I have been viewing the movie, Ostrov, which I reviewed here, simply because watching it feeds me where watching something else would not. I think I have been particularly fed by mediatating on the actions of the character of Fr. Anatoly, who is something of a “fool for Christ.” He is not the most learned (not learned at all particularly) but he knows what a man must know: God. In that, he is a point of salvation and healing for those around him.
I think (some days more than others) about what I am doing as a priest – whether it is in my parish – in some of the diocesan or national responsibilities I’ve been given, and with this ministry of Glory to God for All Things, which, some days feeds me greatly. I like to write. But it is also good to stop and remember what I am doing lest I forget myself, or lest someone else think I am trying to do something I am not.
I am not the source of all the best Orthodox answers (many, many priests know far more than me). I can help point someone to such sources. My thoughts and writings, when confined to what feeds my soul, and what I myself know to be true through my own Christian life, have the possibility of feeding others. I fled, and still seek to flee, sites of great controversy, partly because (even though matters of great importance are discussed) I find there to be little light shed in such locations. I believe that in prayer, in studying Scripture, and in frequenting the sacraments of confession and communion, most hard questions will find their answers because the answer to all things is God. There can be no substitute for God.
Thus I think the most effective ministries always have something of the “fool” about them. The “fool” in the since that one is pointing beyond oneself and towards Christ. St. John the Baptist spoke correctly when he said, “He [Christ] must increase and I must decrease.” That answers most things. Within my first weeks of writing on this site I offered a short piece, “What matters.” I am reprinting it here (as our readership has increased more people – including me – need to read it or reread it). By your prayers, I will continue to write – daily as possible – about what matters. I usually write at the end of the day, because it is when my head seems most to clear. It is easier to pray and to think – and to write. May God bless all who visit the site with the apprehension in your own heart of what matters.
What Matters – first posted on October 19, 2006
God matters and what matters to God matters. I know that sounds very redundant, but I’m not sure how else I want to say it. There are many things that do not matter – because they do not matter to God. Knowing the difference between the two – what matters to God and what does not requires that we know God.
And this is theology – to know God. If I have a commitment in theology, it is to insist that we never forget that it is to know God. Many of the arguments (unending) and debates (interminable) are not about what we know, but about what we think.
Thinking is not bad, nor is it wrong, but thinking is not the same thing as theology. It is, of course, possible to think about theology, but this is not to be confused with theology itself.
Knowing God is not in itself an intellectual activity for God is not an idea, nor a thought. God may be known because He is person. Indeed, He is only made known to us as person (we do not know His essence). We cannot know God objectively – that is He is not the object of our knowledge. He is known as we know a person. This is always a free gift, given to us in love. Thus knowledge of God is always a revelation, always a matter of grace, never a matter of achievement or attainment.
It matters that we know God because knowledge of God is life itself. “This is eternal life,” Jesus said, “to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”
The Orthodox way of life is only about knowing God. Everything we do, whether it is prayer, communion, confession, forgiveness, fasting – all of it is about knowing God. If it is about something else, then it is delusion and a distraction from our life’s only purpose.
Knowing God is not a distraction from knowing other persons, nor is knowing other persons a distraction from knowing God. But, like God, knowing other persons is not the same thing as thinking about them, much less is it objectifying them.
Knowing others is so far from being a distraction from knowing God, that it is actually essential to knowing God. We cannot say we love God, whom we have not seen, and hate our brother whom we do see, St. John tells us. We only know God to the extent that we love our enemies (1 John 4:7-8).
And this matters.
This blog does not matter – except that I may share something that makes it possible for someone to know God or someone may share something that allows themselves to be known. This matters.