Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Orthodox Faith – The Symbol of Faith (5)

Some people accuse Christianity of having a negative view of human beings, seeing humanity only as poor, wretched sinners. However, in fact Christianity has a quite positive view of human beings. The Book of Genesis tell us that we are created “in the image and likeness of God” (Gen1:26). Human beings have fallen into sin, of course, but this does not destroy the image and likeness of God within us. We can say that Jesus Christ came into the world to restore and renew the image of God within us.​After the creation of the material world, including flora and fauna, God creates humanity and says that human beings are given dominion, or authority, over the material world. This does not mean that humanity can abuse the natural world, but rather humanity is called to make God present in the world to reflect His love for the world and finally, to offer the good things of this world, in gratitude to God. Actually, human beings are higher than angels. It is humanity that was given authority of the world. Only human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. Finally the Son of God became a human being, not an angel.
As a matter of fact, the Fathers of the Orthodox Church wrote that “God became a human being so that human beings can become God”. Now this is a bold saying but we should not misunderstand it. God is God by nature. But we become like God through grace. Or to put it another way, Jesus Christ is the Son of God by nature, but we become sons and daughters of God through adoption in the sacrament of baptism. The only thing that hinders this process is sin, but God has given us through the church, the forgiveness of sins so that we can overcome this.
​This is a process that will continue through all eternity. Some people imagine heaven as a static world, but in fact we will be growing into God’s beauty, truth and goodness forever. We can never exhaust the riches of God.
​In fact, we learn what it means to be a human being by looking at the Holy Trinity. The Trinity teaches us that we are not made to be “rugged individualists”. Rather we are made to be persons in loving relationships with other persons, both divine and human. God is not an isolated monarch, but rather exists as a Trinity of loving persons. There is a difference and even hierarchy in the Trinity. The Trinity is One, but God the Father is the source and cause of the person of the Son and Spirit, but they are equal to each other. This is how we human beings should relate to other people. We share a common nature with the rest of humanity but as persons we are unique. To be human means to be in relationship with other persons, divine and human. As human beings we are not homeless parts of a collective, nor are we isolated individuals. This means there can be differences and hierarchy among humans, but we are all equal to one another. Or to put it another way, Christ said in Luke 22:25-27
“…… “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.”
​In other worlds, Christ tells us that among Christians there should be no tyranny of one over another, but rather to be a Christian leader is to be a humble servant.
​So let us continue that path we are on, growing in knowledge and love of God through eternity, existing in relationship with the person of the Trinity and other human beings.

Fr. John

The Orthodox Faith – The Symbol of Faith (4)

As Christians we believe that the world was created by God, as it says in the Creed “I believe in one God… the maker of all things visible and invisible.” This idea of creation is not held by atheists who believe that the world, with its complexity and beauty, just came into being by chance, or by believers of some Eastern religions in which the world “emanates” from God, the world flows out of God and then flows back, in a process of eternal return.​As Orthodox we believe that the entire Holy Trinity took part in creation. Although the Old Testament does not teach about the Trinity very clearly, when we Christians read it we see hints of the Holy Trinity. In the creation account in the book of Genesis we read:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.” (Gen 1:1-3)
​The first verses mentions the spirit or breath of God and the following verse begins with “And God said…” Of course when a person says something, he says a word. And we believe this world to be Jesus Christ. Or in psalm 33:6-9 we see another reference to the world being created by the Word of the Lord (i.e., Jesus Christ) and by the breath or spirit of God.
“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth. He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle; he put the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord, let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood forth. (Ps 33:6-9)
In the Book of Genesis the world is said to have been created in six days and many people take this to mean six 24-hour days as we experience now. However, even in the patristic period some Fathers believed the six days could be six long periods of time. The idea is that God started the process and guides its development.
​The Bible also tells us that the created world is “very good” (Gen 1:31). Of course we know that the world is not perfect. In addition to human sin there are diseases, natural disasters and so on. This is because the material world somehow fell together with Adam and Eve. However, because the world is fundamentally good, Christianity does not see salvation as a flight from the material world, but rather will be transformed at the end of time together with the resurrection of humanity.
​Although Christianity does not accept pantheism (that God and the world are one) it believes that God is present in every place for the created world. For example, the prayer:
O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of blessing and Giver of Life, come and abide in us and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.
​It says that God is “everywhere present and fillest all things.” This same omnipresence of God is expressed in Psalm 139:7-12 and Acts 17:27-28.
“Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with thee.”
“….. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for `In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your poets have said, `For we are indeed his offspring.’ (Acts 17:27-28)
Another part of the created world is that of the bodiless powers (angels). It is somewhat incorrect to call all the bodiless powers angels, because angels are only one rank of the nine categories of bodiless powers. There are Angels Archangels, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Dominions, Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim. The word angel means messenger and in the Bible we see the bodiless powers conveying messages from God to humanity and, in general, mediating between God and the world. The demons or the devil are also bodiless powers created by God who rebelled against God and were cast into hell.
​So we see that the created world, i.e., the world of angels, the world of inanimate and animate things, and the world of human beings comes from the hand of God and is guided, sustained and loved by Him.

 Fr. John