Revista Studii Teologice


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Teologia – ştiinţa mântuirii şi a vieţii veşnice în gândirea Părintelui Stăniloae

Theology – the science of salvation and eternal life according to Father Stăniloae

Autor(i): †DANIEL, Patriarhul Bisericii Ortodoxe Române

Father Stăniloae’s theological work is comprehensive, rich and profound. It evinces the intense dynamics of the syntheses achieved as a result of musing on the major themes of faith and Church life, in dialogue wih contemporary missionary necessities. His works provide a creative neo-patristic synthesis in which faith dog-mas, liturgical life and the mystical experience of the Church are intertwined and mutually illumine each other. Despite the diversity of topics it addresses, Father Stăniloae’s theology has a constant trait that allows us to grasp the whole which is contained by every part of his theologizing. This esential trait of his thought lies in the fact that he understands theology as a science of salvation and eternal life. Perceiving theology as a science or rather a ministry of salvation is also the main reason that prompts Fr. Stăniloae to redirect and renew Orthodox academic theology, often influenced by Western scholasticism, and free it from this influence by bringing contemporary theology closer to the theology of the Holy Fathers and focusing on the relationship between dogmatic theology and the liturgical and mystical-ascetical spiri-tuality of the Church.
True theology is constantly reasserted, creative fidelity to the apostolic faith of the Church, awareness of the responsibility for the salvation of the faithful, and acti-ve participation in the life and ministry of the Church. Theology, as science of salvati-on, is achieved in communion of thought and life with the saints of past generations and the faithful of the present, in pursuit of life’s ultimate goal, which is the Kingdom of Heaven: „Theology – Father Stăniloae states – must be like the Church: both apostolic and contemporary with every epoch and prophetically eschatological. It must not diverge from the Church in its development, but rather it must progress alongsi-de the Church, which heads towards the Kingdom of Heaven (...). It may be prophetic in that it explains the Resurrected Christ as an epitome of our future state in the afterlife, but not by promising a future beyond Christ”. Father Stăniloae also shows how Orthodox theology can simultaneously be faithful to the past, relevant for the present and directed toward the future. „Theology – he writes – is faithful to the past, but not confined to the past, it is committed to today’s devout people, but it reaches beyond its current stage. Theology must be anchored in the solid foundations laid by Christ, but at the same time it makes Christ’s boons available to today’s pe-ople and prepares them for partaking of these goods fully in the age to come, thus con¬stituting a catalyst for progress at all times”. Theology of salvation is, therefore, the theology whose central and permanent concern is to consolidate the bond betwe-en Church and world and the Person, teachings and works of Lord Jesus Christ.
Regarding the way in which Father Stăniloae understands the role of theology as a science of salvation and eternal life in Christ, some major conclusions can be drawn:
1. Theology, which has Trinitarian Christology at its core and as permanent focus – that is, the mystery of Christ eternally united with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and after Incarnation also united eternally with the human nature which Christ took – always maintains its topicality because, as Apostle Paul says in his Epis-tle to the Hebrews, «Jesus Christ is always the same, yesterday, today and forever» (Hebrews 13, 8). Inasmuch as theology dwells on the communion between the Church and the ever-living Christ it is, therefore, a science of salvation and eternal life, because being saved is to be united with the immortal God, the imparter of eter-nal life. As Church thinking and experience is centered on the ever-living Christ, the theology of salvation and eternal life avoids slipping short-lived ideology or be-coming a mere fad.
2. Theology as exposition of God’s plan to save and deify the world in Christ is in accordance with the Holy Scripture, because the essential contents of Scripture’s words is God the Word. This truth was asserted by the resurrected Saviour Jesus Christ Himself, in giving the Old Testament an essentially Christocentric interpre-tation, when He explained to His disciples Luke and Cleopas, on their way to Emma-us, the words in the Law, Prophets and Psalms that announced Him: « And begin-ning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself » (Luke 24, 27). Thus the many books of the Holy Scripture, written by different authors, at diferent times, in different styles, all share a common content and are related through the Mystery of the Person and salvific work of Christ. This is why the Holy Apostle Paul states that the Old Testament is a «schoolmaster», «guardian» or a «guide» bringing us to Christ (Galatians 3, 24), and that Moses had to suffer for the sake of Christ (cf. Hebrews 11, 25-26), the One who was incarnate on earth as God and Man 1,500 years later. The mystery of Christ’s Incarnation, or His becoming a man, is proclaimed by the Holy Apostles in the New Testament as the «great mystery of Christian godliness» (1 Timothy 3, 16 and Ephe-sians 3, 5). The Holy Apostles thus urge us to «keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience» (1 Timothy 3, 9).
