Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Created Order: Understanding Αρχέ and Tέλος

A post in which the Created Order is explained and contemporary concerns regarding Freedom, Liberty, Equality, Personhood, Purpose, Destiny are analyzed in the perspective of the framework that the Church Fathers construct for us regarding man's role in Creation.

Introduction: Hellenistic Concepts in Christian Theology
Some say Christianity fell from its pristine condition when the Church started accepting Hellenistic philosophy either after the Apostles died or at the time of Constantine. This is a ridiculous position because St. John the Apostle and Evangelist began to express theology in the language of Hellenistic philosophy in his day. This is done most notably when he says:
"In the beginning was the Word [Λόγος], and the Word [Λόγος] was with God, and the Word [Λόγος] was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men" (John 1:1-4 KJV).

Furthermore, St. John has a remarkable statement of almost equal profundity, when he gave the following teaching in his book of the Apocalypse:
"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning [ἀρχή] and the end [τέλος], the first [πρῶτος] and the last [ἔσχατος]" (Rev 22:13 KJV).
This post will observe how αρχέ and τέλος are used in patristic thought. Πρῶτος and ἔσχατος are profound in themselves. In the language of the Church and Her theology, we see the use Protopresbyter, protodeacon, protopsaltis, etc.; we also have the word eschatology. To relate these to Christ is not difficult since these terms are already fairly well-known. Christ is the first one to Whom we honor and give obedience. When in Christ, life is at its last and final resting place, participates in immortality, i.e. the life of the eschaton. This is how we can understand πρῶτος and ἔσχατος.

Everything in the universe is dynamic and moving. Ancient philosophy worked off this assumption. One of the stumbling blocks of much modern and Western thought is their attempt to isolate things and model them only accounting for very limited movements the modelers control to make their models accurate. However, when understanding reality, this approach will always fail. An example is our Solar System. It is modeled with the assumption that the sun is stationary, but this is not reality. In reality it revolves around the galaxy while the galaxy is propelled outward as the universe expands. This would be a more accurate picture:

Human beings are also dynamic creatures. We are not units of static ontological existence. The Church's teaching is clear on this, we are either moving towards Light or towards Darkness. With this, all moving things have a source and a destination, a beginning point and resting point. This beginning is given the name αρχέ and the destination is given the name τέλος in the language of the ancient world. Αρχέ is our source of existence, particularly our logos. Τέλος is our destiny.

Αρχέ is utilized by St. Maximos the Confessor quite often. His theology is almost entirely accepted by the subsequent Church Fathers and held in very high esteem. However, to understand αρχέ, the understanding of Λόγος must occur first.

Logos as explained by St. Maximos the Confessor
Λόγος is Christ (as St. John declared). When St. John says this, he is validating not only the use of philosophical language but also the use of philosophical ideas in the ancient world. For Greek philosophy, the Logos was an independent universal from which all Creation was ordered and receives it's existence. A logoi is a deposit of the Logos in Creation. 


According to Fr. Maximos Costas (commenting on St. Maximos' teaching): "Logos is inner principle, reason, cause, divine cause, and metaphysical ground. Look at a tree and see a tree, in mystical reality to see the presence of God in the tree, presence of God to that tree, presence of God as it makes that tree a tree. Each created element has a logoi which is received from the Logos. The rock receives its logoi from the Logos, the tree receives its logoi from the Logos, we receive our logoi from the Logos. Each logoi is unique. God is present in the rock as its existence, in the tree as existence and life, in us as our existence, life, and mind."

For Man, Logos is where we receive our ability to know, or reason. What modern philosophy calls Reason was/is called Logos in the ancient and Christian traditions. Logos is the energy that each of us possess and use when we grow in knowledge or engage in rational thought.

