Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Journey To Orthodoxy Continues

Coming into Orthodoxy from classical Western Christianity is a voyage that never ceases to amaze me.  I liken it to peeling of an onion with no end. Layer by layer, new treasures manifest themselves. 

The journey begins with the realization that the very same church that was established in the book of Acts is in fact the Holy Orthodox church.  Here, one comes to understand that Orthodox Bishops, Priest, and Deacons are in the same exact lineage of the Apostles, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp, St. Irenaeus, &c… Moreover,  not only are these persons in the same physical lineage, by that I mean having the a traceable set of hands laid upon them all the way back to the apostles, but that the content of the faith is the same as these early Fathers. 

It is quite an experience to discover that there is only one group of all who call themselves Christians who still believe every word of the original Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, exactly as it was written, and according to the authorial intent of the fathers who penned it. Only the Orthodox have retained the whole unadulterated truth, including the Spirit’s procession from God the Father (Jn. 15: 26  But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.).  This is just the first example of how the church that wrote the creed is the Orthodox Church that still believes it. 

As one meditates on this reality, it becomes apparent that to be part of the original church, we must waive our right to create doctrine according to our own theological conclusions, or even interpret truth on our own. Consequently, the concept of the church's unchanging concilliar mind not only becomes  real, but becomes the one necessary means to preserve truth. After discovering the concilliar mind, many doctrinal riches lost by the west can be rediscovered.

Of first importance is the doctrine of ancestral sin vs. original sin. In Orthodoxy's view of ancestral sin, we find a God who loves mankind with an unending love, rather than an angry God whose honor has been disgraced, sentenced mankind to death, and cannot wait to empty his wrath on mankind.  The doctrine of ancestral sin presents the devil as author of evil, corruption, and death. This devil was created with the freedom to choose, and he fooled mankind into choosing death and alienation from God. Therefore, it is the devil who is the author of death, rather than God, who supposedly planned all of these things from before the foundation of the world.This view supports the fact that the the Trinity has one mind and heart, both the Father and Son love mankind and are not angry with mankind. We also conclude that the Son is not appeasing an angry Father, but carrying out the Father’s will to destroy evil, corruption, and death. Legal satisfaction has no place here.

The next layer of the onion reveals that God's love is so string that he created a one story universe wherein two dimensions merge: where spiritual beings walk and move amongst the physical beings. After the ressurection there are no dead, only differing dimensions. Consequently, the role of the saints and angels take on daily importance in our lives. This truth makes a new kind of communion not only possible, but necessary for our every day existence; An existance where we live united to the heavenly realms.

If this were not enough, in the next layer,we discover that since we no longer need to be saved from God’s anger, the understanding of salvation is altogether different than in the west.  Salvation (Soter) is primarily understood by its Greek meaning- healing. Salvation is the healing of the sick, corrupt, and dead soul. 

Few have presented this better than Heirotheos Vlachos. Below he quotes and comments on the anceint view of the church:

St. Dionysios the Aeropagite sets out three stages of (soter) salvation or healing the soul, as do many other fathers after him. St. Maximus the confessor terms them practical philosophy or purification, Thoria or illumination of the nous, and initiation into the mysteries of theology or the beholding of God. These three are in reality, the purification of the heart, the illumination of the nous, and deification. The purification of the heart is called Praxis; illumination of the nous is called theoria and initiation into the mysteries of theology because, in the state man is initiated into the inexpressible knowledge and becomes a true theologian.

 The purifying order which is for beginners is the struggle for piety is closely connected with repentance; the illuminating order constitutes the first level of dispassion. It distinguishing characteristic is the knowledge of beings or vision of the inner principles of creation and those participation in the Holy Spirit. The mystical or perfecting order is that of those who are mature and made whole, those were actually theologians in the church. These are deified persons commune with the angelic powers and approach the uncreated light of God revealed him to the Spirit.

From “The Illness and Cure of The Soul”.

In short, this last layer of revelation within Orthodoxy exposes the fact that salvation (healing) is nothing less than a three step process that unfolds in the life of a peson.
1-  First is the healing of the mind by the Spirit's purification of our thoughts;
2- Then the illumination of the heart, which  enables the understanding of reality according to God,
3- Then finally, the uniting of the soul to the energies of God, which is deification, the image and likeness of God.


With this understanding, it is unimaginable to think of asking someone, "are you saved?"  Or, to think it good news to say to someone, "God is no longer angry with you".  No, God is busy saving all who will enter into His salvation (healing), and those who enter are busy being saved (healed).

In Orthodoxy we find God's good news to all is that it is possible for a person to be healed in this life and then in life that follows: purified of mind, healed of the soul, and then brought to live in constant communion with God.

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