Creed: The Holy Spirit
I Believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
“I believe in the Holy Spirit”
Origen, On First Principles 1.3
The particular operations of the Holy Spirit; how the Spirit is involved in salvation
5. It seems proper to ask why a person who is regenerated by God unto salvation has to do with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and does not obtain salvation without the co-operation of the entire Trinity. We also need to understand why it is impossible to become a partaker of the Father or the Son without the Holy Spirit. In discussing these subjects, it will undoubtedly be necessary to describe the special working of the Holy Spirit, in addition to the Father and the Son.
I am of opinion that the working of the Father and of the Son takes place in both saints and sinners, in rational beings and in dumb animals, in that which is without life as well as that which has life. But the operation of the Holy Spirit does not take place in those things that are without life, or in those that, although living, are yet dumb. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is not even found in those who are endued with reason but engaged in evil ways, and have not converted to a better life. The only people in whom the Holy Spirit is operative are those who are already turning to a better life, walking along the way that leads to Jesus Christ—in other words, only those who are engaged in the performance of good actions, and who abide in God.
8. [After arguing for the fundamental unity of the three persons, guarding against the idea that the Holy Spirit is superior to Father and Son, he returns to a discussion of the unique ministrations of the Spirit]. God the Father bestows upon all, existence. Through participation in Christ, since he is the word of reason, we are rendered rational beings. And because we participate in reason, we become capable of virtue or vice, and so therefore deserving of either praise or blame. For this reason, therefore, the grace of the Holy Ghost is present: so that those who are not holy in essence may be rendered holy by participating in it. Seeing, then, that firstly, they derive their existence from God the Father; secondly, their rational nature from the Word; thirdly, their holiness from the Holy Spirit—those who have been previously sanctified by the Holy Spirit are again made capable of receiving Christ, in respect that he is the righteousness of God.
Those who have earned advancement to this grade by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit will nevertheless obtain the gift of wisdom according to the power and working of the Spirit of God. This is what I consider Paul’s meaning when he says that to some is given the word of wisdom, to others the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit (1 Cor. 12:8). And while pointing out the individual distinction of gifts, he refers the whole of them to the source of all things, in the words, There are diversities of operations, but one God who works all in all (1 Cor. 12:6).
This is why the working of the Father, which confers existence upon all things, is found to be more glorious and magnificent, while each one, by participation in Christ, as being wisdom, and knowledge, and sanctification, makes progress, and advances to higher degrees of perfection. And seeing that it is by participating in the Holy Spirit that any one is made purer and holier, when he is made worthy, he obtains the grace of wisdom and knowledge in order that, after all stains of pollution and ignorance are cleansed and taken away, he may make so great an advance in holiness and purity, that the nature that he received from God may become such as is worthy of him who gave it to be pure and perfect, so that the being that exists may be as worthy as the one who called it into existence. . . .
By the renewal of the ceaseless working of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in us, in its various stages of progress, we shall be able at some future time perhaps, although with difficulty, to behold the holy and the blessed life, in which (as it is only after many struggles that we are able to reach it) we ought so to continue, that no satiety of that blessedness should ever seize us. Instead, the more we perceive its blessedness, the more should be increased and intensified within us the longing for the same, while we ever more eagerly and freely receive and hold fast the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Athanasius, Letters to Serapion 1.26–27
The Spirit is not immutable, therefore not a creature
26. That the Spirit is above the creation, distinct in nature from things created, and proper to the Godhead, can also be seen from the following consideration. The Holy Spirit is incapable of change and alteration. . . . For Scripture says, The Holy Spirit of discipline will flee deceit and will start away from thoughts that are without understanding (Wis. 1:5). And Peter says, In the incorruptibility of the meek and quiet Spirit (1 Pet. 3:4). Again, in Wisdom, Your incorruptible Spirit is in all things (Wis. 12:1). And if no one knows the things of God save the Spirit of God that is in him (1 Cor. 2:11), and, as James said, in God there is no variation nor shadow that is cast by turning (Jas. 1:17). Therefore, the Holy Spirit, being in God, must be incapable of change, variation and corruption. But the nature of things originated and created is capable of change, inasmuch as they are outside the essence of God and came into being out of nothing . . . . If the Spirit shares the immutability of the Son, abiding with him as someone who never changes, what likeness can there be between the unchangeable and the things that change? It will be clear that he is not a creature, nor does he belong in essence to the angels, for they are changeable, but he is the image of the Word and pertains to the Father.
The Spirit is participated in, not one who participates in something else
27. The Holy Spirit is partaken and does not partake. For, It is impossible, Scripture says, for those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good Word of God … (Heb. 6:4). The angels and the other creatures partake of the Spirit himself—hence they can fall away from him in whom they partake. But the Spirit is always the same. He does not belong to those who partake; instead, all things partake of him. But if he is always the same and always partaken, and if the creatures partake of him, then the Holy Spirit can neither be an angel nor a creature of any kind, but proper to the Word. And being given by the Word, he is partaken by the creatures. For they would have to say that the Son is a creature, of whom we are all made partakers in the Spirit.
If the Holy Spirit is a creature, baptism in the triune name is ineffectual
The Lord, when sending forth the Apostles, ordered them to lay this foundation for the Church, saying: Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). The Apostles went, and thus they taught; and this is the preaching that extends to the whole Church which is under heaven. Since then the Church has this foundation of faith, let [us ask whether] God is a triad or dyad? If he is dyad, then the Spirit can be considered among the creatures. In that case, however, the faith that you hold is not in one God, Who is over all, and through all, and in all (Eph. 4:6).
If you divide and alienate the Spirit from the Godhead, you no longer possess that which is in all. And if you are of this opinion, the rite of initiation that you think you perform is not actually an initiation into the Godhead. For there would be a creature mixed in with the Godhead, and—like the Arians and heathen—you too would confess creation to be divine along with God, who made it through his own Word. If this is your attitude, what hope have you? If you do not have the Spirit of God, who will unite you to God? A spirit that belongs to creation? How rash and careless on your part to reduce the Father and his Word to the level of creatures, and yet to set the creatures on a level with God! For that is what you do when you imagine the Spirit as a creature and rank him with the Triad.
Basil, On the Holy Spirit 9.22
The divine nature of the Spirit
Who, upon hearing the titles of the Spirit, is not lifted up in soul? Who does not raise his conception to the supreme nature? It is called “Spirit of God,” “Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father” (John 15:26), “right Spirit,” a “leading Spirit.” Its proper and peculiar title is “Holy Spirit,” which is a name especially appropriate to that which is incorporeal, purely immaterial, and indivisible. So our Lord, when teaching the woman who thought God to be an object of local worship that the incorporeal is incomprehensible, said God is a spirit (John 4:24). So then when we hear the word “spirt” On our hearing, then, of a spirit, it is impossible to form the idea of a nature circumscribed, subject to change and variation, or at all like the creature. We are compelled to advance in our conceptions to the highest. We are to think of the Spirit as an intelligent essence—in power infinite, in magnitude unlimited, unmeasured by times or ages, generous of its good gifts, to whom turn all things needing sanctification. All who live in virtue aspire to the Spirit, being watered by its inspiration and helped on toward their natural and proper end. The Spirit perfects all other things, but itself lacking nothing, living not as needing restoration, but as Supplier of life, not growing by additions but straightway full, self-established, omnipresent, origin of sanctification, light perceptible to the mind. The Spirit supplies, as it were, through itself, illumination to every faculty in the search for truth. The Spirit is by nature unapproachable, apprehended by reason of goodness. It fills all things with its power, but is communicated only to the worthy. It does not share in one measure, but distributes its energy according to the proportion of faith (Rom. 12:6). In essence, simple; in powers, various; wholly present in each and being wholly everywhere. The Spirit is impassively divided, shared without loss of ceasing to be entire—like a sunbeam whose kindly light falls on him who enjoys it as though it shone for him alone, yet illumines land and sea and mingles with the air. So, too, is the Spirit to every one who receives it, as though given to him alone, and yet sending forth grace sufficient and full for all humankind. The Spirit is enjoyed by all who partake of it, according to the capacity, not of its power, but of their nature.
Gregory of Nyssa, On the Holy Spirit 2
The Holy Spirit is of equal rank with the Father and Son
We . . . confess that the Holy Spirit is of the same rank as the Father and the Son so that there is no difference between them in anything that can be thought of or named, or that devotion would ascribe to a divine nature. We confess that, except for his being contemplated as having peculiar attributes in regard to his being a person, the Holy Spirit is indeed from God and of the Christ, according to Scripture. We also confess, however, that, since he is not ingenerate, he is not to be confused with the Father or with the Son since he [as the Spirit] is not the Only-begotten. And, while he is to be regarded separately in certain distinctive properties, he has in all else an exact identity with them.
Gregory of Nyssa, On Faith (To Simplicius)
How the Spirit is understood to be divine, just as the Son is
Now the blasphemers make the same statements about the Holy Spirit as they do about the Lord—namely, that he too is created. But the Church believes the the Holy Spirit, like the Son, is uncreated, and that the whole creation becomes good by participation in the good which is above it. The Holy Spirit, however, does not need anything to become good, because he is good simply by virtue of his nature, as the Scripture testifies. Creation is guided by the Spirit; the Spirit guides. Creation is governed; the Spirit governs. Creation is comforted; the Spirit comforts. Creation is in bondage; the Spirit gives freedom. Creation is made wise; the Spirit gives the grace of wisdom. Creation partakes of the gifts; the Spirit bestows them at his pleasure—all these are works of the one and self-same Spirit, who divides to everyone plentifully as he will (1 Cor. 12:11).
