Life needs order to be life

While watching a TV programme that was discussing the end of the universe, I heard the presenter say that the universe went from order to disorder and that complete disorder leads to lack of life or definable existance. This started me to think that order is important for life and for relationships. That is God does not create things in order, such as the orders of angels, simply arbitrarily for some sense of orderliness but because such order is important for genuine life and relationships. Such order helps to give meaning to relationships and helps one define oneself both as a unique person in relationship to others. Without this sense of order we could lose the ability to know ourselves because we would merge into sameness since knowing ourselves includes how we are distinct from others.

Thus, the modern trend for absolute “equality” may be destructive of our life and relationships. Being all the same order would result in loss of identity. God does order the Church with various ranks of clergy and the laity are ordered into monastics, and men and women. This order is important and we should not try to remove it rather to maintain it. All the ranks of clergy should be maintained, men and women should not try to be the same but remember their distinct order and this should be reinforced by dress, location etc. All this, I am beginning to see, may be most beneficial for providing us our unique identity and means of relating to others that brings us into community as ourself, which is defined both by self-recognition and also community role. We should not complain about our place or order but accept that it what is given by the providence of God. Neither should we despise anyone in another order else we despise our own order and ourselves; we deny our own definition. This is not to suggest a complete rigidity of order but to perhaps not to remove it from society nor Church in particular. Our first priority should be to fulfil the place of our order in God with holy lives and should providence modify our situation then so be it but we should not seek to change it of ourselves for the sake of a “better” order else we may lose ourselves. To seek a different order for piety such as to become a monastic or to get married or the priesthood, is acceptable and good but to seek them because it is a better order, as the end of the decision, does not seem to be appropriate.


41 Responses to Life needs order to be life

  1. Robert says:

    @ Ioannis – that is neither here not there. That St Paul didn’t write as you suggest is immaterial to St Chrysostom’s point (and mine for that matter). In any case I wouldn’t expect St Paul to write about the angels or (non)exclusivity of the marriage partner, because the subject and context of St Paul’s passage is entirely different than that of the Sadducees’ pericope.

    @ Fr Patrick – by and large I am in agreement with you on this. This transcendance to which you refer ought to serves as caution to simply project what we are now onto what we will be.

  2. ioannis says:

    But St Paul, in the passage where Robert refered to about the fashion of this world passing away, wrote about the married ones: “But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;” He did not wrote “be as though they do not have them exclusively” or “be as though they have them as angel with angel”.

  3. Thomas and Robert,

    We are united in one flesh in Christ with all those in the coming life. This union far transcends the union of one flesh between a man and a woman. So, the exclusive union of man and woman does not exist because we are more deeply united with all and no longer divided into couples; hence we are like the angels without exclusive marriage relationship. However, our previous unions are not removed but transcended so we are still one with our partner and even partners, assuming that both are worthy of the coming life.

  4. Robert says:


    Yes, I understand “neither marry” to mean marriage does not endure in the Resurrection.

    Both St Matthew and St Mark add to that pericope that in the Resurrection they “are as the angels” – what then are we to make of this? Are there married angels in Heaven? That would seem to be a stretch, I certainly haven’t heard of this. Furthermore, what are we to make of the meaning of the passage, if it is as you say that there is marriage in the Resurrection, in the case of this man and wife? Which husband will she be united to eternally in marriage? The last one, the first perhaps, one of the middle ones, or all seven husbands, or none?

    St Chrysostom’s thoughts on this passage is of interest, it is telling that he would make reference to a very particular passage by St Paul in this context:

    “But not because they do not marry, therefore are they angels, but because they are as angels, therefore they do not marry. By this He removed many other difficulties also, all which things Paul intimated by one word, saying, “For the fashion of this world passeth away.”

    St Chrysostom includes marriage among those things that are “the fashion of this world” and which are temporal, impermanent. And he says “He removed many other difficulties also” – is marrying more or less difficult than being in marriage already, and eternally no less?

    As to the “one flesh” reference you make, there is no indication this prevails in the Resurrection.

  5. Thomas says:

    Robert wrote:

    I am reminded of what Christ said that in Heaven there will be no marriage nor giving into marriage.

    That isn’t quite right. Our Lord said ‘in the Resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage’. He does not say there is no marriage. In fact, He said ‘they are no longer two, but one flesh’ and that it is God who has ‘yoked together’ a couple.

    I think it is common Orthodox teaching that the union of the two as one will remain in the future life.

