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.

This entry was posted on Sunday, August 29, 2010 at Sunday, August 29, 2010 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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