February 7, 2024

Fr. John Romanides as a Professor of Dogmatics at Holy Cross School of Theology in Boston (7 of 8)

...continued from part six.

e. Orthodox Anthropology

"According to Plato, the real human being is in the intelligible world. In order to see the intelligible world, one must start from the phenomena, which reflect the idea, and reach the prototype. The real knowledge of the truth is to know the idea. This is why the philosopher studies the phenomena in the world.

For the Platonists, this world is a bad copy. The Papists identify the ideas of Plato with the essence of God. Plato's intelligible world is the Sophia or the Logos for the popes. For them there is no distinction between essence and energy. When God, they say, created the world, He simply copied His essence. That is, the world is a copy of the archetype. The first to make such an identification was Augustine. If we accept these conditions we will notice what is the position of the Natural Theology of the Western Church. According to Westerners, a simple man can learn about the essence of God, if he studies the present world. The Gnostics say that an inferior creator god did a bad copy of the intelligible world. This is because God is perfect and the perfect cannot be copied. 'Be perfect, as our Father is perfect.'"

"In the Western Church there is the analogy of being (analogia entis), by which only through the one is the other understood. God is Being, man also is being. Another analogy is the analogy of faith (analogia fidei) through which man through the world, but more through faith, can know the essence of God. For the Orthodox, there is no copy of the essence of God. Anyone who believes in this is a heretic, blasphemous, unorthodox. Also, they believe that the human soul is the image of God.

In Eastern theology, one is the archetype. God and not the essence. The only true image of the Father is the Son and not the world. Man is not the image of God, but is made in the image of God. The only difference between the Father and the Son is that the Father is unbegotten and the Son begotten.

Man is a copy of God's glory. Moses saw the glory of God. But what did he see? Did he see a form? The bush was non-flammable. Yes, Moses saw the glory of God, but what he saw is ineffable and not of a Platonic kind. There are no words to describe what he saw. Man is an image of God, or of the divine wills. "I am an image of Your ineffable glory". The use of image of God is misused. Literally, man is not the image of God. The images of God in themselves are the Son and the Holy Spirit. Also other images are the divine and good wills. In other words, everything has the energy of God. But everyone has the good will of God, which is the image of God. This image was darkened when man fell, but he did not completely lose it. The Fathers describe the divine energy that exists in man, like a spark, which spark is ready to be extinguished, but with baptism it becomes stronger. That is why Christ came into the world to set everything on fire. This flame is called saving, divine, sanctifying. For people who do not fight the good fight, it is hellish fire, eternal fire.

If we compare these two traditions, we will notice how far the Westerners have stepped away from the Easterners. The fact is that they did not accept the teachings of the Ecumenical Synods, even though they say they do. The Ecumenical Synods are not isolated phenomena, but reflect and express the teachings of the Fathers. It is not possible to separate the Synods from the Fathers, because the Fathers are the foundations of the Synods. How, then, do the Westerners say that they accept the Synods, while they reject the Patristic teaching on the Holy Trinity and other Christological topics?"

"According to the Fathers, God created man to be free and to remain free. The essence of freedom is 1) to love God and his fellow man without being interested in himself. Let it have the meaning of selfless love which "does not seek its own." 2) Man was created to be a partaker of God's immortality (to be immortal by Grace), to be a partaker and spectator of God's glory. And in so far as he will be a partaker of the glory of God, he will not be under the state of death and corruption. 3) Seeing the glory of God, he will be a partaker of the truth. This truth is not a scientific truth, but a religious truth. It does not mean that everything created is false. Scientific truth is one thing, the other is religious truth. Between God and the world (creation) there is no similarity."

"The faith of the Church is based on Revelation through the experience of prophets, apostles and saints. These are things they saw with their own eyes. When it says that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, this is the mystery of the one who receives it through his faith and divine Grace. It is not something that is perceived through human reasoning or philosophy 'according to the flesh.'

Only through faith and not through reason can we understand the experiences that the Apostles had. All the Apostles had the same faith, and for this reason there is no theology of John or Peter or Paul or Haralambos. They all had the same faith and wrote about it for the special needs of believers."

"The Fathers say that man consists of soul and body. The soul is built like the body, but we do not know what the essence of the soul is. Chrysostom asks: What is the essence of the soul? Nous or reason?

The nous is a noetic energy of the soul which differs from the intellect. Here it does not mean two components, but simply means that nous and intellect (logic) are two energies of the soul. In Aristotle's terminology, the nous is equivalent to the active soul.

The nous, say the Fathers, is self-sufficient, self-active because that is how it was created. In the original (before the fall) state, the nous did not suffer from the imagination or the senses. However, when a person has the Grace of the Holy Spirit, he receives the Grace in his nous and through the nous the intellect and the body participate. Let us not forget that the nous is created and simply an energy of the soul.

In the fallen state we are unable to distinguish between nous and intellect and we confuse these two energies of the soul. In the beginning, Adam had divine vision, but after the fall the energy of the nous was darkened and confused with the energy of the intellect and now it deals with the created things. It is possible for man to examine the created world through reason, because his reason was not darkened, but as far as the nous, whose preeminent task is to see God, it was confused and darkened. Reason is not the means through which man sees God, but through the nous, and in this respect man resembles the angels (who are called noetic beings). The rational energy of the soul is below the noetic. For this reason we distinguish between noetic prayer and rational prayer.

Satan darkened the nous of man (and from 'superconscious', the nous became 'subconscious'). When, with the help of God, a person cleanses his nous, then his situation is the same as that of Adam before the fall; that is, the nous dominates the intellect and the body and the person sees God.

The person who lives in asceticism and fights Satan can, by the Grace of God, reach a point where the nous prays without ceasing ('pray without ceasing') while the intellect can do its daily tasks. According to Orthodoxy, the ideal bishop is the one who has lived in asceticism and learned noetic prayer and then returns to the world and performs his episcopal duties.

In the West, such a thing is not understood because for them, either you will be an ascetic or you will be a bishop, but not both together. This is how things are in the West, because they do not know or understand 'pray without ceasing' which they (as well as some of the ancients) interpret as 'do good works without ceasing'! The Orthodox Church has never had such a distance between ascetic and worldly life."


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