Below are eight points that are taken from a presentation by Fr. Maximos Costas (see here) and then from going through St. Maximos the Confessor's writings that were translated by the same Fr. Maximos Costas (see here and here):
  1. Our arche is in God which means our telos is also in Him (Revelation 22:13).
    • Arche: “that by which anything begins to be, the origin, the active cause.”
    • Telos: “the end to which all things relate, the aim, result (immediate, ultimate or prophetic),  purpose”
    • Our end is to reach the “type” from which our beginning was patterned, i.e. Christ.
  2. A logoi is the sustaining/creative uncreated energies of God present in all created things. They are “portions of God”; part of a created being yet eternally in God. In Scripture, they are called “divine wills.”
  3. The Latin world for logos is ratio. Our logoi is the rational power of our soul that creates thoughts (logismoi). This is different from the noetic power which is activated and realized when the Spirit prays in our heart.
  4. All creation receives their logoi from the Logos, indivisibly multiplied (like the rays of the Sun). Every created thing has a logoi. A rock’s logoi is the power from God that gives it existence, it gets its existence from God. For a tree, its logoi is the power to exist and live, it gets its existence and life from God. For man, our logoi is the power to exist, to live, and to have a mind, which all come from God. The man does not have three logos, his logoi is all these things together.
  5. From eternity, all the logos existed in the Logos and at creation He formed all things based on these logoi. This not only happens at the moment of creation but continues on in each entity of this created thing (i.e. logoi are the basis for universals and particulars which is created “at the appropriate moment in time, in a manner consistent with their logoi”…A.7,S.19,pg 101).
  6. We are in the image of God and have the potential to have His likeness because we have a logoi that advances in virtue towards Good. God is the Good (I Cor. 1:30); with our arche and telos in God, man participates and realizes the image of Christ. However, we are sick and it takes divine energy (mercy or grace) for us to realize this natural direction.
  7. The logoi implies movement. Act 17:28a: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being…” This movement is towards the telos of the Good, of Christ. The movement is the reality of our being and it either moves towards God or away from Him. We are not static creatures but instead man wills, man thinks, man has the energy of passion (blameless or blameworthy) or virtue; we are dynamic creatures of motion; this is how God made us. The end result of this is constant movement into the Infinite God in our finite capacity for eternity.
  8. Synergy takes place by having our logos offer the single-thought prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.”) to God and offering a purified heart so that the Spirit may come. Asceticism is to strengthen our noetic power to concentrate attention on the single-thought prayer.
A flower's logoi is to exist and grow. It follows this natural course and inclination that is determined by its logoi, but with out knowing it. This is the great gift of man. Our logoi consists of knowledge. While a flower cannot understand its growth in Christ, man does.
"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3 KJV).
The relations between The Logos, our logoi, arche, telos, and mesos
Αρχή is given the meaning of beginning, source, purpose, and origin. Τέλος is given the meaning end (but not in the sense of our termination but of our destination), and destiny. Sometimes the term μέσος is used in patristic writings, which has the meaning of middle. I drew up an infographic to help my understanding of these things:
The arrows indicate movement. The large blue arrow is the logoi given to the creation from the Creator and returning to rest in its Creator. Since man cannot be separate from our logoi, this is also indicative of life itself moving in its natural direction towards Christ. The smaller arrows are what is theologically called kenosis that is the self-emptying and condescension of Christ into our lives to aid us in our coming back to Him. This was done on the Cross and is continued through the Eucharist. This is how Christ is our "middle." How this specifically works is by His energy he gives to us. It reorders those things which are drawing us away from Christ and point them back to Christ. Christ comes and gives divine energy (grace). The sending of the energy and our acquisition of this energy is the whole point of the Scriptures and teaching of the Church concerning our actions in life. The source (αρχἠ) and destiny (τέλος) are resting in the Logos, in Christ and are dashed circles to show that it is a true unity of them and Logos. The large arrow of our logoi and our life begin with αρχή and end with τέλος both of which are in Christ.

St. Symeon the New Theologian says (in Chapters 3.1):
"Ἀπαρχὴ Χριστὀς, μεσὀτης καὶ τελειὀτης ἐν πᾶσι γἀρ  ἐν τοῖς πρὠτοις, ἔν τε τοῖς μἐσοις καὶ τελευταἰοις ς ἐν τοῖς πρώτοις ἐστἰντὰ πἀντα ἐν πᾶσι Χριστός. 
Christ is the beginning, the middle, and the end. He Who is in the first is in all, and as He is in the first so He is in the middle and the end as well--Christ is all and in all."
No graph is perfect when you are talking about these things. This illustrates the natural movement and inclination of Man's life; it does not allow for choice. Should someone reject their natural inclination and become a slave to created things instead of finding freedom in God, then their lives would not point toward Christ but outside of Him. This first occurred at the Fall which will be given some analysis shortly.

