Theosis: The Ultimate Goal of the Human Experience

Andrei Rublev [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Andrei Rublev [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

by Jayson M. Brunelle

How tremendous and unspeakable a blessing we have received in Christ Jesus, Who is, in His Person, words and deeds, the fulfillment and completion of the Heavenly Father’s Divine Revelation of Himself to humanity, and, as Pope St. John Paul II would so often remind us, is additionally God’s revelation of man to man; that is, the stupendous dignity and vocation of each human person, called by God to become a “partaker of the divine nature.”  Indeed, the great St. Athanasius, an early Church Father, clearly taught that “God became man so that men might become gods.”  This, of course, is not to be confused with a more Eastern form of pantheism; rather, it is an extremely orthodox, fundamental tenet of our Christian faith.   Indeed, Sacred Scripture abounds with evidence for this truly exalted and, quite frankly, rather stunning status that God wishes to bestow upon humanity in Christ Jesus.  Thus, the “Good News” of the Gospel of Christ Jesus is nothing less than the stupendous news that, in Christ, we have all been made adopted sons and daughters of the Father, true brothers and sisters of Christ!  Or, in other words, He Who Is the Only Begotten Son of God, the Father, wishes to share with us, mere mortals, the exalted status of His Own Divine Sonship of God the Father.  This reality is truly incomprehensible, surpassing anything the human mind could ever dream of; hence, the very apt words of St. Paul: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as entered into the mind of man what God has in store for those who love Him.”

This concept of Theosis, or Deification, is largely foreign to many who self-identify as “Christian,” who might well decry this theological reality to be some pantheistic heresy.  Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.  Far from being heretical, it is precisely this reality of the exalted vocation of every human person that illumines not only the dignity of each human person, thereby underscoring the sacred gift of every human life (from the moment of conception until natural death), but additionally, the radical nature and purpose of the Seven Sacraments instituted by Christ and imparted by His Church.  For, it is precisely through our full, active participation in the Sacramental life of Christ’s Church on earth, with primacy of place being given to the two Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Baptism, that theosis, or divinization, can and does occur.  Let us, then, take a moment to explore these two exalted sacraments; namely, the Holy Eucharist and Baptism, by which God freely shares with us His two-fold Divine Essence as Life  and Love.

In the “Eucharistic” or “Bread of Life” discourse in John’s Gospel, Christ states, “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever…. I tell you most solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you” (Jn 6:51, 53).  Additionally, it is a well established, accepted, agreed upon and understood doctrine of Christianity, in general, and of Roman Catholicism, in particular, that the Holy Spirit of God, the Third Divine Person of the Holy Trinity, is, indeed, the very “Love” of God, Himself, and that His existence as a Divine Person, from all eternity, is a necessary consequence of the reciprocity of Divine Love that exists between God the Father, the First Person of the Holy Trinity, and God the Son – the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.  Indeed, it can be evidenced from the earliest of Christian writings and from among the most influential of the early Church Fathers that such is indeed the case.  Regarding this issue, the great St. Augustine has this to say: “Love, therefore, which is of God and is God, is specially the Holy Spirit, by whom the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by which love the whole Trinity dwells in us. And therefore most rightly is the Holy Spirit, although He is God, called also the gift of God. And by that gift what else can properly be understood except love, which brings to God, and without which any other gift of God whatsoever does not bring to God? . . .” (The Holy Spirit, Gift of God’s Love, St. Augustine).

It becomes most evident, then, that while the Holy Eucharist is the chief sacramental means by which our Lord wishes to effect our participation in His own Divine Life, in like fashion, Baptism is the chief sacramental means by which our Lord wishes to effect our participation in His own Divine Love.

It is interesting to point out that when speaking of God, in His very Divine Essence, two terms are always invariably associated, as though these two dimensions are two sides of one coin.  I am speaking here of Life and Love.  With regard to the former, God the Father, in revealing His own most holy name to Moses in the Burning Bush, reveals Himself as “I AM HE WHO IS.”  This self-revelation of God to Moses is the most philosophically accurate name for God, for, as St. Thomas points out, God is the sole being whose essence it is to exist.  Simply put, God cannot not be; He MUST exist.  Indeed, His existence is the only existence that is Necessary.  Thus, St. Thomas goes on to state that God is the only being whose essence and existence are one and the same.

