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Author Topic: Definition of the Word Ousia in the OO Tradition  (Read 2886 times) Average Rating: 0
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Severian
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« on: August 15, 2011, 12:56:20 AM »

Could someone please define what the word ousia/essence means in the OO tradition? From what I've read of St Severus, when he speaks of the the divine essence it's difficult to tell whether he is referring to the natural characteristics which all three hypostases in the Trinity have in common, or if he is simply referring to the three hypostases themselves. If the latter, how do we understand the three hypostases to be one God? If I can find the time, I plan on rereading St Severus' first few letters where he defines these terms, but if someone could clarify how we OOs understand the term essence/ousia, I would appreciate it.

Thanks and God bless.
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« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2011, 06:06:08 PM »

Nothing?
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« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2011, 07:24:18 AM »

Nothing?
QFT Tongue
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« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2011, 05:26:40 AM »

I would say that you need to turn to books.google.com and dig out some serious academic research yourself. The term is too flexible in its use to be easily liable to a very simple answer.

As with all the terms, it does depend to a great extent on the context.

Just think in English of the variety of ways that could be used in speech and writing. Off the top of my head.
 
i. John is a good man.

ii. John is a good person.

iii. It's human nature to do X.

iv. We are all human after all.

v. There's a man over there.

vi. Is that man over there John?

It would be possible to try and force all such statements (think of some more) into a narrow categorisation, but often the terms are not the main focus of a passage and should not be forced to mean what they do not.

I am just popping out. When I get back I will try to help produce a reading list.

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« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2011, 08:34:32 PM »

^Thank you. Smiley
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« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2011, 12:51:50 PM »

These quotes from St. Severus seem to indicate that St. Severus views ousia as that which all hypostases have in common:

“Therefore when you hear that the conception of Emmanuel took place in a divine way and at the same time in a human way, how do you completely remove him from human properties, which the incarnate Word receives willingly? For unless we say the flesh was capable of receiving the things which belonged to it, with the exception of sin – for this is not part of the ousia, but a sickness which, as I have said, occurs as a result of inattention – he was able neither to suffer the cross on our behalf nor to endure death.”

and also:

“For his face was radiant like the sun on the mountain, as we hear the Gospel, and his garments were white like light. But these things do not indicate a change of ousia, far from it, but the brilliance and the multitude of the glory which is proper to God.”

If he truly viewed ousia as a reference to every single hypostasis of a genus I do not think it would make much sense to say the "Divine ousia did not change".

So I suppose St. Severus rejected the concept of two ousias in Christ was because an ousia was an abstract reality which all hypostases of a class partook of.

In any case, with St. Severus' definition of hypostasis (self-subsistent Vs. non-self-subsistent) could we affirm that the self-subsistent Divine hypostasis suffered in accordance with his non-self-subsistent human hypostasis in the same way we would say that the Divine person suffered in accordance with his non-self-subsistent human nature/hypostasis?
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« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2011, 12:59:55 PM »

Quote
In any case, with St. Severus' definition of hypostasis (self-subsistent Vs. non-self-subsistent) could we affirm that the self-subsistent Divine hypostasis suffered in accordance with his non-self-subsistent human hypostasis?

 Huh
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« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2011, 01:04:24 PM »

Quote
In any case, with St. Severus' definition of hypostasis (self-subsistent Vs. non-self-subsistent) could we affirm that the self-subsistent Divine hypostasis suffered in accordance with his non-self-subsistent human hypostasis?

 Huh

Try this:
Click

His belief that Christ's human nature is individually designated (I.e. hypostatic) yet non-self-subsistent is very similar to John Damascene's enhypostasia theory. St. Severus isn't saying that there exists a human person but that the humanity is so integral and real that we can go as far as to call it hypostatic. It may seem Nestorian to an outsider to OOxy, but if you read the article I gave you it should clarify what I am trying to say.

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« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2011, 01:16:48 PM »

Hey, I wrote that article.

How did it end up there?

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« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2011, 01:23:20 PM »

Hey, I wrote that article.

How did it end up there?

