A Patient Joy – Finding the True Self

Among the weakest things in the world of social relations is the truth. That might seem to be an odd statement. However, the weakness of the truth is the limitations placed upon it by its very nature. It cannot say just anything, nor can it ever pretend to be something that it is not. Those restrictions are not shared by lies. It is the nature of a lie that it can assume any shape required by the objects of its suasion. “Whatever it takes” would be an excellent description of the nature of a lie. America spends roughly $250 billion per year on advertising. The bulk of that effort is not directed towards sharing accurate information – it is the creation of desire. Truth is rarely a controlling factor.

Our own lives can take on this same shape – an effort to construct an identity that suits our liking. That the persona put forward is less than true is of little concern. We have become comfortable with lies, so long as they are the lies we ourselves choose. There is a common experience that is labeled “imposter syndrome,” a feeling that, somehow, we are pretending to be someone who we are not. I am surprised that it is not a constant state of being for most.

Lies do violence to the truth. If God is the Truth (as we assert in our faith), then lies are idolatry, an effort to erect a truth that is not the truth of God. It is an act of murder, a drive to establish non-being in the place of being. The life that is contrary to the gospel is the life that is based in violence and falsehood. Both represent a Nietzschean assertion of the human will as sovereign over all things: what does not conform will be made to conform.

The non-violence in the life and teachings of Christ are of a piece with His existence as the Truth. There is no compulsion in His ministry, no pleading or rhetoric. As often as not, His teachings were parables that left people bewildered (like the world around us).

We have to observe of God that His will is asserted among us in a non-violent, non-coercive manner. Though many will rush to various stories in the Old Testament, they cannot rush to examples of the moment. The great evils of our time generally run about un-checked. Whatever we can say of Christian history, it has not been marked by heavy interventions of Divine action, correcting and protecting His people, or punishing and chastising the wicked. We may debate whether a later judgment awaits, but judgment in the present tense seems sorely lacking. We do not profess that God does not care. Rather, we are taught that He is patient.

Of course, there is a large number of Christians who cling to an active notion of Divine Justice in which God forcibly moves history towards His desired ends. If the only evidence used for that contention are the stories drawn from the Old Testament, a critic would do well to ask for contemporary examples. The story of our planet (particularly in our modern period) would argue against such a contention. For if God uses violence to achieve His good ends, He could easily be charged with failure. It’s not working.

I do not mean to suggest that God somehow stands back from history – that notion would be pure secularism and utterly removed from the truth. How God enters history is another matter entirely. Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection are the primary examples of God’s presence and working in our midst. He is committed to us beyond the point of death – even death on a Cross.

The day Christ died on the Cross, no one standing around in Jerusalem would have noticed that anything had changed. That there was an earthquake or other such phenomena, would have been dismissed by everyone as easily as it was overlooked by the disciples themselves that day. And yet, as it was, history itself had come to its End. The final word of God and moment of justice had taken place.

The Septuagint translation of Exodus 17:16 has become a favorite verse for me across the years:  “Now Moses built an altar and called its name The-Lord-My-Refuge; for with a secret hand the Lord wars with Amalek from generation to generation.” It describes quite precisely the nature of God’s work of salvation within the world. As St. Paul noted, the preaching of the Cross is foolishness. We point to the death of an itinerate preacher in an out-of-the-way location and proclaim it to be the focal point of all creation. And this is the truth.

This is not only the truth but is the very nature of the truth. God’s work of providence, sustaining and directing all things is a “secret” work, in that it can be discerned or just as easily ignored. It does not have the character of violence.

The truth has this same character. We are able to live our lives through violence and lying, neither of which alters the truth. The truth abides and remains untouched and responds to us with a secret hand. That itself is a continuing testament to God’s patience and kindness towards us. Were our violence and lies able to change the truth of things, we would long since have turned creation into hell itself.

