Theosis (Deification): The True Purpose of Life (Part II)

Great Irene of Thessalonica

Great Irene of Thessalonica

My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord and Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

by Archimandrite George Egoumenos (Abbot) of the Holy Monastery of Saint Gregorios of the Holy Mountain Athos

[Please note: Theosis literally means to become gods by Grace. The Biblical words that are synonymous and descriptive of Theosis are: adoption, redemption, inheritance, glorification, holiness and perfection.]

The question of the destiny of our lives is very serious, as it concerns the most important question for man: for what purpose are we placed on earth? If man takes a correct stance on this issue; if he finds his true destiny; then he will be able to take a correct viewpoint in relation to particular questions that arise in our daily life, in our relationships with our fellow men; in our studies, profession, marriage and the bearing and upbringing of children. If he does not relate correctly to this basic issue, then he will also fail in life's particular purposes, for what meaning can a particular purpose have if human life as whole has no meaning? Our life's purpose is declared in the first chapter of the Holy Bible, when the Holy author tells us that God created man "in His image and likeness." From this we discover the great love the Triune God has for man: He does not wish him simply to be a being with certain gifts, certain qualities, a certain superiority over the rest of creation, He wishes him to be a god by Grace.

[Please note: Man (Aνθρωπος -Anthropos) along with the Holy Bible, theology frequently uses the word man in a generic sense for both man and woman, In other words ecclesiastical language is inclusive. Man is the only creature to be made in the "image and likeness" (Genesis 1:26) of God, and as such was God's crowning achievement. God's vision of humanity far exceeds our limited understanding, this can partly be seen to Christ's saying, "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like Angels of God in Heaven" (St. Matthew 22:30)].

Externally, man seems to exist in a purely biological way, like the other living beings, the animals. Of course, he is an animal, but "an animal...which is in the process of Theosis through its inclination towards God," as Saint Gregory the Theologian says in his characteristic way He is the only being that is distinguished from all else in creation, because he is the only one which can become god.

The phrase "in His image" describes the gifts which God gave to man in order to complete him as an icon of God, and not to any of His other creatures. These gifts are: a logos-related nous, conscience, and individual sovereignty, i.e., freedom, creativity, eros, and the yearning for the absolute and for God, personal self-awareness, and anything else which puts man above all other living beings in creation and makes him a man and an individual. That is to say, everything that makes man a person. These are the charismata (gifts) by which we are formed "in the image."

[Please note: Nous (Νούς - nous). The nous is our highest faculty. It has been called the "eye of the psyche," the "eye of heart," and also the "energy of the psyche." When cleansed, the nous resides and operates from within the heart; it can perceive God and the spiritual principals that underlie creation; it is cognitive, visionary and intuitive. The Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos said, "The nous is in the image of God. And in as much as God is Light, the nous too has light mirrored in it by the Grace of God."]

Having been endowed "in His image," man is called upon to be completed "in His likeness." This is Theosis. The Creator, God by nature, calls man to become a god by Grace.

The charismata (gifts) that form us "in His image" were given to man by God in order that he may reach very high; so that through them he may attain a likeness to his God and Creator, so that he may have not only an external, moral relationship, but a personal union with his Creator.

Perhaps it is very daring for us even today or think that our life's purpose is to become gods by Grace. However, neither the Holy Bible nor the Church Holy Fathers have hidden this from us.

What is the purpose? Theosis - for man to be united with God, not in an external or a sentimental manner but ontologically, in a real way. Man is placed so high in Orthodox Christian anthropology that if we compare that with the anthropologies of all the philosophies or social and psychological systems we will very easily find out how poor those are, how little they correspond to man's great yearning for something very great and true in his life.

Since man is "called to be a god" (i.e., was created to become a god), as long as he does not find himself on the path of Theosis he feels as emptiness within himself...he feels that something is not going right, so he is not joyful even when he is trying to cover the emptiness with other activities. He may numb himself, create a glamorous world, or cage and imprison himself within this world, yet at the same time he remains poor, small, limited. He may organize his life in such a way that he is almost never at peace, never alone with himself. Surrounded by noise, tension, television, radio, continuous information about this and that, he may seek to forget with drugs; not to think, not to worry, not to remember that he is on the wrong path and has strayed from his purpose.

In the end, wretched contemporary man finds no rest until he finds that "something else," the highest thing; the thing which actually exists in his life which is truly beautiful and creative.

Can man unite with God? Can he commune with Him? Can he become a god by Grace?

(To be continued)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--St. John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George