  6. JT says:

    Okay, I see. What I read on orthodoxwiki was that he also explained the orthodox faith with great simplicity at the council. I didn’t know that about the icon of the first ecumenical council, thanks for letting me know.

  7. Robert,

    Yes, it is relevant. The relationship of husband and wife is a particular manifestation of the order of men and women. This order such as the Church hierarchy is of significance now but will not have significance in the coming life. It will still be remembered but the relationship structure will be different with equality coming to the fore rather than distinction because man will no longer need to obey Christ to become one mind with Him but will be one mind with Him and reign with Him. Woman carrying the symbol of obedience on her head to lead us to obedience will not longer require this because we will all be in obedience. She will not have to submit to her husband as an icon of the Church submitting to Christ but will stand beside him reigning with him as the Church will with Christ as co-heirs and one man with Him. She will not unite to one husband alone to form one body as one Church to show us the mystery of salvation, she will be united to Christ as one body with Him and with all others as fulfilling the mystery of salvation with all. Man will not have one woman to show that Christ is united to one Church because when we are in the life to come there will be none to whom to show the way because all will be united as one Church to one Christ, if they are worthy. God may order us in the coming life but it will not be the same orders as here not for the same purpose, although there may be a connection; I don’t know.

  8. Ioannis,

    Thank you for the discussion. I am developing these ideas and so it is helpful to get feedback from another perspective and it is pleasing that such a discussion is leading to general agreement. I press some points not to disagree for the sake of it but so that we come to the same mind through teasing out underlying reasoning/assumptions whether merely perceived or real. So, apologies for perhaps thinking you said something that you did not.

    While I think we are coming to agree to a large extent I don’t think that we are quite of the same mind yet. For me social order is both important and unimportant; it creates true relationships and yet it does not. Your view seems to just say that it is not important and not true for relationships.

    Because humans are not infinite in nature then even though of the same nature each hypostasis varies and one is stronger, one is faster, one in smarter, yet they are still the same nature. So, being of the same nature does not mean absolute equality in humans nor perhaps in angels as it does for God. Thus, there is a variation, hence order, between hypostases that would exist pre-Fall. One would have to demonstrate not only equal nature but also equal manifestation of that nature within each hypostasis to refute any order being possible within the same nature. Even in the infinite Godhead each hypostasis is at some point different from the others else it would not be distinguishable from the others. That is being equal does not necessarily mean being equivalent.

    Again, social order per se does not cause anything. It is sin by those within one social order that affects others negatively. “Bad” things such as providence permits such as illness are not evils caused by a social order, although some social orders are more prone to more illnesses than others. Lazarus will not forget his social status because through the suffering that status tends to endure he received eternal glory. The suffering brings joy. The rich man’s happiness brings suffering. Whatever pleasures or joys that a saint may remember from this life will become insignificant to the joy of the coming life and forgotten.

    I said that about Christ taking all created natures through his human nature because at the end of time God needs to be all in all that true stable eternal life may exist. That which is apart from God cannot have life nor exist of its own right. God is One and pure and so all that is gathered to Him must be one. There is no relation to the Father apart from the Son. So, for all creation to exist it must be unified in the Logos both in its logoi and created nature that is why the gospel is preached to all creation and all creation awaits the sons of God. Christ can only have one body, one created nature which is that from the Mother of God, man. Hence, it is via His human nature that all creation comes into union with God and with itself and God becomes all in all.

  9. Robert says:

    Do any of you in the context of this conversation consider marriage as “order”? (or as “order between” or “an ordering of people”). I am reminded of what Christ said that in Heaven there will be no marriage nor giving into marriage. Does what Christ said about Heaven have relevance at all to our discussion here? What are the implication about Heaven, about order?

  10. ioannis says:

    Father Patrick,

    I think that, in general, we agree.

    If I connected social order with social inequality it is because they are already linked in your first post and that’s what we were discussing about. We won’t disagree on words. I agree that order does not mean necessarily inequality. As you wrote it is not important whether one is a master or slave. That’s what I tried to show in all my posts. That social order is unimportant. It neither defines our identity nor does it create true relationships between persons because the rich – beggar relationship did not remain in eternal life. That’s why in my opinion “we should not complain about our place or order” as you said..

