(A talk given by Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol at the University of Cyprus)
The Infirmary Called the (Orthodox) Church
…we’ll try to have a series of homilies as a base so that we can move on to the true knowledge of the spiritual life, as the Fathers of our Church placed a lot of importance and attention on this, that a person who is to begin the spiritual life will place things correctly inside of him right from the beginning; for the spiritual life, the life in Christ, is very delicate and very specific. For example, it’s like a chemical equation, in which all the elements must be placed in the right way. Because if not placed correctly, then we will obtain erroneous results, and sometimes those results are very painful, especially in the spiritual sphere, in our spiritual course.
And so, they placed much importance on this, so that a person who’s beginning would receive accurate knowledge, the correct knowledge. That’s why I thought it appropriate for us to begin by talking about the first fundamental, this fundamental of the knowledge of man. The Holy Fathers, even though they were spiritual people and theologians―not in today’s sense of the word, where we study in universities and attain a sheet of paper saying ‘theologian’, but were theologians who spoke with God and about God from their experiences―wrote works and things concerning man. Even more so, you know that the Holy Scriptures, the Old Testament, starts by speaking about the creation of the world and the creation of man. In this way, I too will try to say a few words about this great event, so that we can understand how important it is for someone to be human and how important it is that God became man and gave us the possibility to become gods. For this reason, I will say a few things, which you obviously know from school* from your childhood, but are necessary, so that on this we can build the rest of the edifice, which we will try to achieve by God’s grace.
It is well-known to all of us that in the Church we say that God became man to deify man. We, the people of today, meaning the people after the fall of the first Adam, the first man, aren’t unaware of how man was made from God’s hands. Of course, we know from the Holy Scriptures that God made man in His image and according to His likeness. Holy Scripture is neither a scientific book, nor an anthropological nor geographical nor astronomical book nor any of that. And those fears that arise at times are ridiculous, the fear, let’s say, that if fossils are found, or astronauts discover life on other planets, then what will happen to the Church, what will happen to the Scriptures, that in a way it’s in danger of falling apart! There is no such danger, because the Holy Scriptures spoke of a different fact. The fact that concerns us Christians is that God, out of non-being, nothing, driven by endless love, created man. He created man in His image and according to His likeness. Meaning He gave him His image, all the gifts that He Himself has, meaning He created a copy of Himself, a photo of Himself, this is what ‘in the image of’ means; all that God has in His nature, He gave as gifts, free, to us. And in this way He shows the great value of man, because man is king over all creation and is the centre of all creation.
For the full essay go here.