Father Peter
I am not sure. I realized that you were the one who wrote it (I originally read it at "Orthodoxeducation.org" a while ago, but the link to that website seems to be broken), but I assumed that that website uploaded it with your permission. My apologies for referencing that particular website.
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« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2011, 01:35:49 PM »

Lol!

Don't worry, I never mind. If it is on the web then I don't mind (within reason) where it ends up if people can read it.

I have asked the folks at orthodoxinfo.com if they wanted any of my articles but they never replied. :-(
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« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2011, 02:19:15 PM »

These quotes from St. Severus seem to indicate that St. Severus views ousia as that which all hypostases have in common:

“Therefore when you hear that the conception of Emmanuel took place in a divine way and at the same time in a human way, how do you completely remove him from human properties, which the incarnate Word receives willingly? For unless we say the flesh was capable of receiving the things which belonged to it, with the exception of sin – for this is not part of the ousia, but a sickness which, as I have said, occurs as a result of inattention – he was able neither to suffer the cross on our behalf nor to endure death.”

and also:

“For his face was radiant like the sun on the mountain, as we hear the Gospel, and his garments were white like light. But these things do not indicate a change of ousia, far from it, but the brilliance and the multitude of the glory which is proper to God.”

If he truly viewed ousia as a reference to every single hypostasis of a genus I do not think it would make much sense to say the "Divine ousia did not change".

So I suppose St. Severus rejected the concept of two ousias in Christ was because an ousia was an abstract reality which all hypostases of a class partook of.

In any case, with St. Severus' definition of hypostasis (self-subsistent Vs. non-self-subsistent) could we affirm that the self-subsistent Divine hypostasis suffered in accordance with his non-self-subsistent human hypostasis in the same way we would say that the Divine person suffered in accordance with his non-self-subsistent human nature/hypostasis?

I understand the OO fathers to affirm that Ousia is "Nature" as being completely interdependent upon Hypostasis, so they are essentially and naturally integral.  We can't conceive of an Ousia without a necessarily manifested hypostatic form, with the Divine the hypostasis is Divine, with we humans our nature is humanity and our hypostasis is our bodies.  With the Union of the Incarnation, the Hypostasis if Jesus Christ is at once the unified hypostasis of the Eternal Word, the Second Person of the Trinity, who is consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and also the hypostasis of a normal, albeit deified, human body.  In this Union then, the Divine Ousia is manifested in the form of the physical Person of Jesus Christ.  The specific hypostases of the Father and Holy Spirit remain intact and distinct, but in Essence and by Nature the Divine is Incarnate and experiences in synergy all of the experiences, human and divine, of Jesus Christ.

In the Ethiopian Orthodox liturgy of Saint Dioscoros we chant, "The Immortal/Divine died to quicken death.. He suffered to deliver the sufferers who trust in Him."



stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2011, 02:35:39 PM »

Do OO acknowledge that Ousia and Physis are rather lame terms that were simply the best our Holy Fathers had to work with at the time?
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« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2011, 02:45:34 PM »

NVM
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« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2011, 02:48:08 PM »

Do OO acknowledge that Ousia and Physis are rather lame terms that were simply the best our Holy Fathers had to work with at the time?
Well, they are flawed philosophical terms used to describe the indescribable, so perhaps you have a point there.
I mean that they have some big flaws because the hellenistic philosophy/cosmology they come from has big flaws.

Flaws that may be apparent to philosophers today that weren't apparent in the 4th and 5th centuries.
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« Reply #15 on: September 29, 2011, 02:51:54 PM »

Do OO acknowledge that Ousia and Physis are rather lame terms that were simply the best our Holy Fathers had to work with at the time?

What do you mean by lame here?
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« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2011, 02:54:45 PM »

Do OO acknowledge that Ousia and Physis are rather lame terms that were simply the best our Holy Fathers had to work with at the time?

What do you mean by lame here?
Flawed, potentially inferior to other systems, fluid in meaning across generations, etc.
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« Reply #17 on: September 29, 2011, 03:09:28 PM »

Do OO acknowledge that Ousia and Physis are rather lame terms that were simply the best our Holy Fathers had to work with at the time?

