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ooPnevma vs piPnevma
  • Some time ago, I was listening to a lecture which describes one problem of theological factions within the Coptic Church on the understanding of the Holy Spirit.  This lecture was on the letters of St. Athanasius to Serapion.

    He describes the history of a philological scholar of the Coptic language, Dr. Rahib Atalla, who noticed in the Coptic translation of the New Testament, there were two articles (like "a" or "the") used in front of "Pnevma" (Spirit).  "ooPnevma" and "piPnevma" (a spirit and The Spirit respectively), and that in some areas of the Bible, sometimes it was written that we receive "ooPnevma" rather than "piPnevma", which then lead to interesting theological interpretations.  On one part, you have the "oopnevmians" who believe what we receive in baptism is not the Holy Spirit in His whole hypostasis, but a gift or grace of the Spirit, whereas "pipnevmians" (or more accurately the anti-oopnevmians) believe that no such distinction existed in the Greek translation of the New Testament, and thus it is the whole hypostasis, whether "oo" or "pi".

    I was wondering if someone here has more knowledge of the background can comment more on this.  Do think both sides are too extreme?  One side may make it seem we don't really receive the Holy Spirit residing in us as it does in Christ's humanity, while another side make it seem we partake of the Holy Spirit in essence.  Just wanted to hear maybe some of our Coptic scholars here that might know of this problem in the Church?

    Thank you.
  • My belief is owbnawmian. We do not take the Holy Spirit in His hydrostatic form. We receive gifts from Him..
    Oujai
  • St. Paul says otherwise:

    1 Corinthians 3:16
    16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

    2 Timothy 1:14
    14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

    Romans 8:9
    But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

    Romans 8:11
    But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

    Based on the these verses, it is clear that St. Paul is referring to THE Holy Spirit. This makes sense, since Christ came to unite ourselves with Him by not only giving us His flesh and blood but even His own Spirit. As we say in the Friday theotokia: "He took what is ours, and gave us what is His, we praise and glorify Him, and exalt Him." Even Christ explicitly says that The Spirit of God is in us: "16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:16). He does not just say He will help us or be with us but that He is IN us.

    To say that "a spirit" (oupnevma) dwells in us would be ambiguous and raises the question of what kind of spirit it is--this leads to ignorance and darkness causing more confusion. I even tried to replace The Spirit of God with "a spirit" just to see if it can still make sense but it simply does not.


  • All good points!  And I agree!

    But what about those who say that the way in which the Holy Spirit dwells in us is "by grace" or "by gifts"?  I guess this is where they like to do a "Palamite" distinction so to speak to say that the Holy Spirit being God and infinite cannot LITERALLY "dwell" in a finite person.  This is at least the claim made by the "ooPnevmians" I like to call them.

    I have of course a personal answer to this, but I'd like to hear some thoughts here from people that may have read or understood this issue.  And of course, those who read and understand Coptic and Greek, this would help a lot in the discussion.
  • The argument by the "oupnevmians" is very faulty (and almost sounds Islamic). If their claim were true, what is stopping them from claiming we are not partaking of the flesh and blood of Christ? We can even take this a step further and ask what is stopping them from claiming that the incarnation did not actually happen?

    Secondly, I do not see how you can separate the Spirit of God from its gifts( at least it does not make sense to me). If someone has the grace or gifts of the Spirit, why would it be incorrect to say that they have THE Spirit in them? How else could we explain the conviction and sanctification of the people by the Holy Spirit through Chrismation? Or repentance/confession? How can I be the temple of the Holy Spirit without Him actually residing in me?

    Personally, I think the issue they have is the idea of Theosis and the fact that they believe we do not share the same essence as The Spirit of God. Nevertheless, the church clearly claims that by partaking of the flesh and blood of Christ through communion, we are united with Him. And I think that if we understood what it means to be united with Christ through the Eucharist, we would not have any issues regarding the topic of Theosis.

    I am not an expert on theology or dogma and I personally would like someone knowledgeable to provide input.
  • Dear minasoliman and Amoussa01,
    Sorry for using the term, probably mistakenly, as I didn't think so deeply as both of you. BUT (in capital letters) I hope neither of you is suggesting that the Holy Spirit in His hypostatic form dwells in us. THAT IS WRONG.
    Oujai qen `P[C
  • [quote author=ophadece link=topic=14739.msg166627#msg166627 date=1386067227]
    Dear minasoliman and Amoussa01,
    Sorry for using the term, probably mistakenly, as I didn't think so deeply as both of you. BUT (in capital letters) I hope neither of you is suggesting that the Holy Spirit in His hypostatic form dwells in us. THAT IS WRONG.
    Oujai qen `P[C



    What do you mean by hypostatic form? The Spirit of God does not have a physical form; that is why He is Spirit. My question is, do you believe that the true body and blood of Christ is in you when you partake of communion? Is His (Christ's) "hypostatic form," as you call it, truly in us?
  • Dear Amoussa01,
    Hypostasis doesn't only refer to physical bodily form, but to the Person. We don't contain, or indeed aren't capable of containing the Holy Spirit.
    During communion we partake as you said. What does that mean? Partake means part-take.. again not to contain.. I don't think you're suggesting we contain the Body and Blood of Christ, are you?
    Oujai


    Edit: wrong spelling corrected
  • [quote author=ophadece link=topic=14739.msg166634#msg166634 date=1386105163]
    Dear Amoussa01,
    Hydrostasis doesn't only refer to physical bodily form, but to the Person. We don't contain, or indeed aren't capable of containing the Holy Spirit.
    During communion we partake as you said. What does that mean? Partake means part-take.. again not to contain.. I don't think you're suggesting we contain the Body and Blood of Christ, are you?
    Oujai



    First, I think you are referring to Hypostasis. Second, I never said we contain anything. Let me make things more simple by asking a question....

    Is it not possible that The Spirit of God dwells in us in the same sense that the body and blood of our Lord does? I am not referring to the act of eating by the way.
  • Dear Amoussa01 and all,
    I'm so sorry for my mistake. I'll edit my previous post, it's just tricky to use the mobile and not make such spelling mistakes..
    Yes I meant hypostasis. You're right in saying that it's possible, but neither does the Spirit nor the Body and Blood dwell within or enter into our bodies in His hypostatic form. Therefore I'm borrowing the expression from minasoliman, that we made a deal with Him taking His gifts and grace, rather than the whole. I hope this is clear..
    Oujai
  • [quote author=ophadece link=topic=14739.msg166636#msg166636 date=1386108332]
    You're right in saying that it's possible, but neither does the Spirit nor the Body and Blood dwell within or enter into our bodies in His hypostatic form.
    Oujai



    I am very confused by this statement. Christ united His divinity with His humanity; so how can you say He does not dwell in us if we partake of His flesh and blood? God Himself united Finite with Infinite, so how can you claim this? If there is no union with Him through His flesh and blood how on earth could we possibly call this sacrament commUNION?
  • Ophadeece,

    What is "grace"?  What is "gift"?  That also needs to be defined.

    And leave aside the Trinity for a second.  Do you not think that the "concept" of divinity between Islam and Christianity is different?  I think when you explore these areas, then you will start to understand that perhaps the use of the word "hypostasis" also needs to be understood correctly as well.
  • [quote author=ophadece link=topic=14739.msg166634#msg166634 date=1386105163]
    Dear Amoussa01,
    Hypostasis doesn't only refer to physical bodily form, but to the Person. We don't contain, or indeed aren't capable of containing the Holy Spirit.
    During communion we partake as you said. What does that mean? Partake means part-take.. again not to contain.. I don't think you're suggesting we contain the Body and Blood of Christ, are you?
    Oujai


    Edit: wrong spelling corrected


    Agape,

    Ophadeece,

    I think you are incorrect in your understanding of "Hypostasis" (pressing me to ask for a definition of your use of hypostasis). It seems that you are confusing the term hypostasis and prosopon. Hypostasis is one of those tricky words that have, and continue to cause a storm in the theological realm. If by containing the Holy Spirit you mean that we cannot limit him to our physical bodies, then I do not disagree. However, if you mean that the Holy Spirit does not dwell in us himself and in his fullness, then I would step back and ask for an explanation. All that is God's is given to us except for an identity of being.

    Your definition for partakers is moot since it is not an English term we are debating here (and I question your etyology of that word.) Part taker does not mean that he takes only a part of a whole but that he takes part. Sharers. So we are sharers in the divine nature.

    I find a problem with this idea that when we commune we take something but not something else. Christ is one. He is one divinity and one humanity. In one. So to say that we do not take part in the divinity of Christ in communion seems somewhat Nestorian to me since it separates divinity and humanity in Christ as though you could take one without the other.

