I am a dyophisite!

In Orthodox Christianity: in general on May 21, 2008 at 11:40 pm

I love 50-dollar words, especially if they are barely English, foreign words with a little spin to render them officially English. Our mother tongue offers this largesse of loquacity precisely because it is the product of a mingling of tongues: Latin, through Norman French mostly, and Anglo-Saxon. The latter is the twig from the Old High German branch while the former is the remnant of the medieval lingua franca, Latin as spoken by the Normans. So, English possesses a wonderful ability to adapt foreign words to its use. And, my big word today is dyophisitism (the belief) or dyophisite (the adherent of such belief). Like most such naturalized Greek citizens in our language, these Greek words had to pay homage to Latin first, before being admitted into the hallowed halls of our English lexicon. Consider: Iesous (Greek, from Hebrew yeshu^ah) to Iesus (Latin, with a consonantal initial I, written in the Middle Ages as Jesus) and then pronounced with the characteristic vowel shift in English in our common way now. Or: arithmetikon (Greek, “having to do with numbers”) to Latin arithmeticum, and so on.

Well, then, so what of this dyophisitism? The Orthodox Christian belief that the Savior of the world possesses TWO (dyo) NATURES (physis), one created, human, consubstantial with us, changeable, and the other uncreated, divine, beyond all suffering (impassible, if you want the fancy word). These two natures stand in Jesus Christ in what we call a hypostatic union (hypostasis, “person” or “substance”). This is in opposition to the false, heretical belief, called monophysitism. Monophysites affirm that Christ possesses one nature, thus confusing the human and the divine. The historical monophysites refused to accept the teaching of the 4th oecumenical synod, thus they are not Orthodox Christians, no matter what their modern apologists may say.  In effect, the Savior is not like Clark Kent / Superman, or the Hulk, or more of a parody, Dr Jekyl / Mr Hyde.  Rather, He is truly God, but suffers as a man. “He thought it not robbery (arpagmon, something to be grasped in a haughty way) to be equal to God, but He emptied Himself by taking on the form (morphe, stronger than mere appearance) of a slave” (Philippians 2: 6-7).  We say in one of our hymns, “In the grave with the body but in Hades with the soul as God; in paradise with the thief, and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit wast Thou, O Christ, filling all things, Thyself uncircumscribed” (used in the Divine Liturgy, as the presider places the offered bread and wine upon the Holy Table in the Great Entrance).  By the way, that last word is another fifty-dollar word, and it means…  but wait… Hey, let me know, if you want to know!

And the point? He became FULLY what I am–yet without sin (“He learned obedience through the things which He suffered, that He might become the captain of our salvation” –Hebrews 2), so that I may become FULLY what He is, by divine grace! This is the Hope of man, the thirsting of our race.

  1. I’m one too! A diophysite, that is. 🙂

    You have a great ability to take what most would view as abstract concepts and show why they are thoroughly essential to our daily real-life faith.

    Keep up the wonderful blogging.

  2. Thanks for the FULLY! It’s important to let that just sink in.

  3. I’m one too! Thank you for doing this blog and your wonderful teaching! And, this is another wonderful place to refer inquirers.

  4. Father bless.

    Enjoying the blog, Fr. Patrick…I’ll bite on the other 50 dollar word…also looking forward to you writing more in the “autobiography.”

  5. Yes, I want to know….

  6. Fr. Patrick,
    You leave me without words! And that is hard to do!
    Thank you for being you, even though not yet FULLY.
    Dr. Randi

  7. I am so happy to have access to your words again Father Patrick. I’ve missed that so much and I miss you!

  8. Thanks dad! i love your bloggings, they are a great spiritual help to me 🙂

  9. Fr. Patrick,

    I am enjoying reading your blog. Great teaching.

  10. Father Patrick,

    post-resurrection or even before the incarnation does Christ’s nature still consist of both the human and the divine?

    Does he Still as the scripture reads, “empty himself by taking on the form of a slave,” being now risen in glory?

  11. Philip,
    Our Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, is God from all ages, unchanging, the Logos of the Father. This He was, and IS, and ever shall be. In time, he became man from the Virgin’s womb and shares wholly in our human nature. After His resurrection from the dead, our Lord Jesus showed Himself alive to His holy apostles and to many others. He continues as a deified MAN and ascended as the GOD-MAN into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. so, after the resurrection, He remains one and the same Jesus Christ: one Person in two natures.
    The scriptural reference from Paul’s letter to the Philippians to which you refer is frequently misunderstood. Christ’s “emptying” does not mean that He ceased being, or even temporarily put off being, the Son of the Father. Rather, it means that He humbled Himself to take up our estate. He truly became man and suffered as such. But He did not ever cease being God of God. As we say in one very important dogmatic hymn: “In the grave with the body but in hades with the soul as God; in paradise with the thief, and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit wast Thou, O Christ, filling all things, Thyself being uncircumscribed.”

  12. Father Patrick,

    Thank you.

    I love the hymn reference, Christ filling all things, in all places. Some deep waters to tread through here, i suppose better understood in worship than in the mind. Nonetheless thank you for the clarity.

    one more Q.

    if the church past and present is the body of christ then is our fellowship together far more significant than we think? is it shall we say eternal or out of time? i feel the answer is yes but i do enjoy conversation and especially your clarity. thanks fp.

  13. ok so i found the answer to my last Q by reading a different post. your words

    “although the Liturgy is celebrated repeatedly in time, it is mystically one in eternity.”

    sum it up. thanks again Father Patrick.

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