One may find many other proofs from the Scriptures that all the supreme and divine attributes that Scripture applies to the Father and the Son are also to be contemplated in the Holy Spirit— immortality, blessedness, goodness, wisdom, power, justice, holiness. Every excellent attribute is predicated of the Holy Spirit just as it is predicated of the Father and of the Son, with the exception of those by which the Persons are clearly and distinctly divided from each other. For instance, the Holy Spirit is not called “Father” or “Son.” But all other names by which the Father and the Son are named are applied by Scripture to the Holy Spirit also. By this, then, we apprehend that the Holy Spirit is above creation. Thus, where the Father and the Son are understood to be, the Holy Spirit is understood to be there also. For the Father and the Son are above creation, and so our argument leads us to attach this attribute also to the Holy Spirit. So it follows that one who places the Holy Spirit above the creation has received the right and sound doctrine. For he will confess that uncreated nature which we behold in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit to be one.
Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 31
The Holy Ghost must certainly be conceived of either as in the category of the Self-existent, or as in that of the things which are contemplated in another; of which classes those who are skilled in such matters call the one Substance and the other Accident. Now if he were an Accident, he would be an Activity of God. For what else, or of whom else, could he be, for surely this is what most avoids composition? And if he is an Activity, he will be effected, but will not effect and will cease to exist as soon as he has been effected, for this is the nature of an Activity. How is it then that he acts and says such and such things, and defines, and is grieved, and is angered, and has all the qualities which belong clearly to one that moves, and not to movement? But if he is a Substance and not an attribute of Substance, he will be conceived of either as a Creature of God, or as God. For anything between these two, whether having nothing in common with either, or a compound of both, not even they who invented the goat-stag could imagine. Now, if he is a creature, how do we believe in him, how are we made perfect in Him? For it is not the same thing to believe in a thing and to believe about it. The one belongs to Deity, the other to—any thing. But if he is God, then He is neither a creature, nor a thing made, nor a fellow servant, nor any of these lowly appellations.
28. Were the Spirit not to be worshipped, how could he deify me through baptism? If he is to be worshipped, why not adored? And if to be adored, how can he fail to be God?
Theodore of Mopsuestia, Commentary on John 16
The Spirit as gift and gift-giver
“If I do not go away,” Christ says, “the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. This indeed is the order of things, so that when I am in glory but you are still anticipating participation in that glory, you may receive the grace of the Spirit. Therefore, if I go, you will also necessarily receive through the gift of the Spirit the participation in the gifts that I enjoy. But if I do not enjoy them first, you cannot expect them either.” And since he, by leaving them, shows that he will invite them to receive those gifts, he proves in many ways that the gift of the grace of the Spirit is great; and this is only right, because the Spirit provides all the gifts given to people.
Didymus the Blind, On the Holy Spirit 25, 27
Holy Spirit as Comforter
He calls the Holy Spirit the Comforter, a name taken from his office, which is not only to relieve the sadness of the faithful but also to fill them with unspeakable joy. Everlasting gladness is in those hearts in which the Spirit dwells. The Spirit, the Comforter, is sent by the Son, not as angels or prophets or apostles are sent, but as the Spirit must be sent which is of one nature with the divine wisdom and power that sends him. The Son, when sent by the Father, is not separated from him but abides in the Father and the Father in him. In the same way, the Holy Spirit is not sent by the Son and proceeds from the Father, in the sense of change of place. For as the Father’s nature, being incorporeal, is not local, so neither does the Spirit of truth, who is incorporeal also and superior to all created things, have a local nature.
Distinct not in nature but in activity
But the Holy Spirit was another Comforter differing not in nature but in operation. For whereas our Savior in his office of mediator and of messenger and as high priest made supplication for our sins, the Holy Spirit is a Comforter in another sense, that is, as consoling our griefs. But do not infer from the different operations of the Son and the Spirit a difference of nature. For in other places we find the Holy Spirit performing the office of intercessor with the Father, as when “the Spirit him self intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:26). And the Savior . . . pours consolation into those hearts that need it: as in Maccabees, he strengthened those of the people who were brought low.
The Spirit restores us to paradise
Finding us in a state of deformity, the Spirit restores our original beauty and fills us with his grace, leaving no room for anything unworthy of our love. The Spirit frees us from sin and death, and changes us from the earthly men we were, men of dust and ashes, into spiritual men, sharers in the divine glory, sons and heirs of God the Father who bear a likeness to the Son and are his co-heirs and brothers, destined to reign with him and to share his glory. In place of earth the Spirit reopens heaven to us and gladly admits us into paradise, giving us even now greater honor than the angels, and by the holy waters of baptism extinguishing the unquenchable fires of hell.
Augustine, On the Trinity 5.11.12
Holy Spirit as Gift and Communion of Father and Son
Therefore, since the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God, and certainly God is holy, and God is a spirit, the Trinity can be called also the Holy Spirit. But yet that Holy Spirit, who is not the Trinity, but is understood as in the Trinity, is spoken of in His proper name of the Holy Spirit relatively, since He is referred both to the Father and to the Son, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit both of the Father and of the Son. But the relation is not itself apparent in that name, but it is apparent when He is called the gift of God; for He is the gift of the Father and of the Son, because He proceeds from the Father, as the Lord says; and because that which the apostle says, Now, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His, he says certainly of the Holy Spirit Himself. When we say, therefore, the gift of the giver, and the giver of the gift, we speak in both cases relatively in reciprocal reference.
Therefore the Holy Spirit is a certain ineffable communion of the Father and the Son; and on that account, perhaps, he is so called, because the same name is suitable to both the Father and the Son. For He Himself is called specially that which they are called in common; because both the Father is a spirit and the Son a spirit, both the Father is holy and the Son holy. In order, therefore, that the communion of both may be signified from a name which is suitable to both, the Holy Spirit is called the gift of both. And this Trinity is one God, alone, good, great, eternal, omnipotent; itself its own unity, deity, greatness, goodness, eternity, omnipotence.
“The Holy Catholic Church”
Shepherd of Hermas, Visions 3.3.3–5
The church built upon the waters
3. “I, the church, am the tower that you see being built. I appeared to you both previously and now. Ask whatever you want to know concerning the tower, and I will reveal it to you, in order that you may rejoice with the saints.” 4. I said to her, “Lady, since you once considered me worthy to reveal everything to me, reveal it.” And she said to me, “Whatever can be revealed to you will be revealed. Only let your heart be with God, and do not be double-minded about what you see.” 5. I asked her, “Why, my lady, was the tower built on the waters?” She replied, “Even as I told you before, you do seek diligently. By seeking, therefore, you find the truth. Hear, then, why the tower was built on the waters. It is because your life was saved and will be saved through water. The tower has been founded on the word of the almighty and glorious Name and is strengthened by the invisible power of the Master.”
Clement of Alexandria, Instructor 18.104.22.168–43.1
Church as virgin mother
O mystical wonder! The universal Father is one; one also is the universal Word; and the Holy Spirit too is one and the same everywhere. One finally is the only virgin mother, whom I love to call the Church. This mother, when alone, had not milk, because alone she was not a woman. But she is once virgin and mother—pure as a virgin, loving as a mother. And calling her children to her, she nurses them with holy milk, that is, with the Word for childhood. Therefore she had not milk; for the milk was this child fair and comely, the body of Christ, which nourishes by the Word the young brood, which the Lord himself brought forth in throes of the flesh, which the Lord Himself swathed in His precious blood. O amazing birth! O holy swaddling bands! The Word is all to the child, both father and mother and tutor and nurse. Eat my flesh, he says, and drink my blood (John 6:53-54). Such is the suitable food which the Lord ministers, and he offers his flesh and pours forth his blood, and nothing is wanting for the children’s growth. O amazing mystery! We are enjoined to cast off the old and carnal corruption, as also the old nutriment, receiving in exchange another new regimen, that of Christ, receiving him if we can, to hide him within; and that, enshrining the Savior in our souls, we may correct the affections of our flesh.
Origen, Against Celsus 6.48
The Word animates the Church
We say that the divine words declare that the body of Christ animated by the Son of God is the whole church of God and the members of this body as a whole are those who are believers. Since as a soul gives life and moves the body, which has not by itself the natural ability of motion like a living being, even so the Word, moving and activating the whole body to the necessary things, moves the church and each member of the church, so that they do nothing apart from the Word.
Origen, Commentary on John 10
A Temple of Living Stones
10.16. Jesus found in the temple—which is also said to be the house of the Savior’s Father, that is, in the church or in the proclamation of the healthful word of the church—some who were making the house of the Father a house of commerce. And Jesus always finds some such in the temple. For when in what is named the church, which is the house “of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth,” are there not some money changers?
10.20. Both the temple and the body of Jesus, according to one interpretation, appear to me to be a type of the church inasmuch as it is called a “temple” built of “living stones,” being a spiritual house “for a holy priesthood,” built “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus being the chief cornerstone.” Through the statement, “You are the body of Christ and individually members,” [we know that] even if the union of the stones of the temple seem to be broken, or all the bones of Christ be “scattered,” as is written in the twenty-first Psalm, by the plots in persecutions and afflictions of those who wage war on the unity of the temple with persecutions, the temple and the body will be raised on the third day. . . . The body understood either way is to be called a temple, since even as the temple [in Jerusalem] had the glory of God dwelling in it, so the Firstborn of all creation possessing the image and glory of God is properly said to be the temple bearing the image of God, whether with respect to his body or to the church.
10.23.. If the body of Jesus is said to be his temple, it is worth inquiring whether this must be understood in a singular sense or each of the things written concerning the temple must be distinguished with regard to the saying concerning the body of Jesus, either the body he received from the virgin or the church, which is said to be his body, even as we are named members of his body by the apostle.
