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Flesh made Word

GregorSQFriends:

Welcome to Flesh made Word. What a privilege to write and share with you on the Anglican Church of Canada’s online community! The title invokes the early Christian formula of salvation: “God became human that human might become God.”

I am passionate about reclaiming the Christian tradition that often seems to have been abandoned for a juridical conservative moralism or a groundless neo-liberal spiritualism. Why are we doing what we do as Christians? I am proposing to you, friends, that our “why” of Christian life is far beyond anything we can ask or imagine. Beyond a place to belong—a community in a lonely world, beyond an insurance plan of eternal life, beyond a good set of values to learn and share, beyond even a platform for social justice—though all of these are important, no doubt. I propose to you that the future of the cosmos the fulfillment of life itself, rests in our hands. It is up to us, fragile, human beings, made in His image and given the extraordinarily dangerous gift of freewill.

For this first entry, I thought I would offer 6 Principles that this blog will stand upon. These may be adjusted, added to, corrected but here goes:

  1. The incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ restores human nature, (vrs individuals) and opens the way for human beings, through grace, to reclaim their divine inheritance (personhood) and “become participants in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). Human nature is good; “this goodness is capable of unlimited development, indeed, of being turned into Christ and deified” (Thomas Keating).
  2. Each of us is a divine ‘intention’ or logos that yearns for fulfillment. Christian life is a “work”—a work of yielding to the truth of whom we are created to be. The Church is the body of the logoi journeying to this Eschatological hope. The profound dignity of baptism claims true human freedom which is the fulfillment (telos) of existence. True life is freely offered and its realization must be freely chosen.
  3. Our true identity, personhood, is found in communion with the Holy Trinity (and thus the Church): claimed at Baptism as a passover from death to life, and nurtured and sustained through the Eucharist. Our person is always and only “being in relation.” Worship, prayer, repentance and ascetic practice are the ways we freely turn towards true life in God. We cannot achieve by our effort; rather, our participation is always a response, a yielding, a consenting to the grace of the indwelling Holy Trinity.
  4. The work is the edification of the primary human faculty, the crown jewel of human beings as made in the image of God: the will. God does not transgress human freedom, he invites—the response is ours as revealed by Mary’s “yes” to be the God-bearer. God’s activity is kenosis, self-emptying love that is the way of the cross we follow, we receive of, participate in, and become. The salvation of the cosmos hangs on man’s proper use of self-determination. “All of us are made in the image of God, but to be in God’s likeness is for those who by great love, have attached their freedom to God.” St Diadochos of Photiki.
  5. Love is the cause and the fruit. Our desire, our yearning for God is the “very marrow of our inward state” (Rumi)—or is it God yearning for us? “What you are looking for is what is looking” says St Francis. The fruit of love is love. Claiming personhood, bares the fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). Love is the earth, the seed, and the fruit of the vineyard.
  6. Finally, reason, intellect, logic—the mind—is a finite tool, important, but incapable of travelling very far upon the limitless path towards God and Christian perfection. The language of faith is doxological and “antinomic”, a journey of the kataphatic to the apophatic. Paradox, art, hymn, touch, beauty, “unknowing”, the “luminous darkness”, and silence are paths leading us into the holy mystery of love crucified.
Gregor Sneddon

About Gregor Sneddon

Gregor Sneddon is a Presbyter in the Diocese of Ottawa and the Rector of St Matthew’s, Ottawa. He received an MA from the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies and is the founding Coordinator for Contemplative Outreach of Eastern Ontario. Gregor is a council member of the Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission and serves on the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation. He is a husband, a dad, and enjoys being in the woods, a good dinner party and swinging the blues.

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18 Responses to Flesh made Word

  1. Well written, Gregor. I am deeply resonating with this.

  2. Just a clarification you said “Human nature is good” are you saying that mans basic human nature is good ?

  3. Gregor Sneddon

    Hi Tony – Congratulations! You may boast as the first person to comment on this blog!
    Thanks! Yes, human nature as created by God and in the image of God is good. Nature, according to the anthropology of the Fathers, as the Image of God, cannot be corrupted, destroyed, etc. Our Likeness of God can. Is that what you are asking?

