Fr Dumitru Staniloae: Are You Working Toward Your Destiny to Have a Share of Eternity?

Feast of the Holy Martyrs Peter, Dionysius, Andrew, Paul, Christina, Heraclius, Paulinus and Benedimus

Staniloae_Square_4.jpegDIVINE REVELATION tells us of a world of incorporeal spirits who are found to be in solidarity with men and with the sensible world. With respect to the moment when the world of spirits was created, Holy Scripture contains only one reference. This is found in Job and treats that moment as anterior to the creation of the sensible world and of man: “When the stars were made, all my angels praised me loudly” (Job 38.7). The opinion of most of the fathers is that the angels were created before the creation of the sensible world and man. They even place the angelic world within a kind of supra-temporal aeon, but one that is not coeternal with God. This represents a mode of life similar to that wherein creation as a whole will be found on the plane of eschatology, but it is through time that the sensible world advances toward it. St. Basil spoke of a kind of state older than the creation of the world, supra-temporal, aeonic, eternal, one proper to the supraterrestrial powers. It is in this state or aeon that the Author and Creator of all things will have created the spiritual, invisible creatures. In the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite the angels are likewise treated as aeonic existences, transcending time, but not coeternal with God, for He was even before the aeon. They mediate between eternity and time; in the words of Dionysius: 

Actually, the designation “eternity” [aion] is frequently given to something very ancient or, again, to the whole course of earthly time, since it is characteristic of eternity to be very old, unchanging, and the measure of being. Time, on the other hand, has to do with the process of change manifested, for instance, in birth, death, and variety. Hence, theology tells us that we who are bound by time are destined to have a share of eternity when at last we attain the incorruptible, unchanging Eternity... strictly speaking, what Scripture discusses and denotes is that eternity is the home of being, while time is the home of things that come to be. Therefore it must not be imagined that things named as eternal are simply coeternal with the God who precedes eternity. No. Better here to follow carefully the sacred words of Scripture and to take “eternal” and “temporal” in the sense appropriate to them. And we should look upon those things which share partly in eternity and partly in time as somehow midway between things which are and things which are coming-to-be.

~Fr Dumitru Staniloae, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology Vol. 2 – The World: Creation and Deification


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