Georges Florovsky: St Athanasius on the Incarnation of the Logos Friday, May 2 2014 

FlorovskySt. Athanasius writes that the Logos [Word] became man, similar to us in all respects.

[…]  By virtue of its union with the Logos, “because of the Logos, which was in a body,” the body was freed from its weakness and subjection to decay.

[…] The Logos was not bound by the body but freed the body from its limitedness and its inclination to sin.

By the strength of the unchanging Logos, the mutable human nature in Christ became immutably good, and all delusions were powerless over it.

“The works proper to the Logos were achieved through the body.” The flesh was deified by serving the works of God, and the humanity in Christ was without sin.

The Lord “became our brother through the likeness of the body,” and his flesh “was saved and liberated before the others.”

Since we “share in his body,” we also are saved, and our life is renewed “because our flesh is no longer earthly but has been made identical with the Logos by the Divine Logos himself, who became flesh for our sakes.”

[…] St. Athanasius clearly emphasizes both the unity of Christ the God-Man and his unmerging two natures. Christ has a divine nature by, which he is consubstantial with the Father and also a human nature by, which he is similar and related to us.

For this reason he is the Saviour, the Logos, and the Second Adam all at once. The Logos became man so that we could “become divine,” “in order to deify us in himself.”

Deification is adoption by God, and “human sons have become the sons of God.” We are “received by the Logos and are deified through his flesh” by virtue of the Incarnation.

Born from the Virgin, the Logos was not united with only one man, but with the whole of human nature. Therefore, everything that was achieved in the human nature of Christ is immediately extended to all men because they have a body in common with him.

There is no coercion involved here. Men are more than similar to Christ — they are truly participants in the human nature of the Logos.

Christ is a vine and we are the branches, “united with him by our humanity.” In the same way that the tendrils, which grow from a grapevine are consubstantial with it, so are our bodies consubstantial with the body of the Lord, and we receive what he has accomplished.

His body is the “root of our resurrection and salvation.” Everyone is renewed, anointed, healed, and exalted in Christ, for “he has taken everyone on himself.”

Georges Florovsky (1893-1979; Eastern Orthodox): “St Athanasius” in The Byzantine Fathers of the Fifth Century.

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Georges Florovsky: Gregory of Nyssa on the Appearance of God to Moses on Mount Sinai Friday, Jan 10 2014 

FlorovskyJanuary 10th is the feast of St Gregory of Nyssa (OrthooxWiki here; Pope Benedixt XVI here and here; Georges Florovsky here).

Gregory sees an example of the mystical ascent to God in the figure of Moses the Lawgiver and in the appearance of God on Mount Sinai.

The people were ordered to purify themselves, and the mountain was covered with a cloud and illuminated by fire.

“By the power of God alone and without any other implement the air formed itself into individual words. These words were not only distinct, but they proclaimed the divine commandments.”

The people were afraid to ascend the mountain to listen, and only Moses entered the cloud.

He himself became invisible when he penetrated the ineffable mystery of the Divinity and was in communion with the Invisible One.”

The appearance of God begins with light, and Moses had once seen God in His radiance in the Burning Bush. Now, having become closer to perfection, he saw God in a cloud and, sheltered by a cloud, he participated in eternal life.

In Gregory’s interpretation the first steps away from the path of error are light. A closer examination of that which is hidden leads into a cloud, which replaces visible things.

Finally the soul enters the innermost sanctuary of the knowledge of God “which is enveloped on all sides by the divine cloud. Everything that can be seen and comprehended remains outside, and all that is left for the vision of the soul is that which is invisible and incomprehensible. In this cloud is God.”

The Divinity is “beyond the reach of the understanding.” As man ascends, the “inaccessible nature of Divinity” gradually becomes revealed to him and reason sees God in “the invisible and incomprehensible,” in “a radiant cloud.”

Even when it reaches this cloud the soul realizes that it is as far from perfection as if it had never set out. According to Gregory, it is exactly this that is the highest truth of all.

