Heavenly and Earthly Sacrifice

by Sergius Bulgakov

Sergius Bulgakov, The Eucharistic Sacrifice,
Chapter 4: Heavenly and Earthly Sacrifice

Note: This excerpt of The Eucharistic Sacrifice by Sergius Bulgakov, translated and with an intro­duc­tion by Mark Roosien, (c) 2021 by University of Notre Dame Press, is reprinted at Eclectic Ortho­doxy with permission from the publisher. In this chapter, Bulgakov details his understanding of sacrifice in God’s triune life in the context of the book’s overriding discussion of eucharistic sacri­fice. For an interpretation of Bulgakov’s ideas on the theme of this particular chapter, see Mark Roosien’s Eclectic Orthodoxy essay from January 18, 2022, “God is Eucharistic Love: Bulgakov’s Transvaluation of Sacrifice.”

* * *

According to the Epistle to the Hebrews, Christ, as the High Priest who offers the sacrifice on earth, also offers it in heaven: ” . . . It was necessary for the sketches of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but He entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Heb. 9:23-24). “The new and living way . . . He opened for us through the curtain (that is, through His flesh)” (Heb. 10:20).

Christ’s sacrifice is accepted (see the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom) “on His holy and immaterial Altar above the heavens, as a savor of spiritual fragrance,” as Christ is both “the one who offers and is offered” (see the liturgies of St. Basil the Great and St. John Chrysostom), the victim and the altar.1 Christ is offered as sacrifice on earth and in heaven, in time and in eternity, the “great priest over the house of God” (Heb. 10:21).

How should we understand this connection and relationship between the earthly and heavenly sacrifice, and also the high priestly service of Christ, likewise both earthly and heavenly?2 The guiding doctrine of high priesthood “according to the order of Melchizedek” is derived from the Epistle to the Hebrews in varied and persistent restatements. The appearance of Melchizedek in the Old Testament and his meeting with Abraham can be understood only christologically, that is, as an Old Testament christophany (see especially Heb. 7:1-10). “So also Christ did not glorify Himself in becoming a High Priest, but was appointed by the one who said to Him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’ (Ps. 2:7); as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek’ (Ps. 109:4)” (Heb. 5:5-6). The eternality of this priesthood, which is connected and even identified with His sonship, should be understood literally, that is, in terms of the transcendence of time, which cannot fully accommodate its revelation. Christ is the High Priest who offers His own body on earth as sacrifice. “Another priest arises, resembling Melchizedek, one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of him, ‘You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek'” (Heb. 7:15-17). He, “because he continues forever,” “holds His priesthood permanently” (Heb. 7:24). High priesthood “according to the order of Melchizedek” does not refer only to the physical condition that appears within and passes through time, but rather has the power to “continue forever.”

This raises the following question, one with fundamental importance for the theological understanding of sacrifice: Does the high priestly service of Christ, in which He Himself is the sacrifice, the priest, and the altar, appear only on the basis of the already-accomplished Incarnation and as the result of it? Or, rather, is that service itself the ontological precondition of the Incarnation, through which it is revealed in time and in eternity, inasmuch as earthly priests, offering their own gifts, “offer a sketch and shadow of the heavenly” (cf. Heb. 8:5), as Moses said when he initiated the building of the tabernacle: “See,” he says, “that you make them according to the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain” (Exod. 25:40)? Did the high priesthood of the Son of God appear only as a result of the necessity to redeem the human race, fallen in Adam and Eve, even though it was possible for them not to fall, according to the true meaning of “temptation”? Or rather, is the eternal high priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek the basis of earthly priesthood, and would have appeared on earth regardless of the fall? Obviously, such occasionalism when conceiving of the relationship between earthly and heavenly things is unacceptable, for it contains a contradiction: it is not eternity that is defined by time, but the other way around. Therefore, our conception of the sacrifice on Golgotha, and of its eucharistic “remembrance,” must be raised to its Divine Prototype on the “holy and immaterial (noerón) Altar above the heavens,” and unite with it, while also, of course, identifying how it differs at the same time. The guiding idea of the Epistle to the Hebrews boils down precisely to this interpretation of earthly images through heavenly ones, the temporal priesthood through the eternal.

