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What is Man?

Bp. Kallistos Ware

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Most of the time we think we know who we are. But do we, in fact, know in the full and profound sense who we are? One text that is very important for the Orthodox understanding of the human person is Psalm 64:6 [LXX 63:7] -- "The heart is deep." That means the human person is a profound mystery. There are depths -- or if you would like, heights -- within myself of which I have very little understanding.

Who am I? The answer is not at all obvious. My personhood as a human being ranges widely over space and time. And indeed it reaches out beyond space into infinity, and beyond time into eternity. Our human personhood is created, but it transcends the created order. As is said in 2 Peter 1:4, I am called to be a "partaker of the divine nature." I am called to share, that is to say, in the uncreated energies of the living God. Our human vocation is theosis, deification, divinization. As St. Basil the Great says, "The human being is a creature that is called to become God."

I am reminded of the story of the Fall at the beginning of Genesis, of the promise of the serpent, who says to Eve, "You shall be as God" (Genesis 3:5). The irony behind that story is that this was exactly the divine intention. The humans were indeed called to divine life. But the Fall consisted in the fact that Adam and Eve grasped with self-will that which God, in His own time and way, would have conferred upon them as a gift.

The limits of our personhood are very wide-ranging indeed. We should adopt a dynamic view of what it is to be a person. We shouldn't think that our personhood is something fixed. To be a person is to grow. To be on a journey. And this journey is a journey that has no limits, that stretches out forever, that goes on even in heaven. Some people have an idea of heaven as a place where you do nothing in particular. But surely that is deceptive. Surely heaven means that we continue to advance by God's mercy from glory to glory. Heaven is an end without end.

Read the entire article on the Again Magazine website (new window will open).

Posted: 17-Jan-07



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