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  • in reply to: TH 407: Lesson 5 (Sample) #13169
    Mariam14
    Participant

    I can see the influence of St. Athanasius throughout C.S. Lewis’ writings in “The Chronicles of Narnia”. I will give an overview of places that stand out to me in this influence.
    Aslan, the great lion, is like Christ. He creates Narnia and all of its creatures, and he lays “deep magic rules” into its governing laws of reality. He is the supreme ruler of Narnia, like Christ is King over all. Deep magic parallels God’s governing Law. I now see God’s Law more as a governing Law of reality, having read “On the Incarnation”. These deep magic rules laid by Aslan contradicted what the White Witch of the story knew. The White Witch represents Satan. This allowed for Aslan to be able to return to life because he sacrificed himself when he didn’t need to, on behalf of Edmond who had betrayed him.
    Furthermore, the White Witch was present when Aslan created Narnia, but she was not present when Aslan laid the Deep Magic Rules. I see St. Athanasius’ influence in this as well, as St. Athanasius stressed that only God in the Holy Trinity was before creation and therefore by implication His Law in the Creation. The White witch came from the “older world”, and she was accidentally transported when she wasn’t supposed to by humans. This represents humans bringing sin and evil into the world. The White Witch casts spells on Narnia putting it into an eternal Winter, representing corruptibility.
    On the flipside, when the Pevensie children: Peter, Susan, Edmond, first enter Narnia, Aslan returns to Narnia, and this enacts the slow thaw and gradual return to Spring, which represents life. I see a strong influence of St. Athanasius here.
    In the story, Edmond betrayed Aslan, as well as his siblings Peter, Susan, and Lucy to the White Witch in exchange for Magical Turkish Delight. This represents temptation, and then sin and death (The wages of sin is death). When the White Witch had rights to kill Edmund because he partook of the Turkish delight, this represents man becoming corruptible after partaking of the apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, to which God had warned that if man partook, he should surely die. The White Witch, like Satan, is the tempter in this.
    Aslan makes a deal with the White Witch, agreeing to die in Edmond’s place. The White Witch has Aslan tied up and shorn, and kills him upon the altar, by stabbing him, as Christ was killed on the Cross at the hands of his enemies, of his own voluntary will. Christ and Aslan both understood the reason they would need to lay down their life, in order to enact salvific powers they have over death, sin, and corruption under fulfillment of the Law or in Aslan’s case, the Deep Magic. Aslan resurrects the next day, like Christ Resurrected on the third day. Aslan resurrects, because being like Christ, he holds the power of his resurrection, as he knew the Deep Magic’s Laws.
    Aslan next goes to the White Witch’s castle and breathes upon the stone statues who were creatures that had been turned to stone by the White Witch. The creatures come back to life. Having read “On the Incarnation”, I see this as a clear parallel to Christ sending His grace, His Holy Spirit, to man, restoring man’s image, giving man life. Christ is Life, and His grace bestowed upon man is life giving.
    After Aslan frees people from stone in the castle, he goes to fight the White Witch’s army alongside Edmond, Susan, Lucy, Peter and the native Narnians.
    In the battle, Edmond, once the betrayer who fell to temptation by eating the White Witch’s Magical Turkish Delight, breaks the scepter of the witch keeping her from being able to turn more people to stone. Edmond displays repentance and redemption. The influence of St. Athanasius I see here is that Edmond’s breaking of the scepter represents deification of man: becoming like God by nature through grace. Edmond was brought from being a betrayer, to being saved by Aslan, and then to the place of himself having a god-like nature to defeat evil. Edmond afterwards is crowned king (alongside his co-ruling siblings) and he, from then on, is always very just and fair and doesn’t doesn’t judge others wrongly. He displays true repentance, wisdom, and humility, further representing deification. His crowning represents his glory as we will be glorified in Christ. His siblings are also crowned, a parallel to receiving the Holy Spirit, and being crowned and glorified by Christ. It also represents co-ruling with Christ, under Christ. Christ and Aslan rule all.
    The great battle in Narnia represents struggling against evil. The humans and creatures help fight evil. In the battle, Aslan kills the White Witch, defeating evil, and by parallel, Satan. This represents how only Christ can overthrow Satan’s power, as St. Athanasius showed in “On the Incarnation”.
    One more thought in parallelism comes to my mind. The wardrobe represents a thin veil, like a stepping stone, from one world to another. On the Incarnation St. Athanasius talks about how death is simply a stepping stone to the next life.