Our true knowledge is that we do not and cannot know because that which we seek is beyond our cognition. By its very nature the Divinity is higher than knowledge and comprehension.

The first principle of theology must be that God is inaccessible. That which can be contemplated cannot be conceptually expressed.

Whoever claims that God can be known merely shows that he has abandoned the One Who truly exists in favor of something which exists only in the imagination and which does not contain true life, for this life cannot be expressed by concepts.

Georges Florovsky (1893-1979; Eastern Orthodox): “St Gregory of Nyssa” in The Eastern Fathers of the Fourth Century.

Georges Florovsky: The Incarnation is the Quickening of Man, the Resurrection of Human Nature Monday, Jan 6 2014 

Florovsky“The Word became flesh:” in this is the ultimate joy of the Christian faith. In this is the fullness of Revelation. The Same Incarnate Lord is both perfect God and perfect man.

The full significance and the ultimate purpose of human existence is revealed and realized in and through the Incarnation.

He came down from Heaven to redeem the earth, to unite man with God for ever. “And became man.” The new age has been initiated. We count now the “anni Domini!”

As St. Irenaeus wrote: “the Son of God became the Son of Man, that man also might become the son of God.”

Not only is the original fullness of human nature restored or re-established in the Incarnation. Not only does human nature return to its once lost communion with God.

The Incarnation is also the new Revelation, the new and further step. The first Adam was a living soul. But the last Adam is the Lord from Heaven (1 Cor. 15:47).

And in the Incarnation of the Word human nature was not merely anointed with a superabundant overflowing of Grace, but was assumed into an intimate and hypostatical unity with the 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, the basis of the whole redeeming work of Christ.

“That is saved which is united with God,” says St. Gregory of Nazianzus. And what was not united could not be saved at all.

[…] This was the fundamental motive in the whole of early theology, in St. Irenaeus, St. Athanasius, the Cappadocian Fathers, St. Cyril of Alexandria, and St. Maximus the Confessor.

The whole history of Christological dogma was determined by this fundamental conception: the Incarnation of the Word as Redemption.

In the Incarnation human history is completed. God’s eternal will is accomplished, “the mystery from eternity hidden and to angels unknown.”

The days of expectation are over. The Promised and the Expected has come. And from henceforth, to use the phrase of St. Paul, the life of man “is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

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…, “and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 John 1:1-2).

The Incarnation is the quickening of man, as it were, the resurrection of human nature. But the climax of the Gospel is the Cross, the death of the Incarnate.

Georges Florovsky (1893-1979; Eastern Orthodox): “Incarnation and Redemption” in Theological Articles of Fr George Florovsky, vol. 3.

Georges Florovsky: Ignatius of Antioch – “Jesus Christ is the Original Documents” Thursday, Oct 17 2013 

FlorovskyOctober 17th is the feast of St Ignatius of Antioch

There is a tendency among some scholars to assume that if something is not mentioned in a text, the author had no knowledge of it. This is a fundamentally erroneous presupposition and hence an erroneous methodology.

The assumption of this methodological approach or perspective misses the prime reality — a living Church was already in existence since Pentecost and that living Church knew the deposit about, which they preached, knew the tradition, which they had received and continued to impart in their missionary activity.

Again, the statement by Karl Adam is significant: “Even if the Bible [the New Testament] did not exist, a Christian religious movement would be conceivable.” Indeed, not only conceivable but it actually existed without the New Testament as we know it for decades.

And during that time, the Apostolic and Sub-Apostolic Church flourished with and in the fullness of faith. St. Ignatius is an excellent example of this precisely because his seven occasional letters were written so early and especially because of what he has to say about the “documents,” “the archives.”

In his Letter to the Philadelphians, St. Ignatius writes: “When I heard some people saying, ‘If I do not find it in the original documents, I do not believe it.’” Here, the essence of the dispute was that the Old Testament, the Bible for the early Christians in its Greek Septuagint version, was the reference point of validity.

