Ascended, how ?

The Ascension of Christ. Byzantine fresco of the 10th or 11th century in Cappadocia.

The Ascension of Christ. Byzantine fresco of the 10th or 11th century at the dome of a chapel in Cappadocia. Η Ανάληψη του Χριστού. Βυζαντινή τοιχογραφία του 10ου ή 11ου αιώνα στον τρούλλο μιας εκκλησίας στην Καππαδοκία.

Now what is wrong with modern Greek theology? Although the Fathers recognize that everyone has a nous and that it needs to be healed, modern Greek theology and modern Orthodoxy do not recognize this need. If the curative treatment of the nous is not placed once more at the base of modern Orthodoxy and if its Patristic foundation is not restored, then we will suffer the consequences – doctrine cut off from its foundation will become untenable and incomprehensible; Orthodoxy will stray from its main objective and work, and consequently not be able to stand on its own.

In this case, Orthodoxy will be like a skyscraper that does not rest on a foundation, but on a cloud. If the common man sees such an image, what will he say? He will say, “That is ridiculous”. And if there are some people who believe that it is possible for a skyscraper to be supported by a cloud, won’t they be ridiculous as well? Can they possibly be anything else? In like manner, if you cut off dogma from its foundation, dogma ends up being incomprehensible in terms of its origin.

So what do the modem Greek theologians do next? They remove the experience of theosis (divinization) as the foundation for doctrine and put the Bible in its place. Of course, the prophets’, and the Apostles’ experiences of theosis are described within the pages of the Bible. It records how this person was glorified and how that person was glorified. Yes, it is true that Holy Scripture mentions that all the prophets saw the glory of God, but when there is no way to verify this experience, everyone begins to use his imagination in order to interpret what is mentioned in the Bible.

For example, someone reads that Christ ascended into heaven in a cloud. On the one hand, if this person can think for himself, if this person has nothing to do with the experience of theosis, and if he has not even heard about it, he will start laughing when he reads such an account. He will say, “How is it possible for a man to sit on a cloud?” On the other hand, if this person is a superstitious Orthodox Christian, he will say, “Oh look, our sweet little Jesus did this miracle, too! He sat on a cloud and ascended into heaven.” And he will believe it. Someone else might even imagine that at the Ascension Christ began to be lifted up on a cloud as though it were an elevator.

But according to the Fathers, this ‘cloud’ is not a created cloud. It is not a mass of water droplets. This ‘cloud’ is the uncreated glory of God. In the Bible, the glory of God is called ‘a cloud,’ ‘light,’ and ‘fire.’ When the Bible mentions how ‘the pillar of fire’ and the ‘pillar of cloud’ went before the children of Israel in the desert, the Bible is referring to the same phenomenon – the glory of God. Hence, Christ did not ascend in or on a cloud of water droplets, nor did He go up to heaven as though He were riding an elevator. Rather, He ascended in glory as the dismissal hymn for the feast of Transfiguration clearly states. In other words, Christ simply disappeared in the midst of the uncreated glory before the Apostles’ eyes.

Patristic Theology – Fr. John Romanides

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