[ VERSE OF THE DAY's Pentecostal Feature ]
Achieving Your Potential in Christ:
X   Theosis   X
Plain Talks on a Major Doctrine of Orthodoxy
By Fr. Anthony M. Coniaris
Edited by G. A. Henry

Achieve Your Potential: Theosis (1)

Achieve Your Potential: Theosis (2)

Achieving Our Potential in Christ: Theosis (3)
       X It Has Already Happened
       X "I'm Only Human!"
       X Spiritual Dwarfs
       X Our Main Aim in Life
       X Let Loose the Slumbering Christ Within You
       X Two Caterpillars
       X The Seedling's Strength
       X You Have a Rendezvous With Glory
Achieving Your Potential in Christ: Theosis (4)

The Bible and Theosis

Man Does Not Become A God

What Theosis Is Not

Achieving Our Potential in Christ: Theosis (3)

AT BAPTISM WE SING the beautiful words of St. Paul, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" Alleluia (Galatians 3:27). The fact that at baptism we have "put on Christ" has tremendous implications. If we have put on Christ, then we have put on His love, His forgiveness, His peace, His joy. If we have put on Christ, we have put on His servanthood: "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet" (John 13:14). If we have put on Christ, then we shall suffer as Christ, suffered; we shall be persecuted for the truth as Christ was persecuted.

If we have put on Christ, we shall be resurrected as Jesus was. We shall be glorified as Christ was glorified; we shall ascend to the Father as He ascended to the Father. We shall sit at the right hand of the Father with Jesus. We shall partake of His divine nature and share in His life and glory, becoming "gods by grace" as He is God by nature and essence.

Thus, theosis began for us in baptism. When we were baptized we "put on Christ," i.e., we received the life of Christ within us, the same life that enabled Christ to walk this earth for 33 years without sinning. Thus, on the day of our baptism, we became new persons, with a brand new potential: theosis or union with God.

X It Has Already Happened

Theosis is not something new. It has already occurred at the Transfiguration when the human body of Jesus was transfigured and shone more brightly than the sun. Here we see the great potential of human nature in Christ. Here we see the potential spirituality of man in its highest form! Here we see the dust of the flesh transfigured into God's likeness in divine glory! Here we see the human body as God originally created it to be - radiant, resplendent and glorious! Here we see what human nature can again become in Christ by God's grace.

The following troparia of the Feast of the Transfiguration bring this out:
      "Transfigured today on Mount Tabor in His disciples' presence, Christ revealed the original beauty of the image...
      "Transfigured, You have made Adam's nature, which had grown dim, to shine once more as lightning, transforming it into the glory and splendor of your Godhead."

X "I'm Only Human!"

How often we hear people trying to excuse their sins and failure by saying, "I'm only human!" You are human, but God became human in Christ to show us what it really means to be human. To be human means to be able to share in God's life. To be human means to have the Holy Spirit dwelling in our bodies, making them temples of God. To be human means to have the Lord Jesus sitting on the throne of our heart, making us palaces of God's presence. To be truly human means to be able in Christ to transcend human weaknesses and frailties and to become like Christ in whose image we were created.

One who is truly human:
      truly fulfills God's commandments-
      he makes his body a throne for his mind,
      his mind a throne for spirit,
      and his spirit a throne for soul.

Then his soul too becomes a throne
      for the light of the Presence
      that rests upon him.

The light spreads forth around him,
      and he, at the center of that light,
      trembles in his joy.
            - Hasidic Saying

X Spiritual Dwarfs

But all of this presupposes ascesis, struggle and constant growth in the life of Christ. Without this ascesis and constant spiritual growth, not only do we not attain our potential - theosis - but we also become moral and spiritual pygmies or dwarfs. Leslie Brandt writes:

There is a method of stunting trees so that they never grow higher than a couple of feet. It is done by tying off the taproot so that the tree is forced to live off its surface roots.

These trees beautify unique little gardens making them places of supreme beauty, but perform little service beyond that. They are rather useless in terms of supplying lumber for building or for shelter against raging typhoons. They become potted plants instead of the forest giants they were originally intended to be.

A baby in a crib is a beautiful sight to behold, but if that creature, plagued by some crippling disease, remains a crib-baby after twelve or fifteen years, it become a tragic and pitiful sight indeed.

