For Zizioulas, being a person is fundamentally different from being an individual or a self. The significance of the person “rests in the fact that he represents two things simultaneously which are at first sight in contradiction: particularity and communion.” (105) A person is defined by relationships rather than by the qualities and experiences that constitute the individual. The person is a “revelation of truth”, not as “substance” or “nature” but as “mode of existence”. Thus, for the Cappadocian Fathers,
true knowledge is not a knowledge of the essence or the nature of things, but of how they are connected within the communion event. (106)
While ekstasis is a key notion in the Greek patristic concept of truth, when applied to the person it needs to be completed by that of hypostasis.
While ekstasis signifies that a person is a revelation of truth by the fact of being in communion, hypostasis signifies that in and through his communion a person affirms his own identity and his particularity; he “supports his own nature” in a particular and unique way. The person is the horizon within which the truth of existence is revealed, not as simple nature subject to individualization and recombination but as a unique image of the whole and “catholicity” of being. (106)
To destroy a human being is therefore to murder the whole of humanity, for it is a denial of the truth of our being. In the mystery of the person otherness and communion are not in contradiction, but coincide. Whereas “nature in itself” is subject to fragmentation, the person is not and in this context otherness is incompatible with division. However, such an identity of otherness with unity is incompatible with our fallen existence,
into which we are born as individuals with a clear tendency to seize, dominate and possess being. This individualized and individualizing Adam in us is our original sin, and because of it the “other,” i.e. beings existing outside ourselves, in the end becomes our enemy and “our original sin” (Sartre). A human being left to himself cannot be a person. And the ekstasis of beings towards humanity or towards creation alone leads to “being-unto-death.” For this reason, all attempts to define truth as “being-into-life” require automatically the idea of being beyond created existence. (107)
In the next post I shall discuss the following subsection on “Truth and the Savior”.