Methodius of Olympus, Symposium
The Church born from the side of Adam
3.8.70. The apostle accurately referred to Christ the things said to Adam. For it is most certainly agreed that the church came into being out of his bones and his flesh. For this cause the Word left the Father in heaven and came down to be joined to his wife, slept in the ecstasy of his passion, and died willingly for her “in order that he might present to himself the church glorious and blameless, having purified her by the bath.” He did this so that she might receive the blessed spiritual seed that he sows by prompting and planting it in the depth of the mind. The church in the manner of a woman receives and gives form to the seed in order to give birth and nourishment to virtue.
3.8.71. The church could not otherwise conceive and give new birth to believers through the bath unless Christ had emptied himself for their sake. . . . 3.8.72. This was in order that all those who have been built up in him might grow, namely, those who have been born through the bath from his bones and flesh, that is, receiving his holiness and his glory. . . .
3.8.74. For those who are the better and have indeed grasped the truth more clearly, these who on account of a perfect purification and faith have been withdrawn from the offenses of the flesh, become a church and “helper” of Christ, purified and given in marriage to him, a “virgin” according to the apostle (2 Cor. 11:2) in order that by receiving the pure and productive seed of his teaching they may become fellow workers and helpers in the preaching for the salvation of others.
Each of the saints becomes a christ by participating in Christ
8.8.190–91 8.8.190. The enlightened [i.e., the baptized] receive without modification the characteristics, the image, the virility of Jesus. The form of the Word according to his likeness is stamped in them and is generated in them according to an accurate knowledge and faith so that in each Christ is spiritually begotten. On account of this, the church swells and is in birth pangs until Christ has been born and “is formed” in us (Gal. 4:19) so that each of the saints may be born a christ by participating in Christ. This is borne out by the word in a certain Scripture, “Do not touch my anointed ones, and do no harm to my prophets” (Ps. 105:15), as if to say that those who have been baptized into Christ by participation in the Spirit have become christs. The church herein conceives by the Word their illumination and transformation.
Augustine, Letter 185.50
The Holy Spirit dwells in the Church
Hence the Catholic Church alone is the body of Christ, and its head is the savior of his body. The Holy Spirit gives life to no one outside this body, because, as the apostle himself says, The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. But one who is an enemy of unity has no share in the love of God. Those, therefore, who are outside the Church do not have the Holy Spirit. Of them scripture itself says, Those who keep themselves separate are merely natural and do not have the Spirit. But one who is in the Church only as a pretense does not receive the Spirit, because scripture says of such a person, For the Holy Spirit of discipline will flee from a hypocrite. One who wants to have the Holy Spirit, therefore, should avoid remaining outside the Church and should avoid entering her as a pretense, or, if he has entered her in that way, he should avoid remaining in that pretense so that he may truly grow in union with the tree of life.
Augustine, Sermon 267.4
The Holy Spirit as the “soul” of the Church
So none of you must say, “I have received the Holy Spirit; why aren’t I speaking with the tongues of all the nations?” If you want to have the Holy Spirit, consider this, my dear brothers and sisters: our spirit, by which every person lives, is called the soul. And you can see what the soul does in the body. It quickens all its parts; it sees through the eyes, hears through the ears, smells through the nostrils, speaks with the tongue, works with the hands, walks with the feet. It’s present simultaneously to all the body’s parts, to make them alive; it gives life to all, their functions to each. The eye doesn’t hear, the ear doesn’t see, the tongue doesn’t see, nor do ear and eye speak. But they’re alive, all the same; the ear’s alive, the tongue’s alive; different functions, life in common. That’s what the Church of God is like: in some of the saints it works miracles, in other saints it proclaims the truth, in other saints it preserves virginity, in other saints it preserves married chastity; in some this, in others that. All doing their own thing, but living the same life together.
In fact, what the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the body of Christ, which is the Church. The Holy Spirit does in the whole Church what the soul does in all the parts of one body. But notice what you should beware of, see what you should notice, notice what you should be afraid of. It can happen in the human body—or rather from the body—that one part is cut off, a hand, a finger, a foot; does the soul follow the amputated part? When it was in the body, it was alive, cut off, it loses life. In the same way too Christian men and women are Catholics, while they are alive in the body; cut off, they have become heretics, the Spirit doesn’t follow the amputated part. So if you wish to be alive with the Holy Spirit, hold on to loving kindness, love truthfulness, long for oneness, that you may attain to everlastingness. Amen.
Augustine, Exposition of the Psalms 30(2).3–4
The Whole Christ—Head and Body
He who deigned to assume the form of a slave, and within that form to clothe us with himself, he who did not disdain to take us up into himself, did not disdain either to transfigure us into himself, and to speak in our words, so that we in our turn might speak in his. This is the wonderful exchange, the divine business deal, the transaction effected in this world by the heavenly dealer. He came to receive insults and give honors, he came to drain the cup of suffering and give salvation, he came to undergo death and give life.
Facing death, then, because of what he had from us, he was afraid, not in himself but in us. When he said that his soul was sorrowful to the point of death (Matt. 26:38), we all unquestionably said it with him. Without him we are nothing, but in him we too are Christ. Why? Because the whole Christ consists of Head and body. The Head is he who is the savior of his body (Eph. 5:23), he who has already ascended into heaven; but the body is the Church, toiling on earth.
Were it not for the body’s linkage with its Head through the bond of charity, so close a link that Head and body speak as one, he could not have rebuked a certain persecutor from heaven with the question, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? (Acts 9:4). Already enthroned in heaven, Christ was not being touched by any human assailant, so how could Saul, by raging against the Christians on earth, inflict injury on him in any way? He does not say, “Why are you persecuting my saints?” or “my servants,” but “Why are you persecuting me? This is tantamount to asking, “Why attack my limbs?” The head was crying out on behalf of the members, and the Head was transfiguring the members into himself. . . .
He called the whole entity he had spoken about, “Christ.” A body is one single unit, with many members, but all the members of the body, numerous as they are, constitute one body; and it is the same with Christ. Many members: one body: Christ. All of us together with our Head are Christ, and without our Head we are helpless. Why? Because united with our Head we are the vine, but if cut off from our Head, we are only loppings, of no use to the vine-tenders and fit only for the bonfire (John 15:1–8) . . . . If we can achieve nothing without you, Lord, we can do everything in you. Yes, because whatever work he does through us seems to be our work. He can do plenty, or rather everything without us, but we can do nothing without him.
The Marks of the Church: One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic
Cyprian, On the Unity of the Church 4–7
The sacrament of unity
4. If anyone ponders and weighs these things, there is no need for a long discussion and argument. It is easy to prove the faith by a summary of the truth. The Lord says to Peter: “I tell you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound also in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed also in heaven” (Matt 16:18–19). And again he says to him after the resurrection: “Feed my sheep” (John 20:15).
Now he shares his power equally with all the apostles after his resurrection, saying: “Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you. Receive my Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they will be forgiven; if you retain the sins of anyone, they will be retained” (John 20:20–23). Nevertheless, in order to make unity evident, by his own authority he arranged for the source of this same unity to begin with one person. The other apostles were without doubt what Peter was, endowed with an equal partnership of honor and power, but the beginning proceeds from unity [Peter] so that the church of Christ might be shown to be one. In the Song of Songs also the Holy Spirit signifies that the church is one from the person of the Lord, saying: “One is my dove, my perfect one. She is her mother’s only one, the choice one of the one who begot her” (Song 6:9). Does a person who does not keep this unity of the church believe that he keeps the faith? Does a person who battles and resists the church have confidence that he is in the church when the blessed apostle Paul teaches the same thing and shows the mystery of the unity, saying: “There is one body and one spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God” (Eph. 4:4–6)?
5. This unity we must firmly maintain and affirm, especially we bishops who superintend the church, so that we may demonstrate that the episcopate is one and indivisible. Let no one deceive the brotherhood with a lie. Let no one corrupt the truth of faith with a faithless sham. The episcopate is one, a part of which is held in its entirety by an individual. One is the church, which is extended far and wide by the increase of her fruitfulness, in the same way as there are many rays of the sun but one light and many branches of a tree but one strength founded in a sturdy root. When many streams flow from one spring, although the number seems to be increased by the amount of water pouring out, still unity is preserved at the source. Pluck a ray of sun from the body; its unity allows no division of the light. Break a branch from a tree; broken, it will not be able to bud. Cut off a stream from the spring; cut off, it dries up. So too the church, glowing with the light of the Lord, extends her rays over the whole world; nevertheless it is one light that is diffused everywhere, nor is the unity of the body divided. With her rich supply, she extends her branches throughout the earth, wider and wider she expands her rippling streams. Yet there is one head and one source and one mother who is endlessly fertile. We are born from her womb, nourished by her milk, and animated by her spirit.
6. It is not possible for the spouse of Christ to be adulterous. She is uncorrupted and chaste. She knows one home; she guards the sanctity of one bedroom with pure chastity. She keeps us for God; she seals for the kingdom the sons whom she bore. Whoever separates from the church and is joined to an adulteress is separated from the promises of the church, nor does one who forsakes the church of Christ arrive at the rewards of Christ. That person is an alien, is profane, is an enemy. It is not possible for a person to have God any longer as Father who does not have the church as mother. If anyone who was outside the ark of Noah was able to escape, also the one who is outside the church may escape. The Lord warns and says, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and one who does not gather with me scatters’ (Matt 12:30). One who breaks the peace and harmony of Christ acts against Christ. One who gathers elsewhere outside the church scatters. The Lord says, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30). And again it is written concerning the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, “And these three are one” (1 John 5:7). Does anyone believe that this unity, which comes from divine strength and is united in celestial mysteries, can be split in the church and cut off by the divorce of clashing wills? One who does not keep this unity does not keep God’s law, nor faith in the Father and Son, nor life and salvation.