Even more tragic, though of far less concern to people, are the moral and spiritual dwarfs who have never attained to the height and stature they are destined for and who are potted plants instead of forest giants because their taproots are tied off and they have never gone deep into an intimate relationship with God to draw on divine sustenance and strength.[3]
Created to be giants, we end up as dwarfs when the taproot, designed for an in-depth relationship with God, is cut off and we live on the surface of life.

Fr. Alexander Elchaninov writes, "The man who denies his relationship with God, who refuses to be His son, is not a real man but a man stunted, the unfinished plan of a man. For to be sons of God is not only granted us as a gift, but is also entrusted to us as a task, and only the accomplishment of this task, through the conscious putting of Christ and God, can lead to a full disclosure, a full blossoming, of each human personality.[4]

X Our Aim in Life

It is no wonder that the Orthodox Church considers our aim in life to be union with God, or theosis! We were created to share in God's life. This is what makes us different from animals. We were created to be receptacles of God's life, without which we cease to be truly human.

When someone asked an Orthodox priest one day what he thought was the main emphasis of the Orthodox Church, he replied with one word, "Theosis." And he was right.

It is said that the greatest compliment God ever paid man was when He said to him, "be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).

X Let Loose the Slumbering Christ Within You

Leslie Newbigin said once, "I know and believe that each person I see, has a capacity to let loose in him the Risen Christ, now often slumbering, but there incontrovertibly..." To let loose the Christ who is within you, will be the beginning of a personal transformation and transfiguration that will be nothing less than theosis, union with God.

X Two Caterpillars

Two caterpillars sat watching a butterfly flying overhead. After some time, one caterpillar remarked to the other, "You wouldn't get me up in one of those things for a million dollars!" Of course, the unsuspecting caterpillar was little aware that he was gazing upon his own destiny.

My hope through these talks on theosis is that you will catch a glimpse of your own future destiny. For we are destined to share in Christ's glory. His victory over death was our victory over death. His Pascha, His resurrection, has become our Pascha, our resurrection. His transfiguration, our transfiguration; His ascension, our ascension; His glorification, our glorification.

X The Seedling's Strength

I read recently that the strength exerted by a tiny little plant as it pushes its stem above the surface of the ground is roughly 450 pounds per square inch. Four hundred and fifty pounds of pressure in those delicate little plants pushing their way above ground!

I was amazed and awed by the power God has placed even in the tiniest of His creations. And then I thought to myself, 'If God has given an organism of the size of my fingernail such strength, how much more energy must I have within myself, untapped?'

Indeed, God has placed untapped reservoirs of strength within us to enable us to attain theosis and union with Him. Think of prayer, the Bible and all the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. These are all ways for us to achieve union with God.

In many ways, we are like a chick within an eggshell. Awakening to the fact that he is cramped in the shell and needs food and space, he begins to peck his way out. Suddenly, he discovers a brand new world of freedom, light and food.

X You Have a Rendezvous with Glory

We live much of our lives as if in a shell. We are forever like the chick and his shell - within an inch of true life and living.

Within each one of us, God has placed the capacity for unlimited growth. Yours is the privilege of giving birth to this new potential, this new life by breaking out of your shell. You have a rendezvous with glory. You have a rendezvous with fullness of life in Christ! You have a rendezvous with "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). You have a rendezvous with greatness!

Vladimir Loloviev, a Russuan religious philosopher, wrote,
         "Your tendencies and ambitions come from God. They are remote calls from His kindness... If you wish to be upraised unto God, if you wish to be so united with God, that God is all in you, if you despair because, eager to share in the divine nature, you have a glimpse of it in its inaccessible infinity, then, take assurance. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are calling you, indeed, to ascend unto them.
         "They are ready to come down towards you and in you, in order to live as the habitual guests of your soul. They promise to your whole being, in exchange for what is good in it, a transformation, at first mysterious and invisible, but soon resplendent and glorious, a union and assimilation that will divinize you."

It is important that we keep the spark alive in us.

A person at prayer is like a bed of coals,
As long as a single spark remains, the great fire can be kindled.
But without that spark, there can be no fire.

Always remain attached to God, even in those times when you feel unable to ascend to Him.
You must preserve that single spark - lest the fire of your soul be extinguished.
        - Hasidic Saying

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            [3] "Christ in Your Life," L. Brandt. Concordia Publ. Co., St. Louis Mo. 1980. P. 140.
            [4] "The diary of a Russian Priest," A Elchaninov. Faber and Faber. London. 1967. P. 44

Last updated on June 9, 2000