    Therefore I'm borrowing the expression from minasoliman, that we made a deal with Him taking His gifts and grace, rather than the whole.



    But then you would be making a dangerous "over-separation" between between his grace, and gifts and him. It would almost seem as his grace and gifts (what some have called energies) and his essence. If we do that, do we not then separate the Holy Spirit into a third and fourth hypostasis of the trinity? I am not against the distinction, but to say that one indwells and not the other is to separate the Holy Spirit (or so it seems to me).

    Christ is indeed in us! It is him who is in us, and not some form of him. He in all his power, and glory has vouched to dwell within us. This is a hypostatic union. I use hypostatic here as meaning a fundamental union between man and God.

    Ray

  • Thank you all for your messages. I may be confused in usage of the term hypostasis, sorry but I use it to refer to the Trinitarian person. Please note I am not as learned as some of you here.
    I asked priests of who dwells within us, and interestingly none of them deviated from using the same expression. I was living in Egypt then so I don't think I'm capable of explaining. Anyway, I did use to believe we have the Holy Spirit in His person within us, but I was told that was not the case. Through baptism and renewal of the covenant acts we renew the deal of receiving His gifts, one explanation implicates the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
    To answer Amoussa01's and returnorthodoxy, again I may have been off the mark using the verb partake. But, I'd say whole-heartedly that of course there is union between God and us, but not to such a point where we resemble Jesus even as a creature..
    I'm also so sorry as I'm extremely busy these days, I cannot promise to find sources or references, but please do take it up with your priests..
    Oujai
  • Short answer: that distinction between pipnevma and oupnevma was first noted by the late Anba Gregorios, bishop of theological studies. It did create a huge divide later between Pope Shenouda (and loyalists) and Fr. Matta (and loyalists), the former who affirmed the distinction, but the latter who taught against it, both based on his own linguistics and patristics research.

    Dr. George Bebawi has a letter on his website from Anba Gregorios, written and signed by hand, where Anba Gregorios apologized and took back the faulty research and assertions made about the distinction. Even though that distinction is incorrect, refuted, and even taken back as an incorrect theory by the author who presumed the distinction, it is still held by many ideological loyalists of the previous pope.





  • What do we make of St. Paul here:

    [quote=Ephesians 3]14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

  • [quote author=Biboboy link=topic=14739.msg166644#msg166644 date=1386132477]
    Short answer: that distinction between pipnevma and oupnevma was first noted by the late Anba Gregorios, bishop of theological studies. It did create a huge divide later between Pope Shenouda (and loyalists) and Fr. Matta (and loyalists), the former who affirmed the distinction, but the latter who taught against it, both based on his own linguistics and patristics research.

    Dr. George Bebawi has a letter on his website from Anba Gregorios, written and signed by hand, where Anba Gregorios apologized and took back the faulty research and assertions made about the distinction. Even though that distinction is incorrect, refuted, and even taken back as an incorrect theory by the author who presumed the distinction, it is still held by many ideological loyalists of the previous pope.


    There should be a serious translation project for all of this.  I think the whole debate seems to resemble "Scholastic/Hesychast" debate centuries ago.
  • [quote author=minasoliman link=topic=14739.msg166656#msg166656 date=1386192160]
    What do we make of St. Paul here:

    [quote=Ephesians 3]14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.


    Just another question I offer to Ophadece.  What do you think it means when we say "the grace of the Holy Spirit" dwells in us?  Do the angels worship the "grace" that is in us?
  • [quote author=minasoliman link=topic=14739.msg166657#msg166657 date=1386192249]
    [quote author=Biboboy link=topic=14739.msg166644#msg166644 date=1386132477]
    Short answer: that distinction between pipnevma and oupnevma was first noted by the late Anba Gregorios, bishop of theological studies. It did create a huge divide later between Pope Shenouda (and loyalists) and Fr. Matta (and loyalists), the former who affirmed the distinction, but the latter who taught against it, both based on his own linguistics and patristics research.

    Dr. George Bebawi has a letter on his website from Anba Gregorios, written and signed by hand, where Anba Gregorios apologized and took back the faulty research and assertions made about the distinction. Even though that distinction is incorrect, refuted, and even taken back as an incorrect theory by the author who presumed the distinction, it is still held by many ideological loyalists of the previous pope.


    There should be a serious translation project for all of this.  I think the whole debate seems to resemble "Scholastic/Hesychast" debate centuries ago.


    That's exactly it Mina. What's surprising is that this is issue is a break with the natural theological modes of the two towering schools of thought in the past 40 year of the Coptic church. What I find most surprising is that while H.H Pope Shenouda typically embraced a more scholastic (if you will) theological standpoint, he took a palamitic/hesychastic standpoint here in his embrace of this separation.

    I remember of a friend of mine being extremely turned off by palamatic theology. While I'm no theologian, my personal opinion is that the terms are at best unnecessary in our present lexicon. While all words fall short of expressing theology perfectly, palamatic terms seem to be more trouble than they are worth. Still, I don't write off their usage, so long as they are used with discretion and with the knowledge of where they fall short.

    Bibo, would you have the link you are speaking about? If I have time I may translate it but I'm in finals so... In any case our m'3allem Dr. Mina is too busy saving lives to translate. Plus theologians like you two shouldnt translate. Leave that to your bus boys :P

    Ray
  • Dear minasoliman,
    No answer to your question, but definitely food for thought. However, angels won't bow down to us as bearers of the Holy Spirit, would they? Also Christ doesn't dwell in our hearts as st. Paul says, or does He? I hope you got my point.. physical nature and presence vs grace as st. Paul puts it..
    Oujai
  • [quote author=ophadece link=topic=14739.msg166662#msg166662 date=1386201297]
    Dear minasoliman,
    No answer to your question, but definitely food for thought. However, angels won't bow down to us as bearers of the Holy Spirit, would they? Also Christ doesn't dwell in our hearts as st. Paul says, or does He? I hope you got my point.. physical nature and presence vs grace as st. Paul puts it..
    Oujai



    Christ dwells in us TRULY.  The Holy Spirit dwells in us TRULY.  What was St. John doing when the pregnant Theotokos appeared to St. Elizabeth.  In tradition, we consider what the fetus of St. John (notice here I say fetus of St. John...now compare that to hypostasis of the Holy Spirit) doing a form of worship, and she was bearing God, as St. Paul said, "the fullness of God indwelt".

    Now, look at Ephesians 3:19.  We too bear the fullness of God in us!  There's no doubt about it.  This issue of infinity does not mean God cannot dwell fully in us.  Look what St. Athanasius says here:

    Behold then what men considered the foolishness of God because of the Cross, has become of all things most honoured. For our resurrection is stored up in it; and no longer Israel alone, but henceforth all the nations, as the Prophet has foretold, leave their idols and acknowledge the true God, the Father of the Christ. And the illusion of demons has come to nought, and He only who is really God is worshipped in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the fact that the Lord, even when come in human body and called Jesus, was worshipped and believed to be God's Son, and that through Him the Father was known, shows, as has been said, that not the Word, considered as the Word, received this so great grace, but we.

    For because of our relationship to His Body we too have become God's temple, and in consequence are made God's sons, so that even in us the Lord is now worshipped, and beholders report, as the Apostle says, that God is in them of a truth. As also John says in the Gospel, 'As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become children of God (John 1:12);' and in his Epistle he writes, 'By this we know that He abides in us by His Spirit which He has given us (1 John 3:24).' And this too is an evidence of His goodness towards us that, while we were exalted because that the Highest Lord is in us, and on our account grace was given to Him, because that the Lord who supplies the grace has become a man like us, He on the other hand, the Saviour, humbled Himself in taking 'our body of humiliation (Philippians 3:21),' and took a servant's form, putting on that flesh which was enslaved to sin. And He indeed has gained nothing from us for His own promotion: for the Word of God is without want and full; but rather we were promoted from Him; for He is the 'Light, which lightens every man, coming into the world (John 1:9).' And in vain do the Arians lay stress upon the conjunction 'wherefore,' because Paul has said, 'Wherefore, has God highly exalted Him.' For in saying this he did not imply any prize of virtue, nor promotion from advance , but the cause why the exaltation was bestowed upon us. And what is this but that He who existed in form of God, the Son of a noble Father, humbled Himself and became a servant instead of us and in our behalf? For if the Lord had not become man, we had not been redeemed from sins, not raised from the dead, but remaining dead under the earth; not exalted into heaven, but lying in Hades. Because of us then and in our behalf are the words, 'highly exalted' and 'given.'"