    • Agreed. There is a significant difference between understanding humanity as created in God’s image, but fallen, and believing that human nature is evil. Nuance is important.

  4. Article 9 in the 39 Articles of Faith reads “Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek, φρονημα σαρκος, (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh), is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized; yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.” Do you agree with that statement?

    • Gregor Sneddon

      Hi Tony: I agree that that statement is an expression of the 16th Century English Church finding its position with regard to Catholic and Continental Reformation Theologies. From 1536 to 1571, the confessional statements flip-flopped back and forth and particularly in article 9, Calvinist, Lutheran ideas of Justification by Faith seem to be the agenda, all within a late Scholastic and medieval narrative of substitution atonement theology a la St Anselm. This particular point is often raised as a divisive one between East and West for many reasons, not least of which is the Western mistranslation of the Greek in Romans 5:12 (See Meyendorff “Byzantine Theology, pigs 143-146). I prefer the patristic vision that sees the Fall as an introduction of death, of which sin is the result. We do not inherit sin, we inherit death, which is “un-natural” – sin is the fruit of death. The Fall is the consequence of man’s choosing to turn away from relationship with God, the natural state of life in communion with God. The consequences of turning away from life, is of course death. God in his great love seeks to restore us to life in Him, so much so that he dies to make the restoration possible. Notice the Resurrection Icon is of Christ smashing the gates of Hell rescuing Adam and Eve, the Easter Troparian rejoices: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tomb restoring life!” So to answer your question, I do not live my life fearing God’s wrath and damnation, but yearning to receive the Grace freely offered, if I can but turn away from death to life, turn away from my self centredness to life in the Holy Trinity.

      Pray for me, a sinner!

  5. Welcome to The Community, Gregor!

  6. What do you do with verses like these Titus 1:15-16 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed. Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? Ecclesiastes 7:20 Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins Mark 7:21-23 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” ,Romans 3:9-12 “For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”, and there are many more. Man was born dead in his sin and whose heart is hostile toward God (Romans 8:20) and totally lacking the ability to come or seek out god. You say Western mistranslation of the Greek in Romans 5:12 was mistranslated as quoted from Meyendorff “Byzantine Theology,” and Augustine was wrong in his view of the depravity of man. Could it be that the eastern church adopted the Armenian viewpoint. It could be that Augustine and those who followed after him were right in their opinion and translation. You say you do not you do not live fearing god ,nor do I ,those in Christ have no need to fear the wrath of God but the wrath of God still remains on those who are not in Christ. Even the ability to come to God is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8) It is clear we are on opposite sides of this discussion, blessings

    • Gregor Sneddon

      Tony, the Patristic understanding does not suggest human beings do not sin, far from it! The point being made here is that sin, like death, is “unnatural.” Our natural state, our nature, is good, in communion with God. This is the eschaton to which we are being “restored”. Glad we belong to a big tent!

      • I agree we were created without sin and without death but since the the fall of Adam sin has entered into mans nature and as it were killed him and it is only though faith in Christ is the relationship restored yet sin still plagues our nature. Good discussion.

        • Just one more thing to add to the conversation is a saying I came across years ago “We are not sinners because we sin but sin because we are sinners”

  7. “I propose to you that the future of the cosmos the fulfillment of life itself, rests in our hands” If that were true ,God would not be sovereign,we would be and this cosmos would have ceased to exist eons ago. Phil. 2:13 “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” God controls everything that has will or going to happen in this universe . There is a day anhour a minute a second that the culmination of all things will come to a head or as the bible put “in the fullness of time” and that point was set before the foundation of the world. He uses us ,yes, but it is ultimately in His hands not ours. Sorry for all these posting but you made a lot of points to be addressed.