    in reply to: TH 407: Lesson 4 (Sample) #13121
    Mariam14
    Participant

    My appreciation for St. Athanasius has increased a hundredfold since taking this class. My favorite part of the class has been reading “On the Incarnation” which offered important insights to my faith that I take as a gift. I feel I am not the same person as before in reading this important work. It has profoundly informed my faith. I believe “On the Incarnation” is perhaps one of the best Catechisms on Christology in the Christian world.

    In introducing St. Athanasius to other Christians who have not heard of him, I would first give a brief explanation of who he really was for the Orthodox Church. I would explain that he was a Church Father who lived during the fourth century in Alexandria, Egypt. I would add that he was a spiritual son of St. Anthony the Great, and he helped write the Nicene Creed. I would also explain that he was a brilliant theologian who fought against the Arian heresies. Finally, I would tell them about his most famous work, “On the Incarnation”.

    In introducing the work “On the Incarnation”, I would explain how profound reading this work was for me in my faith, and that it holds really important truths of Christ that are like shining gems for the soul. I would explain that it is a very thought provoking, faith deepening, and beautiful work that explains Christological truths in a short book with so much depth. I would tell them that it only takes 2-3 hours to read, but that it could prove to be one of the most important Christian books they have ever read.

    in reply to: TH 407: Lesson 3 (Sample) #13020
    Mariam14
    Participant

    “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). This fact of reality left mankind with two major problems after the Fall. One problem was turning away from God, increasing in evil ways, and moving towards idolatry. The second major problem was death. Man had transgressed the Law, and now death had entered the world. The problem of death could not be escaped. God had created man with the potential for incorruptibility and blessed life if man had chosen to not sin. However, with the Fall, sin brought corruptibility to man. Further, sin increased over time in mankind’s heart because man fell away ever more from God before the Incarnation of Christ. Humanity moved in the direction of non-being in this progression. God created humanity to share in life, communion, unity, and participation in Him. He created humanity to contemplate, worship, praise, and love Him. When man moved away from God, man lost his purpose and became non profitable. His very existence ended in death because of the wages of his sin.

    Christ came to dwell among us through the Incarnation, putting on flesh, being fully God and fully man. He did this “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Being fully God, Christ has the power to restore the Image of God in man. He alone can forgive sins, and He sends His Holy Spirit that works in mankind by the divine energies, healing, recreating, and renewing. When mankind’s image is restored in man, then man can reunite with God in theosis, man’s highest and true purpose of life. The Incarnate Christ also brought mankind to Himself and His Father through His works and miracles, His words, His Spirit, His love, His teachings, His ministry, and the power of His Resurrection.

    Christ came down as the Incarnate God to trample down death by His death on the Cross. Because He is God and He is immortal, taking on human flesh, He conquered death for all flesh, for all humanity, by His death and Resurrection. Humanity would all partake of the Resurrection.

    Christ unites all. All things have their beginning and end in Him. Christ came to save sinners and restore humankind and overthrow death, enabling mankind to live eternally with Him. All of mankind has the potential to reach unceasing prayer and Communion in Him. If Christ had not become Incarnate, mankind would eventually move to non-existence and death. Instead, mankind has eternal life and love.

    in reply to: TH 407: Lesson 2 (Sample) #13002
    Mariam14
    Participant

    Arianism gained popularity particularly in the fourth century for several reasons. One dominating reason lies in the fact that it was the favored position by the Roman Empire. Secondly, it was more popular amongst the heathens and philosophers who rejected Christianity according to the Spirit or for cultural or personal reasons. Thirdly, Arianism appealed to the more rational mind. Christianity must be received by the spiritual faculties of the soul as well as the rational, and for those following idols, the spiritual sight was often dimmed, and so they could not properly understand. Finally, Arianism paraded as “an Angel of Light” and a disguised evil. We understand throughout the history of the world, Satan reappears continuously as an “Angel of Light” that appears to the masses. His defeat is always imminent though.

