HIS CREATOR.
Unfortunately, many people outside the Church, as also many within it, are ignorant. They believe that our life’s purpose is, at best, merely our moral improvement, our becoming better people. However, according to the Gospel, the Holy Tradition of the Church and the Holy Fathers, thi is NOT our life’s purpose. Man must not only better himself, become more moral, more just, more chaste, more careful. Of course, all this must happen, but it is NOT the most important purpose, the final purpose, for which our Creator and Maker created man. What is that purpose? Deification (Theosis) – to UNITE MAN WITH GOD, NOT EXTERNALLY OR SENTIMENTALLY BUT TRULY.
Since man is called to be in “God’s likeness”, namely he has been created to become god, then if he is not on the road to deification (theosis), he feels AN EMPTINESS WITHIN HIMSELF, that something is wrong. He does not enjoy true happiness even when he tries to fill the emptiness with other activities. He organizes his life in such a way that he is almost never at peace, never alone with himself. With noise, tension, television, radio, Internet, and other modern technology and information about almost anything, he tries as some do with drugs, to forget, not to think, not to worry, not to remember that he is on the wrong path, that he has strayed far from his purpose.
In the end, however, a miserable contemporary man is not satisfied, until he finds something else, greater, which exists in his life, something truly beautiful and creative. Those who wish to unite with our Lord Christ, with God the Father – through Christ – are aware that this union takes place in Christ’s body, which is our Holy Orthodox Church.
We are not followers of Christ as some men are followers of a philosopher or a teacher. We are members of Christ’s body, of the Church. The Church is the body of Christ, the real, not the moral one, as ome theologians have erroneously theologized. Christ takes us Christians, despite our unworthiness and sinfulness, and embodies us in His body. He renders us members of Himself and we, truly not morally, become members of His body. The holy Apostle Paul says: “We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones” [Ephesians 5:30].
According to the Hoy Fathers, OUR SALVATION would be impossible were it not for the Church’s Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) which embody us in Christ and renders us of the same body and of the same blood as Christ. What a great blessing, to be partakers of the sacred Mysteries (Sacraments)! Christ BECOMES OURS, HIS LIFE OUR LIFE, HIS BLOOD OUR BLOOD. Saint John Chrysostom remarks that God has nothing more to offer man than what He offers at Holy Communion. Nor can man ask from God anything more than what he receives from Christ at Holy Communion.
Thus, BAPTIZED, CHRISMATED, AND HAVING CONFESSED, we partake of the Lord’s body and blood and become gods by Grace. We UNITE WITH GOD, WE ARE NO LONGER STRANGERS, BUT INTIMATES TO HIM. (Source: The Deification as the Purpose of Man’s Life)