living stones- socialization revisited, in relation to deification

The Shepherd of Hermas’ tower and Chapter III of Georgios I. Mantzaridis’ The Deification of Man both speak to the social aspects of our salvation in its ultimate sense: deification, “becoming partakers of the divine nature” (in the Divine Energies, not the Holy Trinity’s Essence.)

Again I will reproduce, from Joseph Paterson’s blog Mind in the Heart a portion of George Florovsky’s “Two Sides of Catholicity” (on the Shepherd’s reading of the living stones):

. . . No multitude, every member of which is isolated and impenetrable, can become a brotherhood. Union can become possible only through the mutual brotherly love of all the separate brethren. This thought is expressed very vividly in the well known vision of the Church as of a tower that is being built. (Compare the Shepherd of Hermas). This tower is being built out of separate stones-the faithful. These faithful are “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5). In the process of building they fit one into the other, because they are smooth and are well adapted to one another; they join so closely to one another, that their edges are no longer visible, and the tower appears to be built of one stone. This is a symbol of unity and wholeness. But notice, only smooth square stones could be used for this building. There were other stones, bright stones, but round ones, and they were of no use for the building; they did not fit one into the other, were not suitable for the building and they had to be placed near the walls. (Hermas, Vis. 3:2:6,8). In ancient symbolism “roundness” was a sign of isolation, of self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction — teres atque rotundus. And it is just this spirit of self-satisfaction which hinders our entering the Church. The stone must first be made smooth, so that it can fit into the Church wall. We must “reject ourselves” to be able to enter the catholicity of the Church. We master our self-love in a catholic spirit before we can enter the Church. And in the fulness of the communion of the Church the catholic transfiguration of personality is accomplished…..In catholic transfiguration personality receives strength and power to express the life and consciousness of the whole. . . .

{On the Shepherd of Hermas http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/shepherd.html }

All of us, according to this vision, are in the “process” of being “smoothed” and “squared” to “fit into the other” and “joined” so as to be the “one” Church. We must freely, of our own will, lay aside self-satisfaction and master our self-love- which are DISABLING attitudes in the Kingdom of God- “rejecting ourselves” and losing our lives in order to save them for eternal life.

Whether or not one considers oneself to be “disabled,” this struggle is universal. The Holy Fathers say that to truly know oneself (as a sinner, poor, blind, pitiable, and naked!) is a greater gift than to be able to do miracles.)

. . .in the fulness of the communion of the Church the catholic transfiguration of personality is accomplished. . . .

In chapter III of Mantzaridis’ The Deification of Man,”The Moral Aspect of Deification,” St. Gregory of Palamas is quoted as saying, “When God does not operate within us, all that we perform is sinful.” (p. 63)

Mantzarides adds, “And even when he strives to attain virtue, he ends up in arrogance and self-adulation.” (p. 63)

According to Orthodox tradition and to St. Palamas, the imitation of Christ is the ‘cooperation’ of the man regenerate in Christ with the author of this regeneration; . . . (p. 64)

Empowered by grace, we freely embark on the self-denying path to glory.

And this healing and purifying process is not a matter of knowledge, but of obedience and of the continual “falling down and getting up” of confession and repentance. (p. 68-69)

Mantzarides quotes St. Gregory Palamas’ summary of the Lord’s commandments:

A firm reverence and love for Him, the purity and self-control of our body, love for one another, not to desire anything at the expense of our neighbor or to harm him in any way, but to help him as much as possible, and in short to act towards one’s neighbor as one would like to be treated by him. (p. 70, from Oikonomos, p. 283)

Love of God is the root of all virtue . . . . Love of God bears fruit in the form of love for one’s neighbor, which is the “sign” of the believer’s love for the Lord Jesus Christ and the starting-point of all social virtue. (p. 71)

And so this salvation as deification, so mysterious and suspicious to non-Orthodox Christians, turns out to come down to (with the participation in the Divine Grace of the Church’s sacraments) the basics: obedience to the golden rule!

(Backing up to note the sacramental aspects- especially baptism, confession, and participation in the Body and Blood of Christ), Mantzarides’ connection of the sacramental and the social is summed up in a paragraph:

We have seen how through communion in the sacraments of Christ man partakes of His uncreated grace and is united with Him into one body and one spirit. This immediate and personal link between every believer and Christ calls for a genuine unification and communion between believers themselves. In this way a new relationship, beyond words and beyond nature, is set up between man and Christ. This is the Church.

And so we’re back to the tower of the Shepherd of Hermas. It is true that Mantzarides does not use the word “socialization” to describe the social aspects of the process of deification. Personally, I believe that the use of this term by the late Dr. John Boojrama of blessed memory, the former head of the Education department of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and professor at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in his book Foundations For Christian Education, functions adequately as a descriptor of this social aspect of deification. But perhaps there are alternatives.

But now that we have revisited the term, here is a review of a pertinent book by a Roman Catholic homeschooling Mom, Alice Gunther: Haystack Full of Needles: A Catholic Home Educator’s Guide to Socialization Bliss on the Hill: The Mystery Revealed At Last from the blog Bliss on the Hill (click on underlined phrases to access)

But let’s look again at the “tower” analogy, as well as St. Paul’s description of how this tower (the Body of Christ) should work in 1 Corinthians 12, from which another apt term for the process may be possibly derived:

In the process of building {the living stones} fit one into the other, because they are smooth and are well adapted to one another; they join so closely to one another, that their edges are no longer visible, and the tower appears to be built of one stone.

We are saved together; we become “one stone,” {as well as “one bread and one body” (1 Cor. 10:17); as Jesus said, “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, . . . (John 17:23a)} My heart thrills at the thought of it all!

St. Paul (depicted with St. Peter on the left) writes,

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . . and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. (1 Cor 12:12-14)

So just as we are one, we are many, and very diverse in our gifts.A body needs- variously- feet, eyes, hears, a nose, etc. to function normally. (vv. 12-27) St. Paul speaks literally of Church functions based on this figurative image in vv. 27-31.

And he also states unequivocally, “those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” (12:12:22b) This certain includes persons with disabilities.

And since we all are seeking the Lord Jesus Christ and deification in and through Him, this social aspect of deification calls for this extended consideration of the matter, in some detail.

St. Paul goes on to show the “more excellent way” in 1 Corinthians 13: Love– with all its qualities. And he goes on to contrast love to knowledge. He reminds us, “we know in part . . . But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” (1 Cor. 13:9-10)

St. Paul does not assign a term to sum up this Church Body, loving, one and many. The image he has, by the Holy Spirit, developed is simply too grand to encapsulate into one technical term. Besides, “Knowledge puffs up, love edifies.” (1 Cor. 8:1b)

The people I live with in our group home are not verbally gifted- they are developmentally disabled. But they are equally made in the image of God, and they have their gifts; more than that, they are loved by God equally, even if they have not been granted great talents.

These texts tell me that defining the social aspects of deification is not really the important thing; rather, experiencing this Divine process under the guiding hand of our merciful Father and Shepherd, together, in wondrous, silent contemplation, thankfully and with high praises, with a contrite heart, and, most of all, love– this is what matters.

Joseph Paterson’s post: http://josephpatterson.wordpress.com/2007/03/22/two-sides-of-catholicity/ icon of St. Gregory Palamas from: http://theturtlemom.spaces.live.com/photos/cns!C6310623C4F38BE2!113/

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