Consequences of Guidance for Theosis
The guidance that our Orthodox Church offers, with the Holy Services, Patristic theology, Monasticism, is theanthropocentric guidance.
Its centre is the God-Man Christ, and it leads to Theosis. This brings great joy into our life when we know what a great destiny we have, and what blessedness awaits us.
To set our sights on Theosis sweetens the pain in every trial and all the worries of life.
When we are struggling towards the aim of Theosis, that is to say, when we see one another as prospective gods, our attitude towards our fellow men changes for the better.
How much deeper and more substantial will be the guidance which we will then give our children!
In what a God-pleasing way a father and mother will then love and respect their children, feeling the responsibility and holy charge which they have towards them; how much will they then help them, by the Grace of God, to attain Theosis, the purpose for which they brought them into the world! And how will they naturally help them, if they themselves are not oriented towards that purpose, towards Theosis?
How much more respect will we have for ourselves when we feel that we have been moulded for this great purpose; when we are without the egotism and pride which opposes God!
Certainly, the Holy Fathers and great theologians of the Church say that it is in this way, by overcoming our self-love and the anthropocentric philosophy of egotism; that we become real people, true men.
Then we will meet God with reverence and love, but also meet our fellow man with respect and true dignity not seeing him as a tool of pleasure and exploitation, but as an icon of God destined for Theosis.
As long as we are closed within ourselves –within our ego– we are individuals but not persons. Once we exit from our closed individual existence and begin, in agreement with this guidance based on Theosis, with the Grace of God, but also with our own cooperation – to love, to offer ourselves all the more to Him and to our neighbour, we become true persons.
This is to say that when our ego encounters the Thou of God, and the “you” of our brother, then we begin to find our lost self.
For, within the communion in Theosis for which we were moulded, we are able to open up, to communicate, to really enjoy one another… and not only in a selfish way.
This is the ethos of the Divine Liturgy, in which we learn to overcome the narrow, atom- istic interest to which the devil, our sins, and our passions compel us, and instead learn to open up to a communion of sacrifice and love in Christ.
An awareness of this great calling of his, i.e. of Theosis, comforts and really completes man.
The Orthodox humanism of our Church is based on this great calling of man, and therefore it develops all his powers to the extreme.
What other form of humanism, however progressive and liberal it may appear, is as revo- lutionary as that of the Church which is able to make man a god?
Only the humanism of the Church reaches so high.
Today especially, when so many attempt to deceive the people, and in particular the young, by projecting false humanisms which in effect maim man and do not complete him, the em- phasis given in this guidance of the Church has great importance Consequences of guidance that does not lead to Theosis.
Today, young people seek experiences. They are not content with a materialistic life; nor with the rationalistic society that we their elders hand down to them.
Our children, being icons of God, “called to be gods,” seek something beyond the logical forms of the materialistic philosophy and atheistic education we offer to them.
They seek experiences of true life. And, certainly, it is not sufficient for them to be told about God.
They desire experience of Him, of His light, of His Grace.
Many of them search in vain, resorting to many cheap substitutes to find something outside or beyond logic because they do not know that the Church has both the ability to comfort them and the experience they thirst for.
Others are led to Oriental mysticisms such as yoga; yet others to occultism or gnosticism, and finally, unfortunately, even to outright satanism.
Even in morality they do not know any boundary, for morality, once severed from its essence and deprived of its purpose, which is to unite them with holy God, ends up by having absolutely no meaning.
Then tragic phenomena such as anarchy and terrorism become commonplace, so that many young people give themselves to every type of extremism and violence against their fellow men; deep down they wish to satisfy a dynamism which they have within themselves.
This deep yearning of theirs is not fulfilled simply because they did not chance upon this guidance of Theosis.
The majority of young people, and not only the young, squander the precious time of their lives, as well as the powers which God gave them for the purpose of achieving Theosis, in hunting for pleasure and carnal worship.
Unfortunately, it is often with the tolerance of the state that these become their contemporary idols, their contemporary “gods,” thus causing great corrosion to their bodies and psyches.
Living without any ideals whatsoever, others waste away in various purposeless, vapid, and harmful occupations; some feel pleasure in driving cars at excessive speeds on the roads –often with tragic results of injury and death– and others, again, after many explorations, surrender unconditionally to a demonic dependence on drugs, the new plague of our age.
Finally, enough people, after a relatively short life full of failure and disappointment, consciously or unconsciously seek an end to the torment of their vain quest, unfortunately resorting to the extreme form of desperation, suicide.
Not all the young people who resort to these irrational and tragic things are hooligans.
They are young people, children of God, our children too, who, disappointed by the materialistic, selfseeking society which we bequeath to them, do not find that for which they were moulded; the true, the eternal.
We did not give it to them, and so they do not know it. They do not know the great purpose of man’s life, Theosis.
Then, not finding peace in anything else, they resort in desperation to the forms which we have mentioned.
Today, out of selfless love, many Shepherds of our holy Church; bishops, priests, spiritual fathers, and lay brothers, devote themselves daily to the guidance to our youth towards the aim of Theosis.
We are grateful to them for their sacrifice and offering: for this God-pleasing work of theirs, with which, by the Grace of
God, psyches for whom Christ died are saved and sanctified.
Humbly, the Holy Mountain helps and assists in this great distress of the Church.
The Garden of our Panagia, being a special place of sanctity and silence dedicated to God, savours the blessing of Theosis, lives communion with God, and has intense and vivid experience of His Grace and His Light, so that many of our fellow men, the majority of them young, benefit from and are strengthened and reborn in Christ by a pilgrimage to Mount Athos, or by maintaining more specific connections with it.
In this way, people enjoy God in their life, and begin to understand what Orthodoxy is, what Christian life is, what spiritual struggle is, and what joy and great meaning these things give to their existence.
This is to say, they taste something of this great gift of God to man, Theosis.
Let all of us, Shepherds of the Church; theologians; catechists; not forget about guidance for Theosis, by which the young people, with all we who are humble, with the Grace of God and within our daily struggle, the struggle of repentance and observance of His holy commandments, acquire the possibility of enjoying this blessing of God, this union with Him, to enjoy it very strongly in this life, but also to gain eternal happiness and blessedness.
Let us continually thank the holy Lord for the gift of Theosis, which is a gift of His love.
Let us reciprocate His love with our own love.
The Lord wants and desires us to be deified.
After all, for this purpose He became man and died upon the Cross so that He shines as the Sun amidst suns, and God amidst gods.
From the preface:
When Jesus said, “You are gods,be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect,” or “the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father,” this is to be taken literally. Theosis is the Pearl of Great Price alluded to by Christ. It can become a present reality for those who are willing to tread the path, and so it is not exclusively an after-death experience. With Theosis death is transcended. St. Paul alludes to this when he says, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Again, while being stoned to death, St. Stephen the first martyr offered himself up to Christ and prayed to God for his persecutors to be forgiven. The Easter chant, “Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down Death by death, and bestowing life to those in the tombs” also bears witness to this. Christianity is victory over death. So may this small book help us all to strive for that one thing needful, that One thing which cannot be taken from us.