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On Faith

BASIC PRECEPTS OF THE ORTHODOX FAITH

I. On God within Himself, as One in Essence

In beginning our study of the first dogma, on God within Himself, let us say a few words on the limits or degree of man’s possible knowledge of God.

Let us listen to what the Church itself says of the limits of our knowledge of God.

Complete knowledge of God is impossible. Partial knowledge of God, insofar as He has revealed Himself to man, is not only possible, but necessary. This is understandable, for if we cannot entirely comprehend our fellow man, then how can we encompass with our small and limited mind the Infinite and Absolute Origin, i.e. God within Himself, within His uniquely Divine essence?

The truth of the incomprehensibility of the fullness of God’s essence is confirmed by many testimonies in the Word of God. Throughout the entire Old and New Testament runs a thread of warning to the proud human mind that complete understanding of God exists only within God Himself, for God dwells “in the light which no man can approach unto; Whom no man hath seen, nor can see,” as Apostle Paul tells us (1 Tim. 6:16).

On the basis of reason the Church fathers have proven the incomprehensibility of the Divine essence. Just as our eyes are unable to endure the light of the sun, so our mind cannot see the Face of God and remain alive. Our imperfect spiritual eye, which is furthermore darkened by sin, cannot fully perceive the rays of Divine Light issuing from His Divine essence. Moreover, if God were comprehended by a finite being, then He would no longer be Infinite. But not even in the richest languages in the world is there such a word that could define in a single word the essence of Divinity, its Divine nature.

However, if partial knowledge of God were impossible for us, then the Gospel’s preaching would be in vain. “For our benefit and salvation it is sufficient that we know the One, Existing, Eternal God,” – says St. Cyril of Jerusalem.

Apostle Paul gives an amazingly precise definition of the limits of man’s knowledge of God. We see the unseen God “as in a mirror, guessingly.” What does this mean? We see God as in a mirror, i.e. we see His reflection in the mirror of the world He had created, and not face-to-face, as we see other objects. But in a mirror one can still recognize an object, while God we see as in a mirror, yet still guessingly, i.e. unclearly, dimly, as a mystery that has yet to be deciphered. From this, says Apostle Paul, arises our partial, imperfect knowledge of God. In the knowledge of God “we walk in faith and not in vision.”

Incomprehensible in His essence, God Himself has deigned to reveal Himself in His created world, in which are so clearly reflected His “eternal power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:20). God has especially revealed Himself in the mystic revelation of the Old and New Testament. Probably the most concise expression of the quintessence of knowing God within Himself are the words of St. Athanasius the Great: “The universal faith is such: that we worship the One God in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity, neither merging the Persons, nor dividing the Being.” Thus the teaching on God within Himself is separated into two separate dogmas: (1) on God, One in Essence, and (2) on God, Triune in Persons. Let us first look at the teaching on God’s Oneness.

God is One, but not in the sense in which each object in a row of other objects is single. In such a sense each pagan god could have been called single. The Oneness of the True God more accurately means Uniqueness.

“When we say that the Eastern Church believes in the One God, the Father, the Almighty, it should be understood here that He is called One not in number, but overall,” – says St. Clement of Alexandria. There is no other God, neither equal, nor higher, nor lower, but there is only He, the One God. And if at the dawn of humanity, in the infantile period of development of the human mind, people found it acceptable to believe in many gods, the revelation of the Old Testament already vividly stressed God’s Oneness. Whenever the Jews descended into idol-worship, God reminded them anew of His Oneness: “I am the Lord God, I am the first, there is no God save Me.”

Even the pagans with their many gods, without noticing it themselves, retained in their beliefs the idea of a Single Higher Being, believing all their gods to be of a lower order and subordinating them to a Higher Unknown God. The holy Apostle Paul began his famous speech in the Athenian Areopagus with an account of how he, while walking through the city, among a multitude of idols saw an altar to the Unknown God. “It is this God, – so began his speech Apostle Paul, – Whom ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:22-23).

In viewing the visible world, the Church fathers saw a reflection of the Sole Creator in the very structure of the world, because the world is also single. In the structure of all its parts, large and small, there is remarkable unity and harmony, where everything runs according to definite laws, strives towards a definite end, one is supported by another, and everything works for the good and order of the whole, and this is what attests to the Oneness of its Creator and Administrator.

II. On God, Triune in Persons

The Christian teaching on God within Himself is not at all exhausted by the teaching on God, One in Essence. A comprehension of God’s Oneness was attained by prominent thinkers of distant pre-Christian antiquity; not only Orthodox Christians believe in the One God, but also all other Christians, as well as Jews, Muslims, and many philosophical systems. From the Revelation we learn in greater detail about God’s life within Himself. To us is revealed the dogma that is absolutely inaccessible to our logic – that of the Most-holy, Life-giving, and Indivisible Trinity. The teaching on the Trinity of Persons in God is the most fundamental dogma of genuine and full-bodied universal Christianity. The mystery of the Holy Trinity is at the heart of all Christian dogmas; it is the foundation of the blueprint for the salvation of mankind. If the dogma on the incarnation of the Son of God is called a great mystery by Apostle Paul, then the dogma on the Triunity of Persons in God is the mystery of all mysteries.

The teaching on the Holy Trinity is a uniquely Christian dogma, which could never have been divined by any philosophical system or any other religion in the world. This serves as irrefutable proof that the Christian religion is not the result of any individual philosophical thought. This is a religion of supernatural provenance. Only God could have revealed this incomprehensible but actual truth about Himself within His exclusive Divine life. In truth, could any man have imagined that which he is unable to encompass with his mind, is unable to understand how there are Three Persons in One God? Moreover, each Person is God: the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Yet there are not three Gods, but One God. Many efforts were made by man’s prideful mind to penetrate this mystery of the Holy Trinity, but all these attempts, in the opinion of Blessed Augustine, remind one of a child trying to “take on the sea with a pitcher and pour it out onto the shore.”

We are not surprised when this dogma is repudiated by rationalists and free-thinkers, who base themselves only on their own inherent logical thinking, without acknowledging any Divine authority in the Holy Scriptures. But it is absolutely hard to understand why various non-Orthodox Christians, who accept the Divine provenance of the Holy Bible, reject the dogma on the Triunity of Persons in God, despite the multitude of testimonials in the Word of God about the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Truth to say, the teaching on the Triunity of Persons in the Divine Being, revealed with all clarity in the New Testament, was revealed somewhat dimly in the Old Testament. The reason for this is that the Lord, as the holy fathers say, was gradually preparing the limited and sin-damaged mind of man to comprehend God within Himself. In ancient times an open teaching of the Triunity of Persons in God could have been interpreted in favor of polytheism, to which were disposed not only the pagans, but also the God-chosen Jewish people, who often fell into idol-worship even despite the clear teaching on the One God that was revealed to them. Significantly enough, at the most important moments in Biblical history we already find in the Old Testament clear indications of the Triunity of Persons in the One-in-Essence God. Before man’s creation there is a council within the Holy Trinity: “And God said, let Us make (plural) man in Our image, after Our likeness,” and then the writer of Genesis continues: “And God created (singular) man, in the image of God created He him” (Gen. 1:26-27).

Prior to the mixing up of languages and dispersion of people after the Tower of Babel fiasco, we read: “And the Lord said, come and let Us go down and confound their language,” and further on we read: “And the Lord confounded them and scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth” (Gen. 11:7-8). Thus, to Whomever applies let Us create, let Us confound, to the Same likewise applies created, confounded. “So you see, – says Blessed Augustine, – Abraham looked upon three, but worshipped One. Seeing the three, he realized the mystery of the Holy Trinity, while in worshipping the One, he confessed the One God in Three Persons.”

As to the New Testament, it has always contained a multitude of testimonials to the Triunity of Persons in God. The Saviour sends His disciples out to preach, in order for them to teach “all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). And in the Baptism of the Lord, the Holy Trinity openly appears to people: God the Son is baptized in the river Jordan, God the Father gives voice from above, and the God the Holy Spirit descends from heaven in the form of a dove. St. John the Theologian very clearly points out the Triunity of Divine Persons within the Unity of Their Essence: “Three bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.”

The teaching on the Triunity of Persons in God is unanimously confirmed by the holy fathers of various eras: by teachers in the first century (the holy Apostles, St. Clement of Rome, Ignatius the God-bearer), the second century (St. Justinian, Athenagoras), the third century (Clement of Alexandria, Origen), etc. Preserved documents of martyrs’ trials record their confession of the Holy Trinity before their death. In the most ancient creeds (those of Jerusalem, Rome, Caesarea, the creed of Athanasius the Great) we find a precise exposition of this most difficult Church dogma.

In venerating the unfathomable but clearly revealed to man dogma of the Triunity of Persons in God, we allow ourselves to believe that God has wished to reveal this dogma to man, in order to help man attain at least a glimpse of understanding of God’s life within Himself. In this dogma we learn that God has His own exclusively Divine life apart from His relation with the world He had created. The mysterious to us fullness of God’s inner life within His Triune Being is comprehended by us in this dogma as being perfect and inexhaustible Divine Love. The mystery of Triunity makes more comprehensible to us the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. This leads to a complete and harmonious Christian worldview that is not to be found in any other religion.

The mystery of Triunity offers the revelation that God is Love. This God’s Love is revealed not only in the creation and caretaking of the world, but in its most perfect and infinite fullness it resides eternally within the very bosom of Divinity. From eternity there has been an inexhaustible life of love within God, an eternal communality of love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

O, how we must rejoice that the Lord has revealed this dogma to us! The Christian God is One, or more precisely Unique in the entire universe, but not alone! The universal Church of Christ glorifies the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, a Trinity One-in-essence and Indivisible! We have seen the True Light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the True Faith, we worship the indivisible Trinity; for He hath saved us (stichera from the service for the Pentecost, also sung at every liturgy).

