Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Reason for the Season: Theosis

A repost of something I wrote a couple of years ago that can never be repeated enough. Why is the fullness of the incarnation of God becoming flesh important?

Eric Sammons has a fine post about deification ("theosis" in the East) as being the whole point of Christmas.  St. Peter asserts (2 Peter 1:4) that in Jesus Christ, God has enabled us to become "partakers in the divine nature".  That is why God assumed our humanity in Jesus Christ: so that we might come to share in His divinity.  Indeed, through grace via the sacramental life, God makes us sharers in His own divine life.  We receive divine sonship, becoming God's own sons and daughters.  The fullness of salvation will entail being completely united to Him.  Eric writes, quoting from the Catechism:
The Son of God shares in our human nature so that we can share in his divine nature. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, drawing from Scripture and the Catholic Tradition, emphasizes this connection between God becoming man and our being made like God:
The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4): “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939) “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” (St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B) “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4) (CCC 460)
Too often we look at Heaven as just a really great earth: we eat whatever we want, we hang out with whoever we want and we never get sick or hurt. But Heaven is less about what we do and more about what we become. When we enter into Heaven we are transformed into a new creation: while keeping our human nature we participate in the divine nature.
Well said.  As Eric has said, we must not read the wrong idea into this notion of deification. It is not a confusion of humanity and divinity, such as one might find in the Eastern non-Christian religions. It is also not as Mormons might suggest: We do not become beings with our own divine nature or ability. What we become is solely dependent upon the one true God, for the divine life in which we partake is His. I am reminded of one of the sermons of one of my favorite Dominican mystics, Johannes Tauler, who preached:
What God has in himself by nature, that he now imparts to the soul by grace, the divine being, unnamed and without form or manner of existence that we can express.  And now everything that is done in that soul God himself does, acting, knowing, loving, praising, enjoying, all of which the soul has and does as if it were a passive instrument of God's activity.  One can no more speak of this state clearly than he can speak clearly of the divine life itself.  To men and angels it is far too high for expression.
I wish you all a very blessed Christmas season!


Alejandro Valencia said...

Thank you for sharing this, Alan. It is good that I read this. Merry Christmas!

Alexa said...

Hi: I'm a recent reader of your site and thank you for this post, which helped me a great deal. I am in a professional choir in Toronto that sings liturgies and we do traditional gregorian chant as well as renaissance polypony. Check out our YouTube channel to hear some music:


A very Happy Christmas to you!


Related Posts with Thumbnails