Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers

man

21 Entries

...God has created us intelligent beings so that we may glorify, thank and love Him for the lesser blessings given us for the needs of our present life, and become worthy to gain great and eternal blessings in the life to come." St. Simeon the New Theologian (On Faith, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pg. 149)



All of us who are human beings are in the image of God. But to be in his likeness belongs only to those who by great love have attached their freedom to God. St. Diadochos of Photike (cited in Olivier Clement's book, "The Roots of Christian Mysticism")

But man, having lost the enjoyment of his own primitive, pure existence, as well as that of the universe, has lost even the comprehension of it. As the fish, moving about in the water, knows not the better and more perfect life of animals breathing the air: even so the unhappy soul of man, immersed in the gross and corrupted elementary world, and living in it, like the fish in the water, knows not the ethereal and incorruptible life of Paradise. Therefrom proceed the doubts of a mind, reasoning from its natural power alone, concerning the reality of such a life, and the possibility of its existence. Select Sermons of Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow

Even though we still bear God's image to a greater degree than the angels, yet as regards the likeness of God we fall far short of them. This is especially true if we compare our present state with that of the good angels. Leaving aside other matters for the present, I shall simply say that perfection of the divine likeness is accomplished by means of divine illumination that issues from God. St. Gregory Palamas (Topics of Natural and Theological Science no. 64, The Philokalia Vol. 4 edited by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware; Faber and Faber pg. 376)

God made all things exceedingly beautiful as the Genesis story of creation testifies. Among such exceedingly beautiful things is man; rather, he was adorned with a beauty better than other created beings. What can be better than the image of incorruptible beauty? If everything is exceedingly beautiful, and man was among them and created above them, death certainly was not present in him. Man would not have been beautiful if the sullen stamp of death were in him. However, man was the image and likeness of eternal life, truly beautiful and exceedingly good, adorned with the radiant form of life. St. Gregory of Nyssa, Commentary on the Song of Songs.

How then is man, this mortal, passible, short lived being, the image of that nature which is immortal, pure and everlasting? The true answer to this question, indeed, perhaps only the very Truth knows: but this is what we, tracing out the truth so far as we are capable by conjectures and inferences, apprehend concerning the matter. Neither does the word of God lie when it says that man was made in the image of God, nor is the pitiable suffering of man's nature like to the blessedness of the impassible Life: for if anyone were to compare our nature with God, one of two things must needs be allowed in order that the definition of the likeness may be apprehended in both cases in the same terms, -- either that the Deity is passible, or that humanity is impassible: but if neither the Deity is passible, or that of humanity impassible: but if neither the Deity is passible nor our nature free from passion, what other account remains whereby we may say that the word of God speaks truly, which says that man was made in in the image of God? St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man (NPNF)

If, according to the scriptures, the cause of all that is involuntary lies in what is voluntary, no one is a man’s greater enemy than himself. St. Mark the Ascetic, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," trans. by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 86 - 90

Man is a composite being, made up of an earthly body and celestial soul... The soul is closely united with the body, yet wholly independent of it.

Man is not only reason but also heart. The powers of these two centers, mutually assisting one another, render man perfect and teach him what he could never learn through reason alone. If reason teaches about the natural world, the heart teaches us about the supernatural world... Man is perfect when he has developed both his heart and his intellect. Now the heart is developed through revealed religion. "Modern Orthodox Saints, St. Nectarios of Aegina", Dr. Constantine Cavarnos, Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Belmont, Massachusetts., 1981., pp. 154-187



Man's chief aim should be to find God. In finding God, he finds true happiness. The interior prayer we have been discussing [the Prayer of Jesus] leads man to Him. We can never thank God sufficiently for revealing Himself to us. We can never even thank Him enough for the other goods He bestows upon us. God need not have created man: He had hosts of angels. Yet He created man and countless marvellous things for him. Elder Joseph of New Skete in Anchored in God by Constantine Cavarnos

Men are of three kinds: slaves, hirelings or sons. Slaves do not love the good, but refrain from evil out of fear of punishment; this, as St. Dorotheos observes, is a good thing, but not fully in accord with God's will. Hirelings love what is good and hate what is evil, out of hope of reward. But sons, being perfect, refrain from evil, not out of fear of punishment, but because they hate evil violently; and they do what is good, not because they hope for reward, but because they consider it their duty. They love dispassion because it imitates God and leads Him to dwell in them; through it they refrain from all evil, even if no punishment threatens them." St. Peter of Damascus (Book 1: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 168)

Nothing so makes a man resemble God as doing good to others. But in doing good to them, one should take great care not to transform these good deeds into a thought. "Reflections on the Eight Thoughts", Abba Evagrius, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," translated from the Russian text, "Dobrotolubiye," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, eighth edition, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 113 - 114

Of all visible and invisible creation man alone is created dual. He has a body composed of four elements, the senses and breath; and he has a soul, invisible, unsubstantial, incorporeal joined to the body in an ineffable and unknown manner; they interpenetrate and yet are not compounded, combine and yet do not coalesce. This is what man is: an animal both mortal and immortal, both visible and invisible, both sensory and intellectual, capable of seeing the visible and knowing the invisible creation. St. Simeon the New Theologian (Practical and Theological Precepts no. 152, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pgs. 133-134):

