28 (Limouris, 1990, p. ix)
29 Timothy Ware. The Orthodox Church. (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1964), p. 209.
The Kenosis of God
The basic idea of the kenosis of God is that God participated in the created world through Christ so that human beings have the potential to participate in the divine. A scriptural example of this is found in II Peter 1:4. Essentially, “God became man so that man might become God.”; “The Word became flesh so that the flesh could become word”30 The Orthodox discuss this in relationship to Philippians 2 as the emptying of God. Man is to become like God and participate the nature of God. This is “…a dynamic task to accomplish.”31 Essentially, man, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, “…becomes God by grace”.32 While this sounds suspect to an evangelical in that it appears that the doctrine implies that men may become gods, this is not precisely the case. Rather, men may participate in the nature of God. While biblical evidence for this is not overwhelming, it is present. In essence, it reflects the desire of man to be like Christ. This is a possible thing. It is significant in light of the veneration of icons. It is not really the picture that is venerated, but the “God likeness” of the person represented in the picture.
30 Ouspensky, 1992, p. 152.
31 Ibid, p. 156.
32 Ibid, p. 158.
While this appears to be the veneration, or even worship of an image, it is actually understood as the veneration of God (in man) through the image.
In the context of the kenosis of God, the Orthodox understand all of creation in a very sacramental way. All of matter was sanctified through the incarnation of Christ. The crucial argument is that when God became matter in Christ, “…an eternal change took place in the relationship between God and material creation.”33 “Our brothers of the East consider the concrete things that are all around us much less in themselves and for themselves, according to the value of their own components, than as a reflection or image of a transcendent reality which they exist to express.”34