In light of this idea we should first of all understand the Incarnation itself as the Lord’s abasement, a diminishing of Himself, taking on “the form of a slave” (Phil. 2:7). The fundamental meaning of sacrifices is explained in the Epistle to the Hebrews (10:5-7) in a similar way: “When Christ came into the world He said [to the Father], ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” “And it is by that will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). The Incarnation on its own is already a fulfillment of the will of the Father and in this sense is the Son’s sacrificial obedience; the offering of His blood to Him is a special form of this obedience, performed in connection with the Fall. The only way it could not have occurred would be if the high priesthood were abrogated. For Christ is the High Priest forever, not only in time, but is made known within time. The sacrifice in heaven is offered in eternity, supratemporally, although it is connected with events that occur in time. The eucharist, accomplished on earth, is eternally accomplished in heaven. To understand its nature as the point of connection between the earthly and the heavenly is the primary task of eucharistic theology.

The eternal high priestly service must be understood above all on the basis of Trinitarian dogma.3 Christ is the High Priest not only because of the Incarnation and all that is connected with it, but as the Son–indeed, precisely as the Son.4 The Holy Trinity is trihypostatic Love and thus a trihypostatic self-revelation in which each Hypostasis loves and offers itself in its own particular way: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Eternally begetting the Hypostatic Word, the Father by Himself issues forth Silence about Himself into eternity, which is overcome in the Only-Begotten Son, the Word of the Father. The Son receives this very Word not as His own, but as the Revelation of the Father, and gives Himself to the Father, and filially offers sacrifice. His very existence as the Son is already a sacrifice, and the Son, as Son, is the High Priest forever (“according to the order of Melchizedek”). The Son is in this sense the Father’s Hypostatic Glory (eis dóxan Theoû Patrós) (Phil. 2:11). Now, this assumes the acceptance of the Son’s sacrifice by the Father, and thus the sacrificial offering itself is a dyadic, mutual act of Divine love, which is the Holy Spirit. He is Hypostatic love itself, as the bond of love between the Father and the Son, its in-spiration, joy and exultation, the Gift of God, the Gift of the Holy Trinity within itself—the Glory of God.

Hence the Incarnation pertains only to the second Hypostasis of the Holy Trinity, as the one who offers and the one who is offered as a sacrifice. It is not the Father, though He generates [tvorit] the Son by His will, and not the Holy Spirit, though He presents the Son as Son to the Father, while the fatherhood of the Father reveals the Son. It is only the Son, the Second hypostasis in the Holy Trinity. Divine Love is trihypostatic and is threefold in its ecstatic form: proceeding from itself, giving itself, and being fulfilled in itself. In this, its three-in-one-ness, the life of God is a heavenly liturgy, a threefold sacrifice of God to Himself and of Himself, who exists in the Holy Trinity. [The sacrifice] is three-in-one and cannot be otherwise; however, the sacrificing Hypostasis, and in this sense the High Priest, is precisely the Second, the Son. The Father is the One to Whom He sacrifices, and the Holy Spirit is the One through Whom the sacrifice is offered by the Son and through whose kenotic self-emptying the event takes place, to the Glory of God the Father.