    Whether angels are consubstantial or not it was important to my argument that God did not create unequal consubstantial persons but unequal essences. If the hierarchy of angels is based on the fact that they are of different natures then my argument was valid despite that hierarchy.But perhaps my argument is wrong because, in one passage, St. Paul interprets the ascendancy of man over woman to the fact that she was created after man. But I never said that the hierarchy of angels is post-Fall. I said that the hierarchy of natures is pre-Fall whereas the hierarchy of persons within the same nature is post-Fall.

    The results of social order can bring sorrow to Christians in this life although that sadness is not a desire for a better social status. The rich man enjoyed his good things in this life whereas Lazarus received evil things. My point was that since there is no sadness in Heaven, perhaps Lazarus won’t even remember his social status and the evil things he went through because of it, whereas the rich man will still have his mind in the things of this world, as you wrote.

    Why do you say that Christ took all the created natures through His human nature?

  11. ioannis says:

    Andrea Elizabeth,

    I think as well that it is an insebarable personal idiom of Theotokos that she gave birth to Christ. And I also think that if any relationships a person made in this life are going to remain in eternal life are those developed with God and by God.

    When I said that the Church hierarchy will remain in a way in the life to come I did not mean that it will function like it does today. Apart from wanting to distinguish between social and ecclesiastical order, what I meant is that since the members of the clergy receive different amounts of the energy of God during their ordinations and the energy of God is uncreated and remains for ever, then, perhaps, that difference is going to be reflected in the brightness by which they are going to shine as stars, to follow St. Paul’s metaphor, in eternal life. My point was that the Church order is not a created order between persons but it is an uncreated one determined by the “one and selfsame Holy Spirit dividing to every man severally as He will”

    The seating arrangement is a nice image which seems to correspond with that of Revelation 4:4.

  12. JT,

    As far as I am aware St Spyridon, while having been a peasant, was a bishop at the first Ecumenical Council. This is how he is depicted in icons of the Council. He is famous for his convincing a philosopher of the truth even without receiving a secular education.

  13. JT says:

    Thanks for clarifying for me. I assumed that the rest of the clergy were in error because it was St. Maximus, who was not a cleric, that stood up for the truth rather than someone in the clergy itself. The only other example I can think of is the earlier St. Spyridon who stood up during the first ecumenical council as a peasant laymen explaining the orthodox Faith. Later on he became a Bishop.

  14. Andrea,

    My understanding of the male and female issue in the coming life is that there will be no exclusive relationships such as marriage but rather we will love and relate to all others equally and in much more depth of relationship than possible even in the closest marriage. We will dwell with each other without the limits of time and space; inside each other for wish of another image. Thus, marriage or exclusive relations will become utterly meaningless. Our being one with all in Christ will be fully manifest. This does not mean though that we do not know that such a person is a woman and such is a man but such knowledge will not have any relationship meaning connected to marriage or, of course, impurity.

    I do not believe that there will be any need for the Church hierarchy because those in living in the coming life will have achieved deification which is the goal the hierarchy. All will be handed back to God and we will know God face to face.

  15. Ioannis,

    You seem to be linking social order with social inequality. Why? Order does not mean inequality just as St Paul discusses the various members of the body. Many thoughts about social inequality come from those thinking in worldly terms about equality. In Christian terms whether one is master or slave is not important and if one is a slave then one is best to remain as such according to St Paul as shown by St John Chrysostom because one is free in Christ.

    I don’t think that whether angels are of the same nature or not is relevant to order. Even as a human I can desire to be ranked above the angels and I consider that their rank, even of another nature, still means that their hypostases are higher than mine. Satan and many men want to be ranked first as God but of course such desires lead to hell. Of course considering ourselves to rank lower than worms opens the path to deification and reigning with God as God, although not in essence, with God all in all. I believe that the only order of natures that is truly unequal is between God and creation. In a manner all created natures are equal because all are one in Christ and participate in God through Christ, who takes all created natures through the human nature.

    Anyway, the main point about the angels is that order is not only a result of the Fall but some God desired in creation irrespective of the Fall.

    Social order brings neither joy nor sadness to saints because a Christian’s joy and sadness are not determined by social order but rather by how we live in whichever social order that we find ourselves. So, this is not a test of whether there is a remembrance of social order. Perhaps if social order brings one joy on earth in itself then it will bring sorrow in the life to come because one’s mind was on the things of this world like the rich man. Even though sorrow for the social order of this world can lead to sorrow in the life to come because one’s mind is still focused on this world.