What do you mean by lame here?
Flawed, potentially inferior to other systems, fluid in meaning across generations, etc.

Thanks.
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« Reply #18 on: September 29, 2011, 03:15:01 PM »

Fr. Peter, from St. Severus' POV could we affirm that the self-subsistent Divine hypostasis suffered in the flesh?
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« Reply #19 on: September 29, 2011, 03:22:56 PM »

Fr. Peter, from St. Severus' POV could we affirm that the self-subsistent Divine hypostasis suffered in the flesh?
That would be the EO view at least.
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« Reply #20 on: September 29, 2011, 03:40:41 PM »

Fr. Peter, from St. Severus' POV could we affirm that the self-subsistent Divine hypostasis suffered in the flesh?
That would be the EO view at least.
Yeah, but that is because Chalcedonians view hypostasis as synonmous with person while St. Severus equates it with nature.
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« Reply #21 on: September 29, 2011, 04:08:22 PM »

Lol!

Don't worry, I never mind. If it is on the web then I don't mind (within reason) where it ends up if people can read it.

I have asked the folks at orthodoxinfo.com if they wanted any of my articles but they never replied. :-(
LOL. Not to reply is to reply.
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« Reply #22 on: September 29, 2011, 04:28:29 PM »

Fr. Peter, from St. Severus' POV could we affirm that the self-subsistent Divine hypostasis suffered in the flesh?
That would be the EO view at least.
Yeah, but that is because Chalcedonians view hypostasis as synonmous with person while St. Severus equates it with nature.
The latter is true.

But for the EO, Hypostasis as Person possesses the subsistence that the Neo-Platonists used to associate with nature/essence. Thus hypostasis is not just "prosopon".
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« Reply #23 on: September 29, 2011, 04:36:20 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Do OO acknowledge that Ousia and Physis are rather lame terms that were simply the best our Holy Fathers had to work with at the time?
Well, they are flawed philosophical terms used to describe the indescribable, so perhaps you have a point there.
I mean that they have some big flaws because the hellenistic philosophy/cosmology they come from has big flaws.

Flaws that may be apparent to philosophers today that weren't apparent in the 4th and 5th centuries.

Nonsense. Ousia is originated in the Greek for "to be, to exist" and it first perfectly with our Theological applications of it.  It is also part of the root "onto" from which "ontological" is derived which means "based on reality".  The Fathers then perfectly chose this term to explain the concept of "Nature" or "Essence" which is of course the underlying reality behind any noun which actually exists.  So what is so flawed about this term? Which is a better, more reflective term, either in the Greek of that era or even in our contemporary English? If anything, our modern terms are more confusing and less accurate than the Greek when properly understood.  True, the Fathers use Ousia a bit varying which can cause some confusion, but when read in the proper context the meaning becomes clear.

Yeah, but that is because Chalcedonians view hypostasis as synonmous with person while St. Severus equates it with nature.

Severian, I feel that is a bit misleading.  While Severus implies hypostasis to be equivalent with Nature, this is only in the OO concept of both Nature and Person being integrally interdependent as I explained above.  In this context then, both the OO and the EO fully agree that Hypostasis is synonymous with Person, however  we in OO get more specific to interconnect both hypostasis and ousia.  To be sure, these terms are separate, however they function together.

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #24 on: September 29, 2011, 04:50:00 PM »

Nonsense. Ousia is originated in the Greek for "to be, to exist" and it first perfectly with our Theological applications of it.  It is also part of the root "onto" from which "ontological" is derived which means "based on reality".  The Fathers then perfectly chose this term to explain the concept of "Nature" or "Essence" which is of course the underlying reality behind any noun which actually exists.  So what is so flawed about this term?
It is based on a system and cosmology that is the antithesis of the Christian faith. The Father purged as much as they could of its evil. I am referring to the ousia/physis/hypostasis trio and the supporting philosophy in classical Hellenistic thought.