    Discourses against the Arians 1.43

    Read this and study this and read this again and again.  Without mistake, St. Athanasius is speaking here something that is foreign to some ears here, and perhaps we need to take these words seriously.  He takes the verses that talks about Christ being "highly exalted" and applies this to us.  The Father highly exalts us in Christ by the Holy Spirit.  And since the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and we become God's temple, IN US, the Lord is worshipped, IN US.  Very powerful words, and words that only can give me awe and makes me shiver, and from none other than the theologian par excellence St. Athanasius.

    People have always said "St. Athanasius did not delve deeply into theosis like the Byzantines today."  Actually, the Byzantines today seem to lighten up compared to what St. Athanasius said here.  St. Athanasius is more "provocative" if that's possible.  St. Athanasius avoided philosophical words and just gave it to you straight, like a hard pill to swallow, but it is TRUTH, that God FULLY dwells in us.  There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  What we can say is that we BECOME by grace what Christ is by nature.  But we do not say "grace dwells in us".  We say the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and we partake of Him by grace.  His full hypostasis dwells in us, and we take whatever we can as we grow.  It's a mystery.  People have a hard time defining grace.  Just reading about scholastics and Palamites makes your head spin.  But truly, this part right here written by St. Athanasius is a foundational understanding to theosis/theopoiesis/deification/divinization or whatever you want to call it.

    What do you think we partake of in the Eucharist?  A piece of Christ?  NO!  Far from that strange thought.  Every piece Abouna cuts is, as St. Cyril of Alexandria puts it (quoted from St. Severus' Letter XXV):

    For, while he is one and the only Son, and completely above all human phantasy, the whole of him is in virtue of a gift in every man, and in each [one] by presence, not being divided nor cleft asunder, but [above] everything by nature, and in everything as God.



    And St. Cyril again says:

    [quote=Dialogues on the Trinity 7]“We are called ‘temples of God’ and indeed ‘gods’, and so we are. Why is that? Enquire of our opponents whether we are really sharers in a bare grace without subsistence. But that is not the case. For we are temples of the real and subsisting Spirit. And it is through him that we are called ‘gods’, since by union with him we have become partakers of the divine and ineffable nature (cf. 2 Pet. 1: 4)."

    This is not a bare grace without hypostasis, St. Cyril says.  Anyone who says so, St. Cyril brands as an "opponent".  He repeats the same notion again in his commentary on John chapter 1:

    But since some in mad peril dare to lie, as against the Son, so against the Holy Ghost too, saying that He is originate and created, and to thrust Him forth altogether from. Consubstantiality with God the Father, come let us again arraying the word of the true Faith against their unbridled tongues, beget occasions of profit both to ourselves and to our readers. For if neither God by Nature, O sirs, nor yet of God, is He Who is His Own Spirit and therefore Essentially inexistent in Him, but is other than He, and not removed from being connatural with things made, how are we who are begotten through Him said to be begotten of God? For either we shall say that the Evangelist certainly lies, or (if he is true and it be so and not otherwise), the Spirit will be God and of God by Nature, of Whom we too being accounted worthy to partake through faith to Christ-ward, are rendered partakers of the Divine Nature and are said to be begotten of God, and are therefore called gods, not by grace alone winging our flight to the glory that is above us, but as having now God too indwelling and lodging in us, according to what is said in the prophet, I will dwell in them and walk in them.

    For let them tell us who are filled full with so great unlearning, how, having the Spirit dwelling in us, we are according to Paul temples of God, unless He be God by Nature. For if He be a creature and originate, wherefore does God destroy us, as defiling the temple of God when we defile the body wherein the Spirit indwells, having the whole Natural Property of God the Father and likewise of the Only-Begotten? And how will the Saviour be true in saying: If a man love Me, he will keep My Words: and My Father will love him and we will come unto him and make Our abode with him and rest in him? albeit it is the Spirit Who dwells in us, and through Him do we believe that we have the Father and the Son, even as John himself said again in his epistles, Hereby know we that we dwell in Him and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit. And how at all will He be called Spirit of God, if He be not of Him and in Him by Nature and therefore God? For if being, as those say, originate, He is the Spirit of God, there is nothing to hinder |108 the other creatures too from being called spirits of God. For this will have already overtaken them in potential, if it is at all possible that originate essence should be Spirit of God.



    St. Cyril only repeats what St. Athanasius says in his first letter to St. Serapion:

    Further it is through the Spirit that we are all said to be partakers of God. For it says: 'Know ye not that ye are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man destroyeth the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple that we abide in God and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.' But if, by participation in the Spirit, we are made 'sharers in the divine nature', we should be mad to say that the Spirit has a created nature and not the nature of God. For it is on this account that those in whom he is are made divine. If he makes men divine, it is not to be doubted that his nature is of God.

  • I have exams soon and so cant really post. I also heard from this from Dr. Bebawi (a truly enriching man to listen to) and didnt realize that this distinction existed in some peoples minds. This distinction seems (as Mina has wonderfully showed) so alien and foreign to what I have read of St. Athanasius and St. Cyril the great fathers of our Church.

    I thank Ray and Mina for their points. Enriching as always :). You two are great resources for me.

    I HIGHLY recommend "The Appropriation of Divine Life in Cyril of Alexandria" By Daniel Keating! That is perhaps one of the best books i have ever read and has previously been recommended by Fr. Peter. (i say this with On The Incarnation being my de facto favourite book ever written :)).

    pray for me and for my exams everyone :)
  • Dear all,
    I'm not that well learned. I'll definitely ask again and try to understand more
    Oujai
  • In any sense, I was hoping to get an idea from Coptic scholars, like Remnkemi for feedback.  I'm going to quote a part of what was given to me:

    In the Holy Bible, as shown by both the Greek and Coptic languages, this distinction between essence and the work of the Holy Spirit is very clear. When the Holy Bible speaks of the Person of the Holy Spirit, the definite article is used (τὸ in Greek; pi in Coptic). When the Holy Bible is speaking about the work of the Holy Spirit, no article is written in Greek and the indefinite article ou is used in Coptic. For example, this occurs when our Lord Jesus Christ is speaking about the gifts of the Spirit (Luke 11:13); or when the Holy Bible mentions St. John the Baptist being filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15), our Lord’s incarnation (Luke 1:35) or baptism (John 1:33); or the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s baptism (John 3:5; Acts 8:38); or when our Lord gave the breath of the Holy Spirit to the disciples (John 20:22).

    To my knowledge it seems like a misuse of the indefinite article.  Is he saying the gifts of "ooPnevma" is the gifts of a mere work, and not the subsisting Paraclete Himself?  When the Holy Spirit comes and dwells in us in baptism, it's not really the Holy Spirit, but a mere work?  It sounds like the type of things St. Cyril was writing against, as is mentioned above.

    Furthermore, what exactly do these verses say?  If they use the indefinite article to mean the "work of the Holy Spirit", then what about the Coptic John 1:1, where it uses the same indefinite article?  Was the Word merely a work of God?  I have a feeling this is a terrible use of the Coptic language, and it leads to disastrous implications for our salvation, and I hope our Coptic scholars can confirm this.

    But if the grace given by the Spirit is something separate from its substance, why didn’t the blessed Moses clearly say that after having brought the living being into existence, the Craftsman of the universe had afterwards breathed into him a grace, the one which was given through the breath of life? Why didn’t Christ, on his part, say to us: Receive a grace, the one which was given by the ministry of the Holy Spirit? But in the first case, they call this one “breath of life”. It is that the nature of the divinity is true life, since it is true that in it we have life, movement and being. In the second case it is called “Holy Spirit” by the voice of the Savior, which in truth introduces and makes the Spirit dwell in the souls of the believers.

    (St. Cyril, Book VII of his Dialogues on the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity (PG 75, 1088D-1089A))


  • I had a response written last week and my computer crashed in the middle. Sorry for not responding earlier. I have to break up my response into 2 parts. Here is part 1.

    A few things I want to mention.
    1. I spoke about John 1:1c in this thread. Basically, the use of the indefinite article has multiple uses. One use is called the partitive article. The partitive article is used to describe an abstract mass noun in an undifferentiated subset. A mass noun, by definition, is a noun that can't be counted. If I say, "Give me water", syntactically it means "Give me some water". Water is a mass noun that can't be counted. Cups of water can be counted, molecules of water can be counted. But water in this sense can not be counted. So what exactly is "some water"? Some water is exactly the same as water. It is not a differentiated subset. It is an undifferentiated subset. Whether I ask for a cup of water or an entire ocean of water, I still get the same thing - water. Since water cannot be differentiated because it is a mass noun, the indefinite article must be used.  Also notice that the typical way to use the partitive article in English is by omission of any article ("Give me water"), even though the partitive article is usually translated as "some" mass noun X. 

