George Weigel, in his most recent column ("Christmas, Jews and Christians"), takes up a theme near and dear to my heart:
Eastern Christian theology has long stressed “theosis,” or divinization, as the goal of the Christian life. It can be a somewhat startling theme for western Christian ears, formed as we are by Augustine’s sense of the distance that original sin created between humanity and God.
Yet if, as theologians East and West have long insisted, Christianity is not about our search for God (as so much pop-spirituality these days insists), but about God coming into history in search of us and our learning to take the same path through history that God is taking, then “divinization” makes perfect sense: for how could we follow God through history unless we became more and more like God?
Read the entire piece. Two years ago I wrote an essay, "Theosis: The Reason for the Season", in which I stated:
Theosis, deification, and adoptive sonship have received much attention in recent decades from Catholic theologians and scholars. Ressourcement theologians such as Hans Urs von Balthasar, Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac, and Jean Daniélou addressed them in a variety of books and articles. Recent books such as Divine Light: The Theology of Denys the Areopagite, by Dr. William Riordan, and Deification And Grace by Daniel Keating are scholarly studies worthy of attention.
Pope John Paul II's Trinitarian encyclicals—Redemptor Hominis, Dives in Misericordia and Dominum et Vivificantem—often emphasized divine adoption:
For as Saint Paul teaches, "all who are led by the Spirit of God" are "children of God." The filiation of divine adoption is born in man on the basis of the mystery of the Incarnation, therefore through Christ the eternal Son. But the birth, or rebirth, happens when God the Father "sends the Spirit of his Son into our hearts." Then we receive a spirit of adopted sons by which we cry 'Abba, Father!'" Hence the divine filiation planted in the human soul through sanctifying grace is the work of the Holy Spirit. "It is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ." Sanctifying grace is the principle and source of man's new life: divine, supernatural life. (Dives in Misericordia, 52.2).
Coming full circle, the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers time and time again to the reality of theosis. "God created the world for the sake of communion with his divine life," it states, "a communion brought about by the 'convocation' of men in Christ, and this 'convocation' is the Church" (par 760). Through the sacraments we are made "children of God, partakers of the divine nature" (par 1692). The foundation of the moral life, the living out of the Christian calling, is found in the theological virtues: faith, hope and love, infused by the Holy Spirit. Those theological virtues "adapt man's faculties for participation in the divine nature" (par 1812). Our prayer to and adoration of the Father is rooted in divine adoption, for "he has caused us to be reborn to his life by adopting us as his children in his only Son" (par 2782).
Read my entire essay on Ignatius Insight. Also see:
• The Dignity of the Human Person: Pope John Paul II's Teaching on Divinization in the Trinitarian Encyclicals | Carl E. Olson
• The Liturgy Lived: The Divinization of Man | Jean Corbon, O.P.
• Jean Daniélou and the "Master-Key to Christian Theology" | Carl E. Olson
• Was The Joint Declaration Truly Justified? | An Interview with Dr. Christopher Malloy
• Why Catholicism Makes Protestantism Tick: Louis Bouyer on the Reformation | Mark Brumley
• Are Catholics Born Again? | Mark Brumley