Sunday, September 23, 2007

Leviticus - Introduction

For the next 7-8 weeks we will be studying through Leviticus. Actually it will a study of the OT Liturgical system, so we will include portions of Exodus and many NT passages such as Hebrews.

As a way of introduction let me review the 4 major ways that the Church Fathers read the OT (as well as all of Scripture).

-Ultimately we understand the OT through the person of Jesus. The story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is a good paradigm for this. Two disciples unknowingly met Jesus along the road, and Jesus it is said went through Moses and the prophets and revealed Himself (but they did not recognize Him until the breaking of bread).

4 Senses of Scripture
-compiled by John Cassian (360-435)
1. Literal Sense: this is just the plain, historical sense.
2. Typological/Allegorical: The is similar to the foreshadowing that one sees in liturgy. However, in Scripture a real historical event becomes a type or shadow of what is to be fulfilled in Christ. The beauty of this that a historical event becomes prophetic through the person of Christ. see Heb. 11:17-19.

As an example we have the OT readings at the Exaltation of the Cross. One of the readings is of the story of the waters at Marah. Israel reached an oasis of Marah but could not drink the waters. God told Moses to chop down a tree and through in the waters and it would become sweet. This is a type of the cross which enters our bitter life and sweetens it with God's grace. Jesus does something similar with the story of the brazen serpent. He applies it to Himself as type and says that the "Son of Man will raised up and draw all men to Himself."

3. Moral. This is sense of application. How does it apply to a person? The great example of this liturgicaly is the Canon of St. Andrew read at Lent. St. Andrew goes through all Scripture and applies each story to his life of repentance. For example: "Having rivaled the first-created Adam by my transgression, I realize that I am stripped naked of God and of the everlasting kingdom and bliss through my sins. (Genesis 3) Alas, wretched soul! Why are you like the first Eve? For you have wickedly looked and been bitterly wounded, and you have touched the tree and rashly tasted the forbidden food. The place of bodily Eve has been taken for me by the Eve of my mind in the shape of a passionate thought in the flesh, showing me sweet things, yet ever making me taste and swallow bitter things. Adam was rightly exiled from Eden for not keeping Thy one commandment, O Savior. But what shall I suffer who am always rejecting Thy living words? (Hebrews 12:25; Genesis 3:23)"

4. Anagogical/Heavenly/Eschatological. This refers to how a passage of Scripture relates to the "telos" or end of God's purpose for the cosmos.

Eg: Jerusalem: the literal city; the Christian Church; the faithful Christian; the heavenly kingdom

Here is a poem, used in early catechsims to teach these senses to the catechumens: The letter shows us what God and our fathers did;
The allegory shows us where our faith is hid;
The moral meaning gives us rules of daily life;
The anagogy shows us where we end our strife.

Example: Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37)

Literal - A story about a man attacked and helped out by an outcast Samaritan.

Moral sense - Jesus is teaching on compassion and the need to love your neighbor. Your neighbor being all me

Typological - the man: fallen humanity leaving the heavenly Jerusalem and traveling through the world.
The robbers: the demons who try to trap in sin and wound us with the consequences of sin
The priest and Levites: represent the OT law; because it could not save from sin
Good Samaritan: Christ who comes and has compassion on us
Wine and Oil: the NT and the Grace of God
The Inn: the Church
The Innkeeper: pastors and teachers of the Church
The Return: the second coming


1. Why study?

-Fr. Jon Braun calls this book a primer on the Eucharist; helps us understand the sacrifice that Jesus made; also helps us understand what God intends in worship.

-Heb. 8:1-6 – these things are type and shadow of the worship of God in heaven.

2. Outline of Study:

A. Tabernacle/Temple
- different parts: brazen alter, laver, holy place which included table of preparation, altar of incense, holy of holies which housed the ark of the covenant.