    • Gregor Sneddon

      No need to apologize Tony! Great stuff! Again, this is a critical point. These are very dense statements that certainly can do with unpacking – which I hope will come out through out the blog. The very heart of the matter is that God has given human beings free will. If everything is pre-ordained then humans and ultimately God have no freewill. There is no salvation and everything collapses into a Platonic Oneness. God as Other creates out of nothing in perfect freedom, Christ freely offers himself, and the human must freely choose God, life – there is no insisting. We are free to choose life or death, God waits, even chases but does not insist. The incarnation itself is the icon of this relationship, a relationship of free persons that is the very operation of God. Nicholas Cabasilas describes this operation in his Homily on the Annunciation: The Incarnation was not only the work of the Father and of His Virtue and His Spirit; it was also the work of the will and faith of the Virgin. Without the consent of the All-Pure One and the cooperation of her faith, this design would have been as unrealizable as it would have been without the intervention of the three Divine Hypostases themselves. Only after teaching and persuading her does God take her for His Mother and receive from her the flesh which she wills to offer Him. Just as He voluntarily became incarnate, so He willed that His mother should bear Him freely, with her own full and free consent.

      It could not be more clearly stated, the capacity of human freedom is the apex through which God acts within creation. The Theotokos offers herself and becomes icon of humanity emptied of self, so becoming the God-bearer. We have the same vocation – to say “yes.” That is why there is a “hell” (vrs apokatastasis that all are saved) – there must be an alternative to CHOOSING life, if there was not alternative, it would not be a choice – love must be perfectly free.

      If you are interested, check out my paper “The Chief Cornerstone: St Maximus the Confessor and Dyothelite Christology”:

      https://www.academia.edu/11655647/The_Chief_Cornerstone_St._Maximus_the_Confessor_and_Dyothelite_Christology

      Or explore real theologians on the topic like Andrew Louth, Polykarp Sherwood, Lars Thunberg etc.
      Cheers!

      • If free will man always chooses his hearts desire ,as it were,but the unregenerate heart will never choose God for his free will that is the desire of his heart is set against God .So until or unless God changes that persons heart his free will ,will always go against God,once changed his free will ,will be for God and he will seek God.John 6:65 “And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can (has the ability) come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” God does not violate our free will yet our free will can not violate the sovereignty of God. Romans 9:15-23 “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory”

  8. Gregor Sneddon

    “The Word of God took a lump of newly created earth, formed it with his immortal hands into our shape, and imparted life to it: for the spirit that he breathed into it is a flash for the invisible godhead. Thus from clay and breath was created humanity, the image of the Immortal…That is why in my earthly nature I am attached to life here below, while I also have in me a portion of the godhead; therefore my heart is tormented by the desire for the world to come.
    Gregory Nazianzen Dogmatic Poems, 8 (PG 37,452)

    Know to what extent the Creator has honoured you above all the rest of creation. The sky is not an image of God, nor is the moon, nor the sun, nor the beauty of the stars, nor anything of what can be seen in creation. You alone have been made the image of the Reality that transcends all understanding, the likeness of imperishable beauty, the imprint of true divinity, the recipient of beatitude, the seal of the true light. When you turn to him you become that which he is himself…There is nothing so great among beings that it can be compared with your greatness. God is able to measure the whole heaven with his span. The earth and the sea are enclosed in the hollow of his hand. And although he is so great and holds all creation in the palm of his hand, you are able to hold him, he dwells in you and moves within you without constraint, for he has said, ‘I will live and move among them’ (2 Corinthians 6:16)”
    Gregory of Nyssa Second Homily on the Song of Songs (PG 44,765)
    He who created human beings in order to make them share in his own fullness so disposed their nature that it contains the principle of all that is good, and each of these dispositions draws them to desire the corresponding divine attribute. So God could not have deprived them of the best and most precious of his attributes, self-determination, freedom…”
    Gregory of Nyssa, Catechetical Orations, 5 (PG 45,24)

    See point one: Human nature is good. The very marrow of all life, including human beings is a desire for God. There is only one desire: God, every other desire is a desire for God and only finds its fulfilment there.