So great was the honor and providential care which God bestowed upon man that He brought the entire sensible world into being before him and for his sake. The kingdom of heaven was prepared for him from the foundation of the world (cf. Matt. 25:34); God first took counsel concerning him, and then he was fashioned by God's hand and according to the image of God (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). God did not form the whole man from matter and from the elements of this sensible world, as He did the other animals. He formed only man's body from these materials; but man's soul He took from things super celestial or, rather, it came from God Himself when mysteriously He breathed life into man (cf. Gen. 2:7). St. Gregory Palamas (Topics of Natural and Theological Science no. 24, The Philokalia Vol. 4 edited by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware; Faber and Faber pg. 356)

The Creator of the universe rejoiced more over man than over the glorious choir of heavenly bodies. Man is more precious than all the rest of the cosmos. Man, completed and perfected, is wondrous, even as God is wondrous. He is immortal and supra-cosmic. He is more than a microcosm - he is a microtheos. For the eternal Logos of the Father to be made flesh 'in the likeness of man' (Phil. 2:7) means that, with the gift of His love, man in turn may become like God... Archimandrite Sophrony (His Life is Mine, Chapter 10; SVS Press pg.77):

The humility of our Lord Jesus Christ is a matter for as great wonder as are His miracles, together with His Resurrection - that Wonder of wonders. Clothing Himself in the cramped human body of a slave, He became the Servant of His servants... Why do men try to appear greater and better than they are? The grass in the field does not attempt this, and neither do fish in the water or birds in the air. Why, then, do men do this? Because they were, in reality, at one time greater and better than they are now, and the shadow of this memory urges them to exaggeration of their greatness and goodness- on a string pulled taut and let go by the demons" St. Nicolai Velimirovich

The moon as it waxes and wanes illustrates the condition of man; sometimes he does what is right, sometimes he sins and then through repentance returns to a holy life. The intellect of one who sins is not destroyed (as some of you think), just as the physical size of the moon does not diminish, but only its light. Through repentance a man regains his true splendor, just as the moon after the period of waning clothes itself once more in its full light. If a man believes in Christ, "even though he dies, he shall live" (John 11:25): he shall know that "I the Lord have spoken, and will do it" (Ezekiel 17:24). St. John of Karpathos "The Philokalia: the Complete Text" (volume I), by St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth, trans. By G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and (Bishop) Kallistos Ware, (London: Faber and Faber, 1979), pp. 298 - 309

When God brought into being natures endowed with intelligence and intellect He communicated to them, in His supreme goodness, four of the divine attributes by which He sustains, protects and preserves created things. These attributes are being, eternal being, goodness and wisdom. Of the four He granted the first two, being and eternal being, to their essence, and the second two, goodness and wisdom, to their volitive faculty, so that what He is in His essence the creature may become by participation. This is why man is said to have been created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen. 1:26). He is made in the image of God, since his being is in the image of God's being, and his eternal being is in the image of God's eternal being (in the sense that, though not without origin, it is nevertheless without end). He is also made in the likeness of God, since he is good in the likeness of God's goodness, and wise in the likeness of God's wisdom, God being good and wise by nature, and man by grace. Every intelligent nature is in the image of God, but only the good and the wise attain His likeness. St. Maximos the Confessor(Third Century on Love no. 25)

When man is awakened from his earthly body and recognizes spiritual realities, he realizes that the things that are of a material nature must indeed be real since it is his intellect that is able to perceive them as such. From here, man arrives at the following paradoxical observation: As a unique creature, man knows the reality of the material world through his intellect, which itself does not share in the attributes of the material realm nor can itself become a material object, neither being shown as a super-subjective reality, nor can it become tangible through the senses. Even though the human intellect is incomprehensible through the forms of material reality, nonetheless, the invisible essence of the intellect constitutes the criterion for all the visible realities in the material realm. Indeed, man often feels and frequently understands that the intellect, even though it is untouchable, invisible, and immaterial, is however, more real than any other super-subjective reality existing in the material world. St. Justin Popovich, Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ

Why, then, did He make [man] frail and mortal? ... [So] He might set before man virtue, that is, endurance of evils and labors, by which he might be able to gain the reward of immortality. For since man consists of two parts, body and soul, of which the one is earthly, the other heavenly, two lives have been assigned to man. The first, which is appointed for the body, is transitory. The other, which belongs to the soul, is everlasting. We received the first at our birth. We attain to the latter by striving, that immortality might not be available to man without some difficulties.... For this reason He has given us this present life, that we may either lose the true and eternal life by our sins, or win it by our virtue." 260-330 AD Lactantius Institutes bk. 7, chap. 5

Since, then, God, Who is good and more than good, did not find satisfaction in self-contemplation, but in His exceeding goodness wishes certain things to come into existence which would enjoy His benefits and share in His goodness, He brought all things out of nothing into being and created them, both what is invisible and what is visible. Yes, even man, who is a compound of the visible and the invisible. And it is by thought that He creates, and thought is the basis of the work, the Word filling it and the Spirit perfecting it. St. John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.

The human spirit longs for infinite knowledge, infinite life, and infinite existence. Yet through all this, man seeks only one thing: the conquering of the temporal, the finite, the limited and the possibility of securing the eternal, the infinite, and the unlimited. In all cultures and civilizations, the labors of the human spirit are eventually consolidated into one enormous endeavor: to overcome death and mortality and to secure immortality and eternal life in any way possible. Fr Justin Popovich, Faith and Life in Christ





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