John-of-Damascus_01God brought into existence mental [noetic] essence [τὴν νοητὴν οὐσίαν], by which I mean, angels and all the heavenly orders.

For these clearly have a mental and incorporeal nature.

[…] But further He created in the same way sensible essence [την αἰσθητήν], that is, heaven and earth and the intermediate region.

And so He created both the kind of being that is of His own nature (for the nature that has to do with reason is related to God, and apprehensible by mind alone), and the kind which, inasmuch as it clearly falls under the province of the senses, is separated from Him by the greatest interval.

And it was also fit that there should be a mixture of both kinds of being, as a token of still greater wisdom and of the opulence of the Divine expenditure as regards natures…to be a sort of connecting link between the visible and invisible natures.

[…] Now this being the case, He creates with His own hands man of a visible nature and an invisible, after His own image and likeness: on the one hand man’s body He formed of earth, and on the other his reasoning and thinking soul [Ψυχὴν λογικήν] He bestowed upon him by His own inbreathing, and this is what we mean by “after His image.”

For the phrase “after His image” clearly refers to the side of his nature which consists of mind and free will, whereas “after His likeness” means likeness in virtue so far as that is possible.

[…]  God then made man without evil, upright, virtuous, free from pain and care, glorified with every virtue, adorned with all that is good, like a sort of second microcosm within the great world, another angel capable of worship, compound, surveying the visible creation and initiated into the mysteries of the realm of thought.

God made him king over the things of earth, but subject to a higher king, of the earth and of the heaven, temporal and eternal, belonging to the realm of sight and to the realm of thought, midway between greatness and lowliness, spirit and flesh.

For he [man] is spirit by grace, but flesh by overweening pride: spirit that he may abide and glorify his Benefactor, and flesh that he may suffer, and suffering may be admonished and disciplined when he prides himself in his greatness.

Here, that is, in the present life, his life is ordered as an animal’s, but elsewhere, that is, in the age to come, he is changed and—to complete the mystery—becomes deified by merely inclining himself towards God; becoming deified, in the way of participating in the divine glory and not in that of a change into the divine being.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 2, 12 (slightly adapted).

Advertisements