  16. Ioannis,

    I probably didn’t use enough connecting transitions. When I suggested that people are ranked according to piety, that was in connection with the ability to change by making free choices, which also entails grace. My answer would be that grace is freely available to all, but it still leaves the question of those who are or are not in close proximity to orthodoxy or other beneficial circumstances.

    I have heard (Fr. Hopko, I think) that gender distinctions will remain somewhat in the eschaton. Mary will always be Jesus’ mother, and therefore female. “There is neither male nor female” could have more to do with being in an angelic state without sinful desires, and/or the post fall curse of domination. Maybe Christ will be more directly the head of the woman instead of man. If Christ is more directly the high priest, I also don’t know if there would be a Church hierarchy in heaven that functions like it does “down” here. I suspect there will be a seating arrangement like the one in the Pentecost icon, but I don’t want to speculate. And I haven’t really heard anyone in authority talk about it.

  17. ioannis says:

    Andrea Elizabeth,

    Thank you for understanding me.

    I think that both the incidental things and the free choices are personal idioms although not all of them are of the same importance in defining a person. There are personal characteristics which are inseparable of a person and sort of unchangable and idioms that a person can be separated from because they can change. However, to be honest, I haven’t exactly understood what you are saying in order to give you my opinion. I can not see why and how what I wrote touches on the issues of grace and free will. But my purpose is not to say something new or different from the Orthodox faith.

    I think that Theotokos will be always Theotokos because Christ is not going to get incarnated a second time and she is the perfect and unsurpassed example that a woman is possible to shine more than a bishop in eternal life although women can not become priests for the reasons you already know. But the gender distinction is not a post-Fall one because “from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6). What I said, whether right or wrong, is that they were made equal although distinct. Now, if even pre-Fall distinctions are going to become unimportant in the life to come, because there is no man and woman in Christ, is it absurd on my part to surmise that post-Fall inequalities, like the social ones, are going to get completely wiped out?

  18. ioannis says:

    Father Patrick,

    As you very nicely, in my opinion, put it, ” If order was determined by fixed inequality then God would not be free to order it as He wills.” I think that it is the inequality between persons that is not fixed and it is ruled by the providence of God because the inequality between natures is fixed and it is attributed to the free act by which God created the world. If the personal inequality was a product of the Creation, it would be fixed.

    I also think that we shouldn’t take for granted that all angels are of the same essence. St. Athanasius says that they are of different natures and St. John Damacene that we do not know whether they are consubstantial or not. Perhaps there is an hierarchy of angels exactly because they are not consubstantial and I do not know of any Father who speaks of the consubstantiality of angels with certainty.

    I agree that perhaps some aspects of the social order will be remembered in the life to come especially if that brings joy and not sadness and perhaps they will be remembered even more on the other side of the life to come where the rich man, in contrast to Lazarus, remains in Hades nameless and defined only by his social status.

  19. JT,

    In terms of ecclesiastical order one is of a “higher” rank by ordination which is only semi-dependent on a holy life. A cleric’s rank is to enable others to become holy through the mysteries. The function of the rank is helpful even if the cleric is not living up to the rank. A layman who makes good use of the mysteries may indeed be a better example of a Christian life than some of the clergy. This does not remove the need for the hierarchy nor does it mean that the layman as a layman is of a higher rank than the clergy. Rather the clergy has fulfilled its task in enabling the layman to become holy. The clergy in general need to live lives worthy of their rank because word and deed together are the best witness and if they are to transgress this to a large degree then they should be deposed because they are no longer setting a good example for the laity and leading them to hell rather than heaven, as were the Pharisees. Overall, everyone is expected to be perfect and holy as God is perfect and holy, laymen and clergy alike, but we are all weak and sinners and so it is not surprising that on the odd occasion the laity appear holier than the clergy.

    I don’t know any time where laymen maintained the truth and the rest of clergy were in error. The most famous case where the leading clergy, but this does not mean all the clergy, were in error or failing to correct error and a “layman” was maintaining the truth is with St Maximus the Confessor. St Maximus though was both a monk and an Abbot and so he had a leadership role in the Church even if not formally a member of the clerical hierarchy. Please let me know if there are other cases of which you are thinking.

  20. JT says:

    A “better order”? Is there such thing as a better order? From what I know, laymen in the early Church were at times the ones who maintained the truth within the Church while the rest of the clergy were in error. Many times there are monks or clergy who are not living holy lives while those who are not clergy are better examples of a christian life. St. John Chrysostom called out others who were in the clergy which goes to show that just because one is tonsured or ordained does not mean they are higher in rank compared to the laity. Maybe I’m misunderstanding? Just my thoughts.