7. This mystery (sacramentum) of unity, this bond of harmony held together inseparably, is shown when in the Gospel the coat of the Lord Jesus Christ was not divided in any way nor torn, but when they cast lots for the garment of Christ (as to who should put on Christ), the garment was received whole and undamaged and the coat was possessed undivided. (John 19:23–24). . . . It bore the unity that comes “from above,” that is, which comes from heaven and from the Father, which could not be split at all by taking and possessing it but kept its complete and firm strength without division. It is not possible for the person who tears and divides the church of Christ to possess the garment of Christ.
Augustine, On Faith and the Creed 9.21
The Catholicity of the Church
We believe also in the “holy church,” assuredly the “catholic” church. For both heretics and schismatics style their congregations churches. Heretics, in holding false opinions regarding God, do injury to the faith itself. Schismatics, on the other hand, in wicked separations break off from brotherly love, even though they may believe just what we believe. Wherefore neither do the heretics belong to the church catholic, which loves God, nor do the schismatics form a part of the same, inasmuch as the church loves the neighbor, and consequently readily forgives the neighbor’s sins, because it prays that forgiveness may be extended to itself by him who has reconciled us to himself, doing away with all past things, and calling us to a new life. And until we reach the perfection of this new life, we cannot be without sins.
Maximus, Mystagogy 1
The Church as an image reflecting the archetype of God
It is in this way that the holy Church of God will be shown to be working for us the same effects as God, in the same way as the image reflects its archetype. For numerous and of almost infinite number are the men, women, and children who are distinct from one another and vastly different by birth and appearance, by nationality and language, by customs and age, by opinions and skills, by manners and habits, by pursuits and studies, and still again by reputation, fortune, characteristics, and connections: All are born into the Church and through it are reborn and recreated in the Spirit. To all in equal measure it gives and bestows one divine form and designation, to be Christ’s and to carry his name. . . . As different as they are by language, places, and customs, they are made one by it through faith. God realizes this union among the natures of things without confusing them but in lessening and bringing together their distinction, as was shown, in a relationship and union with himself as cause, principle, and end. (CWS 187–88)
Tertullian, Prescription against Heretics 20
On the Apostolic nature of the church
1. Christ Jesus, our Lord (if I may speak in this way for a little while), whoever he is, Son of whatever God, man and God of whatever substance, teacher of whatever faith, promisor of whatever mercy, 2. while he lived on earth, declared what he was, what he had been, what the Father’s will was that he was serving, what was decreed that human beings must do. He declared this either openly to the people or privately to his disciples, from whom he chose twelve as the chief ones at his side and designated them as teachers of the nations. 3. And so when one of them was excised as he was departing to the Father after the resurrection, he ordered the other eleven to go and teach the nations, baptizing into the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 4. [The twelve apostles] went out to the world and proclaimed the same doctrine and same faith to the nations. 5. Similarly in each city they founded churches, from whom subsequently other churches have borrowed and are daily borrowing the seeds of doctrine in order to become churches. 6. In this way indeed they are themselves considered as apostolic in that they are the offspring of apostolic churches. 7. Everything must necessarily be appraised according to its origin. For this reason, so many and so great churches are yet the one apostolic church from which all are derived. 8. Since all are primitive and all are apostolic, so all are one. The sharing of peace, the name of brotherhood, the common bond of hospitality prove their unity. 9. These privileges no other system directs than the one tradition of this very mystery.
“The Communion of Saints”
Ephrem, Hymns on Paradise 6.7–10
6.7. God planted the fair Garden,
He built the pure Church;
upon the Tree of Knowledge
He established the injunction.
He gave joy, but they took no delight,
He gave admonition, but they were unafraid.
In the Church He implanted the Word
which causes rejoicing with its promises,
which causes fear with its warnings:
he who despises the Word, perishes,
he who takes warning, lives.
6.8. The assembly of saints bears resemblance to Paradise:
in it each day is plucked
the fruit of Him who gives life to all;
in it, my brethren, is trodden
the cluster of grapes, to be the Medicine of Life.
. . .
6.9. Among the saints none is naked,
for they have put on glory,
nor is any clad in those leaves or standing in shame,
for they have found, through our Lord,
the robe that belongs to Adam and Eve.
As the Church purges her ears of the serpent’s poison,
those who had lost their garments,
having listened to it and become diseased,
have now been renewed and whitened.
6.10. . . . The Creator saw the Church and was pleased;
He resided in that Paradise
which she had planted for His honor,
just as He had planted the Garden for her delight.
(Trans. Sebastian Brock, Saint Ephrem: Hymns on Paradise, 111–12).
Augustine, Sermon 4.11
The Church includes those who lived before the birth of Jesus
Now by “Church,” brothers, you must understand not only those who began to be saints after the Lord’s advent and nativity, but all who have ever been saints belong to the same Church. You can’t say that our father Abraham does not belong to us, just because he lived before Christ was born of the virgin, and we have become Christians such a long time afterward, that is after Christ’s passion; after all, the apostle says that we are the children of Abraham by imitating Abraham’s faith (Rom. 4:16). If then we are admitted to the Church by imitating him, are we going to exclude the man himself from the Church? It is this Church that was represented by Rebecca the wife of Isaac. It was this Church that was also to be found in the holy prophets who understood the old testament, realizing that its material promises signified something or other spiritual. If it was spiritual, then all spiritual people belong to the younger son, because first comes the material one and afterward the spiritual.
Augustine, Homilies on the First Epistle of John 6.10
The Church includes those with whom we are not physically present
Let [the Christian] take care not to love only that brother of whom he takes notice before his eyes. For we do not see many brothers of ours, and yet, we are joined to them in the unity of the Spirit. What wonder that they are not with us? We are in one body, we have one head in heaven. Brothers, our eyes do not see themselves; they do not, as it were, know themselves. Can it be that they do not know themselves in the love of the bodily structure? For, that you may know that they know themselves in the conjoining of love, when both are open, it is not permitted for the right eye to take notice of anything of which the left one does not take notice. Direct the ray of the right eye without the other if you can. They converge at the same time, they are directed at the same time. Their focusing is one; their locations are different. If, then, all who love god with you have one focusing with you, take no care that you are separated in place by the body; you have together fixed the sight of your heart on the light of truth.
Augustine, Enchiridion 15.56
The Church comprises earthly and heavenly bodies
The correct sequence of the Creed demanded that the Church be subjoined to the Trinity, as a dwelling to its inhabitant, as a temple to God, and a city to its founder. And here the whole Church is to be understood—not just that part that sojourns on earth, praising the name of the Lord from the rising of the sun to its setting and chanting a new song of deliverance from its ancient captivity, but also that part that was always in heaven, which always remained loyal to God, its Creator, and did not experience the woe that springs from a fall. This part, consisting of the holy angels, abides in perpetual bliss and helps, as it should, the other part which is still in exile; for both parts will be one in the fellowship of eternity, and even now are one in the bond of charity, the whole Church having been instituted for the purpose of worshiping God. . . . Therefore, the temple of God, that is, of the sublime Trinity as a whole, is the Holy Church—the Church everywhere, in heaven and on earth.
Augustine, City of God 22.29
Joining the angels’ vision of God
We shall one day be made to participate, according to our slender capacity, in [God’s] peace, both in ourselves, and with our neighbor, and with God our chief good. In this respect, the angels understand the peace of God in their own measure, and humankind in its own measure, which is now far behind them, whatever spiritual advance they have made. We must remember how great a man it was who said, We know in part, and we prophesy in part, until that which is perfect has come and Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face (1 Cor. 13:9–10, 12). Such is also now the vision of the holy angels, who are also called our angels, because we, being rescued out of the power of darkness, and receiving the earnest of the Spirit, are translated into the kingdom of Christ, and already begin to belong to those angels with whom we shall enjoy that holy and most delightful city of God of which we have now written so much. The angels of God, then, are “our" angels, in the same way that Christ is God’s and also ours. They are God’s, because they have not abandoned him; they are ours because we are their fellow citizens. The Lord Jesus also said, See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always see the face of my Father which is in heaven (Matt. 18:10). As, then, they see, so shall we also see. But we do not yet see thus.
“The Forgiveness of Sins”
Herman, Visions 1.2.2
For after you have made known to them these words that my Lord has commanded me to reveal to you, they will then be forgiven all the sins that in former times they committed, and forgiveness will be granted to all the saints who have sinned even to the present day, if they repent with all their heart and drive all doubts from their minds. For the Lord has sworn by his glory, in regard to his elect, that if any one of them sin after a certain day that has been fixed, he shall not be saved. For the repentance of the righteous has limits. Filled up are the days of repentance to all the saints; but to the heathen, repentance will be possible even to the last day. You will tell, therefore, those who preside over the church, to direct their ways in righteousness, that they may receive in full the promises with great glory. Stand steadfast, therefore, you who work righteousness, and have no doubts so that your passage may be with the holy angels. Happy are you who endure the great tribulation that is coming on, and happy are they who shall not deny their own life
Justin Martyr, Apology 61
The forgiveness of sins in baptism
I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ; lest, if we omit this, we seem to be unfair in the explanation we are making. As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, Unless you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (John 3:5). Now, that it is impossible for those who have once been born to enter into their mothers’ wombs, is manifest to all. And how those who have sinned and repent shall escape their sins, is declared by Isaiah the prophet, as I wrote above; he thus speaks: Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from your souls; learn to do well; judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow: and come and let us reason together, says the Lord. And though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white like wool; and though they be as crimson, I will make them white as snow. But if you refuse and rebel, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it (Is. 1:16-20).