The New Testament is not the criterion, precisely because it was still in process in the days of the early Church and it was certainly not used as a canonical authority in the earlier days of the life of St. Ignatius.

It is the reality of the living Church, which gives rise to the New Testament and it is the Church, which determines the “canon” of the New Testament — there were numerous writings circulating, which claimed apostolic authorship and it was the Church, which determined, which of those were authentic.

St. Ignatius then makes a statement, which confirms how the early Church understood its reality, its faith, its tradition, its authority: “To my mind it is Jesus Christ who is the original documents. The inviolable archives are his Cross and Death and his Resurrection and the faith that came by him.”

St. Ignatius needs no written “documents,” needs no written “archives.” The historical, existential, and ontological reality of the God-Man Jesus Christ and his redemptive work is the truth of the faith — he is oral “document” of the living God.

He knows of this through the tradition, through that which was delivered, through the deposit, which was preserved and handed down in its original purity of content and fullness.

Georges Florovsky (1893-1979; Eastern Orthodox): “The Earliest Christian Writers” in The Byzantine Fathers of the Fifth Century.

Georges Florovsky: Within the Church, through an Acquisition of the Spirit in the Fellowship of Sacraments, the Ascension Continues…Until the Measure is Full Tuesday, May 14 2013 

FlorovskyThe revelation of the Holy Trinity was completed. Now the Spirit Comforter is poured forth on all flesh.

“Hence comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of what is hidden, distribution of good gifts, the heavenly citizenship, a place in the chorus of angels, joy without end, abiding in God, the being made like to God, and, highest of all, ,the being made God!” (St Basil, On the Holy Spirit, IX).

Beginning with the Apostles, and through communion with them – by an unbroken succession – Grace is spread to all believers. Through renewal and glorification in the Ascended Christ, man’s nature became receptive of the Spirit. “And unto the world He gives quickening forces through His human body,” says Bishop Theophanes.

“He holds it completely in Himself and penetrates it with His strength, out of Himself; and He likewise draws the angels to Himself through the spirit of man, giving them space for action and thus making them blessed.”

All this is done through the Church, which is “the Body of Christ;” that is, His “fullness” (Ephesians 1:23). “The Church is the fulfillment of Christ,” continues Bishop Theophanes, “perhaps in the same way as the tree is the fulfillment of the seed. That which is contained in the seed in a contracted form receives its development in the tree.”

The very existence of the Church is the fruit of the Ascension. It is in the Church that man’s nature is truly ascended to the Divine heights. “And gave Him to be Head over all things” (Ephesians 1:22).

St John Chrysostom comments: “Amazing! Look again, whither He has raised the Church. As though He were lifting it up by some engine, He has raised it up to a vast height, and set it on yonder throne; for where the Head is, there is the body also.

“There is no interval of separation between the Head and the body; for were there a separation, then would the one no longer be a body, nor would the other any longer be a Head.”

The whole race of men is to follow Christ, even in His ultimate exaltation, “to follow in His train.” Within the Church, through an acquisition of the Spirit in the fellowship of Sacraments, the Ascension continues still, and will continue until the measure is full.

“Only then shall the Head be filled up, when the body is rendered perfect, when we are knit together and united,” concludes St John Chrysostom. The Ascension is a sign and token of the Second Coming. “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Georges Florovsky (1893-1979; Eastern Orthodox): And Ascended Into Heaven…; originally published in St Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 2 # 3, 1954; full text @ Mystagogy.

Georges Florovsky: The Victory of Christ is Wrought in Us by the Power of the Holy Spirit Friday, May 10 2013 

FlorovskyTerror-stricken and trembling stand the angelic hosts, contemplating the Ascension of Christ.

[…] The Office for the Feast of the Ascension depicts the mystery in a poetical language. As on the day of Christ’s Nativity the earth was astonished on beholding God in the flesh, so now the Heavens do tremble and cry out.

“The Lord of Hosts, Who reigns over all, Who is Himself the head of all, Who is preeminent in all things, Who has reinstated creation in its former order – He is the King of Glory.”