  21. Ioannis,

    I think that order is at the level of hypostases/persons and not at essence and as such it both exists between persons of the same nature and different natures without denying the equality of nature. This is reinforced by the somewhat arbitrary nature of order, which implies equality as well as God’s free providential rule. If order was determined by fixed inequality then God would not be free to order it as He wills. Moreover order is a synergy of God’s and man’s respective freedom hence it is not absolute. We should not seek to overthrow established order, thus denying God’s authority and freedom, nor does God enforce it rigidly, thus allowing our freedom to participate.

    Order is not merely the result of the Fall, although particular aspects are Fall specific, because the holy angels are arranged in orders.

    While in the life to come the social order of the present world will not be maintained as it is, some aspects of it may be remembered eternally as part of our identity such as the repentant thief or Lazarus the beggar.

    I take order broadly to cover any from of organising such as arranging objects on a desk and not only to imply a relation of authority or superiority.

    Finally, while speaking of order and distinction in life, I chiefly see an equality of relationship and most importantly that we are all united as one in Christ and that God will be all in all.

  22. Ioannis,

    I hope you and Fr. Patrick don’t mind my interrupting.

    Your description nicely takes away the negative connotations of order which are prejudice based on race, gender, or divine determinism whether by making certain classes more suited for specific positions or by appointing individuals based on ‘respecting persons’. However, I’m curious about your meaning of the word, “idiom”. Do you mean incidental things like eye color, language, etc, or can that word include free will choices? Saints are ranked according to piety. This opens a kettle of worms regarding the role of grace and free will. Does God help some to be more pious than others by direct bestowals of grace, and/or more beneficial circumstances, which are currently post-fall?

    And there’s that other idiom of gender. Your description above could imply that there’s no distinction between the roles of men and women. If these distinctions are only results of the fall, then I think we have to look at the relationship between Christ and the Theotokos to see if any distinctions in order remain. The explanation of why priests are male has been amply covered on this site. According to Psalms, the Theotokos is standing at His right side. I like your point above about there being no distance between the Divine persons, or in this case between God and His Mother, and I think that kenosis entails bestowing equality, but the difference between being the bestowee and the bestower should be remembered, respected and not taken for granted, not that you are.

  23. ioannis says:

    Father Patrick,

    I would like to share a couple of thoughts as regards your second post, if I do not become tiresome, because I probably gave the impression that I do not recognize the Church hierarchy. “Each saint will shine with his own glory, as star differs from star and this ranks us in some way in eternal life”, as you wrote. Since that glory reflects the extent of each Saint’s partaking of the divine energy, it is not an order within the human nature but within the divine and uncreated glory. And if the Saints were to acquire the divine essence as Papists wrongly claim, there would be no difference in their glory as there is no difference in the glory of the three consubstantial divine persons. That’s why I think that my position that there is no inherent order between consubstantial persons is still orthodox despite that fact. I also think that the Church hierarchy, at least in ideal terms, is also meant to reflect the progress of the faithful in the divine glory in this life and it is again, or it should be, an order within the divine energy.

    That’s why, I conjecture, the Church order will rather remain in a way in the Kingdom to come whereas, from the social order, I doubt if anything will be retained in eternal life. And I think that, not because the persons will not be distinct and will not retain their personal idioms but because I doubt whether our place in the social structure adds anything to our identity. Saint Paul is not depicted in the icons as a tent-maker. One day I am rich and the other day I am poor, one day I am a king and the other day I am a beggar, today I am a worker and tomorrow I am an employer. My social status seems to me to be something very mutable to be part of my identity.

    However we know that “there is no power but of God”. How can we reconcile what Saint Paul writes with the idea that all consubstantial persons are equal? In one of his texts in Patrologia Graeca 91, Saint Maximus tries to answer the question why God gave kingship to man since all human beings are of the same nature and of the same honor. His response is that the reason is to be found in the dire consequences of the Fall and that God gave the kingship in order to prevent human beings from becoming like the fishes where the big fish eat the little ones. It may sound like a paradox but, for Maximus, if I understood him correctly, the authorities were established in order to protect the equality of the human persons.