God not only works in the world with a secret hand but invites us into the same way of life. Christ underwrites His teaching on kindness and forgiveness with an appeal for us to be like God (Lk 6:36; Matt. 5:45). This is the path towards an authentic existence, the journey towards the truth of our being.

We ask the young, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The question will stay with them for a great part of their lives. Our culture concentrates on “making” something of ourselves but offers very little or nothing towards actually knowing the truth of ourselves. Perhaps this is because such truth cannot be commodified.

Such knowledge is born of patience and the careful attention to the truth of what lies around us. There is within this, I think, a foundation of joy and thankfulness. The nature of “what actually is” includes its giftedness. It is not something we have created for ourselves – it is given. At the same time, there is joy that comes as we slowly realize that what God is giving to us is good, the same goodness that He displays on the Cross.

So much of our modern drive towards “happiness” is composed of entertainment and other fictions. Those things that have no true reality to them are ephemeral, necessarily creating anxiety in the emptiness of their promise. In contrast, that which truly is, including the truth of our own existence, cannot be taken away. Our surprise in its discovery is experienced ultimately as joy, the wonder that comes in finding out that the deepest longing of our hearts is actually true and real.

Fantasy and fiction, at their best, are not good because they are created by someone. They are good because they make it possible to see more clearly what God has created – something that is neither fantasy nor fiction. Such is our life. Gifts. Joy. Wonder.

49 comments:

  1. Dear Fr. Stephen, Thank you for all of this blog post and especially for the words here at the end: “So much of our modern drive towards “happiness” is composed of entertainment and other fictions. Those things that have no true reality to them are ephemeral, necessarily creating anxiety in the emptiness of their promise. In contrast, that which truly is, including the truth of our own existence, cannot be taken away. Our surprise in its discovery is experienced ultimately as joy, the wonder that comes in finding out that the deepest longing of our hearts is actually true and real.

    Fantasy and fiction, at their best, are not good because they are created by someone. They are good because they make it possible to see more clearly what God has created – something that is neither fantasy nor fiction. Such is our life. Gifts. Joy. Wonder.” True words about Truth! Thank you! Glory to God for all Things!

  2. Our own lives can take on this same shape – an effort to construct an identity that suits our liking. That the persona put forward is less than true is of little concern. We have become comfortable with lies, so long as they are the lies we ourselves choose…. The nature of “what actually is” includes its giftedness. It is not something we have created for ourselves – it is given.

    Thank you for this, Father. I am sometimes overwhelmed by the lies we choose and our society insists are true (simply because they have an appearance of truth and we have chosen them)! Remembering that what we have is “gift”, or false, may be a good way to reorient under the assault?

  3. The Truth is asleep in the boat.
    Through the violence of the storm, there it reposes.
    All who seek it must let go of the fear which feeds violence

  4. Hmmm. Lately I have been thinking a lot on how my dad, a nationally recognized community health leader, approached the practice of public health. He was a doctor. His innovative approach was to consider all of the people in his territory as his personal patients. He considered that their personal health and well being was his responsibility. Beyond that he knew that all humans are naturally interconnected. Therefore to the extent that he was able to improve the health and well being of one of his patients, he improved the health of the entire community.

    He was not a Christian, indeed he was baffled when my brother and I became Christian.

    It seems to me that Jesus works in a similar manner. He is God and Creator but He treats us each personally because of His Divine love and mercy.

    Very few people understood my Dad’s approach despite the fact that he never hid it. Indeed just the opposite. Jesus does not hide the Truth. The Orthodox faith is a community of unique people interrelated through the Body and Blood of Jesus.

    My Dad had it right, I think. But only partially. Its fullness is in the Church. Still it seems it is frightfully easy to fall into temptation of the grand gesture that fixes everything for the imaginary “greater good” which is the exact opposite of how my Dad and, apparently, Jesus works. Long, seemingly slow but deeply personal healing.
    And yet, in Matthew 4:17 He says: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

  5. Imposter syndrome. I do wonder at times if I actually have a self. It seems at times that I am just a set of influences and appetites, that are in constant flux and confusion, beneath which is fear and anger. I often feel a fraud.

