Knowing God

23 September, 2008

This is a topic that in many ways I know very little about. I can claim no great spiritual heights nor theosis. Nevertheless, it is becoming increasing apparent to me what it means to know God and how this is achieved.

Knowing God is not an intellectual exercise nor even intellectual knowledge as such, although this is not excluded from participating in knowing God. This type of knowledge only grasps images and concepts about God but it cannot know God; this is something different. God is not a concept or image but a reality that it not containable in one’s mind. However, we do get to know God in a manner in what the Fathers call the nous. This is said but most to reside in the heart rather than the head. Thus, it is not a reasoning, intellectual knowledge such as mathematics but rather it is an experiential, intuative knowledge that is impossible to describe or compare to normal human experiences but has a little to do with wisdom.

God is known in the heart in the way that we participate in His life and this life becomes ours. We learn this initially through obedience to the commandments and then as we grow in virtue and purity through the participation in the Spirit. Eventually, we love as God loves, we think as God thinks and so thus we know Him because we realise that the way we live is how He lives. We share the same motivation, the same understanding and the same will; we want what He wants. This knowledge is in a sense active but it transcends physical activity and acts in a spiritual manner with far greater reach than of which physical human actions are capable. This knowledge is what is said to participate in God’s energies or operations. These are not something that happens to us from outside but come from within and become our own, yet remaining God’s and coming from Him. This is theosis or union with Him.

The above knowledge though is not that of the essence. We cannot attain to this that is because you have to be something to experience or know its essence. We can neither know the essence of a tree nor a dog because we are neither trees nor dogs. Thus, even though we are united to God in His life we will still know that He is somehow other to us and His essence is not ours. He is God and we are man. This cannot be changed. Nevertheless, by living His life we become gods because all of His life is ours, if we are willing to accept it as it really is.

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Possession

6 September, 2008

Slavery is an anathema to modern man. The idea of being owned by another is abhorrent to us, especially those in western Europe with our cries of freedom. However, as Christians things are a little different. St John Chrysostom interprets that St Paul encourages slaves to remain as such even if given freedom because it benefits the soul. What a strange teaching to us. Why? Because we are free in Christ and slaves of Christ because He bought us with a price. We are His possession yet we are free from slavery to sin and the ways of this world. Whether in slavery or freedom we can be free as such.

We are possessed by Christ, we are no longer our own but His. Our bodies are His body and our lives are His. He does not take them forcefully but leaves it to us to freely surrender them but really we must do so because we are His. Also, wives own their husbands bodies and husbands their wives bodies. Again we are not free to use them as we will be as the other desires, except for time of prayer then the Lord’s possession takes first place but He does not prolong this overly least the partner is deprived of their possession.

We must learn to become free slaves of Christ and of husbands and wives. It is not for us to for our partners into this possession as Christ does not force us; it will be on their own head at judgement for failing to act as they should. Free slaves is an interesting paradox and that is why St John says that slaves should remain as they are because they freely choose their slavery then while they remain in the service of another the power of the slavery is broken in mind because it is a free gift to the master. We must willingly become slaves to Christ and remember that we are His not our own. We must not try to be selfish otherwise we will deny Him what is His and so lose what is ours in Him.

Let us then learn to serve others, to live in obedience to those with authority over us so that in freely doing we become free in Christ and free from the bondage of sin and the world.