In the Image and Likeness of God
Something Church Fathers stress is that man is not the image of God. Instead man is in the image of God. The image of God is Christ. We are created in Christ. St. Paul tells the Colossians (1:15): "[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.." This speaks exactly to the αρχή and τέλος of man. Our αρχή was in the Logos and then given to creatures, including to us in a special manner (we have minds).

Before the fall, man was behaving naturally and pursing his destiny, his τέλος. After the Fall, the Fathers often teach, the image remained but the likeness was lost. Therefore, "according to St. Basil the Great, the image points to man's potential to tend towards the likeness. Therefore the image is potentially the likeness, the likeness is the image in operation...through asceticism one activates the image and comes to be in the likeness" (The person in the Orthodox Tradition, pg. 149).

The Fathers look at what exactly constitutes being in the image of God. Some say it is only the rationality (logos). Others say it is because we are nous, logos, and spirit. Regardless, "...in the orthodox teaching we believe that the ontology of man is found to be in his Archetype, in the God Who created him, since man is made in the image of God... Man is understood ontologically by the fathers as a theological being. His ontology is iconic" (Ibid, pg. 78). It is then our responsibility to actualize our iconic image to exhibit God. The Christian life is taking what is an already and image and putting it into operation. This is done by asceticism but primarily by divine energy which is attracted by proper asceticism and also given in the sacraments.

This is a very key point to understand in the Orthodox Faith. What we possess potentially in our ability to commune with God is actualized when we reach the likeness of God (and reaching the likeness of God occurs when all we possess to potentially commune with God is put in operation). At birth and rebirth, we are given everything needed to become God-like in potential. It is then the man's role to rationally accept and allow the working of God in his life to actualize this God-likeness or put the principle of God into operation. The relationship between God and man is one of synergy. St. Symeon the New Theologian is very insistent on this point because in his day (and also in our day), Christians walked around claiming to be a temple of the Holy Spirit, and yet teaching things foreign to the Orthodox life. St. Symeon was unwavering and in no uncertain terms taught that we do not imagine or unknowingly believe that the Holy Spirit has come to the Christian (based on a flawed commitment to our self-righteousness partnered with a faulty understanding of Scriptures saying it thus must be this way), but instead it is a real knowledge, a real feeling, He speaks to us and no doubt exists with us. He is at work in our soul. When this does truly happen, the likeness is gained, the Holy Spirit in us (given in potentiality at baptism) is active and operational, and we are a true human person (more on that later).

The Created Order of Things
This was human existence before the fall. Again, Adam and Eve had the availability of choice given to them: continue and grow in this destiny or choose a way of their own apart from God. They chose poorly. Satan persuaded them to turn away from their natural inclination. They rebelled against the natural movement of Creation to return to their Creator, from which they received their being. Part of God's response was the instituting of the very beginnings of established order for the Fallen World. This would and does act as an iconic depiction on how man can return to God.


Everything in the Universe is symbolic and points to God. This is an important point the Orthodox stress in dialogue with Evangelicals. There is order within the Sun to provide light and warmth to the Earth. There is order with the Earth and its rotation and revolution around the Sun. There is order in the changing of seasons. There is order everywhere and if any of these things worked in a different way, then our planet would become a barren wasteland. Order is inherent in every part of God's creation, including man. Again, man does have a choice to leave this order. But what choice is that really? To leave the order of things separates one from Life and invite Death. 

There is a natural order of things in Creation, which God ordained. The writers of the Bible (Prophets and Apostles) and the Church Fathers understand this. Everything revealed by God is given in a specific way and everything that is offered to God is suppose to be given to Him through this natural order.

