The Almighty God first said, “Let Us make man in our image, after our likeness” For no other work of creation did the Lord God utter these words, but to mankind alone. HIS words signify the truth about our creation with a call to greater reason than the physical creation. However, with the greatness of the call came a limitation in time but not in eventual fulfillment. (Genesis 1:26)
The true destiny of mankind Adam was to be tested in the garden by setting a limitation, by not eating of one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the condition reserved for God himself. The call to Godmanhood was interrupted by the disobedience and lack of repentance on the part of our first parents, Adam and Eve. Their true destiny seemed to be destroyed, but, in fact, it was only postponed until the coming of the promised Savior. All this we studied in our section on Salvation, whereby in and through Christ we become saved and share in His conquering over sin and death; but now much more awaits us.
Deification that word is drawn from the Latin Theosis, which roughly translated means: “to be changed into a god or gods.” Most of us recoil from the very thought of the notion, seeing in it the sin of idolatry or some Mormon false doctrine. But then we read in the Psalms this passage: deification is the orthodox doctrine that human beings can have real union with God, and so become like God to such a degree that we participate in the divine nature.
As members of the Orthodox Church we partake in the communion of the Saints and experience the joy of union with Lord Christ. By this we mean that within the Church we are not isolated members but a unity, a brotherhood, a fraternal community, not only among ourselves, but also with the Saints of God, those who are living on earth today and those who have passed away. Not even at death are Christians divided. Death is unable to separate Christians because they are all united in the resurrected body of Christ.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8: 38)
Therefore, every Sunday and every time the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, we are all present in the offering of the Divine Liturgy together with all the Angels and all the Saints through all the ages. Even our departed relatives are present, if, of course, they are united with Lord Jesus Christ. We are all there and communicate among ourselves mystically, not externally, but in Lord Christ.
This is evident during the Prothesis, where the portions for the Mother of God, the Saints, and the living and departed Christians, are all placed on the Holy Plate around Christ the Lamb. After the reception of Communion from the Holy Oblation, all these portions are immersed in the Blood of Christ. This is the great blessing of the Church, that we are her members and, as members of Christ’s body, can communicate not only with God but also between ourselves.
The head of this body is Lord Christ Himself. Life comes from the head to the body. The body certainly has living members, but it also has members which do not have the same vitality; not all the members have perfect health. This applies to the majority of us. Life comes from Christ Himself and his living members; the healthy blood also comes to other less healthy members, so that slowly, slowly, they also become healthy and strong. This is why we must be in the Church … in order to receive health and life, because outside the body of the Church there is no possibility that we can recover and become enlivened.
All of this, of course, does not come about immediately. Throughout the whole of our life the Orthodox Christian must struggle, so that, slowly-ever so slowly within the Church, with the Grace of God, with humility, repentance, prayer, and the holy Mysteries, he may be sanctified and deified, thus arriving at the State of Godmanhood.
This, however, is the purpose of our lives; the great aim. It is not so important exactly how far we progress. Our struggle itself, which God blesses abundantly, has value both in the present age and in the age to come.
“May they all be one, Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me, and I am in you, so that the world may believe that it was you who sent me. I have given them the glory which you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, may they be so completely one that the world will realise that it was you who sent me, and that I have loved them as much as you loved me.” (John 17:21-23)
Experiences of Deification are proportional to the purity of man. The more someone is cleansed from the passions, the higher the experience he will receive from God; he sees God just as it was written: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Mathew 5:8)
When man starts to repent, to confess, and to cry for his sins, he receives the first experiences of God’s Grace. Such experiences are first of all tears of repentance, which bring inexpressible joy to the psyche, and then the deep peace which follows this. For this reason, this mourning for our sins is called “gladsome mourning”, as the Lord also said in His Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Mathew 5:4)
Afterwards, we proceed to higher stages by divine illumination in which the nous is illumined and sees things, the world, and men with another grace.
Then the Christian loves God more and new and different tears come, higher ones, which are tears of love for God, tears of divine love. Then he no longer weeps for his sins, because he has the certainty that God has forgiven his sins. These new tears, which bring to the psyche a greater happiness, joy, and peace, are a higher experience of Deification.
Afterwards, man acquires dispassion: a life without deceitful passions and sinful weaknesses. Then he is peaceful and undisturbed from every external assault, having been delivered from pride, hatred, spitefulness, and desires of the flesh.
Of course, when he has been thoroughly cleansed and has offered himself entirely to God, then he also receives the greatest experience of divine Grace available to men, which, according to the holy Fathers, is the vision of the uncreated light of God. Those who are very advanced in Deification see this light, very few in each generation. God’s Saints see it and appear within it, and incidentally, this is what the halos in the holy icons show us.
Source: “DEIFICATION AS THE PURPOSE OF MAN’S LIFE by Archimandrite George