Theosis and the Name of Jesus  

Posted by Joe Rawls in ,

Eastern Orthodox theologian Vincent Rossi is the author of "Presence, Participation, Performance: The Remembrance of God in the Early Hesychast Fathers", which is chapter 5 in Paths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian East, James S Cutsinger, ed (World Wisdom 2002). Rossi's article deals with contemplative stillness (hesychia, as it is termed in the Christian East), being mindful of the divine presence, and how these can be fomented by the regular recitation of the Jesus Prayer.

The book in which Rossi's essay appears contains the proceedings of a symposium between Orthodox and Sufi scholars which took place in 2001 only a few weeks after the tragic events of 9-11. That such dialogs can happen under any circumstances is a cause for continuing hope that some of the free-floating hatred so prevalent in the modern world can be mitigated.


The reciprocity (perichoresis in Greek) of Divine incarnation and human deification is central to the path to the heart of the Hesychasts. Perichoresis is the theological ground of the Jesus Prayer. St Maximos [the Confessor] states this saving truth in a beautiful, lapidary expression of the very principle that grounds the invocation of the Divine Name of Jesus:

We are told that God and man are exemplars of each other. Man's ability to deify himself through love for God's sake is correlative with God's becoming man through compassion for man's sake. And man's manifestation through the virtues of the God who is by nature invisible is correlative with the degree to which his intellect is seized by God and imbued with gnosis. (Philokalia v 2, p 278)

This passage links the incarnation of God in Christ with the deification of humanity in Christ in the closest possible way. It is a restatement of the basic principle of deification as originally found in St Ireneos and St Athanasios: "God became man so that man might become a god", which is itself grounded in the two basic Scriptural warrants for deification: " I said you are gods and all of you sons of the Most High" (Ps 82:6); and "precious and very great promises have been granted to us, that through these you may become partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4). The principle of perichoresis--the reciprocity of incarnation/deification--is the basis of the Hesychasts' conviction that the surest means of receiving the deifying energy of the Holy Spirit is ceaseless mindfulness of God through the invocation of the Name of Jesus. The "new theandric energy" brought to us by Jesus who is God incarnate has established for all time the mutual interpenetration without confusion of the Divine and the human...This "new theandric energy" is the gift of divinizing participation in the Divine Presence in Jesus, and it is activated by invoking the hidden power of the Name of Jesus. To invoke the Divine Name of Jesus in the Jesus Prayer is to pray for the influx of this deifying energy. In the tradition of the Hesychasts, the practice of the remembrance of God through the Prayer of Jesus is at one and the same time preparation, participation, and performance of the Divine-human synergy of deification.

Clairvaux Quotes  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Bernard of Clairvaux (ca 1090-Aug 20, 1153) was the leading light of the Cistercian Benedictine reform of the 12th century. Like many, perhaps most saints, he was a very complex, even contradictory person. A member of a semi-eremitical monastic community, he traveled widely, preaching against church corruption and advising popes. Author of a significant commentary on the Song of Songs, he also was an enthusiastic supporter of the Second Crusade and provided the nucleus for the rule of life of the Knights Templar. By the end of his century, there were over 300 Cistercian monasteries, many of which he founded. There have been big retrenchments in the intervening centuries, but his spiritual descendants--Thomas Merton being perhaps the best-known--are still going strong.

The literature by and about Bernard is huge, so perhaps the best way of getting some idea what he was like is through a few quotes, which I took the liberty of lifting from this site.


  • Hell is full of good wishes.
  • I know by myself how incomprehensible God is, seeing I cannot comprehend the parts of my own being.
  • Nothing can work me damage except myself. The harm that I sustain I carry about with me, and never am a real sufferer but by my own fault.
  • Religion brought forth riches, and the daughter devoured the mother.
  • The tears of penitents are the wine of angels.
  • We find rest in those we love, and we provide a resting place for those who love us.
  • You will find something far greater in the woods than you will find in books. Stones and trees will teach you that which you will never learn from masters.
  • Who loves me will love my dog also.

Transfiguration and Suffering  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

For today's Feast of the Transfiguration we turn to Norman Russell's Fellow Workers with God: Orthodox Thinking on Theosis (St Vladimir's Seminary Press 2009). What happened to Jesus on the mountain during the Transfiguration was a manifestation of the theosis of his human nature. However, theosis is not limited to Jesus; it is the destiny of us all. But it is not accomplished without suffering. The excerpt is found on pp 109-111.


The a revelation of the true stature of our human nature, a stature which our first parents in the Garden of Eden failed to attain. They listened to the voice of temptation, which suggested to them that they had been forbidden to eat of the tree of knowledge because God jealously wanted to keep them in a state of immaturity...But knowledge in itself does not make us like God. Our twentieth-century history has taught us that only too painfully. "Adam", as St John Damascene says, "longed for deification before the proper time". Knowledge needs to be accompanied by humility, thanksgiving, purity of heart. The glory indicated by the Transfiguration is only to be attained through the self-emptying of the Passion. "It is only through this free kenosis [self-emptying]" says Metropolitan John Zizioulas, "that the ascetic is led to the light of the Resurrection. The light of Mount Tabor, the light of the Transfiguration, which the Hesychasts claimed to see, was given as a result of participation in the sufferings, the kenosis of Christ. " We arrive at our true human stature through sharing in the glory of Christ, having first shared in his Passion.

The Church Father who brings out this aspect of the Transfiguration most clearly is St Cyril of Alexandria. In his homily on the Transfiguration...he sets the narrative as Luke tells it within the broader pattern of the divine economy. The immediately proceeding discussion is of the greatest significance: "If anyone wishes to come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Lk 9:23). "This teaching" St Cyril comments, "is our salvation". It prepares us for heavenly glory through the acceptance of suffering for Christ's sake. The converse is also true: the vision of heavenly glory granted to Peter, James and John prepares them to accept the suffering that is shortly to come upon them...To see the Transfiguration is to see the kingdom of God. The radiant humanity of the Lord shows the apostles the destiny that awaits them. The Lord can now go to his suffering and death and the apostles can follow him, confident in the glory that can only be attained through sharing in the Cross.