  6. Thank you for this. When I finally accepted a very hard truth about certain family relations (long into middle age), it was remarkable how this feeling of falseness left me and I felt far more authentic in social situations. So much to think about here, esp the Septuagint verse you mention; and of course pondering on the enormity of lies

  7. Andrew,
    There is a self – but it is “hid with Christ in God.” We do not yet know it and we only know ourselves to the extent that we know God – it’s a package deal. So, as we begin to identify the “imposter syndrome” that is our daily life, we begin to experience light and truth. It’s sort of embarrassing at first, even producing shame. It is a slow process – the journey to God is the journey to the self, as well.

  8. Thank you Fr. Stephen for your words. It is indeed embarrassing and shame inducing at times. I feel the urge to run away and hide. But where can I go? Even in the depths of Sheol, He is there.

  9. Father,
    “We only know ourselves to the extent we know God.”
    May that be engraved on my heart.

    Why the shame?
    Is it the realization of how far from God I am or something else?

  10. Father Bless,

    Do you think falsity, untruths, dishonesty, etc. are the work of the evil one? It seems that the evil one works overtime in our culture, and continuously. We live in a time when men can be women and women can be men. What crazy times we live in. Father, were you surprised to learn that “Man of God”, depicting the trials and tribulations of Saint Nektarios of Aegina, is coming to mainstream theaters in March? God works in mysterious ways!

  11. Thank you Father. I’ve been falteringly praying Psalm 50/51 lately, and have been particularly struck by the following sentence:

    “Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward being;
    Therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.”

    Your post has helped me pray this Psalm with more understanding. Thank you again.

  12. Truth as non violence and lies/pretence as violence. How profound and interesting. There is always so much to think about on your blog, so many things that no one else says (at least not to me). Yet these make so much intuitive sense and send my thinking off in directions that don’t feel futile or exhausting. So thankful!

  13. “We have to observe of God that His will is asserted among us in a non-violent, non-coercive manner.”

    And the irony is, often unbelievers demand this to believe. If God’s will did not include other wills then it may be a reasonable stipulation. But from the beginning it was never so. “Let us…” And not only the united will of the Holy Trinity was active, but also the angelic host – back to the God is not alone post (I’m not saying they had a participatory role in Creation except as viewers/wonderers). It’s a very good point you made, that Jesus’s interaction never portrays Him as in need, as a marketer. His sadness over the rich young ruler is not that He failed His sales pitch but that the man rejected Life for example, and He let him go without chasing him down.

    I think this comes around again to the realization that because God is truly free, and His will is not His Essence, in part because His will includes other wills, that the giftedness of existence means our wills really function with some freedom. If God’s will was His Essence, you would negate Creation Ex Nihilo, and reject the giftedness for a mechanism. Therefore, when people demand 100% epistemological certainty that God exists, they demand that their will be overridden. Now, I believe certainty is real and normal, but there’s already I think an underlying belief in the mind of the agnostic/atheist/even Christian sometimes, that what is and what is willed or what exists due to causation means beliefs ought to provide a level of certainty where your will is forced into belief. This either leads to a deterministic atheism or Calvin. I mean, if God’s will and Essence are the same identically, my existence is more pantheistic than Christian. It would make sense expect that I would be forced into submission. Providence will be all will. And here the difficulties in Calvin and others come out because it means that God’s will is for evil to thrive for much of history.

    All the while though, while Providence is active and real and personal, there is no extreme of hard determinism or deism with EE. There is back and forth interaction, often hidden. Now, at the same time I do think the Bible itself is very clear that man does have an innate knowledge of God and that it is held down in fear and anxiety. But the fatalism which to me in inescapable in atheism or even Calvin, have this similar error, that Will or causation cannot be distinct conceptually from what is, collapsing all of existence. And here the Superman seems inevitable and also the passive existence because life is no longer a gift but is necessary.

