Asceticism, Catechism, Discernment, Empirical Dogmatics, FAQs, Glorification, illumination, Lives of Saints, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, Protopresbyter George Metallinos, Protopresbyter John S. Romanides, Purification, St. Mary of Egypt, The Spiritual Perfecting of Christians, Theosis, We Must Honor the Saints
Definition of Glorification
By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos
After purification of the heart and illumination of the nous comes glorification, which is the third stage of the journey towards perfection. Glorification is linked with theoria, which is the vision of the glory of God. When we say glorification we mean vision or theoria of the uncreated energy of God, which is seen as glory, as Light. Purification – the rejection of all thoughts (logismoi) from the heart and the transformation of the passible part of the soul (desire and anger) – must come first, as well as illumination of the nous, which is noetic prayer.
It should be stressed at the outset that glorification is an experience; it is not speculation or philosophy.
“Glorification is an empirical state. It has nothing to do with metaphysics.”
Man is not capable of arriving at this state on his own, but he is empowered by God. Thus glorification is a gift of God to the one who has struggled to keep His commandments. The Psalmist writes: “In Your light we shall see light” (Ps. 35:10).
“There is no question of man being capable of knowing God. This is impossible. Only someone who is within the uncreated Light sees the uncreated Light. One must be in God to see God. Man sees God through God.”
In the patristic tradition this ability to see God is called “an uncreated self-revealing eye”. There are many words that define what glorification is. Someone who is glorified, who is in this spiritual state, sees the uncreated Light of God. He shares in the Light and this is called glorification. Then man participates in the glory of God. Glorification is participation in the glory of God, in the uncreated Light. It is also referred to as man’s union with God.
“Here union means glorification, divine vision.”
When someone participates in the Light, in God’s glory, he acquires union with God, and this offers knowledge beyond human knowledge.
“In the tradition, union itself is called the glorification of man or theosis. Man becomes god by grace, during the vision of God, if he ever reaches this point.”
“This is called glorification. When man is glorified it means that he sees the glory in which he stands. This experience of glorification fills the pages of the Old Testament and the New Testament. Occasionally some clever professor here in Athens would ask me, ‘Where do you find theosis in the Old Testament? It isn’t there; the word ‘theosis’ is not there.’ Theosis is not there, but glorification is. The Apostle Paul uses the word ‘glorified’. When someone is glorified, he says that we ought to rejoice with the one who is glorified (cf. 1 Cor. 12:26). Who is the one who is glorified?”
He is the one who undergoes theosis, because then man is sanctified by the grace of God.
“Man’s sanctification means theosis, participation in glory.”
Glorification (theosis) is also described as divine vision or the vision of God.
“For the Fathers of the Church, glorification is nothing other than divine vision. When the Fathers say ‘theosis’ or ‘glorification’ they are referring to divine vision, seeing God’s glory. When someone sees the glory of God, this means glorification. So the fact that the Prophets in the Old Testament see the glory of Christ means that they reach glorification. And as there is glorification in the Old Testament, it also exists in the New Testament.”
“Divine vision is glorification, theoria. Glorification is divine vision because without attaining to divine vision, glorification, man cannot see God. He sees God through God.”
“Glorification is the surest knowledge about God. Glorification transcends understanding, which is why St Gregory the Theologian says, ‘It is impossible to conceive God’. Even the one who reaches glorification does not conceive God. It is not only to unbelievers and non-philosophers that he says, ‘It is impossible to conceive God’. Conceiving God is impossible for everyone, including the glorified.
Even someone who arrives at glorification does not conceive God and he understands that he does not conceive Him. So he knows without knowledge, he conceives without understanding, he hears without hearing, he sees invisibly, and so on. All this patristic terminology, when they talk about glorification, is a terminology based on reality.”
The experience of God as Light is called glorification, theosis, divine vision, union and knowledge. This state is an experience of Pentecost.
“Every glorification is nothing other than a repetition of Pentecost for us. So those who reach glorification have equal grace with the Apostles at Pentecost. There is no difference, at least from the patristic point of view.”
