LET US NOW consider theology as it lives and unfolds in the life of particular human beings. To begin, who could deny that the Virgin Mary, by giving flesh to the Word, became both Theotokos and theologos, that is, both Mother of God and a theologian? By allowing God to enter her womb, by clothing Him in the flesh of her humanity, by leading Him into the world on the day of His Nativity, she reveals on earth the Word Who is exalted beyond the heavens. Hence her prominent place in the iconography of the sanctuary, where she bears the epithet: “Wider than the Heavens.” That which the universe itself cannot contain was present in her womb, and this is the wondrous, paradoxical sign of God’s union with man. In giving birth to God, then, the Mother of God becomes a theologian.
We should also mention St John the Baptist. His whole life was a witness, a gesture toward Christ, and thus his whole life was a theology, for he drew our eyes to the Savior of the world, saying “Behold the Lamb of God” (Jn. 1.29). That simple phrase contains a complete and perfect theology.
As we have seen, theology is the revelation of God; the revelation of the communion, the unity in fullness, of the three Persons of the Godhead. Thus when we say that certain individuals are theologians, it means either that God reveals Himself in them, or that they, as theologians, reveal God by bringing forth and expressing what God Himself has given them. This is exactly what we see in the All Holy Theotokos, and it is also what we see in the lives of the Holy Apostles.
Theology as a revelation and embodiment of the Persons of the Holy Trinity was handed down to the Church by the Holy Apostles. They were eyewitnesses to the life and teaching of the incarnate Word, and thus received His revelation directly. The Apostles are therefore theologians because they had personal experience of Christ. This is why, when the time came for them to elect a twelfth apostle (cf. Acts 1.21-26), they had to find someone who, among other things, was fully acquainted with the life of Christ. They had to find someone who had heard Christ, who had lived with Him, experienced Him, and who could pass on to others what he received directly from Christ.
And this is also why St Paul—one of the first, great mystical theologians, along with St John the Theologian—in order to prove that he, too, was an Apostle, needed to acknowledge that he had seen Christ, that he had spoken to Him, and that he had suffered much for His sake (cf. Acts 9.1; 2 Cor. 11.23). St Pauls’ relationship with Christ was complete, and that is what made him both an apostle and theologian.
In the case of St John the Theologian, we know that he obtained his theology directly from “the bosom of Christ” (cf. Jn. 13.25). And when later he received a revelation in the form of a “little book,” he was told to “take it and eat it” (Rev. 10.9-10), so that his theology, which was a work of God, would emerge from within him, as a new, self-revelation of God Himself. And as he was about to declare the essential unity of the Holy Trinity, tradition tells us that he was uneasy about it, and sought confirmation from God. At that moment, the rock of the cave in which he was sitting on the island of Patmos, split into three. This, again, suggests that St John, and all the apostles, did not merely want to say things, but to see and experience things, to which they might bear witness. “That which we have seen,” he says, “and which we have heard, and touched, and looked upon: that is what we proclaim to you” (1 Jn. 1.1-2).
—Elder Aimilianos, The Way of the Spirit