They did the best with the pagan philosophy available. Don't deify it.
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« Reply #25 on: September 29, 2011, 05:17:31 PM »

I don't think that our Fathers describe nature and essence as synonymous, or hypostasis and person as synonymous, and the thread seems to me to illustrate the problems that are described. You have used the words nature and essence, but do you mean physis and ousia? Or do you mean the same thing, ousia, as the English language usage allows with these two words?

I do think that these words add to the confusion of our present circumstances rather than bring clarity since not only have the always been used differently, even by the same Fathers, but they are still understood differently today.

It seems to me to be better to use a short phrase with understanding and clarity than one of these words with confusion.

We do say, for instance, that we believe Christ is one nature, but clearly the EO hear us saying that Christ is one ousia or essence, which we do not believe. So why use the words nature, ousia or essence? I don't think they are very helpful at all.

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« Reply #26 on: September 29, 2011, 05:35:23 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!



We do say, for instance, that we believe Christ is one nature, but clearly the EO hear us saying that Christ is one ousia or essence, which we do not believe. So why use the words nature, ousia or essence? I don't think they are very helpful at all.

Father Peter
What about the classic Cyrillian formula of the "One Incarnate Nature" of Jesus Christ?  In this context of the Union, both Cyril and later Severus seem to agree that Christ, in His Incarnation is of One (mia) Ousia/Essence in the sense of the unity of the Humanity and Divinity.

stay blessed,
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« Reply #27 on: September 29, 2011, 05:38:02 PM »

In the phrase 'one incarnate nature' the word nature never means essence or ousia. It always means physis or hypostasis.
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« Reply #28 on: September 29, 2011, 05:51:38 PM »

There are some interesting comments on terms in this thread..

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,2422.15

I found it while googling for something entirely different. Interestingly enough I seem to have just joined OCnet at this time in 2003, and Linus7 says he is glad of my contributions (that shows that the post was from a very, very long time ago, before the great Chalcedon Wars of 2004. Where is Linus7 now?)
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« Reply #29 on: September 29, 2011, 05:53:26 PM »

There are some interesting comments on terms in this thread..

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,2422.15

I found it while googling for something entirely different. Interestingly enough I seem to have just joined OCnet at this time in 2003, and Linus7 says he is glad of my contributions (that shows that the post was from a very, very long time ago, before the great Chalcedon Wars of 2004. Where is Linus7 now?)
He left in early 2004. He went on other forums to complain about the OO. I am not sure if he is still active on the Internet anymore.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2011, 05:55:35 PM by Severian » Logged

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« Reply #30 on: September 29, 2011, 05:58:40 PM »

the great Chalcedon Wars of 2004.
Aha! So that's why there's underlying tension in these discussions.
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« Reply #31 on: September 29, 2011, 06:01:46 PM »

Lol! It got very heated in the days before the excellent moderation we now have.

I have to say that in my opinion this is the best moderated site I visit. For a period in the past it was impossible for some people, including myself, to say anything at all without starting or participating in a flame war.
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« Reply #32 on: September 29, 2011, 06:09:03 PM »

Lol! It got very heated in the days before the excellent moderation we now have.

I have to say that in my opinion this is the best moderated site I visit. For a period in the past it was impossible for some people, including myself, to say anything at all without starting or participating in a flame war.
Well, for my part, I'm glad you hung in there and remain with us until today, Father.
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« Reply #33 on: September 29, 2011, 06:10:49 PM »

Lol! I left as well. It was all getting too much. I was spending 4 hours a day composing posts which were then just ignored by my protagonists!

I came back when Salpy told me things were very different now, and they generally are. I avoid the sections of the site where violence is allowed!
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« Reply #34 on: September 29, 2011, 07:11:23 PM »


I have asked the folks at orthodoxinfo.com if they wanted any of my articles but they never replied. :-(

 laugh laugh laugh
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« Reply #35 on: September 29, 2011, 07:26:34 PM »

But, from St. Severus's POV can we say that the self-subsistent Divine hypostasis suffered in the non-self-subsistent hypostasis of the flesh?

I realize that we can say the Theanthropic hypostasis suffered and that the Divine person suffered, but can we say that the Divine hypostasis suffered?

