A Reader asks about Patristic References to Theosis

A Reader asks about Patristic References to Theosis December 4, 2015

She writes:

Could you please comment on the theology presented to us in the Office on Fri., Nov. 6th, where St. Gregory Nazianzen proclaims, “I am to be buried with Christ and to rise again with him, to become a co-heir with him, a son of God, and indeed God himself.” (pg. 493 in the 4 vol. set.)

Daria Sockey pointed me to that part of the Mass where the priest says, “that we may come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” Also, the Catechism, #460 where they quote St. Athanasius saying pretty much the same thing.

When Sts. Gregory and Athanasius say we will “(be) God”, it sounds heretical.

They are emphasizing the same point as 2 Peter 1:4:  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become ***partakers of the divine nature***.

I can buy being “gods” as Aquinas calls us, and “sharing in the divinity of Christ”, but how can we BE God if we are created and have bodies?

Is there something missing in our English translation of the Saints’ words?

Not knowing Greek I couldn’t say.  My own suspicion is that the Greek tradition just likes to make the emphasis on theosis with great force.  The idea is not, of course, that we become our own independent gods.  “We believe in *one* God” is the guiding principal there. So I’m inclined to see it as just the eastern way of really pounding home the point that salvation is nothing less than “theosis” or “divinization”.  As John says of the risen Christ, “we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).  That’s pretty breathtaking.

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  • HornOrSilk

    There are several different answers you find in the patristic sources, depending upon who and what you are looking for and at. But, instead of writing a lot, to explain it, due to time constraints, here are a few good websites:




    • Brian

      Obviously it’s referring to the way our personalities will be scanned, uploaded, and merged with that of great Pas.

  • Bob

    I’ve always been very touched when I’ve been close enough to the altar to hear the priest say the words about sharing in Christ’s divinity as he pours the wine. As time goes on and the eternal theology of the Church is described in new ways and receives subtly different emphases to meet new needs, I think theosis would be a wonderful thing for us to focus on.