And the heavenly doors are opened: “Open, Oh heavenly gates, and receive God in the flesh.” It is an open allusion to Psalms 24:7-10, now prophetically interpreted.

“Lift up your heads, Oh ye gates, and be lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty….”

St Chrysostom says, “Now the angels have received that for which they have long waited, the archangels see that for which they have long thirsted.

“They have seen our nature shining on the King’s throne, glistening with glory and eternal beauty…. Therefore they descend in order to see the unusual and marvelous vision: Man appearing in heaven.”

The Ascension is the token of Pentecost, the sign of its coming, “The Lord has ascended to heaven and will send the Comforter to the world”.

For the Holy Spirit was not yet in the world, until Jesus was glorified. And the Lord Himself told the disciples, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you” (John 16:7).

The gifts of the Spirit are “gifts of reconciliation,” a seal of an accomplished salvation and of the ultimate reunion of the world with God. And this was accomplished only in the Ascension.

“And one saw miracles follow miracles,” says St John Chrysostom, “ten days prior to this our nature ascended to the King’s throne, while today the Holy Ghost has descended on to our nature.”

The joy of the Ascension lies in the promise of the Spirit. “Thou didst give joy to Thy disciples by a promise of the Holy Spirit.” The victory of Christ is wrought in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“On high is His body, here below with us is His Spirit. And so we have His token on high, that is His body, which He received from us, and here below we have His Spirit with us.

“Heaven received the Holy Body, and the earth accepted the Holy Spirit. Christ came and sent the Spirit. He ascended, and with Him our body ascended also” (St John Chrysostom).

Georges Florovsky (1893-1979; Eastern Orthodox): And Ascended Into Heaven…; originally published in St Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 2 # 3, 1954; full text @ Mystagogy.

Georges Florovsky: He Raises the Very Earth with Him to Heaven Wednesday, May 8 2013 

FlorovskyHe arose in a body of glory, immortal and incorruptible. He arose, never to die, for “He clothed the mortal in the splendor of incorruption.” His glorified Body was already exempt from the fleshly order of existence.

“It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (I Cor. 15:42-44).

This mysterious transformation of human bodies, of which St Paul was speaking in the case of our Lord, had been accomplished in three days. Christ’s work on earth was accomplished. He had suffered, was dead and buried, and now rose to a higher mode of existence.

By His Resurrection He abolished and destroyed death, abolished the law of corruption, “and raised with Himself the whole race of Adam.” Christ has risen, and now “no dead are left in the grave” (cf. The Easter Sermon of St John Chrysostom).

And now He ascends to the Father, yet He does not “go away,” but abides with the faithful for ever (cf. The Kontakion of Ascension). For He raises the very earth with Him to heaven, and even higher than any heaven.

God’s power, in the phrase of St John Chrysostom, “manifests itself not only in the Resurrection, but in something much stronger.” For “He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19).

And with Christ, man’s nature ascends also. “We who seemed unworthy of the earth, are now raised to heaven,” says St John Chrysostom.

“We who were unworthy of earthly dominion have been raised to the Kingdom on high, have ascended higher than heaven, have came to occupy the King’s throne, and the same nature from which the angels guarded Paradise, stopped not until it ascended to the throne of the Lord.”

By His Ascension the Lord not only opened to man the entrance to heaven, not only appeared before the face of God on our behalf and for our sake, but likewise “transferred man” to the high places. “He honored them He loved by putting them close to the Father.”

God quickened and raised us together with Christ, as St Paul says, “and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephes. 2:6).

Heaven received the inhabitants of the earth. “The First fruits of them that slept” sits now on high, and in Him all creation is summed up and bound together. “The earth rejoices in mystery, and the heavens are filled with joy.”

Georges Florovsky (1893-1979; Eastern Orthodox): And Ascended Into Heaven…; originally published in St Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 2 # 3, 1954; full text @ Mystagogy.