And for this [rite] we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe; he who leads to the laver the person that is to be washed calling him by this name alone. For no one can utter the name of the ineffable God; and if any one dare to say that there is a name, he raves with a hopeless madness. And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings. And in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Ghost, who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed.
Ambrose, On the Sacraments 2.22
Forgiveness in the Triune Name
Thus the Father forgives sin, so does the Son and so does the Holy Spirit. Do not be surprised that we are baptized in one name: in the name, that is, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; because Christ spoke of only one name where there is one substance, one divinity, one majesty. This is the name of which it is written: “In this must all find salvation.” It is in this name that you have all been saved, that you have been restored to the grace of life.
John Chrysostom, Baptismal Instructions 4.11
Adoption and Holiness are entailed with forgiveness and justification
I urge you to imitate [St. Paul]. You have deserved now to go under the yoke of Christ and you have enjoyed the benefit of filial adoption; now show forth, right from the beginning, such a fervor and faith in Christ that you may draw to yourselves richer graces from on high, and may make the garment given to you shine more brightly, and may enjoy the abundant favor of the Master. Even though you had never done anything good, even though you had the burden of your sins lying heavy upon you, he imitated his own goodness and judged you worthy of these great gifts. For he not only delivered you from your sins and gave you justification by his grace, but he also showed you forth as holy and made you his sons by adoption. If he has taken the lead in giving you such gifts, if you are eager, after receiving so much, to contribute your fair share, if you will show care in guarding and managing the gifts that have already been given, how can he fail to judge you worthy again of still greater liberality?
Rufinus of Aquileia, Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed 40
How can the forgiveness of evil deeds take place by a confession of words?
As to the forgiveness of sins, it ought to be enough simply to believe. For who would ask the cause or the reason when a prince grants indulgence? When the liberality of an earthly sovereign is no fit subject for discussion, shall human temerity discuss God’s largess? For the pagans are prone to ridicule us, saying that we deceive ourselves, fancying that crimes committed in deed can be purged by words. And they say, “Can he who has committed murder be no murderer, and he who has committed adultery be accounted no adulterer? How then shall one guilty of crimes of this sort all of a sudden be made holy.” But to this, as I said, we answer better by faith than by reason. For he is King of all who has promised it. He is Lord of heaven and earth who assures us of it. Would you have me refuse to believe that he who made me a man of the dust of the earth can of a guilty person make me innocent? And that he who when I was blind made me see, or when I was deaf made me bear, or lame walk, can recover for me my lost innocence? And to come to the witness of nature—to kill a man is not always criminal, but to kill of malice, not by law, is criminal. It is not the deed then, in such matters, that condemns me, because sometimes it is rightly done, but the evil intention of the mind. If then my mind, which had been rendered criminal and in which the sin originated, is corrected, why should I seem to you incapable of being made innocent, who before was criminal? For if it is plain, as I have shown, that crime consists not in the deed but in the will, as an evil will, prompted by an evil demon, has made me obnoxious to sin and death, so the will prompted by the good God, being changed to good, has restored me to innocence and life. It is the same also in all other crimes. In this way there is found to be no opposition between our faith and natural reason, while forgiveness of sins is imputed not to deeds, which when once done cannot be changed, but to the mind, which it is certain can be converted from bad to good.
Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John 3.9
So what then is grace for grace? By faith we gain God, and seeing that we didn’t deserve to be forgiven our sins, by the very fact of receiving such an undeserved gift, that is called grace. What does grace mean? Given gratis. What does given gratis mean? Bestowed, not paid back. If you were owed it, then it was a payment as per invoice, not a grace bestowed on you. If, though, it really was owed you, then you were good. If, however—and this is the truth—you were bad but believed in the one who justifies the godless—and what, after all, does “justifies the godless” mean if not “makes godly people out of godless ones”?—then just think what you had coming to you through the law and what you actually obtained through grace. But having obtained this grace of faith, as a result of your faith you will be just, since the just person lives from faith, and you will gain God by living from faith. When you have gained God by living from faith, you will receive immortality and eternal life as your reward. That too is grace. For what merit, I mean, do you receive eternal life? “For grace.” If faith were a grace, you see, and eternal life a kind of payment as per invoice for faith, it does indeed look like God is paying you back eternal life as something owed—but owed to whom? To a believer because you have earned it by faith—but because faith itself is a grace, eternal life too is grace for grace.
Augustine, Sermon 398.15–16
Three modes of forgiveness: baptism, prayer, penance
The forgiveness of sins. You have the creed complete in yourselves, when you are baptized. None of you must say, “I did this or that, perhaps it can’t be forgiven me.” What have you done? How serious was it? Tell me some monstrous sin you’ve committed, as grave as can be, horrific, which it’s horrifying even to think about; you’ve done whatever you like—have you killed Christ? There is nothing worse than that deed, because there’s also nothing better than Christ. How impiously wicked it is to kill Christ! Still, the Jews killed him, and many of them later on believed in him and drank his blood; the sin they had committed had been forgiven them.
When you have been baptized, go on living a good life according to God’s commandments, in order to keep your baptism unspoiled to the end. I’m not telling you that you will live here below without sin; but there are venial or pardonable sins, without which this life cannot be lived. Baptism was introduced on account of all sins; on account of the minor sins, without which we cannot exist here, the prayer was introduced. What does the prayer say? Forgive us our debts, just as we too forgive our debtors. We are washed just once by baptism, washed daily by the prayer. But don’t commit those sins for which you have to be cut off from the body of Christ, which God preserve you from. I mean, those people you can see here doing penance have committed wicked acts, whether adultery or other frightful deeds; that’s why they are doing penance. I mean, if their sins were slight, the daily prayer would be sufficient to blot them out.
So sins are forgiven in the church in three ways: by baptism, by the prayer and by the greater humiliation of penance. Still, God only forgives the sins of the baptized. The sins that he first forgives, he forgives only to the baptized. When? When they are baptized. The sins that are forgiven afterward to those who say the prayer, and to the penitents whom he forgives, he forgives those who have been baptized. After all, how can people say “our Father” when they haven’t yet been born? As long as they are catechumens, all their sins remain on them. If that’s the case with catechumens, how much more with pagans, how much more with heretics? (WSA 3/10:454–55)
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA, Explanation of the Letter to the Romans
In what sense are we “buried with him” in baptism?
Emmanuel gave up his soul for us; he died in the flesh. We also were buried together with him when we were baptized. Does this mean that our flesh died in the same way as his did? Hardly. Come, let me explain in what sense we were buried with him in a death like his. Christ died in the flesh in order to remove the sin of the world, but we do not die to the flesh so much as to guilt, as it is written. Thus now we have to break down the power of sin within us by mortifying our earthly members As we have died a death like his, so we shall also be conformed to his resurrection, because we shall live in Christ. It is true that the flesh will come to life again, but still we shall live in another way, by dedicating our souls to him and by being transformed into holiness and a kind of glorious life in the Holy Spirit.
“The Resurrection of the Body”
Athenagoras, On the Resurrection of the Dead 3
Moreover, that His power is sufficient for the raising of dead bodies is shown by the creation of these same bodies. For if, when they did not exist, He made at their first formation the bodies of men, and their original elements, He will, when they are dissolved, in whatever manner that may take place, raise them again with equal ease: for this, too, is equally possible to Him. And it is no damage to the argument, if some suppose the first beginnings to be from matter, or the bodies of men at least to be derived from the elements as the first materials, or from seed. For that power which could give shape to what is regarded by them as shapeless matter, and adorn it, when destitute of form and order, with many and diverse forms, and gather into one the several portions of the elements, and divide the seed which was one and simple into many, and organize that which was unorganized, and give life to that which had no life — that same power can reunite what is dissolved, and raise up what is prostrate, and restore the dead to life again, and put the corruptible into a state of incorruption. And to the same Being it will belong, and to the same power and skill, to separate that which has been broken up and distributed among a multitude of animals of all kinds which are wont to have recourse to such bodies, and glut their appetite upon them — to separate this, I say, and unite it again with the proper members and parts of members, whether it has passed into some one of those animals, or into many, or thence into others, or, after being dissolved along with these, has been carried back again to the original elements, resolved into these according to a natural law — a matter this which seems to have exceedingly confounded some, even of those admired for wisdom, who, I cannot tell why, think those doubts worthy of serious attention which are brought forward by the many.
Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh 57
The integrity of resurrected persons
What is belief in the resurrection, unless believing it entire? For if the flesh is to be restored
from dissolution, much more will it be recalled from discomfort. Greater things prescribe the rule for the lesser. Is not the amputation or the crippling of any member the death of that member? If
general death is rescinded by resurrection, what of partial death? If we are changed into glory, how much more into health? The defects that accrue to bodies are an accident; their integrity is a property. In the latter we are born. Even if we are crippled in the womb, this happens to one who is already man—the species is there before the accident. As life is given us by God, so also is it given again. As we were when we received it, so are we also when we receive it back. Our restoration is a gift to nature, not to injury. We live again as what we are born, not as what damage makes us.
