Someone wrote me recently about the difference between men and women in the experience of theosis. This person pointed out that the sources she had read all speak of men experiencing theosis and and experiencing various signs such as seeing or shining with Uncreated Light, miracles, etc. Here is my response with a few additional sentences.
So, to get to your main question: is there a difference between men and women in regard to theosis? Short answer: No.
Long answer: Every human being is unique. Gender is part of that uniqueness. I have read of women’s faces glowing with the Uncreated Light, and Mary of Egypt elevated when in prayer.
Each human being will struggle and acquire virtue slightly differently depending on both their God-given personal uniqueness and the unique ways they have been damaged by sin in this broken world. Furthermore, the various gifts of Grace that God grants to each person vary. One may experience great Grace for self control, but struggle with gentleness. Another may be granted the Grace of joy, but struggle to maintain inner peace.
When we think of theosis, we need to understand that it is primarily about the acquisition of virtue and the dying to vice. This begins on a moral level, but once we begin and attend to ourselves (aka “keep our mind in our hearts” to use St. Thophan’s usual term), the process of theosis is more dominantly a matter of discerning/directing our thoughts (aka “spiritual warfare”). The moral aspect remains, of course, but it is now much more focused on our thoughts leading either to passionate vice or to virtuous action (aka loving God and our neighbour). This is theosis.
Of course, as Grace increases in our lives, we become more like Christ through love of God and neighbour. Increase in Grace is both the cause of and the result of our efforts. It’s not either cause or result, it’s both, which is a paradox, which is Orthodoxy.
However, and this is very, very important, any particular outward manifestation of Grace (shining face, visions, consolation in prayer, miracles, etc.) is according to God’s will for our salvation and the salvation of others. We cannot gage our own (or any one else’s) progress in Christ by any outward manifestations except love (which is joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faith, goodness, self control).
Many heretics have manifested false signs and many saints live in hiddenness with no apparent signs of their holiness. God uses signs when He wants to point to something (that’s what signs do, they point to something). But often signs become an idol, and instead of attending to the holiness the sign is pointed toward, we attend to the sign as though that were the important thing.
Theosis is becoming like God. This is manifest as love, for God is love.
Thank you, Farher!
‘ If you love Me keep my commandments’. If we kept these commandments fully would we not be filled with the ‘other Comforter’ and so reflect the face of God.? Keeping all these commandments fully will take up all our attention for the rest of our lives. in most cases though.
, However perhaps to do the things commanded in order to attain
Theosis would divert our attention to ourselves and not God, would it not?
Should we try to do the hard part and at least attempt to keep these commandments and leave the rest to God ? Maybe we will end up as saints , only God knows. In my case unlikely !