    It used a lot in French. It does exist in English but most people have a poor understanding of grammar, so it conceptually doesn't make sense. As a result, people tend to make up rules or theories when one doesn't exist.

    2. Regarding the Holy Spirit, in many New Testament verses, the Coptic uses Ⲟⲩⲡⲛⲉⲩⲙⲁ
    ⲛ̀ⲧⲉ Ⲫⲛⲟⲩϯ
     (I am testing out Unicode fonts. That should say ouepneuma ente Vnouti. Let me know if you see Coptic letters or just boxes) Notice, it is the indefinite partitive article. "Spirit of God" is another mass noun. Since the Spirit of God divided as tongues of fire on the Pentecost, how much Spirit of God did each disciple get? The entire Spirit of God, not just 1/12 the Holy Spirit (1/120 if you count all the women and all the Apostles). Again, a little Spirit of God is exactly the same as the entire Spirit of God since it cannot be divided into differentiated parts but it can be "divided" into undifferentiated parts. I put "divided" in quotes because if a noun can't be counted, then it can't be divided. But that is the language used liturgically.

    So it is not a misuse of the indefinite article, nor does the use of the indefinite article imply the meaning "work of the Spirit of God". This is why we translate "ouwini entavmyi evol khen ouwini entavmy" as "light from light", not "a light from a light", nor "the work of a light". 

    3. I might be inclined to explore the idea that the use of the indefinite article refers to the work or actions of the Holy Spirit and the definite article for the Person of the Holy Spirit, if the Holy Spirit was the only noun with this distinction. As you pointed out John 1:1c speaks of God, not the work of God - no matter how much Jehovah's Witness theology claims. 

    The reality is that the indefinite article is used on many attributes of God. Take for instance 1 John 4:8. "God is love". St John is not saying love is the work of God. He is saying the divine nature of God is love and the indefinite noun is used in Coptic and no article in Greek. Used in this sense, love is a mass noun. It is undifferentiated as it is God, and found in us, and can be given to others. The love that is God is the same love in us, not a part of love. 



















  • Part 2
    4. In essence, there is no distinction between how the Orthodox understand the Holy Spirit (which you called the pipnevma camp) and the un-Orthodox understanding (which you called the oopnevma camp). In Coptic, the use of the indefinite article still communicated the Orthodox understanding. 

    Let's take an example. Mark 1:8. The Coptic is "ⲀⲚⲞⲔ ⲈⲦⲀⲒϮⲰⲘⲤ ⲚⲰⲦⲈⲚ ϦⲈⲚⲞⲨⲘⲰⲞⲨ ⲚⲐⲞϤ ⲆⲈ ϤⲚⲀⲈⲘⲤ ⲐⲎⲚⲞⲨ ϦⲈⲚⲞⲨⲠⲚⲈⲨⲘⲀⲈϤⲞⲨⲀⲂ. "  which is translated as "I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.". Notice how the first mass noun "water" does not have any article, but the second mass noun "Holy Spirit" has the definite article. This is done for convenience since the repetitive use of the indefinite article morphosyntactically is foreign in English. To be entirely accurate, the verse should be translated as "I baptize you with water; but He will baptize you with Holy Spirit."  Does this mean He will baptize us with a piece of the Holy Spirit and not the actually whole Holy Spirit? Does this mean he (John the Baptist) baptized with a piece of water that was ontologically different than water? No. In both cases, the partitive tense is used in Coptic but haphazardly in English. You can't do that in Coptic. Every noun needs an article with very, very, very few exceptions (unlike Greek and English that allows many exceptions)

    Summary:
    The partitive noun is used when a mass noun is the object of a verb on many subjects. In the example of Mark 1:8, St John baptized many people with the mass noun water, so the partitive article is used. Christ will baptize many people with the mass noun "Holy Spirit", so the partitive article is used. 

    Does this help Mina? 
  • Dear Remnkemi,

    Thank you!  That does help.  Sorry, about your computer.  Hope you get it resolved. 

    It seems unfortunate there are those who speak as if they speak for the Coptic Church to root out all Byzantine influences in our dialogues with the Eastern Orthodox.  This all resonates with the whole "the Coptic Church doesn't teach theosis" idea that seems rampant with some, and leads to form a theology that conforms with the idea, rather than find out the truth and then understand the context of the language used.

    I've read an article by an "oopnevmian", who say that we do not take the hypostasis of the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is infinite, and nothing can contain the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, "oopnevma" talks about the "work of the Holy Spirit", not the Holy Spirit in and of Himself.  This is sadly an Islamic view of the divine nature.  Nicene Orthodoxy and Biblical Christianity teach us both the transcendence and the immanence of the divine nature, which sounds like a metaphysical paradox to Muslims.  That's why we call our beliefs "panentheism", which is a form of Monotheism that Muslims vehemently deny as "shirk".  If we follow the strict metaphysical Allah of Islam, it is impossible for the Son of God to become incarnate.  Have we forgotten our simple polemics against Muslims only to adopt their thoughts?  Do we not say that if God cannot become man is to paradoxically limit the divine nature?  It is sadly the use of the word infinity when used by Muslims, actually limits God to a numerical infinity, whereas the Orthodox concept of God is a truly unfathomable sense of understanding God, He is beyond infinity, and is dynamic, can be both infinitely present and present fully in each and everyone of us at the same time (the same presence we say of the Eucharist).

    Thus, if they continue with the ridiculousness of the argument of oopnevma, then only "the work of God" resided in the flesh of Jesus, which is Islamic theology at its best, and not anything that has to do with Christianity.  I hope those who read this can realize the seriousness of this theology and how it affects the Coptic Church.  Dare I say, it's a very serious heresy creeping up in our Church by some notable and pious people.  It affects even the thought of the Eucharist, that what we have is not fully flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ united with His divine nature, inseparable neither for a single moment nor a blink of an eye, but His flesh and blood is up there in the right hand of the Father, and all we get is bread and wine by a mere work of the Holy Spirit, and we're not united to Son, nor to the Holy Spirit.  At least that's not their intentions, but certainly that's the logical conclusion of their sad interpretations of these articles.  It affects our very own salvation, that we can never be united with God in a true and real sense, but like Muslims, only united to a moral teaching of God, so that we are granted to live forever by created effort. I wonder if they brand St. Athanasius as a heretic when he writes evocative language like this:

    We then, by way of giving a rude view of the expressions in this passage, have been led into many words, but blessed John will show from his Epistle the sense of the words, concisely and much more perfectly than we can. And he will both disprove the interpretation of these irreligious men, and will teach how we become in God and God in us; and how again we become One in Him, and how far the Son differs in nature from us, and will stop the Arians from any longer thinking that they shall be as the Son, lest they hear it said to them, 'You are a man and not God,' and 'Stretch not yourself, being poor, beside a rich man. ' John then thus writes; 'Hereby know we that we dwell in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit (1 John 4:13.)' Therefore because of the grace of the Spirit which has been given to us, in Him we come to be, and He in us ; and since it is the Spirit of God, therefore through His becoming in us, reasonably are we, as having the Spirit, considered to be in God, and thus is God in us. Not then as the Son in the Father, so also we become in the Father; for the Son does not merely partake the Spirit, that therefore He too may be in the Father; nor does He receive the Spirit, but rather He supplies It Himself to all; and the Spirit does not unite the Word to the Father , but rather the Spirit receives from the Word. And the Son is in the Father, as His own Word and Radiance; but we, apart from the Spirit, are strange and distant from God, and by the participation of the Spirit we are knit into the Godhead; so that our being in the Father is not ours, but is the Spirit's which is in us and abides in us, while by the true confession we preserve it in us, John again saying, 'Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him and he in God (1 John 4:15.)' What then is our likeness and equality to the Son? Rather, are not the Arians confuted on every side? And especially by John, that the Son is in the Father in one way, and we become in Him in another, and that neither we shall ever be as He, nor is the Word as we; except they shall dare, as commonly, so now to say, that the Son also by participation of the Spirit and by improvement of conduct came to be Himself also in the Father. But here again is an excess of irreligion, even in admitting the thought. For He, as has been said, gives to the Spirit, and whatever the Spirit has, He has from the Word. (Discourse 3 Against the Arians, Chapter 25)

    Here, is the correct balance, to balance both the integrity of our created nature and the nature of the Godhead while at the same time demonstrating a real and provocative use of unity between all of mankind and the Godhead.  This is the balance we need to accomplish in our interpretations of these verses.

