Summary and Outline of St. Athanasius’ “On the Incarnation”

Summary of St. Athanasius’ ‘On the Incarnation’

“His treatise on the Incarnation of the Word of God, though written quite early in his life, and before the rise of Arianism, is the best example of his theology, and is of special interest in modern times from its breadth of view and thoroughly philosophical standpoint. It is well worthy of his Alexandrian training and traditions. The Incarnation, he teaches, culminating in the death on the Cross, was not primarily a propitiation or the averting of a penalty. What is known as the “forensic” theory Athanasius avoided. It was rather a restoration from death to life. Human nature through sin was in corruption, and must be healed, restored, recreated. A true theory of Creation is given, in opposition to the views of the Epicureans, the Platonists and the Gnostics. Men were created above all the rest, in God’s image, with even a portion of His own Word, so that having a sort of reflexion of the Word, and being in fact made rational (λογιχοι), they might be able to abide ever in blessedness (c. 3). But if they did not obey His laws, they were to fall into and remain in death and corruption—a negative state; for what is good is, what is evil is not; evil is the negation of good, death of life, etc. Man turning to the evil partook of negative things, evil, corruption, death, and remained in them: he lost the image, and lost the life in correspondence with God (c.5). The handiwork of God was in process of dissolution (6). God could not justly prevent this, seeing that He made the law, nor could He leave man to the current of corruption, and watch His work being spoilt. Even repentance by itself was useless (7), for it did not alter the nature, or stay the corruption. Only He could restore or Continue reading

Meaning of ‘Hypostasis’ – Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity

“As a technical term, hypostasis is found first in the Greek natural sciences, meaning sediment in a liquid. Behind this is a twofold idea, solidification and visibility, which appears in every use of the word, with one aspect or the other predominating. Thus in the Greek Bible, hypostasis refers in particular to true reality (see Heb 1:3; 3:14; 11:1); the Stoic tradition sees in the hypostasis the last individualization of the primordial essence; it is likewise present in Neoplatonic tradition, i.e., from Porphyry on–not yet in Plotinus–though on an entirely spiritual level and with a nuance of progression. The same is true for the technical use of the term which the Christian authors employ–always confronting the three traditions mentioned–in trinitarian theology and then in christology. Taken up by the Origenian tradition, just as ousia in order to emphasize the three divine realities in an anti-Sabellian way, hypostasis found a more ample consensus in the Synod of Alexandria (362). The Cappadocians, who contrasted the three hypostases with the one nature, the formula sanctioned also by the Council of Constantinople (381), nevertheless explained the term by emphasizing its characteristic aspect, individuality. Based on the new interpretation of the concept of hypostasis, Basil, and later Cyril of Alexandria, compared the trinitarian usage with the Porphyrian doctrine of the three hypostases. In the same period, Apollinaris of Laodicea introduced the term in christology, emphasizing by it the one reality of Christ. Hypostasis with this meaning became prominent through Cyril of Alexandria. Clearly distinguished from “nature,” it entered also into the faith of Chalcedon (DS 302). Nevertheless, in later discussions, in which there was an awareness that both of the natures in Christ, as Nestorius had intended, must be hypostatic, i.e., individual, the Byzantine authors emphasized in the hypostasis the aspect of subsistence, as well as that of characterizing property, so as to be able to use the term justly in both trinitarian theology and christology” (B. Studer, Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity, vol 2, p. 308).

Yannaras and morality as an evasion of Being

“If we accept morality simply as man’s conformity to an authoritative [supreme, infallible, Divine] or conventional [socially constructed, utilitarian] code of law, then ethics becomes man’s alibi for his existential problem. He takes refuge in ethics, whether religious, philosophical or even political, and hides the tragedy of his mortal, biological existence behind idealized and fabulous objective aims. He wears a mask of behavior borrowed from ideological or party authorities, so as to be safe from his own self and the questions with which it confronts him” (Christos Yannaras, The Freedom of Morality, p15).

Maximus the Confessor on the Incarnation

… On the incarnation being part of God’s divine plan from all eternity, irrespective of humanity’s primal disobedience.

“He who, by the sheer inclination of his will, established the beginning of all creation, seen and unseen, before all the ages and before that beginning of created beings, had an ineffably good plan for those creatures. The plan [even before the sin and fall] was for him to mingle, without change on his part, with the human nature by true hypostatic union, to unite human nature to himself while remaining immutable, so that he might become a man, as he alone knew how, and so that he might deify humanity in union with himself. Also, according to this plan, it is clear that God wisely divided “the ages” between those intended for God to become human, and those intended for humanity to become divine” (Maximus the Confessor, Ad Thalassium 22, as quoted in Harink’s commentary on 1 Peter, pg 40).

The internet, curiosity, and hesychasm

“When you see articles promising lists, like “25 photos of bad plastic surgery,” do not click on those links. That’s the first step to hesychasm*.”

Metropolitan Tikhon speaking at St. Vladimir’s Seminary graduation, June 1, 2015.

(H/t Frederica Matthews-Green)

C.f. Josef Pieper on ‘the companions and peers of despair’ here.

* Definition of Hesychasm: “Hesychia or quiet, outer and esp. inner repose, eliminates passions and worries, not work or pastoral responsibility, though at times it tries to keep the latter at a distance. It is one of the aims of monastic renunciation, a condition of prayer. The motif, attested at the end of the 4th c. in Egypt and Cappadocia, grows in importance in Palestine and Sinai (Dorotheus, John Climacus). For the legislator Justinian, hesychast is synonymous with anchorite. Within Byzantine monasticism, hesychasm characterizes the tendency of Symeon the New Theologian, the of Gregory Palamas and, later, of the medieval Philokalia. The West has an analogous contemplative ideal, but less distinct from solitude and from the techniques of recollection” (Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity, Angelo Di Berardino, General Editor).