What, then, is the subject or content of this eternal, supramundane sacrifice in God Himself, if not some kind of extra-divine, created thing, if not the “world”? Clearly, such content can be taken only from Divine life itself, it can only be Divinity Itself—yet not God in His Hypostatic existence, but in Divine nature [priroda], which is the continuous, threefold hypostasized self-revelation of God. The sacrifice offered on the heavenly altar is not God, but rather Divinity. It is unknown to us exactly what it is: the Word of God as Light and Life, Truth and Beauty, Wisdom, the Divine Sophia, the Glory of God. It is the self-revelation of the Father in the Son through the Holy Spirit, the Word of the Father in the Glory of the Father, “his eternal power and divine nature” (Rom. 1:20). And this Divinity of the Trihypostatic God is not a “fourth hypostasis,” as imagined by fearful, feeble minds, but the nature [priroda], or life of God, the endless and inexhaustible source and fullness in which the Hypostatic being of God exists. God in His Trihypostasicity lives undivided from His Divinity, in the threefold self-determination of each from each Hypostasis, in the three-in-one-ness of the Holy Trinity. And yet this, His Divinity, is not itself a hypostasis (neither a “fourth,” nor something else as yet unidentified), although it is eternally hypostasized, residing in Hypostatic existence. It is not identified with the hypostases, as it differs from them, yet is not divided from them. Each Hypostasis, as also the entire Holy Trinity in Its Three-in-one-ness, has Its Divinity, or Divine Sophia, in all fullness, each in its own way.5

Thus the Son, the Eternal High Priest, having accepted it from the Father, offers His Divinity, His Sophia, in His possession back to Him through the Holy Spirit as Filial Love—this is His Divine sacrifice of His Divinity. Through this sacrifice He manifests Himself in His Hypostatic existence: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:17-18). This gift of self is wedded to the glory “which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24), and this glory is “another Comforter” (John 14:16 [KJV]), Whom the Father gives.

So, the Son offers as sacrifice to the Father His own Hypostatic Divine existence, which He has as “Priest forever.” He is “the one offered and the one who offers,” the “victim and priest.” And where are His sanctuary and His altar? They are He Himself in His very Divinity. Of course, in heaven this is not a place but state of being, that is, Divinity within the Holy Trinity. It is such before the face of the Heavenly High Priest, who offers it as a sacrifice to the Father in obedience, and its completion is the Holy Spirit, who rests in the Son.

This notion of the eternal Divine sacrifice of the Son to the Father, or, what in this context amounts to the same thing, of God to Himself, can be expressed even more concretely and discretely. In the essay, “The Eucharistic Dogma,” I developed the following idea (in connection with its Sophiological interpretation): the human being, created in the image of God, has a body, which is taken on by God Himself in the Incarnation. This prompts us to conceive of God’s body, which is of course absolutely spiritual since the whole essence of God is spiritual. It must also be conceived of in a sense totally foreign to the flesh, which is usually understood—completely wrongly, of course—as the basic mark of corporeality. The body in and of itself is not flesh, which is only the image of corporeality, and is by no means the only one. The opposition here is not between spirit and body, otherwise the Incarnation would be irrational and contradictory. Instead, it is the union of two things, which, though different, are not opposed and exclusive of one another. Rather, they are but various forms of corporeality: fleshly and spiritual. It is not only the Incarnation in general that witnesses to this, but also, and especially, the Resurrection in the flesh, the Ascension into heaven, the “sitting at the right hand of the Father,” and the Second Coming from on high—also in the flesh. It follows that the possession of a body is not an obstacle to the abiding presence of Christ in heaven and even His sitting at the right hand of the Father. If we talk about angels as fleshless spirits, strictly speaking, it is not, precisely, the same thing as to regard them as bodiless. And the apostle speaks not only of various kinds of flesh (1 Cor. 15:39), but also of corporeality: “There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory” (1 Cor. 15:40-41). “If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:44).6 Theologians tend to shy away from a straight answer to the question of what exactly the meaning of this seeming contradiction in the very notion of a spiritual body is, not to mention a heavenly body (perhaps they simply see here bodies of various kinds of flesh). Yet we have to admit that Revelation here commands us to do away with the very opposition between spirit and body as it has previously been conceived, allowing it only to apply to various states of fleshliness. Corporeality can be of flesh (“For they are flesh”; Gen 6:3), soul, and spirit, since true corporeality is that glorified and completely in-spirited corporeality of the Resurrected body of the Lord, and, following, that of the Most Holy Mother of God in Her resurrection.

