Human Nature and the Incarnation
By Saint Symeon the New Theologian
That Human Nature Through The Incarnation Of The Son, God The Word, Comes Again Into The Blessed State, That Is, Into The Good And Divine Condition In Which It Was Until The Transgression Of Adam.
Inasmuch as human nature lost its blessed state through the transgression of Adam, it is essential for us to know what Adam was before the loss of the blessed state, and in what consisted this blessed state, or that good and divine condition which man had before the transgression. The Holy Fathers tell us that God became man in order that through His becoming man He might again raise up human nature into the blessed state. Therefore, we must know in what way it is that man, through the Economy of Christ’s Incarnation, may again come into the blessed state.
God, in the beginning when He created man, created Him holy, passionless, and sinless, in His own image and likeness. And man was then precisely like God Who created him; for the holy, sinless and passionless God creates also His creatures holy, passionless and sinless. But inasmuch as unalterability and unchangingness are characteristic of the Unoriginate and Uncreated Divinity alone, therefore the created man naturally was alterable and changeable, although he had the means and the possibility, with the help of God, not to be subject to alteration and change.
Thus man was holy, and as holy he had no need of any law; for the righteous need no law. What need is there of the law for one who is holy, passionless, and pure?
The law commands to do good and not to do evil. But the Scripture says that God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). And so, inasmuch as everything was good, what need was there for man to learn what was good and what was bad? Since there was nothing except what was very good, this divine man had no need of the law.
Likewise Of The Natural Law, Written And Spiritual.
However, inasmuch as it was in his power to eat of every tree of Paradise and from the very Tree of Life itself, there was given to him a commandment not to eat from one tree only, so that he might know that he was alterable and changeable, and might beware, and might always remain in that good and divine condition. God, by those words which He said to him in giving the commandment that if he should eat he would die, gave him to understand that he was alterable and changeable.
Thus, at that time, in Paradise, no law was necessary, either written or spiritual. But after man had eaten of that forbidden tree and had died a bitter death, that is, had fallen away from God and become subject to corruption — then, so that he might not fall completely away from every good (since evil had spread mightily among the human race and was tyrannizing over it by force, by reason of the disastrous enfeeblement to which it had become subject as a result of corruption) there was given him a law in order that it might indicate what was good and what bad. For man had become blind; be had gone out of his mind and become senseless; and therefore he also had need of instruction, as is written in the Psalms, Unveil mine eyes, and I shall perceive wondrous things out of Thy law (Ps. 118:73). Do you see to what a pitiful condition man had come, and how, therefore, he had need of the written law? For after he had fallen he could no longer know even this world, unless he be enlighted from above by God with knowledge of it.
Afterwards, however, when Christ came and so intimately joined in himself the Divinity with humanity that these two which had been extremely separated, that is, the Divinity and humanity, became one Person, although they remained unfused and unmingled — from that time man became, as it were, a light, through the union with that first and unsetting Light of God, and he has no more need of any written law, because the divine grace of Jesus Christ remaining with him and in him brings forth as fruit for him the blessed state, that is, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, mercifulness, faith, meekness, and temperance. This is why the Apostle Paul in enumerating such fruits of the Holy Spirit says at the end, against such there is no law (Gal. 5:22-23); because for the righteuos no law is needed. And he who does not yet have such fruits of the Holy Spirit is not of Christ, as the Apostle says; If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His (Rom. 8:9). Such a one must struggle and strive so as to become; of Chrisf. : Test bfc believe in Christ in vain, in which case’Christ is-of nobenefit to him. whatever. All his striving and all his struggle must be directed to “acquiring” the… “Spirit of Christ”, and in this way to bring forth the fruits of the Holy Spirit for in this consists the spiritual law and the blessed state.
3. Yet More Concerning The Way In Which One May Come Into The Blessed State.
But if human nature, through the Incarnation of Christ, comes again into the blessed state, “as-it” was in the beginning, and if there is no other means and no other power or wisdom, or labor and struggle whereby human nature might again come into the blessed state and become as it was created in the beginning, but it is solely in the hand of God Who gave it its existence; and if there is no other means whatsoever to give him the blessed state, then what need is there vainly to labor, struggling for this by one’s own ascetic exploits alone, by readings, sufferings of evil, exhausting oneself with thirst, hunger and vigils? And if such and so great sufferings of evil are in vain and profitless for one who does not know’ this great mystery (of salvation), then upon every Christian lies the duty of learning it and knowing it, so as not to labor in vain in those sufferings of evil, and not to allow’ his soul to perish even with them, something more disastrous than any other disaster.
For all such and so great sufferings of evil should be undertaken not so as to come into the blessed state, but in order to preserve the blessed state which we have received before through Holy Baptism, since this treasure is difficult to preserve and we must pay good heed that we preserve it, as the Holy Fathers have said. And in the future life a Christian will not be tested as to whether he renounced the world, whether he fasted, whether he performed vigils, whether he prayed whether he wept, or performed any other such good deeds in the present life; but he will be carefully tested as to whether he has some kind of likeness to Christ, as a son to his father, as the Apostle Paul also says: My little children, over whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you (Gal. 4:19). For those who have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ (Gal. 3:27).
What Kind Of Deeds We May Do In Order To Enter The Kingdom Of Heaven.
Those who keep the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven, if they do not see in a Christian the likeness of Christ, as a son to his father, will by no means open them to him and allow him to enter. For just as those who are like the old Adam, who transgressed the commandment of God, remain outside the Kingdom of Heaven, despite the act that they are not by any means guilty of the fact that they are like their forefather Adam, so also Christians, like the New Adam, their father Christ, enter into the Kingdom of Heaven despite the fact that their likeness to Christ is not their own doing, since this is accomplished by means of the faith which they receive in Christ.
The likeness of Christ consists in truth, meekness, righteousness, and together with them humility and love of mankind. The truth is beheld in all one’s words, and meekness in all words spoken by others to oneself; because one who is meek, whether he is surrounded by praises or reproaches, preserves himself passionless and is neither exalted by praises nor embittered by reproaches. Righteousness is beheld in all deeds; for just as we define the weight of things by means of scales, and just as we find out the quality of gold through polishing it against a stone, so also we do not depart in any undertaking from the boundaries of righteousness if in it we keep in mind those measures (means of measurement or scales) which our Lord has given to us — the commandments.
Humility is as it were a treasure that cannot be stolen, which is formed in the mind, that bears the conviction that only by the power of grace received from Christ are there any good qualities to be shown in oneself — that is, truth, meekness, and righteousness. Love of mankind is a likeness of God, since it does good to all men, both the pious and impious, both good and evil, both those known and those unknown, just as God also does good to all, shines the sun upon the righteous and the unrighteous, and sends rain upon the evil and upon the good.
And so, those who have received this from Christ have from Him a likeness to Him, as a son has from a father the likeness to the father, because there is no son who is not of the nature of his father. It is for this that God became man, and through this union of the Divinity with human nature the Divinity reigns over human nature, as has been written: Bend thy bow, and proceed prosperously, and be king, because of truth and meekness and righteousness (Ps. 44:5).
Thus, one over whom Christ has not come to be king, through those virtues of which we have spoken, is not like Christ as to a father, and is unworthy to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. In truth so it is. Therefore, all other struggles are in vain if they are not for the sake (of these virtues). Let us also, brethren, strive to become like to Christ by means of these virtues, that we may be vouchsafed His Kingdom. To Him there be glory and dominion unto the ages. Amen.