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On transformation

Von: Tamara Grdzelidze, WCC staff team on Faith and Order

Tamara Grdzelidze

Transformation underlies our belief in Jesus Christ the Lord, the giver of life, the second person of the undivided Trinity. He was crucified and has risen, and he will raise things that were made through him. Our faith relies not only on the belief of going from non-existence to existence but also on the power of fundamental change - descending from heaven to earth, rising from death to life.

Transformation is synergic, a two-way process: God's mercy is bestowed upon the creation, yet but human beings on their part have to make a choice to follow the gospel. The failure of humanity to conform to the will of God resulted in the fall and its consequences; even so, at a specific point in history God's grace opened a possibility for fallen humanity to change its mind, to change its way of life and to transform the world towards harmony as had intended in God's creation.

"Deification" is a descriptive term applied to the result of God's redemptive activity towards human beings, under the condition that the latter respond to this activity. Deification is the ultimate transformation of a human being without loosing personhood. It is a process that should be understood, in a carefully qualified sense, as an ongoing process leading from one realm of glory to the other. In 2 Cor. 3:18 we read: "And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit."

In The Life of Moses Gregory of Nyssa raises a question: how can one speak face to face with God? According to his exegesis, because Moses' face shone after having spoken with the Lord he used a veil to hide himself from the Israelites. In Christ the veil of Moses is set aside, as Christ brings the new covenant and removes the temporary character of the old covenant.

Then Gregory of Nyssa reflects on a place where God commands Moses to enter: when God promised that Moses would be placed on the rock, "he showed the nature of the divine race"… In the process of growing into the life of Christ, it is precisely the change that has existential significance. Humanity experiences a deep repentance for the weaknesses of the fallen state and, spiritually, in prayer and devotion, advances towards life in Christ. Conversion to faith is a lifelong undertaking throughout one's life in Christ; human beings are converted from one stage of his faith to another. This process is a progress, a movement forward, but also to some extent a circular movement. In a sense, we come back to our point of origin; on another level, we cannot return exactly where we started, for we have gone forward, we have advanced, we have changed, we have been transformed.