    It’s becoming clearer to me that the EE distinction, Creation Ex Nihilo, make union possible, make a Christian view of Providence possible as other views are inherently plagued with the tendency to collapse back into one thing, will/cause.

    I have had this picture in my mind for sometime after Hebrews, “But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him…” This combined with the parables of the Kingdom, especially the Mustard See. I have a picture of a scorched earth, in desolation. And then a tree is planted, the backwoods preacher, Jesus Christ plants it. It grows eventually and often without notice until gradually and not without difficulty it shades the earth and is ultimately responsible for its renewal.

    What we do see, is Christ who for a little while was made lower than the angels to taste death for everyone. And the tree is planted, the Church. And it will prevail and later it will become evident God’s interactivity with man to bring Eden to the world.

    Forgive the length…

  14. I find there are two distinct flavours of wholesome shame before the face of God. The first shame is embarrassingly self-aware, overwhelmed by the immeasurable magnitude to which we fall short of what we were made to be.
    The second type of shame is the blissfully humbling one: an awestruck wonder at how inconceivable the unconditional love God has for us is, despite our unworthiness. The first needs the second far more than the second needs the first.

  15. Father,
    I sometimes feel rebellious in my prayers, asking for mercy and constantly identifying myself as a sinner. Since I have spent years trying not to hate myself it doesn’t feel healthy – I tell myself self-loathing is the flip side of pride, and remind myself of the virtuous and selfless things I have done in order to bolster my “self-esteem”. Your post – and Andrew’s comment – make me realize that an imposter has held me hostage for a very long time. This is a tough one to untangle. I long to discover that the deepest longing of my heart is actually real. My journey to God has been a long one, yet apparently there is a far longer way to go before I finally come across my authentic self.

  16. Matthew, really appreciate what you say. It is heightened by the conversation with a national political writer who tried to counter his ideology with a statement of faith. He rejected faith by saying that “No one can prove God exists.” The ontological encounters with God are without substance therefore.

    He actually preferred Nietzsche’s vision because he was highly intelligent.

    Of course he was “not questioning my faith.”

    When I told him that he should question my faith that was the end of the conversation.

    Sometimes I just don’t understand people.

  17. Essie,
    I often just speak to God from the heart rather than reading prayers. There is an imposter who holds us hostage, no doubt. But the Scriotures tell us that the truth of ourselves has yet to be revealed. When our hearts begin to see both, the falseness of the imposter and the hint that there is a true self yet to be revealed, then we have begun the journey of salvation. It gives a whole new content to the prayer, “Save me!”

  18. Michael, I suppose I would say to him, “I don’t believe in that one either.” No doubt, he takes great comfort in imagining that God does not exist. Exactly why would be a useful thing to know.

  19. Father, As near as I can determine he wants a God that he can understand and control, thus his attachment to Nietzsche. In other words not a God at all. Will to Power and all that. Chaos, ideology and human will masquerading as thought.

  20. “In contrast, that which truly is, including the truth of our own existence, cannot be taken away.”
    Thank you for these words, Father, for they are important and have been very helpful for me today and will be for the days to come.

    Those who embrace modernity certainly would not like or believe these words, I think, Father. But they are freeing for the heart that hopes in God, in the sense that what the world says or does, will not prevail against the Kingdom of God that ‘secretly’ lies within.

    I was swept into the imposter syndrome in academia many years ago. It could be that kind of profession might be a ‘breeding ground’ inculcating such an ethos. “Digging in the dirt” (a saying my husband uses to describe our life outside my profession) always seemed my ‘true self’. One of the potential good things about aging is self-acceptance. Not complacency or resignation, but a meaningful acceptance of God’s hand in our life. As a result, with God’s help, I’ve begun to embrace my ‘silly’ (and sometimes embarrassing) self, because such acceptance begins to peel away the deleterious shield of the “imposter” that would harden my heart.

