McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
George S. Worgul
Eastern Orthodox, Eucharist, Schmemann, theosis
This study posits that the Eastern Christian doctrine of theosis, or deification, informs, enhances and illuminates Eucharistic understanding. It argues that the Eucharistic vision of Orthodox priest and theologian, Father Alexander Schmemann, offers the most cogent evidence in support of the intrinsic link between the Eucharist and the doctrine of theosis. Based on Schmemann's observations that a Eucharistic crisis exists in the Church as a result of liturgical indifference and secularism, this study seeks to retrieve the patristic vision of the Eucharist that synthesized the world, the Church and the Kingdom of God in an interdependent and harmonic balance. The study begins by tracing theosis to its roots in the doctrine of perichoresis, through the theology of creation, and the theological contributions of Theophilus of Antioch, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Athanasius, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Symeon the New Theologian, St. John Climacus, and St. Gregory of Palamas. The results uncover a theological vision that addresses the critical questions of human nature, human destiny and creation, as well as identifies humanity's eternal vocation to theosis: union with God through participation in the divine nature and Trinitarian love. An examination of Schmemann's Eucharistic theology reveals that theosis themes are interwoven in his categorizations of the Eucharist as the Sacrament of the World, the Sacrament of the Church, the Sacrament of the Kingdom, and the Sacrament of Deification. The investigation also explores the contributions of prominent theologians of the Western tradition, whose work led to ecclesial and liturgical renewal in the Church of the twentieth century, significantly impacting Schmemann's theological formation. Included among them are Romano Guardini, Yves Congar, Jean Daniélou and Louis Bouyer. Finally, the investigation argues that hints of theosis can be found in the Eucharistic treatises of two Western theologians of the twentieth century: Marie-Vincent Bernadot, O.P., and Jean-Marie Roger Tillard, O.P. The final results of the study suggest that the deifying nature of the Eucharist is the concrete means by which the Christian faithful already share in the divine life of the Triune God as a promise and foretaste of eternal participation in divine life.
Puppo, J. (2007). Sacrament of Deification: The Eucharistic Vision of Alexander Schmemann in Light of the Doctrine of Theosis (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/1067