Professor G.A. Znamensky

GOD
GOD

III. The Creation of the Invisible or Angelic World

The One Triune God, possessing the absolute fullness of supreme qualities for eternal glory and rapture in His exclusive Divine life, could have refrained from creating the world and man. But being infinitely benevolent and loving, in accordance with His Own desire God decided to bring forth from nothingness into existence the entire Universe, i.e. by the power of His mighty word (let it be so!) He created the world and man out of nothingness, and from that time on He continuously takes care of His creation.

Before all else, with His Divine thought God created out of nothing, i.e. not out of anything, the invisible world, the heavenly powers, constant hymners of His Divine glory. This so-called “rational world,” the world of angels, by the grace that was given to it is always and in everything devoted to the Divine will. According to Church teaching, the very name “angel” denotes not the nature, but the position of these messengers of God. Angels are rational, spiritual beings, distinguished from God and from man and, moreover, actual beings and not imagined ones. By their nature angels are spirits; if they sometimes appear to people in sensual or bodily form, they take on this form in order to manifest themselves to man. The same may be said of the language (speech) of the heavenly messengers, which cannot be taken literally or physically. In the Holy Scriptures the bodiless angelic world is presented as being incredibly great in number. Both the Old Testament mystic the prophet Daniel and the New Testament mystic Apostle John the Theologian saw “thousands of thousands” serving the Old of Days as He sat on His throne, and “hosts of hosts standing before Him.” However, in this immeasurable world of angels there are subdivisions or levels. The Church divides the angels into nine ranks on the basis of all these names being mentioned in the Holy Scriptures. The Church divides the entire invisible world into nine ranks, subdividing them into three orders, with three ranks in each order, to wit: the first order, the closest to God, are the seraphim, cherubim, and thrones; the second order are the dominions, powers, and authorities; the third order are the principalities, archangels, and angels.

Having created the invisible world, the Lord then created out of nothingness also the visible or physical world and, finally, man himself. This “crown of creation,” being composed of both an invisible rational soul and a material body, carries within him the image of the visible and the invisible worlds.

It was hard for the sages of this world to comprehend the Orthodox teaching, based upon Divine Revelation, on the provenance of all that exists outside of God, brought forth from non-existence by the creative act of the Omnipotent Lord. Both ancient and modern sages fell deeply into error in their teachings on the origin of the world. Some of them acknowledged that the world is eternal; others taught about the “emanation” of the world from God; yet others believed that as a result of some blind chance the world just formed itself out of eternal chaos, i.e. out of a supposedly eternally existing mass of atoms; and still others asserted that God created the world out of “material that was co-eternal with Him.” Not one of them could elevate himself to the concept of the world originating through the power of the Omnipotent God, the Primary Cause of all existing things. Even in Christian times there appeared free-thinkers who began to teach that the physical world was created by the angels out of eternal material and without God’s knowledge. The heretical Manicheans even went so far as to posit the creation of the world by the origin of evil – the devil.

Truly cultured people arrive at the ideas of the eternality of God and the temporality of the world, as well as the creation of the world out of nothingness, not only through feeling, but also through logic. It is precisely this logic which does not allow us to explain the origin of the world as being due to blind chance, without any cause. Everything in the world has its cause. Through sound reasoning our mind arrives not only intuitively, but also logically at acknowledging such a Primary Cause of the world, which, not being a consequence of any other cause, comprises within itself the cause of all existing things. This Supreme and Absolute Being is the true God and Creator of the world. What is easier for us – to ascribe all the beauty, order, and harmony in the world to a higher, sentient Primary Cause or to the blind chance of an atomic chain reaction? Let adherents of the Kant-Laplace theory comfort themselves with the thought that “due to some unknown (!) impetus, the centers that were formed and solidified began to revolve like a whirlwind and… formed the world.” Let them satisfy their curiosity with “an eternally existing hot nebula,” out of which “the entire universe appeared,” while we, venerating the supreme and sentient Primary Cause of the entire universe, will joyously glorify His eternal Power and Divinity.

In vain do the godless, who doubt God’s existence, wait until science tells them with finality whether God exists or not. Natural and applied sciences do not deal with the issue of God. That is not their specialty. It is well-known that natural and applied sciences concentrate their entire attention on the study of already existing things, our surrounding world, and the laws to which this world and life within in are subordinate. If we believers are interested in the question of how the world originated, science is interested more in how to best name and define this primeval cosmic material or energy, and to what laws this material or energy is subordinate. It is precisely logic itself which demands from scientists, when they begin to delve deeper into theological/religious thinking, to acknowledge that the Primary Cause of the world is the Omniscient Origin, Personal and Sentient. Only then does everything in the world become comprehensible and explicable.

In error are the pantheists who, although they acknowledge the Primary Cause (God) in the world, yet assert that this Primary Cause had created unconsciously. Such is the conclusion reached by pantheists-pessimists like Hartmann and Schopenhauer. These and similar philosophers say that the primary cause may have unconsciously manifested appropriate powers in arranging the universe, just as animals unconsciously perform a whole series of appropriate functions. But for a rational mind it is much easier to posit that nature functions appropriately, albeit unconsciously, precisely because it is indebted for its arrangement and all the laws instilled within it to a Sentient Being. It is much more logical to draw the same parallel, the same interaction between God and nature as exists between man and the insensate but appropriately functioning machines he creates.

If it is rational and logical to acknowledge the existence of a Personal Sentient God, then it is quite logical to also agree to the fittingness of a supernatural Divine Revelation and of religion as a living union between a Personal God and rationally-free man, created by Him in the image and likeness of God. Only in the Divine Revelation do we find answers to all the questions of the questing human mind which neither science nor philosophy can answer. It is from the Revelation that we learn that evil in the world is the result of the fall of some of the angels and the first-created man, who came out of their Creator’s hands pure and innocent, but through pride and misuse of their free will violated the original harmony of the world. Only from the Revelation do we learn of the personal life of the Creator of the universe – the totally incomprehensible to our logic dogma of the Most-holy, One-in-essence, Life-giving, and Indivisible Trinity, or the triune unity of God within Himself.

God is not only the Creator, but also the Sovereign Lord and Provider. He cares for all the beings in the world, and this care is expressed in His preserving, assisting, and governing His creatures. Preservation is that act of God’s providence wherein the Almighty maintains the existence of the entire world and of all the particular beings in it, with all their forces, laws, and activities. Assistance is that act of God’s providence wherein the All-benevolent provides for all rational creatures and helps them when they freely choose and do good. And when they do evil, He only tolerates it. Governance is that act of God’s providence wherein the Provider guides the lives of His creatures towards designated goals, often turning their very deeds into good consequences. According to the precise meaning of the Word of God and the teaching of the Church fathers, God’s providence is divided into the general, pertaining to the entire world, and the particular, pertaining to each specific creature. “How can the One Who out of His infinite goodness created the world not care for His creation?” – says Blessed Theodorite. Being Omnipotent and Omnipresent, God has no difficulty whatsoever in caring for His creatures. Without God’s providence there would not have been the amazing order we see in the world and, randomly tossed hither and thither like a ship in a tempest, the world would have turned into primeval chaos and turmoil. “Having been called forth out of nothingness, the world could not have existed on its own,” – say Athanasius the Great and Cyril of Alexandria. Whoever denies God’s providence, denies God Himself, say the holy Fathers. Although God’s providence encompasses the entire world, the freedom of spiritually rational beings is not violated by it, while the existence of different forms of evil cannot be attributed to the Ruler of the world. For this reason so-called deism, or the philosophical movement which acknowledges God the Creator but denies God’s providence in the world, is totally rejected by the Church.


IV. The Creation of the Physical World and Man

Throughout the whole Scripture God Alone is called eternal, and the world is never considered to be co-eternal with Him. “All beings, – says St. John Damascene, – are created. If they are created, they are changeable. Who, then, will not agree that everything in the world is subject to change?”

The Orthodox Church, wishing as a loving Mother to guard its faithful children from all kinds of unwise teachings leading to a false understanding of the origin of the world, teaches us on the basis of the Word of God that two periods must be distinguished in the creation of the world: (1) creation per se, i.e. the creation of the primordial substance of the universe, and (2) the conversion of this created but chaotic substance into the well-ordered system of the universe.

The Orthodox Church believes that the writer of Genesis, Moses, speaks of the creation of the entire universe and not only of our planet Earth. Moses describes not only geogeny (formation of the Earth), but also cosmogeny (formation of the universe).

Speaking of the origin of heaven and earth, Moses touches upon heaven only in passing, as far as it relates to earth, and then passes on to a detailed description of the arrangement of Earth with all its inhabitants, headed by the crown of creation – man.

The Omnipotent and All-benevolent Creator Himself directly participates not only in the initial creation of the substance, but also in the formation of the world in six days.

Believing that the Omnipotent God could create the universe with His supernatural power not only in six days, but in a single instant, by these six days Moses means regular days, defining their beginning and end by evening and morning: “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” In depicting the six-day creation of the world not according to the laws of natural development or evolution, but by the supernatural power of the Creator, Moses speaks of all the supreme actions of the All-wise Creator in terms of general human concepts, simply describing the various objects of the physical world as they appear to the eyes of the observer, and not as they are known to scientists. Moses describes the creation of the world not as a scientist, but as a wise teacher of faith. It is the essential principle of events that is important to him and not the details which may be of interest to natural sciences. Moses does not employ any scientific terms. For him it is important to know and to instruct all the faithful in that the world was created of out nothing, that everything was called forth from nothingness into existence by the power of the Omnipotent God. And let it be known to all that the majority of scientists believed and continue to believe that Nature and the Bible are two books written by God and offered to man to read as the works of a Single Author. In the issue of the origin of the world there is no essential difference between the Bible and science. Thus thought many great scientists (Newton, Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, Fechner, Liebich, Lomonosov, Pasteur, Roentgen, Mendeleev, etc. ad infinitum). The Russian zoologist and anthropologist Behr and the American natural scientist Dawson authoritatively assert that since ancient times nothing has been passed to us more elevated than the Biblical teaching on the creation of the world. If scientists find it possible to unite faith with knowledge, if they always treated the Bible and continue to treat it with respect as an amazing narrative not only in a religious sense, but also in a purely scientific one, does this not attest to the fact that the seeming differences in principal/cardinal issues on the origin of the world according to the Bible and according to science arise only among those who know neither science nor the Bible?