  24. ioannis says:

    In human beings and, in general in creation, as Robert wrote, if something originates in something else, the source has a sort of priority because we are divided by time and place. My father, for instance, was existing before me, although not as my father but as a husband of his wife, son of his own father etc. and I can say that if it wasn’t for my father I wouldn’t have come into existence. However, in divinity there is no such division and as I can say that if it wasn;t for the Father there would be no Son I can also as well say that if it wasn’t for the Son there would be no Father although only the Father is the cause of the Son and not vice versa., There was no time where Father was not the Father as it happens with my own father. it is because of this human condition, in which we understand the cause as holding a priority, that we ascribe a priority to the Father, although in the divine reality such priority does not exist. And because of this condition we are used to speak of the cause before that which is caused and therefore Trinity takes an order in our confession and in our doxology and in order to avoid misconceptions about the hypostatic idioms of the three divine persons. Therefore the order is in our minds but God is beyond order and beyond our minds.

    As about the rule of God over man and the rule of man over creation, there is indeed an order or hierarchy between natures but not between consubstantial persons.

  25. Robert says:

    Sorry, I fail to understand how Fr John’s passage makes your point.

  26. St. Basil’s quote seems to employ both apophatic terms about the counting of the three, which we do at the same time descriptively name in order as Father first, then Son, then Holy Spirit.

    The basis for the primacy (among uncreated equals, if you will) of the Father is from Fr. Behr’s article sited above,

    “The Father alone is the one true God. This keeps to the structure of the New Testament language about God, where with only a few exceptions, the world “God” (theos) with an article (and so being used, in Greek, as a proper noun) is only applied to the one whom Jesus calls Father, the God spoken of in the scriptures. This same fact is preserved in all ancient creeds, which begin: I believe in one God, the Father…”

    “For us there is one God, the Father… and one Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 8:6). The proclamation of the divinity of Jesus Christ is made no so much by describing Him as “God” (theos used, in Greek, without an article is as a predicate, and so can be used of creatures; cf. John 10:34-35), but by recognizing Him as “Lord” (Kyrios). Beside being a common title (“sir”), this word had come to be used, in speech, for the unpronounceable, divine, name of God Hiself, YHWH. When Paul states that God bestowed upon the crucified and risen Christ the “name above ever name” (Phil 2:9), this is an affirmation that this one is all that YHWH Himself is, without being YHWH. This is again affirmed in the creeds. “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God… true God of true God.”

    According to the Nicene creed, the Son is “consubstantial with the Father.” St Athanasius, the Father who did more than anyone else to forge Nicene orthodoxy, indicated that “what is said of the Father is said in Scripture of the Son also, all but His being called Father” (On the Synods, 49). It is important to note how respectful such theology is of the total otherness of God in comparison with creation: such doctrines are regulative of our theological language, not a reduction of God to a being alongside other beings. It is also important to note the essential asymmetry of the relation between the Father and the Son: the Son derives from the Father; He is, as the Nicene creed put it, “of the essence of the Father” – they do not both derive from one common source. This is what is usually referred to as the Monarchy of the Father.”

  27. Robert says:


    Apophaticism works both for and against you on this: following the logic employed, apophaticism prevents you for making any positive or negative claims. The fathers however employ no such apophaticism in regards this matter, in St Basil’s words, “we do not count by adding, starting from unity to end with plurality, for we do not say, one and two and three, nor first, second and third.”

    You wrote, “To me, if something originates with something else, the source has priority, and I can’t see how it doesn’t.” You are correct as far as matter in the creation, but the same does not apply the Trinity. There was never a time when the Father was without the Son nor the Holy Spirit. The Father is not prior nor has primacy over the other Persons.

    I remain curious as to the basis for your position.

  28. Taking into account all reservations regarding order in the Trinity, nevertheless we can say that the Son or Holy Spirit is not the Father and that the Father or the Son is not the Holy Spirit and that the Father or the Holy Spirit is not the Son. That is there are fixed distinctions among the persons of the Trinity that allow the distinct names and non-confusion of the persons. This may not be able to be spoken as order in terms of the Trinity, although that may depend on how we define ‘order’, yet the distinction of the persons may be manifested as order in terms of creation that enables a distinction to be made between created persons so that they do not become confused. Such distinctions following the Trinity do not negate equality in nature but help realise relationships. Order between men and women can exist even without subjection. When Christ becomes all in all in us and as such we are no longer divided by being Greek nor Jew or man and woman, and our chief identity is Christ, nevertheless, the distinctions are not destroyed and we all become merged into the one and become clones of Christ, else this would be portrayed in the icons but each icon maintains the unique identity of the saint including male or female, etc. Thus, order can be maintained in unity. Each saint will shine with his own glory, as star differs from star and this ranks us in some way in eternal life. The sense of choirs of virgins and hierarchs may also order us eternally. Also, think of the issues with living that someone has without any sense of family relations, national identity, home town etc; I get the impression that they don’t know who they are and it can make it difficult to gain a sense of relating to the world. How can aspects in us such as respect or governing or submitting take place without a sense of order. How could we then know how to relate to God and be the image of God without some sense of order among ourselves or nature?

