On Theosis (Deification)

Martyr Tryphon of Campsada Near Apamea in Syria

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


Because you are a well-spring of tenderness, O Theotokos, Make us worthy of compassion. Look upon us, a sinful people. Manifest your power as always, For, hoping in you, we shout with joy: Hail! as once did the Angel Gabriel, Chief of the Bodiless Powers. Amen.


On February 1st (Καλόν και Ευλογημένο Μήνα! Good and Blessed new month) Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Martyr Tryphon; Saint Perpetua and her Companions; Saint Timothy the Confessor; Saint Bridget of Ireland.

THE HOLY MARTYR TRYPHON. Born in the village of Lampsacus in Phrygia of poor parents, he kept geese as a child. He also had from childhood great grace from God, healing both people and animals and driving out evil spirits. At that time the pagan Roman Emperor Gordian (238-244 A.D.) came to the throne in Rome. He had a mad daughter, the source of great distress to her father. Doctors could do nothing to help her. But the evil spirit in the girl broke silence and said that no-one but Tryphon could cast it out. After many other Tryphones in the Empire had failed, this young Tryphon was sent for, by the Providence of God. He was taken to Rome, where he healed the Emperor's daughter. The Emperor heaped gifts on him, which Saint Tryphon gave away to the poor before returning home. This holy youth remained in his village, tending the geese and praying to God.

When pagan Decius, who was violently opposed to the Christian faith, became Emperor, Saint Tryphon was interrogated and cruelly tortured for Christ. But he endured all his sufferings with great joy, saying: "Oh, when shall I become worthy, through fire and torture, to make an end for the Name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and God?' No torture was able to harm him, and the torturers finally condemned him to be beheaded. At the moment of his death, Saint Tryphon commanded his soul to his Creator, in the year 250 A.D.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Romans 8:28-39
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 10:19-21


Saint Peter Damascene writes thus of the general and the particular gifts of God: "The general gifts are the four elements, and all that come from them, all the wonderful and terrible works of God revealed in the Holy Scriptures. But the particular gifts are those which God gives to a man individually; be it wealth for acts of mercy, or poverty for patience with thanksgiving; be it power for right judgment and the strengthening of virtue, or subjugation and slavery for the swift salvation of the soul; be it health for the helping of the infirm or weakness for the crown of patience; be it understanding and skill in gathering wealth for the sake of virtues, or feebleness and clumsiness for submissive humility. All these; and though they may seem in contrast to one another they are all, as they are apportioned, very good." He says in conclusion that we owe God gratitude for all His gifts, and must bear all infirmities and tribulations with patience and hope. For all that God gives us or brings upon us is for our salvation.

by Protopresbyter John S. Romanides [source: Patristic Theology]

There is a lot of Orthodox literature available on theosis and some writers give the impression that theosis is an injection of divinity that man receives through the Church's mysteries. Some people even believe that the mysteries of the Church exist so that Orthodox Christians can go and receive their divinity injections when they participate in the sacraments.

In Saint Symeon the New Theologian's prayer before Holy Communion, he writes that the Body and Blood of Christ "deify and nourish me." For this reason, certain devout souls think that they receive an injection of divinity by communing of the Immaculate Mysteries. And since they have received their dosage of divinity, they also have their ticket to heaven securely in their pocket.

But Saint Symeon wrote those words about himself. He was conveying his frequent post-communion experience of attaining a state where he participated in the uncreated grace of God. In other words, after Holy Communion, God granted him experiences of theosis. But do we attain such a state of union with God every time we receive Holy Communion? Can we claim to have participated in the divinity or the uncreated glorifying grace of God without knowingly having sensed that glorifying grace, simply because we have communed of the Immaculate Mysteries? Unfortunately, devout souls in Greece who are now making these remarks about theosis have driven us to such a pitiful state.

But in the Patristic tradition theosis is not a divinity vaccination, but the vision of God or glorification. When someone has reached a state of illumination--which means the Holy Spirit has entered him and is praying within him--then he has met the preconditions required in order to be led to divine vision (theoria). When God so wills, He leads him to divine vision or theosis. And then, that person sees Christ in glory.

Theosis (deification) is this vision of Christ and Christ alone. Orthodox Latin writers use the corresponding term 'glorificatio', which means glorification, to refer to this experience. This is why you will not run across the term 'theosis' in the Latin Orthodox tradition.

In the first Epistle to the Corinthians, we encounter this term when Saint Paul writes, "If one member is glorified (δοξάζεται) all the members rejoice" (I Cor. 12:26). [Please note: Most English translations of the Holy Bible mistranslate this verse as "one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it."] In other words, when one member of the parish is glorified, then all the members naturally rejoice with him by virtue of the bond of love. When a person is glorified, he automatically becomes a prophet.

What Saint Paul calls 'glorification' the Patristic tradition refers to as 'theosis,' the experience by which a Christian becomes a theologian. The term 'glorification' can also be found in the Fathers' writings, but the more prevalent term is 'theosis', a term which theologically describes glorification. In order for man to see God, he must become god by grace and participate in God.

No human being left to his own resources is able to see God, no matter how hard he tries. Only when God glorifies someone is that person who has become a god by grace able to see God by means of God. Only when someone is within the Uncreated Light, is made radiant by the Uncreated Light, and by grace becomes Light, is it possible for that person to see the Uncreated Light. (On account of this experience, the Prophet David and those who attained to theosis after him say "in Thy light, shall we see light" Psalm 36:9 or 35:10). When we say that man is glorified, it means that his entire body--in fact his entire being--is within the Uncreated Light. And since he is found within the Light, he can see the Light that surrounds him.

But at the same time, all his surroundings appear to him to be radiant and permeated by this Light, because this Light is pervasive. It bathes, illumines, penetrates, and permeates all things. Someone who can see sees the Light of Divinity permeate all of creation. This is what is meant by the expression God "is everywhere present" and the phrase from the Angelic hymn in the Divine Liturgy "heaven and earth are full of Thy glory." When heaven and earth are filled with God's glory or Light, this fullness is called krasis or 'mingling.' (Krasis means 'mixing' or 'blending' and is metaphorically used to mean 'union.' It is derived from the verb kerannymi which means 'to mix together' and was frequently used to refer to the diluting of wine and water. The modern Greek word for wine is krasi).

The ruling power [vasileia] of God is none other than this glory or Light of God, a reign [vasileia] that is uncreated and everywhere present. Although everyone is found within this reign, everyone does not participate in it. Only those who experience illumination or theosis partake of this reign during those experiences. So when someone meets the preconditions required for a pure heart, he has this glory or reign revealed to him. During and experience of illumination, the light of the glory of God is an internal light, while during an experience of theosis the bodily eyes also take part in its vision. The coming of the reign (vasileia) of God is none other than this revelation of God's glory to man.

So during an experience of theosis (deification), you can see what is already present surrounding you and within you. This light is simply revealed to you so that you might know it. In this way, you know what you believe, because you have seen it. You now know that the uncreated glory of God can mingle with God's creation.

With sincere agape In His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George