In order to calm down the overly ardent fans of science and to show them that as science develops, the seeming chasm of differences between the Bible and science does not increase, but becomes reduced, let us try to compare these two sources of knowledge on the creation of the world.

All the scientific hypotheses on the origin of the world say that (1) gaseous, heated nebulae, due to their constant movement and the high specific gravity of some of the particles which drew in the lighter particles, formed centers; (2) due to an unknown (?) impetus, these centers began revolving in a whirlwind fashion; (3) because of this centripetal force, the nebulae became dense and formed a core which then became the sun; (4) balls of fire broke away from the central core and turned into planets; (5) the gaseous substance then turned into fiery liquid which subsequently solidified, and (6) gradually life began to emerge… One may well ask whether these well-ordered and fine theories and hypotheses essentially contradict the Biblical narrative on the origin of the world? Of course not. The Bible says that the world in all its beauty and order did not come to be right away, in a single moment, but in six days. And science also says that the world was not formed right away. In order to pacify those who would like to understand the days of creation as being periods of time and not our regular days, some theologians accept the thought that perhaps the days of creation should not be understood literally, for in the eyes of God a thousand years are like a single day.

Likewise there is no contradiction between the Bible and science in regard to the cardinal issue of the genesis of living organisms on earth. According to both the Bible and science, there first appeared the less developed organisms, then the more refined ones and, finally, the king of nature – man.

As regards the antiquity of the world, that issue is more scientific than religious. Let us leave it to science to engage in calculations. Some believers may, perhaps, be curious to study these calculations, but the latter are not important. What is important is for us to know is that the world is not eternal, and that it has been called froth from nothingness into existence by the creative power of pre-eternal Wisdom, the primal Cause.

Moses’ detailed account of the creation of man, who from ancient times was called a “mini-world” in the universe, is accepted by the Church in a historic sense and not as do many free-thinkers, who reduce the description of this greatest Divine act of creation to the level of a myth. Moses’ account of the creation of first Adam and then Eve is confirmed in the New Testament. Apostle Paul says in his first epistle to the Corinthians (11:8): “For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man.” In the same epistle the Apostle says (15:45, 47): “The first man Adam was made a living soul, while the last Adam (Christ) is a life-giving spirit. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.”

On the basis of the Word of God the Orthodox Church teaches that all of mankind came from Adam and Eve. However, there are opponents of such a teaching. Some of them – the pre-adamites – assert that Adam is not the forefather of mankind, but that other people existed before him. Others – the co-adamites – declare that together with Adam there were several forefathers, and this is why people did not originate from the same root.

It is quite noteworthy that in the traditions of all peoples mankind is produced from a single pair. The Holy Scripture clearly stresses the provenance of mankind from Adam and Eve. According to Moses, when the Lord God was creating the world and fashioned the earth and the heaven, there was not a man to till the ground (Gen. 2:5). In enumerating the human genealogy of Jesus Christ, the holy Evangelist Luke goes back to Adam as the forefather and the first man to have come out of the hands of the Creator Himself. In the Acts of the holy Apostles we read that God made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the entire face of the earth (17:26), while in his epistle to the Romans the holy Apostle Paul says that “as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, so death passed upon all men, for in him (i.e. our common forefather) all have sinned” (5:12).

The pre-adamites’ claim that in the first chapter of the book of Genesis Moses supposedly describes the origin of the first-created pair differently than in the second chapter does not serve as a basis for positing two different creations of man. In his first chapter Moses speaks in general terms of the creation of man and woman. In his second chapter he describes in detail how God created Adam. Our Orthodox assertion is fully confirmed by the following words in the fifth chapter of Genesis: “This is the book of the genesis of man, in the day that God created Adam: in the likeness of God made He him, male and female created He them” (5:1-2). As for the co-adamites’ reference to physiology, to the sharp difference in people in regard to color and facial angle, according to science these differences are caused by climatic conditions, temperature, and way of life. The difference in the facial angle depends on mental development and the influence of the brain’s development upon the skull. To the credit of new science it must be said that it, too, accepts the single origin of mankind. Linguists reduce the entire variety of languages to three classes – Indo-European, Semitic, and Malayan, while some of them trace these three classes back to a single root. Moreover, according to Biblical teaching, “the whole earth was of one language and of one speech” (Gen. 11:1). The origin of different languages is explained by the mixing up of tongues in punishment to man for his pride, as it is described in the book of Genesis.

According to Biblical teaching, man is composed of soul and body. Having created Adam’s body out of the dust of the earth, God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7). The Evangelist Matthew also speaks of man’s dual nature (10:28) in his warning to us: “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Addressing Christians, Apostle Paul teaches them: “Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20).

V. The Purpose, Original State, and Fall of Man

If the entire sequence of the non-organic and organic world was created in a single moment, so-to-speak, by the Creator’s omnipotent words – let it be! – then the creation of man was distinguished from the creation of all other creatures. Speaking in our limited human language, prior to the creation of man a Council took place within the Holy Trinity: “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). The very process of the creation of man took place as follows: (1) out of the dust of the earth God created the body of man; (2) into the body of the first-created man God breathed the breath of life; (3) having indicated man’s supreme purpose – to be the king of nature, i.e. possess the earth and be master over all creatures, God created a helper similar to the first man – a wife.

That the soul is absolutely distinct from the body, already noted by the writer of Genesis, Moses, is also confirmed by numerous testimonies in the Old and New Testament. According to the teaching of the wise Ecclesiastes (12:7): “Then shall the dust return to earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God Who gave it.” In a burst of poetic religious ecstasy the psalm-writer David expresses his hope that the Lord will not leave his soul in hell, neither will He suffer His holy one to see corruption (Psalm 16:10). The holy Evangelist Matthew warns us that above all we should fear those who can destroy both our soul and our body in hell (10:28).

Together with clear testimony of the soul’s being entirely distinct from the body, the Holy Writ also describes all the characteristics of the human soul. The soul is not only simple and incorporeal, it is also free. Since man has been given commandments, this means that obedience is required. This means that there may also be disobedience. Moreover, a reward is promised for the fulfillment of commandments. “If thou wishest to enter eternal life, thou must keep the commandments,” – thus replied the Lord to the question posed by the wealthy young man: “What good must I do in order to attain eternal life?” Only in being free may we please God, for God, as an All-holy and All-perfect Being, does not constrain man’s free will. According to the teaching of the Church fathers, without freedom there can be neither religion, nor moral law, nor merit before God.

Man’s soul is immortal. After its separation from the body, the soul returns to God Who had given it to man. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” – says Apostle Paul (2 Cor. 5:1). According to the same Apostle, here on earth we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come (Heb. 13:14).

An Orthodox person must also know what the difference is between the image and the likeness of God in man’s soul.

The Church fathers thus describe the difference: God’s image is given in the very nature of our soul, in its mind, which continuously aspires to the truth, in the freedom of its will, in its immortality and striving towards good, while God’s likeness is in the proper development and improvement of these qualities and powers of man’s soul, in good deeds and holiness. We receive the image of God together with our soul’s being, while the likeness to God we must attain ourselves, having received from God all endowments and full possibility for this. This distinction between the image and the likeness of God is also indicated in the Holy Scripture. Moses says in the Book of Genesis (1:26): “And God said: let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness,” while in verse 27 of the same chapter he says: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them.” – “Why is it not said in the second case – and He created them in His image and likeness?” – asks St. Gregory of Nyssa. Did the Father become weak? It is sacrilegious to think so. Did He change the intent of the Council of the Holy Trinity? It is sacrilegious to think so. Nothing is said about the likeness in the second case only because this likeness to God we must attain within us on our own. We have only been given the possibility of being like unto God, but God does not apply force to make people like unto Him, for this goes against the grain of His Divine Holiness and Perfection.

Having elevated man above all earthly creatures, having endowed him with intelligence and freedom, and having adorned him with His image and all the qualities for freely being like unto Him, the Creator assigned man an especially lofty purpose in the universe, to wit:

1. In regard to God, man must maintain fidelity to the covenant or union between God and man, must continuously strive towards his Prototype, and must glorify God in the body and in the spirit, which are God’s (1 Cor. 6:20). Addressing man as a vessel well-endowed for glorifying his Creator, St. Basil the Great says that man has specifically been created to be a worthy instrument of God’s glory. For man the whole world is like a living book, which preaches the glory of God and proclaims to the one who possesses intelligence of the mysterious majesty of the Creator. “It was necessary, – says St. Gregory the Theologian, – that the veneration of God not be limited to only the supreme and heavenly angelic host, but that there should also be some venerators down below, in order that all be filled with the glory of God, because everything is God’s, and it is for this reason that man was created and endowed with God’s image and personal creation.”

2. In regard to himself, man must develop and exercise his moral powers and become more and more like unto his Prototype, as said in the Holy Scriptures: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father Which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48), glorifying God with his good deeds.

3. In regard to his surrounding environment, man’s assignment is defined by the fact that God created him last, as the king of nature. “In view of his being the king of nature, – says St. Gregory the Theologian, – it was necessary to first create a place of habitation for him, and only then to bring the king into it in the presence of all the creatures.” For such a royal purpose man was created with all requisite qualities. Out of the hands of the Creator he came out good, free, and innocent. The first people, remarks the writer of Genesis, Moses, were both naked and not embarrassed. St. John Damascene explains this height of dispassionateness by the complete balance between the spiritual and the bodily self in the blissful state of the first people.