  29. Robert,

    Any order of the Trinity, which isn’t contradicted in the Lossky quote, is beyond what we can think of, despite anthropomorphic comparisons in the Bible.

  30. Robert says:

    It is hard to improve on Vladimir Lossky’s words in regards to this matter:

    “In the order of divine manifestation, the hypostases are not the respective images of the personal diversities but of the common nature: the Father reveals His nature through the Son, and the divinity of the Son is manifested in the Holy Spirit. This is why, in the realm of divine manifestation, it is possible to establish an order of Persons which, strictly speaking, should not be attributed to Trinitarian existence in itself, despite the “monarchy” and “causality” of the Father: these confer upon Him no hypostatic primacy over the other two hypostases, since He is a person only because the Son and the Holy Spirit are also.” – from “In the Image and Likeness of God”, p. 92-93.

    We are attempting to peek into the mystery of the Trinity, these are hard and difficult matters. Let us proceed circumspectly.

  31. Robert says:

    Dear Andrea Elizabeth and Ioannis,

    I can affirm, in agreement with Ioannis, that we cannot speak of order in the Trinity. There is no first, second and third as pertaining rank, priority or sequence (temporal or otherwise). I know of no O(o)rthodox fathers who indicate otherwise. I affirm the Monarchy of the Father from whom the Son is begotten and the Spirit proceeds. I also affirm the need for order and hierarchy, but as intimated in my earlier comment, I do not think we can make this too rigid, too absolute, nor irreducible. I understand the absolute irreducibility to be person, hypostasis, unique and concrete existence which (or rather Who) is revealed to us as the most Holy Trinity, one God, Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

  32. Ioannis,

    You do not seem to be denying the Monarchy of the Father, however universally accepted it is among Orthodox, but that it implies order. To me, if something originates with something else, the source has priority, and I can’t see how it doesn’t.

    The relationship of the Holy Spirit is that He proceeds from the Father, as distinguished from the Son being eternally begotten.

    Yes, the relationship between husband and wife changed after the fall. Perhaps their intended relationship placed them on more equal footing. Yet in Gen. 1, pre fall man was to rule over creation and make it subject to him.

    St. Maximus’ explanation of redemption is that the enmity and division between things is healed, not that they are left without distinction or order. Christ united humanity to deity, yet we can’t say that humanity is equal to deity. When he speaks of being subject to the Father, perhaps this includes subjecting his assumed human nature to Him, but I don’t think that’s all there is to it.

  33. ioannis says:

    Andrea Elizabeth,

    Modalism was not rejected on the basis that there is order in the Trinity. That’s how perhaps Arianism fought Sabellianism but not Orthodoxy. You say that either there is order in the Trinity or the distinction of the persons collapses, they sort of lose their identity and they become one person. However, the divine persons are distinguished by their hypostatic idioms and not by their place in a supposed divine hierarchy.

    You claim that the fact of the monarchy of the Father, namely that He is the only source of divinity, implies that there is an order in the Trinity. Now, according to your reasoning,you have to create an order between the Son and the Holy Spirit or their distinction will collapse and they will become one person. Therefore you have either to accept a form of the filioque and make the Son at least a secondary cause of the Holy Spirit or you ‘ll have to make the Spirit the secondary cause of the Son. Since none of these alternatives is orthodox, the conclusion is that the monarchy of the Father does not imply an order in the Trinity and the persons of the same order do not lose their identity.

    For the passage from 1 Corinthians take a look at the commentary of John Chrysostom.
    See how he describes the subjection of the women to men as a product of the Fall: ” Wherefore you see, she was not subjected as soon as she was made; nor, when He brought her to the man, did either she hear any such thing from God, nor did the man say any such word to her: he said indeed that she was bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh but of rule or subjection he no where made mention unto her. But when she made an ill use of her privilege and she who had been made a helper was found to be an ensnarer and ruined all, then she is justly told for the future, your turning shall be to your husband”.