Glorification is linked with man’s salvation.
“Man was created for glorification. Nowadays we say that glorification is salvation. But man fell from the state of glorification.”
As has been stressed elsewhere, there are degrees of theoria.
“What is theoria according to the patristic tradition? There are two stages of theoria. Theoria is illumination, in other words, noetic prayer, and also glorification. Both are called theoria. These are the two stages. Only when someone attains to illumination or glorification, particularly illumination, which is the first degree, is he permitted to theologise and to teach others, to be a spiritual father.”
“Theoria has two levels. The first is the state of prayer; but enlightenment, vision and continuous vision are also called theoria. Enlightenment is the beginning of glorification. At the lowest stage of theoria there is no glorification yet. At the higher stages there is glorification as well.
In those moments when someone is in a state of glorification, prayer ceases. The divine vision itself takes the place of prayer, so one does not pray but has the vision of God. When the experience of glorification comes to an end, one returns to prayer. The state of glorification is not a permanent state.
A book has now come out that has a chapter on glorification, and it gives the impression that the state of glorification is permanent. It is not a permanent state. Glorification can be enlightenment lasting one second; then there is the vision that can last from five minutes, half an hour, I don’t know how long; then continuous vision for forty nights – it could go on for a year, as long as God wills, and this is called continuous vision. However, glorification comes to an end.”
“There is theoria associated with glorification and theoria associated with illumination. Both these states are divine inspiration. The state of glorification, however, is not permanent. It may be enlightenment, it may be a simple vision that lasts a few seconds or a few minutes, I don’t know how long. It may even be continuous vision. But it is never permanent because anyone who reaches glorification comes back to illumination.
There are those in the state of illumination who never reach glorification, because they did not have the spiritual need to reach glorification. Glorification is given by God, not just to meet the personal need of the glorified but usually to meet the need of other people.”
During theosis-theoria-divine vision-glorification, the whole human being, both soul and body, participates. It is not a psychological or sentimental state affecting the soul. The human body is also glorified. Patristic teaching speaks all the time about theosis and defines what it is. It links theosis with glorification, the vision of the glory of God, divine vision, union, communion and knowledge. All the same, it can be observed that various Christians misinterpret this experience of divine vision.
“Augustine had no idea about illumination and glorification. He completely missed the point on these issues, because he followed the path of the Platonists. The Franks copied his writings and read them, and Augustine’s whole spirituality and piety entered theology up until the modern era.”
“The Apostles who saw Christ in glory reached glorification. There is a problem here on account of the modern Russian preoccupation with the subject of glorification, which has also influenced the Greeks here in Greece. They imagine glorification as an injection of divinity: that we do an inoculation and give it to people and fill them with divinity; that this is something that comes into us through the Mysteries and so on.
This, however, is not how the Fathers understood glorification, because according to the Fathers glorification means seeing Christ in glory. Glorification is beholding Christ in glory. In the Old Testament when a Prophet saw Christ in glory that is the Prophet’s glorification.”
“There is obviously some confusion on these issues.
Glorification has now disappeared from modern Greek theology, and if you look at the old textbooks you will rarely find a mention of glorification, very rarely. Only now and again, when they refer to the Fathers, they may use the word ‘glorification’. It has mostly been replaced by the word ‘sanctification’.”
Glorification exists in the Old Testament as well, but there is a difference between glorification in the Old and New Testaments.
“In the Old Testament we also have glorification, theosis. There is no disguising the fact that when a Prophet is within the glory of God and sees His glory, this is glorification.”
There is, however, a difference, because in the Old Testament those who beheld God were taken to Hades, as death had not yet been abolished.
Also, the major difference between glorification in the Old and New Testaments concerns the human nature of Christ.
“In the Old Testament when someone reaches glorification he has a divine vision, but he does not see Christ in the flesh, because He is not yet incarnate. He sees Christ unincarnate, bringing the Father in the Holy Spirit. The experience of glorification is therefore a revelation of the Holy Trinity in the Old Testament. As we have a revelation of the Holy Trinity in the Old Testament in the experience of glorification, the fundamental question is: What is the difference between the Old and New Testaments?