Thus our discussion has led to the question of spiritual corporeality, in particular, the body of God. We are not talking here about corporeality as it applies to the Incarnation, which is the taking on of the flesh, or an “earthly body,” but rather in the sense of that absolute spirituality that belongs to God’s being. Yet what remains of the body if we take away from it materiality, flesh, and even “in-souled-ness,” understood as the emotional system that, on the one hand, reaches to the flesh, and, on the other, rises to the spirit? (This includes all kinds of experiences, emotions, and stirs of passion, which can be experienced as spiritual states also—such things clearly appear in the life of fallen spirits, which, although alien to the flesh, are not alien to the carnal desires they took on in their fallen state.) The spiritual body is manifested in the Word of God on a higher level of bodily subtlety or lucidity. Such subtle or rarified bodies remain no less real than the densest ones, and differ only according to the quantity, so to speak, of atomic or energetic nuclei. Indeed, the spiritual body in a strict sense is opposed to the material body, since it manifests the life of the spirit in a state of fleshlessness (though not bodilessness). Hence one must distinguish between two notions of “spiritual body”: one as the in-spiration, glorification, and transfiguration of the fleshly body, which, however, by no means suggests a full liberation from corporeality; and the other as a complete freedom from flesh, leaving it behind. The middle state belongs to the angelic world alone, which has some kind of noetic covering to the form of created nature. However, it is not a body in its solid concreteness, but a kind of texture of emotions, feelings, and the whole life of a created spirit, inexpressible in human language (fleshly, that is). What is inherent to the spiritual body in the strict sense of the word is a form, an image, and a concreteness of existence, as distinct from the negative amorphousness or formlessness that for some reason is usually ascribed to spirit. We still have to give it some definition, at the very least in the language of negative theology (and anthropology): spirit, in this sense, is emphatically not some void of existence, determined by an elimination of concrete signs and thus by formlessness. It is merely one of the potentialities [of existence]. Theologians, however, cannot help but experience some difficulty in expounding the basic teaching of God as Spirit, understood in the sense of such a sheer denial of all concreteness, when they encounter in the Word of God bodily features ascribed to God. For example, a number of bodily organs are imputed to Him like ears, eyes, hair, hands, and feet. All of this is usually explained away as merely “spiritual” or simply nullified, without stopping to feel shame at such obvious violence being done to holy writ. Of course, we must understand these expressions as indeed “spiritual,” not ascribing to Divinity that which belongs to the flesh and its organs. But this spirituality precisely should not justify the nihilistic violence that is done to holy writ in the name of negative theology.

