Any evangelical protestant might ask you, “are you saved”? We should always reply, “yes, of course I am saved”. We Eastern Catholics should immediately add, “I am also being deified”! Probably our evangelical friend will not understand and might even express shock and horror.
We should seize the moment and explain that our spirituality is not just about a moment in our lives but it is, in fact, a process which starts at baptism and goes on throughout our lives. Not only have we met Christ, we are also growing in Christ. This process is called theosis.
This whole process of theosis begins with our own baptism. It continues each step of the way as we receive the Holy Mysteries of the church.
Salvation does not end with the forgiveness of our sins, it only begins there. Some theologians say that original sin was not just a bad choice of our ancestors; it was rather a refusal to ascent or progress towards God. Adam and Eve sinned by wanting to make themselves as powerful as God rather than sharing and acknowledging the grace of God.
We are saved from sin for theosis. Our salvation is an ongoing process which leads from baptism through to sanctification and on to deification by grace. St John Chrysostom said that it is not enough to leave sin and death behind; we must also, through theosis, enter into the promised land. During the time of Moses, the promised land was found on the other side of the desert. It is no different today. Our road to God crosses a desert as well. There is a need for struggle, discipline, patience and a war against our earthly passions. Not everyone succeeds. Many fall in the trap of chasing false gods.
Theosis is our potential as human beings. It is the transforming of our lifestyle; it implies concern for our neighbour; it means the sharing of our love, our possessions and even the earth itself. Jesus has given us the strength to lift ourselves when we fall; to keep searching when we are lost. The journey is not difficult because we are already created in God’s own image.
Theosis sounds like a nice word, but what does it mean for those who are coping with terrible illnesses or those who have all kinds of anxieties and worries? Theosis basically tells us that we have the capacity, through the presence of God within us, to overcome and transcend each and every difficulty in life including the ultimate one – death itself. It tells us to endure and to have faith. We are reminded in the Scriptures that God has great things in store for us.
These aims are achieved as we slowly continue the process of growing in Christ and becoming one with Him.