But no matter how perfect the natural powers of man, he, being a limited creature, did not have life within himself; he required constant fortification from God, and God manifested His special assistance in helping man attain his lofty purpose. The garden planted in Eden (which means delight), fragrant with eternally-blooming flowers, surpassed all idea of supreme beauty. It was truly a Divine country. “Paradise, – says St. John Damascene, – is imagined physically by some and spiritually by others, but I believe that for man, who was a spiritually-physical being, paradise was a holy temple for both his spiritual and physical existence. With his body man inhabited a Divinely-beautiful country, while with his soul the first man resided in an infinitely higher place, where his abode and his bright robe of delight were the rapturous contemplation of God. God Himself conversed with him.” In order for man to exercise his will for good, God gave him His grace, which, according to the Church fathers, served him as a heavenly garment, and by means of it Adam was in contact with God. For continuous sustenance and sanctification of the first-created man’s bodily strength God planted the tree of life. In order to exercise and develop man’s physical powers, God commanded Adam to tend the Garden of Eden, and Himself brought all the animals over to Adam. In order to strengthen man in goodness and obedience, the Lord God commanded man, saying: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17).

Why was such a commandment necessary, ask the holy fathers, and in response to this question they offer the following thoughts: man’s freedom becomes strengthened exclusively through acting in compliance with a single concrete rule. Although man’s conscience comprises the entire moral code of law, its fulfillment is possible only when a particular situation presents itself. This engenders the need for positive commandments. Moreover, by freely fulfilling the commandments, man to some degree earned his state of bliss. Obedience to the will of God guarded him from the danger of thinking too highly of himself and falling into the great sin of pride. Of course this commandment seems too trivial. Nevertheless, it expresses the entire moral law of our relation to God and our fellow man. “With this commandment, – says St. John Chrysostome, – God wished to show man His dominion over him. (In regard to nature man is king, but in regard to God he in only an intelligent overseer on earth.) If Adam and Eve had loved the Lord, they would not have transgressed His commandment. If they had loved their fellow man, i.e. each other, they would not have believed in the serpent’s persuasion; they would not have committed suicide by losing their immortality; they would not have committed theft by surreptitiously tasting the forbidden fruit; they would not have become accessories to the devil’s false witness.”

Although the serpent, in whom resided the devil, was the original cause of the forefathers’ sin, the main cause in the fullest sense of the word, however, were the forefathers themselves. Already from the deceitful approach of the serpent, who was controlled by the father of deceit – the devil, – asking Eve: “Is it true that God told you not to eat of any tree in paradise?” – Eve should have realized that some kind of malice was hidden in this and should have turned away from the serpent; but Eve even related God’s commandment to the serpent. And at this point the tempter began lying with even greater arrogance and asserting everything absolutely contrary to what the Lord had said.

Thus Eve fell not out of necessity, but entirely freely, believing the serpent, and after her Adam, abusing his free will, also sinned. Having created man free, the Lord gave him the lightest commandment for exercising himself in goodness and obedience, a commandment expressed with great clarity and protected by a terrible threat in the event of transgression, and also gave him all the means for fulfilling this commandment. This means that the entire fault for the Fall lies with the forefathers themselves.

The importance of the forefathers’ sin lay not in the externals, but in violating the spiritual essence and meaning of the commandment itself, in violating unconditional obedience to God by disobedience. “Obedience, – says Blessed Augustine, – is the mother and guardian of all virtue. With their disobedience the forefathers transgressed the entire moral law.” – “What could be easier than this commandment, given for exercising man’s free will? – asks John Chrysostome. – What disregard the forefather manifested towards this commandment! In place of infinite and continuous gratitude and humility before the Creator, man responded with terrible pride and the greatest ingratitude.” – “Not only is there pride here, – says Blessed Augustine, – because man wished to be in his own power and not God’s, but here was also committed manslaughter, because man freely gave himself over to spiritual and physical death; here there was also adultery of the spirit, for the purity and chastity of the human soul were violated by the serpent’s persuasions; here was also committed the theft of the forbidden fruit; here was also greed, for they desired greater things, being caught on the hook of the devil’s prideful lure – ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” According to the teaching of the Church father Tertullian, the entire Decalogue was transgressed here – all of God’s ten commandments.

Expulsion from Paradise
Expulsion from Paradise
The great sin was accompanied by the great destructive consequences of the Fall. The initial union of God with man was abrogated, the grace of communion with God was lost, and spiritual death occurred. So great was the obfuscation of the mind that the first people even thought to hide from the Omnipresent One. With their loss of innocence and with their newly-revealed tendency towards evil, the first people felt themselves more animal than spiritual beings and wished to hide from themselves as from beasts, in view of the violation of the harmony between their spiritual and physical selves, which they had not noticed previously. By luring the soul into terrible desires, – says Basil the Great, – sin distorted the entire beauty of God’s image in man. Just as a coin, whose stamped image of the king is spoiled, loses also the value of the gold from which it is made, so with the distortion of God’s image within himself man also lost in God’s eyes his former innocence and his special destiny of eternal bliss, immortality, and infinite participation in the Divine glory of the Creator. Having desired to become God, man lost even his quality of being the image of God, says St. Macarius the Great.

The consequences of the Fall were also reflected in the body: illnesses, sorrows, exhaustion, death; and together with expulsion from paradise also came a diminishment or loss of power over the animals, who were formerly Adam’s servants and now “the beasts no longer knew him and came to hate him as a stranger” (John Chrysostome). Created for man’s delight and now condemned for man’s sin, the earth also began to act adversely in regard to man’s well-being and tranquility.

Whence did evil appear on earth, when, according to the writer of Genesis, Moses, “God saw everything that He had made and, behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31)? Whence came the devil who destroyed the blissful and innocently-happy life of our forefathers?

The sinful fall of our forefathers, replies the holy Orthodox Church, was preceded by a sinful fall in the angelic world. And had there been no fall there, perhaps the sorrowful act of our forefathers’ Fall would never have occurred either.


VI. Violation of Harmony in the Universe

The Fall of man was preceded by the Fall that occurred in the angelic world. According to the united teaching of the Church fathers, the first to fall out of the great sin of pride and disobedience to God was one of the foremost and most perfect angels, and afterwards this supreme angel lured away other angels who were in his power and subordination. Having abused his free will, this angel fell into the great sin of the mind; he “did not hold on to truth” (John 8:44) and from that time became a liar and the father of deceit and murderer of mankind. This ringleader among all the evil spirits, called the devil, also bears other, most unattractive names: the tempter, Beelzebub prince of demons, Belial, Satan, prince of this world, etc., while the other evil and unclean spirits are called demons, fiends, angels of Satan, fallen angels.

In clarifying the essence of the sin out of which the supreme angel fell, the Church fathers express two opinions. Some say that “death entered into the world through the devil’s envy”; but others, notably St. Gregory the Theologian, say that through the devil’s envy death entered into the blessed earthly life of the first people. The fall of the devil himself occurred through his pride. On this basis the wise Ecclesiastes says that the origin of sin is pride.

The devil’s pride was manifested in his insane desire to be the equal of God, and some Church fathers believe that the devil’s pride was manifested in his desire to become even higher than God. Some Church fathers say that the supreme angel, the one closest to God, having learned that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity – the Son of God – was to suffer for the sins of mankind in the future, was unable to enter into the great mystery of the redemption of mankind and, doubting the Divinity of the Son of God, did not wish to worship Him, or – in the opinion of others – envied His being preferred over all the angels. In his second epistle to the Thessalonians (2:4) Apostle Paul depicts the devil as God’s opponent. According to the teaching of the same Apostle, the coming Antichrist will reveal this incorrigible demonic pride in all its hideousness and shamelessness. The Antichrist – this man of iniquity and son of destruction, who will oppose God and will set himself up higher than all that is God’s, “will sit in God’s temple as God, declaring himself to be God.”

The Fall in the angelic world was immeasurably deeper and more audacious than the Fall of the first people. Being bodiless spiritual forces, free from all temptations of the flesh, the angels fell out of the sin of pride, having audaciously rebelled against their Creator according to a previously calculated plan. Not only the chief angel, but all those who followed him have fallen so deeply, that they will never again rise out of the abyss of their irredeemable pride. Both the devil and all the angels who followed him, “who kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day,” according to Apostle Jude (1:6). There was a time, before they were thrown down from heaven, when they could have repented; but the fallen angels did not repent and now no longer have any possibility of repentance. St. Basil the Great says that a certain possibility still existed for the devil to repent before the first man was tempted. But then the physical world was established, the Garden of Eden was planted, and within it appeared innocent and blissful man, with a commandment of obedience to God. It was then that the devil’s envy increased at seeing the blissful life of our forefathers. Instead of repentance, the devil’s pride and spiritual death grew exponentially, and the possibility for repentance was lost forever. For this reason the private opinion expressed by Origenes, that the time will come when even the devil will repent, was condemned by the entire Church, which repudiated all possibility of “the evolution of the devil and his angels.”

In the Holy Scriptures we find many testimonials to the unquestionable existence not only of the devil, but also of other unclean spirits and evil demons, which the Lord and His apostles expelled from people.

There are wicked ones among them, but there also those who are “most wicked” (Luke 11:26). When the seventy disciples came back from their preaching, they joyfully told the Saviour: “Even the demons obey us in Thy name.” When sending the twelve apostles out to preach, the Lord gave power over the evil spirits to them as well.

The number of fallen angels who have become evil spirits is immense. The Lord healed many from evil spirits and expelled the demons from them, while out of one man He expelled an entire legion of demons. Based upon the words of St. John the Theologian that “the serpent’s tail drew the third part of the stars (angels) of heaven, and did cast them to the earth” (Rev. 12:4), some Church fathers conclude that the devil took away with him one third of the angels.

“The devil who had sinned from the beginning” (1 John 3:8) apparently took away with him angels of all ranks and levels, who retained these levels of subordination even after their fall. For this reason Apostle Paul exhorts us to “take up the whole armour of God, so as to be able to withstand against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world” (Eph. 6:11-12).

