Barlaamism, Basileia tou Theou, Ecumenical Synods, Eldress Evlampia Romanides, Hesychasm, Noetic Faculty, nous, Patristic Theology, Protopresbyter George Florovsky, Protopresbyter George Metallinos, Protopresbyter John Romanides, St. Gregory Palamas, The Wiles of the Devil
…Continued from Part 7
Councils, Synods and Civilization (Part 8)
By Protopresbyter John Romanides
j) The Lord of Glory and the Ecumenical Councils [ 15 ].
By Scriptures both Christ and the Apostles meant the Old Testament to which the New Testament was added. The Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke were edited to serve as pre-baptismal guides during the stages of the purification and the illumination of the inner person in the heart. That Christ is the same Lord of Glory Who revealed Himself to his Old Testament Prophets became manifest at His baptism and transfiguration wherein He showed the glory and rule (Basileia tou Theou) of His Father as His own by nature. The Gospel of John was edited for the purpose of continuing one’s advance within illumination (John 13:31-16) and press on to glorification (John 17) by which one fully sees the glorification of the Lord of Glory in His Father and the latter in His Son (John 13:31, 18-21). This was the reason why John was called the “spiritual Gospel” [ 16 ].
Those being thus initiated into the Body of Christ did not learn about the incarnation, baptism, transfiguration, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and pentecostal return of the Lord of Glory in His Spirit’s uncreated tongues of fire to become the head of His Body, the Church, by simply studying texts of the Bible. They studied the Bible as an integral part of the process of having their hearts purified, illumined and readied for glorification, in the same Lord of Glory, Who had glorified His Old Testament Prophets, but now in His human nature born from the Virgin Mary.
It was within this context that the ancient Church identified Christ with the Lord, Angel and Wisdom by Whom God created the world and glorified His friends, the prophets, and by Whom He delivered Israel from bondage and guided her to the time when He Himself became flesh to put an end to the rule of death over His (Old Testament) Church (Matt. 16:18). In spite of their glorification the Old Testament Prophets died. But now “if one keeps my word, one will never see death” (John 8:52-53). There is now a first resurrection of the inner person (Rev. 20:5) and a second resurrection of the body (Rev. 20:6) and there is also a second death of the body (Rev. 20:14).
Even such heretics as the Arians and Eunomians, condemned by the First and Second Ecumenical Councils [ 17 ], took this identity of Christ with the Old Testament Lord of Glory for granted. However, they claimed that this Angel of Glory was the first creation of God’s will from non-being before both time and the ages and not co-eternal with the Father. They used the visibility of the Angel of Glory to the Prophets as proof of His created nature in a way somewhat similar to those gnostics who identified this Old Testament Angel with their lesser creator god of this supposed evil world and who duped Israel.
The Arians and Eunomians either ignored or rejected the fact that by glorification one becomes god by grace (theosis) and that one therefore sees the uncreated glory and rule (Basileia tou Theou) of God in Christ by means of God Himself. At stake was the fact that God Himself reveals Himself to His glorified friends and not by means of a creature, with the sole exception of the created nature of His Son. Yet the grace and rule (Basileia tou Theou) of illumination and glory which Christ communicates to His Body the Church is uncreated. The Franco-Latin doctrine that communicated grace is created has no place in the tradition of the Ecumenical Councils.
The reason why the above aspects of the Ecumenical Councils play no role in the Latin and Protestant histories of doctrine is thefact that Augustine deviated sharply from Ambrose and the Fathers in his understanding of the appearances of the Logos to the Old Testament. prophets [ 18 ]. His misunderstandings became the core of the Franco-Latin tradition. The Protestant and Latin histories of doctrine, which are aware of Augustine’s deviation from this ancient identification of Christ with this Angel of Glory, assume that it was dropped from the tradition because of its usage by the Arians. However this tradition was preserved intact within the Churches of the Roman Empire and continues to be the heart of the Orthodox tradition. This is the sole context for the Trinitarian and Christological terms: Three substances, one essence and the homoousion of the Logos with the Father and us. They were and remain meaningless in the Augustinian context.
Augustine had mistakenly believed that it was only the Arians who identified the Logos with this Old Testament Angel of Glory. He was not aware that both Ambrose, the bishop he claims to have opened his Manichaean mind to the Old Testament and baptised him, and all other Fathers did the same. The Arians and Eunomians had argued that proof that the Logos was created was that He was by nature visible to the Prophets, whereas the Father alone was invisible. Augustine had not understood the Biblical experiences of illumination and glorification, which he had confounded with Neo-Platonic illumination and ecstasy. He relegated glorification to life after death and identified it with the vision of the divine substance which supposedly satisfies man’s desire for absolute happiness. His utilitarian understanding of love made it impossible for him to understand the selfless love of glorification in this life. In this regard he did not differ from the Arians he was attacking.
Within the above Neo-Platonic presuppositions Augustine solved the problem at hand with the following explanation: the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, being equally invisible, supposedly reveal themselves and their messages to the prophets by means of various creatures which they bring into existence to be seen and heard and which they then cause to pass out of existence, such as the glory, cloud, fire, burning bush, etc. God permanently became visible in the human nature of His Son by Whom He communicates messages and concepts. Yet He supposedly also continues to reveal visions and messages by created means which He passes into and out of existence as needed, such as the bird at the baptism of Christ, the tongues of fire of Pentecost, the glory /light /rule (Basileia tou Theou) of God revealed at the transfiguration, the cloud /glory on which Christ went to heaven, the voice of the Father by whichHe announced His pleasure in His Son, the fire of hell, etc.
These verbal symbols by which the Old and New Testament writers expressed experiences of illumination and glorification werethus reduced to temporary objects and unbelievable miracles [ 19 ]. This became the Franco-Latin tradition to which both Latins and Protestants still basically adhere to.
One of the most remarkable side effects of such misunderstandings is the use of the word “kingdom” which saturates translations ofthe New Testament and which never once appears in the Greek original. The Greek term “Basileia tou Theou” designates the uncreated rule of God and not the created Kingdom ruled by God.
…to be continued