Iconic Ontology Vol. 1 (Autumn) 2017

History as “iconic” ontology

The world does not possess being in itself, since it is indissolubly intermingled with non-being. It is the incarnated Christ who is the author of Ontology and who is turning it into an Ontology-in-the-becoming inside History. But this means that Maximus’ view of History is dynamical and in a sense dialectical (hence a comparison with Hegel is possible). It is a “historical” view of History and by this I mean that it is a view of History that leaves space for surprises, frustrations of meaning, suspense, unexpected interventions of grace.

History is not just a static field for domination by structures that come from outside History and that are contemplated “sub specie aeternitatis”. The dynamic character of History is expressed by Maximus mainly by the distinction of Pauline inspiration between “shadow”, “icon” and “truth” (Hebrews 10,1). The Old Testament, where the Logos is not incarnated yet, is a “shadow”, where one can “hear” the “voice” of God without seeing Him. The New Testament, where the Logos is incarnated and becomes flesh, is an “image”, as we can now “see” the Incarnated Logos. But the truth lies in the resurrection of Christ Who introduces the eschatological mode of existence[1]. The truth of ontology and History is situated after the Second Coming in the eschaton, where the Christological mode of existence will be manifested and realized in all its ontological consequences. For this reason, inside History we only have Ontology as an “icon”, whereas ontology proper is situated is eschatological Christology[2]. This is also manifested through the triple schema “being”- “well-being”- “eternal-(well)-being” (εἶναι- εὖ εἶναι- ἀεὶ εὖ εἶναι)[3]. “Being” refers to creation, “well-being” to History and “eternal-(well)-being” to eschatology. The meaning of this triple schema is that true being is the eternal eschatological being in view of which being was created. Nevertheless, the passage to eschatology is mediated by History as an endeavor of well-being, meaning an effort to actualize the potentialities of natural creation (being) in view of the eschatological future (eternal well-being).

Dionisios Skliris

[1] For the distinction between shadow, image and truth, see Cap.Th.Oec. I,90 PG 90,1120C; Amb. I, 442-444 (PG 91,1253C-D); Amb. II, 78-86 (PG 91,1293-1296).

[2] For an ontology based on an eschatological Christology, see John Zizioulas, Communion & Otherness: Further Studies in Personhood and the Church (London & New York: T&T Clark, 2006).

[3] For this triple schema see mostly the following passages: Thal. I CCSG 7,51 (PG 90,272A-C); Thal. II CCSG 22,79,115-81,130 (PG 90,624D-625A); 105,328-340 (640Β-641A); 235,755-239,812 (725A-728A); Amb. I, 86-88 (PG 91,1073D); Amb. II, 278-280 (PG 91,1392D); Cap.Char. III,24 PG 90,1024A-B; IV,11 1049C; IV,13 1052A; Cap.Th.Oec. I,35 PG 90,1096C; I,51-67 1101C-1108B; II,88 1165D.

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