St. Athanasius described the potential for man to become god through theosis, also known as deification. He said that man has the potential for “becoming by grace what God is by nature.” This radical possibility of fallen, corrupt, and sinful man to become a god (as described by David in Psalm 87), is only possible through Christ, the author of our lives and our salvation.
When God the Logos, the second person of the Holy Trinity, became Incarnate, He took upon himself human nature which united with His divine nature. The dual natures united in the personhood of Christ enacted the possibility for humanity to not only be restored in its image before the Fall, but further to draw ever closer to God in Communion. Many Church Fathers hold that Christ taking flesh made it possible to draw closer than Adam and Eve had before the Fall. They believe that for this very fact, the Incarnation would have happened whether or not there had been a Fall.
Christ restores our human natures and our internal image of God through His Divine energies He bestows. The Holy Spirit unites to us so we can become like God by nature. It is impossible to become united to God in His essence.
We receive God’s Spirit by becoming receptacles of grace. This grace is bestowed according to our participation in the Divine life of Christ. We progress in this Divine life through asceticism, struggle against sin and our passions, watchfulness, participating in the sacramental and prayer life of the Church, reading His Holy Word, reading the Lives of the Saints, and the Jesus Prayer, leading to unceasing prayer.
Elder Aemilianos describes the progress of the soul as recorded in the book of his homilies entitled: “The Way of the Spirit: Reflections on Life in God”. He describes the beginning steps, progressing towards theosis:
1. Recognizing the soul is in exile from God.
2. The soul recognizing its own nakedness that is covered in false fig leaves.
3. The soul deciding to present itself before God in its utter nakedness.
4. The soul going into voluntary exile to seek to be with God and to go deeper within the self to be “alone with God”.
5. Soul undergoing asceticism to attract God’s attention and to prepare itself to receive God.
6. Soul receiving the Holy Spirit bestowed by Christ.
7. Soul becoming enlightened, recognizing God increasingly.
The process of theosis in Christ makes possible for man to become a god by grace.