If God does not raise them up entire, he is not raising the dead. For what dead man is entire, even if he is entire when he dies? Who is in health, that has ceased to breathe? What body is uninjured when it is dead, cold, pallid, stiff, a corpse? When is a man more weak than when he is wholly weak? When is he more palsied than when he is motionless? Thus for a dead man to be raised again is precisely the same as for him to be made entire. Otherwise, he will still be dead to the extent that he has not risen again. God is competent to remake what he has made. That this power and this generosity are his, he has already given pledges in Christ—nay more, he has set him in evidence not only as one who raises up the flesh again, but also as one who makes it whole. . . . Thus the flesh will indeed remain, even after the resurrection, to that extent passible to which it is itself and the same self, while yet impassible in that it has received its freedom from its Lord, with the express intent that it should not be capable of suffering any more. (Trans. Evans, 170–71, alt.)
Aphrahat, Demonstrations 8.1, 3, 6
1. At all times controversies arise on the issue of how the dead shall rise and with what kind of body they shall come [1 Cor. 15:35]. For see how the body is decomposed and corrupted. And as time runs on, even the bones waste away and are unrecognizable. . . .
Therefore, O foolish one, be instructed by this, that each of the seeds is clothed in its own body. Have you ever sown wheat but reaped barley? Or planted a grape vine that produced figs? Of course not! Everything grows according to its nature. So also the body that was laid in the earth is that which shall rise again.
And as to the fact that the body is corrupted and wastes away, you ought to be instructed by the parable of the seed. The seed, when it is cast into the earth, decays and is corrupted, and from its decay it produces and buds and bears fruit.
6. Concerning the resurrection of the dead, my beloved, I will instruct you as best I can. From the beginning God created Adam—molding him from the dust of the earth and raising him up. For if, while Adam was not, God made him from nothing, how much easier now is it for Him to raise him up? For behold, he is sown in the earth as a seed. And if God should do those things that are easy for us to do, His works would not appear very impressive to us. For among humankind, there are artisans and craftsmen who make all sorts of wonderful things, and other people stand in awe of what they have made, their work appearing difficult in their eyes. How much more should the works of God be seen as marvelous!
But for God it was no great thing that the dead should be made alive. Even before seed was sown in the earth, the earth produced that which had not been cast into it. Before it had conceived, it bore in its virginity. How then is it difficult for the earth to bring forth again what had been cast into it, and after conception should bear? And, see, her travail-pains are near. As Isaiah said, “Who has seen anything like this and who has heard such things as these? That the earth should travail in one day, and a people should be born in one hour?” (Is. 66:8). For Adam unsown sprang up; unconceived he was born. But see, now his offspring are sown, and wait for the rain, and shall spring up. And see, the earth teems with many, and the time of her bringing forth is at hand.
Ephrem the Syrian, Sermon 1
On the resurrected body
One who dies in the womb of his mother and never comes to life will be quickened at the moment [of resurrection] by [Christ] who quickens the dead; he will then be brought forth as an adult. If a woman dies while pregnant, and the child in her womb dies with her, that child will at the resurrection grow up and know its mother; and she will know her child. (Sermones III, ed. Beck, vol. 321.139, sermon 1, lines 517–24, p. 14; trans. C. W. Bynum, Resurrection of the Body, 77.)
Ephrem the Syrian, Sermon 2
On the resurrection of martyrs
For the works of each will be to him a garment that he bears on his body. So one will wear the clothing of fasts and watching, prayers and humility, another the manual of belief and the crown of chastity. The members of one will be stamped with the traces of iron teeth, the rack, and beatings. Another will bear on her shoulder a brand or carry severed members … and by them you also [will stand] who have cared for them. For many will appear there clad in the garment of penitence, which they have persecuted. (Sermones III, ed. Beck, vol. 321.139, sermon 2, lines 360–93, p. 28; trans. C. W. Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body )
Augustine, On Faith and the Creed 10.24
24. According to the Christian faith, therefore, which cannot deceive, the body will rise again. And if this sounds incredible to anyone, it is because he understands flesh in its present condition, not as it is destined to be in the future, because at that moment of angelic transformation it will no longer be flesh and blood but only a body. Speaking about flesh, the apostle states, There will be one kind of flesh for beasts, another for birds, another for fish, another for creeping things (1 Cor 15:39–40). Paul did not add “and also heavenly flesh” but both heavenly and earthly bodies. For all flesh is of necessity corporeal, but not every body is flesh because, starting with those earthly bodies, a piece of wood is a body, but not flesh; humans and beasts are comprised both of body and flesh; but among the heavenly bodies no flesh is to be found, only bodies pure and simple, which the apostle calls spiritual, and others call ethereal. Paul’s statement, therefore, that flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50), does not contradict the doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh; rather, he is explaining what we not term flesh and blood will be like in the future.
[Augustine later commented on this passage that it should not be interpreted in such a way as to imply that resurrected bodies lose either their physical members or the substance of flesh. Instead, one should refer to the resurrected Christ, who was not only seen in the flesh but also touched. “Hence it is certain that the apostle did not deny that the substance of the flesh will exist in the kingdom of God, but that under the name of ‘flesh and blood,” he designated either men who live after the flesh, or the express corruption of the flesh, which assuredly at that period shall subsist no more.” He then refers his readers to his later work, the City of God, wherein he treats the resurrection body in more detail. See Retractions 1.7]
Jerome, Against John of Jerusalem
On the reality of fleshly resurrection, against Origenists
29. The true confession of the resurrection declares that the flesh will be glorious, but without destroying its reality. And when the Apostle says, This is corruptible and mortal (1 Cor. 15:53), his words denote this very body, that is to say, the flesh that was then seen. But when he adds that it puts on incorruption and immortality, he does not say that what is put on—that is, the clothing, does away with the body that it adorns in glory, but that it makes that body glorious, which before lacked glory, so that the more worthless robe of mortality and weakness being laid aside, we may be clothed with the gold of immortality, and, so to speak, with the blessedness of strength as well as virtue; since we wish not to be stripped of the flesh, but to put on over it the vesture of glory, and desire to be clothed upon with our house, which is from heaven, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. . . .
30. And in my flesh, Job says, I shall see God (Job 19:26). When all flesh shall see the salvation of God, and Jesus as God, then I, also, shall see the Redeemer and Savior, and my God. But I shall see him in that flesh that now tortures me, which now melts away for pain. Therefore, in my flesh shall I behold God, because by his own resurrection he has healed all my infirmities. Does it not seem to you that Job was then writing against Origen, and was holding a controversy similar to ours against the heretics,* for the reality of the flesh in which he underwent tortures? For he could not bear to think that all his sufferings would be in vain; while the flesh he actually bore was tortured as flesh indeed, it would be some other and spiritual kind of flesh that would rise again. . . .
31. I will openly confess the faith of the Church. The reality of a resurrection without flesh and bones, without blood and members, is unintelligible. Where there are flesh and bones, where there are blood and members, there must of necessity be diversity of sex. Where there is diversity of sex, there John is John, Mary is Mary. You need not fear the marriage of those who, even before death, lived in their own sex without discharging the functions of sex. When it is said, In that day they shall neither marry, nor be given in marriage (Matt. 22:30), the words refer to those who can marry and yet will not do so. For no one says of the angels that they shall not marry, nor be given in marriage. I have never heard of a marriage being celebrated among the spiritual virtues in heaven. But where there is sex, there you have man and woman. . . . Who can have any glory from a life of chastity if we did not have a sex that would make unchastity possible? Whoever crowned a stone for continuing a virgin? Likeness to the angels is indeed promised us—that is, the blessedness of their angelic existence without flesh—and sex will be bestowed on us in our flesh and with our sex. I am simple enough so to believe, and so know how to confess that sex can exist without the functions of the senses; that it is thus that men rise, and that it is thus that they are made equal to the angels. Nor will the resurrection of the members all at once seem superfluous, because they are to have no office, since, while we are still in this life, we strive not to perform the works of the members. Moreover, likeness to the angels does not imply a changing of men into angels, but their growth in immortality and glory.
* Jerome refers here to the “Origenist controversy” in the late fourth century, which hinged upon many controversial positions attributed to Origen, including the view that resurrected bodies would not be fleshly but ethereal or angelic.
Augustine, City of God 13.22
On resurrected bodies
22. The bodies which the righteous will have after the resurrection, then, will need not tree to guard them against death from sickness or old age, nor other corporeal food to protect them from any kind of hunger or thirst. For they will be endued with the reward of an immortality so certain, and so inviolable in every way, that they will not eat except when they wish, having the power to do so, but no need. . . . Hence, they will be spiritual not because they will cease to be bodies, but because they will be sustained by a quickening Spirit.
23. Those bodies are called spiritual . . . which, possessing a quickening spirit, have the substance of flesh, but not its heaviness and corruption. Man will then not be earthly, but heavenly: not because his body, which was made of earth, will no longer be itself, but because, by heaven’s gift, it will have been made fit to dwell in heaven: not by losing its nature, but by changing its quality.
Augustine, City of God 22.17
On gendered resurrected bodies
In view of the words, Till we all come to a perfect man, to the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ, and Conformed to the image of the Son of God, not a few people believe that women will not be resurrected as female in sex, but that all are to be men, because God made only man of earth, and the woman from the man. But it seems to me that the better opinion is that of those who do not doubt that both sexes are to rise. For then there will be no lust, which is now the cause of confusion. For before they sinned, the man and the woman were naked, and were not ashamed. Vice will be taken away from those bodies, therefore, and nature preserved. And the sex of a woman is not a vice, but nature. They will then be exempt from sexual intercourse and childbearing, but the female parts will nonetheless remain in being, accommodated not to the old uses, but to a new beauty, which, so far from inciting lust, which no longer exists, will move us to praise the wisdom and clemency of God, who both made what was not and redeemed from corruption what he made.