Moreover, we read in Sacred Scripture, very plainly, that, “God is Love.”

Thus, these two dimensions of God’s essence – Life and Love – are, without question, the most salient aspects of God’s own essence.  Further, it has pleased the Almighty God to call human persons to participate in these glorious dimensions of His being through the Sacraments of Baptism, which is the Sacrament of His Mercy, and the Holy Eucharist, which is the Sacrament of His Own Divine Life.

The radical significance of the devotion to, and the image of, the Divine Mercy, as revealed to St. Faustina, is here underscored.  The Red Ray which emanates from the Sacred and Eucharistic Heart of Our Lord is symbolic of His Most Precious Blood – the Life-Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant, by which we share in  the very Divine Life of Christ, is the gift of God’s Grace. The pale or White Ray is symbolic of the Waters of our Baptism, by which we are forgiven and cleansed of the Original Sin.

Thus, Baptism serves as the “Bridal Chamber,” as it were, where the bride-to-be (that is, the Mystical Body of Christ) prepares for her union with the beloved of her soul.  This union, begun in Baptism, is brought to its highest expression (at least while on earth) in our reception of the Holy Eucharist, where we are transformed by God’s Grace, which is nothing other than God’s free and unmerited gift of our participation in His own, supernatural Divine Life, and this through, with, and in the Divine Person of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

Indeed, Theosis, or deification, is – or ought to be – the goal of every Christian.  As we read in 2 Peter 1:3-4: as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature” (cf. 2 Peter 1:3-4).

With the above sentiments in mind, let us together offer the following prayer:

Dearest Jesus, beloved of my soul, through the intercession of Mary, grant me the grace to imitate Thee, Who laid down thy life for love of me, that I might live again in Thee; may I lay down my life for the love of Thee, that Thou may livest again in me.  Amen.

Corpus Christi Prayer of Consecration to the Most Holy Eucharist

Corpus Christi Prayer of Consecration to Our Eucharistic Lord

June 2, 2013

This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Riccardo Spoto at the wikipedia project. This applies worldwide.

This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Riccardo Spoto at the wikipedia project. This applies worldwide.

My Lord and my God,

United with the Immaculate Heart of Our Holy Mother, Mary,

I, (name), hereby dedicate and solemnly consecrate

All that I am and all that I have,

Without hesitation or reservation,

To Your Most Sacred Heart,

Truly present –

Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity –

In the most august sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

Dearest Jesus,

The single greatest desire and all-consuming longing

Of my poor, wretched and sinful heart and soul,

Is to perpetually

Serve, Adore, Glorify, and offer unceasing Gratitude

To Your Most Sacred Heart,

Truly and substantially present, in an abiding fashion,

In the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

For, it is from this Divine Heart that all Grace and Mercy

Flows out, into the hearts and souls of men,

Through the all-powerful and never-failing intercession

of Mother Mary, true Mediatrix of all Grace and Mercy

Amen.

Pope Benedict XVI: “Mary Suffers With Those Who Are in Affliction”

Our Lady’s Two Popes Embracing

On February 11, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI offered the following reflection on the profound interconnectedness of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, the Holy Eucharist and salvific suffering.  Continuing in the tradition of his predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI underscores the totality of Mary’s “fiat,” or “yes,” to the divine will of the Father concerning her unique participation in the redemption of humanity with her Son, beginning at the annunciation and brought to completion at the foot of the cross.  It is precisely for this reason that Holy Mother Church ascribes to Mary the exalted title of “Co-Redemptrix,” standing, as it were, at the foot of each sick child’s cross.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. On 11 February, the memorial of the Blessed Mary Virgin of Lourdes, the World Day of the Sick will be celebrated, a propitious occasion to reflect on the meaning of pain and the Christian duty to take responsibility for it in whatever situation it arises. This year this significant day is connected to two important events for the life of the Church, as one already understands from the theme chosen ‘The Eucharist, Lourdes and Pastoral Care for the Sick’: the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the apparitions of the Immaculate Mary at Lourdes, and the celebration of the International Eucharistic Congress at Quebec in Canada. In this way, a remarkable opportunity to consider the close connection that exists between the Mystery of the Eucharist, the role of Mary in the project of salvation, and the reality of human pain and suffering, is offered to us. Continue reading