2. Theology as exposition of the mystery of salvation in Jesus Christ is in ac-cordance with the essence of churchly liturgical, philokalic spirituality, because Christ’s life imparted by the Holy Spirit is the essential contents of the entire liturgi-cal, sacramental and spiritual life of the Church. This is why the Holy Apos¬tles, espe-cially the Holy Apostle Paul, described Christian life as Christ dwelling within people: «Your life is now hidden with Christ in God» (Colossians 3, 3), «I no longer live, but Christ lives in me» (Galatians 2, 20) or «For me, to live is Christ» (Philippians 1, 21). And since Christ dwells within us, through Him we become united with the Holy Trinity: «…for through Him we all have access by one Spirit unto the Father» (Ephesi-ans 2, 18).
3. Theology as science of salvation and eternal life in Christ, as described in the teachings of the Holy Apostles and Holy Fathers, faithfully and creatively presen-ted by Father Stăniloae, is today highly relevant for the dialogue of the Church with natural sciences and for cultivating responsibility for nature. Trinitarian Christology of this theology of salvation is at the same time a cosmic theology, since the entire creation, the whole universe, all visible and invisible creatures were made through Christ: «Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made» – the Holy Evangelist John says (John 1, 3), and the Holy Apostle Paul adds that the entire created world is sustained by Christ, it is loved by Him and is made for Christ as a gift of the Father to Him, as the place where Christ reveals through incarnation his love for God and the people, so that the people in their turn should love the Father and the Son: « For by him (Christ) were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible (...). All things were created by Him and for Him» (Colossians 1, 16).
In agreement with the Holy Apostles, the Holy Church Fathers pointed out that the world was created as the context in which the mystery of Christ’s incarna-tion was to take place, thus revealing the ultimate goal of man and the cosmos: parti-cipation in the eternal life and bliss of God. St Maximus the Confessor, so important to Father Stăniloae and so frequently quoted in his theology, says: «the mystery of the Word’s incarnation contains the meaning of all enigmas and symbols in the Scrip-ture, the significance of all visible and invisible things. Whoever knows the mystery of the Cross and tomb of Christ, also knows the significance of all created things. Who-ever has learned the deep meaning of the Resurrection, also knows the reason why God created everything that exists». «This union was foreordained at the making of the world: a union of the circumscribed with the uncircumscribed, of the limited with the unlimited, of the finite with the infinite, a union of the Creator with the creature, of stillness with motion. In due time this union was manifest in Christ, bringing about the fulfillment of God’s design». Father Stăniloae, in agreement with the Holy Apos-tles and the Holy Fathers, states that the entire universe is language given material form and manifold gift with spiritual and sacramental callling as the context for ever-increasing spiritual communion between the uncreated loving Intellect, that is the Holy Tr¬inity, and the created loving intellects: angels and people. Thus Jesus Christ as Father Stăniloae presents Him at the core of the theology of salvation and eternal life, is neither distant, as seen by rationalist scholastic theology, nor diminished as sects perceive Him, but He is the true Christ of Orthodoxy.
5. Theology as exposition of God’s plan to save and deify man in Christ will always be apostolic, that is, always a missionary theology, that enlightens, inspires and sustains the liturgical, pastoral, philocalic and social work carried out by the Church in the world, in the dynamics of its missionary awareness. The theology preached by Father Stăniloae, as theology of salvation, is a great gift which the Church must culti-vate. His theology must be not simply admired but also assimilated and carried further. The gift offered to us by God through His chosen persons entails fruitful responsibility in order to become full joy of salvation and eternal life.

Pagini: 51-68