    Arianism stood as the generally more favored position of the Roman Emperors of the fourth century beginning with the reign of Constantine the Great. Arianism continued in favor by the Roman government until its suppression by the Emperor Theodosius. As a result of this, Arians living in the Roman Empire tended to advance in office, rank, or position in the Roman Army and government. Meanwhile, Christians were sometimes badly persecuted throughout the entire fourth century. They had to flee in exile sometimes, their lives were in danger at times, and they had to endure many afflictions. Essentially, Christianity carried a Cross and the Arians did not.

    Many philosophers and pagan peoples from the Roman and Hellenic cultures were more drawn towards Arianism than Christianity because there was less of a cultural divide with Arianism. Further, Arianism appealed to the lower rational mind. This fit within the mode of philosophy. Arianism also held the “spirit of the world” which was spiritually likened to Heathenism in this regard. In fact, many Heathens had formerly persecuted Christians before Christianity became legal, and so after the Edict of Milan, with the spread of Arianism, they simply persecuted the true Christians again.

    Finally, in regards to the contrast of darkness and light between Arianism and Christianity, we know that the Great Deceiver has often tried to portray what is darkness as light throughout the history of the world. In the end, Arianism was a spiritual battle that played itself out for an entire century.

    in reply to: TH 407: General Forum Question #12914
    Mariam14
    Participant

    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.
    8. Theosis

    The process of theosis in Christ makes possible for man to become a god by grace.

    in reply to: TH 407: Lesson 1 (Sample) #12862
    Mariam14
    Participant

    St. Athanasius was a devoted student who was thoroughly instructed in the Holy Scriptures and the Church, learning under his Bishop even from a young age as a boy. His Bishop thoroughly instructed him and loved him dearly, as St. John the Theologian was beloved of Christ and one of his closest disciples. St. Athanasius displayed a heart purely devoted to Christ like St. John the Theologian who radiated this par excellence. When St. Athanasius was a young child, he played on the beach with other young children, pretending to preside as a Bishop (which almost stood as a prophecy unto himself that he foretold his Bishopric) and pretended to Baptize them according to the Church service he knew so well. St. John the Theologian was selected by Christ himself to be a chief Apostle, along with his brother James, and they were given the title, “Sons of Thunder”. This title encapsulated their zealous hearts for the Lord. St. Athanasius also displayed similar qualities to St. John the Theologian, in that he also was zealous for the Lord and for God’s truths. Both saints possessed contemplative minds and souls, coupled with zeal. This zeal was displayed in St. Athanasius’ life when he courageously rose up in debate against Arius at the First Ecumenical Council. St. Athanasius was well prepared in his arguments for defense of Christ’s divinity, but this could not successfully stand alone against the heretical evils, a spiritual battle in ultimate terms. St. Athanasius was a Saint, devoted to God in heart, soul, and mind, enlightened by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit strengthened him to defend evil of the Arian heresies in full resoluteness. St. John the Theologian also defended the Church against heresy, and he stood up to persecutors under the Emperor Nero who tried to kill him, as he stood as a Confessor of Christ. St. John’s persecutors were unable to kill him by the power of the Holy Spirit, and so the exiled him to the island of Patmos instead. St. John wrote the prophetical Book of Revelation while in exile. Likewise, St. Athanasius had been exiled five times and a total of twenty years, and he spent these years writing important works in the faith that defended the Church against heresy, spoke to the Heathen, and defended and formed Christological and Trinitarian Doctrine. Both St. John and St. Athanasius were pillars of the Church in their time periods in which they lived, and they both displayed similar qualities in their respective ministries. These qualities included purity of heart, unfailing devotion to God, love of contemplation, zealotry, courage, and tenacity in the face of persecutions, attempted martyrdom in the case of St. John, and exile.

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