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Our Lord: Eucharistic Christ is the Passover Lamb of Sacrifice

Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament

by Jayson M. Brunelle

In previous posts, I’ve explored the centrality of the Eucharist as the sacrament toward which every other sacrament tends.  I’ve talked about the Eucharist as both source and summit of all of the Church’s activity.  I’ve underscored Christ’s words regarding His real presence in the Eucharist explained so eloquently in the Gospel of John.  But I’ve yet to speak on the Eucharist as the Sacrament of self-giving love, manifested in the words of John the Baptist: “Look – there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).  At the moment of consecration, the priest says, “Take this, all of you, and eat it.  This is my body, which shall be given up for you.”  And when consecrating the wine, he states, “Take this, all of you, and drink from it.  This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.  It will be shed for you and for all, so that sins may be forgiven.  Do this in memory of me.” Continue reading

The Holy Eucharist: The Central Sacrament

by Jayson M. Brunelle

Christ’s institution of the sacrament of the Eucharist was and is the single greatest gift He left to His Church.  For, it is the fulfillment of His promise to truly be always among us, as he states in Matthew 28:20, “And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”  While there are, indeed, multiple and varied presences of Christ, such as when two or three are gathered in His name, when the People of God gather to celebrate the Liturgy, when Sacred Scripture – the Word – is proclaimed, or when the priest acts in Persona Christi while administering and/or officiating at anyof the sacraments, etc., the abiding Eucharistic presence of Christ, with the fullness of His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity is truly singular in its reality, intensity, substance and fullness.  While the accidents of bread and wine remain, the substance is completely transformed into the Second Person of the Trinity.   This process whereby bread and wine are transformed into the true presence, flesh and blood of Christ is referred to as transubstantiation.  This occurs during the second half of the Sacred Liturgy, or the Liturgy of the Eucharist, specifically during the priest’s prayer of consecration and immediately following the Epiclesis.  Regarding the wholly unique presence of Christ contained within the pre-eminent sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Catechism of th Catholic Church has this to say:  “The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all sacraments tend.” In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” “This presence is called ‘real’ – by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.” Continue reading

Prayer to Mary Before Communion

by Jayson M. Brunelle

O Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, I dare not approach our Eucharistic Lord without You.  As I prepare to approach the Table of Sacrifice, I beg of you, through my total consecration to you, to clothe me with your own virtues of faith, hope, charity, purity and profound humility.  May I believe in the real Presence of Christ with the pure light of the faith you possessed while on earth.  May I hope in God’s Divine Mercy and Divine Providence with the very certainty and trust that you possessed while on earth.  Finally, may I adore the Eucharistic Heart of Christ with the pure and immaculate love of Your Immaculate Heart.  Take my heart and replace it with yours, that our Lord might be pleased to be received by You living in me.  Prepare my soul to become a worthy sanctuary of Your Son, who hates iniquity.  May this Eucharist bring about radical spiritual and physical healings in my soul, mind and body.  Through my reception of this most holy Communion, may I be completely washed in the Blood of the Lamb and thereby be forgiven of all my many sins and the temporal punishment due to sin, both now and especially at the hour of my death.  May this Eucharist enable me to love God above all things, with my whole heart, soul, strength and mind, and may I love my brothers and sisters with the very love of Christ.  May I be purged of every sinful and inordinate desire and attachment.  O Queen of Heaven and of my soul, purify my desires, such that the single greatest longing of my heart might be a radical, transforming union with Christ, and an ever more perfect conformity of my will to His Divine Will, that I might always and everywhere accomplish the will of our Heavenly Father.  Finally, grant me, in Your beneficence, all of the graces that I need to continue to grow in holiness each and every moment of my life, and to forgive all who have hurt me with the very love and forgiveness of Christ.  Subjectively dispose my soul to receive all of the graces, blessings and mercy that Christ is eager to bestow upon me through the reception of this most august sacrament.  Amen.