Man (Orthodox Christianity, Vol II, Ch 12)

Michelangelo's  Creazione di Adamo

Michelangelo's Creazione di Adamo

In his small book, Becoming Human, which is a meditation on Christian Anthropology, Fr. John Behr quotes St Irenaeus, who says,

The work of God is the fashioning of the human being.
— Indentifying Christianity

As Jesus faces Pilate, just before being crucified, Pilate says of Jesus, “Behold the man.”  Jesus is the first true human, observes Fr. John. He continues his meditation by recalling Jesus’ words on the cross! “It is finished.”  The work of God, the fashioning of the true human being has been completed in the obedience of Jesus, the second Adam.

In this chapter on Man in Metropolitan Hilerion’s book, Orthodox Christianity, he notes that Patristic tradition speaks of man in three aspects: 1) primordial man; 2) fallen man; and 3) redeemed man.  In this chapter, the Metropolitan addresses the first two.

Why is it so important that we know the truth of man?  Listen to the world around us, the language now used to describe mankind.  We once talked of heterosexual and homosexual people. In the recent past, that distinction was supplanted by LGBT, to be more inclusive.  Most recently, the most inclusive language is LGBTQIA, but even that excludes the “mainstream” heterosexual population.  Undoubtably, we need additional letters to describe us all.  It has been said that all thought takes place in language; change the language and you can change the thought.  With the continued addition of letters to define us came another change in language, now equating one’s desire to be one or more of the letters with the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.  And changed thoughts followed.

We have also moved away from the biblical language of “personhood.”  As the language of “made in God’s image and likeness” fades in our culture in favor of humanist language, ideas change and now we have at least one legal case to have an ape declared a person.

We are immersed in the changing language and ideas of the nature man.

How has this all come to be? Through the powerlessness of God. Yes, His powerlessness.  M. Hilerion quotes Russian theologian V. Lossky, who says:

The height of of the divine all-powerfullness hides withIn itself as if it were a weakness of God…God becomes powerless before human freedom, he cannot constrain it because it proceeds from his power…The will of God will always submit itself before the prodigals, the deviants, and even to the rebellious of the human will, in order to bring it to free concord.  Such is Divine Providence.
— The Mystical Theology of the Orthodox Church

Of course, we know that God saw it all coming.  Jesus, St John the Theologian tells us, is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of creation (Rev 13:8).

And we also have a role. We must speak of man using “Kingdom language,” the language of God.  Perhaps no one will be able to understand us as the world darkens around us, but we must use God’s language, the language spoken by those who are the body of Christ. We must speak it to ourselves to help inoculate each other from the onslaught of Satan’s lies of who we are.

We must know the language of who we are in God’s reality; we, the Church, the Body of Christ, are here, after all, for the life of the world.  To quote Fr. A. Schmemann:

But it is the Christian gospel that God did not leave man in his exile, in the predicament of confused longing. He had created man ‘after his own heart’ and for Himself, and man has struggled in his freedom to find the answer to the mysterious hunger in him . In this scene of radical unfulfillment God acted decisively: into the darkness where man was groping toward Paradise, He sent light. He did so not as a rescue operation, to recover lost man: it was rather for the completing of what He had undertaken from the beginning. God acted so that man might understand who He really was and where his hunger had been driving him.
— For the Life of the World

Come join us for the next two weeks at the St Thomas school and immerse yourself in God’s language of who “man” is, of we are.