    Thirst
    by Ernesto Cardenal

    The coyote howling in the night calls for God and so does the hooting owl. The gentle dove coos for God and does not know it. The little calf mooing for its mother is also calling God, as is the lion who roars and the croaking frogs. All creation calls God, in all its many languages. Lovers and poets as well as monks in prayer also cry to God.

    All human eyes have longing in them. People of all races, children, the old, mothers, women in love, police officers, workers, adventurers, murderers, revolutionaries, dictators, and saints all have the same light of longing, the same deep fire, the same infinite desire for happiness and joy without end. Human eyes are like wells, like the well of the Samaritan woman.

    Every woman is a woman at the well. The well is deep. And Jesus is sitting on the rim of the well.

    “And the woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep…’

    “Jesus said to her, ‘Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever ‘drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst, the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’

    “The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water that I may not thirst.’”

    This thirst felt by all beings is the love of God.

    For this love’s sake, all crimes are committed, all wars are fought, and all people love or hate each other. For this love’s sake human beings climb mountains, go down to the ocean bed; they rule and plot, build and write, sing and cry and love. Every human action, even sin, is a search for God. But sometimes God is sought where God cannot be found. Thus St. Augustine: “Seek what you seek but not where you seek it.” For what we seek in orgies, at parties, on journeys, in movie theaters and bars is simply God, who is all the time only to be found within ourselves.

    Within every one of us there is the same cry and the same thirst. So the psalmist writes, “As the deer thirsts for running waters, so longs my soul, O God, for thee.” God’s arrow has pierced every heart.

    The dictator’s lust for power, money, and property is the love of God. The lover finding her way to the house of her beloved, the explorer, the business executive, the agitator, the artist, and the contemplative monk are all looking for the same thing: heaven.

    God is everyone’s homeland. For God alone we are homesick. From every creature God calls us. We hear that call deep within us, as the lark hears its mate calling at daybreak, or Juliet hears Romeo whispering beneath her balcony.

    Evening and night are quiet and solitary because God made them for contemplation. Woods, deserts, the sea, and the starry sky were made for contemplation. Indeed, for this the world was made.

    Magpies and fishes speak of God, and it is God who taught them their language. The bird chorus in the early morning sings to God. Volcanoes, clouds, and trees shout about God. All creation proclaims with a loud voice the existence, the beauty, and the love of God. Music sings this message in our ears, as the beautiful countryside communicates it to our eyes.

    “I find letters from God dropped in the street and every one of them is signed by him,” says Walt Whitman. And the green grass is a fragrant handkerchief with God’s initials on the corner, as Whitman says, God dropped it on purpose to remind us of him. That is how the saints see nature, and how Adam saw it in Eden (and how poets and artists also see it, at least some of the time).

    God’s signature is on the whole of nature. All creatures are love letters from God to us. They are outbursts of love. The whole of nature is bursting with love, set in it by God, who is love, to kindle the fire of love in us. All things have no other reason for existing, no other meaning. They can give us no satisfaction or pleasant beyond this, to stir in us the love of God.

    Nature is like God’s shadow, reflecting God’s beauty and splendor. The quiet blue lake has the splendor of God. God’s fingerprints are upon every particle of matter. In every atom is an image of the Trinity, the figures of the triune God. That is why God’s creation so fills us with enthusiasm.

    As the kingfisher was made to fish and the humming bird to suck nectar from flowers, so we were made for contemplation and the love of God.

    God is everywhere, not just within us. But God is also within us, and we have felt God’s presence and desired it and that is why we withdraw into silence and solitude. For the time being we want no other creature to impress us, only God. As the lake reflects the sky when it is calm, we find God’s reflection best in solitude and peace. We have only to be quiet and purified for God’s face to show. And God’s face is the Human One, whose face was printed on Veronica’s veil. And God’s face can be seen, though less clearly, in all creation.

    We are mirrors of God, created to reflect God. Even when the water is disturbed, it still reflects the sky.

  9. I am sorry,what does this have to do with man’s free will and man’s fallen state? I agree that God created all things and the heavens are telling the glory of God.

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