  34. Ioannis, There is still room for order in the Trinity while maintaining consubstantiality and recognizing the Father as Source. Else you have modalism or more danger of the Filioque when you ascribe the Son as equal source of the Holy Spirit. Not to mention Christ’s own credit to the Father for his goodness as well as the instruction that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church and as the Father is the head of the Son. (1 Cor 11:3) I do not believe this indicates inferiority as the Arians did. See this article for a better explanation:

  35. ioannis says:

    @Andrea Elizabeth

    Thank you for your response but I disagree that “The fact that the Father is called Father and the Son the Son indicates order”. That’s what Arianists believed and Catholics as well have introduced order in the Holy Trinity due to the heresy of filioque. For the Orthodox Fathers the names Father and Son indicate relation.

  36. Living in America where equality is agrandized and hierarchy demonized as oppressive, I think we have a hard time respecting order. I believe, however that there was hierarchy before creation, much less the fall. The fact that the Father is called Father and the Son the Son indicates order, whether or not they are consubstantial. St. Dionysius also gives us an order of the angelic ranks. The order of creation also seems necessary.

    Along with our negative connotations of higher placement comes the idea that the higher ups disrespect the lower downs. The idea that a toe can have honor doesn’t compute with us. I wonder if this has to do with a misconception that pits inferior things against superior to the extent that inferior is considered worthy of annihilation. Also including a one-sided idea that the superior thing acts alone and inferior things have no say. This possibly comes from notions of ADS and the beatific vision where the inferior thing is passive and eventually gets absorbed into the superior. This is my current understanding of philosophy and western theology influenced by this site, which I may have misunderstood.

    I also think that consubstantial people of varying places can find common ground, but the ones in higher positions have to make the final decisions and bear ultimate responsibility, not that appeals can’t be made to even higher positions.

  37. ioannis says:

    Personally I rather see the social order as a product of the Fall which is going to be abolished in the Kingdom of God where “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female”. The reason I do not see the order as inherent to the human nature is the fact that all human beings are consubstantial and consubstantiality is the reason why there is no order in the Holy Trinity.

    ” Being all the same order would result in loss of identity”
    Do men of the same order, let’s say deacons or lieutenants, lose or confuse their identiy when they are with each other?

  38. Jeremy Phillips says:

    This post has reminded me of a portion of St. John Chrysostom’s homily on 1 Corintians 11. He says, speaking about if a woman should not cover her head to try to attain the glory of a man:

    “But if any say, “Nay, how can this be a shame to the woman, if she mount up to the glory of the man?” we might make this answer; “She doth not mount up, but rather falls from her own proper honor.” Since not to abide within our own limits and the laws ordained of God, but to go beyond, is not an addition but a diminuation. For as he that desireth other men’s goods and seizeth what is not his own, hath not gained any thing more, but is diminished, having lost even that which he had, (which kind of thing also happened in paradise:) so likewise the woman acquireth not the man’s dignity, but loseth even the woman’s decency which she had. And not from hence only is her shame and reproach, but also on account of her covetousness.”

    I think St. John would agree that the order needs to be maintained as well.

  39. Robert says:


    I would caution against making order absolute, and the only or prominent aspect that makes us different, unique, and personal. It needs to be balanced with love and freedom (in Christ), else it becomes a tool of oppression. This is not to eliminate order (for yes as you point out, we do indeed need it in human affairs).

    I don’t think the call for equality is necessarily a call to eliminate order, differences or meaning – perhaps only in extreme, fringe cases (such as those advocating anarchy) this may be so.

    In what way do you understand order in particular (and not, for instance, liberty or personhood) to keep us from merging into sameness? Does our identity truly depend on order?

  40. David Lindblom says:

    Yeah, it seems to me that having equality leads to disrespecting our fellow human. If so-and-so is not more important than me is not of any kind of higher rank then why should I listen to them? Why should I show any kind of honor or respect seeing as how they aren’t any better than me? I come across this kind of mentality quite often.

  41. I agree.

    Envying someone else’s place often occurs, and must be fought against. Accepting one’s unique place, however, can be done either in pride, which is the modern mode, possibly, or in humility. The prideful way is very ego centric and overly accepting of our own passions. Letting it all hang out, as it were.The humble way has us seek contentment, as St. Paul points out, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, recognizing that we haven’t mastered our own place yet, much less a foreign, “exalted” one.

%d bloggers like this: