Elder Aimilianos: Do You Know Who the First Theologian Was?

Feast of St Charitina the Martyr

Aimilianos_Square.jpgI THINK that all baptized Christians are, in some way, theologians. [. . .] The first thing we need to do is define our terms, beginning with “theology” and “theologian.” As understood by most people, “theology” means “discourse about God.” From this point of view, theology is identified with things like sermons, homilies, or books and articles that in some way pertain to God or have God for their subject matter. Anyone engaged in this kind of work is a “theologian.”

But if we want to understand the meaning of this term in its fullness, we need to go back to the beginning of the history of theology, and see who the first theologian was.

The first to speak on matters related to God, and thus the first theologian, was, as we all know, God Himself. In the story of creation, we see God stooping down over the earth, and saying: “Let there be light,” and “let there be a firmament,” and “let the dry land appear” (Gen. 1.3, 6, 9). And these were not simply things that God said, but things that He did. And having done them, He deliberated within Himself, and spoke again, saying: “Let us make man according to Our own image and likeness” (Gen. 1.26). He then proceeded to do just that, and this is of the greatest significance because it means that man is a copy, an image, of God’s own life and existence.

In creating man, God was, in effect, revealing Himself through His activity and works. He revealed Himself as active; as acting outside of Himself, outside the sphere of His proper being. The first to speak about God, then, was God Himself, the “creator of all things visible and invisible.” And the subject of His discourse was nothing other than God Himself. It was, as we said, a kind of self-expression: God’s self-revelation.

After this, the second “theologian”—second, that is, not in chronological order but rather in spiritual terms—is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of the Heavenly Father. In His self-revelation through creation, God the Father had already revealed Himself to be, not an abstract, impersonal force or energy, but rather a personal being; not as some thing, but as someone with a face, as we would say—a Person—that is, a personal God, Who is able to speak face to face with the persons He created. And this dialogue of God with human beings reflects the inner communion that takes place within God Himself between the Father and the Son.

After God the Father, then, we have God the Son, who, according to the Prophet Isaiah, places Himself before the face of the Heavenly Father and opens His ear to Him. The Father speaks to the Son, and the Son says: “I neither disobey nor dispute” (Is. 50.5). Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Second Person of the Holy Trinity, communicates with God the Father, and the two of them are in perfect accord. Indeed Their unity is such that, after His incarnation, Christ can say: “Whoever has seen Me has seen My Father” (Jn. 14.9), and can ask: “Have I been with you so long, and still you ask where the Heavenly Father is?” (cf. Jn. 14.9)

By means of all that He did, namely, His incarnation, His manner of life, His teaching, and His miracles, the Lord ceaselessly revealed the Person of the Father as He exists in relationship to the Son.

In the beginning, God revealed Himself through the making of man. Now the Son of God reveals God by becoming man. And this is why He says: “No one can reveal the Father except the Son” (Mt. 11.27). Without Christ, it is not possible to understand God. The Son bears witness that He and the Father are two distinct Persons, Who are nevertheless One God, existing in total and perfect union and communion, so that one cannot be known apart from the other.

The Father, then, is revealed by the Son, chiefly through the incarnation. As St Maximus the Confessor so beautifully puts it: “By appearing in flesh to human beings, He made known unto them the Unknown Father.” And He was able to do this because when He “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1.14), He did not depart from the “bosom of the Father” (Jn. 1.18), which is why He is “the only mediator between God and mankind” (cf. 1 Tim. 2.5). It is thus through His incarnation that the Lord teaches us theology, that is, about God Himself. As we said a moment ago, theology is not merely something that one says, but something that one does, and everything that Christ says and does is “theology.” His entire person; all that He has and is, down to His smallest gestures, are revelatory of God.

—Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra, The Way of the Spirit

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