Augustine, City of God 22.29
How spiritual bodies will see God
29. Now let us consider, with such ability as God may provide, how the saints shall be employed when they are clothed in immortal and spiritual bodies, and when the flesh shall live no longer in a fleshly but a spiritual fashion. To tell the truth, I am at a loss to understand the nature of that employment—or, I should say, of that repose and ease—for it has never come within the range of my bodily senses. . . . When I am asked, therefore, how the saints shall be employed in that spiritual body, I speak out of what I believe, not what I have seen (2 Cor. 4:13). I say, then, that the saints shall see God in their bodies. But whether they shall see him by means of the body—as now we see the sun, moon, stars, sea, earth, and all that is in it—that is a difficult question! For it is hard to say that the saints will then have bodies in which they cannot open or shut their eyes as they please. But it is even harder to say that anyone who shuts his or eyes shall lose the vision of God. . . .
Nevertheless the bodily eyes also shall have their office and their place, and shall be used by the spirit through the spiritual body. . . . Far be it, then, from us to say that in the life to come the saints shall not see God when their eyes are shut, since they shall always see him with the spirit.
But the question arises, whether the saints shall see God with the bodily eye—even when their eyes are opened? If the eyes of the spiritual body have the same kind of power as the eyes that we now possess, obviously God cannot be seen with them. They must, then, be of a very different power if they are able to look upon that incorporeal nature—that nature not contained in any place but is all present in every place (ubique totus). For though we say that God is in heaven and on earth, . . . we do not mean that there is one part of God in heaven and another part on earth, but he is all in heaven and all on earth. And he does not appear at different periods of time, but all at once—as no bodily nature can be. The eye, then, shall have a vastly superior power—the power not of keen sight, such as is ascribed to serpents or eagles, . . . but the power of seeing things incorporeal.
[He goes on to affirm that God will be seen by the “eyes of the heart” (Matt. 5:8) and that God will be seen in the body of Christ, for he “certainly was seen in the body, and shall be seen in the body when he judges quick and dead. And that Christ is the salvation of God, many other passages of Scripture witness.” He continues to ask in what way resurrected spiritual bodies will see the incorporeal nature of God]
It is thoroughly credible that we shall in the future world see the material forms of the new heavens and the new earth in such a way that we shall most distinctly recognize God everywhere present and governing all things—material as well as spiritual—and shall see him, not as we now understand the invisible things of God, by the things which are made (Rom. 1:20), and see him darkly, as in a mirror, and in part—in faith rather than by a bodily vision of material appearances. But it may also be that we will see God by means of the bodies we shall wear and which we shall see wherever we turn our eyes. It will be similar to the way in which we now see other people who are alive, exercising all their vital functions. We see—we do not just believe—that they are alive. But we cannot see the life force in a person apart from his or her body. Instead, we see it most distinctly by means of their bodies. Analogously, then, we can say that wherever we shall look with those spiritual eyes of our future bodies, we shall then, too, by means of bodily substances, behold God, though a spirit, ruling all things.
Either, therefore, the eyes shall possess some quality similar to that of the mind, by which they may be able to discern spiritual things, and among these God—a supposition for which it is difficult or even impossible to find any support in Scripture—or, which is easier to comprehend, God will be so known by us, and shall be so much before us, that we shall see him by the spirit in ourselves, in one another, in himself, in the new heavens and the new earth, in every created thing which shall then exist. By the body we shall also see him in every body that the keen vision of the eye of the spiritual body shall reach. Our thoughts also will be visible to all, for then shall be fulfilled the words of the apostle, Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the thoughts of the heart, and then shall every one have praise of God (1 Cor. 4:5).
Maximus the Confessor, Ambiguum 7.4
The body too shares in immortality
Out of God’s great goodness human beings were composed of a soul and body. The rational and the intellectual soul given to man is made in the image of its maker and through desire and intense love it holds fast to God and participates in the divine life. The soul becomes godlike through divinization and because God cares for what is lower, that is the body, and has given the command to love one’s neighbor, the soul prudently makes use of the body. By practicing the virtues the body gains familiarity with God and becomes a fellow servant with the sou. God who dwells in the soul uses it as an instrument to relate to the body and through the intimate bond between body and soul makes it possible for the body to share in the gift of immortality. The result is that what God is to the soul the soul becomes to the body, and the one God, Creator of all, is shown to reside proportionally in all beings through human nature.
Things that are by nature separated from one another return to a unity as they converge together in one human being. When this happens God will be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28), permeating all things and at the same time giving independent existence to all things in himself Then no existing thing will wander aimlessly or be deprived of God’s presence. For through the presence of God we are called gods (John 10:35), children of God (John 1:12), the body (Eph. 1:23), and members (Eph. 5:30) of God, even “portion of God” [Gregory Nazianzus, Or. 14.7, a phrase Maximus is interpreting against an Origenist reading]. In God’s purpose this is the end toward which our lives are directed. For this end man was brought into the world. (Trans. Wilken, PPS 25:66)
“And the Life Everlasting”
Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4.20.5–7
The vision of God
5. The prophets indicated beforehand that God should be seen by humankind. The Lord also says as much: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt. 5:8). But in respect to his greatness and his wonderful glory, “no one will see God and live” (Ex. 33:20). For the Father is incomprehensible. But in regard to his love and kindness, and as to his infinite power, even this he grants to those who love him, that is, to see God. This is also what the prophets predicted. “For those things that arc impossible with people are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). For a mortal does not see God by his own powers. But when God pleases, he is seen by human beings—by whom he wills, when he wills, and as he wills. For God is all powerful, having been seen at that time indeed, prophetically through the Spirit and seen, too, adoptively through the Son. And he will also be seen paternally in the kingdom of heaven, the Spirit truly preparing man in the Son of God and the Son leading him to the Father, while the Father, too, confers on him incorruption for eternal life that comes to everyone from the fact of his seeing God.
For as those who see the light are within the light and partake of its brilliancy. Analogously, those who see God are in God and receive his splendor. His splendor enlivens them. Those, therefore, who see God receive life. This is why he, although beyond comprehension and boundless and invisible, rendered himself visible and comprehensible and within the capacity of those who believe. He did this so that he might enliven those who receive and behold him through faith. For as his greatness is beyond human discovery, so also his goodness is beyond expression. By his goodness having been seen, he bestows life on those who see him. It is not possible to live apart from life, and the means of life is found in fellowship with God. And fellowship with God is to know him and to enjoy his goodness.
Athenagoras, On the Resurrection of the Dead 12
God made humanity for himself
If man has been created neither without cause and in vain (for none of God’s works is in vain, so far at least as the purpose of their Maker is concerned), nor for the use of the Maker himself, or of any of the works which have proceeded from him, it is quite clear that . . . God made man for himself, in pursuance of the goodness and wisdom that are conspicuous throughout the creation. However, according to the view that more nearly touches created beings, he made humanity for the sake of the life of those created, which is not kindled for a little while and then extinguished.
For to creeping things, I suppose, and birds, and fishes, or, to speak more generally, all irrational creatures, God has assigned such a life as that. But to those who bear upon them the image of the Creator Himself, and are endowed with understanding, and blessed with a rational judgment, the Creator has assigned perpetual duration, in order that, recognizing their own Maker, and His power and skill, and obeying law and justice, they may pass their whole existence free from suffering, in the possession of those qualities with which they have bravely borne their preceding life, although they lived in corruptible and earthly bodies.
For whatever has been created for the sake of something else, when that has ceased to be for the sake of which it was created, will itself also fitly cease to be, and will not continue to exist in vain, since, among the works of God, that which is useless can have no place; but that which was created for the very purpose of existing and living a life naturally suited to it, since the cause itself is bound up with its nature, and is recognized only in connection with existence itself, can never admit of any cause which shall utterly annihilate its existence. But since this cause is seen to lie in perpetual existence, the being so created must be preserved for ever, doing and experiencing what is suitable to its nature, each of the two parts of which it consists contributing what belongs to it, so that the soul may exist and remain without change in the nature in which it was made, and discharge its appropriate functions (such as presiding over the impulses of the body, and judging of and measuring that which occurs from time to time by the proper standards and measures), and the body be moved according to its nature towards its appropriate objects, and undergo the changes allotted to it, and, among the rest (relating to age, or appearance, or size), the resurrection. For the resurrection is a species of change, and the last of all, and a change for the better of what still remains in existence at that time.
Gregory of Nyssa, Life of Moses 219–239
Eternal Progress in the Vision of God
219. How does someone who Scripture says saw God clearly in such divine appearances—face to face, as a man speaks with his friend (Ex. 33:11)—require that God appear to him, as though he who is always visible had not yet been seen, as though Moses had not yet attained what Scripture testifies he had indeed attained? . . .
225. If nothing comes from above to hinder its upward thrust (for the nature of the Good attracts to itself those who look to it), the soul rises ever higher and will always make its flight yet higher—by its desire of the heavenly things straining ahead for what is still to come, as the Apostle says (Phil. 3:13).
226. Made to desire and not to abandon the transcendent height by the things already attained, it makes its way upward without ceasing, ever through its prior accomplishments renewing its intensity for the flight. Activity directed toward virtue causes its capacity to grow through exertion; this kind of activity alone does not slacken its intensity by the effort, but increases it.
227. For this reason we also say that the great Moses, as he was becoming ever greater, at no time stopped in his ascent, nor did he set a limit for himself in his upward course. Once having set foot on the ladder which God set up (as Jacob says), he continually climbed to the step above and never ceased to rise higher, because he always found a step higher than the one he had attained. . . .
