, , , , , , ,

By James L. Kelley (read  comment here)

As Fr. John (Romanides)…suggests, outside of Christ—the only true Word or Image of God the Father—there is no place for theology to begin. He is the Second Adam[1] who through his incarnation remade and reconstituted fallen humanity, thereby ending the first Adam’s bondage to death and the devil and clearing the way for his uncreated glory to abide in the purified heart of man. Of course, man must accept actively the glory of God, “stand[ing] before God with the nous in the heart” and continuing “unceasingly day and night, until the end of life.”[2] Each Father of the Orthodox Church speaks in one way or another about this illuminative path, according to which the heart of man is purified from fantasia (passion-tinged thoughts) through a lifelong ascesis[3] aimed at a greater and greater participation in the Taboric[4] glory of the Lord.

Fr. John follows the Orthodox teaching that the first Adam, having been made “in the image of the Image,” was created for nothing less than union with the Godman. Worldly philosophy with its secular anthropology, being unable to deliver man from fantasies, fails to make good on its promise to put man in touch with reality. The glory of secular learning is worldly, and though it can yield a relative good, when asked to bear the weight of salvation, it falls short. Ever-leery of the Augustinian West’s[5] religio-philosophical preoccupations, Fr. John grounds his Christology in the reality (or “realism”) of theosis, or glorification.

 This realism of glory, as we have termed it, should not be confused with the many varieties of philosophical realism presented in Western philosophy.[6] Aside from deification-based Orthodox realism there are countless varieties of religio-philosophical “realism” which present man as an abstract, static being whose existence is bound by unchanging laws of nature, and who may or may not be a poor copy of a Platonic universal. For those in the pseudo-realist camp who choose to believe in them, these Platonic forms actually dwell in the mind of God and are somehow more “real” than anything in the material world by virtue of their immutability and their rationality. The Orthodox realism of glory, by contrast, is based on the biblical and patristic truth that man, having his origin in change (creatio ex nihilo), is not subject to natural laws but instead exists, along with the entire cosmos, as a being-in-motion. Moreover, for the Orthodox, reality does not inhere in concepts or in any Augustino-Platonic beatitude. Rather, for those who believe in the Orthodox realism of glory, reality is not a thing that exists as a given essence or concept, but instead reality is the uncreated glory of God, which is not an intermediary, but is divinity itself. Man attains to greater and greater measures of reality as he ascends more and more into divine glory. Contrariwise, non-existence or unreality is gauged according to man’s movement away from divine glory. This ontological movement of man is either toward the Image/Word by means of His glory, or away from glorification by means of the world’s glory (“the power of the enemy”[7]) into an illusory ontological autonomy.


[1]The biblical/patristic theme of Christ as the Second Adam began with St. Paul: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22 King James Version). Met. Hierotheos (Vlachos) in his study of Orthodox Christology, The Feasts of the Lord (Levadia, Greece 2003), explains the significance of Christ as the Second or New Adam: “It says repeatedly in Holy Scripture that Christ is the new Adam, who became man in order to correct the error of the ancestral Adam. The first Adam in Paradise, although he was still inexperienced, was in a state of illumination of his nous because that in him which was in the image was pure and received the rays of the divine light. But after his sin, he was darkened, he lost the likeness, but did not lose the image entirely. In the patristic tradition it says that the image in Adam was obscured, darkened, without being entirely lost. Through the incarnation of Christ and the deification of human nature Adam came back to his former glory, and indeed rose still higher” (154).

[2] St. Theophan the Recluse (1815-94): “The principal thing is to stand before God with the mind in the heart, and to go on standing before him unceasingly day and night, until the end of life.” In Igumen Chariton, The Art of Prayer, trans. E. Kadloubovsky and E.M. Palmer (London 1966) 63.

 [3] “Ascesis” comes from the Greek word askein, “to exercise,” and in the context of Orthodox spiritual life it refers to the prayers, Sacraments, services, and spiritual guidance designed to purify man’s inner life. In his short but moving piece Spiritual Life (Etna, CA 1997), Constantine Cavarnos offers a lucid description of Orthodox ascesis/athlesis: “Askesis, the practice of the virtues, is a term taken over by the Greek Church Fathers from classical Greek philosophy. We find it in the writings of Plato and Aristotle. It means ‘training.’ The derivative word asketes, ‘ascetic,’ means one who trains himself, preparing for victory in a contest. The Apostle Paul uses as a synonym for askesis the term athlesis (Hebrews 10:32). Athlesis means for him struggle, such as that in which an athlete engages in preparing himself for a contest” (5). Of course, Orthodox ascesis is by no means mechanical or magical since it is man’s cooperation with God’s prevenient grace or glory, which calls man to participate more and more in Him, but which does not coerce man or in any way curtail his freedom. Fr. Michael Azkoul has shown through his discussion of Pope St. Gregory the Great’s (540-604) writings that there was an Orthodox prevenient grace and an Orthodox predestination in the Latin West which seems to have been formulated as a self-conscious corrective to St. Augustine’s heterodox opinions (see M. Azkoul, The Influence of Augustine of Hippo On the Orthodox Church [Lewiston 1990] 94-95).

[4] “Taboric” here refers to Mount Tabor, traditionally held to be the site of the Holy Transfiguration. For an overview of the Orthodox Fathers’ interpretation of the Transfiguration, see P.A. Chamberas, “Transfiguration of Christ: A Study in the Patristic Exegesis of Scripture,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 14.1 (1970) 48-65.

 [5] “Augustinian West” refers to the non-Orthodox theology of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, as is outlined in detail below, ch. 5-9. Also included under the broad designation “Augustinian West” is the secular philosophy that has developed in Europe and North America associated with Hegel, Marx, Kant, and countless others.

[6] For a brief summary of the different types of “realism” found in Western philosophy, see C. Rohmann, A World of Ideas: A Dictionary of Important Theories, Concepts, Beliefs, and Thinkers (New York 1999) 336-337. On the nominalist/realist debate see M.M. Adams, “Is To Will It as Bad as To Do It? The Fourteenth Century Debate,” Fransiscan Studies 41 (1981) 5-60; R. Cross, “Nominalism and the Christology of William of Ockham,” Recherches de theologie Ancienne et Medievale 58 (1991) 126-156; A.E. McGrath, The Intellectual Origins of theEuropean Reformation (Oxford 1993); P.V. Spade, “Ockham’s Nominalist Metaphysics: Some Main Themes,” in Spade 100-117; and E. Stump, “The Mechanisms of Cognition: Ockham on Mediating Species,” in Spade 168-203.

 [7] Orthodox Christian Prayerbook: A Manual of Daily Prayers of the Ancient Christian Faith(Hollywood, CA 1998) 62.

(Author profile – Amazon)