On a side note, did St. Timothy Aelurus describe the humanity of Christ as hypostatic?
« Last Edit: September 29, 2011, 07:49:11 PM by Severian » Logged

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« Reply #36 on: September 29, 2011, 07:37:04 PM »

What about the classic Cyrillian formula of the "One Incarnate Nature" of Jesus Christ?  In this context of the Union, both Cyril and later Severus seem to agree that Christ, in His Incarnation is of One (mia) Ousia/Essence in the sense of the unity of the Humanity and Divinity.

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Ousia is the simplest form of matter, so we cannot say that Christ possesses one Theanthropic ousia. Otherwise, He would not be consubstantial with the Father because the Father does not subsist in a Theanthropic ousia, nor would he be consubstantial with us because we do not subsist in a Theanthropic ousia. "One incarnate nature" is a reference to the Theanthropic hypostasis who subsists from two natures/concrete realities.
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« Reply #37 on: September 30, 2011, 08:37:12 AM »

I mean that they have some big flaws because the hellenistic philosophy/cosmology they come from has big flaws.

Flaws that may be apparent to philosophers today that weren't apparent in the 4th and 5th centuries.

I wish I could find the quote from Fr. Meyendorff. But he basically says, and I'm paraphrasing here, that through Origin & earlier Fathers the Church made itself understandable to the surrounding Hellenic culture by adopting its philosophical language, but over time it shed itself of much of that Hellenic "bagage".  He says the condemnation of the "Originists" in Constantinople II was a big part of that.
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« Reply #38 on: September 30, 2011, 08:50:37 AM »

Do OO acknowledge that Ousia and Physis are rather lame terms that were simply the best our Holy Fathers had to work with at the time?

I recall Fr. Peter posting a Christological statement way back on OC.net that used normal English terms to explain our Christology. We have a modern language that can more easily be understood and I see no issue with using it. So, yeah, I'm with you on this.

Let the academics walk through the weeds of Ancient Greek and argue neo-Platonist vs. Socratic thought.
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« Reply #39 on: September 30, 2011, 08:58:41 AM »

This is what I posted way back...

Quote
For what its worth, to you, here is what I believe about Christ:

I believe that God the Word, eternal, invisible, consubstantial with the Father and with the Holy Spirit, took flesh of the Virgin Mary and became consubstantial with us in all things save sin. The humanity which he took from the Virgin Mary is complete and perfect in every way, with mind, soul, will and body. His humanity became His own so that we may rightly say that 'the Word became flesh'. But I do not believe that the divinity of Christ suffered any change or confusion or mixture in the union with the humanity which he took. Rather the nature or ousia of the divinity is completely other than the nature or ousia of the humanity. But Christ is 'one incarnate hypostasis of the Word', that is to say that the divine hypostasis of the Word has become incarnate and though Christ is truly divine and truly human, without confusion, change, mixture, separation or division, nonetheless it is the Word who has become incarnate and there is not a man together with the Word, for Christ is both human and divine without confusion Himself and has not united to Himself the hypostasis and person of a man, as Nestorius taught. And I believe that we see Christ walking as a man and raising the dead as God, yet not one moment God and another moment man, but rather the one Word of God incarnate acting humanly according to His perfect and complete humanity and divinely according to His perfect and unchanged Divinity. And one of the Holy Trinity, even God the Word, suffered on the cross, but according to the humanity which He made His own and not according to His Divinity which is beyond all suffering and change. And I believe that though the human will of Christ was in conformity to His Divine Will the human will was perfect and complete but as in the life of a saint so the will is brought into conformity with the will of God through great ascetic effort so it was proper that from the moment of the perfect and complete union of humanity and Divinity the human will should delight in being in union and agreement with the will of God, such that the will of Christ was one, not on in substance, for what is human is utterly different from what is Divine, but in purpose and desire.

Do please point out where I am not clear or where I am professing a heresy. If there is no substantial disagreement in the substance of what is confessed then I believe we are under the most severe and merited judgement of God if we fail to do all that is possible to be reconciled. As a matter of interest I have been a serious student of the Christology of the Oriental Orthodox for 10 years and this confession is the same as has always been confessed from the 5th century onwards.

