Vol 39 No 2
POPE BENEDICT XVI
A PAPAL CONDOLENCE MOTION
Costelloe SDB PRIESTHOOD IN THE THEOLOGY OF JOHN PAUL II
LEARNING NEW WAYS OF EVANGELISING
BELONGING, COMMUNITY, AND THE CHURCH: Some Theological and Pastoral Reflections
THE TRINITY'S FIRST CREATION THE CHURCH: An Orthodox Bishop's Appreciation
Of The West's Greatest Father Of The Church
CONTEMPLATIVE MISSIONARY SPIRITUALITY: The Way of the Heart
THE CHURCH AS AGENT OF HOPE: What can Religious Faith Contribute to Life
in Contemporary Australia?
A NEW CATHOLIC SOCIAL MANIFESTO? The Compendium Of The Social Doctrine
Of The Church
RICHARD LENNAN, "RISKING THE CHURCH. THE CHALLENGES OF CATHOLIC FAITH"
Trinity's first creation the Church: An Orthodox Bishop's appreciation
of the West's Greatest Father of the Church
THE METROPOLITAN of Silibria, Emilianos Timiades, has contributed a
great deal to ecumenical theology in the last twenty years with much of
his writing on the theme of the Trinity and the Church. One of his chief
concerns has been to demonstrate exactly how the Holy Trinity impacts
on human life, particularly in the Church1. To do this he points to something
said by St Gregory of Nyssa, one of the three great Cappadocian Fathers,
about the way in which our one common humanity is expressed in different
individual persons. This is a humble way of understanding how divinity
is shared by three divine persons. Moreover, one of the Holy Trinity has
become man for us and has established the Church which is eternal. However,
it is the Holy Spirit who prolongs the divine-human assembly of the Church,
giving it its inner unity, its continuity from generation to generation.
It is here that Metropolitan Emilianos turns to the greatest of the Western
Fathers, St Augustine, in order to further his exploration. On the last
point, concerning how the Holy Spirit prolongs the divine-human assembly
of the Church, sustaining its inner unity and its continuity from generation
to generation, he cites St Augustine's De Civitate Dei (22:30). 'There
shall we rest and we shall see. We shall see and we shall love. We shall
love and we shall praise. Behold what shall be in the end and shall not
end.' Earthly life is life in via, on the way to the fatherland, to God.
Finally, when we are there in full union with the Holy Trinity, we are
in patria. Earthly life is certainly real, but it is a partial participation
in the Trinity's glory, a participation made possible through the Church.
Metropolitan Emilianos proposes that this participation in the Trinity's
glory through the Church is the chief impact of the Holy Trinity upon
the human person. The Trinity uplifts our whole being to be like God,
to be Holy. The Metropolitan then explains what holiness is.
Holiness is something that comes from another world. It belongs to another
world and reality. Consequently, a holy person lives differently from
others. They are so human as to be different. They live for other realities
and values. The power of sanctification has an ontological effect. It
brings about fellowship, holiness, theosis. A Christian then is someone
who knows God's love as God's supreme gift, undeserved and abounding,
and who recognises it as redemptive power in the world. Our union with
the Holy Trinity changes us into what we can be. This is the process of
theosis, (Gk: meaning to become divine, to be made like God) which is
implied in the Gospel of John (Jn 1:12; 14:20; 15:4-5) and in Romans 6:5
and 1 Corinthians 1:9 , but which appears with startling clarity in 2
Peter 1:4., that through the glory and goodness of Christ 'you should
share the divine nature'.
Metropolitan Emilianos next turns to Pseudo-Dionysios' Ecclesiastical
Hierarchy where theosis is described as 'a constant love of God and of
divine things.' It continues:
The vision and knowledge of divine truth. A divine sharing in the simple
perfection of him who is supremely simple. The joy of contemplation which
sustains the spirit and makes those who attain to it sharers in the nature
of God. (Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, I,3.)
This is a union in what is called the divine energies. St Maximos the
Confessor speaks of the same things in his Ambigua. 'God and those who
are worthy of God have one and the same energy.' (Ambigua, PG 91, 1076.)
God as Trinity, therefore, is about being caught up into the life of God.
It is only possible because God is Trinity and because the Church is an
icon of the Trinity's current of love. Our love should therefore copy
the intimate solidarity of the Holy Trinity. As St Anthony of Egypt observed:
From our neighbour is life and from our neighbour is death. If we win
our neighbour we win God, but if we cause our neighbour to stumble we
sin against Christ. (Apophthegmata, 9.)
Everywhere in the hymns and liturgical texts of the Eastern Church we
find a burning eros, a strong love of God which is founded on the conviction
that we have come to share in the life of the Trinity. The Holy Trinity
is the basis of this new faith. By entering the Church one is incorporated
into the whole Trinity. In the liturgical texts this Trinitarian inter-action
prevails. The emphasis on Christ is immediately joined to the two other
persons, as happens, for example, in the celebration of the Epiphany.