B. Sacrifices: burnt offering, grain offering, drink offering, peace offering, sin offering, guilt offering.

C. Ordinations: Priests, Levites, High Priests

3. Historical Background

- Egypt
- Exodus
- Wilderness
- Sinai

Ex. 25:1-9;

Ultimately it is about Worship. Worship is about coming into a right relationship with God. Does God need all the ritual and ordinances that He is proscribing in the OT for the people of Israel? No, man needs it. In order for man to participate in the life of God, man must be changed---he must be made like God. This is the purpose of all this OT regulations and even true of what we do today. One truth of man is “how we worship determines how we believe”. So it is important that we get worship right.

For example—what does it impress upon a person to have to kill one of their best animals when they sin?

Here’s what God says about the reason for their worship:

Ex 29:45-46

- One thing this teaches us is that to approach is to God on His terms. We don't make up worship as we go along. There is a definite sense of worship that forms man so that he can be made holy as God is holy.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Theosis resources

I know it's a strange title. If you read the previous post on theosis, then you know that the only resources are the tools the God has provided through the Church. However, if you are new to Orthodoxy many of the concepts are different than in other forms of Western Christianity. Many forms of Western Christianity view God in a legal sense. He is a divine judge that has been offended and whose wrath needs to be assuaged through some type of punishment. The Church becomes a court room. Yet in Orthodoxy, the metaphors are more medical than legal. The Church is a hospital through which a loving God heals the cancer of our sins so that we might share in His life. Grace is not an object that provides or an attitude, but His very life that He bestows. Yes, I know that these are generalizations, but it can be useful to understanding the differences.

Here are some print & audio resources that I have found helpful:

Clark Carlton, The Truth

Clark Carlton, The Life

Conciliar Press booklet on Theosis

also check out Matthew Gallatin's recent podcasts on Imputed Righteousness at Ancient Faith Radio. There are at least 12 episodes, and I think they are provided them all on CD if you don't want to download them all. Click here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Remarkable journeys of St. Andrew

I love history, and when it relates to the Church and her saints it is even better. Here's a link I found about an article in the Orthodox journal "Road to Emmaus" about St. Andrew the first-called.

The author spent several years researching all the local traditions regarding visits by St. Andrew. He then compiled and harmonized them into a full chronology of his missionary journeys. It is truly amazing. Andrew took serious Jesus command to preach to the "ends of the earth".

I always assumed St. John was the last of the apostles to die because he was the only one who died of natural causes. Yet, this author maintains that St. Andrew actually died several years letter as martyr by the Roman authorities. He estimates that Andrew was 85-95 yrs old. See below and read how he brought the Gospel from Ethiopia to Scandinavia.
Check out this link: St. Andrew

St. Andrew's feast day is June 30th.

Troparion - Tone 4

First-enthroned of the apostles,
teachers of the universe:
Entreat the Master of all
to grant peace to the world,
and to our souls great mercy!

Kontakion - Tone 2

Today Christ the Rock glorifies with highest honor
The rock of Faith and leader of the Apostles,
Together with Paul and the company of the twelve,
Whose memory we celebrate with eagerness of faith,
Giving glory to the one who gave glory to them!

Friday, September 07, 2007


is an essential concept in understanding salvation in the Orthodox Church. Sometimes Orthodox literature will refer to theosis as divinization or deification. It simply means to become like God. This concept is explicitly expressed in the Biblical passage of 2 Peter 1:4. This passage illumines and summarizes theosis as the process whereby man may become partakers of the divine nature. Much has been said by the Fathers in regards to this passage and the doctrine of theosis. This essay will discuss the definition of theosis; in what sense does man become a partaker of “the divine nature”; how the concept of synergia is a part of theosis; and the implications of theosis not only upon man but all creation. A discussion of salvation history will be necessary to fully understand the theological concepts as well.

