Cabasilas on Incarnation, Theosis, and Eucharist.  

Posted by Joe Rawls in , , ,

Nicholas Cabasilas (1322-ca 1391) was born in Thessaloniki.  He was a functionary at the imperial court, where he became a friend of Emperor John VI Cantacuzenos.  When John was faced with a palace coup, he abdicated and became a monk.  Nicholas followed him into the monastery and eventually succeeded his uncle as archbishop of Thessaloniki.  He was a strong supporter of Gregory Palamas in the latter's dispute with Barlaam of Calabria over the validity of hesychastic spirituality.  He wrote Exposition of the Divine Liturgy but is probably better known for The Life in Christ (St Vladimir's Seminary Press 1974).  In these works he stresses that the spiritual riches of hesychasm, nurtured in the monastic cloister, are accessible by ordinary Christians living "in the world". 

Of central importance is the notion that theosis, the process of attaining union with God, is greatly facilitated by frequent reception of the eucharistic bread and wine.  The following quote comes from The Life in Christ, pp 122-123.


Since it was not possible for us to ascend to Him and participate in that which is His, He came down to us and partook of that which is ours.  So perfectly has He coalesced with that which He has taken that He imparts Himself to us by giving us what He has assumed from us.  As we partake of His human Body and Blood we receive God Himself into our souls.  It is thus God's Body and Blood which we receive, His soul, mind, and will, no less than those of His humanity. 

It was necessary that the remedy for my weakness be God and become man, for were He God only He would not be united to us, for how could He become our feast?  On the other hand, if Christ were no more than what we are, his feast would have been ineffectual.  Now, however, since He is both at once, He is united to those who have the same nature as Himself and coalesces with us men.  By His divinity He is able to exalt and transcend our human nature and to transform it into Himself.  For when the greater powers are brought to bear upon the lesser they do not permit them to retain their own characteristics: when iron comes together with fire it retains nothing of the property of iron, when earth and water are thrown on fire they exchange their properties with those of fire.  If, then, of those which have similar powers the stronger thus affect the weaker, what must we think of His wonderfully great power?

It is clear, then, that Christ infuses Himself into us and mingles Himself with us.  He changes and transforms us into Himself, as a small drop of water is changed by being poured into an immense sea of ointment.  This ointment can do such great things to those who fall into it, that it not only makes us to be sweet-smelling and redolent thereof, but our whole state becomes the sweet-smelling savour of the perfume which was poured out for us, as it says, "for we are the sweet savour of Christ" (2 Cor 2:15).

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 24, 2011 at Thursday, November 24, 2011 and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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