I am eventually getting back to posting on my reading of Being and Communion. Studies in Personhood and the Church by Metropolitan John D. Zizioulas, which has been horribly disrupted. I’m going to try and cover less material more frequently, which I hope will make both writing and reading them less intimidating. As for providing a critical or half-intelligent discussion, I’ll have to see what emerges. I often feel that it’s about as much as I can do to get my mind around what he’s saying – and writing these posts helps me in this – although when I do various areas do sometimes light up and I’d like to make broader connections sometime!
(The previous posts on this book can be found here:
- Being as Communion: Introduction
- Being as Communion: Chapter one, part one
- Being as Communion, Chapter one, part two
- Zizioulas on Truth and Communion I (Chapter two, part one)
- Zizioulas on Truth and Communion II (Chapter two, part two)
In the previous section, Zizioulas had discussed the developments in Greek patristic thought that had led to the identification of truth with communion. He now turns his attention to what this means existentially, for, in our fallen existence, being is constituted before communion and salvation comes through their identification.
The third section of chapter two is therefore entitled Truth and Salvation: The Existential Implications of Truth as Communion (101-109) and it begins with the subsection 1. Truth and Fallen Existence: the Rupture between Being and Communion (101-105).
For the Greek Fathers, sin is not something new, but is rather understood as revealing and actualising the limitations inherent in creaturehood when left to itself. Since the fall involves humanity’s making ourselves rather than God the ultimate point of reference, this means ontologically that we have refused to make being dependent on communion. There is a rupture between being and communion and the truth of being acquires priority over the truth of communion, for, for created humanity, being necessarily precedes relationship. To deny this would be to deny the reality of the fall. But, since
the being of things must be recognised before a relationship can take place, every single being acquires an ontological status, so to say, on its own merit. Thus the world consists of objects, of things whose ontological status one has to recognise before one can relate to them. The truth of these “objects” becomes, therefore, a provocation for the knower; the known and the knower exist as two opposite partners; the res and the intellectus must somehow reach an adaequatio; the subject and the object constitute a pair whose presence determines epistemology. (102-103)
Inherent in this is the decisive role of individuality in ontology, for “the world ultimately consists of a fragmented existence in which beings are particular before they can relate to each other: you first are and then relate.” (103) This presents a challenge to human freedom in which the authority of truth becomes authoritarian and repulsive, for we are expected to submit to the truth of something other than ourselves. It likewise limits the possibility of love, for this becomes dependent on our first acquiring knowledge of the object of our love. Moreover, it implies a separation between thought and action in the very heart of human existence in which “doing the truth” becomes impossible because faith and praxis are only able to coincide for a moment.
However, it is death that is the most tragic consequence of the individualization of being in our fallen existence, for a “dying being” is a contradiction in terms.
When we are told that Adam died because he fell by making himself into God, we are being correctly told that making oneself God – i.e. the ultimate reference-point of existence – is something on the level of ontology, not psychology. Death intervenes not as the result of punishment for an act of disobedience but as a result of this individualization of nature to which the whole cosmos is subjected. In other words, there is an intrinsic connection between death and the individualization into which we are born through the present form of procreation and it is this which shows precisely what it means to have a life which is not the “true life” …”(105)
To be saved from the fall means therefore that truth should be fully applied to existence so that life becomes something true. But
it can be accomplished only if the individualization of nature becomes transformed into communion – that is, if communion becomes identical with being. Truth, once again, must be communion if it is to be life. (105)
In the next post I shall discuss the following subsection on “Truth and the Person”.