The Assembly Theme: A Patristic Approach

By Bosch, Leandro | The Ecumenical Review, July 2005 | Go to article overview

The Assembly Theme: A Patristic Approach


Bosch, Leandro, The Ecumenical Review


Today's world is a maelstrom of changes and transformations characterized above all else by its essentially multiform nature. These many convulsions, as may be observed, come one after another and have one outstanding feature: the giddy pace driving them on and accompanying the changes that are taking place at all levels and in all areas of human life in postmodern society. We are thus experiencing constant flux at the economic, technological, cultural and social levels and, we must admit, at the religious level as well.

Of necessity, humans seek to change all that has become outdated and is not equal to their high expectations, all that has consequently become an obstacle or barrier to the attainment of their aims, all that has inevitably completed its task and must now disappear in its present form so as to make way for a form more appropriate to meeting present-day demands.

Thus, individuals who are anxious and even bold are not to be seen as passive links in the living chain of humankind. They are not helplessly on the receiving end of strong pressures caused by changes in their surrounding world. They themselves are the authors and architects of the changes and alterations taking place in all aspects of life, and they act with the aim of improving it. What we thus see are human beings who are fundamentally proactive, energetic, diligent, prepared and expectant in the face of changes that they themselves are producing. However, at the same time they are anxious and often fearful of the consequences of change which do not always produce the favourable solutions they anticipated.

In reality, not all the changes produced by humankind today have happy results: hence nature's violent reaction to the harm done to it; hence humankind's reaction against itself owing to the profound worldwide imbalances arising out of arbitrary political, economic and social change: famine, war, terrorism, social inequality, racism, trade in living organs, trade in children, drugs, and further numberless scourges afflicting post-modern society as a result of the changes that it itself has brought about, unavoidably or avoidably, knowingly or unknowingly, deliberately or accidentally. These changes, and their resulting methodology, manifest themselves and have repercussions on individuals and contemporary society, producing controversial results. These results very often approach, almost inevitably, the maximum opposite extremes of benefit or damage to individuals and their environment, since today's world is easily thrown off balance by these changes. Meanwhile, humankind and the cosmic order are increasingly at odds with each other in the face of changes that constitute a damaging attack on the natural rhythm and nature of the life of each.

Within this convulsed and controversial world, and also over against it, (1) we Christians also thirst for change, for transformation, but not according to the pattern of this age. Our desires are not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. And so we have been called into community by divine providence for these days of blessing in this beautiful land--in our diversity, yes, but first and foremost in unity, so that we may lift up our voices in prayer, or rather in a cry arising from our inmost being: "God, in your grace, transform the world!"

Methodology and objectives

Since this is an examination of the theme from the viewpoint of the Orthodox teaching of the Greek fathers, it is necessary for me to be explicit about my theological presuppositions. They can be presented as distinctions which are the key to understanding and interpreting the theme. These distinctions are:

1) between the uncreated and what is created;

2) between the essence of Godhead and the divine energies;

3) between the oneness and the distinctions within the Godhead;

4) of the creation into an intelligible and visible world;

5) between essence and energy in the world of creatures. …

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