The most fundamental difference is certainly that whenever the Word appears in the Old Testament He is unincarnate, whereas in the New Testament He appears in the flesh, as the incarnation comes in between. The most basic difference, therefore, is the incarnation. After the incarnation it is impossible for anyone to experience glorification and the vision of God without the human nature of Christ.”
“In the Old Testament there is glorification without the human nature of Christ. Every Prophet reached glorification without encountering Christ’s human nature, as the Word was not flesh. Every Prophet, however, knew Christ Himself. He spoke with Christ as friends speak to one another. Thus Christ appears to His friends both before and after His incarnation. Christ is already in communion with His friends in the Old Testament.”
There was theoria of God in the Old Testament and before Pentecost, but it was markedly different from theoria of God after Pentecost.
“According to the Fathers who interpret Holy Scripture, the experience of Pentecost is the highest experience of glorification prior to the Second Coming. There is nothing higher than Pentecost, nothing superior to Pentecost. Why? Because it is the glorification that existed in the Old Testament with the addition of the incarnation. In the Old Testament glorification has neither the incarnation nor salvation. It is glorification without salvation, so even the glorified died. They were in the power of death. There was no salvation and no incarnation in the Old Testament. Now, however, at Pentecost we have incarnation.”
Man was created for the purpose of reaching the vision of God, theoria of God’s glory, glorification.
“Man was formed to be in a state of illumination or glorification.”
“The aim of Holy Scripture is to lead man to divine vision, to glorification, that he might see Christ in glory.”
Everyone can reach this state of glorification.
“Let me tell you something. The way things have turned out, one can at least suspect that it is easier today to reach glorification in the world than in a monastery. There are monasteries and monasteries, monks and monks. That is the problem.”
During the experience of glorification-theoria various changes occur in man’s psychosomatic constitution. He remains the same, he does not lose touch with reality, but he is transformed and experiences Adam’s state before the Fall, and the state of the saints after the Second Coming of Christ.
“He who is glorified goes beyond words and concepts and beholds uncreated reality, which bears no resemblance to them.”
“If someone sees a created thing and thinks he is seeing God, this means that he will never arrive at glorification, because he has reached the state of seeing created things that come from demonic energies and thinking that he sees God. He has only reached glorification when he sees what is uncreated.”
In the course of theoria Holy Scripture, dogmas and even noetic prayer itself are done away with.
“Everything is abolished in glorification. Of course, when someone returns from the state of glorification, when his divine vision ceases, he continues once again with dogmas and his prayer. The Holy Spirit prays again within him, as before. The state of glorification is not permanent in this life.”
The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians about “visions and revelations of the Lord”, when he was caught up to Paradise and heard ineffable words (2 Cor. 12:1-6).
He also writes that during the vision of God prophecies and knowledge are done away with and prayer ceases. “But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away” (1 Cor. 13:8-10).
“According to patristic theology, prayer will come to an end in the state of glorification. Prayer ceases to exist as long as glorification lasts. When glorification ends, prayer comes back again.
Knowledge too vanishes. Theology is no more. Because when it says ‘knowledge’ here it does not mean knowledge in general, only knowledge about God, not every kind of knowledge. Knowledge about God is abolished, because one sees Christ now ‘face to face’, one sees God Himself. But the knowledge of created things that someone has is not abolished, because he does not lose his senses. The Apostle Paul was blinded by the Light, but he spoke and heard while in this state. He did not eat or drink for three days, because that aspect of his natural functions ceased. However, when one returns from this state and prayer and prophecy begin again, one continues the work of edification. One preaches and teaches and so on.”
“If someone reaches glorification now and again, a couple of times perhaps, the prayer of the heart ceases in the experience of glorification, it is abolished. So knowledge vanishes away as well, that is to say, the rational knowledge of the faith ceases, together with the knowledge associated with illumination. It ceases because someone in this state sees God by means of God. He sees the uncreated Light through the uncreated Light, and sees God through God.