Thus, we not only do not have the right nor the grounds to disparage the meaning of those expressions that ascribe to the Divinity a body in general or its specific features, but should take them up in all their magnitude. An image or form may be not only fleshly (in relation to the flesh), or intellectual (in relation to the “ethereal body”), but also spiritual. To us, as beings embodied in flesh, it is out of reach; it is only conceived by analogy, or better, as a postulate of thought, and not direct perception. However, it is incorrect to conclude that that which is beyond our unmediated experience does not exist. There are even limits to our perception in the material world, beyond which point things seem to cease to exist, but that undoubtedly do exist and perceptibly manifest themselves in their existence. And if this is possible in the physical world, how much more can it be expected in the realm of metaphysical diversity, for the various realms of existence.7 In this way the very notion of a spiritual body is conceived only by analogy with the feeling, fleshly body or even “ethereal body” (which, by the way, is itself understood as a body also only by analogy with the fleshly body, but remains inaccessible to our unmediated vision). However, the presence of the analogy testifies not only to the fact of the difference, but also of the similarity, if not of the precise ontological identification of that which by analogy is matched together and is substantial, although in different kinds of being. And what is intrinsic to a body is its form-ness, and also its concreteness, design, uniqueness, and reality. A body has the force of existence, granting reality to that which is merely ideal. In the body an idea becomes an actuality, and a personality is connected to a being through the soul. Through a body the “I- consciousness” of Fichte is overcome (in his Ich-Philosophie, which Berdiaev has also recently adopted). Fichte (the Elder) converted it into a self-referential not-I. But from the not-I, as the ideal limit of the I, concrete reality cannot not yet be achieved. The I is spliced not only with the not-I, but also with the beyond-I, since the body is the personal revelation of the I beyond its boundaries, in outside– and impersonal existence. It is precisely the I that penetrates it, that shines through it, that discloses itself through it. The body corresponds to the third-person pronoun with all its concrete forms, covers, or substitutes. It unites, like a predicate to a subject—which is the first person—with a variant of the second person: the I and the with-I or you [ty], the we and the with-we or you [vy].8 Personal existence, the I, as both singular and collective [sobornoe], in its full self-disclosure (in the likeness of the Trihypostatic Person in the Holy Trinity), cannot remain forever in the vicious circle of its “I-consciousness.” It should not only be, but be something, have existential definition, a form of existence that is its body. Furthermore, the body lives as a body, having the power of life in the soul, which not only enlivens the body and is its life, but also mediates between the spirit and the body, being directed towards both, and thus comes from both a corporeal and a spiritual origin, and for this reason is indeterminate in and of itself alone.

We are now drawing nearer to comprehending how the body fits within the life of God. The hypostatic (and in His hypostaticity Tri-hypostatic) God, the Divine personality [lichnost’], possesses Divinity, one in essence and undivided. This Divine Essence [Sushchnost’] is itself, in an inexpressible sense, God’s “body.” As Divine essence, or nature [priroda] in God, it relates to corporeality in the basic sense of an absolute Divine reality, which can be expressed in the following definition: the being [bytie] of God. God is means that the personality [lichnost’] of God lives in reality and is inseparably bonded with it, such that in this sense the mark of equality between person [litso] and nature [priroda] can be established: the Hypostatic God is this Divine being [bytie]. That which is characteristic of the Body of God is, beyond all further definition, inexhaustible—yet it is through a single reality or concreteness. It is not only absolute reality, but also absolute subsistence, the self-revelation of God, Sophia, the Ens realissimum. It is not an empty, dry, mute “act,” or a kind of res, but light and life, the fullness of all in all. And this all, in an abstract and ideal sense, is but its shadow. But in all the power of reality and life, as the complete organism of the idea, of true being [bytie], it is “the body and all its organs,” the fullness of the ideal-real being of God. And this is the Divine Sophia. She is the Glory of God.

God, being triple in Persons [Litsa], is a Trihypostatic Personality [Lichnost’], one in essence and undivided. The nature [priroda] of God is unity, but it is the being [bytie] and self-revelation of the Trihypostatic Personality [Lichnost’]. In it can be perceived the Logos of the world, the self-revelation of the Hypostatic Word, and the Glory of the Hypostatic Spirit, which is itself God’s Hypostatic Being [Bytie]. The Father, as God, possesses His hypostatic self-revelation in both of the Hypostases of the Son and of the Holy Spirit as they reveal themselves. And in it, the character of each of the hypostases is preserved. Thus, the Sophia-Glory is in this sense the body of God, yet absolutely spiritual and free from all fleshliness. It is the fullness of all in all, the being [bytie] of God in concreto.