  • Hey Mina,

    I commend you for opening this forum and getting the facts straight. With that said, I feel that most people reject the idea of Theosis based on the fact that people tend to believe it refers to the idea that members of the body of Christ literally participate IN the divine nature; in the sense that our flesh equals the flesh of Christ which is heretical. I think we need to set the record straight by acknowledging this...only then will people understand the concept properly. 
  • One of the saddest developments I find is the idea that deification is seen as an aversion, as "New Agism." The Church fathers used deification as a central point in the debates against heretics. If there was a time when the Son of God didn't exist, and that He was merely like the Father, then the incarnation can never make man deified. If the Holy Spirit is not fully God, but a mere force or grace or minister of grace of God dwelling in us (as the Macedonians believed), then the sacraments cannot deify us. If Jesus was just a God-bearing man, and not God in the flesh and truly Emmanuel (Nestorius), then the Eucharist cannot deify us. The central basis of our soteriology is deification. Is it possible to be united in a real sense with God? In Islam we cannot unite to God. God is up there and we are here. Islam becomes a form of atheism, where a dictator tells us what to do and we submissively obey. This too, I'm afraid, the oopnevmians have made a theology subject to vanity, where we only obey rituals without real involvement of the divine nature and the full hypostasis of the Holy Spirit. It becomes nothing but a symbolic story of inspiration, and then you wonder, who are the real "New Agists" in this discussion?

    The question then leads to what is grace? If we can be sympathetic to the "oopnevmians" in their cause that we cannot partake of or in (I see no difference, it's silly semantics to those who fight against the "in"...we're "knit into the Godhead" as St Athanasius says) the essence of God, that we cannot be as the Son exactly is in eternity, which is a true Orthodox tenet, then we need to define grace. Grace as defined by the oopnevmians as a work, or an act of God, but "how" is a mystery. Okay, I grant them that indeed it's a work. But grace also requires the presence of God and His deifying power. You cannot divorce grace from the divine uncreated nature. The full presence of the Holy Trinity is in the grace. Grace is a term used to differentiate our relationship with God and the Son and the Holy Spirit's relationship with God. Nevertheless, we are still united in God, into His Godhead, and we take in however we can in the state of our limitations.

    The Palamites developed an "energy/essence" distinction that finds itself misunderstood at times. Likewise, the Scholastics developed the grace/essence distinction that also finds itself misunderstood. In Palamas, grace is the uncreated energy of God, by which we take an attribute of God and see God FULLY present in this attribute. Therefore, to them, when they say the grace of God dwells in them, "grace" is taken to mean that God fully dwells in them, but the relationship between man and God is not the same as it is between the persons of the Trinity, but different, and yet the divine nature permeates through the fiber of our being. The Scholastics or the Thomists see the grace of God as a result of what that grace is, not an attribute of God. In their minds, the simplicity of God is in jeopardy if you talk about "differing" energies that are "uncreated". They see it as polytheistic. In them, they use Aristotelian language, that the essence of God truly dwells in man, the full essence, and that man partakes of God, resulting in grace, that is an effect in their humanity.

    We in the Alexandrian Church have an opportunity to set right that both the Palamites and Thomists are talking past one another. In the Alexandrian Church, the grace of God is the full presence of God working in us and changing us. The grace is not divorced from the divine nature, and is truly an extension of the divine nature, but it is also not divorced from its created effects in man either. Grace is both uncreated and created, it is both simple and different, one and many. Grace is where God and man meet. This is where grace is centered in Christ our Lord, who being God by His very nature became man truly, fully consubstantial and equal with all mankind, that man by grace can become God, and I capitalize the G here symbolizing an important part of deification. Deification is not just receiving powers like a Hollywood movie of a superhero vs. a supervillain, or some sort of magic. Deification is receiving the powers personified, that is when we receive love, it is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love, who makes us Sons of Love, that we may be truly One with the Source of Love, the Father. The attributes are uncreated, the humanity unchanged yet growing endlessly into the Light of the Divinity, and the hypostases of the Trinity truly dwell fully in each and everyone of us and we dwell fully in each and everyone of them, so that we enter into eternal Triune relationship by grace, because the Son of God entered into human relationship. The capital G is a stress of the fact that God fully dwells in us, not a part of God, not a force, not a creation, but true and eternal God, who guides us into all virtues, all morality, all incorruption, all immortality, all eternity. We do not become God as God eternally is, but we do not become mere imitators of God as Muslims believe. We live in God and God lives in us, and this is all possible because of the incarnation, because God carries along what happened in the incarnation in us as well. To say that the body of Christ is not the same body as our's or not equal to our body is the heresy of Julian which St. Severus fought against. Christ is like us in all things except sin. But the exaltation given to Jesus is the exaltation that will be given to us as well, as St. Athanasius teaches, since Christ's exaltation is His own by nature is in no need for exaltation.
  • Mina,

    I am not sure we are on the same page. I will try to be as blunt as I can be (bear with me, I am no theologian), I am only trying to learn and gain more understanding in the topic. When you say man is meant to be deified: I am having trouble understanding this. I understand that God came and chose to be incarnate in order to sanctify, bless, and unite our nature in Him, but it seems strange to say (at least to me) that man was meant to be deified (maybe I did not understand the word correctly). Shouldn't we make the distinction between the words sanctification and deity? One is to be made pure and holy (man made holy and pure through God) while the other is by definition pure, all-holy, all-powerful, all-mighty, and so on. How then can we say we become deified instead of sanctified? Also, is there not one deity? How is it that I become a deity? I have my own thoughts, my own will, my own intentions...often separate to that of what God wills. How then can we logically explain to others that we believe in one God or one undivided deity? It is difficult to understand what you are saying without the idea of polytheism coming to mind. 

    Here is another interesting scenario. Let's say that I am deified and my deification is linked to that of God (something I foretell may come up in the next post) and that the very flesh that I partake of in communion becomes my flesh and blood...I think this is what Fr. Matta also teaches concerning some of the writings I have read from him. What then stops me from defiling this life-giving body and blood? We all know God cannot be defiled; but, at the same time, it is very much possible that any person may defile their bodies. How then can this be explained? I agree that we all partake of the real and true body and blood of Christ along with the actual presence of the Holy Spirit and that this unites us with Him (similar to that of a bridegroom and his bride). I think the analogy of the bridegroom and bride is appropriate to describe this unity that takes place. Clearly, they are not mingled as one entity (we all know that God was not mingled into another being) but that they are united physically and spiritually through grace (His deifying power as you put it).
  • You need to differentiate between the deified and the Deifying.  The Deity is the One who is deifying.  We do not deify, only God deifies.  We are deified.  This is not something we own or we become out of our own nature.  You rightly say that the Holy Spirit is all-holy and the source of holiness.  Holiness is what God is by nature.  Holiness is what man is by grace, that is holiness is not something from his own nature, but comes from the nature of the deity.  Sanctification therefore IS deification.  Man was made to partake of God and to grow in the knowledge of God, but man chose to be selfish rather than to stay connected with the source of Life.  He chose to make for himself a god, rather than acknowledge God to be the sole source of knowledge.  St. Irenaeus implied that even if man had not fallen, the incarnation would have still occurred.  In other words, the incarnation is not merely a taking away of sins, but a final product of the creation of man in man's maturity, that he may have the most intimate communion with God.  The incarnation is the fullness of that communion.  It is not polytheism.  We are not equal to God by nature.  There is one God, and we become one in the Father through the Son by the Spirit.  St. John teaches this in the gospel in the prayer of Christ, "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity."  What glory did Christ give us?  Ask yourself this question every time you think of a grace.  The glory given to man, is this not of the divine nature?  The immortality given to man, is not immortality of the divine nature?  The incorruption sown in man, is this not the knitting into the Godhead, the solely incorruptible nature?  Does God create a life and say here you go?  Where's the unity with God in that?

    First thing that deification teaches me is that I am nothing without God.  I am but a tiny drop of flesh in an ocean of the cosmos, and I am worthless.  On my own, I continue in my failures, but the mighty has come upon the lowly, and has done great things for me.

    Second thing that deification teaches me is that I need God.  The integrity of my nature is not lost, but grows forevermore.  Without God, I cannot grow in virtues, I cannot fight against sin, I cannot be holy or "divine".  In fact, one of the ancient honors given to a bishop is "divine".  We say "Your Holiness", or "Your Grace", or "Your Blessedness", all not by nature, but by grace, because God dwells in them in all righteousness in their level of holy orders.  To call someone a "saint" is not their's by nature, but by grace, because only God is the source of saintliness.