Man on his own cannot behold God, because God can only be seen by means of revelation. Man sees with a vision that transcends vision. He hears with a hearing that transcends hearing, smells with a sense of smell that transcends the sense of smell and so on. This is not a natural state. It is not part of man’s natural knowledge, but neither is it a supernatural revelation in the Western sense of supernatural revelations, because there is no understanding.”
“There is no noetic prayer in the experience of glorification. Noetic prayer stops. And when the experience of glorification, of divine vision, ceases, noetic prayer starts up again. When someone is in the state of illumination, he prophesies and theologises using theology and Holy Scripture. When, however, he reaches glorification, he no longer knows God in prophecies and knowledge and prayers, but knows Him directly.”
As long as glorification lasts, noetic prayer stops, because the nous beholds the glory of God. Rational prayer, however, does not cease. The one who sees God may be present in the Divine Liturgy and simultaneously see uncreated reality. He does not undergo Neoplatonic ecstasy during the vision of God.
“In glorification prayer ceases, and when one speaks to a colleague in a state of glorification, one uses names. Someone in a state of glorification is able to celebrate the Liturgy and to say the prayers of the Church as usual.
The prayer of the Holy Spirit with those words has been abolished within him, because he sees what is uncreated. When he sees what is uncreated, the prayer within him comes to an end, but rational worship does not cease. He can celebrate the Liturgy.”
There is a connection between praxis and theoria.
“We have praxis that comes to completion in theoria. During theoria, however, praxis is never abandoned. Never. Perhaps a classical example of Orthodox theoria is St Symeon the New Theologian. In his biography, written by Nikitas Stithatos, we see the following paradox. The Apostle Paul underwent glorification first and was baptised afterwards, which is a strange phenomenon, because first he saw the uncreated glory on the road to Damascus and ascended to the third heaven, as he writes himself, and after this experience of glorification he was baptised. Something similar happened to St Symeon the New Theologian. First he had the experience of glorification and afterwards he was tonsured as a monk.
When someone attains to glorification, for as long as this experience lasts asceticism stops, because of the state he is in. He does not eat or drink or sleep or – forgive me for mentioning it – go to the toilet, because the natural functions of his body are suspended while he is in the state of theoria of the uncreated glory of God. When, however, he comes out of this state, he continues practising asceticism again. He fasts and prays and keeps vigil and has noetic prayer. In the state of glorification, however, single-thought noetic prayer, the remembrance of God, comes to an end as we have God Himself. Remembrance goes; it is no longer needed.
Thus the highest form of theoria, which is glorification, is not a permanent state, whether it takes the form of enlightenment for a limited period, or the form of vision, which can last forty days and nights, as in the case of Moses. When someone returns to the state of illumination, although he has noetic prayer and so on, he practises asceticism, keeps all the fasts and is self-restrained. Asceticism is not abolished.”
Although there is no suspension of the rational faculty, bodily functions are suspended. The saints teach from their experience that during divine vision the natural and blameless passions are suspended and the devil is rendered powerless.
“We know from the experience of Moses on Sinai and the experience of the saints, who like Moses reached theoria before their bodily death, that during this experience of glorification the natural and blameless passions are suspended in such a way that there is no hunger, thirst, tiredness, fear, uneasiness or sleep. The state of perfection is such that the devil becomes for the most part, if not completely, powerless.”
When the glorified human being is in the state of glorification he lives within the glory of God. He is aware of the suspension of the natural functions of his body, though not of his soul, but he is in a natural state.
“In every other way he is in a natural state and talks and walks and so on in this condition, and teaches, until the vision of God ceases and he returns to illumination. Then noetic prayer, which had stopped during glorification, begins again. This is our Orthodox saint. Our saints are vastly different from the Hindus, they have nothing in common. The only similarity with the Hindus is the distinction between nous and reason. There is also no affinity at all with the ecstasy of the mystical religions or Neoplatonism.