    Glory to God.

  21. Dee,
    I have not given it too much thought, but I suspect that an absence of “playfulness” in its many guises is symptomatic of unresolved shame issues. My reason for saying this is that laughter is actually very connected to shame. Laughing at oneself, in a healthy manner, is a mild antidote to shame. It’s largely what takes place in comedy (or should). Of course, comedy becomes quite dark when we are not laughing at ourselves but at someone else – in which it becomes a form of bullying or shaming. Some of this is bound up in the role of the Holy Fools.

    So, laugh away!

  22. Of all the blogs I have read of yours, this one speaks the most. I celebrated my 71 st birthday yesterday, realizing over the last year that I have spent my entire life making a world of my own, apart from reality. I was the hero in this world, as a missionary doctor, and later a hospice and palliative care doctor. But in truth, I was unfaithful and did not know how to love, even my own family. I ignored the gift of this family, this wife, and chose for myself a world that was unreal, a lie. Something about that seemed holy and safer, in some odd way. Don’t worry. I am in counseling, and am praying, and trusting in Grace.

  23. Tom,
    May God give you grace! Such awareness, at whatever age it comes, is a gift from God (even if it hurts at first). I have said publicly (with a bit of typical humor) that the older I get, the worse I become as a priest. I mean by that – that the priest I was through the years is increasingly stripped of his pretenses and self-delusions and I see myself more for who I am. It’s not fun – but brings greater and greater freedom and joy.

  24. Micheal,

    My interest in these things is a return to simplicity. I think the reason theology seems intellectual sometimes is just the fact that lies told for a very long time are hard to unravel. It’s natural to think of God as interactive and the world as interactive. The atheist or the pantheist (I’m willing to lump them together, in some ways I’m willing to lump Calvin, Islam, atheism, pantheism) do not so much interact but are robots. A robot cannot come into union, they already are the will of the god or the universe. Giving a robot consciousness only gives them consciousness of this. Atheists are proud determinists like Calvinists are. It takes guts to embrace fatalism and all. It takes the difference between God and Creation for you to be able to come into contact/union, otherwise you already were, but not in union, but were already the will. The Holy Trinity is in union but are not identical to each other or there is no Trinity for example (which is how many churches make it seem and why the Trinity turns into a math riddle for others).

    If you and your wife were identical robots, union would be union with yourself for example. I think it’s quite easy to draw some conclusions morally for Christians from the fact that union is not identification/equivalent. In fact, morally, most sins from the Christian POV are based on the idea that union is reserved specifically for life creating or sustaining purposes- which will entail the denial of selfishness or in other words, would require faith – and that union outside life, or union with inherently selfish purposes which are pursued due to fear of death, are degenerative/end in death. But make two parties identical, and the logic for sinfulness/selfishness goes away because then, that’s just the way the world is and it’s the only way the world is. Consent (how ironic if there is no freedom) among two robots makes for moral.

    My guess is that the long-held belief in Western theology and philosophy that God’s Will is His Essence is Who He is, is behind a lot of modern thinking. As most philosophers worked within the Augustinian framework or worked against it.

    This is speculation on my part, but if you must identify in this system with either the passive fatalist, or the Superman (I can start to feel the Yin Yang), then while neither are actually truer or better than the other, the tension is created by the artificial dialectic. Salvation will become the collapse of the dialectic where you are reabsorbed into God or where you are conscious of being a robot. And to me, all this due to denying Creation Ex Nihilo or failing to uphold the Essence Energies distinction – which would have been without any fancy terminology – likely the default position/thinking from birth.