    Third thing that deification teaches me is that the greatest gift is Christ and the greatest grace is the Holy Spirit stamping our nature and making us all "anointed", literally "christs".  Therefore, it makes sense why St. Paul would say that we "eat and drink judgment" if we partake of the Eucharist profanely.  Yes, if we defile the temple of God, we do this temple a great disservice, and we bring upon ourselves great judgment.  

    Therefore, deification also teaches me to take my new life I have with God seriously, because "no one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God" (1 John 3:9).  "But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2,3)  Therefore, the integrity of our human nature, including free will, isn't taken away, but we also are guided by the will of God.

    Part two next post...
  • Fr. Matta teaches no differently than what St. Cyril teaches here (and St. Cyril amazingly answers your question very fully, as if he was anticipating your question):

    Manifoldly does Christ initiate us by these words, and since His Discourse is hard of attainment by the more unlearned, asking for itself rather the understanding of faith than investigation, He revolving again and again over the same ground makes it easy in divers ways, and from all parts illumines what is useful therein, fixing as a kind of foundation and groundwork the most excellent desire for it. For he that eateth My Flesh (saith He) and drinketh My Blood abideth in Me and I in him. For as if one should join wax with other wax, he will surely see (I suppose) the one in the other; in like manner (I deem) he who receiveth the Flesh of our Saviour Christ and drinketh His Precious Blood, as He saith, is found one with Him, commingled as it were and immingled with Him through the participation, so that he is found in Christ, Christ again in him. Thus was Christ teaching us in the Gospel too according to Matthew, saying, The Kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. Who then the woman is, what the three measures of meal, or what the measure at all, shall be spoken of in its proper place: for the present we will speak only of the leaven. As then Paul saith that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump, so the least portion of the Blessing blendeth our whole body with itself, and filleth it with its own mighty working, and so Christ cometh to be in us, and we again in Him. For one may truly say that the leaven is in the whole lump, and the lump by like reasoning is in the whole leaven: you have in brief the sense of the words. And if we long for eternal life, if we pray to have the Giver of immortality in ourselves, let us not like some of the more heedless refuse to be blessed nor let the Devil deep in wickedness, lay for us a trap and snare a perilous reverence.

    Yea (says he) for it is written, He that eateth of the Bread, and drinketh of the Cup unworthily, eateth and drinketh doom unto himself: and I, having examined myself, see that I am not worthy.

    When then wilt thou be worthy (will he who thus speaks hear from us) when wilt thou present thyself to Christ? for if thou art always going to be scared away by thy stumblings, thou wilt never cease from stumbling (for who can understand his errors? as saith the holy Psalmist) and wilt be found wholly without participation of that wholly-preserving sanctification. Decide then to lead a holier life, in harmony with the law, and so receive the Blessing, believing that it hath power to expel, not death only, but the diseases in us. For Christ thus coming to be in us lulleth the law which rageth in the members of the flesh, and kindleth piety to God-ward, and deadeneth our passions, not imputing to us the transgressions in which we are, but rather, healing us, as sick. For He bindeth up that which was crushed, He raiseth what had fallen, as a Good Shepherd and One that hath laid down His Life for His sheep.  (Commentary on the Gospel of John, Book IV, Chapter 2) 

    And 13th Century Coptic Bishop, Anba Boulos al-Bushi writes in his commentary on the gospel of John:

    Then He said the greatest thing when He made the statement, "Just as the living Father sent me, and I have life on account of the Father, so too whoever eats Me lives on account of Me." (John 6:57).  He did not need to say here, "whoever eats my body," because He already established that in the preceding statement.  He said first, "the living bread" (John 6:51), and informed us that that bread was truly His body.  Then, He said third, "whoever eats me" (John 6:57).  He means (here) that He is God incarnate, and His divinity is not differentiated from His humanity.  Whoever partakes (of the Eucharist) in a worthy manner and with faith, (God) resides in him and gives him the life that He gave to the body united to Him. (quoted from Stephen Davis' "The Copto-Arabic Tradition of Theosis")


    Then you can understand how St. Paul says "for all of you who have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27).  This is not a mere expression of words.  Christ is as much present in the Eucharist as He is present in our body parts.  To become "the body of Christ" is not a mere figure of speech, but a true mystical reality.  The question is how can one defile himself if he is a part of the body of Christ?  The answer, we are all weak without Christ, but with Christ, we are made strong, and so if we continue to struggle and fight with bloodshed against sin, with Christ, all things become possible.  For even a bishop can sin and can even be a heretic, as history has shown, and he is given the highest of grace in the Church.  So it is not impossible to conceive how we can defile the body of Christ, but that this is necessary to take seriously this unity we have with Christ.  Yes, we are married to Christ, and just as man and woman become "one flesh", so do we become "one flesh" in Christ.  Therefore, by imitation of Christ, we should be able to maintain this unity, so as we are not found guilty of profaning the body of Christ in us.
  • Mina,

    You said:
    "There is one God, and we become one in the Father through the Son by the Spirit.  St. John teaches this in the gospel in the prayer of Christ, "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity."  What glory did Christ give us?"

    We become one in likeness not in essence. I agree that we have been "deified" in the sense that we have been granted the attributes of God's glory; but let us not confuse this for sharing in God's divine essence. To say that we are knit to the Godhead does not mean that we are divine just as God is divine (because we do not believe in a confused Trinity), it means that we are joined together by God's grace in that He gave us some of His attributes like immortality, holiness, etc. 

    Regarding St. Cyril's commentary:
    Regarding the wax statement--I see this as something metaphorical not literal. The way I see it is that, the joining of the wax refers to the joining of wills of two separate individuals (Christ and the partaker). When he refers to the commingling I believe he could be referring to that of a bridegroom and a bride as I mentioned before. Just as God said that the two become one flesh, we become the same with God--but this is not something literal. 

    I am not claiming that Christ is not present in us--He is! but I am not Christ and my body does not literally transform into His body. You said: "The question is how can one defile himself if he is a part of the body of Christ?  The answer, we are all weak without Christ, but with Christ, we are made strong, and so if we continue to struggle and fight with bloodshed against sin, with Christ, all things become possible." My question to you is, what if we do not struggle? What if we partake haphazardly without discretion? Are you saying that I can defile Christ's body? God can be defiled by man?! What if I decide to slap someone? Can I therefore conclude that it was Christ that slapped him? This is ludicrous.. 


  • Where did I say we partake of the essence of God?  I denied this in clear terms if you reread my posts.

    At the same time, can you separate the attributes of God from His essence?  That's the point I am pushing for.

    Neither do I deny that my union with Christ is that where two persons continue to exist, but I also dislike the idea that is "metaphorical".  The only metaphor is "Wax with wax", but it's used to describe how our bodies are mingled with the body of Christ, so that we may be one flesh.  It's a mystery that I have to accept.  The difference is as you say, that of two persons.  My person is not the person of Christ, so therefore, my flesh isn't worshipped, but only Christ's.  Nevertheless, I don't like the use of the word "not literal".  We are mystically, or mysteriously, in a way we cannot describe, united in one flesh with Christ, just as man and woman become one flesh in marriage.  I also believe that LITERALLY, man and woman do become one flesh, not "metaphorically".  If I gave you that quote and I didn't say it was from St. Cyril, would you re-interpret it to fit your idea, or would you be shocked by it?

    I sympathize with your concern, mentioning of a person who without discretion "slaps someone."  My answer:  If a man who is of the Church slaps someone, He divorces Himself from the body of Christ, and loses that oneness He has with Him, as if committing adultery to the very communion He partakes of (that is of course, if the person doesn't repent.  Christ with His great mercy gives us the sacrament of repentance and confession for the very reason that He is merciful not to divorce us from Him if we want to return).  But when one does indeed imitate Christ, the person who does the good works that befits a saint would not say it is he who does them, but "Christ in me", and that is not because of some mere false humility, but in truth, Christ does indeed do these works.  If someone was to partake of the Eucharist profanely, He is partaking of damnation.  Likewise, if someone of the Church slaps someone else, He is slapping himself to condemnation, because this is not something that befits the body of Christ.  But on the other hand, someone partakes of the Eucharist truly is mingled into Christ, would then lead this person to do workings of healing and helping the poor, this man or woman would say it is Christ who does them, not me.  Thus, mystically, they have acquired this literal oneness that makes their own flesh worthy of veneration as we venerate the relics of saints.

