So, I've been considering again the quotes from my last post; I'm also quite close to finishing The Mountain of Silence (Kyriacos Markides...excellent read, btw), where I've encountered many stories about the blessed Elder Paisios through the words of his student, Fr. Maximos. It's been very enlightening to me, and I'm very excited by many of the ideas in the book (for the record, I'm more excited by Fr. Maximos than Dr. Markides' thoughts, but that's going to have to keep for another post). Let's face it--theosis excites me.
Why is that? I assure you it isn't an ego trip; I'm not worthy of union with God. If I ever make it, it'll be entirely on His Grace and His Mercy, because I am a wicked, terribly sinful man. Nevertheless, the theology of theosis is one of the things about Orthodoxy that sealed the deal for me. Union with the Divine has to be the ultimate goal of any spiritual belief; Orthodoxy, quite simply and bluntly, provides human beings with the correct way of achieving this reality. It tells you what you have to do; it speaks with authority--the authority of holy elders, men and women, who have lived it, who have achieved theosis in this life. In other words, there are Saints.
But, the Saints aren't just people who've been dead a while; the Orthodox Church has living Saints (capital S is required). People like Elder Paisios (who is but recently reposed) have worked miracles and wrought wonders by the Grace of God. You can find people like that, who perform miracles because the Grace of the Holy Spirit works so completely in them, alive and well in Orthodox monasteries--particularly on Mt. Athos, but not just there. This was such an important thing for me...this was the evidence that my poor, beleaguered, rational mind needed to make sense of the claim of the Orthodox (believing firmly the doctrine of St. Irenaeus of Lyon) that "God became man so that man could become god."
Of course, we never become what God is in his nature, nor do we lose ourselves in his vastness--but we become what he is by his grace, like but not identical to what he is by nature. But this bridge between humans and the divine is absolutely essential to a healthy spirituality. And it is only found in the mystical theology of Eastern Christianity.