The very first offspring and creation of the Trinity is the Church, the
Church of the Trinity. The Holy Trinity dwells in the Church and the life
of the members reflects the life of the Trinity. The only creative principle
and the source of the Church is the divine Trinity. It indwells, fills
and sanctifies the Church. As the Christians sing in the Byzantine liturgy,
'We have seen the true light, We have received the Heavenly Spirit, We
have found the true faith worshipping the undivided Trinity, who has saved
us!' Indeed they have found it, in the Church.
In the Church the Trinity animates the supreme economy. So, in the Church
one finds the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. Whenever one acts, the
others are found. The whole Trinity is the head of the Church, the cause
and the source of grace. This means that, once integrated and united with
Christ, an individual human being becomes a person united with the Father
and the Holy Spirit at the same time. They become partakers of the divine
nature. (2 Pet 1:4.) 'Where one hypostasis is present, the whole Trinity
is present,' says Chrysostom in his commentary on Romans, 'for in him
the wealth of God's being has a living form.' (Col 2:9) It is the Holy
Spirit's particular work since Pentecost to co-ordinate the process of
sanctification. It is the Holy Spirit who pours out the charismata (gifts)
for the renewal of the Church and of the whole of creation. The other
fruit of our relationship with the Holy Trinity in the Church is love,
the most important thing of all.
This love is a creative force. The relationship to the Holy One is revealed
through personal sanctification. Thus St Basil indicates the use of the
sacraments and their connection to the redeeming action of the Trinity.
(Comm. in Psalmos, 28, 1; PG 29, 281.) There is also something pre-existent
about the church which is a deep mystery, too deep to penetrate completely.
But the Church has been predestined from the ages for unending glory.
The Church is also the way in which people come to experience God. When
we realise that God does not give, but that he is given, it really does
mean that the Church is divine in that God gives himself to us in the
Church. As such the Church is truly divine, because the grace received
in it is God's 'presence and his very self' to use Newman's phrase. There
is only one sanctifying power, which is the Holy Trinity, God. Consequently,
if that sanctifying power is found in the pneumatic body of the Church,
the Church is the holiest thing of all.
Like many Orthodox theologians, Metropolitan Emilianos is critical of
a great deal of Western theology, believing that Western problems with
the Trinity diminish this understanding of the Trinity as divine-human
intimacy. He says, for example, that some Augustinian terminology detaches
the Spirit's energies from his person and ascribes them to an impersonal
thing known as grace. He says, on the contrary, that if grace is the Holy
Spirit, its activity must be that of a person upon a person. Most would
agree. Participation in the Church involves personal communion. In the
Pentecost hymn the Eastern Church sings 'O ye children of the Church,
your faces shining with light, receive the dew of the Holy Spirit breathed
out in fire which takes away sins by a cleansing.' The devout believer
lives this Trinitarian reality. That experience is reflected in everything.
It is a nuptial relationship best expressed in the eucharist.
Metropolitan Emilianos blames Tertullian, the second to third century
Church father, for the introduction of objectified theology and assigns
to him the responsibility for the confusion between divine favour and
divine power. (Ad Simplicianum, 2, quaest. I,5.) He says that Western
theology's meaning of grace owes its origin to Tertullian and that it
was re-inforced by the Council of Carthage of 418 A.D., where grace becomes
power received and sanctifying grace. He claims that the problem is that
the West is now confused by this judicial language, whereas the Church
Fathers, particularly in the East, show that salvation is not so much
justification or reconciliation, but a growing into the life of God, theosis.
In expounding the patristic tradition's emphasis on theosis and transfiguration,
Metropolitan Emilianos bases much of his explanation on references from
St Augustine. He enlists him to support the view of the Christian East,
that reclaiming the Church's tradition on theosis and transfiguration
is needed to correct the false spirituality in much contemporary writing
on the love of God and neighbour, writing which neglects the communal
or ecclesiological dimension of final blessedness. Communion in the Holy
Spirit must not omit communion with our fellows. By communion with the
Holy Spirit we are caught up into the love of the Father, the Son and
the Holy Spirit. He cites Augustine's 'That you may love, let him dwell
in you, and love himself through you' (Sermon 128), because Augustine
understands that Trinitarian communion is manifested in human realities.
In this St Augustine is unsurpassed. He shows the reality of the impact
of the Trinity precisely in human life. Metropolitan Emilianos cites the
When we see Him as He is we shall be like Him and being like Him how
shall we fail? By what should we be distracted? Let us rest assured that
we shall not be wearied by the praise of God nor by His love. If your
love should fail, so would your praise, but if love is to be everlasting
because the beauty of God will be uncloying, inexhaustible, then do not
fear that you will lack power to praise Him always whom you will always
have the power to love.
Charity therefore reconciles the warring elements in the psyche and transcends
the ego. Charity in the soul is the amor sui, true self-love, which does
not seek its own. The Holy Spirit is the means whereby God loves himself.
The Trinity can be described therefore as one who loves, one who is loved,
and love itself.
1. Timiades, Metropolitan Emilianos (1985),
'The Holy Trinity in Human Life', One in Christ, Vol. XXI, no. 1, 1-18.
Lawrence Cross is Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology (Victoria)
of Australian Catholic University and a member of the Centre for Early
Christian Studies. He is a married priest of the Russian Catholic Church.