Even with the Fall of Man, the divine order still held true. It became a way of life symbolic to the lost natural way of life. God said to Eve: "...and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (Genesis 3:16). Dcn. Patrick Mitchell analyzes the verse in this way:
"In the Septuagint, the word in the place of 'desire' is apostrophe. The verse could thus be translated, 'thy turning back shall be to thy husband,' suggesting that the woman's salvation requires her redirection toward her archic head, who is now ordained as her lord" (The Problem with Hierarchy, St. Vladimir's Quarterly 54:2 (2010), pg. 209).
With the term "archic head", this is taking the concept of αρχή (where we receive are being from Christ) and applying it to Creation. Eve received her being from Adam by the creative power of God. Therefore, women has her αρχή in man and God has told her that she will live orderly in the fallen world should her τέλος be in man. This is iconic of what is expected of every human being, returning to the archic head, i.e. Christ. This was just the start of these iconic depictions to remind and aid us in pursuing our natural τέλος. Later in the history of Man, He institutes patriarchy, kingship, and priesthood. These are also iconic. Aside from marriage showing women returning to man, fatherhood, properly, shows itself to be the source of life. Priesthood, properly, shows themselves to be revealers of the Faith. Kingship, properly, shows itself to be the source of culture and safety. Therefore, in fallen creation, God has ordained an established order for Families, for the Church, and even for Nations. These are places where we live out healthy lives, because they instill in man a way of life that when applied to himself will draw closer to God.

Since all creation and even the elements of fallen creation have an established order, this makes it the case moreso with the Church. It is untenable to say that in the Church there is little order, or we determine our own order. The ecclesial order is iconic of the celestial order. This has been known by the people of God at least since Moses' revelations on Mt. Sinai. With him, through the prophets, and Hebrew then Christian liturgical services imitate the heavenly liturgical services. St. Dionysios the Areopagite writes in great detail on this. He says that the higher celestial ranks pass light to the lower ranks:
"Each rank around God conforms more to him than the one farther away. Those closest to the true Light are more capable of receiving light and of passing it on. Do not imagine that the proximity here is physical. Rather, what I mean by nearness is the greatest possible capacity to receive God" (Letter to Demophilus, PG3, 1092B).
This is indeed a shared function between the celestial and ecclesial hier-archy (sacred source/origins). The great saints who are spiritual fathers to their disciples which also become saints grow because of the uncreated energy they receive from their fathers who have the more light to give out. This is also seen is Scripture:
"And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: [nevertheless], if thou see me [when I am] taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be [so]. And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, [there appeared] a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (IV Kingdoms 2:9-11 KJV).

Here is a key to understanding the order of things. God is always humbling Himself to raise mankind to great heights and to Himself. It is imperative to see how this is accomplished. God uses His own creation to bring people to this state of reality. He uses the Body of the Logos. The Lord's Mother is always at work in this regard. He uses the Saints. He uses relics. A reading of Scripture always show God using creation to execute His will and salvific plan. It is everywhere. For one to claim they have a direct connection with God and have no use for the Church or the Friends of God, then this person is at best adhering to an unbiblical worldview and at worst a Gnostic heretic.

Now we shift the focus from the various views on the proper workings of αρχή for the benefit of creation to a brief look at a proper viewpoint on τέλος. As mentioned before, τέλος can be understood as "destiny." When we see the word "predestination" in English Bibles, it is often given the meaning of foreordained, or decreed beforehand (from eternity). This has a legal element to it that I wonder was a meaning interpolated onto the original understanding of the passage. Analyzing Romans 8:29 gives this more clarity:
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom 8:29 KJV).
  • "For whom he did foreknow..." The reason we are foreknown is the logoi which becomes our own when we are born, was a part of the Logos (Christ) from all eternity. This is not the teaching of the pre-existence of souls, because we make the correct and solid patristic between our soul and the logoi which is the rational power of our soul.
  • "...he also did predestinate..." Most Western thinking looks at this as a decree but that may be true to an extent but some (especially Calvinists) create a whole grotesque and demonic theology from the principle of predestination. Instead predestinate means that at the time of creation, God put in place the natural movement of energy coming out of Him, intermingling with creation, then together returning to Him. This was the predetermined movement of creation and in humans the result is becoming...
  • "...conformed to the image of his Son..." or (as we explained earlier) the attaining and activation of the likeness of God. In other words, putting that image into operation.
  • "...that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." Christ is the New Adam. "[Saint] Athanasios the Great affirms, the Word was made man. Since He is our archetype of the first creation, he also had to be the archetype of the new creation and re-formation" (The person in the Orthodox Tradition, pg. 161).


