Yesterday I wrote of how hypostasis and persona are integrally connected with our being saved. They are also a vital part of how we learn to live by the Spirit and produce the fruit of the Spirit, not the sins of our flesh. What is at stake here is the true understanding how God’s love works in us to produce transformation through askesis, or self-denial.
Man, made in the image of the triune God, is hypostatic. (See my earlier posts for an explanation of this important Greek term that was first used by early church fathers to develop the theological truths I am appealing for in these posts.) God is a Hypostatic Being. God is Spirit, and man is spirit. Yet the spirit in us is not unconnected, or abstract being, but concrete expression in a corporeal body.
The Divine Logos, the second person of the Divine Hypostasis, took on himself human flesh and showed, once and for all, that God is not a fantasy of our human imagination. He is an actual reality. This is why Archimandrite Sophrony concludes, “So, too, the human hypostasis is actually real. The Divine Spirit embraces all that is actually real. The Divine Spirit embraces all that exists. Man as hypostasis is a principle uniting the plurality of cosmic being; capable of containing the fulness of divine and human life” (His Life Is Mine, 43).
Because the Divine Being is love, love is the most profound expression of God’s being. In this divine love lies our likeness to God as the redeemed. We rejoice in our freedom, having been truly set free by the Holy Spirit, thus we contemplate the divine world and possess a knowledge that divinizes, or a knowledge that allows us to “share in the divine nature” (cf. 2 Peter 2:4).
This text in 2 Peter, joined with many similar references in the Gospel of St. John, is the strongest and clearest expression in the New Testament of our real transformation. We have not simply been called to live a good life which will be rewarded. Nor are we called to love a God who will show grace to us in the end. Jesus came in order to reveal to us that (as brothers and sisters) we are part of a unique Humanity. This unique Humanity is to become a part of the eternal mystery of the triune God, the hypostasis. Jesus became human so that we might become all that God is, sharing in the divine nature fully and finally. This does not mean that we become God! Such teaching is pantheism. But it does mean that we have been adopted into the family of God in order to be made divine in our new nature. Christ comes to redeem us and the saving work of the Spirit now reveals two things to us. First, we learn who we really are because of Christ. Second, we learn what we will become, also because of Christ.
This means that the greatest energy we have is the creative energy of God that allows us to possess real cognition of the Divine world. We “know” God and we are “known” by God. Says the Orthodox monk Sophrony, “Consumed with love, man feels himself joined with his beloved God. Through this union he knows God and thus love and cognition merge into a single act” (His Life Is Mine, 44). God reveals himself to us, mainly through what we call the “heart.” He reveals himself to us as both love and light. In light we contemplate the gospel as the revelation of the glory of Christ, the only-begotten Son of the Father. The disciples saw this light/glory on Mt. Tabor. We see it too, in and by the Spirit. Yet we really do see it. “The personal revelation makes the general revelation of the New Testament spiritually familiar” (His Life Is Mine, 44). If you grasp that one sentence you will make great headway in becoming more divine in your outlook and actions.
It is important to understand that we do not grow into the fulness of God except by degrees. Prayer, reading and meditating in the Holy Scriptures, dying to ourselves in askesis and focusing our hearts on Jesus above all others, contributes to this process. This is how we should understand Galatians 5 and the way the Spirit produces fruit in us. This is also why I said earlier that this fruit is summarized in one fruit – love.
Ellen T. Charry, in her important book By the Renewing of Your Mind (1997), studied several ancient Christian teachers and showed how each one taught doctrine with the desire and design to shape character as well as the teaching of truth. I like to put it this way – good theology is characterology! Charry said, “God is not only good to us, but good for us.” Amen.
I no longer wonder if the absence of this kind of understanding impacts the lives of most Christians. I am quite sure it does. Why? Our actions grow out of our innermost being and our innermost being is meant to cognitively and purposefully participate in the divine energies that will truly make us more and more like the triune God. This comes by degrees but come it will if we truly partake of the divine nature and grow into the love of God, the true hypostasis. What glorious mystery has been revealed to us in the Logos.
Next: Can We Live Without Sinning?