And so it is that God did not create the evil spirits. The evil spirits do evil not because of their originally-created nature, essence, or purpose, but because of their free evasion from obedience and subordination to their Creator, because of the tendency they acquired in their sinful fall to oppose God and all that is precious and holy in the eyes of God. Thus St. John the Theologian ascribes the origin of evil in the world exclusively to the devil, who destroyed universal harmony by the tolerance of the All-holy Creator, Who does not coerce the free will of His free creations – both angels and humans. In denouncing the unbelieving Jews, the Saviour said: “Ye are the sons of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning and stands not in the truth, because there is no truth in him; when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own (i.e. out of his own nature, distorted by pride), for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44).

However, there used to be and can even now be found “wise men of this world,” who find it more logical to allow that evil has existed from eternity and that supposedly there were eternally two origins battling between themselves: the good and the evil. At the same time some dualists view this coeternal existence of the two origins in the following manner: the evil origin, no matter how strong it may be, is always lesser in might than the good origin. Other dualists, however, consider these two opposing origins to be equal in power, battling eternally, and for this reason there is no absolute good in the entire universe nor absolute evil, and either one or the other origin is continuously prevailing. Nevertheless, there is much that is incongruous and logically contradictory in this dualist system, namely: if the two origins had been absolutely equal, they would have mutually weakened each other, and then there would have been neither good nor evil in the world. If one agreed with the first opinion that evil and good are not equal, then the stronger one would have destroyed the weaker, and there would have existed in the world – depending on who was stronger – either solely the good or solely the evil origin. One may well ask – how do these origins exist? As opposing and mutually destructive origins, neither can exist within the other, nor one near the other. This means, if one accepts the dualists’ viewpoint, that it must be supposed that each of them occupies a special part of the universe, and from there they attack each other??? Who, then, assigned a sphere to each origin? They could not have done it themselves, because if evil came to an agreement with good, or good came to an agreement with evil, they would cease being evil or good. Consequently, it must be supposed that neither good nor evil, but a Third Being, Who, moreover has power and dominion over these origins, exists in the universe. More correctly, it turns out that there is One Supreme Origin in the world, to Whom everything in the world is subordinate. And again human reason comes to the conclusion that there is One (Sole) God. As to evil and good, these are manifestations of lower, in comparison to God, free origins, namely: (1) the good spirits or angels, as servitors obedient to God, created good by God Himself, and (2) the evil spirits, i.e. the devil and his servants, who fell of their own free will and were thrown down from heaven.

The dualists say that their system supposedly helps explain the existence of evil in the world, for it is impossible for evil to come from good.

Naturally evil did not come from good, for how can good beget evil? When God created the world, says the writer of Genesis, Moses, “God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). This means that everything came out good from the hands of God, and evil did not exist at first. Evil appeared only when some of the free creatures stepped away from natural obedience to God and embraced an unnatural existence without God and outside of God. All free creatures may be good only by being within God, the absolute and real Good.

As for the Fall of the first people, it was not as terrible and destructive as was the Fall in the spiritually-bodiless angelic world.

The fallen first people wept, repented, recognized their error, and suffered to have so offended their Creator and, therefore, the will and the reason of the first people could again receive a different orientation towards good, rectification, and submission to God. The devil fell of his own free will, while man became the victim of the tempter. However, even for fallen man it was impossible to arise on his own from the abyss of sin without special aid from the Lord and Creator Himself. Fallen man committed three terrible evils: (1) by his sin he infinitely offended the infinitely Benign, vastly Great, endlessly Just Creator, and became subject to damnation; (2) with his sin he infected his entire being; (3) with his sin he caused destructive consequences not only in his human nature, but in all of nature around him. Therefore, the following are necessary for the restoration of fallen man and for his salvation: (1) to satisfy God’s Justice; (2) to destroy sin in man’s entire nature, enlighten his dimmed reason and will, restore the image of God within him; (3) destroy the profound consequences of sin in man’s nature. Who could do this? No one except God.

The infinitely great offense had to be exculpated by an infinitely great sacrifice. Only the One Who was without sin could restore God’s image, rectify the will and reason, and destroy sin in man. According to Church teaching, neither angels nor man himself could restore human nature damaged by sin, but only the One Omnipotent God.


VII. God’s Wise Management of Mankind’s Salvation.

If previously we spoke of God as Creator and Provider in His overall relation to the spiritual and material world, now we will discuss the Orthodox teaching on God as a God primarily ours, i.e. our Redeemer, Saviour, Sanctifier, and Just Judge. After all, Christianity is the religion of God’s restored union with man, who in his fall had violated his original union with God.

For this reason the management of mankind’s salvation, for which there had been no need in man’s original blessed state, became the focus, essence, and primary subject of apostolic preaching: “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness, but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23-24). According to the same Apostle Paul, the preaching of the crucifixion, which seems foolishness to the damned, but the power of God to the saved, became the alpha and omega of the New Testament. Through the extraordinary depth and beauty of Divine Wisdom, the wise management of mankind’s salvation literally eclipsed the entire triviality of the pathetic fantasies and philosophies of the ancient pagan world, which had become puffed up with pride and had departed from the original source of Truth, and which had become all tangled up in contradictions (what is Truth?) and was undergoing a terrible religious and moral crisis prior to the Saviour’s coming into the world. The edifice of the wisdom of the human mind, darkened by sin, crumbled as though rotten, or founded upon the sand of human pride, when faced with the teaching on the wise management of the salvation of mankind, which opened up limitless and entire new horizons for a Christian-minded person in resolving such painfully difficult questions as the meaning and final purpose of man’s life on earth, that from time immemorial had agitated the curious human mind. In the light of Christ’s teaching, says Apostle Paul, even simplicity and foolishness in God’s universe appeared to the world wiser than men, and weakness in God’s universe appeared stronger than men. “For ye see, brethren, – declares the Apostle, – who ye are that are called, how that not many of ye are wise men in the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are… But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Thus according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:25-31).

In setting forth the teaching on God as Saviour of the world, the Church fathers divide this teaching into two parts: (1) on God as Saviour per se, i.e. on how the One Triune God manifested Himself in our salvation, and (2) on God the Saviour in His special unique relation to mankind.

Both in the Holy Scriptures and in the teaching of the Church fathers the task of our salvation is ascribed not only to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity – the Son of God, but to God in general, as a joint task of all the Persons of the Holy Trinity. For this reason God is generally called our Saviour. Apostle Paul calls himself an apostle of Jesus Christ by commandment of God our Saviour, and the Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope (1 Tim. 1:1).

The Church also deals with the issue of the limits and value of human efforts in the task of our salvation. Although a person is unable to be saved through his own efforts, yet for salvation to take place he must show sincere effort and a thirst for such salvation with help from above. “The belief of those people who say that man is absolutely incapable of any good is quite unfair,” – says St. Macarius of Egypt. – “An infant, although unable to do anything and unable to go to his mother by himself, still moves about, cries and weeps, seeking his mother. The mother will take pity on him and is glad that he is crying out for her so earnestly. And although the infant cannot come to her, she herself goes to him, motivated by her love for the infant, takes him into her arms, presses him to her breast, and feeds him with great tenderness. So does the loving God do with the soul which turns towards Him and seeks Him” (Discourse 46). No matter how difficult the efforts to attain salvation on the part of man himself – that slave of vice and diverse pleasures, with his strength of will paralyzed by sin and his mind darkened, – he will be saved “not by righteousness which we had done, but exclusively by the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man” (Titus 3:4-5).

Thus all the Persons of the Holy Trinity participate in man’s salvation, which is quite in keeping with the very dogma that all the Persons of the Holy Trinity are one-in-essence and indivisible in all things except personal characteristics. Therefore, the salvation of fallen man is accomplished by the single will of the Triune Divinity. In particular, the relation of the Holy Trinity to the redemption and salvation of man is as follows: the Son of God came into the world and became incarnate of the Most-holy Virgin Mary, the Father sent His Only-begotten Son into the world, while of the Holy Spirit it was announced to the Virgin that “the Holy Spirit shall come upon Thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow Thee; therefore also the Holy One which shall be born of Thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). All Persons of the Holy Trinity were also present at the Baptism of our Lord: here the Holy Spirit descended upon the baptized Christ, while the Father attested to His beloved Son (Matt. 3:16-17).

St. Dimitry of Rostov speaks thus of the participation of all the Persons of the Holy Trinity in our salvation: “The incarnation of God the Word was by benevolence of the Father, by the coming upon and action of the Holy Spirit, and with the consent of the Word Itself (the Second Person of the Holy Trinity).”

What was the significance of the means which God had chosen for our salvation? For the restoration of fallen man God had found a means so wise that, speaking in the poetic language of the psalm-writer King David, “mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have embraced each other” (Psalm 85:10). What does that mean?

It would be well for all of proud mankind which has reached an impasse, and especially for us who call ourselves Orthodox Christians, to remember how the harmony of the universe, once violated by the original sin of our forefathers, was once again renewed by the power of God’s Wisdom, with fallen mankind being granted full opportunity for salvation and regeneration. When the first people, created for immortal and blissful life, abused the freedom they had been given and fell into sin, God’s Justice then demanded the greatest punishment and even destruction of those ungrateful creatures. Yet God is not only Just, but also Loving and Merciful. And so, in the words of our limited language, it was as if a struggle occurred in God between the equally valid demands of just punishment and merciful forgiveness. From our human point of view it would seem impossible to find a form of reconciliation without compromise and mutual concessions, particularly since this was a confrontation between two values of absolutely equal validity in their right, but opposite in their demands, in the One, Holy, and Perfect God. But what was impossible for the human mind was possible for God. In aid to these two conflicting and contradictory values came a third, supreme value in God – God’s Wisdom. This Wisdom of the One Triune God foresaw man’s fall even before his creation. Before all ages, in the council of His One-in-essence Trinity, the Omniscient God foreordained the sending into the world of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity – the Son and God the Word, so that by His suffering and death on the cross the Son of God would satisfy affronted Justice, while through His humiliation this Lamb of God, Who took upon Himself all the sins of the world, would manifest to the entire universe, both visible and invisible, the Divine All-forgiving Love. Thus prophetically contemplating such wise management of the salvation of mankind, King David rejoiced, for to his mind’s eye there presented itself the forthcoming feast of all feasts – the bright day of Christ’s Resurrection, the day of the appearance of God’s Wisdom in all Its fullness and beauty, the day when God’s mercy and truth met together, while righteousness and peace embraced, i.e. kissed each other in the moment of their absolute reconciliation in the Supreme God.