This established order is the very focus of Satan's destructive power at work in societies. In the West, he is having great success. Satan successfully abolished the concept of priesthood among many Westerners starting with the Reformation. Even the Papists have a staggering crisis among their priesthood (in more ways than one). Once the concept of priests and Church was greatly injured, Satan moved to destroy kings. This is where he had his greatest success. Kingship is seen as the most backwards thinking belief one can hold in the "enlightened" West. Democracy is the greatest form of government, as Western governments tell us. Well, we can see it resulting in abysmal failure on every level by anyone who has still retained some sanity throughout the forced efforts to make the populace  believe otherwise. The entire world is systematically pursuing agendas in rebellion against Christianity as a result from "spreading democracy." In recent decades we have seen probably the last great push of Satan before we become so degenerate that our destruction is the only outcome (unless we turn to repentance). This is Satan's push to destroy fatherhood. The propaganda that women ought to be treated equally to men has resulted in these useful idiots to even deny biological realities. Fathers are not only absent from so many households, but women try to find happiness in imitating some of the negative aspects of male behavior.

Wrath of God in the Orthodox Tradition
The denial of the proper and established order in a fallen world has led to the total oblivion of any memory of our Creator and need to return to him. Instead it elevates the self and ego to become god, exactly the action that resulted in Lucifer's fall from Heaven. Underlying these demonic pursuits initiated by Satan is a misguided quest for freedom and delusional liberation from slavery. When man uses his rational choice to reject the order God provided for our benefit, then this is when the wrath of God visits man. It is said the wrath of God is the created order out of order. Only man has the ability to do this. The created order will then be given permission by God to bring itself (seemingly violently at times) back into proper alignment. Creation has a logoi of its own that reaches towards its Creator but man being prince of Creation can inhibit that movement. St. Symeon the New Theologian describes what happens at the Fall...
"...when [the earth] saw [Adam] leave Paradise, all of the created world which God had brought out of non-being into existence no longer wished to be subject to the transgressor. The sun did not want to shine by day, nor the moon by night, nor the stars to be seen by him. The springs of water did not want to well up for him, nor the rivers to flow. The very air itself thought about contracting itself and not providing breath for the rebel. The wild beasts and all the animals of the earth saw him tripped of his former glory and, despising him, immediately turned savagely against him. The sky was moving as if to fall justly down on him, and the very earth would not endure bearing him upon its back.
"What then? God Who created all and made man, Who know before the world was made that Adam would transgress the commandment, and Who had fore-ordained the man's re-birth and re-creation through the birth into the flesh of His only-begotten Son, what does God do here? He Who holds all things together by His own power and compassion and goodness, now suspends the assault of all creation, and straightway subjects all of it to Adam as before. He wills that creation serve man for whom it was made, and like him become corruptible, so that when again man is renewed and becomes spiritual, incorruptible, and immortal, then creation, too, now subjected to the rebel by God's command and made his slave, will be freed from its slavery and, together with man, be made new, and become incorruptible and wholly spiritual. For this is what the all-compassionate God and Lord had fore-ordained from before the foundation of the world" (On the Mystical Life, Second Ethical Discourse, pg. 29)

Thus, we understand to be Creation is submissive to us. This would seem to be a personification of created order or Creation itself but this is how Creation truly behaves. It may seem antiquated or superstitious but this is the demonic lie of post-modern thought (taking the soul out of everything including mankind). When we act cruelly towards the earth then God may intervene. Before the full revelation in Jesus Christ, this was not fully understood, so when Creation sought an alignment at the expense of man, they called it the "wrath of God" or a "curse" from God. With the full revelation of Jesus Christ we know that Creation has begged God for mercy and God listens and acts only after giving opportunities for repentance by man. The wrath of God was also called judgement in the Old Testament and while this holds true, the Christians would define "wrath of God" as the Created Order out of order. Two examples in Scripture hint at this reality When Cain is cursed after killing his brother Abel:
"And now [art] thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth" (Genesis 4:11-12 KJV).
And also the teaching from St. Paul the Apostle:
"For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Romands 8:22 KJV).

