Theosis for Everyone  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

Perhaps the best introduction in English to theosis--the Eastern Christian doctrine of how we attain union with God--is Norman Russell's Fellow Workers with God: Orthodox Thinking on Theosis (St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2009). In straightforward, accessible prose, Russell outlines how the question has been addressed by the Fathers and contemporary Orthodox theologians; he also refers to the steadily increasing interest in deification by Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Protestant thinkers. Pages 169 and 170 contain a good summary of his argument. Theosis is not just for a monastic spiritual elite, and it furthermore underpins the liturgy.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Metropolitan John Zizioulas has said, mystical experience is not to be identified solely with the extraordinary and unusual. The fact that theosis encompasses the whole of the economy of salvation means that it is intended for all believers without exception. To live theosis, then, means to lead our life in an eschatological perspective within the ecclesial community, striving through prayer, participation in the Eucharist, and the practice of the moral life to attain the divine likeness, being conformed spiritually and corporeally to the body of Christ until we are brought into Christ's identity and arrive ultimately at union with the Father. In simpler terms, it means for an Orthodox Christian to live as a faithful member of the Church, attending the Liturgy, receiving the sacraments and keeping the commandments. Nothing more--or less-than that.

The spirituality of the Orthodox Church is both liturgical and monastic. Liturgical spirituality takes full account of our corporeal nature. For the body is part of our identity. It is not something to be ignored or despised. The annual cycle of Great Feasts, particularly the Nativity, the Theophany [Epiphany], the Resurrection, the Ascension and the Transfiguration of Christ celebrate the transformation of humanity, body and soul, and its exaltation to heaven. On Holy Cross Day "the whole creation is set free from corruption". On Christmas Day "has God come upon earth, and man gone up to heaven". On the Forefeast of the Theophany Christ "opens the heavens, brings down the divine Spirit, and grants man a share of incorruption". On the Feast of the Transfiguration Christ "has changed the darkened nature of Adam, and filling it with brightness He has made it godlike". These feasts do not simply commemorate past events. With their eschatological dimension, frequently reinforced by the present tense of the verbs, they turn the worshiper "towards the future--towards the 'splendor of the Resurrection' at the Last Day, towards the 'beauty of the divine Kingdom' which all Christians hope eventually to enjoy."

Anglican Values  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

Matt Gunter of Into the Expectation has put together an excellent statement of what differentiates Anglicanism from other Christian traditions. Read the whole thing for full effect.


Anglicanism is:

Biblically Focused: "The Holy Ghost rides most triumphantly in his own chariot" [ie Scripture]--Thomas Manton (1620-1677).

Rooted in Tradition: "One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period--the centuries, that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith."--Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)

Reasonable: "Faith is not a bird of prey sent by God to peck out the eyes of [humans]"--Nathaniel Culverwel (1619-1651)

Centered in Worship and Prayer: Anglicans do theology "to the sound of church bells, for that is what Christian theology is really all about--worshipping God the Savior through Jesus Christ in the theology of the apostolic age".--Michael Ramsey (1904-1988)

Sacramental [especially Eucharistic]

Catholic and Protestant/Evangelical: "Our special character and, as we believe, our peculiar contribution to the Universal Church, arises from the fact that owing to historic circumstances, we have been enabled to combine in our one fellowship the traditional Faith and Order of the Catholic Church with that immediacy of approach to God through Christ to which the Evangelical Churches especially bear witness, and freedom of intellectual inquiry, whereby the correlation of the Christian revelation and advancing knowledge is constantly effected"--William Temple (1881-1944)

Liberally Catholic and Generously Orthodox: Anglican"conspicuously orthodox on the great fundamentals of the Trinity and the Incarnation"...It avoids the extremes "represented by a dogmatism that crushes instead of quickening the reason of the individual, making it purely passive and acquiescent, and on the other hand by an unrestrained development of the individual judgement which becomes eccentric and lawless just because it is unrestricted"--Charles Gore (1852-1932)

Passionate but Patient: ..."There is in the Anglican identity a strong element of awareness of the tragic, of the dark night and the frustration of theory and order by the strangeness of God's work"..."The result is a mixture of poetry, reticence, humility before mystery, local loyalties and painful self-scrutinies"--Rowan Williams.

Climacus Condensed  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

St John Climacus (7th century) was abbot of St Catherine's monastery in the Sinai. He is most famous for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which I have talked about in an earlier post. During Lent the Ladder is read by all Orthodox monks and many Orthodox laypeople. It is not what you would call marshmallow spirituality. He pulls few punches and can be quite off-putting, if the truth be told. However, he grows on one with repeated readings.

I recently came across a tool for the better appreciation of the Ladder in A Spoken Silence, an interesting new blog of Jon Mark Hogg, an Orthodox layman from San Angelo, Texas. Jon has summarized each of the 30 chapters of Climacus' work in a short phrase expressing the chapter's focus. The complete post is dated March 1; I reproduce the list below for your ongoing Lenten edification.


1. Renounce the world.

2. Live a life of detachment.

3. Live like an exile and a pilgrim.

4. Live a life of obedience.

5. Live a life of repentance.

6. Live with the remembrance of death.

7. Live in joy-making mourning.

8. Live meekly and free from anger.

9. Do not remember wrongs.

10. Do not slander.

11. Remain silent.

12. Do not lie.

13. Do not dwell in despondency.

14. Conquer your stomach.

15. Live chaste and pure.

16. Do not love money and resist avarice.

17. Give up possessions.

18. Avoid insensibility.

19. Deprive yourself of sleep.

20. Use your body in the spiritual struggle.

21. Flee cowardice.

22. Flee vainglory.

23. Flee pride and unclean thoughts.

24. Live meekly and simply.

25. Destroy the passions.

26. Grow in discernment.

27. Be still.

28. Pray with mind, soul, and body.

29. Attain to dispassion and perfection.

30. Unite in love with the Holy Trinity.