The goal of the Christian is to become like God. Man was created for this purpose. In Gen. 1:26, “God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” According to the Fathers of the church, this verse begins the understanding of theosis. Man was imprinted with God’s image, and it is this image that enables man to have communion with God and therefore to become like God. However, one soon finds in the creation account that man fell away from this purpose. Although Adam and Eve were created innocent without sin, in some sense they too were to grow in likeness to God. The lie perpetrated upon Eve by the serpent was an attempt to destroy this subvert this process as man reached out to the forbidden fruit in order to “be like God” by man’s own power and method.

One function of the Incarnation was to redeem this process of theosis. As Athanasius stated, “God became man, so that man could become God.” Man was once again sanctified in Christ allowing man once again to become like God through the person of Christ. By Christ taking upon himself the flesh of man, He sanctified it through His life, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven at the right hand of the Father. Man’s nature has been completely sanctified and is now sitting in the heavens at the right hand of the Father. The Incarnation opened the door so that we could become partakers of the divine nature. Just as Christ united man and God in one person, this allows Man to be united with God. It is this process which we call theosis.

One area of confusion in regards to this doctrine needs to be clarified. The question of union can create problems if not explained clearly. In order to fully understand this union, the Fathers of the Church have spoken about God in two ways. The idea of essence and energies helps to understand how God relates and interacts with His creation, and more importantly how God unites Himself with man. God’s essence can best be defined as that part of God which is His internal substance. God’s essence or nature separates Him from all His creation and makes Him transcendent and unapproachable by all. No one can ascertain or “look upon” God’s essence.

this is seen when Moses asks to see God, and God says that no man can see Him and live. Because of the unapproachability of God’s nature, the Fathers often speak of God apophatically or in negative. It is easier to speak about what God is not, than to say what God is because language and thought cannot grasp the true nature of God in all its fullness.
Despite the unknowability of God in His essence, it becomes clear through the Scripture that God has chosen to reveal Himself to man. In the example of Moses above, God hides Moses in the cleft of a rock and shows Moses His backside. This display of God illustrates what the Fathers call the energies of God. It is important to note, that just as the essence of God is uncreated, the energies are uncreated as well. The energies of God are as much God as the essence, but they are the manifestations or activities of God’s essence. We can approach God’s essence through His energies. By uniting ourselves and experiencing the energies of God, we are truly participating in God and not just an emanation or creation of God. It is this belief that we can truly participate in God that allows for theosis. The title of this blog is an illustration of theosis. A sword placed in fire takes on the property of fire and glows as evidence of this change, yet it still remains a sword.

God’s grace is offered out to man in order for man to commune and unite with God. However man must reach back and accept God’s grace in order to be transformed and united with God. This human participation in the process of theosis is often referred to by the Greek word, “synergia”. Synergia simply means working together. Man works together with God in order to accomplish theosis. Biblically, this is seen in Mk. 16:20 as the risen Christ is working with apostles to accomplish His will. The two most significant passages are found in First and Second Corinthians. In 1 Cor. 3:9-10, Paul proclaims that he and by extension all Christians are workers together with God and are to work with the grace that God has given in order to accomplish ministry. 2 Cor 6:1, states that Christians are to work with God and that by not working with God is to receive God’s grace in vain.

should not be seen as man’s feeble attempt to attain favor with God and earn entry into the kingdom. It is God’s grace alone that has the power to transform man into His likeness. Synergia is merely the natural process of Man responding to God’s grace and working with it to accomplish God’s will. This idea does preclude the notion that a person can accept God’s grace and be instantly transformed into God’s likeness. There is effort involved, and synergia is a continually struggle to accept God and reject those things that are not from Him. Another way of understanding synergia is to look to the Incarnation. Just as Christ united man’s will with God will, the Christian is called to do the same by uniting his will to the will of God. Because of Christ’s triumph man is able to do so.

God has provided several means through the Church for man to synergize His will to God’s and thereby be transformed into the likeness of God. First and foremost, theosis takes place as man partakes of the sacraments. Baptism and Chrismation opens the door to theosis and empowers the Christian to unite himself with God. The sacrament of Confession brings the Christian back into fellowship with God so that he can begin to receive God’s grace in full once again. Ultimately, the Eucharist not only provides the power for theosis, but also becomes an icon of the process. Christ offers His own body and blood to the Christian, and the faithful Christian ingests it so that it becomes a part of his own body. This is a picture of the most intimate communion between man and God. God allows His own life to fully penetrate the life of Man in order to transform him into God’s likeness.