Could the created human mind, both limited and darkened by sin, arrive of its own accord at such an infinitely wise plan for salvation? Of course not. Only from Divine Revelation do we learn of this “mystery hidden from ages and generations, but now (with the coming of Christ to earth) made manifest to His saints” (Col. 1:26).

But why was it specifically the Son of God and not another Person of the Holy Trinity Who became incarnate and suffered for us? The holy Orthodox Church gives its authoritative answer to this question as well.


VIII. Transfer of the Forefathers’ Original Sin to All of Mankind, and the Coming of the Saviour into the World

The need for the salvation of mankind through means chosen by God Himself is closely tied in with the Orthodox teaching on the depth of the fall of our forefathers Adam and Eve and on the transfer of their original sin to all of mankind. This is why from the times of the holy apostles Church practice established the requirement to baptize infants, who do not yet have personal sins, but are cleansed of original sin in the holy sacrament of baptism.

And thus it was that the restoration of man’s nature, which had been damaged by original sin, required the redeeming sacrifice on Golgotha of God the Son Who had come down to earth. One may well ask: why was it specifically the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, and not another of the Persons, Who had to come down to earth, become incarnate, and suffer for mankind’s sins, in order to restore the original union between God and man that had been destroyed by Adam and Eve? The holy Church Fathers reply to this question thusly: (1) “The personal characteristics of the Holy Trinity are immutable. The Son is the Pre-eternal Son and not the Father. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit and not the Son or the Father, and, therefore, it is precisely the Son of God Who becomes the Son of man, in order that the personal Divine characteristic remain unchanged” (St. John Damascene, St. Gregory the Theologian); (2) “It behooved not another Person of the Holy Trinity to deliver men from the damage that had occurred, but God the Word Who had created them” (St. Athanasius the Great); (3) “The coming of the Son of God into the world for the salvation of mankind accorded with the very order of the Persons of the One-in-essence and Indivisible Trinity: just as the Father had created all through the Son in the Holy Spirit, so did the Heavenly Father restore all through the Son in the Holy Spirit” (St. John Chrysostome, St. Cyril of Alexandria, Blessed Augustine).

To all those who ask why the Omniscient God created man knowing that our forefathers would sin, the holy Church Fathers reply that even before the creation God naturally knew that our forefathers would lose their blessedly innocent and immortal existence by abusing the freedom of will they had been granted by God, and, therefore, on the basis of this prescience, it was predetermined in the pre-eternal and supreme council of the Holy Trinity to send into the world the Only-begotten Son of God, incorruptly born of the Father before all ages, immaculately incarnate from the Virgin, the Lord Christ, for the salvation of mankind from original sin, damnation, and death. The entire profoundness of this history of the wise management of the salvation of mankind is wonderfully depicted in the third and fifth hymns of the canon for Nativity. Only in the light of the Divine plan for the wise management of the salvation of man are we able to understand and correctly interpret both man’s proper place in the universe and the ultimate significance or rational purpose of man’s existence on earth. Let us not forget that the Benevolent Creator and Provider also gave us all the necessary qualities of the soul for our being able to gradually approach the greatest ideal: to be as perfect as our Heavenly Father.

Even the first people in paradise, when they were crying and lamenting over their Fall, before their expulsion from paradise were promised by the Benevolent Creator that “the seed of the Woman will bruise the serpent’s head,” i.e. into the world will come a Saviour to restore fallen mankind.

This joyous promise, given to the first people after their fall, was not implemented right away. Many, many centuries passed from the moment of the glad tidings of the coming to earth of the Saviour of the world. How many human generations went by during this time! How many of our forefathers and fathers, who lived with faith and hope in the coming of the Saviour into the world, passed into their graves without ever arriving at a joyous meeting with the Saviour. However, their faith in the promised Saviour shone amid the darkness of human fallacies like a guiding star, and like the Burning Bush it flamed, but did not burn out in the hearts of all who had partaken of the life-giving spiritual sweetness of this faith. The ancient patriarchs and prophets cherished this faith in the coming of the Saviour into the world as their greatest treasure, as their only reliable anchor of salvation, passing on before their death this light of hope in the forthcoming salvation of mankind to new chosen guardians of the forefathers’ faith, until there finally arrived the “fullness of time,” i.e. the time blessed by God for the coming of the Saviour into the world.


IX. The Mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God

The great and unfathomable miracle of the incarnation of the Son of God is one of the most amazing mysteries of the wise management of mankind’s salvation. “Great is the mystery of holiness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16) – exclaims the holy Apostle Paul.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the Saviour of the world did not come down to earth for such a long time after the fall of the forefathers. It behooved mankind over the course of many centuries, say the Holy Fathers, to gradually prepare itself to the perception and possible comprehension of this mystery. A great deal of time was needed for people, after they came to a realization of this mystery, to simultaneously empirically appreciate the full depth of the harmful consequences of the forefathers’ original sin that had passed on to them. It behooved the mankind whose fallacies had led it to a terrible impasse to realize the need for the coming down to earth of a Heavenly Deliverer of mankind from sin, damnation, and death. It became imperative for the infection of sin that had penetrated deeply into the spiritual and physical nature of man to be gradually brought out into the open, in order to be completely and perfectly healed by an artful Physician.

“Would it be reasonable to lead into a brightly-lit room right way a person who had grown up in darkness and had never seen light? – asks St. Basil the Great. – Of course not. Such a person must be introduced to light gradually, made to first see the shadows of objects and to first look at the reflection of the sun in water, so that this person would not lose his sight by coming to an immediate vision of pure light. In like manner the Heavenly Caretaker of mankind gradually led it to a perception and comprehension of the mystery of deliverance by the incarnate Son of God.”

Behold, say the Holy Fathers, with what wise fatherly caution did God prepare men for the realization of this great mystery! Elaborating upon His promise, God calls the Saviour of the world either “the seed of woman that will bruise the serpent’s head” or the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in Whom would be blessed all nations in the world, and Who would become the conciliator and restorer of the disrupted union between God and man.

After such a lengthy preparation for the coming of the Saviour, says Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Galatians, “when the fullness of time was come (for fulfilling the long-awaited promise on the salvation of mankind), God sent forth His (Only-begotten) Son, born of a woman, subjected to the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Receiving the right to once again be called the sons of God, through the redeeming sacrifice of Christ the Saviour people once again received the right to call to God: “Abba, Thou art our Father!” And since out of slaves people once again became the sons of God, this means that people also became the inheritors of God.


X. The Divinity of Jesus Christ

Let us carefully trace the loving and pious way in which the Orthodox Church approaches the interpretation of the amazingly wise teaching on the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, based upon the entire fullness of the Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. Both the holy Apostles and their closest disciples, as well as the holy Church Fathers of all ages, accepted and sacredly preserved in all their purity and inviolability these Divine words of the Saviour about Himself and the Church He had founded. Only through such complete faithfulness to the Saviour’s Divine teaching did the holy Church Fathers and the Orthodox ascetics and teachers of all ages maintain amazing concordance on this issue. This is why our great Saint Seraphim believed in and understood Christ’s teaching in the same way as it was understood in the first century A.D. by the holy Apostles, who had heard these celestial truths from the lips of the Divine Teacher Himself.

For a better comprehension of the teaching on the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us follow the example of the holy Fathers, who divided this teaching into four parts: (1) The Divinity of Jesus Christ; (2) The human nature of the Son of God; (3) The unity of the Hypostasis (Person) in Jesus Christ; (4) The consequences of the union of two natures in the One Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the True God, eternally being born of the Essence of the Father, the One-in-Essence and Only-begotten Son of God, the Second Person of the Most-holy, Life-giving, and Indivisible Trinity, God the Word. According to the testimony of St. John the Theologian: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father” (John 1:1-3, 14). He is specifically and clearly named Lord in the New Testament (John 1:23); Emmanuel, which means “God is with us” (Matt. 1:23); Founder of earth and heaven (Heb. 1:10); Heir and Creator, by Whom also all worlds were made (Heb. 1:2). Being made so much better than the angels, Jesus Christ also inherited a more excellent name than they, for to none of the angels did God say: “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee” (Heb. 1:4-5).

Jesus Christ Himself testified numerous times about Himself as being equal to God the Father in Divinity. The Jews were after the Saviour precisely because He, “calling God His Father, made Himself equal with God”; or “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work”; “For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will”; “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father”; “For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself” (John 5:17-26). “I and My Father are one”; “The Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10:30, 38).

Jesus Christ, as God, is: (1) Omnipresent: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, the Son of man, Which is in heaven”; (2) Eternal: To the Jews’ question of how hast Thou seen Abraham, when Thou art not yet fifty years old, the Saviour replied: “Before Abraham was, I am.” When proceeding to His voluntary suffering, the Saviour prayed to the Father: “And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was”; (3) To the Saviour is inherent knowledge equal to God the Father’s knowledge: “All things are delivered to Me of My Father, and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.”