    So, I still maintain that this must be taken literally, not metaphorically.  How?  It's a mystery.  That's the point.  You need to balance the fact that it's literal with, as you rightfully worry, that we are still two people.  But if husband and wife is one flesh merely metaphorically, then there's really no marriage, and we don't really need the sacrament, but just a government paper, just as if it's only a metaphorical union between my flesh and Christ, then there's no real unity there either, but merely an inspirational belief and a moral injunction.  I mean what is to stop from extending this idea of "metaphor" and supporting the oopnevmians in the "metaphorical" indwelling of the Holy Spirit?
  • Mina,

    You said: "At the same time, can you separate the attributes of God from His essence?  That's the point I am pushing for."

    They are different! It is one thing to say I am created in the image and likeness of God and its another to say that I share in the same essence of God. We are created in His image and likeness and therefore we share similar attributes like our emotions, personality, sovereign authority, and even immortality. Does this mean I share in the same life-giving essence as my Creator? No, I do not. There are animals that eat, communicate, walk, and play; does this mean we share the same essence?

    You said: "The difference is as you say, that of two persons.  My person is not the person of Christ, so therefore, my flesh isn't worshipped, but only Christ's."

    This seems to contradict what you have been saying all along. How can we say that we are literally united and my flesh becomes His flesh and then say that my flesh should not be worshiped? Also, how can man and woman possibly be united in one (literally)? Are you saying that a woman's flesh can have a mind and will of its own? How then can it (he) be one with her? What if there is a disagreement, can you say that her "flesh" is against her? What about annulments or divorce? Are they still one flesh?  

    You said: "If a man who is of the Church slaps someone, He divorces Himself from the body of Christ, and loses that oneness He has with Him, as if committing adultery to the very communion He partakes of (that is of course, if the person doesn't repent. "

    My question is: Does my flesh, which is united to the Lord's, suddenly change back to just my flesh when I sin? Is the Lord's flesh still united or does it suddenly stop once I sin? If not how can we justify that it is only me who is slapping and not the Lord (as St. Paul says: "I say this as a man")?  If it does stop becoming one (literal) flesh once we sin, then it must be likened more to medicine--obviously we do not become one with medicine, but it is through taking medicine that we become healed of our illness. 

    You argue that if the union between husband and wife is metaphorical, then there can no longer be a union. Why? Why can't we say that our union is shared by our looking after one another? Why can't I say that my treating of my wife as if she was my flesh (as St. Paul says) and looking out for her not credit the fact that there is a union between us? 

    Regarding St. Cryil's quote:
     I would have read this carefully as the fathers do tend to delve into complicated matters and use strong words to convey and emphasize a meaning just as Christ did when He said "He who does not forsake mother, father, ....cannot be my disciple." Does He really mean that I have to hate my family in order to follow Him? No, but It is through these idioms that we understand the emphasis of what the writer or speaker is trying to convey. In this case it is emphasizing the strong union between us and the Lord when we partake of Him. 




  • Amoussa,

    You're missing the point.  God doesn't "create immortality".  God is immortal, and we partake of His VERY OWN immortality, but we cannot partake of His essence.  Again, St. John records that Christ prayed to impart on us the glory which the Father gave to the Son eternally to His followers.  God doesn't create glory, He is glory.  God doesn't create love, He IS Love.  Another St. Cyril quote for you:

    But it is inconceivable that created being should have the power to deify.
    This is something that can be attributed only to God, who through the Spirit infuses
    into the souls of the saints a participation in his own property. When we have been
    conformed by the Spirit to him who is Son by nature, we are called gods and sons on
    account of him. And because we are sons, as Scripture says, ‘God has sent the Spirit
    of his Son into our hearts, crying “Abba! Father” ’ (Gal.
    4: 6). If the power to deify
    by one’s own agency
     greatly exceeds that which
    belongs to the nature of a creature, how will anyone assign the Holy Spirit to the
    class of contingent existences, unless he has completely gone out of his mind? Or
    how will he who produces gods be declared a created being
    ? (Dial. Trin. vii. 644de, de Durand iii, 180; cf. In Jo. 9. 1. 810e) 


    One needs to balance the fact that we indeed do not partake of the essence of the Godhead, but God allows us to partake of Him inasmuch as we can possibly handle.  He gives us Himself freely, and we take whatever we can, as if from an eternal fountain of an ocean.  You cannot separate the fountain from the ocean, but He is present fully with His condescending love in an indescribable mystery.  Immortality is not something that we possess by our nature, but by grace.  It would be just as blasphemous to say that I am immortal by nature as it is to say that I partake of God's essence.  You need to balance the fact that, yes, I cannot partake of the essence of God, that is I cannot be as God eternally is, but God imparts Himself to me as a grace, a gift I don't deserve.

    Part two next post...


  • You said:  This seems to contradict what you have been saying all along. How can we say that we are literally united and my flesh becomes His flesh and then say that my flesh should not be worshiped? Also, how can man and woman possibly be united in one (literally)? Are you saying that a woman's flesh can have a mind and will of its own? How then can it (he) be one with her? What if there is a disagreement, can you say that her "flesh" is against her? What about annulments or divorce? Are they still one flesh? 

    Do you have any understanding of the proper meaning of mystery?  Do you not understand our faith is filled with paradox that our human mind is unable to comprehend?  Let's discuss marriage first before we discuss Christ, because apparently, you've just completely destroyed the meaning of marriage in the Orthodox Church, when you say:

    You argue that if the union between husband and wife is metaphorical, then there can no longer be a union. Why? Why can't we say that our union is shared by our looking after one another? Why can't I say that my treating of my wife as if she was my flesh (as St. Paul says) and looking out for her not credit the fact that there is a union between us? 

    What type of unity is there when a man and a woman marries?  Just moral support?  That's the type of unity you're advocating.  Anyone can treat any neighbor as his own flesh.  This is a command for all people:  "Love your neighbor as your self."  But the unity between a married couple goes much deeper than this second commandment of the Lord.  It's a consummation of this commandment by mystically taking two people, and making them one flesh.  It is why divorce is one of the most terrible things to happen in Church, and we take divorce very seriously.  And second marriages don't carry a crowning ceremony because it destroys the essential nature of the first marriage that ideally should be the ONLY marriage, that when we marry, there is NO "till death do us part".  Your concept of marriage is completely Protestant and bastardizes the true sacrament.

    Yes, of course when a husband does something it is the wife that does it, and vice versa.  That is the ideal.  My flesh is not mine anymore, but her's and vice versa.  This is a mystery beyond compare, and in this mystery, one should take very seriously the unity of will, mind, and heart in a family.  Marriage is not just mere commitment or a bond of affection, but a mingling of the husband and wife.  So when divorce happens, it's as if heresy happens.  It is a terrible thing for one to "unmingle" from his/her spouse, and it destroys the ideal foundation of the understanding of the unity of Christ and His Church, which He calls, without apology, His own body.  Christ sees His Church and joyfully and eternally proclaims, "flesh of My flesh, and bones of my bones".  I agree with you that the integrity of every person and their flesh isn't lost, but I disagree with you that the flesh of husband and wife are merely "metaphorically" one.  That is not what the Orthodox Church teaches.
  • I am very glad Minasoliman is here posting! :). Your posts on OC.net are great and its good to see you spreading the wealth on here :)
  • With regards to marriage, I acknowledge that I have erred in saying that the union is metaphorical. It is a union that is sanctified by God in which the Holy Spirit comes and descends on the bride and groom and unites them in holy matrimony. I agree that there is a spiritual union that unites both the husband and wife by the grace of the Holy Spirit. 

    However, I have an issue with what you say here: "Yes, of course when a husband does something it is the wife that does it, and vice versa." This sounds like you are saying that my wife's sins are my sins and this is not right to say. Again, I believe the union (when I say union, I'm referring to them being "one flesh") is within the bounds of the spiritual (not physical realm). What do I mean? I mean that we are not fused together into one person physically but we are united spiritually.  I am responsible for my wife  but God will definitely not judge me for all her sins. We both have a mind of our own and God is just in judging each person according to their own deeds. 

    You also said:
    Do you have any understanding of the proper meaning of mystery?  Do you not understand our faith is filled with paradox that our human mind is unable to comprehend?"

    I do not think you are answering my question. I am fully aware of the mysteries of the church, nevertheless, I wish to have a more solid grounding in theology and this is why I am asking. I just want to be able to understand as much as I can so that if someone asks me (maybe someone from outside the church), I may respond in a befitting manner. I realize not everything can be explained but I am dissatisfied with your answer because you failed to address my questions. 

