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 Old and the New Israel.
Ιn its simplicity St. Ignatius' argument makes it clear that the oneness of the people is made possible only through the divine oneness. The gathering of the people of God into one synagogue is thus a koinonia in the image of the divine communion. The people of the New Israel form a new, unbroken totality because God freely and willingly, transcending his transcendence, created a new personal relationship with man. Ιn the Old Israel the relationship between God and the people was a sort of a subject-object relationship. God was acting behind the veil of human history. He was speaking from outside; His word was an external claim: "Hear this, all ye people, give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world: Both low and high, rich and poor together" (Ρs.42:1-2). Thus the unity of the Old Israel was a result of submission to the one voice of God which came as an external law, commandment or prophetic assurance. Ιn the New Israel the oneness of the people is the result of a symbiosis and enoikisis, of the dwelling of God among men (Jn:l:l4). The fundamental difference between Old and New Israel lies in the radical change from a subject-object relationship to one of participation or communion. This means that in the New Israel God no longer acts in human history as an external factor, but enters into the scene of human history Himself, and becomes the central person in it. This is the meaning of the "έσκήνωσεν έν ημίν". Thus, by His unique kenotic action the divine Logos became Himself history enhypostasized. By His self-emptying and abasement He is involved in human history in a personal and direct way. Zizioulas speaks of the "existential involvment"(6) of God in human history. This "existential involvment"(6) of God in human destiny constitutes the surpassing of the law by the truth. It is in this sense that Ρaul spoke of the ransom (εξαγορά) of those who were under the law (Gα1 .4:5) . Hence the New Israel is in an absolutely new situation, one created by God's kenotic going out and by His redemptive indwelling (enoikesis) in man. Clearly, this means that the unity οf the new people of God resulted from the personal communion which was created by the incarnate Logos. The divine Logos became the unifying bond, the gathering of the people "from the four winds" or "from the ends of the earth".
6. See J.D.Zizioulas, "The Authority of the Bible", The Ecumenical Review, ΧΧΙ 1969), p. 162ff.