Freedom in the understanding by the Church Fathers
Again, creation and man are dynamic and not static. At every moment of his life, man pursues the Light or follows Darkness. Freedom is a paradox. Humility is the mother of all virtues. Humbly allowing oneself to be enslaved to the order God has provided for the corrupt world will bring you to a point where you freely choose God or selfish pursuits that will not result in a blessed immortality and will cut you off from perfection. What is called freedom by the world actually cuts you off from even the possibility of perfection, blessedness, peace, and rest in our Creator, the Lord Jesus.

Met. Hierotheos writes:
"In the life before the fall there was the possibility of positive or negative response to the will of God... man's freedom even to sin and to withdraw from his Creator was a sign not of perfection but of imperfection...the lack of impetus in man toward his archetype, shows a weakness and imperfection. Man should naturally be led towards the good. St. Maximos the confessor, interpreting the request of Christ's prayer 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heave' says that he who impels his rational power towards God and worships Him mystically becomes a participant in the angel's worship of God. In this case the words of the Apostle Paul apply: 'For our citizenship is in heaven'. Among these men desire does not sap their powers through sensual pleasure, 'but there is only the intelligence naturally leading intelligent beings towards the source of intelligence, the Logos Himself'. The perfection of man's freedom lies in his turning naturally towards his archetype" (The person in the Orthodox Tradition, pg. 270).
This freedom that man chooses when turning away from God is a maximizing of pleasure and a minimizing of pain (for more on this fundamental spiritual dichotomy, see here). The pursuit of utopia by modern day politics (left and right) is a pursuit of maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. It is enshrined at very foundation of America's political theory. From the Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness..." (emphasis mine).

Met. Hierotheos indicates to us that we have a choice: Return to our αρχή and grow into perfection or turn away from our natural and inherent τέλος and wallow in pleasurable experience. Carnal pleasure is alien from the perfection found in returning to the Logos. This is the choice of Light and Dark, Perfection or Pleasure. Those who choose pleasure, in the end, find it wanting. This is not really a choice. One is divorced from the natural movement, the other spinning away from perfection, goodness, and peace. One is the life of eternity, the other damnation. One joins us to God, the other alienates man from God. It really is not a choice. Which, again, is why freedom is a paradox. Man may think he is free by choosing pleasure but it denies him the ability to make the most important choice of his life, to return to God from where he had his αρχέ to participate in blessed life eternal or alienate himself from God (his natural τέλος) for a tortuous existence not only in the life to come but also this life.

Equality apart from Christ is an alien proposition
The explanation on the created order given to us since the Fall is at odds with many contemporary's desires and pursuits relating to a secular version of equality. The created order is inherently unequal. Women pursues Man. Lay people receive from priests. Kings bestow upon subjects. Children are spawn of Fathers. The desire for equality is still a strong desire for many despite all of this. This is a godly desire, however, it does not excuse anyone from attempting to dismantle God's created order. The desire for equality is fulfilled in Christ, because all things return to the Logos and find their purpose, their existence, their rest in the Logos. It is because of all things uniting to the Logos that equality has its value and only true expression.

Equality = Christ the Logos

Understanding this implies the difficult task of accepting inequality and taking comfort in forms of submission. Again, Humility is the mother of all virtues. This is how God has arranged things. Humility is a Cross but the Cross brings life (see my post on that here). Dcn. Patrick Mitchell writes, "within families, churches, countries, there may also exist hierarchy, subjection, and subjugation on account of the fall, but ideally and essentially, families, churches, and countries are archical unions mirroring relations within the Trinity" (St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 54:2, (2010). pg. 203).

At this point I want to present an analysis of submission by Dcn. Patrick Mitchell. If one comes to the realization that the secular pursuit of equality is impossible and denies the Created Order (including basic biological principles) then a radical readjustment needs to take place on how submission is executed in our lives. Before, it was something to eradicate everywhere. Now, having some awareness of truth, submission must be implemented in our life towards the Created Order and natural movement towards the Logos to achieve the true equality found in Christ our God.