    Union and love is possible only because God and I are different. What is love in the Calvinist position? Being chosen from eternity past in the mind/will of God for salvation in contrast to the reprobate who is chosen for damnation who is tormented to show you the love of God: being chosen. What is hate? Not being chosen regardless of your will. Somehow, the reprobate’s will is the same as Satan’s will, is the same as Adam’s will, is the same as God’s will. What really happened? We move out of union, into union with other things or beings, or ideas, because we are not identical with anything else. I am convinced after researching Orthodox soteriology that the counter to Calvin’s view of the will and Luther’s bondage of the will, is largely exorcism, the undoing of a union with evil – or/and – forgiveness, Chrismation, Holy Baptism. For us, we practice union or undoing the harmful unions we have gotten ourselves into. For other Christians, they undo being identical to Adam. How do you get out of an evil predicament if you are identical to both Adam’s will/Satan’s will/God’s will? Only if God’s will is for this to take place. Amazing how if you really play out other theologies, they don’t sound Christian or Biblical at all.

    We can come to know God and ourselves truly because we are distinct.
    “In contrast, that which truly is, including the truth of our own existence, cannot be taken away. Our surprise in its discovery is experienced ultimately as joy, the wonder that comes in finding out that the deepest longing of our hearts is actually true and real.”

    I think this is what happens experientially when the lies about existence fade. And it happens in different ways for different people. Mine is to undo the reasons intellectually (for myself and for others to the extent that I might be on the right track) that it became hard to think of myself and God and others as interactive – where you find the truth of your existence and are wonderfully surprised.

    Oh, how we should be thankful for Orthodoxy!

  25. Father, you just reminded me of one of my favorite moments in the play, “The Lady’s Not For Burning.”

    “Shall we laugh for the sake of laughter. It is surely the surest touch of genius in creation. Would you ever have thought of it I ask you? If you had been making man, stuffing full of such hopping breeds and passions that he has to blow home of to pieces as often as he conveniently can manage it would it also have occurred to you to make him burst himself with such a phenomenon as cachinnation? That same phenomenon is an irrelevancy that almost amounts to a revelation.”

    Laughter breaks up so much that is negative. It is a wonderful gift.

  26. Matthew, the 20th century politically saw the fruit of the Calvinist/atheist philosophy. In the US we had the Calvinist, Woodrow Wilson as President. The worst President we have ever had. Not only did he drag us into WWI he had at least one suffragette arrested, taken into the basement of the White House and tortured because she violated his “Biblical” view of womanhood.

  27. Michael and Mary,
    All I can say is wow! I’ve always had difficulties with Protestantism, as many former Protestants have too. While I haven’t been Protestant since my childhood, and therefore never really counted myself as one, I remind myself that Protestantism is a kind of invisible “ether” that permeates this culture. We are all influenced to some degree whether we reflect on it and try to see it or not.

    For this reason, I’m ever grateful for Father Stephen’s regular words about modernity, which seems to be the daughter of Protestantism (at least as far as I know). I’m always edified but such words have helped me to lose the fetters of modernity from my heart and mind. But as far as sin goes, there is nothing new under the sun. Rather it just seems to come in a different package to fool us and to beguile us to accept it.

    May God grant that our nous, the eyes of our heart and mind, is washed by His love, that we may see our true selves.

    Dear Tom, May God continue to give you His grace.

  28. Matthew,
    I’m curious – what do you do with the Orthodox teaching that the will is, in fact, a part of the nature (hence, the essence). This is clearly taught in St. Maximus and defined in the silencing of the Monothelites. Christ has two nature, thus two wills. I’ve been re-reading Joseph Farrell’s little book on Free Choice in St. Maximus the Confessor (St. Tikhon’s, 1989) in which he goes on to see how this does not make God’s will “compulsive” to His nature. It’s an interesting study.

    However, when you make a hard distinction about will and essence you need to explain what you’re saying (and why) in light of the conciliar understanding of the two wills (which is because there are two natures in Christ).

    All of this gets a bit complicated.