All the Evangelists begin their Gospels with the Divine nature of Christ: the Evangelist Matthew calls the Saviour Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” The Evangelist Mark testifies that after the baptism, when the Saviour came out of the water, John the Baptist saw “the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him. And there came a voice from heaven, saying: Thou art My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” The Evangelist Luke calls the Saviour the Lord God, to Whom John the Baptist will turn many sons of Israel. The Evangelist John the Theologian says: “No man hath seen God at any time; the Only-begotten Son, Which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” The holy Apostle Jude in his general epistle calls the Saviour “the only Lord God.” Apostle Paul calls the Saviour “the Lord of glory, Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” because the Saviour is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature; for by Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him.” And after all that was said, how pitiful seem the insinuations of the heretics who reject the Divinity of Christ.

It is for this reason that the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea, in A.D. 325, condemned the heresy of the Alexandrian priest Arius, who taught of Christ as a creation, i.e. that Christ was created by God, and although He was above men and angels, He was lower than God. At this council 318 hierarchs unanimously formulated the dogma on the Son of God’s being One-in-Essence with God the Father: “The Son of God, the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father; by Whom all things were made.”

When another heretic – Macedonius, Patriarch of Constantinople, drawing a conclusion from the heresy of Arius began to teach that the Holy Spirit was also created, being a creation of the Son and a servitor of the Father, the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople, in A.D. 381, to the Nicean Creed on the Divinity of the Son added the teaching on the Divinity also of “the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life; Who proceedeth from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the prophets.”

Being the True God, Jesus Christ after His incarnation also became the perfect man, like unto us in all but sin.

XI. The Human Nature of the Son of God

 Jesus Christ, being perfect God, is at the same time perfect man.  One-in-essence with the Father in Divinity, He is one-in-essence with us in humanity, as the son of the Most-holy Virgin Mary.

 In the Old Testament, Messiah the Saviour is called the “seed of woman,” a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and David, due to be born of a Virgin; even his place of birth is indicated as Bethlehem.

 In the New Testament, the Evangelists Matthew and Luke provide a detailed genealogy of Jesus Christ.  The Evangelists also attest to the supernatural, grace-filled conception and nativity of Jesus Christ, Who was incarnated from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man.  They describe in great detail how the Holy Virgin Mary swaddled the Divine Infant and placed Him in the manger, and how the shepherds found the Infant in the manger.  The same Evangelist Luke bears witness to how Jesus Christ was circumcised (which presaged the sacrament of baptism in the New Testament), and how the Child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him.

 The Evangelist Mark attests to how Jesus Christ came to Nazareth and was baptized by John in the river Jordan; how Christ attended a marriage in Cana of Galilee and worked His first miracle of turning water into wine; how after the resurrection of Lazarus a supper was prepared for Him, and Martha served Him, while Lazarus was one of those attending the supper with Jesus Christ.

 One can only be surprised at how Christ’s human nature could be denied by heretics, who already in the time of the apostles began to assert that Christ was only God, while His body was imaginary, spectral, seeming, because, they said, it was unworthy for God to have human flesh.  These heretics were called Docetians, from the Greek word “to seem.”  Some of these types of heretics – Valentinians and Manicheans – asserted that the reason Christ passed through the Virgin’s womb without changing anything was because His body was special, transparent, more spectral than real…

 The holy Evangelist John the Theologian, who wrote his Gospel against heretics who denied Christ’s Divinity, also wrote two general Epistles against heretics who denied Christ’s humanity.  In his first Epistle, the Evangelist John gives the following advice to true Christian believers: “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God and the spirit of delusion thus: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God, and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God, but this is that spirit of Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world” (1 John 4:2-3).  In his second general Epistle the holy Evangelist John the Theologian once more expressly stresses the same idea: “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.  Such a one is a deceiver and an antichrist” (John 1:7).

 The Holy Scriptures describe the suffering of the Saviour in great detail, which would not be realistic, were He not genuinely human.

 Although Christ, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God in Divinity, nevertheless, as perfect man, equal to us in all but sin, Jesus Christ “made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:6-8).  Jesus Christ Himself called Himself a man and the Son of man.  The holy Apostle Paul says: “For there is One God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

 Christ’s genuine body was anointed for burial with myrrh.  Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus for burial, and Pilate ordered our Saviour’s body to be given to him.  The risen Saviour, appearing to His apostles and seeing their confusion, urges them: “Handle Me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have.  And having asked them for food, He took a piece of broiled fish and ate before them” (Luke 24:34-43).  During His life on earth, the Saviour’s body was in need of food.  After His 40-day fasting, Christ afterwards hungered.  The Saviour was subject to fatigue: “Being tired from the journey, He sat down at the well.”  He slept on the stern of the ship before subduing the tempest at the request of the frightened Apostles.  He felt pain and prayed, saying: “Father!  If Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me!  Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine, be done.  And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was as great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:41-44).  The Saviour’s body suffered, tasted of death, was buried, and arose.

 There was a human soul in Him, our Saviour: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; tarry ye here, and watch with Me” (Matt. 26:38).  On the cross, crying out with a loud voice, the Saviour gave up His spirit.  According to the holy Evangelist Luke, the Saviour cried with a loud voice, saying: Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.  And having said thus, He gave up the ghost (Luke 23:46).

 Having a genuine human soul, the Saviour also had genuine human qualities, to wit: (1) a human mind.  While living in Nazareth, the Saviour increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man; (2) a will: “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39); (3) emotions: When the seventy disciples returned from their preaching and joyfully said: “Lord! Even the demons obey us in Thy name” – in that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit.  Before the resurrection of Lazarus, seeing the weeping Mary and the weeping Jews, Christ Himself groaned in the spirit and was troubled (wept).

 The holy Church Fathers, basing themselves upon the Word of God, presented reasoned considerations in defense of the Saviour’s genuinely-human nature.  Since Christ is our Intercessor before God – an Intermediary, – this Intermediary must be in kinship with God and with men.  If Christ were in kinship only with God, or only with men, then He could not have been a true Intermediary.  But by being a God-man, the Saviour equally became an Intermediary in regard to God and to man, according to St. Irenaeus and Blessed Theodorite.  “We could not have known God other than through the incarnate Word.  No one could have proclaimed the Father to us other than His hypostatic Word,” – says St. Irenaeus, referring to the words of Apostle Paul.

 In his oeuvre “Against Heresies” St. Irenaeus discourses thus: “We would not have received incorruptibility and immortality, had we not become united with someone who is incorrupt and immortal.  But how could we have become united with someone incorrupt and immortal, had not the incorrupt and immortal one first become as one of us, in order for our corruptibility to be absorbed by incorruptibility, and our mortality to be absorbed by immortality.”  The following Holy Fathers thought just as did St. Irenaeus: Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostome, and others.

 In the first part of the “Orthodox Confession” we read that although Christ was a genuine man, i.e. He issued in flesh from humanity and took on the same essence of human nature that we have, yet He appeared supernaturally, became incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.  His Most-incorruptible Mother remained an Ever-Virgin even after His birth.  A virgin, “alma” in Hebrew, means a pure and chaste virgin.  To the Virgin Mary’s question of how that would come about, since She knew no man, the angel replied to Her: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon Thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow Thee; therefore, also that Holy One which shall be born of Thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:34-35).

 The unshakeable conviction of the entire Ecumenical Church that the Saviour born of the Virgin Mary “is of the Holy Spirit” has been preserved in all the most ancient creeds.  This teaching and belief was finalized at the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 381.  At the Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus in 431, the Holy Fathers, having condemned the heresy of Nestorius, who taught that a regular man was born from the Virgin Mary, while God the Word became united with him only mentally and not physically, and that God the Word inhabited man spiritually as a temple, and for this reason Christ was not a God-man but a God-bearer, while the Most-holy Virgin was not Birth-giver to God but Birth-giver to Christ, – the Holy Fathers composed the following laudation in honor of the Theotokos: “Thou art the crown of virginity, Thou art Mother and Virgin.  O, miracle!  Ever-Virgin and Ever-Maiden!  To all who call Her Birth-giver to Christ – anathema!  She gave birth to the One Who, being true God, at the very moment of conception in Her womb absorbed human nature into the unity of His Hypostasis, into the unity of His Divine Person.”

 This unfathomably miraculous and supernatural nativity of the Saviour is explained by the Church Fathers thusly: just as the first-created Adam received his corruptible nature from untilled, virginal earth, and was created by the hand of God, by God the Word, by Whom everything came to be, similarly, in order to restore within Himself the sinfully-fallen Adam, He was born from the virginal Mary and truly chose for Himself a nativity best suited for restoring the fallen Adam (St. Irenaeus).  St. Cyril of Jerusalem has this to say: “Through the virgin Eve came death; through the Virgin, or rather from the Virgin had to come life.  That virgin Eve was tempted by the serpent; to this Virgin Mary glad tidings were brought by Archangel Gabriel.”

 The Ecumenical Church incontrovertibly believes that the Most-holy Virgin Mary remained a Most-pure and Most-blessed Ever-Virgin even after the birth of Jesus Christ, and to the end of Her life on earth.  From the times of the Apostles, in all the ancient creeds the Mother of God is lauded as an Ever-Virgin and Ever-Maiden.  The second rule of the Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 553 gives the following stricture: “To whosoever does not confess God the Word come down from the heavens and incarnated from the Holy, Most-glorious Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary – anathema!”  The Church’s universal belief in the ever-virginity of the Mother of God was also confirmed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 680.

 As genuine and perfect man, Jesus Christ differed from us not only in His supernatural conception from the Holy Spirit, but also in His absolute sinlessness.  Jesus Christ “did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22).  “For the prince of the world cometh, and hath nothing in Me,” – said the Saviour of Himself.  In the words of Apostle Paul, “He hath made Him, Who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that in Him we might be made righteous before God.”  In his first general Epistle Apostle Peter says: “Foreasmuch as ye know that ye were redeemed not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain life received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for all who by Him have come to believe in God.”


XII. The Mystery of the Union of the Divine and Human Nature in the One Person of our Lord Jesus Christ

The humanity of Jesus Christ does not have a separate individuality in our Saviour, does not constitute a separate hypostasis, but has been incorporated by His Divinity into the unity of His Divine Hypostasis or Person.