230. He shone with glory. And although lifted up through such lofty experiences, he is still unsatisfied in his desire for more. He still thirsts for that with which he constantly filled himself to capacity, and he asks to attain as if he had never partaken, beseeching God to appear to him, not according to his capacity to partake, but according to God’s true being.
231. Such an experience seems to me to belong to the soul which loves what is beautiful. Hope always draws the soul from the beauty which is seen to what is beyond, always kindles the desire for the hidden through what is constantly perceived. Therefore, the ardent lover of beauty, although receiving what is always visible as an image of what he desires, yet longs to be filled with the very stamp of the archetype.
232. And the bold request which goes up the mountains of desire asks this: to enjoy the Beauty not in mirrors and reflections, but face to face. The divine voice granted what was requested in what was denied, showing in a few words an immeasurable depth of thought. The munificence of God assented to the fulfillment of his desire, but did not promise any cessation or satiety of the desire.
233. He would not have shown himself to his servant if the sight were such as to bring the desire of the beholder to an end, since the true sight of God consists in this, that the one who looks up to God never ceases in that desire. For he says: You cannot see my face, for man cannot see me and live (Ex. 33:20)
234. Scripture does not indicate that this causes the death of those who look, for how would the face of life ever be the cause of death to those who approach it? On the contrary, the Divine is by its nature life-giving. Yet the characteristic of the divine nature is to transcend all characteristics. Therefore, he who thinks God is something to be known does not have life, because he has turned from true Being to what he considers by sense perception to have being.
235. True Being is true life. This Being is inaccessible to knowledge. If then the life-giving nature transcends knowledge, that which is perceived certainly is not life. It is not in the nature of what is not life to be the cause of life. Thus, what Moses yearned for is satisfied by the very things which leave his desire unsatisfied.
236. He learns from what was said that the Divine is by its very nature infinite, enclosed by no boundary. If the Divine is perceived as though bounded by something, one must by all means consider along with that boundary what is beyond it. For certainly that which is bounded leaves off at some point, as air provides the boundary for all that flies and water for all that live in it. Therefore, fish are surrounded on every side by water, and birds by air. The limits of the boundaries which circumscribe the birds or the fish are obvious: The water is the limit to what swims and the air to what flies. In the same way, God, if he is conceived as bounded, would necessarily be surrounded by something different in nature. It is only logical that what encompasses is much larger than what is contained.
237. Now it is agreed that the Divine is good in nature. But what is different in nature from the Good is surely something other than the Good. What is outside the Good is perceived to be evil in nature. But it was shown that what encompasses is much larger than what is encompassed. It most certainly follows, then, that those who think God is bounded conclude that he is enclosed by evil.
238. Since what is encompassed is certainly less than what encompasses, it would follow that the stronger prevails. Therefore, he who encloses the Divine by any boundary makes out that the Good is ruled over by its opposite. But that is out of the question. Therefore, no consideration will be given to anything enclosing infinite nature. It is not in the nature of what is unenclosed to be grasped. But every desire for the Good which is attracted to that ascent constantly expands as one progresses in pressing on to the Good.
239. This truly is the vision of God: never to be satisfied in the desire to see him. But one must always, by looking at what he can see, rekindle his desire to see more. Thus, no limit would interrupt growth in the ascent to God, since no limit to the Good can be found nor is the increasing of desire for the Good brought to an end because it is satisfied. (Trans. CWS, 111–16)
Augustine, City of God 22.30
God himself is the true reward
30. How great shall be that felicity, where there will be no evil, where no good thing will be lacking, and where we shall be free to give ourselves up to the praise of God, who will be all in all! For I do not know how else we might occupy ourselves, in a condition where we will neither cease from work through idleness nor be driven to work out of need or lack. I am admonished also by that holy canticle, in which I read or hear, Blessed are they that dwell in Your house, O Lord; they will be still praising You (Ps. 84:4). All the members and organs of the incorruptible body, which now we see to be suited to various necessary uses, will contribute to the praises of God. For in that life, necessity will have no place, but full, certain, secure, everlasting felicity. . . .
The reward of virtue will be God himself, who gives virtue, and who has promised himself to us—there is nothing greater or better than this. What else was meant by his word through the prophet, I will be your God, and you shall be my people (Lev. 26:12) than, “I shall be their satisfaction, I shall be all that men honorably desire—life, and health, and nourishment, and plenty, and glory, and honor, and peace, and all good things”? This, too, is the right interpretation of the saying of the apostle, That God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28). God will be the end of our desires. He will be seen without end, loved without stint, praised without weariness. And this duty, this affection, this employment, will, like eternity itself, common to all. . . .
True Freedom is the inability to Sin
They will then no longer be able to delight in sin. But this does not mean that free will must be withdrawn. On the contrary, free will be all the more truly free, because it will be freed from delight in sinning to take a constant delight in not sinning. For the first freedom of will that humanity received when first created consisted in an ability to either sin or not to sin. But this last freedom of will will be superior, in that it will consist in not being able to sin. This, indeed, shall not be a natural ability, but the gift of God. For it is one thing to be God, another thing to be a partaker of God. God by nature cannot sin, but the partaker of God receives this inability from God. And in this divine gift there was to be observed this gradation—that man should first receive a free will by which he was able not to sin, and at last a free will by which he was not able to sin. The former was adapted to the acquiring of merit, the latter to the enjoying of the reward. . . . By sinning, we lost both piety and happiness. But when we lost happiness, we did not lose the love of it. Are we to say that God himself is not free because he cannot sin? In that city, then, there shall be free will, one in all the citizens, and indivisible in each, delivered from all ill, filled with all good, enjoying indefeasibly the delights of eternal joys, oblivious of sins, oblivious of sufferings, and yet not so oblivious of its deliverance as to be ungrateful to its Deliverer. . . .
We ourselves shall be the sabbath rest
Certainly that city shall have no greater joy than the celebration of the grace of Christ, who redeemed us by his blood. There shall be accomplished the words of the psalm, Be still, and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10). There will then be the great Sabbath that has no evening, which God celebrated among his first works, as it is written, And God rested on the seventh day from all His works which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it He had rested from all His work which God began to make (Gen. 2:2–3). For we shall ourselves be the seventh day, when we shall be filled and replenished with God’s blessing and sanctification. There we will be still, and know that he is God (Ps. 46:10). We will know that he is what we aspired to be when we fell away from him by listening to the voice of the seducer, You shall be as gods (Gen. 3:5). We abandoned God, who would have made us as gods, not by deserting him, but by participating in him. For without him what have we accomplished but perishing in his anger? But when we are restored by him, and perfected with greater grace, we shall have eternal leisure to see that he is God, for we shall be full of him when he shall be all in all.
Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names 4
On the world to come and its relation to the present age
But in time to come, when we are incorruptible and immortal, when we have come at last to the blessed inheritance of being like Christ, then, as Scripture says, we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17). In most holy contemplation, we shall be ever filled with the sight of God shining gloriously around us as once it shone for the disciples at the divine transfiguration. And there we shall be, our minds away from passion and from earth, and we shall have a conceptual gift of light from him and, somehow, in a way we cannot know, we shall be united with him and, our understanding carried away, blessedly happy, we shall be struck by his blazing light. Marvelously, our minds will be like those in the heavens above. We shall be equal to angels and sons of God, being sons of the resurrection (Luke 20:36). That is what the truth of scripture affirms.
But as for now, what happens is this. We use whatever appropriate symbols we can for the things of God. With these analogies we are raised upward toward the truth of the mind’s vision, a truth which is simple and one. We leave behind us all our own notions of the divine. We call a halt to the activities of our minds and, to the extent that is proper, we approach the ray which transcends being. Here, in a manner no words can describe, preexisted all the goals of all knowledge and it is of a kind that neither intelligences nor speech can lay hold of it nor can it at all be contemplated since it surpasses everything and is wholly beyond our capacity to know it. Transcendently it contains within itself the boundaries of every natural knowledge and energy. At the same time it is established by an unlimited power beyond all the celestial minds. And if all knowledge is of that which is and is limited to the realm of the existent, then whatever transcends being must also transcend knowledge. (trans. Colm Luibheid, 52–53).
Maximus the Confessor, Ambiguum 7.3
In [Gregory of Nazianzus’] Oration on Hail, he . . . says: “The [saints] will be welcomed by the ineffable light and will contemplate the holy and majestic Trinity that shines clearly and brightly and unites itself wholly to the entire soul. This alone I take to be the kingdom of heaven” [Or. 16.9]. And now I dare to add my words to his. This will take place when every rational creature—whether angels or human beings—is filled with delight over spiritual pleasures, and has not carelessly corrupted the divine logoi that by nature were inclined towards the end set for them by the Creator. Instead, they have kept themselves wholly chaste and steadfast, confident in the knowledge that they are to become instruments of the divine nature (cf. 2 Pet. 1:3–4). The fullness of God permeates them wholly as the soul permeates the body, and they become, so to speak, limbs of a body, well adapted and useful to the master. He directs them as he thinks best, filling them with his own glory and blessedness, and bestows on them unending life beyond imagining, wholly free from the signs of corruption that mark the present age.
He gives them life—not the life that comes from breathing air, nor that of veins coursing with blood, but the life that comes from being wholly infused with the fullness of God. God becomes to the soul (and through the soul to the body) what the soul is to the body, as God alone knows, so that the soul receives changelessness and the body immortality. Hence, the whole man, as the object of divine action, is divinized by being made God by the grace of God who became man. He remains wholly man in soul and body by nature, and becomes wholly God in body and soul by grace and by the unparalleled divine radiance of blessed glory appropriate to him. Nothing can be imagined more splendid and lofty than this. (Trans. Wilken, PPS 25:63, adapt.)