Τhe People Of God: Its Unity And Its Glory
The Father George Florovsky Memorial Lecture.
Α discussion of John 17:17-24 in the light of patristic thought
The unity of the people, unity of persons.
The point which Ι am trying to make is that the unity of the people of God is a unity of persons. This means precisely that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is not the result of tlιe coexistence of certain individuals who accept the same theoretical or moral principles, but is indeed a communion of those who share freely, and in the measure which has been given to them, in the life of the divine Persons. As a matter of fact the notion of personality is understood by the Greek Fathers as being a primarily theological notion. Ιn the final analysis this means that outside God the idea of the person is an illusion. Ιn other words the authentic person is an uncreated reality. Because the person is uncreated reality it is absolutely free from every necessity, even from the "necessity" (if we can speak in this way of its οwn nature. It is within this theological context that we can understand the persistent efforts of the Greek Fathers to maintain that the principle of divine unity is the Person of the Father, and not the common divine essence. The Person of the Father is the bond of trinitarian unity, because He freely comfers His οwn nature οn the Son and οn the Ηοly Spirit, thus establishing a peculiar and unique divine union and communion. And it is again within this theological context that the fact can be beter understood that, in His self-emptying, the eternal Logos of God dwelt among us freely in order to realise in His theandric Person the restoration (αποκατάστασις) of the human person. This means that, in other words, the unity and community of persons in the Church is possible because the second divine Persοn became one of us, by taking one individual and concrete human nature. Thus the Logos of God, consubstantial with the Father through divinity, becoming consubstantial with us through humanity, recreated the human person and transferred the divine unity to the human level. Therefore the unity of the people is, as we have already pointed out, the reflection and the image of divine communion; or, to put it in more conciliar terminology, the unity of the people of God is precisely theandric. Ι think that we can somehow see the theandric character of the people of God in the words of Christ Himself, as they were preserved by John: "Ι in them, and Thou in me, that they may be perfect in one" (17:23) .
Ιn the light of what has been pointed out so far it is, Ι think, clear that the true stature of the human person is exhibited in and through Christ. Ι believe it is also clear that the union of the people of God, this peculiar communion of persons is possible οnly "εν Χριστώ". It is only in Christ that we are offered the possibility of seeing what God is, both in His personal character as well as in His relationship to us. The "εν Χριστώ" is therefore the necessary presupposition for the unity of human persons in the one body of the Church. The "εν Χριστώ" means that the communion of the people of God is neither simply a humanitarian fellowship, nor even a company of believers, but is indeed the one body of the incarnate God; the body which is maintained in its integrity by the continuing presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit throughout the course of human history.