Is it not of interest to dieticians that it is possible for someone to go for a year without eating, sleeping, drinking or going to the toilet? Such a state can last a week, a fortnight, a month, forty days, forty nights, or it can continue for a whole year.”
All this is not theoretical but is recorded in the lives of the saints, in the Synaxaria of the Church, which are the real history of the life of the Church.
“Again and again in the lives of the saints, not only in the East but in the West, in the Western saints, the Western Romans, we find this phenomenon of glorification together with the suspension of bodily functions. If it lasts a week it can last a month. It can go on for a year or years on end. It depends on how long God wants someone to remain in this state, and on his own needs and his surroundings.”
The hermits and stylites lived this phenomenon, strange as it seems to human reason. They not only returned to the state before the Fall, but ascended higher and lived states beyond the end of time. They had a foretaste of the life of the saints in Paradise.
“What did the monks do there in the desert? Why do we have those troparia about deserts and tears that watered the desert, and about those who lived where there was nothing to eat? How did they live? What were the stylites? They saw St Daniel the Stylite, who was covered with frost and snow every winter, and they did not know whether they would find him alive in the spring. How did he live in the ice and snow? How did the naked ascetics wander around in the mountains in the snow?”
Divine vision and theoria offer true theology. True theology expresses the experience of seeing God. Someone begins to theologise on reaching illumination. If God counts him worthy of reaching the vision of God and seeing His uncreated energy, at that moment of divine vision even theology stops, because he sees God Himself. When the experience of seeing God ceases, theology begins.
Theology is the expression and formulation in created words and concepts of uncreated reality.
“We ought to stop making a clear-cut distinction between Western and Eastern theology, as we usually do, and go in search of the result of theology. Wherever there is glorification, correct theology inevitably exists. Where there is no glorification, correct theology probably does not exist, even if those who put forward those types of theology are allegedly Orthodox.
The criteria should not be formally dogmatic but purely therapeutic. Only therapeutic theology is correct theology. This is the theology expressed in the lives of the saints.”
“In patristic theology, noetic prayer is the foundation of theology and theologising. In the early Church someone was allowed to theologise only when he had reached illumination. He was called a theologian when he reached glorification. Someone theologises when he has noetic prayer, and he is called a theologian once he arrives at glorification. This is the historical usage of these terms.”
“Someone starts being a theologian when he becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit. Without becoming a temple of the Holy Spirit, how can anyone become a theologian? And the theologian of the Church is pre-eminently the one who has reached glorification. He is a theologian.
That is why in our Church we very rarely gave the title of ‘theologian’ until the modern Greek state was founded. Before the foundation of the University of Athens, the theologians of the Church were St Gregory the Theologian, St John the Theologian, St Symeon the New Theologian, and after them we find a few others who are referred to as theologians in the Church. The main characteristic of those called theologians is that they reached glorification and beheld God. Such people are theologians in the highest sense, but what sort of theologians? Because in the state of glorification theology is abolished.”
“The theology of the Church is an expression of the experience of theosis, man’s glorification, when he attains to the revelation. Theology comes from the divine vision of the Prophets, Apostles, saints and all those who have been glorified.
It is an expression of an inexpressible reality. This expression cannot be comprehended rationally, but its only aim is therapeutic. Orthodox theology has no other purpose; its aim is therapeutic not philosophical. It never had a philosophical aim.”
“Theology is a means. It is not an end in itself. Concepts are not an end in themselves; they are means.”
“Orthodoxy theology means that someone sees, and on the basis of the experience of divine vision and glorification, he theologises. What does he see in the state of glorification? He sees all the dogmas.”
“Essentially a theologian is someone in whom theology has been abolished, as he has reached the experience of glorification. Theology ceases in him, and because he lives in the state of illumination, he knows the aim of theology and prayer, which are the same thing. The one who prays theologises, and the one who theologises prays. Theology and prayer are the same thing.”
Theology ceases during the experience because what the God-seer sees cannot be described using the data of human wisdom.