In life there are superordinates and subordinates. Superordinates are those recognized as greater than oneself (generally priests, nobles, and family elders or specifically a bishop, a king, and a grandfather). Subordinates are those recognized as lesser than others (those others being the same listing as before). Dcn. Patrick Mitchell shows us the three ways of becoming subordinate to a superordinate:
"The first is the subordination of hierarchy based on the inequality of the various ranks of creatures in the natural and fallen world. The second is the subordination of subjection based on the acceptance of a lawful order whereby natural equals are obliged to submit one to another for the good of all. the third is the subordination of subjugation based on the use of force, whereby one creature imposes its will upon another..." (St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 54:2, (2010). pg. 205).
He continues by classifying three methods of submission within a superordinate/subordinate realationship:
"(a) deference-between persons not related by subordination, (b) obedience-when subordinates submit to superordinates, and (c) condescension-when superordinates submit to subordinates..." (St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 54:2, (2010). pg. 205).

All these methods and forms of submission can be used for good and as an aid for a man or many men to return to the pursuit of τέλος. Many examples could be given of the proper use of these forms but instead two examples will be given. The proper use of subjugation and the beauty of condescension. Subjugation and Condescension can be viewed almost as opposites, which is why these are the two examples to be analyzed. Subjugation is certainly and often abused. This is why the godly-minded ought to only be in the position to utilize it. In the hand of sinners only catastrophe can result. One example is the Salem Witch Trials. Here, subjugation occurred not by violence, but by the threat of violence. Most do not know how the Salem Witch Trials finally came to an end. Well... when every potential witch in Salem had been exhausted by the witch hunters, they decided to look outside Salem. The nearby target became the town of Beverly. The witch hunters accused the minister's wife of being a witch and the minister knew this was the beginning of trouble. Fortunately, the minister and Royal Governor of Massachusetts Colony were long-time friends. The minster penned a letter to the Royal Governor, then the Governor responded with a letter to Salem. In the letter, the Governor ordered the trials to stop immediately or he would personally come to Salem with a few hundred British soldiers and stop the trials himself using extreme prejudice. After that, there were no more trials. This is an example of the proper use of subjugation which occurred without violence on the part of the superordinate. The most obvious example of condescension is Christ Himself. This is the most extreme form of condescension that can occur and the Church always reminds us of it. Christ left his throne from heaven to become man and die as a common criminal.

So the proper behavior of superordinates should instill love by the subordinates. When the superordinates go about for the health, benefit, salvation, sanctification, enriching of subordinates, this is the Created Order's tool of submission being correctly utilized. The response by the subordinate is one of gratitude, appreciation, and love.

One last point the Dcn. Patrick Mitchell makes is that when on the natural way towards the Logos, love is the instrument at use for this movement, not submission. When one is properly oriented toward their αρχέ (Christ) then the movement towards Him occurs in a love for him. When this love is not there, then submission is required until it can be replaced by love. Submission is the instrument of order in Fallen Creation that before the Fall, while in theosis, and at the restoration of all things does not exist. Submission always gives way to love in the movement towards communion with our Creator.

A true Person according to the Orthodox Church
The important distinction earlier about what is possessed by man potentially and what is he possess actually (or actualizing the potential, putting it in operation) is how the Church approaches the use of the word Person as it relates to man. As it has been reiterated a few times now, to understand the Orthodox conception of person opposed to the modern un-Christian view of person, one needs to keep in mind that everything in Creation is dynamic and moving. Nothing is in a static independent existence not acting on anything and not having anything acted upon it. This is not reality. Dynamic-potential is what exists in fallen creation (at least initially). Dynamic-actualization only exists when joining with God. Static-actualization never exists. Static-potential I suppose does occur as one who insists on never joining with Christ, but at the end of all things this would also cease to happen (and would become hell for that man). Met. Hierotheos says: 
"...there is the danger of the person being presented with ontic-static content and not in terms of dynamicness...The person has movement within him: from the image he must reach the likeness. The grace of God and man's asceticism activate the hypostatic principle [a term favored by Elder Sophrony regarding the activation of our personhood]" (The person in the Orthodox Tradition, pg. 147).
Dynamic potential and dynamic actualization is how one approaches the understanding of person in Orthodox Tradition. Where this clarification started was with the heresy of Sabellios. He used the term prosopon in the ancient definition of the word to describe the Trinity as wearing different masks when they acted in different manners towards Creation. The Second Ecumenical Council condemned Sabellios and upheld the teaching of the Cappadocian Fathers. In it they insisted on the term hypostasis to describe each member of the Trinity. They also decided that should the term prosopon be used in describing any member of the Trinity it should be understood that it is a synonym with hypostasis