“The Hypostasis of God the Word became incarnated, taking on from the Virgin the foundation of our nature, i.e. flesh, animated by a vocal and rational soul, and through this assimilation of flesh the Hypostasis of God the Word also became the hypostasis of the flesh,” – says St. John Damascene. “The Hypostasis of God the Word,” – continues to reason St. John Damascene, – having become the hypostasis of two natures, does not allow one of the natures to become hypostasis-less, but at the same time it does not allow the two natures to be hetero-hypostatic. The Hypostasis of God the Word does not become the hypostasis of first one and then the other nature, but remains the inseparable and indivisible hypostasis of both natures. Jesus Christ is a single Divine Person, unilaterally perceiving Himself in the duality of His natures. Christ is the true Emmanuel, the God-man.”

This is why the Holy Scripture calls the single Person of Jesus Christ sometimes God, sometimes man, sometimes the Son of man, sometimes the Son of God. It now becomes understandable why human traits are sometimes attributed to Christ as God, or Divine traits attributed to Him as man.

In speaking of Christ as God, Apostle Paul has in mind His human nature, while in speaking of Him as man, he has in mind His Divinity: “But we preach the wisdom of God, which is a mystery, which is hidden, which God ordained before the world unto our glory, which none of the princes of this world knew, for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:7-8). In the Acts of the Apostles (3:14-15) we read: “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you, and killed the Prince of life, Whom God hath raised from the dead, whereof we are witnesses.”

Since God cannot be crucified, nor the Prince of life, i.e. God, be killed, the Lord God, our Saviour, being at the same time man, acquired His Church by means of His blood. All of this speaks of the unity of two natures in the single Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Only by positing the organic integrity of the two natures – Divine and human – in the single Person of the Lord may one understand how God – the Absolute Spiritual Origin – was able to acquire His Church by means of His blood. Only by positing the unity of the Hypostasis or Person in Jesus Christ does it become understandable how the Son of man (the Saviour), Who was born in the reign of the Roman Caesar Augustus, existed “even before Abraham was.”

The fact that the Divine and human natures in Christ remain an indivisible and single Hypostasis has been clearly confirmed by the Word of God:

The Evangelist John the Theologian says: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; and we beheld His glory, the glory as the Only-begotten of the Father” (John 1:14).

In his epistle to the Philippians (2:6-8), Apostle Paul attests that “Christ, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Commenting upon these words, St. Cyril of Alexandria says that they represent a clear teaching of the idea of the perfect unity of hypostasis in Jesus Christ. The Apostle would not have said that the Same One Who is in the form of God, i.e. has a Divine nature, has taken upon Him the form of a servant, if there had been two persons in Christ.

Commenting upon Apostle Paul’s words: “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4), St. John Damascene and St. Cyril of Jerusalem say: “It is not said ‘made through a woman,’ but ‘made of a woman,’ i.e. God did not enter a man created in advance, but Himself in essence and in fact became man; He Himself became the hypostasis for His flesh.”

Thus, according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, the humanity in Christ did not receive a special hypostasis, did not constitute an independent person, but was received by His Divinity into the unity of His Divine Hypostasis, so that even after incarnation He remained the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

Even from the point of view of common sense one simply cannot agree with the heretic Nestorius who divided Christ into two persons, because if the Son of God, God the Word, united Himself with the man Christ only mentally and not physically, and dwelled in Christ as He had previously done in Moses and the other prophets, then strictly speaking the incarnation of the Son of God would not have occurred, and then it could not be said that “the Word became flesh,” as the Evangelist John the Theologian confirms; it could not be said that God sent forth His Son, born of a woman.

However, despite the obvious truth of the unity of the Divine and human natures in the single Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, there appeared people who in their desire to philosophize about God more than man is allowed to philosophize, and being carried away by the proof that Christ had two natures, began to assert that Christ also had two persons. There emerged the heretic Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who tried to prove that it was a plain man who was born from the Virgin Mary, and that God the Word became united with him only mentally and not physically.

Having condemned the heresy of Nestorius at the Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus in 431, the Church Fathers composed a hymn of glorification in honor of the Most-holy Theotokos, and anathematized all those who called Her not the Birth-giver to God, but Birth-giver to Christ or man.

Against the heresy of Nestorius, who posited two persons in Jesus Christ, took up arms Archimandrite Eutyches from a monastery in Constantinople, and became so carried away in proving the unity of hypostases in Christ that he also merged the two natures (Divine and human) into a single nature, thereby laying the foundation for the heresy of Monophysitism, which taught that Christ’s Divinity had engulfed His humanity, i.e. that Christ only had a single Divine nature, and that it was only His Divinity which had been crucified and suffered on the cross under the seeming appearance of flesh.

In order to put an end to such a terrible fallacy, the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon in 451 clearly formulated the teaching on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ in the following words: “Following the Divine Fathers, we unanimously enjoin you to confess the One and Only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, absolute in Divinity and absolute in humanity; true God and true man; One-in-essence with the Father in Divinity and one-in-essence with us in humanity, and like unto us in all but sin; born before all ages from the Father in Divinity, and in the last days, for the sake of us and our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary Theotokos in humanity; the One and the Same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, having two unmerged, immutable, indivisible, and inseparable natures; not separated or divided into two persons, but One and the Same Only-begotten Son, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the ancient forefathers taught of Him, and as the Lord Jesus Himself taught us.”

Thus despite the fallacies of those who divided Jesus Christ into two persons, the two natures in the single Person of Jesus Christ are joined indivisibly and inseparably, while despite the fallacies of those who taught that Divinity engulfed humanity in Jesus Christ, the Church teaches that the two natures are joined unmerged, immutably, and unalterably.

Even from the point of view of common sense, Divinity cannot change, while human flesh is too weak and limited to subordinate Divinity to itself. Only their absolute integrity, preservation, and immutability could effect our salvation: God could suffer on the cross only through His humanity, while infinite value to His suffering could only be imparted by His Divinity. The Divine and human natures were joined in the Saviour’s single Hypostasis from the moment of His inception in the womb of the Most-holy Virgin Mary. From then on these two natures were never separated and will never be separated. Christ arose with His flesh, ascended into heaven with His flesh, and will once again appear as the Son of man to judge the world, as the Word of God tells us: “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory” (Matt. 25:31).

In what manner the two natures became conjoined in the single Person of the God-man, in what manner Jesus Christ, absolute God and absolute man, remains a single Divine Person – that is, of course, the greatest supernatural miracle of miracles, unable to be comprehended by the limited human mind, and before which the holy Apostle Paul exclaims with all due humility: “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).


ŐIII. The Triumph of Orthodoxy

 With the Seventh Ecumenical Council in Nicea in 787 ended the glorious epoch of the Ecumenical Councils.  Keeping in mind the Apostles’ fearsome warning: “Should we or even angels from heaven preach to you anything more than we have preached to you, may it be anathema” – the Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils directed the entire aspiration of their theological minds not towards the “discovery” of new dogmas, foreign to Christ’s Church, but towards a pious and meticulous interpretation, in the light of the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition, of the profound foundations of the Saviour’s teaching, which was preserved and sacredly safeguarded in the early apostolic Church.

 At the Seventh Ecumenical Council was also established the rite of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, which is performed on the first Sunday of the Great Lent, the Sunday of Orthodoxy.  The Triumph of Orthodoxy is the manifestation to the world of Orthodoxy in its entirety, as the complete fullness of Christ’s Truth.  This is the only day in the year when the Church itself bears outspoken witness to having safeguarded within itself the pure and all-inclusive teaching of Christ.

 With its proclamation of anathema to all heretics and false teachers during the performance of the rite of Orthodoxy, the Holy Church in reality only confirms what has already happened to heretics, who have separated themselves from the Church at the very moment of embracing their fallacy, and provides warning to its faithful flock, so that it would recognize those who voluntarily left the church fold, depriving themselves of the right to be called Orthodox.  The very word “anathema” comes from the Greek verb “anatemno,” which means “I cut off.”  Thus anathema means: “May he be excommunicated!”

 The Russian people joined the ancient apostolic Universal Church in 988, inheriting its teaching from the Greeks, with the Baptism of Russia by Holy Prince Vladimir.  Fortunately this was a time when the single Eastern and Western Universal Church still celebrated its triumph over all heretics.

 But it was not for long that the single Universal Church was able to delight in its triumph.  In 1054 there occurred a division of the churches, with the Western Catholic Church leaving the fold of the single Holy, Universal, and Apostolic Church.  It should be borne in mind, however, that Orthodoxy is not just one of the various Christian confessions, as many erroneously believe it to be.  On the contrary, Orthodoxy is the absolute fullness of the Divine teaching that was brought to earth by the Saviour of the world.

 The Orthodox Church is the legitimate inheritor of the early Apostolic Church and the glorious epoch of the Seven Ecumenical Councils.  Only this Church preserves the entire purity and depth of the Church of the Living God, and to it alone belongs the Saviour’s promise: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world: Amen” (Matt. 28:20).

 To genuine Orthodoxy is completely foreign the current movement of unification known as ecumenism, which dreams of supposedly finding the fullness of Christ’s Truth in a merging of all Christian groups.  Can one really dream of creating some new, modernized, and reformed church, when for the Universal Church, which is God’s structure, “other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11).  This is why the holy Orthodox Church strictly and categorically forbids prayerful, and even more so liturgical and Eucharistic communion with those who are not members of the Universal Church.  The Church forbids us to be in prayerful communion even with those who, “thought they hold Truth, hold it in unrighteousness,” i.e. in a more or less flawed or distorted form (Rom. 1:18).

Forbidding us to pray together with heretics, the Church, however, does not forbid us to pray for them.  The holy and righteous Saint John of Kronstadt, for example, prayed for Jews, Moslems, and people of other faiths at their request, working miracles of healing through the power of Divine Life-giving Orthodoxy.

Professor G.A. Znamensky


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