Now we can return to the question of the eternal high priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek and the heavenly sacrifice. The Logos, the Son of God, is the Hypostasis that offers itself as sacrifice. What He offers sacrificially to the Father is the Divine nature [estestvo], the Body that belongs as much to Himself as to the other Hypostases. Such is His special hypostatic role in the inner-triune life. He offers His heavenly body as a kind of spiritual self-revelation—His sacrificial self-revelation in heaven. And this is the sacrifice of filial love to the Father, which is brought to completion by the Holy Spirit, the Hypostatic love of Both. To comprehend this mystery of Divine dependence in more than general terms is impossible for us. Yet there is enough here for us to search for something analogous in the created world, in earthly sacrifice. Here we must return to the notion of the of the Eternal Humanity of the Son of God, according to the image of Whom our own humanity, and also His own earthly humanity, exists. He is the Heavenly Man, the second Adam, in whose image the earthly human was created, the first Adam. The Lord came down from heaven and became a particular human being, and was incarnate, taking on an earthly body. Yet all of this happens not arbitrarily or by accident such that it might not have come to pass, but by analogy between the heavenly, Divine body and the pan-human, created body. “No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13). “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.” “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47, 49). This analogy of the earthly and Heavenly man, in the Godman, is affirmed in the words of the Lord. The analogy continues further, applied to the earthly sacrifice offered by the Heavenly Man, the Godman, sent to earth for earthly in-humani­za­tion, with the taking on of an earthly body and the entire race of humanity along with it: “A body you have prepared for Me . . . See, God, I have come to do your will” (Heb. 10:5-7).

The creation of the world, with the world-man as its center, likewise was not some accidental act, as if it might not have not occurred. It is a Deed of self-disclosing love, which has its own inner, free, necessity. It is in its own way just as indissoluble as the very inner life of the Divinity, but in a different sense. And, of course, it is also no accident, but rather by an inner necessity, that it was precisely the Second Hypostasis, whose role in the Holy Trinity Itself is priestly, that was sent to the world. In the form of its manifestation, this sending is determined by the destiny of the world, in the human being endowed with the freedom of creaturely self-determination. Because of that, there were various possibilities for the human being, and He alone was capable of falling or not falling. However, the nature of earthly sacrifice depended on that which, in any event, could not have remained uncompleted: “See, God, I have come to do your will,” for “a body you have prepared for Me.” The Incarnation, as a sacrifice of love for the world, always lay along the pathways of the creation of the world and humanity, inasmuch as it is its completion. The cry on the Cross, “it is finished” (John 19:30), relates not only to the one sacrifice on Golgotha, but to everything that was accomplished in it and was brought to an end by it, that is, the entire act of the creation of humanity according to Its prototype—the Heavenly, uncreated Man. And He is called to participate in the creation of the world by taking on a body, in accordance with the will of the Father. For this is Incarnate Love: “a body you have prepared for Me,” and the statement, “see, God, I have come to do your will” (Heb. 10:5-7), does not cease to apply because of some particular sacrifices along the path of self-lowering, with the taking on of the “form of a slave” (cf. Phil. 2:7) and death on the Cross. The Incarnation was bought at the highest price, and obedience revealed its path to be most frightful and ruthless—even unto death on the Cross. “In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and supplications, to the one who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Although He was a Son he learned obedience through what He suffered; and having been made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 5:7-10).

The Cross is the symbol of Divine life in the Incarnation and the crucifixion—in the Holy Trinity in heaven and on earth. Therefore the Cross represents not only two separate realms that are connected by events along the path of the Incarnation, but also the Divine being (bytie) itself as eternal sacrifice.

Notes

1 For a summary of patristic witnesses to this, see La Taille, Mysterium Fidei, Elucidatio XIII, 153 – 165. He offers a collection of texts from Revelation where Christ stands before the Father in the form of a sacrifice: Rev. 5:8, 9, 10, 12; cf. 1:5, 6.; on the altar arising before the table of God: Rev. 6:9; 8:3, 5; cf. 11:1; 14:18; as living and fiery: Rev. 16:7, 17.

2 This question is thoroughly examined in the essay “Christ in the World” [Sergii Bulgakov, “Khristos v mire,” Zvezda 1 (1994): 150 – 78], in the chapter “High Priestly service.” So as not to repeat myself, I refer the reader to that essay, which is limited here merely to a short presentation of basic ideas that are necessary for further research.

