The title of this post is a chapter heading in George Gabriel’s Mary the Untrodden Portal of God. Gabriel occasionally strikes hard at the West and the book would perhaps be strengthened with a less combative approach to the differences of East and West in the faith (my own opinion), but I liked the book and found Gabriel addressing many things, well foot-noted, that are not found in many other places. I share an excerpt. Post reprinted from 2007.
From eternity, God provided for a communion with His creation that would remain forever. In that communion mankind would attain to the eternal theosis for which it was made. The communion, of course, is the Incarnation through the Ever-Virgin. Mankind’s existence and, therefore, that of all creation is inexorably tied to Mary because she was always to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word. The fathers say that neither the course of human events nor necessity of any kind forced the Uncreated One to join to Himself a creaturely mode of existence. God did not become flesh because some actions of the devil or of man made it necessary, but because it was the divine plan and mystery from before the ages. Despite the works of Satan and the coming of sin into the world, the eternal will of God was undeterred, and it moved forward.
History and the course of human events were the occasion and not the cause of the Incarnation. The Incarnation did not take place for the Crucifixion; the Crucifixion took place so the Incarnation and the eternal communion of God and man could be fulfilled despite Satan, sin, and death. Explaining that there was no necessity in God the Father that required the death of His Son, St. Gregory the Theologian says of the Father “neither asked for Him nor demanded Him, but accepts [His death] on account of the economy [of the Incarnation] and because mankind must be sanctified by the humanity of God.” St. Gregory is telling us that, from before the ages, it was the divine will for mankind to be sanctified and made immortal by communion with the humanity of the Incarnate God, but corruptibility and death came and stood in the way. By His Passion and Resurrection, Jesus Christ destroyed these obstacles and saved, that is, preserved, mankind for the Incarnation’s eternal communion of the God-Man and immortal men. St. John of Damascus repeats the same idea that the Incarnation is a prior and indeed ontological purpose in itself, and that redemption is the means to that end. Thus, he says the Holy Virgin “came to serve in the salvation of the world so that the ancient will of God for the Incarnation of the Word and our own theosis may be fulfilled through her.”
It seems worthwhile to me, for us to meditate on the fullness of our salvation which is to be accomplished in God’s great Pascha. Indeed, it seems to me that everything always was about Pascha – the “Lamb was slain before the foundation of the earth” (Rev. 12:8) We are approaching the end of all things – and, I should add, their beginning as well.
Photo: Icon shrine outside the tomb of the Mother of God in Jerusalem. The tomb, of course, is empty.
Do you know the name of the icon?
“Partake of the immaculate Body and Blood of your Lord with the fullest faith, certain that you are receiving wholly the Lamb Itself. The mysteries of Christ are an immortal fire. Take care you do not rashly search into them, lest you be burned partaking of them. Abraham the Patriarch placed earthly food before the heavenly angels, and they ate of it. A truly great wonder: to behold incorporeal spirits on earth eating the food of corporeal men. But what surpasses all wonder, all understanding, all speech: what Jesus Christ our Saviour, the Only-begotten Son, has done for us. For He has given us who are clothed in flesh fire and spirit to eat and to drink: namely His own Body and Blood.”
Ven. Ephraim the Syrian, + 373 A.D.
I should have noted it. It is the icon, Our Lady of Jerusalem. There were many pilgrims the day I was there – from all over the world – primarily Orthodox and Catholic. Joachim and Anna were originally buried there, as was Joseph (I believe), but their relics have been removed elsewhere. Nonetheless, shrines to them remain.
I have asked because i ve got the icon at home and it is so beautiful, when you look at it as if She is smiling back at you with such a love in Her eyes.
Another question father have you read:
Redemption or Deification?*
“Why Did God Become Man?”
and Nicolas Cabasilas
by Panagiotes Nellas (†1986)
by my ‘opinion’ it is a must read
“…St. Diodochos points out in
the Philokalia,there remains a further subjec-
tive dimension to salvation, in which as persons we become transformed
into the likeness of God: “His likeness is granted only to those who through
great love have brought their own freedom in subjection to God.”43 Lewis
himself captures both the objective and subjective dimensions of salvation
when he writes, “The business of becoming a son of God, of being turned
from a created thing to a begotten thing, of passing over from the temporary
biological life into timeless ‘spiritual’ life, has been done for us. Humanity
is already ‘saved’ in principle. We individuals have to appropriate that
If We Let Him
This appropriation of salvation, this bringing of our human freedom into
subjection to God, naturally requires our cooperation. Therefore, deifica-
tion hinges upon human free will. For Lewis, human freedom was a bedrock
belief, fundamental to the idea of what it means to be created in the image
of God and essential to the possibility of genuine love. This finds expression
in The Magician’s Nephewat the creation of Narnia, where Aslan says in a
strong and happy voice, “Creatures, I give you yourselves.”45 Lewis thought
that all humans beings had been given this same gift. Writes Lewis,
You must realize from the outset that the goal towards which [God]
is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the
whole universe, except you yourself, can prevent Him from taking you
to that goal … If we let Him — for we can prevent Him, if we choose —
Hewill make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess,
adazzling, radiant immortal creature, pulsating
all through with such energy and joy and
wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine.46
Lewis’s doctrine of synergy was akin to the
model of St. Paul, who said we are to be fellow-
workers (synergoi) with God (I Cor. 3:9). This
interaction of divine grace and human will was
described memorably by a monk of the Eastern
Church as “the cooperation of two unequal, but
equally necessary forces.”47 For his part, Lewis
once described this paradox as follows: “I don’t
mean that I can therefore, as they say, ‘sit back.’ What God does for us,
He does in us. The process of doing it will appear to me (and not falsely) to
be the daily or hourly repeated exercises of my own will.”48 ”
C.S. LEWIS and
Friend of Road to Emmaus, Chris Jensen, first presented this luminous essay at the 2005
C.S. Lewis Summer Institute at Oxford University. We are very pleased to offer it here,
adapted for our readers as Part II of “The OrthodoxWorldview and C.S. Lewis.”