If we believe the same about Christ but you merely produce obstacles and arguments then the judgement of God will be upon you. As for me I will do all I can in the years I have left to be reconciled with those who believe the same as me but are in the EO communion.

Peter Theodore

I so remember trying to write something without using these difficult terms. If you can find it do post it here for my own interest if no one else's.

Father Peter
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« Reply #40 on: September 30, 2011, 09:08:48 AM »

^ Thanks you, Father. You see, I did read all your posts here.  Cool
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« Reply #41 on: September 30, 2011, 10:36:02 AM »

Here' the link, Father.

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,2398.msg26444.html#msg26444

I think there's a more basic one as well, but will have to look for it.
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« Reply #42 on: September 30, 2011, 03:29:50 PM »

This is what I posted way back...

Quote
For what its worth, to you, here is what I believe about Christ:

I believe that God the Word, eternal, invisible, consubstantial with the Father and with the Holy Spirit, took flesh of the Virgin Mary and became consubstantial with us in all things save sin. The humanity which he took from the Virgin Mary is complete and perfect in every way, with mind, soul, will and body. His humanity became His own so that we may rightly say that 'the Word became flesh'. But I do not believe that the divinity of Christ suffered any change or confusion or mixture in the union with the humanity which he took. Rather the nature or ousia of the divinity is completely other than the nature or ousia of the humanity. But Christ is 'one incarnate hypostasis of the Word', that is to say that the divine hypostasis of the Word has become incarnate and though Christ is truly divine and truly human, without confusion, change, mixture, separation or division, nonetheless it is the Word who has become incarnate and there is not a man together with the Word, for Christ is both human and divine without confusion Himself and has not united to Himself the hypostasis and person of a man, as Nestorius taught. And I believe that we see Christ walking as a man and raising the dead as God, yet not one moment God and another moment man, but rather the one Word of God incarnate acting humanly according to His perfect and complete humanity and divinely according to His perfect and unchanged Divinity. And one of the Holy Trinity, even God the Word, suffered on the cross, but according to the humanity which He made His own and not according to His Divinity which is beyond all suffering and change. And I believe that though the human will of Christ was in conformity to His Divine Will the human will was perfect and complete but as in the life of a saint so the will is brought into conformity with the will of God through great ascetic effort so it was proper that from the moment of the perfect and complete union of humanity and Divinity the human will should delight in being in union and agreement with the will of God, such that the will of Christ was one, not on in substance, for what is human is utterly different from what is Divine, but in purpose and desire.

Do please point out where I am not clear or where I am professing a heresy. If there is no substantial disagreement in the substance of what is confessed then I believe we are under the most severe and merited judgement of God if we fail to do all that is possible to be reconciled. As a matter of interest I have been a serious student of the Christology of the Oriental Orthodox for 10 years and this confession is the same as has always been confessed from the 5th century onwards.

If we believe the same about Christ but you merely produce obstacles and arguments then the judgement of God will be upon you. As for me I will do all I can in the years I have left to be reconciled with those who believe the same as me but are in the EO communion.

Peter Theodore

I so remember trying to write something without using these difficult terms. If you can find it do post it here for my own interest if no one else's.

Father Peter

To my EO brethren, can you see any problem with Fr. Peter's statement?
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« Reply #43 on: September 30, 2011, 09:23:23 PM »

But, from St. Severus's POV can we say that the self-subsistent Divine hypostasis suffered in the non-self-subsistent hypostasis of the flesh?

I realize that we can say the Theanthropic hypostasis suffered and that the Divine person suffered, but can we say that the Divine hypostasis suffered?

On a side note, did St. Timothy Aelurus describe the humanity of Christ as hypostatic?
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« Reply #44 on: October 06, 2011, 08:30:16 PM »

But, from St. Severus's POV can we say that the self-subsistent Divine hypostasis suffered in the non-self-subsistent hypostasis of the flesh?

I realize that we can say the Theanthropic hypostasis suffered and that the Divine person suffered, but can we say that the Divine hypostasis suffered?

On a side note, did St. Timothy Aelurus describe the humanity of Christ as hypostatic?
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