Ambiguum 2

by Andrea Elizabeth

We shall not be so care free today because God assumed human flesh which suffers. He in his whole divine essence assumed human personhood with an intellect and a soul “so that His sufferings would not be deemed merely nominal, because the flesh in question was His own, and it was by virtue of the flesh that truly ‘God is able to suffer in opposition to sin.'” St. Maximus quoting St. Gregory the Theologian.

I believe he next makes an essence/energy distinction.

In this passage, then, the teacher is making a distinction between “essence,” according to which the Word remained simple, even though He became flesh, and “hypostasis,” according to which He became composite, by the assumption of the flesh, so that in the work of salvation the incarnate Word can be properly called a “suffering God.” Saint Gregory said these things so that we might not out of ignorance ascribe the properties of the person to nature and, like the Arians, unwittingly worship a God who by nature is susceptible to suffering.

… – but He did not become man without the energy that is proper to human nature, for the principle of natural energy is what defines the essence of a thing, and as a rule characterizes the nature of every being in which it essentially inheres. For that which is commonly and generically predicated of certain things constitutes the definition of their essence, the privation of which brings about the destruction of their nature, since no beings remain what they are when they are deprived of their natural, constituent elements.

The last paragraph however makes me wonder how Dr. Joseph Farrell’s Ordo Theologiea fits in. I believe Dr. Farrell, who has since left the Church, but was a bright intellectual light in presenting St. Maximus at one time, derived the Ordo from reading the Fathers. It puts person before activities before nature. This presents the person as free, but also one who is sort of self-made. We can say that Christ inherited his human nature with all it’s energies from Mary. But we can also say He was free to choose not to sin. When we define human nature we look at what we all have in common, but also at what extraordinary people have accomplished. Most people use “I’m only human” as a cop-out to describe average experiences. We know that it is not human nature to sin also because Adam was created without sin. People who perform record-breaking feats make a new record for humans to emulate. The fall showed us what not to do, so Adam introduced a set of negative things humans are capable of. Christ showed us it is possible to overcome this negative set. Did Adam change human nature? He introduced disease, which is not natural. Disease is not in our essence, but what about suffering? We can say cancer is foreign, but is the pain it causes? St. Gregory says that suffering is in opposition to sin. People can choose to suffer to defeat sin. This is what asceticism and martyrdom is. People are free to actively suffer to cleanse their natures of foreign sin. That is the proper order. Our nature does not make us sin, and our God given natural free will and suffering obedience can overcome it. Freedom is the thing which puts us over our natures. We can choose to act according to our sinless natures or not.