  29. Dee,

    RE: Protestantism in the culture. I have to be careful here. When I think of Protestantism in the culture, my mind immediately goes to the dark side of *Calvinistic* Protestantism that… well, I haven’t the words to convey the darkness and sadness. You’re right. It is causing the “ether” permeating everything. And I also agree that modernity is Protestantism’s daughter.
    I just finished the book, “The Ethics of Beauty “ by Timothy G Patitsas. It reminded me of you, Dee, and how you view science. The book has given me hope.
    BTW: Your posts here about science, and about the Seminole culture, have also given me quiet joy and hope through the years. Thank you, Dee.

  30. Mary, I wish I could give you a citation but all I can remember is that when I read it years ago it was in what I considered to be a credible source but one that did not parrot the normal narrative. It was part of a larger essay on the fact that when Wilson had his stroke, his wife became the defacto President. That is why the 25th Amendment to the Constitution was enacted.

    Calvinism is the big culprit which goes well beyond the official labels. It does not seem to me to have any provision for mercy. It is a battle for the soul that is universal.

  31. Thank you so much for your kind words, Mary. Glory to God!

    But I note, also, that Father has needed on several occasions to remove my comments, too! ; ) ( I do my share of falls and flubs!)
    I didn’t finish the Ethics of Beauty and had planned to read that science topic in his book. I’m inspired by your comment to take a look.

  32. Fr. Stephen,
    Your friend’s comment to you has helped me also…”Don’t answer questions people aren’t asking.” All it does is frustrate (both parties). It is freeing in some ways to not have to answer questions that are unasked. Even St. Paul echoes this when he writes that we should be ready to give an answer to those who Ask about the hope within us. Lately I too have seen more the disconnect between Orthodoxy and various stripes of Protestantism. Whereas Calvinism can be very rigid in its tightly woven theology, so much of Protestantism is a shallow swamp of stagnant water, or a cafeteria where one picks and chooses which doctrine to believe. For all these years in Orthodoxy, it has been for me a continual stream of life-giving water flowing between protected banks, made effectual through the blessed sacraments and prayer.
    Thank you Mary and Dee for your comments. I gain very much through the comments here on this blog. It is a very real community.

  33. Dean, my frustration is that so few ask. Like the columnist with whom I had the brief exchange. Many people don’t ask because they might ‘offend’. Whatever that means.

  34. Michael,
    In my 27 years in Orthodoxy the Lord has only used me a handful of times to lead others into the fullness of faith. Very few among us are evangelists. Fr. Peter Gilquist comes to mind. Not many of us are “ranchers” as he was, I suspect. Most are farmers, like me…just a couple acres and a few chickens!
    Yet, it is so amazing when people do ask. Just last Sunday a 22 year old man from a Baptist background came to our mission. He stayed for our meal, and boy did he ask questions!
    So, be encouraged, brother. Water, God will give the growth.

  35. Dean, I get all that you say but the refusal to question because somehow it might offend me is a key to the current deconstruction of community by modernity. My faith, no matter what it is, is mine and mine alone and the sovereignty of the individual will cannot be challenged. That is why the writer quotes Nietzsche.

    Somehow, the Cross still subsumes all of that nonsense.

  36. As to the true self I think a lot of shame comes from comparison shopping. For instance I can truthfully say that in my immediate family (parents and one older brother) I am the least in many ways: intelligence, physical ability and achievement. I was taller than everybody else but that is it. I gravitated toward the study of history because that was the one subject in which my brother did not excel.
    But, as my wife points out, that kind of analysis is stupid. Even if factual, they are not me. We are each part of Jesus Body. Each unique and blessed if I have the humility to be myself.

  37. Fr. Freeman,

    I’m actually following Farrel’s observations. I’m not saying will and Essence are unrelated, just that Essence does not determine will in such a way that God effectively has no freedom which would negate Creation from Nothing. And I don’t really want to say or feel comfortable saying anything more than that because I have no clue how that works. I just know that if there is no distinction, all is will, all is fate, and pantheism or monism is entailed. I’ve not read that book yet; I’ll have to pick it up.