3 Even Blessed Augustine is not free of occasionalism in his understanding of the High Priesthood of Christ according to the order of Melchizedek: “For according to the way in which He was begotten of the Father, God with God, coeternal with the begetter, He is not a Priest; rather He is a Priest according to the flesh He assumed, according to the sacrifice He was to offer for us, which was received from us” (Enar. In Ps. 109; PL 37:1459). Such an understanding of High Priesthood contradicts its definition as eternal, that is, its definition as Divine from the very beginning.

4 See the essay “Christ in the World,” the chapter on high priestly service.

5 [Translator’s note: For a more detailed discussion of Divine Sophia and the persons of the Holy Trinity, see Sergei Bulgakov, Sophia, the Wisdom of God: An Outline of Sophiology, trans. Patrick Thompson, O. Fielding Clarke, and Xenia Braikevitc (Hudson, NY: Lindisfarne Press, 1993), 37-53.]

6 This same thought is further expressed in even bolder and multifaceted terms: “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47 – 49).

7 The apostle differentiates first of all between “heavenly bodies and earthly bodies” (1 Cor. 15:40). Without giving a straightforward definition of heavenly ones, he clarifies what they are by juxtaposing them with earthly bodies, which are described as various kinds of seeds and fleshly bodies: “And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. Not all flesh is alike . . . there is another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish” (1 Cor. 15:37 – 39). The common feature shared by these earthly bodies is that they all appear in the flesh, which, however, is not a synonym of corporeality in general, as if it were its only mode of being. On the contrary, there can also be non-fleshly bodies, a transcendental flesh, in addition to the complete opposite: the fleshly character of the body, its overflowing fleshliness, is a sinful perversion of the flesh, its unintended condition: “Then the Lord said, ‘My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh'” (Gen. 6:3). So, there are various kinds of bodies, and flesh is but one of many modes of corporeality. Further, the apostle continues in his distinctions between “heavenly bodies” and “earthly bodies,” as he explains, “but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another” (1 Cor. 15:40). These predicates with an article (tōn epouraníōn and tōn epigeíōn) in context, could refer simply to the bodies (sōmata) discussed in the second half of that fortieth verse. This thought is further—and somewhat unexpectedly—illustrated with the following juxtaposition: “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed star differs from star in glory” (1 Cor. 15:41). What is hinted at here is the notion that there are various modes of fleshly corporeality even within the confines of this world. The apostle then crosses over to the world, unavailable to us, of post-resurrection life, which will be transfigured:

So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable . . . It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being” (see Gen. 2:7); the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the animated, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth . . . the second man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1 Cor. 15:42 – 49 [NRSV, translator’s modification])

The opposition between the physical body that belonged to Adam according to creation, and the spiritual body that belonged to him according to resurrection, is in essence an opposition of two different modes of a single corporeality. The alleged contradiction of body and spirit, which theology often assumes as a given, is thus eliminated. On the contrary, their connection and correlation are affirmed. This basic idea of the corporeality of spirit is confirmed by the comment that the “second” man is “the Lord from heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47), Who possesses the “image of the man from heaven” and passes it on to us. It would be pointless to see here merely a note on the Incarnation of the Lord in his in-humanization; something different, something bigger, is at issue here: it is about the Heavenly Man, which is the Lord from heaven. In other words, we are dealing with a testimony, not to this Heavenly Man’s bodiless spirituality, but to His spiritual corporeality, which was assumed in direct proportion to the earthly corporeality of the first Adam, as He is both true God and true Human. The fullness of Divinity presupposes a spiritual-divine corporeality, while the fullness of humanity presupposes a spiritual-ensouled-fleshly corporeality, yet one capable of being united in one and the same Hypostasis of the Logos.

8 See my work “On the Name of God,” chapter on pronouns.

This entry was posted in Sergius Bulgakov. Bookmark the permalink.