Father Sophrony expands upon the hypostatic theology of earlier church fathers by relating it to the processes of deification of mankind. The Godhead can be defined as a union of three hypostases, three unique persons in a loving union, each bearing the totality of the other two, and yet at the same time maintaining their own individual and unique characteristics.
Together, the three persons, or hypostases, of the Godhead form the complete Godhead, and yet individually they are also fully God. And the fundamental aspect of this relationship between them is that of love—a self-sacrificing, self-emptying kind of love. Most importantly, for humanity, is the sacrificial and obedient love that the Son, Jesus Christ, embodies in His love for the Father. Jesus does His Father’s will, He doesn’t act of His own, or for His own purposes, but only for the purposes of His Father.
This is important for mankind because it shows the template for our own existence. Were God only God, and man only man, there would be no relationship between the hypostatic characteristics of God and those of mankind. But man however, has been created in the image and likeness of God, and God became man in the person of Jesus Christ, the son of God. Therefore God has imparted to man the potential to be like Him, to be divine, and to have a godlike life. This means that we can love just as God loves, and this is the goal and purpose of mankind.
The sad and profound consequence of the fall is that man is alienated from God and from other human beings. He sees himself set apart from others in a competition for resources; love, food, other material comforts and emotional satisfactions. While man lives in this way, enslaved to his physical and material impulses he remains divorced from his true nature and the essence of himself. In many ways he is not truly human yet, but living more like a beast satisfying his carnal nature. It is only God’s grace, through the person of Jesus Christ, which can lift man out of this morass, and raise him to the divine heights which he was originally created to experience.
Fallen, sinful man retains the image of God within himself but is far from manifesting the likeness of God. This process of attaining the likeness of God is the process of deification which occurs over the lifetime of the follower of Christ, and is the uncovering of the hypostatic reality, the true personhood, of each human being. A man discovers his own hypostasis as he sheds his false self—his small self—made up of pride and ambitions, vanity, and every other type of passions which rage within him.
Most importantly man learns true humility and repents of his former life. From these initial acts of self-emptying, which must be undertaken again and again throughout his life, he opens himself to the spirit of God, or rather God’s grace opens man, and enables him to turn from his old man towards his new regenerated man, towards his true hypostasis. Man’s true self is only found when he discovers himself in the image and likeness of God.
The life of man is wrapped up in the life of Christ. As Jesus did His Father’s will, so we are intended to be obedient to Christ. His commands show us the way to our true personhood. His life is an example and a template for us, as he shows us how to live a life of obedience, a life of self-sacrifice, and a life of love towards others—towards the Father, and towards all of humanity. As we allow our minds to be transformed by the workings of the Holy Spirit, our center of existence moves outward, away from our self-centeredness towards an other-centeredness. We begin to love God more purely, and to love others as ourselves. We come to understand the love that God has for us, and because He first loved us, we begin to love more as well.
Father Sophrony teaches that the hypostasis of the Son and His earthly life can teach us everything we need to know about our own hypostasis; we can understand ourselves in light of Christ. His life of self-emptying; personally taking on humble humanity even though He is God Himself, His prayer for all mankind and His obedience to God in the garden of Gethsemane even crying tears of blood, and His ultimate selflessness in suffering upon the cross and in His descent into Hell, all show us the way that is intended for us as well. Our fulfillment is in learning His love, and taking His way upon ourselves as well, following in the way of the cross.
Father Sophrony teaches that mankind is unified, each individual being a complete representation of the entire race past, present and future, in much the same way that each hypostasis of the trinity encompasses the entire Godhead. Therefore as each of us comes to know the truth of himself, his hypostatic reality, he simultaneously comes to know and understand all of mankind. So we can love mankind like Christ loves us, bringing all of mankind into our sphere of concern. We can pray as Christ prays, for the whole ‘Adam’ as Father Sophrony puts it, meaning the whole of humanity. In fact, this is the inevitable result of deification, because, as we become in the likeness of the Godhead, we lose our alienation and our self-orientation, and we are reoriented outwardly, manifesting love for all others, because this is the essence and nature of God, and therefore it is also the essence and nature of man, who is made in God’s image and likeness.