The one who beholds God sees that God is uncreated, which means that there is a vast difference between Him and created things.
“No one who reaches glorification has ever seen the Holy Spirit as created or the Word as created. He knows that the glory of the Holy Trinity is uncreated and that it is the natural glory of the uncreated energy of God. The Word has glory from the Father by nature and not by grace, and the Holy Spirit also has uncreated glory from the Father, not by grace but by nature.
All these central elements, which are the whole of Orthodox theology, come from the experience of glorification. When the Fathers theologise they do not theologise only from Holy Scripture, but from their own experience.”
One can only come to the knowledge of God through divine vision.
After the experience of divine vision, the God-seeing theologian uses created words and symbols to express the uncreated reality as far as possible.
“Expressions about God are therefore symbolic. We have this term ‘symbolic theology’ and we use symbols to talk about God. However, the purpose of these symbols is not that we might conceive God, but that we may be guided through these symbols to union with God, which is glorification that transcends understanding.”
Through this knowledge derived from divine vision, the God-seer becomes a spiritual father, because he knows how to cure people and lead them to glorification. Sickness is man’s departure from God and health is communion with Him, the vision of God.
“There is this interpretation that the theologian is ‘advanced in theoria’, that he is someone who has reached illumination or glorification, and he is also a spiritual father. He knows how to cure, so knowledge and curing people is the same thing. Knowledge is therapeutic treatment and therapeutic treatment is knowledge: these two go together.”
The one who sees God has divinely inspired words to guide his spiritual children to glorification. He guides them using concepts, so that they may proceed “through purification to illumination and finally to glorification.”
Apart from theology, the experience of glorification also has other consequences for the glorified. One of these is that someone who sees God is set free from every kind of servitude to created things.
“In the state of glorification he is also liberated from subservience to the elements of nature, because he is nourished by God Himself and he can go on in this state for years or months, if it continues.”
“According to the Fathers of the Church, glorification is perfect freedom, and purification and illumination are the beginning of freedom.”
When someone beholds God he acquires real love, which is unselfish.
“Glorification, the perfecting of man on the basis of a love that ‘does not seek its own’ (1 Cor. 13:5), is not the same as the love that a good human being has. There may be similarities but it is not the same thing.”
Since he is freed from the passions and the greatest passion is self-love, he acquires love for God and other people. All the glorified become equal in their noetic energy. Equality cannot exist in human terms, because there are differences in the level of the rational faculty and in gifts. Those who are glorified, however, attain equality as regards their noetic faculty and theology: they have the same knowledge. At the same time, they detach themselves from material goods and identify with the poor.
“We have never ceased believing in the equality of human beings. Why? Consider the subject of equality. Equality of human beings from the Orthodox point of view is based on the fact that everyone has a noetic faculty, which is separate from the rational faculty. So someone may reach the heights of noetic energy and be glorified, and have no rational ability at all.
In the troparion for Pentecost, for the Holy Trinity, we chant: ‘Blessed art Thou, Christ our God…’ and so on. Christ took the fishermen and raised them to the heights of glorification. They were exalted above the earth and surpassed all human beings in glorification. And who were they? Illiterate fishermen. Their noetic faculty was raised as high as the experience of Pentecost, but nothing changed with regard to their rational faculty. If someone had given the Apostle Peter a mathematical problem, it is certain that he would never have been able to solve mathematical or geophysical or political problems. All the same, though, he is the leader of the Apostles.
On the one hand, someone may reach the summit of rational understanding and his noetic faculty may be a complete disgrace and his heart may be completely hardened. On the other hand, someone may reach the heights of noetic perfection and of rational perfection, because he has a good education. He may be at the highest level of both.
Again, someone’s rational faculty may be at the lowest limit, so that he is completely dim, unintelligent and foolish, and his heart may be hardened. On the other hand, someone else may be half-mad and his rational faculty may not function correctly, but he may have a spiritual father who sets him free from the weaknesses in his reasoning, and he may get as far as glorification, even though he is completely uneducated.