Person-hypostasis is an ontological part of man because without it we would fall into non-existence which the Fathers soundly reject. However, we possess it potentially. Remember, personhood is not an object it is a movement. Personhood is possessed by us potentially. The Fathers teach that through asceticism and the Eucharist we attract the grace of God or divine energy from Him to cooperate (synergy) with our own created energy and actualize our personhood that comes from uniting to the Logos, or acquiring the likeness of God. We are a person because God is Person, but we are only truly persons when united with him. We receive our person since our αρχή is in Him and only activate our hypostatic principle when we grow in our τέλος which is also in him. As St. Paul told the philosophers on Mars Hill: "for in him we live, and move, and have our being..." (Acts 17:28).

Met. Hierotheos commenting on Elder Sophrony's teaching on the hypostatic principle gives us the following:
"God is Person and that the man who has communion and union with God is a person. In general, all our actions should have a hypostatic and personal character and all of us should travel the hypostatic way. But even obedience is a hypostatic experience, while love too is a communion of beloved persons... [T]he holy Fathers used the term 'Person' to point to the particular Hypostases of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But they more often use the term 'anthropos', man, for people. Yet there are some indications that the term 'person' is sometimes also applied to a man. But this must be done with special care, for it is possible to give a philosophical and abstract character to the term 'person'. Properly a man and a person is one who has passed from the image to the likeness. In the teaching of the holy Fathers, to be in the image is potentially to be in the likeness, and being in the likeness is actually the image. In the same way the man created by God and recreated by the Church through Holy Baptism, is potentially a person. But when, through his personal struggle, and especially by the grace of God, he attains the likeness, then he is actually a person. Therefore we maintain that ontologically all people can be regarded as persons, and even the devil himself is a person, but soteriologically we are not all persons, since we have not all attained the likeness"  (The person in the Orthodox Tradition, pgs. 80-81).
Conclusion: Relating all the underlying concepts
  • Αρχή towards Τέλος
  • Image towards Likeness
  • Created Order towards Love
  • Possibility for Holy Spirit (after Baptism) towards Receiving Holy Spirit (after Purification)
  • Slavery towards Freedom
  • Submission towards Equality
  • Potentially a Person towards Actually a Person
All these things are of important use during our life trying to overcome the corrupt world towards the way of life that one enters when God gives theoria. We talk about these human concepts but once man is in communion with God all these words and concepts fall away and there is just ecstasy and intimacy at the same time with the Good Creator and our God.  But these struggles and established realities or expressions in the Fallen World are to aid man to realize his αρχή and pursue his τέλος. Realizing the teaching of the Logos in the ancient world and especially how it was understood in the teaching of the Church Fathers gives much greater awareness of how our origin and destiny informs true human life. When St. John the Apostle and Evangelist says the Jesus Christ is God and our Logos then it becomes real and we have a path for achieving it beyond information and instead transformation is within our grasp.

There are some helpful resources available for further reading. What I have read, quoted, and recommend are the works of Elder Sophrony, the Ambigua by St. Maximos the Confessor, the lecture by Fr. Maximos Costas introducing St. Maximos and his Amigua (found here), The person in the Orthodox Tradition by Met. Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios, and The Mystical Life: Ethical Discourses of St. Symeon the New Theologian. Also quoted in this article and of some interest would be The Problem with Hierarchy by Brian Patrick Mitchell.