    But I think if you by analogy infer that man is also determined by his nature/Essence, you get the biological/neurological determinism of our day, and the idea that man cannot act except according to an evil paradigm like in Calvinism. The leopard can’t change his spots and God will be alone, without the will, even against the will of man, in changing him. Will is part of nature I would think in that it does not operate apart from nature/Essence. God is not will and outside Him is eternal matter He manipulates. Or, our will is not something than can operate apart from our bodies. Will finds no expression for us apart from the body, at least as our current bodies are concerned., though I’m willing to be corrected on this point. Our will is often to do good, yet our bodies (while not evil) wage a war against the Spirit. This is where I think the teaching/acknowledgement comes in that the heart and the nous, being put into an opposition as a result of sin, are reunited in theosis. So, following that logic, God’s will and His Essence do not have a conflict, whereas ours do. Christ’s two wills have no conflict. Christ’s will to do the Father’s will, had no conflict, and yet there was His human will, human mind, and His divine will, mind operating in unison. At the same time, Christ had to make the decision to voluntarily go to His Passion, so, there are implications if we imagine the Passion as involuntary and it’s obvious our belief is careful to make sure we understand Christ’s will/wills, as free. “For the joy set before Him….” “You have no power over me except that which was given to you from above” – to Pilate. If Christ was not free, voluntarily, this would be quite the mess of our Christology. I know you know this better than me.

    I don’t know if that sounds right to you, but I’m curious.

    Thanks,
    Matthew

  38. Matthew,
    I was just curious. Glad you’ve seen Farrell. I’ve just recently been re-reading some of him. He makes it clear that Maximus does not see the essence as determinative – and that – I think – is key. Determinism of any form is a non-starter.

  39. Interesting Matthew. I just saw clearly for the first time that one of Nietzsche’s big flaws is the the Will is disembodied allowing it to become deterministic and also not allowing any checks on the passions. Infact, the passions are inflamed.
    Thanks for the clue.

  40. About violence. Father, how about divine wrath? Is God’s wrath a form of passionate love, reserved for those who want it and can handle it? And all the other signs in history that people identify as His wrath are simply signs of the corruption of this world, if they cannot directly be linked to His love? Doesn’t make much sense, I know. But there is something so beautiful in that side of Him, is it not? Not sure I know how to explain what I mean. But I guess, out of his attributes, wrath is another hidden one, perhaps the most hidden one and for a good reason. It is not obvious at all, not what we think and we easily misunderstand it.

  41. Ioana,
    Human violence should not be seen as a reflection of what is described as “divine wrath.” They have, pretty much, nothing in common. When we speak of divine wrath, it is, as you say, “hidden.” I believe that all actions of God are love – but that, too, is a mystery – the love of God is most fully revealed in the crucified Christ. God give us grace!

  42. “The story of our planet (particularly in our modern period) would argue against such a contention. For if God uses violence to achieve His good ends, He could easily be charged with failure. It’s not working.”

    My heart is heavy with a recent awareness of “Christian” interference with indigenous peoples not only in Australia, but come to find out, in Canada as well.
    “Well meaning” Christians took/stole indian children from their homes and brought them up in institutions so that they may learn of Christ’s love??? Many were badly treated. This violence brought the opposite result; hatred of all things Christian including, of course, Christ!

  43. Lynne,
    There is something to be said about Western theology that made for these terrible colonialist attitudes towards indigenous peoples. Orthodoxy is not without sin – but these policies were quite notably absent in its history. The Russian Empire has many indigenous peoples who were evangelized by Orthodox monastics and such. Their work was consistent with the Orthodox mission in Alaska where native languages were preserved, native clergy were trained, and native cultures were Baptized into the Christian life rather than being bull-dozed.

    That is, of course, to say that there is nothing inherently Christian in the history of Western colonialism. Instead, there is an indictment of serious errors – some of which continue in various guises in today’s secular modernity.

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