    You say: "You need to balance the fact that it's literal with, as you rightfully worry, that we are still two people." 
    What is this balance? How can you balance this? 
    You also say: "One needs to balance the fact that we indeed do not partake of the essence of the Godhead, but God allows us to partake of Him inasmuch as we can possibly handle"
     How much can we handle? 
  • When a Muslim asks you about the Incarnation, how is it that the Infinite God can become man, how would you explain this to him? You tell Him that with God all things that seem impossible are possible. To say that it's impossible for God to become man is to limit God. But how, the Muslim will continue to ask. He'll scoff at you for blind faith! But we have faith with experience.

    God too makes the seemingly impossible to our eyes, possible by the grace of the Holy Spirit. So yes, your wife's sins are your very own sins. You are in fact responsible for your wife's sins, believe it or not! AND vice versa! In the garden of Eden, the bond of the one flesh was broken by the fact that Adam was point blame at Eve, when in fact, Adam could have prevented her. "THAT WOMAN YOU GAVE ME". What happened Adam? Just the other day, you rejoiced in saying "flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bones", now you blame her, and in turn, you blame your very own God! And she, instead of blaming herself, points the finger at the wily serpent. In Christian marriage, this is reversed. Does your wife speak evil of others? The husband is responsible. Does the husband linger in laziness? The wife is responsible. This is what marriage is. You're responsible for each other, not merely looking out for each other. I look out for my friends all the time. I love them as my own flesh. But I'm not married to them. Of course, I don't want to go as far as say "Am I my brother's keeper", as the murderer Cain did. Perhaps, as a Church, we should learn to be responsible for each other's sins. St. Paul even showed immense love for his very own Jewish brothers, "For I wish that I were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my race." WOW! The evangelical spirit of Paul! He felt so responsible, he was moved to spread the gospel!

    The priest, who takes charge of the parish, is married to the parish, and is responsible for each and every one of His congregant, His "children". Teachers receive a "stricter judgment", as St. James in his epistle says. Why? Because, he's responsible for those who he teaches.

    Therefore, you are LITERALLY one flesh, so that your two minds and your two hearts may be united. And this does not end in physical death, but even in eternity, you are married. You are married FOREVER. Marriage is serious. No, there's no "one person fused", but there is "one flesh fused." You have to take that by faith. Like the Eucharist. How is that bread and wine are the ACTUAL flesh and blood of Christ? The grace of the Holy Spirit. But how? I don't know, I take it by faith. But it still TASTES like bread and wine! So? The Church teaches that this is the LIFE-GIVING flesh of the Only Begotten Son. I take it by faith. How can I balance the fact that this is the true body of Christ while it still tastes like bread? That's a mystery. The balance is the mystery.

    St. Paul says something very provocative. Christ on that Cross "became sin". How! Impossible! God, who abolishes sin, BECOMES SIN???!!! But of course, He became a sin offering, taking on our behalf, our wretchedness and filth, and destroys it, to draw us back to righteousness. He took responsibility for our sins! St. Paul said this, not me! But of course, the caveat...are you going to respond to this mercy, to this loving-kindness, to this divine forgiveness? If not, then you are on the road of grieving the Holy Spirit, and destroying the unity Christ offered for you, possibly even blaspheming the Holy Spirit by giving up. The spouse likewise, takes upon him/herself the sins of his/her partner, in hopes that the partner may repent. Marriage is supposed to be an aid to salvation. You choose marriage, not merely because you love your partner, but because you love how he/she takes you to Christ, by mingling you with his/herself! If this foundation did not exist in the first place, but only based on some Western-style romance novel of passionate love making and moral support, then the grace of the Holy Spirit means NOTHING.
  • Him inasmuch as we can possibly handle"
     How much can we handle? 

    Consider a baby.  How much knowledge, food, work can a baby handle?  Not as much as a child.  And the child not as much as a teen.  And the teen not as much as a young adult.  And even then, every year, you feel like you've learned much more in life.  You've grown in wisdom and stature.  You've learned mistakes from the past.  You've grown more experienced, hopefully more humble, more understanding, more loving.  And does this growth stop?  No! Even when we rise from the dead, and God willing, we all attain eternal life in Kingdom of Heaven, we still will grow.  Oh we will even grow in virtues we don't even know about!  We take in as much as we can grow into.

    Let's contemplate on St. Athanasius' "knit into the Godhead."  We are but a small thread in our infancy.  From this thread we grow, and we are knitted more and more, and our created nature receives nourishment.  In baptism, our clothe is also soaked into the Divine Ocean.  The hands of the Father Himself, the Son and the Holy Spirit take us as wet clothe swimming into the sea of the divine nature, and we grow into this sea, being more wet and obtaining more cloth.  In an indescribable mystery, the whole ocean may even dwell within us to knit us as we walk upon the earth, and this is not possible except by the knitting into Christ's body, for "it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20).  For while we are swimming in this divine sea, we are also mysteriously walking with the Holy Trinity dwelling in us, and we spread the gospel of the Christ in us spraying Holy Water that resides in us wherever we go, just as Abouna sprays to us the water at the end of the Liturgy, as if like a command, to take the communion of Christ with the saints to the whole world and preach the gospel.  We take the liturgical priesthood and we being "priests and kings" bless the world with our light and our salt.

    God offered man the Law or the divine commandments, but it was no good for him. It exposed the weakness of man and revealed his sins (Rom. 7:13). Therefore man became in need of the intervention of the Creator Himself to renew his nature and sanctify his will. That man may return to God to find in Him an unique compassionate Fatherhood which encompasses and
    supports him, granting him hope in eternal life and enjoyment in sharing the everlasting inheritance in the company of the heavenly hosts.
    This is the divine grace which in its essence is
    the enjoyment of sharing the nature of God Himself. The Holy Trinity, acts in us to attain the Fatherhood of the Father, the membership in the Body of Jesus Christ, the dwelling of the Holy Spirit the Giver of sanctification and the partaking in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).

    Through this abundant grace our will is strengthened in Christ, sanctified by His Holy Spirit and grows active and effective by the living faith.

    Through this concept we believe in the grace of God not just as a dogma that suffices our mind, but as the presence of God in all aspects of our life, even when we are eating, drinking,
    sleeping, exercising or traveling about. It touches our worship and our daily life.  (Fr. Tadros Malaty "The Divine Grace") 





  • bump bump. This thread is super important and informative.

    Question is how it also relates to Coptic Orthodox mission: http://tasbeha.org/community/index.php?p=/discussion/15187/orthodox-mission
  • The answer to the original questions lies in the translation. When archangel Gabriel told St Mary that the Holy Spirit will descend on her he used oobnawma not bibnawma. But when the holy Spirit descended on our Lord in the Jordan River it was bibnawma. The original translations like Greek and coptic are careful to draw the distinction between the two to refer either to a hypostatic reception or a grace

    The short answer to the question it is impossible for humans to receive the bibnawma hypostatically otherwise we will be in union with God hypostatically and become Gods like Him.
  • By that logic, then the Coptic gospel of John tells us that the Word was "oo-efnouti", which means He was only God by grace.  Jehovah's Witnesses would rejoice at the day the oo-pnevma really becomes dogma, which is a terrifying aspect of our whole theology.

    The hypostasis of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us does not mean we are united hypostatically to the Holy Spirit.  That is a false presumption.
  • Didn't we already resolve this? The use of the indefinite (more accurately partitive) tense for pneuma has nothing to do with theology. Those who don't understand want to interject a theological reason that ends up creating an anti-Orthodox, anti-theosis theology. It's that simple. 
  • Unfortunately, many people, even priests continue to spread this idea around. :/
  • Hi all, are there clergy and servants in our Church who do teach actively about theosis and the implications? Like who use the term directly and encourage people to live and encounter life in the Trinity?
  • Theologians like Fr. Shenouda Maher, Mouris Tawadros do teach this. 

    Remenkami,

    Explain then why archangel Gabriel did not use the definite article? What is the significance of not using the definite article?
  • Then in that case, Fr. Shenouda (if in fact he does teach this, which is very sad, and shows he actually is messing up his Coptic) has implicitly made the Coptic Church an Arian Church and condemned St. Athanasius in his troubles.  If you read this whole thread, you can see that they disagree with St. Athanasius and St. Cyril, that the whole Holy Spirit does dwell in us.
  • Hi Cyril!

    Fr. Moses Samaan talks about theosis on his homily of the Transfiguration last year:

  • Wow thanks minasoliman. I'll download it.


Memorial for HH Pope Shenouda

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