From the point of view of spiritual equality, therefore, there is absolute equality between human beings, because everyone has a noetic faculty. The higher reaches of theology have nothing to dc with the rational faculty. Do you follow what I am saying? From this point of view, Orthodox theology has an equality that exists in no other field. Because, whatever we may say, there will never be equality with regard to the rational faculty, because an individual’s rational faculty is connected with his grey matter, with problems inherited from parents and so on. Whatever we may do, one pupil will sit examinations and get into university, whereas the other will sit examinations fifteen times and not get in. One pupil will get a school leaving certificate, another won’t. There is clearly no equality in these matters, but in theology there is equality. We Orthodox theologians know more about equality that other people in society.
Next, equality in perfection also means equality in wealth. Someone who reaches glorification becomes rich, although in worldly terms he becomes poor. Because he is poor, he is on the same level as all the world’s poor and becomes equal with the poor. So there is no social problem in this regard, as he never identifies with the rich but with the poor. This is automatic in Orthodox theology and cannot be otherwise, because if someone identifies himself with the rich it shows that he does not have noetic prayer. To have noetic prayer one must identify with the poor.”
Another consequence of glorification and divine vision is that the man’s body becomes a holy relic. As the whole human being shares in the vision of God, both soul and body are glorified. Thus when the soul separates from the body, the grace of God remains inseparably with both the soul and the body, and we have holy relics.
“Holy relics are the result of glorification, as the one who has attained glorification is suspended between immortality and corruption.
So when he dies his body does not disintegrate; it is preserved. There is some decay, but the identity of its cells is kept, that is to say, it is preserved to a great extent, not completely but to a great extent. However, this body is neither incorrupt nor does it completely decompose.”
“What are holy relics according to the Fathers of the Church? Holy relics are a state that the God-seer reaches when he reaches glorification. They are in between incorruption and mortality. We have corruption and we also have incorruption. Someone who attains glorification has not become incorrupt but he has experienced incorruption, because the experience of glorification is described as incorruption according to grace. Glorification is incorruption according to grace.
Someone who has gone through this experience leaves holy relics, which keep their biological signs, their cells. There is skin and cells – everything is there, isn’t it? The body has not undergone corruption, but this is not incorruption, because incorruption means that the organ is alive. This body is dead but it has not disintegrated. This is a phenomenon.
It is not a mummy. It is not mummified nor is this state due to chemicals, nor is it because the body was buried in ground so dry that it could not decompose. These relics are often found in ground that is full of moisture.”
When someone attains to the vision of God’s uncreated glory he acquires communion with God. After theoria he returns to the stage of illumination of the nous and noetic prayer is activated. If he is not careful, however, it is possible for him to go as far as denying God.
“There was a major dispute in the past between the ‘Pure’ [the Novatianists] and the other Orthodox, because the ‘Pure’ said that someone who had denied Christ under persecution should die without receiving Holy Communion. They left him in God’s hands.
The other Orthodox used the argument that the Apostle Peter himself first passed through glorification at the Transfiguration, then after glorification he denied Christ, and Christ after the Resurrection reinstated him and he became an Apostle again – in fact, the chief Apostle. So we see that not only after illumination but even after glorification one can give way and make a denial.”
Glorification is the perfecting of man, which is the purpose of his creation. Then man transcends all merely human things and lives in the body like an angel. People with a worldly mentality are unable to understand this state because they live an unnatural life.
“As far as the world is concerned, those in psychiatric hospitals are not the only ones who are mentally disturbed. From the world’s point of view, those in the state of glorification would be considered mad.
We are not therefore surprised that even some Orthodox regard St Symeon the New Theologian as being somehow mad. If someone reads St Symeon the New Theologian without being attuned to what he writes, the reason he writes and the state he is in when writing, it is not difficult for him to think that St Symeon the New Theologian was mad.”
This madness according to the worldly mentality, however, is the natural life of man, according to the reason for his creation and its aim.
—Excerpt from Empirical Dogmatics by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos