Hiding and the Hidden God

I have written a number of times about the “hiddenness” of God. It is a very important aspect of how He makes Himself known (though I know that is a paradox). His hiddenness both protects our freedom and removes compulsion from our relationship with God. There can be no compulsion where there is love. I found a small verse from the writings of St. Ephrem the Syrian that offers some thoughts:

Lord, Your symbols are everywhere,
yet You are hidden from everywhere.
Though Your symbol is on high,
yet height does not perceive that You are;
though Your symbol is in the depth,
it does not comprehend who You are;
though Your symbol is in the sea,
You are hidden from the sea;
though Your symbol is on dry land,
it is not aware what You are.
Blessed is the Hidden One shining out!

St. Ephrem’s use of the word “symbol” is in its ancient sense: something which makes present that which it represents. It is not something which stands in place of that which is absent (the more modern definition). St. Ephrem is celebrating the mystery that the God who is “everywhere present and filling all things,” is also the Hidden One, and yet also the One who is “shining out.”

This mystery comes to rest in the human heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” We do not see God because He is everywhere present – we see Him everywhere present because our hearts are made pure. The darkness of our hearts does not reveal God to us – it distorts our perception of the world, of people, and certainly of God. Thus the darkened heart often projects its own darkness onto a concept of God and teaches falsely.

It is in this darkness of the heart that we find ourselves “hiding” from God. It is instructive that in the narrative of Adam and Eve in the garden following their sin, they seek to hide from God. God does not hide from them, but rather seeks them out, calling them by name. Their response is a distortion of the facts. Man hides within his lies.

God does not hide from us in order to condemn us – the “hiddenness” of God is a hiddenness in His light. And so He draws us forth from the darkness and into the light that we may know Him – everywhere present.

Blessed is the Hidden One shining out!


  1. I am glad you posted this because I have often used the modern definition of “symbol”…that stands in the place of what is absent. That´s where the trouble came in to understand what it that symbol meant.

  2. Blessed is the Hidden One shining out!

    Our over-attachment to the rationalising part of the intellect (as well as our hunger for information in the place of personal communion) and the underdevelopment of our noetic perception (to the extent that we cannot even see the point in stillness and the unifying prayer that thrives in its soil) exacerbates God’s apparent ‘hiddeness’, almost as much as our slavery to sin through the rougher passions…

    Symeon the New Theologian is very clear that “knowledge is not light”, but “The Light is knowledge”…

  3. I come back to this little post as it is such a little gem…
    It reminds me of Father Lev Gilet’s deeply personal writings like this example that I would like to share with those unfamiliar to him:

    “In Christ Jesus the way and its end are one and the same. If we enter into the way which is Christ we have already obtained our objective.

    Whatever the problem may be, whether it be one of the lofty questions of the spiritual order or one of the simplest everyday problems, by embracing Jesus, by uniting ourselves more intimately to Him, we arrive at a solution.
    That does not alleviate us either from reflection or from the appropriate methods, but our thinking will do its work in the light of Christ.

    Some concrete problem confronts me – a serious decision to make, a difficult interview, a letter to write, personal relations, professional duties, etc. – O Lord, what ought I do?

    “My child, first of all, unite yourself to Me. Be assured that in Me your personal problem is resolved. If you really see Me, you shall see the solution through Me, as it were transparently. Do make use of your reasoning powers, but in My light and depending on My heart.”

    Martha believes that her brother will rise again on the last day. Jesus answers her: “I am the resurrection.”

    There are two teachings in this statement: the resurrection is not a purely eschatological reality, projected into the ultimate future.
    The resurrection is, in a very definite way, a reality already given; it already exists. It is the Saviour Himself who from now on is the cause and the power of the resurrection of the dead. Not by imagination, or memory, but by union with Christ, we join, at this very moment, those whom we have loved and who have left this world.

    This union with the person of Christ is only possible if we set up before us, if we carry within ourselves, an intensely real image of Jesus. An image does not mean imagination nor a mental picture (although at the beginning that can be useful), but a definite interior vision, with hazy definition nonetheless, which cannot be described outwardly.

    Peter walks on the water. As long as he looks at Jesus, as long as he goes towards Him, he is able to walk on the waves of the lake. But when he looks about him, when he notices that the wind is strong, he is struck with fear. He begins to sink. Jesus has to stretch forth His hand to save him.
    If Peter had paid no attention to the waves and wind, if he had concentrated his gaze on Jesus alone, he would not have found himself in danger. His faith would not have been shaken.

    In this I have also the cause of my falls. If I were capable of looking at Jesus alone, if I did not give way to consideration of danger or temptation, to begin a kind of dialogue with them, I too would be able to walk on the water. All my faults originate by a fading or disappearance of the Saviour’s image.

    But how do I set up before me an image of Jesus strong enough to prevail over the fear of danger or the enticement of sin?
    Such an image is not the work of one minute or of one day. It is the work of months, of years, of a whole lifetime. A hasty, superficial image of Jesus is as one drawn on water. It vanishes with the first breeze, with the first jolt.

    I have to form this image of Jesus slowly and deeply, or rather, I must develop and then preserve a certain placidness so that Jesus might engrave His face on my heart.
    The beauty of the Saviour’s face does not only attract, it acts and transforms. If our interior gaze is persistent, the Saviour’s beauty touches us deeply, in proportion to this persistency.

    “O lord, show me Your face; and all my difficulties will melt like snow in the sunlight. Contemplating Your face, we shall be absorbed in Your light, lifted up from brightness to brightness, changed into Your image.”

  4. Thank you Fr Stephen.

    This was a wonderful read at a time that i struggle to see the everywhere present God. Now i know there is something in my heart, some lie that im hiding or believing. Create in me a clean heart O Lord!

    Loved this part, “God does not hide from us in order to condemn us – the “hiddenness” of God is a hiddenness in His light. And so He draws us forth from the darkness and into the light that we may know Him – everywhere present.”


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