Alongside the Sacraments the Christian has many other tools at his disposal that help this process of theosis. These tools are often referred to as asceticism, but are nothing more than such things as keeping God’s commandments, displaying the fruits of the Spirit, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, etc. All these are means to an end goal, which is theosis, and should never be viewed as ends in themselves. As the Christian obeys, prays and fasts, he opens Himself up to more and more of God’s grace and is thereby transformed little by little into the likeness of God.
A note must be made about the role of the Jesus prayer in the process of theosis. Because theosis is an active communion with God, one method of the Church to be more mindful and attentive of God’s presence is to continually pray. This also fulfills Paul’s command to pray without ceasing. The most popular method for accomplishing this task has been the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy one me.” The repetition of this short prayer helps focus the mind and heart on the presence of God keeping the believer in constant communion with God. Constant contact with the life of God purifies the believer and transforms. It must be remember that the ability to use the Jesus Prayer is not the end of the Christian, but merely means to the end. The prayer can also not be separated from active obedience and participation in the sacraments on the Church.

Not only does theosis directly affect man and his moving toward the likeness of God, but it extends to all of creation as well. Strange as this may seem, man’s sin in the Garden brought death into the world (Rom. 5:12). Chrysostom treats this issue in his homily on Rom. 8:19-22 as he explains the creation’s groaning to be delivered from the bondage of death. Death did not only infect mankind, but all of creation, and in some great mystery man’s restoration to communion with God will restore creation as well. Man serves as priest and mediator and sanctifies creation itself as he offers it up to the Creator. Evidence of this future deliverance can be seen in glimpses in the lives of the saints. Stories of their relationship to animals and nature show a return to Eden in many accounts.

The concept of theosis is central to the understanding of salvation. God’s offers Himself to man in order to have communion with God. Communion with God leads to man being transformed into the likeness of God. The image of God begins to shine in order to fulfill God’s ultimate purpose for man’s creation. This is true meaning of theosis. Man must receive this gift of God Himself by opening his heart to God. This working together with God’s grace is often referred to as synergia and is accomplished through the Church in the sacraments, prayer, virtue, asceticism, etc. All creation groans for mankind’s theosis because it promises a deliverance from corruption as well. Theosis is beautiful mystery that displays the sacrificial love of God coming to man to transform him into God’s own likeness.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

FOURTH ANNUAL St. Michael Institute for Orthodox Studies

If you are in Louisville or within driving distance, St. Michael's has an upcoming conference.

FOURTH ANNUAL St. Michael Institute for Orthodox Studies
St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox Church
Louisville, Kentucky • September 21 - 22, 2007

An intimate treatment of the continuity of the Orthodox Faith passed from dislocated immigrants of the diaspora to their children and to converts in the New World who come to the Church as spiritual orphans.

SPEAKERS Old World/New World: The Legacy of Church Planting
V. Rev John Nehrebecki, pastor emeritus
Christ the Savior Orthodox Church, Paramus, NJ

New World/Old World: Inheritors of Church Planting
V. Rev. John Bethancourt, pastor
Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Santa Fe, NM

Recipes for Humus & Homousius
V. Rev. Michael Laffoon, pastor
St. Mark Orthodox Church, Irvine, CA

From Seminary to Assignment
Fr. Justin Patterson, pastor
St. Athanasius Orthodox Church, Nicholasville, KY

Growing-Up in the Company of Giants
Fr. Stephen Vernak, acting pastor
Christ the Savior Church, Harrisburg, PA

Books & Saints: Living Theology
Daniel Bethancourt, 2007 graduate
St. Vladimir Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, NY

See Agenda


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