Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This year I am teaching a course for the permanent diaconate program for our diocese. The program is associated with Seton Hall University and as such, I’m now an adjunct professor of my own alma mater, which is neat for me. It’s also allowed me to reflect upon some deep theological and spiritual concepts from my days in seminary. This week, I’d like to share something from my current lesson with all of you.
Spiritual theology or spirituality in general is concerned with understanding a person’s relationship with God and growth in Him. In other words, it looks at how someone achieves holiness in their life. Different writers and saints have used all kinds of terms, analogies, or images to better describe what it means for a person to grow closer to God. While there is value in all of them, there is one key concept that while unfamiliar to many I’d like to highlight.
In Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches, there is the concept known as theosis. Some might call it deification or divinization as well but it’s all the same principle; that each Christian may through Jesus Christ become God-like. It is admittedly complicated and please don’t misunderstand the idea or my explanation of it. No one is suggesting that you will become a god (which certain ancient religions held). No, but you, me, all of us, are already made in the image and likeness of God. This recalls the creation account found in Genesis.
The image part is static and unchanging. We are now and forever created in the image of God. However, there is the possibility of being more or less LIKE God. And the more time we spend with Him in prayer, live in His
commandments, and discover Him in our brothers and sisters, the more we shall be like Him. The greater our personal exposure to the divine throughout all facets of life, the greater personal likeness we bear of God Himself.
Have you ever thought of yourself as being God-like? Is the idea of being God’s presence in the world around you something exciting or confusing? How is theosis even possible? St. Gregory Nazianzen sums it up wonderfully that the challenge and the hope are found in Christ. He says, “Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. Let us become God’s for His sake, since He for ours became Man. He assumed the worse that He might give us the better…” Because Jesus has taken on a human nature, He provides now a way for us to grow into the likeness of God by grace.
Friends, what a joy it would be for all of us to be so close to God that we are truly like Him! I hope by introducing you to the idea of theosis it might inspire you in your prayer and inspire us all to strive for such a lofty goal.
Peace and Goodness,